Decize to Cercy-la-Tour (Day 4)

Rich scaling automatic lock at Decize

Rich scaling the automatic lock at Decize

We awoke to another glorious day of bright sunshine.  Rich and I rode our bikes back to the Maire, as we had to turn the electrical and water access card back to the Maire for a five euro deposit refund.  Along the way, we stopped in the nearby boulangerie for some breakfast pastries and bread.  We had an embarrassing moment upon entering the boulangerie.   When we rode into the parking lot, there was a floor-to-ceiling window adjacent to the parking lot that I mistook for the entrance.  I stepped through the open window, with Rich right behind me, and we immediately found ourselves behind the counter alongside the shopkeeper.  She flapped her arms and pointed us to get behind the other customers, so we walked around the counter and got in line.  Luckily she was quite friendly and when our turn came to be waited upon, she was all smiles and pleasant.

Jill skippering the boat leaving Decize

Jill skippering the boat leaving Decize

After a complicated planning session amongst all four of us on the subject of how best to proceed and/or explore, it was decided that Rich and I would ride our bikes along the canal towpath and Jill and Dawn would pilot the boat through the locks as we headed northward along the Nivernais canal.   We had a rather late start at about 11:00AM. Rich and I rode slowly along the path and stopped at the next several locks to assist the ladies through the lock, plus help the lock-keeper turn the cranks.  The boat got to the little town of Champvert about 11:45 AM, which theoretically would have been enough time to get us through the lock before the noon shutdown.  However, there was no lock-keeper in sight.  So we tied up downstream of the lock and wandered into the village.  As usual, there was not much action, but we did find a little café/bar open on the town square.  I ordered a French beer called Meteor and everyone else ordered a wine.  I was impressed with the taste of the beer.

Champvert lock house - no lock keeper in sight

Champvert lock house – no lock keeper in sight

We strolled back to the boat to be ready for the 1:00 PM opening, but 1:00 PM came and went with no sign of a lock-keeper.  Luckily I had the phone number of one of the éclusiers (lock-keepers) who had offered me his phone number when we first entered the Nivernais.  I called him and explained the situation, all in French, of course, and he said he would call the assigned lock-keeper.  About five minutes later, our missing lock-keeper came buzzing down the tow path on a motor scooter.  Rather than having been holed up at a local tavern as had been our suspicion, he had been at the next upstream lock, as he had to work two locks.  We were to find out that it was quite common along the Nivernais for a lock-keeper to be in charge of more than one lock.  This was in contrast to what we had experienced along the Canal latèral à la Loire, where we saw a new person at each lock.

Beer and wine break in Champvert

Jill, Rich, Dawn and Henry Warner enjoying a beer and wine break in Champvert

Another difference we noticed was that several of the lock-keepers were wearing blue uniforms with the VNF (Voies Navigables de France) symbol.  We had not noticed  anyone wearing a similar uniform along the Loire canal.

Just prior to our next lock at Verneuil, the ladies had a bit of a mishap.  Rich and I were at the lock waiting for them to enter when we saw the boat turning broadside to the canal and backing up and moving forward.  At this point we just assumed that the direction had gotten off course and Jill was having difficulty straightening out the boat.  So Rich rode back downstream for about 100 meters to the boat to investigate.  After several more minutes the boat approached the lock.  I discovered that our parasol had blown off the boat into the canal and had sank!  All the jockeying back-and-forth that we had been watching was Jill and Dawn trying to retrieve it.  My first thought was that this was now a potential navigation hazard to other boats, so I told the lock keeper what had happened.  He just laughed.  When I asked him if he thought it would be a hazard for other boats he shrugged his shoulders.  I asked him if we should try to find and retrieve it, he said we could, but that we shouldn’t worry about it.  Rich and I rode our bikes back down the canal with our gaff hooks, but it was evident that we were not going to locate it in the murky water.  I imagine they find lots of things in the canals when they get drained for their winter closures.

What the boat looked like before the parasol blew off

What the boat looked like before the parasol blew off

The women then encouraged Rich and I to ride our bikes up the hill to visit the 11th century Romanesque church and 15th century chateau in Verneuil.  From the guidebook map, it looked like the town was only about a kilometer from the canal.  Rich and I soon discovered that the map was just symbolic and not to scale, as it was easily a five kilometer ride up several steep hills.  We were sweating like the proverbial pigs when we made it to the town center.  Then to make matters worse, we rode right past the historical church, thinking we were looking for something more grand.   But finally we found it, took the obligatory proof-of-arrival photos, then headed back for another sweaty ride all the way to Cery-la-Tour.

Cercy-la-Tour happy hour

Jill, Henry Warner and Dawn at Cercy-la-Tour happy hour

By the time Rich and I rode into the marina at Cercy, the ladies had the boat tied up to a floating pier.  However, we noticed that there was no electricity or water available, so we decided to retrace our path by about 100 meters to another floating pier that did have power and water.  Not only that, but we learned from the lock-keeper who walked over to our boat that the water and power were free, which was a welcome change from the experience we had at Decize where we had to ride two kilometers to the Maire to pay for a dispensing card.

View of Cercy-la-Tour from medieval tower

Jill Lehman in Cercy-la-Tour medieval tower

After securing the boat and hooking to shore power, we turned on the air conditioner as it was about 85 degrees Fahrenheit and getting quite toasty.  The A/C ran for about five minutes then snapped off.  We checked every breaker and other possibilities that we could think of.  Nothing made any difference, so we broke down and called back to the Canalous base.  After performing some basic diagnostics over the phone, Gunther agreed that we needed help.  He offered to send someone from their other base in Châtillon-en-Bazois, as it was only about a 30 minute drive.  We used this opportunity to inform Gunther that we had “lost” our parasol and we asked if the technician could bring another.  Luckily he asked no questions.  Or just maybe, it’s a fairly common occurrence to lose the parasol.

While waiting for the technician, Jill and I walked into town in search of an épicérie.  We walked for quite a distance and had no luck, other than one with mostly empty shelves, as it was going out of business.  We did buy a six-pack of Orangina that was nice and cold, so the trip wasn’t a complete waste.

Cercy-la-Tour lock house

Cercy-la-Tour lock house

We got back to the boat in time to learn that our power cord was defective.  Luckily the technician had brought a spare, so voilà  – we were back in business!  The sun finally swung around to shade the boat and the temperature dropped to a more comfortable level.  We spent a pleasant few “happy hours” on the deck of the boat sampling more Burgundian wine.  After a delicious dinner of barbequed flank-steak, we wound down and headed for bed.  Total kilometers today – only about fifteen!

The day is done

Jill Lehman and Henry Warner – The day is done

This entry was posted in France Canal Boat Trips. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply