2019 Barging France

Migennes and home (21/09 – 27/09)

Auxerre – Migennes – Sunbury

We decided to get ourselves settled into Simon Evans’ yard at Migennes a few days before our departure on the 26th of September, leaving us four days for winterising. First, the now practised cruise from Auxerre to Migennes, our fourth one way or the other this season. I set up the camera to do a time-lapse of the voyage and we set off in brilliant sunshine to cruise through the last lock of the Nivernais and through Auxerre.

Cruising past the cathedral.

Sometime later, I found out the camera hadn’t been recording so what was to have been a spectacular video, eventually was reduced to just our last lock and entry into Simon’s yard.

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Our season trapped in the Nivernais meant we had travelled only 365 km, about a third of our historical average. However, we’d passed 210 locks and ten bridge events – well above anything we have done before. The reliable old DAF had powered Catharina for 122 hours and consumed about 460 L of diesel. So, a couple of metrics: fuel consumption of 3.8 L/h or 33.4 L/100km and travelling at an average speed of a bit more than 3 km/h.

Up and Down the Yonne and Nivernais


There was the now fairly routine business of packing and at the end, closing down Catharina Elisabeth’s systems. We leave the water tank low but all water is drained from the pipes and taps; anti-freeze in the toilet and shower pump; vents open and no indoor heating; and all power is turned off. We don’t hook up to shore power. This year, the added feature was the huge new tarpaulin (bache in French) that was custom-built to cover the salon to protect the paintwork and wood of the windows and hatches. It was a bit of a job and involved creating a ‘tent’ effect so that the tarp did not lie directly on the salon. I built a few bits and pieces to support straps that were strung down and across the length of the salon.

Support structure for the tarp and the flower pots to be winterised separately and refreshed next spring,

The tarp lay on top and was secured by a long length of elastic rope.

Ready for winter! Note the game of musical boats has already begun.

All this is designed to reduce the amount of maintenance we have to do when we return each season.

We left Simon with three main tasks to occupy the winter. We asked for the flange around the wheelhouse to be trimmed a little to give us a few extra centimetres in anticipation of low bridges down south.

The trimming in progress later in 2020.

We listened patiently again to Simon’s views on spud poles (with which we now agree) as we arranged for the repair of the spud pole.

The spud pole after removal. Then replaced with new cabling.

Finally, we offered up the support pole that I fished off the bottom of the canal to Mark and asked if it would be useful in the repair of the bimini frame. “No” – he said as gave a gallic shrug – “I’ve modified it once and the next time it’ll be easy.”

Everything was settled and even though it always seems a bit of a rush at the end, we were ready in the morning for Simon to take us to the train station. It wasn’t an early departure as the plane was leaving early on the 26th so we would have to stay overnight in Paris, near the airport in an Airbnb that I had booked. I’ll let Lisette describe that memorable experience.

Room with a View

Well, where to begin? We knew we would have to spend one night in a hotel near the airport because our flight leaving Paris was too early in the day for us to successfully travel from Catharina’s winter spot to Charles de Gaulle. Unfortunately, (for the first and definitely the last time) we had vacillated for far too long in choosing a suitable (read: not very expensive) hotel. Each time I looked, the price seemed to have gone up. So Ian (partly responsible for the vacillation) said he would take this on the chin and find somewhere for us to stay at an acceptable price. I left him to it. I will not do this again.

An Airbnb sort of apartment was found, which boasted views of the Eiffel Tower, and yet a short train ride to the airport. Sounded fine, and the price was good, so Ian booked it. Leaving Migennes, we caught the train back to Gare de Bercy, which was fast becoming a rather familiar journey, and picked up a taxi to take us to the apartment. As we neared it, the driver queried us more than once “You are sure this is the right address?” “Yes”, Ian replied, increasingly firmly. Shrugging, and no doubt convinced of the ignorance of the Aussie tourist, the taxi driver dutifully took us into what was obviously a series of 5-10 story apartment blocks in a sort of community – buildings designated A to H. Ok, not pretty, but hopefully clean. He tossed us out of his taxi and took off without a backward glance. We did baulk a little at the large collection of supermarket trolleys parked around the base of the buildings, but with little option at this point, we found our building, E, and made our way to the fourth floor via a lift. The intrinsic value of the supermarket trolleys became clear as we shared the lift with a family who were using the trolley to carry their groceries and sundry children up to their own apartment.

We were met by two brothers, who let us in to find that the apartment, while lacking in anything remotely approaching matching décor, was spotlessly clean, right down to the vase of plastic flowers on the little table.

Nice and clean, if basic. The window has The View.

There was indeed a view of the Eiffel Tower, over in the distance, just visible 15 km away, between apartment blocks G & H. We headed out to grab a quick bite of dinner, which was taken at a pizza joint in the train station we would be using in the morning, and back to enjoy the ambience of La Tour Eiffel, lit up at night. In the morning, we dragged our suitcases back to the train station, to admire another use of the supermarket trolley – small braziers were set within them, roasting cobs of corn. Who would have thought? But even more unexpected, was a large number of rats leaping in and out of the greenery that passed for a garden on either side of the path to the station entrance. One had to plan each step carefully as they literally darted all around us.

Note to self: take back and keep control of accommodation needs in the future. Always. But we do still laugh about the ‘Pied Piper’ experience.


After the flight back we were pleased to find that the chap who had been minding our cat had done an exemplary job. Mike was barrel-fat and the surrounds of the house were swept, weeded and the leaves tidied up. None of the gardening work was on his remit. We settled back into normalcy but

Meanwhile …

Someone in a wet market in China was handling an animal with sniffles. COVID was beginning and all our plans for cruising in 2020 would crash into disarray. We would miss two full seasons and it would be almost three years before we would see Catharina again. The only good we could draw out of this was that Catharina was moored in a safe and well-managed place and that the new tarp would protect at least some of her structure from the ravages of the seasons.

Now a searchtest: narrowboat

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