The previous afternoon we had told the lady lock-keeper that we were planning on departing Cercy-la-Tour at 9:00 AM, which is when the locks open. We have learned that almost universally, a lock-keeper will ask what our plans are when we arrive at a lock. As the lock-keepers often cover more than one lock, and as they try to coordinate the ascending and descending boat traffic to group boats in a lock, they all stay in touch with each other. As such, we felt compelled to be ready at 9:00 AM, so we got up “early” at around 7:30 to refill our water tank, buy some bread at the boulangerie and explore the hilltop medieval tower north of the town. Jill and I walked up the hill to the top of the remnants of the tower, which also contains a huge statue of Mary that can be seen for miles. Ample amounts of 12th century masonry remained, which gave the area the “old Europe” character that I delight in exploring.
We departed on time and immediately passed through the first of sixteen locks we would traverse on Day 5. As the day progressed, the heat and sun became more and more challenging. This stretch of the Nivernais Canal contains a series of serpentine turns, so it was impossible to set the parasol in a location that provided long-term shade. The forecast was a high of 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and with the totally cloudless sky I have no doubt that it was at least that warm. I had been wearing sandals the last couple of days and the tops of my feet got badly sunburned before I wised up and put socks and running shoes on.
We made one stop during the noon hour lock closure period at Panneçot to view the town and the local chateau. We moored at a rather pleasant little marina that was uncharacteristically totally devoid of other boats. As water and electricity are available at the moorage, it was surprising to find no other boats. Perhaps that is due to the fact that the town had little to offer in the way of commerce. Jill, Rich and I rode our bikes into the village and we encountered no one on the streets. The chateau, though, is impressive and well worth the two kilometer bike ride.
Upon returning to the boat, Dawn and I piloted the boat while Jill and Rich rode along the towpath. For the remainder of the journey to Châtillon, we experienced two fairly lengthy delays of approximately half an hour each waiting for the lock-keeper to arrive. We learned that there were two other boats ascending (as we were) and we passed two boats descending, so the lock-keepers were kept busy coordinating the lock passages. I asked one lock-keeper if it was permissible for us to operate the locks ourselves. I knew the answer was going to be “no”, but I asked the question anyway just to practice my French. He confirmed this and emphasized how disastrous the situation could be if someone screwed-up and left a lock open.
As both Rich and I are retired engineers, it didn’t take us too long to understand the lock system. Basically, the lock design is similar for every Nivernais lock we have seen so far. There is a sluice gate that must be opened or closed prior to opening or closing the lock gate. After going through the first few locks of our trip letting the lock-keeper do all the work, we have established the practice of one of us jumping out of the boat at the lock and assisting the lock-keeper by opening half of the lock gates. So while there is no doubt in my mind that we would have no trouble, I can definitely imagine how disastrous it would be if indeed someone left open a set of lock gates and the upstream canal section started to drain.
Starting at about 3:00 PM, when we still had seven locks to passage and about 15 kilometers to go, I asked each lock-keeper if we would be able to make it to Châtillon-en-Bazois by the 7:00 PM closing time. Each of them assured me that there would be no problem. We wanted to make it to Châtillon-en-Bazois because Canalous has a facility at the marina there and electricity and water were available. Well of course, it started getting closer and closer to 7:00 PM and it seemed like we were going to run well short of making it. But we breezed through the last couple of locks and pulled into the final lock about 6:45 PM. The lock-keeper was a young, recent college graduate who very pleasantly helped us through. We made it through just about exactly at 7:00 PM, so she was on her way without any overtime from us! Our total distance traveled today was about 38 kilometers, which doesn’t sound like much, but it took us all day.
We had been running fairly heavily for five days, so after a little negotiating, we decide to spend the next day in Châtillon-en-Bazois as a “down” day. It turned out to be a good decision, as we spent the morning exploring the town market and the town center, then we relaxed in the shade alongside the canal during the afternoon catching up on our blogging, reading, web-surfing and knitting. The marina is located at the base of a magnificent chateau, so the ambiance is truly “old world Europe”. This is the first marina we have stayed at that had Wi-Fi available, so we all took advantage of it.
Later in the day we walked to the local grocery store, which was a good-sized store, to stock up on wine, water and food. We are amazed at the price of the local wines. The shelves are filled with bottles selling for four to six euros. It’s hard to imagine that the wine producers are making much money at those prices. We wrapped up the day with our second game of Hearts. I am the least of the card-sharks in the group, but for some reason I kept getting favorable hands dealt to me and I ended up winning. This undoubtedly bugged my lovely wife, as she had earlier commented on my questionable strategy. Hah!