These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over nine years now and are still loving it. Our Ulster born Shih Tzu, Shannon, has grown up, and has taken over the boat! After three wonderful years in Ireland, we transported The Puzzler to The Netherlands, and spent a year there. In 2015 we went southwards, to reach the north of France by June. After glorious weather throughout the summer, we arrived in Roanne in late October, and enjoyed our winter in this friendly port. We cruised extensively in France in 2016 and 2017, returning to Roanne each winter.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

11th – 13th August, 2018. From Pommerœil to Péronnes yacht club, then on to Tournai.

It is an unusual finger mooring at Pommerœil. We joined Chris here on Laura Marie and had a good evening together.

Continuing on down another huge lock with our Danish friends. This was Péronnes lock 1, and was a 12.5 metre drop.

Péronnes yacht club is based in the large lake between the two locks.
Fortunately the hammerhead, at the end of the jetty, was clear for us. We do not often moor at yacht clubs, but we only have a few inches of water left in our tank, so needs must!

On leaving, we waited above Péronnes lock 2, while a commercial emerged. There was another commercial coming along behind us, so we were surprised to be called in first. The lockkeeper closed the gates behind us, so Andy told him there was plenty of room beside us for the big barge. After some consideration, he opened the gates again, and Lawrens came in very slowly, and easily fitted in.

We left the lock first, then moved over for Lawrens when we could. We have found the commercials considerate, so long as we remember our place, and keep out of their way.
After a shopping stop in the little harbour at Antoing, we moved on to Tournai. We are squeezed in, in front of La Paradoxe, with Bernard and Patricia on board. We met last year at Sarguemines, and also on the Champagne-Burgundy canal. At this mooring it is essential to be very well secured, as the commercial traffic is quite heavy here, near to the one way system ahead of us.

The cathedral here, is very much under repair, so this is a scale model to show its proportions.

It is very tall inside, but the far half is completely hidden by scaffolding, both inside and out. It will look splendid when it is finished. Excavations were visible, alongside the nave, showing the 9th century foundations of the cathedral.

The rose window was probably the best one that we have seen, up there behind the organ.

We visited the Musée des Beaux Arts. I liked this picture of an old barge horse by Pierre Paulus, who is a new artist for me.

This is the Grand Place, and the centre of town. Our friends, Bernard and Patricia, from Le Paradoxe, are cycling through the fountains.

Monday, 13 August 2018

10th August. Up the four Historic Lifts, then back down the Strépy-Thieu boat lift.

Next morning we decided to go up the four historic lifts, so we are backtracking, but on a different canal. Having come up from the main canal in a self operated 6 metre lock we are approaching Historic lift 4.

This self operated lock can be seen to the left of the small brown building (right of centre), and our mooring last night was to the left of that, on the bottom canal. We had decided not to come up to the port, shown on the left here.

Looking over to our left, Strépy-Thieu lift can be seen on the skyline. We will be there later on today.

Our second historic boat lift is number 3. These lifts were made in the same style as the Eiffel Tower, and look like meccano!

This fine building is the control “tower” for both lifts 2 and 3, as they are close together.

Looking back down to lift 3 from lift 2. We are climbing fast!

Here Andy is passing under the extra stop gate above Historic Lift 1. This lift was built in 1888, with the other three completed by 1919, but we have been unable to discover why there was this delay.

Having exited historic lift 1, we sailed back to the junction, to go left on to the new Canal du Centre, and now we are once again entering the Strépy-Thieu lift.
It is a huge caisson, so we have free choice of where to tie up. There is a Danish yacht in with us this time. They are heading for the Mediterranean, but have to take this route, because the river Meuse is currently closed to navigation, due to lack of water. As our thermometer read 47°C last week, this is not surprising. Thank goodness that the weather is now cooler, as over 100°F is not a lot of fun!

These concrete slabs are the counterweights for our caisson.

Out at the bottom again! We are feeling rather like yo-yos, with The Puzzler having been up or down 1178.7 feet over the last three days!

Sunday, 12 August 2018

6th - 9th August 2018. On along the river Sambre through Namur and industrial Charleroi further into Belgium. Down, then up, the inclined Plane at Ronquieres, then down the Strépy-Thieu lift.

On leaving Namur, we are immediately in an industrial area, but not for too long. However, the river Sambre is lined with sloping concrete banks for kilometre after kilometre.

