2023 Barging France Marne, River Seine, River Side-Trip

Life’s not just about overplating (16/08 – 24/10)

Migennes – [Évry – Nogent-sur-Marne – Langy-sur-Marne] – Joigny – Paris – Bazolles – Migennes

While we spent most of the weekdays and many weekends waiting or working on Catharina Elisabeth when she was out of the water, we did have a few breaks for a bit of enjoyment. We also spent many evenings socialising with other shipyard internees and visitors. In general terms, we worked hard and played hard!

Cruising and crewing on Matilda and Casa Nautica

Our first break came soon after the liftout. On a Friday afternoon, just after the workers had downed tools, a car pulled up next to us and our Aussie friend, Bruce and shipyard compatriot Rodney hopped out and started to chat. Turned out that each of them was single-handing their respective barges (Matilda and Casa Nautica) and were currently moored on the Seine a little upstream of Paris. Did we want to come and add a crew member to each barge? Thirty minutes later we had grabbed a backpack and piled into Rodney’s car heading for Évry.

Matilda with Casa Nautica downstream.

Rodney and Bruce were on a long journey up to Maastricht in the Netherlands for overwintering and work to be done at the shipyard there. They were prepared to do the journey single-handed but having some crew makes life a bit easier and more interesting. We could only stay the weekend because we had to get back to Migennes in case welding began but a couple of days of cruising, in boats we had not travelled on before, was a very attractive proposition. We spent the night aboard Matilda and next morning I went across to Casa Nautica while Lisette remained as crew on Matilda. We had an early start and were soon heading towards Paris.

As always, it was enjoyable watching the passing houses, industry and boats moored for permanent liveaboards. Seeing the ‘blue submarine’ and our French friends’ boat Dahra brought back pleasant memories of our time with them last season.

Lisette found Matilda’s heavy ropes somewhat of a challenge, but fortunately, we were travelling downstream so it was more a case of dropping them over bollards in locks, rather than throwing them up in the air.

While we only spent the weekend with the guys, it was a lovely change from our recent, sedentary days. The first day we travelled from Évry, hung a right at the Marne, and stopped for the night at the long quay we had used the previous year at Nogent-sur-Marne.

Mandatory photo of the Chinese Restaurant at the junction of the Seine and Marne.

I found that I could enjoy the vista of boats and opulent houses much better as a crew member on Casa Nautica than working at the helm and took the opportunity to just relax on deck as much as possible.

Casa Nautica passing some of the boats moored on the Seine.

Lisette also had a relaxing time on Matilda.

Following Casa Nautica through the St Maur tunnel.

Dinner was on board Matilda, and the following morning, Rodney joined us on Matilda, leaving Casa Nautica behind as he intended returning the following day and making his way into Paris to pick up a friend.

So on day 2, we travelled from Nogent-sur-Marne as far as Lagny-sur-Marne. As is the way, we met up with a couple of Kiwis and our old friend Rémy from Chalons-en-Champagne. In no time, we were all enjoying a farewell drink on board Matilda. Rodney cycled off back to Casa Nautica, and we left to cross the river and catch the train back to Migennes. Rodney had asked us to retrieve his car from Évry, and hold onto it at Migennes. That would save him having to keep travelling back and forth to move the car with him as he and Bruce continued north into the Netherlands. It also provided us with a vehicle for short trips around Migennes. As the train pulled into the station at Évry we were pleasantly surprised to see that our old friends Jonathan and Jeannie on Aleau, were moored there. After picking up the car we surprised them with a quick visit, just a chat, before driving the last leg to Migennes.

The work on Catharina has been covered in another blog post, so I won’t repeat it here.

Musée Bayard

About two weeks later, and just before the welding started, we popped over to Joigny with our friends Sylvie and Peter and their two sausage dogs, to visit the Musée Bayard – a museum hosting a variety of WWII displays but focussed on the local resistance group ‘Bayard’. We were the only ones attending so we could take our time which was necessary because the displays were in French so I was making extensive use of Google Translate. We were also helped by a young girl who spoke good English – lucky for us as it was her first day volunteering at the museum. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed, but Lisette asked if it were possible to take a couple, and they gave in.

One of the containers that were parachuted to supply the Resistance.

The coverage of the aspects of the occupation, the equipment and organisation, the participants and the activities was comprehensive and fascinating. I found a section on the actions of the Group Bayard in Migennes especially interesting. Migennes was a very important rail hub for lines heading to the east and south from Paris. At least two resistance groups were involved in repeated sabotage actions against the railway infrastructure and one display showed the plan for one of these attacks.

“Tools used to sabotage railway tracks”

Eternal Mucha

Then we were solidly into work and it was not for another month before we could take time off for a short day trip to Paris. The motivation for this trip was to visit an exhibition on the works of the Art Nouveau artist, Alphonse Mucha. Conveniently, it was located right next to the Arsenal which allowed us to chat with friends on Wanderlust and hail our other friends on Aleau and Moondance who were all moored there for the winter.

The Mucha exhibition was wonderful. It was a visual feast. His art is anyway, but the exposition used animation and video extensively to display and ‘paint’ some of his artworks on walls of a huge room. It was so beautiful that we watched the ‘life and works’ part twice through.

YouTube player


While we were familiar with his poster art, the section of the exhibit that dealt the murals he painted for the Bosnia and Herzegovina pavilion for the Paris Exposition was a revelation.

