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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Last Month with Armida

Now we are home in dry and brown (officially Golden) California after a very pleasant and relaxed August in France. Armida is out of the water in Saint-Jean-de-Losne and prepped for a long stay.

August started with the warmth of July continuing as we came out onto the Saone, and plopped down in Auxonne where we could sit under trees in the warm afternoon.  I revarnished the wood rails and Terry organized herself as a Seller at the local Vide Grenier in an attempt to lighten the boat.

Our fears of a hot August were unfounded as the French weather continued to be abnormal with lovely mild days for the rest of the month.

For our last cruise of the season we decided to head up the dead straight stretch of the Canal de Bourgogne to Dijon for a few days. Expecting a boring trip we were reminded of why we love this life with a couple of lovely villages, a verdant garden complete with Giant Sequoia and a tranquil rural stop, not to mention a very nice lunch.


We have been to Dijon a few times before and you may remember it was torn up while they installed a new Tram system.  That chaos has now moved on to Besancon and Dijon looks fantastic – clean, bright and both modern and ancient.  The Tram stops 100m from the boat and whisks you into the city center where the museums, galleries and buildings are fabulous.

It was back down the canal for two days to Saint Jean de Losne and the festivities.   By the time we got there the Quay was full so we rafted next to Peter and Margaret’s big barge Matilda on Friday, which also had music. French Celtic which was really great fun.  Our friend Glen (of Glen and Trish) was celebrating his birthday on the Quay. The town was celebrating with a fair, band and fireworks.  Saturday was the celebrations and a good time was had by all.

After that highlight it was back into the yard to clean, pack, tidy, winterize haul out and go. As we got closer to the end of the season we both realized that we are not finished with this life yet – we enjoy it too much and we have the boat just the way we want it now (OK an oven and washing machine would be nice).  So she is still for sale but unless someone makes us an offer we can’t refuse we will be back, maybe not next year but soon after.

So Armida’s travels may continue – we will let you know.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Boys and their Toys

Saint Jean de Losne
This afternoon, as we sat cooling off at the rural mooring by the campground here, the Gendarmes provided the entertainment.
The speedboat and helicopter zoomed up and down the river exchanging crew.  The helicopter hovered over the moving speedboat and lifted one of the crew out and zoomed off.  I think they tried a few times to put him back but in the end they just hovered low over the river and he jumped in for the boat to pick him up.  They did this about ten times up and back and then went home.  I suppose the skills will come in handy sometime but it looked like a fun way to spend a hot afternoon.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July Stories


There’ve been no blog posts for July. We have been busy with guests and not covered any new territory.   Instead of cruising to new locations as  as we have done for the  past three summers we’re now local favourite stretches  with friends and family while staying close to our home base.  Guests have rewards of their own, not new locations. 

John and Alice, friends and neighbours,came for three short days.   We did short cruises from Dole.  Highlights were the fireworks, conversation and nice wines.  Unfortunately when the boat wasn’t moving it was quite warm with high humidity so walks and sightseeing we not to be on the cards. 

Then Tess and Tony came for four days.  We cruised from Dole to Besancon.  They loved Dole, the market and music at the local bar.  Besancon was stinking hot.  They walked up to the Citadel the first morning and returned to the boat where Tony dove into the river for a swim to cool off.  it was so hot that Terry, the dogs and I all did the same.  They met people their age who worked on a large hotel boat in port with no visitors at the time.  The were invited on board, shown around, served drinks and champagne while they all conversed and learned about each other and their countries – a nice thing.

After they left we meandered back down to Saint-Jean-de-Losne to do laundry and stock up.  Next and now we are in the historic town of Auxonne where a young Napoleon spent three years in military school.  He  then decided he wanted to be emperor.

This year we have met many new cruisers the last two weeks as well as catching up with old friends, Alison, Pete, Frank and Jill. 

Now some stories:

A Sunday in Besancon

There is always something happening in France in the Summer.  On a Sunday afternoon Besancon offered three consecutive concerts at different locations.  Covering Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music –all free.  There was a fourth concert in the main theatre to finish it off, but we had a picnic to go to.

Not just any picnic.  “Le Grand Picnic”. The city filled the main pedestrian street with tables and chairs in one long row (with breaks), invited everyone to bring their own food and wine then get to know their neighbours.  Sort of like the experience you get in a cosy French bistro but on a grand scale.  We went with Kent and Heather from Maryland (who must be the youngest US cruisers on their own boat) and everyone had a grand time – even the dogs.

Journey to Dole and St J De L.

