First, a peaceful cruise with nothing more eventful than an occasional tight tunnel under bridges and a lovely aquaduct. Plenty of tree roots available for tying up to if we’d been mooring here for lunch or overnight. Actually it’s one of the less pleasant tasks as you have to feel around in the filthy canal water for a strong enough root and a gap to push the line through.
Today feels like a real achievement! Our very first lock in the new boat (Meze) was the 5 step Fonsarennes ‘staircase’. It takes so long for boats to work their way through that it’s organized for uphill traffic in the morning and downhill in the afternoon. We arrived around 10.30 and had to wait until 1.30, so had plenty of time for sightseeing. First the view over Beziers with its landmark St
Nazaire cathedral, then the spectacle of boats ascending in the locks. It didn’t promote confidence to see some of their crews flailing hopelessly about. The lock keepers must despair of the
incompetence of many of us.
Fortunately we had the benefit of two chance encounters. First, a Dutch couple who were head of the queue waiting to go down, just ahead of us. They had a beautiful motor cruiser, complete with an old, blind spaniel, and he gave us a valuable lesson in how to secure the boat easily. They also promised to help us in the lock if necessary. Then we met up again with a couple from Fremantle who spend 4 or 5 months a year in Europe cruising on their boat. She provided me with a running
commentary on what the hapless crew in one boat in the locks was doing wrong.
When we arrived, there was an ambulance with paramedics attending to yet another woman lying on a stretcher. That makes at least four we’ve seen now, all with fractures of some sort. It’s mostly the women who handle the lines, and that seems to be the most hazardous part of mooring and locking.
Somehow we made our way down – squashed in beside the Dutch boat, with two others behind – with no serious mishaps. The rest of the afternoon was relatively plain sailing. We managed four more single locks before mooring at Villeneuve-les-Beziers for the night. There’s a village market tomorrow morning, so we hope to pick up some fresh produce.
Then on to Portiragnes where we stopped for lunch and decided to stay overnight. We’re still passing through avenues of mostly healthy aged plane trees, with vineyards and orchards on either side. It was quite hot but Alan rode off to have a dip in the Mediterranean five km away. He reported that the beach was packed, the water dirty and altogether not a patch on Byron. I went looking to buy a pair of leather gloves because of rope burns and blisters, but nothing was open on Saturday afternoon.
Another change of plan … We were moored up waiting to catch the Monday morning group when the green light showed at 4 pm on Sunday, and minutes later we decided to take a chance and go up the almost 14 metre climb at Fonsarennes straight away. Apart from once bumping into the boat in front, we managed it, with Alan driving and Stan and I securing Meze in each lock then carrying the lines up and over each open lock gate to the next one. Then it’s a daunting sight to watch the torrent pouring down in front of your boat as they fill each lock.
It’s such a spectator sport, especially here and on a Sunday, that onlookers are quite a hazard. They crowd close to the edge, exclaiming and taking photos, and don’t seem to realise you need to get past them in a hurry without tangling the lines.
Now it’s Monday, so we’re catching our breath at Colombiers and catching up with house sale business with Tim. Irene and Stan have just driven off to continue their journey home – sad to think it may be another couple of years before we see them again.