2023 Barging France

Stage 1 (26/04 – 07/5/2023)



After I arrived at midday and was picked up by the ever-helpful Simon Evans,

the first jobs were to get Catharina Elisabeth’s basic systems operating.

  • Turn on the power, OK and the main battery bank was at 47% down from 71% six months ago [I have lights].
  • Then close all the taps, open up the water tank and start the water. Again, all fine [I can make a cuppa].
  • Next item was the furnace and this started with draining any water from the water trap and then triggering the On/Off switch inside the salon. Started nicely and was soon at its set temperature [I can have a hot shower].
  • Time to check the generator as Catharina wasn’t on shore power. Laboured a little and then chugged up to full speed [I won’t run out of power].
  • Then time to check inside, turn on the fridge, unpack the stored clothes, towels and bedding and remake the bed [I have somewhere to sleep and fresh clothes to wear].

So after a hot shower, drinking a cup of tea, eating a baguette bought at Gare de Bercy and wearing warm pyjamas, I snuggled up in a comfy bed and turned out the light – comfortable in the knowledge that Catharina was a home away from home again.

Tarps Off

The next morning it was cold and so the central heating got a gurnsey – and it played well so another system checked. The plan for the next few days was to remove, clean and stow away the three tarpaulins that had been protecting Catharina from the ravages of winter. On inspection, they all seemed to have worked very well. They were all pretty clean and there were only a couple of pooling points where water had accumulated on the wheelhouse roof and salon tarps and for the salon, that was because a support post had fallen over.

Pools of water above the salon and if you look closely, above the wheelhouse also.
Tarps off and showing the ‘tenting’ system for the salon and wheelhouse roof tarps.

All in all, that task took a few days as I wasn’t in any particular rush. At a pinch, I’d guess that removing the tarps and support framework could be done in two days if needed – but taking more time allowed me to clean them properly.

Tarps off and washed down.

Meantime, a couple of trips on the bike to the Atac supermarket nearby and the bigger Leclerc up the hill had reprovisioned Catharina enough to feed me well.

Rodney, on Casa Nautica, who we had met in the yard last year was onboard and just about to take off on a cruise along the Canal de Bourgogne – in the meantime, he was nice company to have a chat and a drink with and he helped remove the big tarp that covered the salon. The other person nice to have a chat with was Lisette back in Australia. She had just had some surgery. I’d felt uncomfortable leaving her to face the surgeon without me to support her – but we agreed it was best and the rest of the family rallied around. The surgery went well and her recovery has gone smoothly. So this has become a regular morning call so we can keep each other updated. Lisette will be onboard Catharina on the 26th of May.

First preparatory work

The first major task to set up for the lift-out and overplating was to gain access to the bilges so I can be on firewatch when the welding begins. To do this the plan for the salon was to remove the three centre planks of tongue and grove pine flooring and the five-ply underlay. To do this, I used a multitool to cut through the tongues and the secret nails.

Because the batteries wore out too quickly, I went to the brico to get a mains powered on later.

With a bit of levering, the three sections eventually yielded. The next step was the underfloor and a circular saw made pretty quick (if messy) work of that.

The first section of flooring is up.
The sub-flooring revealed.
The new vacuum cleaner is suborned into being a dust extractor for its first task.
Off to work.
The bilges revealed.
The first section of flooring is up.

So I now have some access to the bilges over the length of the salon – although vision is restricted at the edges and some of it will have to be managed by a mirror on a stick. That’s as far as I’m going for now – the rest can wait until Catharina is lifted out – whenever that happens.

What I’ll be looking at during firewatch.

A short cruise

I did have a day or so’s break from work when Rodney asked for some crew help. He had been heading south on the Burgundy when his raw water intake on Casa Nautica pipe sprang a leak and he could no longer get water in to cool his engine. A couple of lash-up systems allowed him to start back to Migennes but his crew had to leave about one day shy of reaching the safety of Simon’s yard. So I went up to help with crewing from Saint Florentin towards Migennes. For a number of reasons, it doesn’t look likely that we will ever cruise the northern section of the Burgundy with Catharina so this was a chance to see at least a little of this well-regarded canal.

It was a glorious day and for most of it I took the opportunity to have a bit of a practice of being deck crew and handling ropes. Not too hard as we were going down in Freycinet locks so the bollards were almost in reach – but I did try to do some long throws to make for useful practice. The highlight of the journey was the fabulous écluse at Duchy.

Approaching the écluse.

Nowadays, lockeepers (éclusiers) do not live in the cottage next to the écluse they are responsible for. Instead, there are either itinerant éclusiers who travel by scooter or car or the écluses are automatic. So most of the écluiser’s cottages are abandoned and derelict. However, some have been taken over by private individuals for various purposes (we described several such in the sections on our journey on the Nivernais in 2019).

This écluse presented itself as a cottage with a wide expanse of beautifully mown grassed area on both sides of the lock and behind. Even more impressive was a magnificent arrangement of ornaments, sculptures, flowers and even lights. Quite the best écluse I have ever seen. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t ask the éclusier to hold the écluse and allow me time to wander around and fully appreciate the diligence and creativity of the owner.

Perhaps we’ll take a drive there so I can show Lisette. I did take a video but, in no way, does it do the setting justice.

YouTube player


Casa Nautica made it almost into the port of Migennes – then she overheated. So, I took a page out of history

and man-hauled her the last few hundred metres to the mooring.

Not far to go …
Heave – Ho!

All in all, a fantastic, memorable day.

Now having cleaned up after the salon work, it’s now time to see if there is any other work I can do on Catharina before being lifted out – somehow, I don’t think that will present much of a problem.

Older post:   More recent post:

    4 Responses

  1. I’m impressed by how clean your tarps looked after so long. It must be a very unpolluted place there. Well done for all you’ve achieved so far, and also for being the tower on the path. It’s amazing to think that was the norm at one time. By the way, I like your bio-pic 😁

    1. I was also surprised at how clean the tarps were. Perhaps there had been recent heavy rain? One must be in awe of the toughness and resilience of the families that ran barges in the past.

  2. Great to have your adventures back online. Those tarps and supports are terrific. So much attention to detail. Best wishes for the work!

    1. The tarps save lots of heartbreaking work on the wooden windows – so saving our souls. Happy travels in Europe!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *