2019 Barging France

Trout and Climbing: 15/07 – 17/07

Vincelles – Prégilbert – Mailly-Le-Château – Châtel-Censoir

As we did not have far to travel, we decided to investigate the farm which adjoined the quay. We arrived a little early (it opens at 10 am) and so we just wandered around. The business of the farm appeared to be dairying with a herd of cows in stalls.

The buildings were old and a little run-down but featured a farming-related motif at the point of each of the doorways.

When the little shop opened we chatted with the woman running it and purchased some yoghurt, cheese and some raw milk – which came from a coldroom and was decanted with a ladle from a big milk churn straight into a bottle. Ian, not a big fan of milk in the past, wanted to try the unrefined milk to see if it tasted any different to half fat, pasteurised and homogenised milk. Other than it being much creamier on the palate, the taste was pretty much the same as regular milk – at least as far as Ian could discern.

Leaving Vincelles.

Once we finished our farm visit, our guest crew were keen to get into the thick of cruising. Ian impressed Simon and Catherine by bouncing Catharina Elisabeth off the walls as he cruised into the first lock – first bad entry of the season and of course guests onboard! Ah well, it could only improve from here.

This first lock was quite delightful,

decorated with a superb array of colourful flowers and statues of animals, couples and gnomes.

A little further on, we again passed the long group of campers with their home comforts (powered by less than professional electrical connections as you may recall from the last blog), we had another giggle as we pointed out the comforts of home and the creative wiring to our guests.

Lunchtime saw us waiting in a lock next to an éclusier’s cottage – this one was much less cared for than the first one we had passed.


In the early afternoon, we tied up on a wild mooring at Prégilbert, with a large, arched bridge ahead of us. We needed to use the passerelle to reach the shore, but once it was in place, we could relax at this very pleasant, wild mooring.

We had read about a trout farm situated across the river so we set off on a walk of about 1.5 km over the bridge and along the road until we came to the farm (Ferme Aquacole de Crisenon). It was originally on the site of an old convent (while it seems European monks were required to make beer to help boost their income, nuns built and maintained trout farms), and while most of the buildings no longer exist, the trout runs are still maintained in the old stone channels.

The young owner of the farm, Guillaume, sprung us wandering unattended throughout the farm, but was lovely about herding us back. We all wanted to sample some of the fish and were persuaded to buy char for dinner, a smaller relative of the trout. Guillaume caught and cleaned them for us although rods were supplied so you could catch your own.

We decided we simply had to have some of the smoked trout they produced on site. We remarked on the fact that we’d tasted similar smoked trout a few weeks ago, at our farewell dinner in the shipyard at Migennes. Laughs all round when we all realised that the reason we were familiar with this product was that Norbert, who had provided the trout for the supper at Migennes, actually works for Guillaume at the trout farm! Crazy coincidence. Months later, when we returned to Migennes, we found that everyone at the shipyard had heard about our funny encounter.

Catharina from the bridge. You can see the canal directly behind joining the River Yonne coming from the left.

We had worked out a system for enjoying G&Ts on the aft deck following an exploratory walk into whatever village we were near. Ian would start the ice machine going as we left for our walks, and then there would be a plentiful supply of ice by the time we returned to quench our thirst before dinner.


Just after we passed under the bridge, at the next lock, we came across the oft-recommended restaurant, Écluse des Dames – open for lunch and dinner. We could have easily walked there from last night’s mooring. There was a rather tight mooring just in the pound along upstream of the écluse but Catherine checked and found that the restaurant was booked out anyway.

Restaurant at Écluse des Dames #33.

After a guest photo opportunity in the beautifully maintained lock, we cruised on towards our first bridge challenge.

As we motored along, we lowered the bimini for its initial test on the first of the low bridges we would encounter on the Nivernais.

There were two such bridges on our season’s Nivernais ‘caution list’. The first and reputedly the lowest, was at Mailly-la-Ville, just ahead of us. While it has a low clearance, the bridge has no arch, i.e. it is flat on the underside. Thus, provided the centre of the wheelhouse (a little over 3.0 m above the waterline) clears the bridge, the bimini, which projects beyond the edge of the wheelhouse would have no problem.

Plenty of time to line up for the bridge.

This is in contrast to the arched bridge we would face in Anizy (on the southern side of the Nivernais) where, even if the wheelhouse makes it through the centre, which on our most recent advice was that it had a 3.25 m clearance,

From our recently published Du Breil Nivernais map book.

the edges of the bimini might still hit the edge of the archway as they are about 2.9 m high at 4.2 m width and you can’t pass through the centre of the bridge (photo of the Anizy bridge below courtesy of Fluvialnet).

Our map book had the maximum clearance at 3.25 m.

This was the reason we had modified the bimini so it could be dropped. Still, we wanted some practice, so we dropped the bimini on approach and passed under the Mailly-la-Ville railway bridge without incident.

