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, 2017 and 2018, returning to Roanne each winter.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

23rd - 30th July. On the St Quentin Canal at Cambrai, followed by the Canal de L'Oise à L'Aisne

At Cambrai our canal becomes the St Quentin. The locks are much shorter than on the Canal du Nord, with one barge filling the chamber.
The locks come in pairs, but nowadays only one is in use each time, so watch those lights! We have a remote control to operate the locks. At lock 16 we met a double red light, but a phone call found help, even though it seemed to take a long time to come.

We waited overnight before Riqueval tunnel, but this Dutch hotel barge arrived on Monday morning, having also had lock problems yesterday. He is on one tow line behind the electric tow tug, but we did not realise this until they set off. The men wanted us to be behind him on two 30 metre lines, crossed in front of The Puzzler. After half an hour of trying and failing to get the lines both even and long enough, they told us to follow them using our own engine!

This tunnel is 5670 metres long, which is 3.53 miles, and is the longest canal tunnel in France. It was cut in the time of Napoleon. We expected to have to pay for using this tunnel, but it now seems to be free, which is good.

In some parts of the tunnel there are bricks on the walls, but some of it is completely cut out of solid rock.
Here is the tow tug. The electricity, coming from an overhead line, turns the drum on the boat, which pulls the chain over the boat, all the way through the tunnel. It can pull up to thirty barges at once, but the canal does not now seem busy enough to need the tug at all.

A little further along the canal is Lesdine tunnel, but it is a mere 1098 metres long, with no tug. We are still on the summit level, where the canal is at the bottom of a leafy canyon.

There is a large marina at St Quentin but we chose to carry on out into the country.
On a small island in the middle of the canal is an idyllic mooring. There were several picnic tables, and a barbeque table, ready to use, with a supply of wood. From the far side of the island we could see the start of the Upper Somme Canal, which closed in 2004. The lock had been newly painted, while several men were cutting the grass there. It certainly did not look closed! We were joined on our island by a yacht, on its way back to Norway from the Mediterranean. They will collect their mast in Amsterdam, then continue by sea from there.

Moving on to Chauny, these monkeys were swinging above the flowers. We were pleased to find fuel here, beside the canal, having failed at both Cambrai and St Quentin.

Inside the church, the best part was the wall painting above the altar.
Just to the south of Chauny, we turned left on to the canal de L'Oise à L'Aisne. The first lock is a rise of 4 metres, but is very gentle. If I had known it was a nice lock, I wouldn't have climbed that long ladder, to tie The Puzzler securely to a bollard! Immediately after the lock is an aqueduct over the river Oise, which is the same river we cruised up, on leaving the flooded River Seine in June. We had to squeeze into the side after the lock to let a large barge through, before we could go on to the aqueduct.

We are now at Guny, another pleasant mooring, with a wash day in progress. At last the blog is up to date!

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