2023 Barging France Yonne - River

Many hands make light work (27/05 – 25/06)


Arriving in Paris exactly one month after Ian, which included our 48th wedding anniversary, and the first we had not shared, it was with great anticipation that I stepped out of the taxi at Gare de Bercy. Ian had arranged to come up by train to meet me, and we would travel to Catharina Elisabeth together. I immediately phoned Ian, expecting to fall exhausted into his arms as he swept me up off the concourse, but I was somewhat disappointed to find that he was at Gare de Lyon, another major Paris train station, about 15 minutes walk from where I was. There had been some train changes on his line and we found ourselves forced to delay the meeting ‘hug’ a little while longer as he trotted between stations. Still, the meeting was more than worth it, and we then both took our seats on the now quite familiar train to Migennes, where Simon would meet us as he always does, and take us to the shipyard.

My first major task was flowers.

One warm afternoon, Simon drove us up the hill outside of town to the garden centre so I could pick up the bags of soil, the flowers and herbs, to start planting out my pots for the salon roof.

This would have been a bit of a challenge to bring back on the bikes – thanks Simon!

Then came the task of retrieving all the planters that we had stored in the yard over winter and arranging the varieties and colours. Such fun!

Planting flowers followed by helping Ian paint the salon roof. Many hands!

Even though we did not expect to be cruising very much this season, Catharina still had to look her best – and a colourful display of flowers is a big part of that.

In no time, I was settled firmly back into shipyard life. This included the frequent soirées on various boats. Ian introduced me to a number of people we were meeting for the first time this season, with whom he was already firm friends, and we renewed old friendships as boats arrived at the yard for one reason or another.

We fell into a comfortable camaraderie with a couple of Kiwis (Ruth and Roger) whose widebeam was up on the hard in the shipyard while they attended to some painting before starting their cruising season. Drinks soon became frequent card nights. Rollicking good fun. We also found ourselves being hosted on other boats as often as we welcomed the party crowd onto ours. It set the scene for what was to be a punishing year of social engagements with other boaters.

At the local Moroccan restaurant with Ruth and Roger (Romany) and Allan and Sue (Whisper).

On one of these exchanges, we had been invited for a bbq on a cruiser belonging to some Aussies we had met last season. When we returned the favour a few days later, we found ourselves admiring each other’s outdoor tables. Ian and I have a long and sorry tale to tell about tables for our aft deck. We have, over the years, tried several different table styles and materials, but Ian has always felt they were never the right shape and size for our space. Last season we had bought a new wooden table, that we had to build, and even this was not quite what we wanted. When opened up, it left little space to maneuver around. Chatting to Melanie & David, we decided to swap tables. There was a brief discussion about the differences between our fairly new, unmarked table versus the hexagonal one they had. While ours had arrived in a large carton and was put together with the help of one of our French friends, their table had been found abandoned in the bushes beside a lock some time ago. Undaunted, I was happy to exchange the tables, knowing I planned to strip and sand it back to bare wood so I could apply oil from scratch. The tricky part was that at this point, their boat was rafted parallel to ours, but with another 4 boats between us. So it was quite an exercise, with David and Ian lugging the tables up and over a series of boats, none of which ever have their decks and railings set at the same level.

Refurbishment commences

One lovely warm Sunday, nine of us piled into two cars (Aussies, Kiwis and English) and drove to the nearby town of Chablis to enjoy the market and sample some of the Chablis on offer.

The yard internees gathering for a day off to visit Chablis

It is a very picturesque town and while we have been there before, it was a perfect warm sunny day to revisit it and take a few more photos.

It was following this trip that we realised the group was becoming too unwieldy to comfortably fit on anyone’s aft deck, so we relocated to the shade of one of Simon’s old boats for our evening drinks, which very quickly became a nightly habit. And remained so for the entire season.

By no means our largest gathering during this part of the season.

Ian also developed the habit of regularly cycling past the port moorings at Migennes and inviting everyone he met to join us in the evenings. This introduced us to several new cruising friends, from the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the UK. One of these chaps was Bos, a Dutchman who it turned out, was very good friends with Val Poore and Koos, who we have known for a number of years. Bos single-hand cruises his beautiful old barge Verandering and was on his way south from Rotterdam when we crossed paths.

There was one memorable evening when a rather violent storm blew through and we moved our chairs into the shelter of one of Simon’s workshops, but with open walls, the wind and rain followed us in. It could not dampen our spirits, however, and we just kept moving further back into the shadows to save the chips from getting too soggy as the rain belted in. But these storms, often accompanied by decent thunder and lightning, tend to pass over and move on relatively quickly.

YouTube player

My birthday fell on a Monday and we decided to reprise previous delightful meals we had enjoyed at Le Rive Gauche in Joigny, which, unusually for France, was open for lunch at the start of the week. Normally, we would be moored no more than a few hundred metres from the restaurant, and strolling to and from is a great pleasure. This time, we were still in Migennes, so we took the train between the two towns and had a wonderful lunch on the terrace. This restaurant has never disappointed.