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We spent the lunch break taking on water from one of the new pontoons at the very nice mooring at Mailly-la-Ville – free power and water, so highly recommended. It certainly looked like a very pleasant little town as well. Just a short run remained after lunch to our planned stop at Mailly-le-Château for the evening.

We shared the afternoon locks with a group of Italians on a hire boat.  They claimed to have no English (or French) and were singularly ill-prepared for entering locks or mooring up as it turned out, entering the small marina basin backwards, with much farting around. We continued past the basin and spotted two bollards buried in the grass near the u-bend of the canal. While we were working our way towards the front bollard, managing weed and rocky shallows, the Italians gave up on the basin, shot behind us and rapidly took the bollard we would need to use at the stern. Just ignorance really. Darting behind a boat moving forward and back. If they had waited a moment, we could have shared the bollard. So we had to go forward and share one right at the stern of an unoccupied boat in front. Whatever.

Once secured we took off for a walk across to the village at the base of the hill upon which the main part of the village was situated, along with the château.

Beside the last house in the photo above, was route consisting of a combination of steps and a steep path to the little village of Mailly-le-Château, situated high on the hill above our mooring.

View from the top of the climb. The canal curves away at the top left.

We came upon a small but imposing church in the village square, Eglise Saint-Adrien, dating from the 13th century,

with an interesting gallery (14th century) above the entrance featuring four figures supporting the columns:  four serfs with the Countess Matilda I of Nevers (a great patron of religious establishments during the 13th century) in the centre

which, while a little run-down inside, had a beautiful polychrome sculpture of Our Lady

and perhaps the most beautiful statue of Jeanne we have ever seen!

On the way back down the hill, after a short stop at a tiny, scantily provisioned supermarket, we passed a bizarre memorial to the war – a tall plinth, topped with a statue of a naked baby boy wearing only a helmet, holding a rifle aloft and standing beside a chicken.

We became aware of our cultural ignorance a bit later when we realised the ‘chicken’ was, in fact, a rooster – the unofficial national symbol of France. Lucky we did not find this out from a French person!

Back onboard and because we had been discussing Catharina Elisabeth’s history, we took out the banner we had been given by her original owners,

which was used as a feature in a family photo taken in 1952 celebrating the 175th anniversary of the formation of the Verwer family trading company – ‘Expeditiebedrijf M Verwer’.

Catharina Elisabeth (91 years-old) is centre-bottom and Trien, who we met in 2015, is bottom-right.

That night we sat on the stern watching the full moon rise, sipping wine and chatting

but somewhat later, Catherine and Ian were musing on why there was a persistent cloud obscuring part of the moon – before they realised that it was a lunar eclipse!


The next day’s cruising was to be the last for Catherine and Simon before heading home. Aside from being very congenial guests, Catherine, had been an especially enthusiastic deck hand – assisting with the ropes and lock gates at every opportunity.

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It was almost wearying watching her rush around! Simon looked much more relaxed behind the wheel!

But perhaps, that is just the difference between being a deckhand and a helmsman!

Just after lunch, we emerged from the canal into the Yonne again to cruise past the craggy face of Les Rochers du Saussois – cliffs carved out by the Yonne that are popular with rock climbers. Unfortunately, the only mooring was already occupied so we had to pass by, but they made for an impressive backdrop to this part of the day’s cruise.

After another relaxing, sunny cruise, we ended at Châtel-Censoir, taking up a mooring on the edge of the canal, just after the lock opposite the town moorings.

Like Mailly-le-Château, this village is perched on a hillside, and so we bravely set out to walk up the very steep village streets to the even steeper route

Up we go!

to the collegiate church of Saint Potentien, founded in the 9th century.

Some lovely works inside. A local woman, just praying on her own, saw our interest and got up and began to talk to us about the art and the church in French, after which, she left us to continue to explore and returned to her prayers. There were four grisailles painted directly onto the walls, a wonderful mosaic floor and the bones of St Potentien in a golden reliquary beneath the altar.

For Simon and Catherine’s last dinner aboard, Ian tried out a new duck confit recipe – which really only means a new sauce. This one featured caramelised orange with Cointreau.

Catherine and Simon would be leaving in the morning and we would be heading further south – this was the cruising route we enjoyed together:

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    6 Responses

  1. We visited that trout farm a couple of summers ago. The trout rillettes are wonderful! And you can’t beat the fresh fish.

    1. Yes, it was a delicious meal, prepared simply. A lovely mooring too.

  2. Lovely, Ian and Lisette. It must be making you very nostalgic to write these blogs not knowing if you will make it this year. The photos are stunning. What a beautiful country. So near for us, but at the moment, so far!

  3. Lovely, Ian and Lisette. You must be feeling very nostalgic writing these posts knowing that you might not make it over this year. The photos are stunning. Such a beautiful country and all that history.

  4. Oh, I thought my first comment hadn’t posted. Now you have two. Never mind ????

    1. Been caught that way in the past myself. History is, of course, for us Antipodeans, one of the main attractions in France given that our Euro-centric history here only dates back just over 200 years and access to the history of our first peoples is not readily available.

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