Summer Weather

We’ve had hot weather before – every year in fact, but the last three weeks were bad because there was no  break.  There’s a lot of water and moisture here so when it get’s hot the clouds build up and you usually a get a nice (or not so nice) storm to cool things down every few days. Somehow it has managed to stay just below the storm threshold and still be hot enough to be uncomfortable.  Cruising is often the coolest thing to do on these hot days, especially on the rivers where there is more chance of a breeze.  Stopping in the locks brings the heat right back.  After days of this the steel boat begins to hold the heat.  Nights bring some relief (late) and the DC fans I brought early on have more than proved their worth.  Terry uses her “chillo” to lay her head on.

We have spent a lot of  time on the Doubs which is a clean river so the swim platform and rescue rings have been used for the first time and even Terry has been in for a swim.  We took the dogs in too but they did not appreciate it until they were removed in a cooler state.

Finally we’ve had three days of cooler weather, one of which was solid rain all day as we motored up the Saone to Auxonne. Fortunately there was only one lock but that was enough to get us very wet. 


Weir(ed) and Wonderful

There are not many moorings between Dole and Besancon because a lot of it is river and the canal portions have very rocky banks that are OK to rub against in a rental boat but not your own shiny boat. On the trip with Tess and Tony our planned mooring place was full, as was the next one, so we kept going and were rewarded with a space between two other boats where the canal leaves the river right by the weir with an old factory on the opposite bank. Did I tell you it has been hot?

This was just the place to sit by the cool river, get a little breeze and listed to the rushing river.  Tony ventured out onto the weir and was not swept away.  He got to get close to the ducks that were walking up the weir and occasionally sliding down and the resident heron.  There are many of these weirs on the river but only two you can moor next to. Each weir seems to be owned by a single blue heron who sits in the middle of it all day presumably catching fish.  We think we saw a mate at one weir but otherwise there is only ever one.

Returning from Besancon on another hot day we got to the same weir for a late lunch and got nabbed the prime spot on the end.  A French family (grandparents and grandchildren) were already there sitting in the middle of the weir letting the water wash over them.  So guess how we spent our afternoon.  The evening with the Bimini down, the full moon and the peaceful water was sublime.


Fireworks are an essential part of summer in France and there are many excuses for them but the big one is Bastille day.  In Some towns they on the 13th and others on the 14th so you can have two days worth if you move around.  We opted to get our Fireworks fix in Dole with Alice and John as they were being set off in the sports field opposite the mooring.  We moored bow in so the stern got an unobstructed view. After a delightful dinner in town we repaired to the back deck, cracked open the bubbly and watched the show, including the tethered hot air balloons lit from below.  Very nice.

The next day we took John and Alice on a short cruise to a nice mooring in a little village at Choisey.  It was full so we rafted next to another boat and had lunch.   At that time the test of the sound system for their festivities began, very close and very loud.  Investigation found that their festivities started at 11:30 and went to 2am.  We old folks hightailed it back to the peace of Dole for the night.

Here is the front page of the local paper in Dole for Bastille day with a special feature on the international boating tourists.  They chose a good example don’t you think?


Rental Windows

Armida has broken two windows this year.  Not her own but those of rental boats that dared to mess with her.  The first was a big steel rental boat in Chalon-sur-Saone that misjudged the current and slammed her stern in close to Armida’s bow.  A well placed fender pushed the intruders off after collapsing the window on the receiving end. 

On the rural mooring in Rochefort-sur-Nenon a Locaboat didn’t get their ropes on soon enough to stop backing into Armida’s bow and shattering their back window.  Glass everywhere and a couple of  little scratches on our rail.  Anyone want to make it three?




Wednesday, July 3, 2013

All Quiet

It is quiet on Armida this morning.  Terry is in bed, the dogs are curled up on the sofa and there is a gentle rain outside. There is no more gurgling and laughing from the suitcase, no more baby noises from adults and no more silly grins and laughing all around.
Sean and Skye left the boat yesterday for Paris and will begin their grueling 22 hour flight to Sydney this afternoon – we hope all goes well.  Adam had to leave to go back to work last week. We have had a wonderful time with them all here and feel so lucky.  Mind you we probably would have had a great time locked in a room for two weeks just watching grandson Sean.  I won’t go on about what a great little boy he is because that will be grandparent bias and to avoid cluttering the blog I have uploaded a bunch of pictures here.
They spent a few days recovering in Paris and took the train to Chagny on the Canal du Centre where we met them with Armida and cruised up to Santenay where we could sit under the trees in the warm weather and enjoy the charms of the village in the evening. The next day we cruised down the canal to Chalon-sur-Saone briefly losing Skye, Terry and Sean after they got off for a walk and ended up on the wrong side of the canal where the road took them off in the wrong direction.
A coupe of nights in Chalon enabled them to enjoy the great street market, stock up on some great wines, have a lovely dinner at Aromatique and experience the festival of music in the town with what appeared to be most of the population of the region. Two easy days up the river got us back to the old hunting ground of St. Jean de Losne where Skye and Adams’ friends Chantal and Sean met us after driving over from Wales for the weekend! They got to experience a short cruise as we headed into the Canal a Rhone au Rhin where we let them off for their long drive home and we continued up to our favorite town of Dole. 
This was the route of our first canal trip in 2001 and I had forgotten what a pretty trip it is.  After Dole the cruising alternates between canal and stretches of the River Doubs, often below limestone cliffs and forests.  There aren’t many villages but the natural scenery is lovely and the weather was mild.  It climaxes with the approach to Besancon as the massive fortress of Vauban’s Citadel appears on the top of the hill protecting the town.
After visiting the Citadel and its museums and Zoo (Sean got to see his first Kangaroo  - in France!)  Adam left and we spent a lovely restful five days with Skye and Sean all to ourselves.
And now they are gone and all is quiet.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Season of Sitting


