Thursday, August 24, 2006


It was with deep sadness that we left our Home Port of Cambrai, having said good bye to so many dear friends, whom we expect to see again. We left on a beautiful sunny day along with our friends Bertha and Paul King on Tarahumara, and their guest Sevi who had arrived from Barcelona the day before. We planned to meet in Vaucelles, 11 locks up the St. Quentin Canal and have dinner together on their boat. Bertha prepared a delicious lamb dish, and I, a salad and green beans. After tying up, it started to rain, and it did not stop until after we left their boat around midnight.

The next morning Bill did some work on the small generator we bought last year, with no success. After lunch we left to make sure we would make it to the Riqueval Tunnel where you are tied up to a tow that pulls you through a 6 Km. tunnel, a two hour passage. There was a large barge ahead of us, they tied up directly to the tow, we tied up to them and 2 hours later, out we were. At Km 41, we saw a place to moor the boat, tied up, had dinner and went to sleep. The next morning we were awaken by a knock on the door. It was a VNF employee (Voies Navigables de France), informing us that we were not allowed to stop there. He gave us a piece of paper that the tunnel people should have given us, informing us of the rules along that stretch of canal. I apologized and he told us not to worry, but to get ready to go. We set off, and just before the next tunnel 1 Km long, we tied up, had breakfast and continued on. This was the highest point in the canal, so the rest of the way we were locking down. It was a cool and rainy day until we got to Seracourt le Grand, where we had been on the way over and back from Champagne last year. Upon our arrival, we call Mr. Jean Champagne, in charge of the port to come and hook us up to power and electricity. He is a very friendly guy -- the Shreck type -- big and friendly. He told us it was his birthday and he was going to celebrate with his family. We had a lovely evening, I cooked a nice meal, did some reading and had a good night sleep.

It was very foggy when we left the next morning, but there is something very mystical about navigating in the fog. We had our running lights on, and we encountered no traffic. We were alone with nature and the sound of the water braking against the bow. We saw cranes, rabbits, albatros, martin fishers, and of course, a lot of ducks. We navigated 8 hours without stopping to make it to Pont L'Eveque, a tiny village on the Canal Lateral de L'Oise. The last 2 locks have a lock keeper who opens and closes the lock gates for all boats. Strangely enough, there were no lights at its entrance. As we came in, we saw a large barge on the other side, coming towards the lock. If there had been lights, he would had seen a red light indicating he could not yet approach the lock. The peniche was empty, its bow much higher than the wheelhouse, therefore, the captain had no view of what was in front of him. The lock keeper opened the gate for us to exit, and there was this enormous peniche coming at us as we were going out. We thought we were going to be hit. He saw us at the last second, Bill avoided him, I do not know how, and the peniche almost went straight into the wall of the lock. As we went past him, I yelled at him, but he ignored me. The guy was very old, and definitely shaken up. The one at fault, really was the lock keeper, who obviously was not paying attention. A lot of the time, these jobs are given to students while on vacation to replace the permanent lock keepers. We were VERY lucky this time.

After a long day of navigation, we arrived at Pont L'Eveque, tied up against the quay and waited for our friends Jim and Val, he a Kiwi, she a Brit, who were coming to have dinner with us on Biesbosch. While navigating I had prepared a beef bourguinone and rice. They arrived with a bottle of chilled champagne and baguettes for us. Needless to say, we ate and drank all evening. We had a lovely time with them. They stayed over for the night, had breakfast the next day, and they continued onto Paris in their car. They have a gorgeous converted tug boat, Titan, which they will be putting up for sale when they get to St. Jean de Losne.

From Pont l'Eveque we continued on a nice sunny day, and soon passed the confluence of the Oise and the Aisne rivers. The run to Compiegne is beautiful, and the river, wide. At this point, we started to see a lot of commercial traffic. We wanted to top off our fuel tank, so on the upstream side of the river, there was the fuel barge, to which we tied up and filled up. There is a fabulous ship's store there, so Bill went in and bought a few things. We left Compiegne, a city where we had been by car, and one that has beautiful architecture, palaces and chateaux, and an incredibly beautiful forest. We continued down the river for another few hours to Pont St. Maxmence, during which time, I did a load of laundry, and took advantage of the sun to put things out to dry. We moored at Km 72 at a little island before the lock and decided to go into town to explore. As we walked to the lock, the lady lock keeper was leaving and told us we were fenced in on the island, but gave us her phone number so she would open the gate for us to be able to get back in when we came back. She was a lovely girl, a student of Business, who was replacing the permanent lock keeper for the month of August. The town was charming and small, most businesses and restaurants closed, but we found a lovely Italian restaurant where we had a great meal. By the time we got back, we realized how tired we were, so we went immediately to bed and had a good night sleep. Today, Thursday, August, 24, as I write, we are still on the Oise, it is rainy and cold, but we feel like we are in heaven.

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