2024 Barging France Yonne, River

Let’s get started (20/05 – 31/05)

Melbourne – Singapore – Migennes

The flight with Singapore Airlines was good although a problem in Singapore resulted in an hour in an unairconditioned plane and then a transfer to a new one. This generated a four-hour delay and instead of arriving on Catharina Elisabeth at noon, it was 4 pm.

There was an upside though. Because of the timing of our flight, we passed over the Asia section in daylight and there were some spectacular views of the mountains in Afghanistan and near the Black Sea. On the normal schedule we have always flown, these areas are in darkness.

Zarafshan Range, Dushanbe, Tajikistan

As you looked down, they felt very close and in the crystal clear air, we could see fine details with clarity.

The Caucasus Mountains near Baku, Azerbaijan

Dear Simon picked us up and even took us for a quick shop up to Leclerc for some essentials. Then, he took us via a circuitous route back to the yard due to some roadworks which have almost completely blocked access to his shipyard.

Catharina is in good nick, the tarps have stayed well secured and the various fenders, canisters, and bags of stuff that I placed under them to stop water pooling worked very well. None at all on the salon and just one small spot on the roof.

Lisette set up the inside, dusting and opening the storage bags to air the clean bed linens and towels put away last October. We were both keen to shower after more than 40 hours of travelling. Oops, no shower, it was leaking a little after some work was done on it while we were up on the hard last season,  so we were back to using the yard facilities until I could check it out. Just for the first night. Meanwhile, I got the power and water up and running and removed the cover from the wheelhouse roof. We were too tired to eat so it was early to bed.

The plan for the next little while is to fix a few items remaining from last year’s work (put the flooring back down, stop that shower leak, get the generator working), and new jobs listed for this season (install new solar panels) in addition to making a start on the wood and paintwork maintenance, and servicing the oil and fuel systems on the engines. We hope to finish all this by the end of May. Our first guest will arrive before this and will probably find a paintbrush on his pillow, not chocolate!

The yard is pretty much the same but the River Yonne is wildly different. It’s fast-flowing and much higher and wider than we have ever seen before. Friends are cruising but tell us it can be quite exciting entering and leaving locks and approaching bridges. Hopefully, it will settle down in the next ten days.

While we had a quiet, early night on our first day, it did not take long for socialising to start as on our second day, C.A.R.I.B III (Chill And Relax It’s Bargetime) with Pat and Lon aboard swept past us and moored in Migennes. Aperos on their barge that evening and the usual swapping of stories including some of their experiences on C.A.R.I.B II which they lived aboard while cruising North America’s Grand Loop. Pat has written about this and their current travels in their blog. Seems we are likely to be heading in the same direction as them this season so we will be able to enjoy each other’s company again.

The planter boxes are filled with what Lisette hopes will be riots of glorious colour all summer, and we are ticking off the pre-cruise chores. Despite some rather ordinary weather so far. True to form, we have also had several more catchups with other cruisers. Lunch with Allan and Suzanne from Whisper and dinner with Deb and Howard (Moondance) who had been hosting Steve, an Aussie keen to buy a barge who had contacted us via the DBA. With Catharina’s generator overheating, and the induction hotplate refusing to fire up, Deb and the guys brought most of the dinner with them! Lisette covered the rest with charcuterie, salad and baguettes and we also supplied the drinks.

Deb, Lisette, Me and Howard – some of the ‘Originals’

Work has continued, focussing on those items best done in the shipyard with others to be left for while we are cruising. So, over this period, I have repaired the leaking shower (just a seal), fixed the overheating genny (an airlock) and installed three new solar panels. The latter haven’t had any sunny days to really show their mettle, but even on a cloudy day, they were doing well over double the maximum wattage of the old panels. Engine oil, fuel and oil filters changed. Genny will get its turn later.

The weather has been pretty average. Cold for this time of year, maximums under 20ºC, frequent rain and windy. The fine periods are, fortunately, also frequent so we could get most outside work done in comfort but roll on summery weather.

The distant other shore of the bloated Yonne.

Our first visitor of the season, Steve, arrived just a week after us and so found himself in a shipyard rather than cruising the canals of France. However, Steve has been with us a couple of times now as our very first guest in 2015 in the Netherlands and cruised with us on our most harrowing voyage on the Nivernais in 2019.

Steve helped with a number of jobs over the first few days – one of them being loading fuel. 600 litres of diesel was required to top up all the tanks. Four 25 L plastic cans could be used for each load.

Simon lent us his van to shuttle to and from the nearest service station and then we siphoned the fuel into the various tanks. This should be enough for this season.

Anniversaries

Ian’s Dad’s 100th Birthday

My father would have turned 100 on May 28, and we decided to mark the occasion, separated though our family is at this time. Word went out that we would be downing a glass of whiskey in his honour, wonderful Scot that he was, and in no time, all four of the children were lined up to do exactly the same thing. And so it came to pass.

Ian in Field in France
My Dad in Field in France, 1952

The significance of these two photos is that in 2013 we were cruising on Michel and Rebecca’s gorgeous Luxemotor, t’Majeur, as an introduction to testing the lifestyle before buying our own boat. I had planned on recreating dad’s photo, taken when John and Millie were hitchhiking through France. On our last day on board, I spotted the perfect setting. Rebecca assisted with gathering the props we needed to mirror the original photo. And off we trotted into a nearby field to take our photo. The very sad about this was that that very morning, we took a call from Australia to learn that John had just passed away. So the photo shoot became a very poignant homage to his dad.

Lisette and I in France and all his grandkids back in Oz had a wee dram to celebrate.

Ten years aboard

As we’ve blogged separately, the following day was the one we had decided to celebrate our ten years of ownership of Catharina Elisabeth. Steve arrived late that day and it was miserable weather – too wet and muddy to risk walking to the restaurant. Instead, Simon was happy for us to use the little van and as only two could fit, we shuttled to the nearby Le Mitigana – the best restaurant in town. The meal was delicious and delightfully presented. A special meal for a special occasion. This was Lisette’s fare.

Leaving

Finally, enough of the jobs were done so we could leave. On Friday, we were moved back from our ‘home’ position, to back under the crane so we could leave easily. Saturday, we’ll be off.

Catharina has been home-ported in Simon’s yard for six winters. We never expected this but it has ended up to be a wonderful time. We’ve learnt a lot, we’ve improved Catharina significantly and met many many wonderful people. The workers in the yard, Phillipe, Dorothée, Shannon, Mark, Norbert, Gaetan, Laurent and most especially Simon have been cheerful and kind companions over the years. It will be a wrench to leave – but we will have the fondest of memories of our times here.


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    4 Responses

  1. You description of your endeavours getting to your beloved Catharina Elisabeth is fantastic so good to hear what happened. The best news to find her well looked after while you were home . Now with the normal maintenance done it is time to do what you both ❤️❤️ to travel those canals. Just loved the photo of you and your Dad it was a special tribute to a lovely man . Enjoy your time away and your visitors that are on the way to catch up . ⛵️⛵️

    1. Yes Mary, we’re off and running with two days cruising under our belts. One day, perhaps, we can get you aboard!

  2. Finally able to read and respond to this interesting blog, especially liked the recreation of the field and a sleeping John from 72 years ago! Wouldn’t they both have laughed! An superb idea and such a coincidence that he passed away on your special photo shoot. Of course we have spoken together and are looking forward to boarding Catharina’s decks once again somewhere near Briare. with love GnG

    1. Yes Gina, he was interested in the idea of us cruising but obviously didn’t get the chance to see us doing it. See you and Geoff soon – looking forward to it and you being an integral part of the blog!

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