2013-06 077

This season Armida has done a lot of sitting in one place. She spent the month of May sitting in Saint Jean de Losne waiting for the weather to clear.  She sat in Chalon sur Saone for a few days waiting for Stephen and Jeanne to arrive and now she is sitting in Fragnes waiting for Skye, Adam and Grandson Sean.  Now we have electric hot water and don’t have to run the engine every two days sitting is pleasant, particularly when the weather is now gorgeous and the scenery lovely. 

The weather turned with the arrival of the Secrests;  the extra two Californians were enough to tip the balance, and with the Australians now in France it is going to get hot.  We had a fine time with Stephen and Jeannie as we cruised up the Canal du Centre  and into the gap between the premier wine regions of the Cote du Beaune and the Cote du Chalonaise  to Santenay. After leaving them in Chagny we went back and sat in Santenay with friends Jilll and Frank and then ambled back down here to Fragne to sit  some more.


There is nothing much here except a lovely mooring with a grassy bank, a nice park, a view  over the fields, a charming helpful young Capitaine, an airport nearby that launches and accepts parachutists and stunt planes and a very peaceful atmosphere.

In our push to convert Armida to a domestic service vehicle we did take her half an hour down the canal to the big E. Lecerc supermarket for supplies, along with Bill and Winnie from San Francisco, and then back to Fragnes where we had drinks on our boat and dinner on theirs.

While Armida sits we still get plenty of exercise walking to the Boulangerie, the market and just exploring.  While in Chalon we took Lilou and Rosie to the Toilettage (Groomer) to be shawn in honor of Sean’s arrival on Wednesday. 

Meanwhile we will sit some more.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

And We’re Off

Verdun sur Doubs
At last we are on our way.  Nearly a month here and we have taken  the  out boat twice – to do laundry! Summer is not here by a long shot but at least it isn’t raining all day and there are signs of improvement, so we set off down the River Saone.  River cruising is not our favorite but in unsettled weather like this it is the better choice as there are few locks where you need to be outside. Steering from inside the bubble is quite comfortable and steering from inside the boat is even better. The rain has not gone and the clouds are moving quickly over the sky bringing short bursts – and in between splashes of glorious sunshine.

Previous posts may have given the impression that we were miserable and depressed with the rain; no, just frustrated.  The frustration was mitigated by our first long term immersion in the boating community.  The marina at Blanquarts is a particularly friendly one and our pontoon may have had the highest concentration of US flagged boats on the French canals, along with Australians, New Zealanders, Brits, Germans and others.
Our days were made up with chats on the pontoon (in between the rain) drinks on peoples boats, including ours, meals out with friends and other social activities. Some in our little circle were, Pete and Allison from the UK, Pete and Lil from Florida, Tony and Kay from New Zealand and Al and Gail from Canada. We miss them already.  When we left there was a contingent on  shore waving and hollering - we felt like we were leaving on a cruise.  Wait a minute - we were!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Oh Happy (laundry) Day!

Saint Jean de Losne (still)

Today the sun was shining when we woke.  I can’t remember the last time that happened. It is not supposed to continue but at least there are signs the weather is breaking.

We grasped the opportunity to cast off and motor around to the quay on the river to the very convenient Laundromat (laverie).  We couldn’t do this the last week as the river was two steps higher. I don’t know if it is considered “green” to take a 12 Tonne boat with a 6 litre engine half a kilometer to do laundry – but anything for a change in scenery.

Of course we had to have coffee, croissants and jam basking in the sun before work could begin.  Four loads of washing, one in a dryer and the rest on the lines to dry in the warm sun.  A great day.  Even the dogs loved getting back on the water.