This is one of the very few villages to be seen along this stretch.

Charleroi is built in the middle of all the industry.

This goes on for a long way.

We are seeing quite a lot of commercial traffic. When empty, like this barge, they always look more imposing.

The tall tower ahead marks the Ronquieres inclined plane. We have yet to discover why there is such a tall tower here.

We were straight in to the caisson to descend this amazing structure. There are two of these floating boxes, but only one is in use at the moment.

To go back up the plane, The Puzzler was allowed to share with Amigo, a large barge from Holland. It is a good thing that we are narrow, to fit into that space!

It seems strange to be sitting there, doing nothing, while we are moved up the hillside.

Half way up. We are ready for a quick getaway at the top!
There is a visitor centre within the building, with an excellent video presentation about the lives of the bargees. However, our only access to it from our mooring above the lift, was through the workings on the other half of the lift, as directed by a workman.

Who is worried about health and safety? We declined going up to the 9th floor for the view though!

Returning back to the junction, we continued on the Canal du Centre to reach the Strépy-Thieu lift.

Here we are in the lift, with our entry door visible up above us.
At the bottom, having descended 73 metres!

The whole tower of the lift looks very impressive from here, as we sail away.
As we exit the Strépy lift, to our left can be seen one of the Historic boat lifts. The Historic Canal du Centre, with four boat lifts, is now a World Heritage site, with the two canals running almost parallel to each other.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

31st July - 5th August 2018. On from Sedan on the canal de la Meuse, with a detour for a fuel stop at Pont-à-Bar on the canal des Ardennes. Then on to Haybes, finally joining the Belgian Meuse below Givet, to arrive at Namur in Belgium.

Martin and Jenny left us on Tuesday, and we pushed on to go up one lock on to the Canal des Ardennes, at Pont-à-Bar. The lock control pole made a handy bollard!
There was a tame ragondan (or coypu) there, which really enjoyed slices of apple. Shannon literally quivered with excitement, as she has a love affair with ragondans!
Up one more lock to Pont-à-Bar to fill up with fuel. We would have enjoyed visiting the Canal des Ardennes again, but this pic (from the noticeboard)  of the collapse of lock 21 at Neuville-Day, shows why the canal is closed. It is very sad. The canal de la Meuse is also now closed due to lack of water, both at the junction with the Marne-Rhine canal, and, more recently, at Stenay too, so we have been very lucky to get through.

Continuing on the Canal de la Meuse, houses are squeezed in below the trees, along the river banks.

Trees dominate the banks here.

Sometimes it is difficult to see how there can be a way through!
At Château-Regnant we found Esme, and caught up with Chris and Diana, until 1am! We now have a great deal more information about Belgium, so many thanks to them for that. It is lovely to see friends again.

Monthermé is another small town which fits on to the outer edge of a bend in the river. This waterway is by now mainly river, with canal sections.

We managed to squeeze three boats into Deville lock, with The Puzzler going across the lock.

This chateau is very private here.

An hour later the trees are closing in again.

Our geraniums have really liked the hot weather!

We stopped at Haybes again. It does not seem like three years since we were here last. This is a very pleasant village.
Here is the cat burglar! Last night it was so warm that we left the outer side door open overnight, protected by the mosquito net. At 5 am the cat must have stepped on to the top of the netting, and then fallen into the boat, taking the net with it! Shannon practically exploded, and ran up and down the boat, screaming at the top of her voice! No sign of the intruder, but he must have made a very quick exit!

We moved on to Givet, with the cliffs leading on to the citadel.

The citadel overlooks the town.

We moored on the wall, pretending to be a commercial, but no-one minded. No shade here, but with a high wall all our doors can be open, with no risk of Shannon escaping.

It is late for cygnets, but these ones look very healthy, with two white babies, which is unusual.

The river is much busier now, as we move on into Belgium, with many more marinas such as this.

The church in Dinant is practically built into the cliff, which dominates the town.

The locks are now bigger, and we are travelling with 5 other boats. Four of them are faster, so they wait for us in each, and the other slower cruiser keeps us company!

Ahead, these houses on top of the cliff must have a fantastic view!

We couldn't decide whether this was an actual house, or just a garden ornament!

Approaching Namur, our last town on the Belgian Meuse.

The citadel of Namur, which we explored three years ago.