One of the large murals in the pavilion, ‘Bosnia Offers Her Products to the Universal Exposition’

Another revelation was The Slav Epic, a series of twenty large paintings celebrating the culture and achievements of the Slavic peoples. He considered this to be his most important work. One of my favourites was #6 ‘The Slavic Code of Law’:

Small versions of each painting were displayed along with his description of what he wanted to illustrate but the originals are enormous:

#1 ‘The Slavs in their original homeland’ – the Epic is now housed in Prague.

We now have a book on his life and works and a jigsaw puzzle of one of his paintings of the four seasons.


But we had another very welcome break ahead. Christine and Peter who we had met at the rally, live in a beautiful cottage on the southern side of  of the Nivernais. I remembered seeing their lovely barge Amity when we ourselves were cruising on the Nivernais a few years ago and we had photographed their village, Bazolles during our horrendous return cruise.

Bazolles in 2019, their house would have been immediately on the left.

Their house was a literal stone’s throw from écluse 3. Downstream was the dreadful section where we had crashed over the stone debris and upstream was the shallowest pound that we have ever travelled through. So we had other things on our mind in 2019 when we were nearby. This year, I immediately recognised Amity when they were directed to moor up outside us at the Rally. We had so much fun with them and they are such hospitable folks that they had invited us to visit them if we got a chance.

So, once the plating was done, and we had repainted Catharina’s hull, we felt we could take off for a few days. With light hearts, we took the train and bus as far south as we could (Corbigny) and Christine and Peter met us there and took us back to their beautiful home.

Their home is a gorgeous converted farmhouse directly adjacent to the canal with Amity moored next to them.

What a perfect setting!

We learnt that they had spent five years renovating what must have been a rather rundown place, living on their barge next to the property while they undertook the work, with some help provided by some of the village folk. It was tastefully decorated with artworks and furniture they had transported from the UK. They had created beautiful comfortable rooms where once animals had been living (one of them housing Peter’s morse code radio station) and their lounge still featured cubicles in the wall where the chickens would have roosted – providing the family convenient access to fresh eggs.

A teapot occupies the spot where a chicken would have roosted.

We took a road trip up to the reservoir at Baye to check out the yacht that Peter sails there and noticed a sign promoting the Nivernais canal which featured a barge owned by one of our Australian friends.

Dilli(gaf), owned by Tony and Julia, entering Decize harbour.

Aperos were a delight in the warm evening sun:

Perhaps the highlight was a drive out to the Morvan forest and La cathédral de verdure (the cathedral of greenery).

During WWII there were several, well organised resistance groups (maquis) based in and around the Morvan forrest. These were supported and supplied by the allies by air drops. After the Normandy landings, a group of SAS troops were parachuted in to assist with insurgency behind enemy lines. Several of these airmen were killed along with resistance fighters (both then and at other times). The Maquis Bernard group established a  military cemetery deep in the forest. It has been recently refurbished and every September there is a ceremony to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of these fighters. It was both beautifully maintained and very moving with fastidiously maintained graves, right in the middle of a forest in a cathedral of trees.

A brief history.
The cemetery amongst the forest.
The SAS airmen killed fighting alongside the maquis.
The maquis fighters killed in the region.
The motto of the British Airforce.
One of the graves.
A brief history.

Along the way back we passed one of the temporary stores of firewood cut to the standard length which has been used for centuries. Villages in the region have entitlements to areas of the forest that they are allowed to harvest under strict controls. The wood is stored and then transported, not by water as used to be the case, but by trucks, to the villages to provide heating in winter.

We had a picnic lunch beside a lake which is popular with boaters and features a posh resort – or it used to:

The tourist resort can be seen in the background. Not much of an outlook for guests any more.

Apparently the lake has been drained to do some repairs, a while ago, and it has taken so long to finish that all the business around have failed. Still, we found a table and enjoyed a delightful lunch featuring a gorgeous quiche Christine had whipped up that morning and watched the occasional group of people take advantage of the dry lakebed to shortcut from one side to the other.

Some idea of the original depth comes from the moorings that are now dry.

Back at the house we had a quick walk around the small village but as the church, which has recently been refurbished, was not open to view, we soon returned. A tourist barge was approaching the écluse and, as I had never had an opportunity to operate the lock gates during our Nivernais cruise, I took the opportunity of helping the éclusier with both sets of gates. He nodded thanks as I crossed that item of my ‘required experiences on canals’ list.

Me on the left side.

After just two very pleasant nights we had to get back as it would soon be time to head back home, and we needed to get on with winterising Catharina Elisabeth but it had been a delightful and congenial short visit and who knows what may happen in the future? We left, returning to Migennes where four days later we were going through ‘splashdown’ and four days after that we left Catharina Elisabeth for the winter.

End of the Season

Well it wasn’t much of a cruising season, sadly, although what cruising we did was very enjoyable. We have statistics on how much distance we travelled (128 kilometres!), the time we spent actually cruising (15 days!) the number of écluses we passed (58) and the fuel we used (about 100 L)

The 2023 season.

– but not on the number of friends new and old that we met whose company we enjoyed and who enriched our lives during this season. This was undoubtedly both our shortest cruising year but also our greatest socialising season – and we had a simply wonderful time.

To finish on a high note, we were off, bags packed and ready to fly, to spend our last few days in Paris – a spectacular coda to the 2023 season.

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