Overlooking the River Yonne
Amuse bouche
Lisette's entrée
Ian's entrée
Main course - Lamb three ways and seafood
Ian's dessert
Lisette's dessert
Overlooking the River Yonne

Around the wonderful but punishing social schedule, there was work to be done. Last season we had achieved a lot of painting to repair and refresh Catharina after her excruciatingly long lonely Covid-internment. But there is always more to do. Towards the end of the 2022 season, we had bought another two sections of tarp (bache) for the wheelhouse, as the wooden windows were suffering from lengthy winter exposure. So the windows were not too bad this time. They got a few more coats of oil, but between us we repainted all of the rear of the wheelhouse and Ian stripped the wheelhouse door so I could treat that from scratch.

Freshly painted wheelhouse exterior and the door ready for sanding and staining

Some other work photos – balancing is a necessary skill and Catharina’s wide rubbing strake is a useful platform for work! And handy to have other boats to use as a platform to reach tricky bits.

Door in need of some work!
Starting on the table.
First of two coats of new paint for the salon roof.
Red is my favourite colour to paint - shame it fades so quickly so I'm always refreshing some section.
Refreshing the black trim made easier by straddling and the rubbing strake.
Touching up black trim at the other end of Catharina.
Contemplating the prep before repainting the foredeck.
Door in need of some work!

We discussed the crane and work schedule situation with Simon and he felt sure he could arrange a crane for mid-August and be ready to start work. It was now some ten weeks since Ian had arrived and five weeks after I had joined him and we had been working and socialising solidly for all that time – now it was the end of June.

Our steel arrives, six weeks after Ian.

We set about arranging plans so that we could attend the DBA Rally in Auxerre which would start on July 12 and made arrangements for cruising with our daughter Kathryn’s family when they would arrive at the end of July. We would then leave Catharina at Migennes to take a brief, ten-day tour of some French highlights with the family before returning to the shipyard where, we hoped, it would be to the rumble of two cranes.

While the Rally was about ten days away, we decided that there was nothing holding us to the shipyard so we would have a short cruise to nearby Joigny, moor at our favourite spot and, you guessed it, do some more work! Then, it would be just a short two-day cruise to Auxerre and the Rally.

Older post:   More recent post:

    15 Responses

  1. It sounds as if you had a very jolly time at the yard. I’m still delighted that you met Bas. We miss him and wonder where he is now. Thanks for a great post and I’ll look forward to the next one.

    1. Bos (do we have the correct spelling) was charming – and we met up with him later in the season where he was a great help to us. Stay tuned!

  2. We spent some time with Ruth and Roger some years ago when wintering in Toul. Glad they’re still motoring around.

    1. They were great company and during our short actively-cruising season, passed them on the Nivernais. They are in the process of selling Romany. Hopefully, for we fellow cruisers, they (like you) might take a little time to sell and have more time cruising.

  3. Lovely to see your bright and cheerful email and to hear of your continuing adventures. Mary and I are now based in Australia and have a motorhome that somewhat takes care of the gypsy in our blood.
    Safe travels!

    1. Nice to hear from you John and best wishes to Mary. I’m sure it was a lovely transition to an alternative lifestyle with many of the features of cruising. Of course, you are always welcome to come to our Melbourne meetings to reminisce and offer up your expertise.

  4. Always nice to read!
    Hope to see/cross you onces…;))

    1. That would be nice – do you have plans for cruising in France? It will be a few years before we get north again Jean-Marie.

  5. Wow! Catharina Elizabeth looks stunning in the beautifully executed painting and varnishing. Wonderful work I say. Sounds as though you are both on top health form and look great in photos. Took me a while to get back to reading this, but very worthwhile
    Love to you both

    1. Hi Gina, It took us a while to write it! When we are on board, we are way too busy socialising (as well as working, cruising and sightseeing), so we rarely get anything ready to post while we are away. I do write diary notes each day and we use those and the log books and photos to prompt our memories for the blogs. Painting the hull after the work was finished was an interesting exercise, of which we are justifiably proud, but not one I feel the need to repeat anytime soon. Love from us.

  6. Lisette! How fun to see myself in the shed with all you lot in that drenching rainstorm! We are EAGERLY awaiting our departure to France (June 25th). We expect to take Vivante from somewhere near Auxerre (possibly south of there) to SJDL. We already have a mooring reserved there. Only six weeks aboard this summer but next year Rob will have finally retired and then we’re planning a full three months. What are you goals for this season? I’d love to stay connected to you and Ian. Wishing you my very best.

    1. Hi Amy, What a fun night that was. The storm, powerful as it was, did not stop us from enjoying our soirée. We love it around Auxerre, such a lovely place. You must be very excited to be going back to your beautiful barge.

      1. Just on hopes and aspirations (not ‘plans’) – we hope to cruise Catharina Elisabeth from Migennes to either StJdL or Auxonne or Roanne via the Bourbonnais route (Loing, Briare, Loire, Canal du Centre) over four months starting around June.

  7. PS – Can you point me to any of your blog posts from along the Bourgougne?

    1. Hi Amy, unfortunately Catharina Elisabeth hasn’t been on the Canal de Bourgogne. Recently, the levels have been reduced in the northerly section to the point where we feel it would be pretty marginal for us with our 1.25 m water draft to navigate easily. As for other blog-type information, you’ll have noted the blogs I recommended in the recent DBA newsletter. Another good source of information is from our favourite blog from ‘Elle’ (written by Shaun who was taken from us in an untimely manner). His excellent coverage of the Burgundy begins at http://eucruiserelle.blogspot.com/2019/05/yonne-river-to-burgundy-canal-canal-du.html. Best of luck. Hope to catch you somewhere sometime.

Leave a Reply

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