Barging through Europe



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2015 cruising

Posted by [email protected] on September 8, 2015 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

2015 was a fantastic season of cruising. After spending two weeks painting the boat and enjoying the party atmosphere of Bourgogne Marine, and having had a mini-cruise to Dole to watch and listen to Christophe playing in the Fete de Musique, we set sail down the Saone for pastures new. A long first day saw us reach the Canal du Centre and moor up at Fragnes, which we enjoyed very much.


In many ways Fragnes set the tone for the season. A great mooring with lots around to explore, especially the delights of Chalon-sur-Saone. Over the next few weeks we pottered slowly from one great spot to another, enjoying the small towns and villages that frequent this lovely canal. All rumours of lack of water were unfounded and my fear of a locking system completely controlled by computer was also shot down in flames. We have never had so many green lights whilst cruising. As always, the VNF staff was delightful, adding immeasurably to the overall experience.


There were too many beautiful spots to mention them all, but the fireworks on the eve of Bastille Day, in Montceau-les-Mines, combined with the live music all around us, were certainly up there amongst the highlights. The temperatures were regularly in the high thirties, so finding swimming spots in the local lakes and rivers also became a feature of the trip. Fortunately, the insulation and the thickness of steel on the TP kept it relatively cool down below.


The pont canal over the Loire at Digoin, saw us enter the Loire valley and start to head north along the canal Lateral de la Loire. If anything, this canal was more picturesque than the Canal du Centre and the reversion to having lock-keepers at every lock made the cruising even more special. So many of the lock houses on the automated canals have been closed up and have fallen into disrepair, so to see so many beautifully kept locks and houses was a real bonus.


The Loire is chateau country and, having the car, we were able to explore the surrounding countryside fully, enjoying the variety of the huge number of local examples. This canal also has an abundance of moorings with free electricity and water, as well as excellent mooring space for large barges. Cruising on a 58 tonne barge is so much more enjoyable when this is the case.


Throughout the summer, we have had a steady stream of guests, who we enjoyed sharing the experiences with. Having Matt and Jane with us for so long, as part of their world travels, was particularly special and it is good to know that the TP will be a European base for them, whilst they travel far and wide across the continent. Meeting and making new friends is one of the main reason that we do what we do, and this year was no exception, with an eclectic bunch of wonderful people being added to our address book.


The end of the cruise was particularly special, crossing Eiffel's pont canal to enter the port of Briare, where the TP is spending the winter. In Dorothe, Briare has an exceptional Capitaine and we leave the TP in the knowledge that she is in good hands for the winter and that she will be ready and waiting when we return in May for the 2016 season.

2015 cruising plans

Posted by [email protected] on May 25, 2015 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (0)

In 2015, our plan is to cruise from St Symphorien, down the Saone to Chalon, then along the Canal du Centre until it meets the Canal Lateral de al Loire and then travel northwards to Briare, where the Thomas Porter will remain for the winter.


On arrival I shall be doing a fair bit of painting, both internal and external, before departing St Symphorien in the week commencing 15 June. As we have to be back in Australia by 12 September, this will be a shortened cruising season, but the countryside through which we are cruising should make up for this.

Dijon and back

Posted by [email protected] on September 12, 2014 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Our final cruise of the year was with Nick and Maureen Read, from St Symphorien to Dijon, along the Bourgogne canal. Althought the stretch to Dijon is dead straight and not very scenic, it did give the Reads a chance to get to know the locking system, with 21 locks to deal with. Dijon once again proved to be a wonderful place to moor, from Sunday until Thursday, with so much going on all the time and so much to see.

Once Maureen had been desptached on the train back to Paris, we then headed back to Bourgogne Marine, enjoying wonderful September weather and an uneventful trip. 

10 days of the usual cleaning, painting and maintenance, interspersed with some pleasant socialising and it was once again time again to say goodbye to the TP and head back to the UK and then to Callala Bay to enjoy our new house.

Back in 2015 to take on the Canal du Centre!

Nancy to St Symphorien

Posted by [email protected] on August 15, 2014 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

It was with some regret that we finally left Nancy and headed south, along the Nancy embranchement and then down the Vosges canal. it was also with some relief that we were able to do so as, before we left we discovered that the Arzviller lift had once again broken, this time structurally and they were talking about months before it would be back in operation. Had we been stranded on the eastern side, our only option would have been the Rhine!