So the weather has changed, the river has dropped and the Canal du Centre has opened and things seem to be getting to where they should have been two or three weeks ago. Maybe we can even do some cruising.

Our friends, Stephen and Jeanne, are coming next Saturday and it wasn’t clear where we could meet or take them; now it looks like our original plan of a short jaunt up the Canal du Centre may work after all.  Our fingers are crossed.

So we got to experience the coldest May on record in France.  And tons of rain.  Goodie.

Plans in France don’t seem to work as well as other places but at least today was a happy day.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I saw the Sun!

Saint Jean de Losne

I think I saw the sun this morning – it’s been such a long time I can’t be sure.  It wasn’t there for long but for about 30 seconds there was some color and cheer in the world. Maybe it will happen again today.  After nearly three weeks of this we have to hope.

A week since our last post and we are still here in the marina, along with everyone else, hoping that the weather system, that is stuck somewhere in the North Sea, will get a move on to let us have some decent weather.  The rain stopped yesterday but it is looking dark to the west and it is cold.  The rivers are still running high and the canals are still blocked.  We considered going up the Canal de Bourgogne to Dijon for a change of scene but the thought of 21 locks in the cold and rain outweighed the lures of the big city.

Friends Jill and Frank gave up on the Canal du Centre, which is not to open now for another two weeks and returned last week with the idea of doing their loop the other way around, but they are still here for the aforementioned reasons. One boat went out for a test run the other day; they went up river for 45 minutes, turned around and were back in 10!  Others friends are stuck in the Arsenal after the winter in Paris and can’t even get out onto the Seine because it’s too high and fast. At least they’re in Paris.

The dogs are stir crazy – they sit in the boat looking at us pleadingly to take them out and when we do they look at us accusingly – “Why did you bring us out into this cold and wet"?

The people on other boats all feel the same and will happily talk with anyone about anything just to break up the day.

We expect the weather is better wherever you are –  if it is please send us some.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Brrrr…..Bah…. Humbug

Today the high temperature is 12C (53F) with a cold breeze and rain – not a bad day for January – but it’s May for Pete’s sake.  Yesterday wasn’t much better and the next few day don’t look great.  Just as well we didn’t plan much for May as there aren’t many places to go.

Our friends Jill and Frank in D├ętente set off for the Canal du Centre a couple of days ago hoping it would open in the 15th when the authorities said repairs to the collapsed bank would be completed (the top pound of the canal is empty).  Now it looks like the end of next week! With more rain today and forecast, who knows. Fortunately our first set of visitors don’t arrive until the start of June.
Meanwhile we spend our day cooped up on the boat with occasional excursions outside between showers. Some dress appropriately.

And others don’t.

The only reminder that this is indeed spring are all the blossoms and the wildflowers.  If we ever see the sun again it will be delightful once more.  But not right now………

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Clearing and Cleaning


Today we have been back for a week and it is nice to be in our cozy little home again.  It appears that Armida had a good winter as the covers were still on, she wasn’t too dirty and everything seems intact.  The engine started right up but we haven’t left the dock yet. Blanquarts have installed the immersion heater so we now have electric hot water -  a big improvement.

California saw us off with hot weather and fires in the hills and we managed to bring some of that sunshine with us to France for a pleasant drive from the airport.  The only fog was in my head.  It was bittersweet driving over waterways from past cruises:  the Marne, the Seine, the Yonne and the Canal du Bourgogne, all if which looked very full.  Last year we worried about the lack of water; this years is the opposite.  The rivers are very high and there are closures on many canals due to too much water.  It does mean that everything is very green,… and yellow.


Rosie and Lilou have settled back into the boating life easily having already adjusted to the time and the routines, particularly meal times as Lilou reminds me every day. Our efforts to improve the weather by importing sunshine from California seem to have been overcome by the recent arrival of lots of English who have brought their rain and cold. Because of this and the high water we are in no hurry to leave, so we are taking it easy, cleaning slowly, catching up with some friends, and thinking about our busy year of visitors and where we will go.   The grey days still let the sun out occasionally.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

One More Time

Our bags are packed, we’re ready to go…well not quite, but we still have five days before we drive down to Ojai to stay with Tess and Tony before we fly out of LAX next Saturday.

This is probably our last season for a while as we get ready to put Armida up for sale and plan for all the visitors who have suddenly realized this is their last chance to visit us on the canals of France. Consequently we are not planning a long voyage, more likely a “greatest hits” of Burgundy, which we will decide on when we get there. It will be a shorter season as we are booked to return at the end of August to start working on our next adventure.  That has a lot to do with this little guy – Sean Spencer Wallace – born on January 18th in Sydney.