Migennes – Gurgy – Migennes – Moret-sur-Loing – Nemours – Veneux-les-Sablons – Châlons-en-Champagne – Reuil
We have been very negligent in letting you know about what we have been doing in France this year. So much so, that we are now coming to the end of our stay (end of September) but we should at least let you know we are alive, well and in good spirits.
So, we have been working for more than half our time here. First at the shipyard run by Simon Evans at Migennes, then in and around the Chantier Naval Rousseau (Rousseau’s Shipyard) and moored nearby in Moret-sur-Loing. We have then taken the remains of the season to cruise up the River Marne and are now on our way back. All up, we’ll have done a bit under 1,000 km by the time we finish in late September back in Migennes.
We came for a four-month stay this time, recognising that we would have a lot of maintenance to catch up on after an absence of nearly three years.
This was certainly a good idea as we spent over two solid months of cleaning, preparation and painting and will still have more to do when we get back to our winter port – before we leave. Between the two of us, we painted railings, the hull above the waterline, the rubbing strake, the wheelhouse roof, refurbished four windows and the wood of the stern box. Much more as well. In total, we have racked up nearly 12 intense weeks of almost continuous work before we decided that enough was enough.
We started this in our wintering (and COVID-ing) site at Simon Evans’ shipyard and then, a month or so later, moved to Moret-sur-Loing to do more work while waiting to have Catharina Elisabeth cleaned, examined and painted while out of the water at the nearby shipyard run by Jean-Marc Rousseau at Veneux-les-Sablons. However, by the end of this, Catharina looks better than she ever has and while there is still more to do (like the Sydney Harbour Bridge), we feel we have just about caught up with the effects of COVID.
However we had a rude shock after we received the results of the examination of Catharina’s hull when she was taken out.
It seems that many rivets have been worn away after 107 years of cruising and we can now see that this was not examined in our purchase survey, although the steel thickness was, and still is, generally OK. So it is now our task to fix this by overplating almost all the bottom of Catharina’s hull with a second layer of new steel, welded onto the old hull.
Fixing this, it turns out after a lot of advice and planning will be very, very expensive – but it must be done. The shipyard put in a temporary fix of mastic over the worn rivets and sent us off cruising in early August planning for our return later in the season.
Here’s a link to a time-lapse video of going back in – coming out was just the reverse.
This turns out not to be convenient, (visas, insurance, medications, access to a suitable winter mooring) so we will have the work done next spring. One of us will have to come early to help and oversee the work. Apart from anything else, there is a mandatory requirement for someone to be on the boat, on fire watch when any welding is being done. But this also means we must cut up and remove some of the wooden floor to give us access to the bilges. Fire watch involves sitting in the boat with a hose at the ready to put out small fires. A chore, obviously, given the work will take four to six weeks to complete.
So, we ended up with six weeks available for cruising (of our four months on our French visas this year). Many of you will have heard how hot and dry it has been in Europe and in France, one of the results has been the closure of many of the canals. This has made it very difficult to travel but, fortunately for us, the areas we were considering to travel are on rivers and canals that are well supplied with water.
We elected to travel from our shipyard south-east of Paris to the Champagne district. So, we cruised down the River Seine towards Paris then turned a sharp right to head up the River Marne into Champagne territory.
To say we have had a delightful time (after the hard work and stress of the problems with Catharina’s hull) would be an understatement. It has been some of the best cruising we have ever had. The river (and eventually the canal) has been a relaxing and scenic route to travel. We have had the best of times meeting other boaters and French natives along the way. The museums, churches and festivals have been full of interest and several times we have had very personal escorts through these. Last, but not least, has been the superb experience in Champagne.
Yes, the wine is delightful and we have tasted and drunk plenty but we have been fortunate to arrive just as the champagne harvest (the ‘vendange’) has started. So we have the sounds of tractors full of grapes passing our moorings, the sights of people in the vineyards on the hillsides beside the river picking the grapes, the smell of fresh pressed grapes and, most memorably, a couple of up-close and personal experiences of the actual pressing of grapes including one in a traditional press, on the first day of making champagne in 2022.
At some point, we’ll properly document all this in this blog. So for the moment, we’re safe, happy, healthy, refreshed, and prepared (resigned) for a big effort and expense at the beginning of next year’s season but confident that the investment of time and money will be repaid with more years of unique experiences and enjoyment on the waterways.
We hope you are all well and those of you in Melbourne are arranging warmer weather for our return. We hope to either see you in the not-too-distant future or, at least, provide some more detailed stories (and there are lots and lots of them) in writing.
Apologies again for the lack of communication,
Lisette & Ian