Returning to the Vosges was a very pleasant experience, as we enjoyed rediscovering places first encountered two years ago, whilst also having the time to search out new places. Overall the bike track along the Vosges was well kept, so retrieving the car each day was no real problem.

We enjoyed celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary over a lovely lunch in Epinal, which we visited by car as the embranchement was too shallow for us. Charmes was a much more pleasant experience than the first time, whilst the beautiful valley and tree-lined canal was every bit as beautiful as we had remembered.

Whist travelling we met Reiner on the Katherine Elizabeth, a 32m barge and over the course of the next couple of weeks, we enjoyed meeting up on several occasions, for drinks, dinner, guitar lessons and coffee. it was sad to finally say farewell as they headed back North again to spend a month in Port sur Saone, whilst Reiner returned to Germany.

The 'Thomas Porter' behaved impeccably during this leg of the journey, although the hurricane force winds whilst moored on the steps in Auxonne were a challenge for all.

A significant highlight was being in Port sur Saone for the opening of the Folk dancing festival, featuring dancers from 12 different countries. The Mexican contingent of young dancers, who walked past the boat daily ended up inviting themselves on board for a photoshoot, amidst great hilarity. Their performance on the night lived up to their hype - definitely one of the highlights of the evening.

It was good to return to Bougogne marine again and catch up with Christophe. He remains the same jovial self, although the place itself looks as though it could do with a serious facelift!

We leave the boat now for 12 days whilst we head south to spend time with family, firstly near Mazamet and then near Marmande.

East towards Strasbourg

Posted by [email protected] on July 20, 2014 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

We were persuaded by newly made friends, Lucy (English) and Michel (French) who live aboard their boat in Nancy, whilst Lucy sings with the Nancy Opera, to go towards Strasbourg to experience the Arvillers boat lift! So we set out eastwards rather than southwards. Nancy was a delight and to leave it was a real wrench. The light show in Stanislas square will remain in the memory for some time.


Whilst in Nancy we had experienced a few mechanical issues, not least the cracking of the collar holding the propellor shaft! However, having drawn up a template on a piece of paper, I visited a steel fabrication workshop, recommended by Michel, who were able to make me two steel semi-circular halves, which when bolted together on newly made bolts, made a perfect fit and reinforced  the cracked original. With some trepidation we set off and thankfully it all worked. In Einville, we encountered another problem, this time electrical, but thanks to the local Mairie a local electrician was found and he was able to discover and replace the burnt out wires behind the main fuse box. Although he spent nearly two hours with us, it was all I could do to get him to take 20 euros for the service. If only it was always like that!


In Einville we also met up with the Southwells in their camper van, who we had spent time with last year. They travelled with us for the next 10 days, which was great fun all round. Having got through the two tunnels without a problem, the lift itself was an amazing experience, well worth the trip. We moored at the bottom for a couple of days whilst we visited Strasbourg which was a beautiful city.


Our return was un eventful, except for the appalling weather that had set in. One highlight though was meeting up with Michel and Lucy's wine appreciation group and tasting their wine and champagne. Eventually we returned to Nancy for restocking and refuelling, before saying goodbye to the Southwells and eventually heading south on the Nancy embranchement, 18 locks in about 10 kilometres before reaching the Vosges canal.



Posted by [email protected] on June 17, 2014 at 1:05 AM Comments comments (0)

A great set up week in Toul. Very hot weather and great company. Not too many issues with the boat, just a few teething problems with the water system (pink water!) which were quickly resolved. An amazing night at the light show in Nancy and some great evenings with Tom and Carol on 'Vivante'. Joined by Michael and Jane Rocks for the latter part of the week and for the initial cruise to Nancy.

2014 cruise plans

Posted by [email protected] on May 5, 2014 at 8:05 AM Comments comments (1)

Having bought a beachside house in Callala Bay, some 2.5 hours south of Sydney, we decided to stay put until the end of May to settle into the new house and to celebrate my 60th birthday.

