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.

Friday, 20 November 2015

1st - 13th November 2015. Location of Roanne in France and the old town. An outing to the medieval villages of Ambierle, Saint-Haon-le-Vieux and Saint-Haon-le-Châtel in the mountains.

This map of France shows our route  from June until November, ending up in the town of Roanne , shown by the red arrow.

Roanne is a big town, where this church and little house can be seen in the old quarter.

All the windows, the balcony and the people are painted on the front of this building. Andy and Shannon are deciding where to go next!

Back near to the harbour, the River Loire is used to generate electricity.
Today, a little further downstream, the river is quite calm, as there are no turbines running today. The walking along beside the river is excellent, and Shannon loves a swim. We have been having exceptionally warm weather for this time of year.

We caught a bus from Roanne to come here to Ambierle, a medieval village in the Monts-de-la-Madeleine mountains, which lie to the west of Roanne.

The priory church here has a wonderful coloured roof.

It is more like a small cathedral inside, and is very impressive.

The carved triptych in the church is lovely, with so much detail in it.

There is more carving around the choir stalls, where the tipped up seats have a ledge of wood protruding under each seat for extra comfort when standing up!

We travelled back by bus to the next village of Saint-Haon-le-Vieux, seen in the distance here. We then walked round the head of the valley, through the trees to Saint-Haon-le-Châtel.

Saint-Haon-le-Châtel is a fortified medieval village, built on a rocky peak in these mountains.

The church here was first built in the 12th century, although it has been added to over the centuries.

Inside too it is quite different to the priory church of Ambierle, being much plainer, but none the less holy.

Some of the streets in Saint-Haon-le-Châtel are very narrow.

All the houses are different, particularly this one, which stood on its own, at a junction of several streets.

Back at The Puzzler, Shannon loves to watch the coypus, as they eat the apple we give them.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

27th Oct - 4th Nov 2015. We arrive in Roanne with the Puzzler, and settle into our winter mooring.

The lock ahead of us leads into the port of Roanne. It is good to be here at last.
The port stretches out beyond the lock, and there must be over a hundred boats here. On leaving the lock we must turn left, to go to the Capitainerie (harbour office), and book in. We do not know at this point exactly where we will be in the port, but are expecting to be alongside another boat.

However, as it is now the end of the season, and no more visiting boats are expected, we have been allocated a permanent place on the jetty by the Capitainerie.

This is a very good place to be, as it has a small secure fenced area for Shannon, and for our bikes too.

Within the week, the leaves are being collected from the park beside the moorings. From this gate by our jetty, we can look across to the bank which separates us from the River Loire.

The Loire is quite an impressive river, even though we are a long way from the sea.

Back by The Puzzler, this is our view of the west side of the port by day. We are having fantastic weather this week.

And the view by night!

This coypu swims right past the boat. There are three of them living at this end of the port.

The young one is eating a piece of apple, his favourite snack.

Everyone is very friendly in the harbour, with the ladies meeting for “Stitch and Bitch” every Wednesday.
This week we are on the barge Aurora. So far there has been more talking than stitching, as some people leave soon, to go home for the winter. One lady is leaving for Australia, after many years on their boat in France, but is not coming back, which is a cause of great sadness. People here come from all over the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, The Netherlands, USA, with many from the UK. There was a Harbour Dinner this week, to greet new members to this boating community, and we also have Happy Hour at L'Authentique every Thursday evening. What a contrast to last winter in Schagen, where there were only three liveaboard boats in the harbour.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

22nd - 26th October. Engine problems on the Canal Latéral à la Loire, then deep locks on the Canal de Roanne à Digoin.

While moving on towards the end of the Canal Latéral à la Loire, the engine started screaming, so we stopped in the middle of the canal! The alternator belt pulley had fallen off, to land under the engine, so Andy replaced the alternator with our spare one, and we were off again. We had informed the next lockkeeper of our problems, and he had been to see that we were OK, which was nice of him. Just when we were ready to set off, two boats came past us, so we expected to have to wait at the lock until they had gone. However, our lockkeeper beckoned us in as well, saying “ Peut-etre, peut-etre pas!” We managed to fit all three boats in, moving forward as we rose in the lock, so as not to be caught under the walkway on the bottom gates.

Here The Puzzler has turned right at the junction from the Canal Latéral à la Loire, on to the Canal de Roanne à Digoin. The junction is near to Digoin, so we are now on the last part of our journey to Roanne, our winter mooring. This canal is described as “l'atout des voies Françaises”, which translates as “the trump of the French waterways”.

This canal was upgraded to Freycinet standard gauge in the late nineteenth century, and some of the locks were combined then. This lock, Chassenard number 8, has a rise of six metres.

This is when a long rope at the bows is essential!
Continuing beside the river Loire, our next lock is even deeper at 7.19 metres. To enter the lock we pass under a solid metal framework, which holds the lock walls safely apart.

The valley of the river Loire stretches away to our left. Here the river is nearer to the canal, but it meanders to and fro across the valley.

There are still many charolais in the fields here, with this fine bull looking very calm today.

Some trees are still green, while others brighten the canal with autumn colours. Our flowers on The Puzzler are still blooming too, later than in any other year.

The leaves, however pretty, create a problem for the lockkeepers. Our engine isn't too keen on them either!

Wild moorings can be found all along this lovely canal. Tomorrow we will reach Roanne.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

12th - 21st October. On to Decize on the Canal du Nivernais, then to Beaulon and Pierrefitte, on the Canal Latéral à la Loire, .

The canal du Nivernais is widening out, below Cercy.
At Decize we reach the end of the canal du Nivernais, and are briefly on the River Loire, before rejoining the Canal Latéral à la Loire. In Decize the old citadel greets us, as it lies on the confluence of all three waterways.

The clock tower, which was built here in 1848, is 33 metres high. It is in the main town square, standing proudly in front of the town hall. It also has three bells in the bell tower at the top, one of which weighs 1300kg.
Moving on, our next port was at Beaulon, where we found Nico and Ianne on Liane again, and met Mary and Brian on Kyrenia. All three boats are heading for Roanne for the winter. The others left the next morning, but we stayed at Beaulon for three days.
This street sign in Beaulon is typical of French towns, telling us where to find all the points of interest. If it is near to lunchtime, when all shops close for a couple of hours, at least, this can be very useful, finding them before they close!
Further along the canal, we came to Pierrefitte-sur-Loire, and spotted this woodyard, near to the canal. Our negotiations at the adjoining house found us with two cubic metres of wood promised.

Our man delivered one load later that afternoon. It was a great relief when he offered to cut it up for us, as well as bringing it right to the boat. We had had visions of moving load after load on our small trolley!

It was nearly dark when the second boxful arrived. The woodman had cut it all to our specified length of 25 cm, so that it would fit into our fire.
Philippe and Pierrette were next to us on Dream's Rivers, a lovely cruiser. We spent two enjoyable evenings with them, which was very good for our French, as that was the only language we were using!
On Wednesday we stacked all of the wood both inside, and on top of The Puzzler. With so much wood, it is a question of keeping the weight as low as possible in the boat, and also balancing it, to keep The Puzzler level.
Thursday was spent in recovery time, along with a couple of walks around the nearby lake, where Shannon loved chasing anything that moved, on the beach there. She followed it up with a dip in the water, so was not too gritty when we returned to The Puzzler! Here she is later on, having dried off, with her little friend, another Shih-Tzu.