We leave Sydney on 28 May for London, spending a few days in Milton Keynes and Wallingford with family, before heading back to the boat in Toul in early June. Having decided to return to St Symphorien for winter, our plan is for a gentle cruise along the Vosges canal, retracing at a leisurely pace the route we took in 2012. Depending on the time we take, we may well then cruise up the Rhine-Rhone canal, before returning to St Symphorien by the middle of September. our return flight from London to Sydney is booked for 1 October, so it will be a shorter cruising season this year.

The final leg of 2013

Posted by [email protected] on October 1, 2013 at 7:55 AM Comments comments (0)

The last leg saw us cruise through Revigny and Bar-le-duc, which we explored from our mooring at Fain les sources. The it was onto Tronville en Barrois, from where we explored Ligny and to Naix au Forges and Demange, the last stop before the Mauvages tunnel, at 4.85km one of the longest tunnels in France. The passage through the tunnel was quite uneventful, although the constant concentration for over an hour was quite a challenge. A VNF lock-keeper accompanied us through the tunnel on his bike, just to ensure that we did not get into any trouble. He joined us for a much needed cup of coffee when we moored up temporarily at the end of the tunnel. From there it was down through 14 locks to Void, where we moored in front of the converted peniche Flora, our base for the next few days whilst we collected Barry and Margaret Sinfield from Toul.

Sadly, the weather finally turned during this final week and we had some very ordinary weather to contend with as we made our way to Toul, stopping over for 2 nights on the way above the Foug tunnel, as the weather was simply not fit for travelling. We made use of the lay day by travelling by car into Toul and exploring the town.

The last day of cruising, through the Foug tunnel and then down the 14 locks into Toul, was quite a long one, but the weather had improved so we were able to reach the Lorraine Marina, our winter mooring, without too great a problem. The following day, we took advantage of the better weather to explore Nancy by train, before Barry and Margaret returned to the UK.

The last 10 days were spent doing winter maintenance, getting the car sorted out for the journey home and repainting the cream colour on the boat in preparation for the winter. Once again we made friends with our fellow bargees, all doing as we were doing at the end of the season and we enjoyed some excellent evenings sharing stories of barging and life in different parts of the world.

Hard to believe that our second season is over, but we will certainly be back again for more next year!

Froncles to Bignicourt

Posted by [email protected] on October 1, 2013 at 7:45 AM Comments comments (0)

The McDonald family cruise took us northwards, to the end of the Champagne/Bourgogne canal at Vitry-le-Francois and then eastwards along the Rhine/Marne canal to Bignicourt, a journey that took us 8 days, taking in stops at Joinville, Bayard and St Dizier.Once again we were blessed with wonderful cruising weather, which was just as well as 7 on the boat at one time is quite a challenge, without the deck area to spread out onto. The cruise saw us take in some glorious countryside in the Haute Marne, which we explored by car, even though the exhaust had come loose and was hanging on at the back by a wire! The main excitement of the cruise came on the last day when Helen managed to 'hang' the TP in a lock, leaving one side several feet higher than the other as the water poured out. It was the first time this had happened to us, but with the use of the axe, the rope was severed and the boat fell happily back into the water.


Posted by [email protected] on October 1, 2013 at 7:35 AM Comments comments (0)

We moved the boat to Froncles, where we left it whilst returning to the UK and awaiting the spare part for the generator. On our return, we found the generator fixed and all ready to go.

Whilst in Froncles, we did have one interesting experience where we re-floated a teak sailing boat which had sunk whilst tied to the jetty. No-one had been able to contact the owner and the boat was getting muddier by the day. So, making use of our petrol-driven bilge pump, we joined up with a Dutchman, a Belgian and an Englishman and set about lifting the boat off the bottom. By the end of the day we had it back afloat and felt very proud of ourselves, until the gendarmes arrived and virtually accused us of stealing stuff from the boat. They had received a telephone tip-off from someone who had been watching from a distance! We did however manage to convince them that we had been acting as good samaritans, not thieves, supported by the lady who ran the halte nautique, who was horrified that our act of salvage had been so badly misrepresented.

On arrival back in Froncles, we had Heather and Helen with us, Marion and Les driving up from the South of France and Shona arriving by train the next day. All set for the family cruise north!