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, 29 August 2015

21st - 26th August. On the Rhône to Rhine canal, then on to Saint-Jean-de Losne on the river Saône, then the Canal du Centre from Chalon-sur-Saône to Saint-Leger-sur Dheune.

Continuing along the Rhône to Rhine Canal, we reached the final three locks, which drop us back down into the river Saône.
We soon arrived at Saint-Jean-de-Losne, where a family from King's Lynn moored outside us. We visited Blanquart's Chandlery, to discover that the Canal de Bourgogne was closed last week, until November. We had been going to go that way so it is a change of plan! It is lucky that the Canal du Centre is still open.

This pretty evening light over the Saône was followed by a superb firework display. Shannon hated it! Life can be tough at times!
Moving on down the river, we pulled in at Gergy. It makes a change to be on such wide water again. We have pushed on through some very wet weather to get here, covering 42.5 kilometres today.

At Chalon-sur-Saône it is a right turn off the river, where we rise up on to the Canal du Centre, through this ten metre lock. It is numbered Mediterrenée 35.

The bottom gate closes in two sections behind us, as it is such a deep lock.

The calm waters of the Canal du Centre lie ahead of The Puzzler.

This is the best lock garden which we have seen, with so many different flowers.

Passing a wood yard, it was interesting to see the tree trunks being sprayed to keep them wet, while they are seasoning.

Our first rainbow for ages.

In the centre of Chagney, this metal cockerel rules the roost. The cockerel is the national symbol of France.

We have been seeing vineyards all along the hillsides, but here they are very close to the canal.

It was nice to meet our Swiss friends again, as they return along the Canal du Centre.

Walking through Saint-Léger-sur-Dheune, the trees are starting to show their autumn colours.
From Saint-Léger-sur-Dheune there are five very deep locks. There are floating bollards for the ropes, which does help. All the locks up from the Saône are numbered from Mediterranée 35 to 1.
The boat must be tied securely, as the side ground paddles are quite fierce. In one lock this incoming water reached the top deck of The Puzzler, to soak our canal guide book.

It was a relief to reach the calm waters of the summit pound. This canal has been so much better than we were expecting. Our next locks will start at Océan 1.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

14th - 20th August. A visit to the caves of Osselle, then on to Rochefort-sur-Nenon and Dole, for a concert by Orchestre Bavarois.

This mooring beyond Thoraise tunnel is popular. Bluegum joined us there on our second night, and we spent a pleasant evening with Charles and Sally.

La Grotte d'Osselle, (cave of Osselle) is well worth a visit. This was a tourist attraction as long ago as 1504, but it now goes 1300 metres into the ground. The stalagmites have developed in different colours, depending on which rock was dripping above each one.
In places there are few stalactites, as this is where the river ran underground, through this passageway. There were about 30 people in our group, but we passed another, of over 50 people. One group stands well back, to allow the others to pass, on the narrow walkway. We were told not to push them into the stream! As if we would!

Some of the stalagmites are real works of art.

After Ranchot, the canal runs parallel to, but above the River Doubs, between two of the locks.

There are many herons to be seen along this waterway. We have also seen several kingfishers, which are slightly larger than those in England, but are still, usually, just a flash of colour.

Carrying on, we are again approaching Rochefort-sur-Nenon.

Frankie is visiting Shannon, but she is not so sure about him!
We are not allowed to moor along this avenue of ancient plane trees, because of the risk of falling branches. Looking up, there are ropes tied between many of the branches, to prevent this from happening.

On into Dole again. This is our favourite town on the Doubs.
This is the last Thursday concert of the summer, in the park. We arrived nearly an hour before the starting time, and only just managed to find good seats near the top of the tiered seating. There was seating for about 500 people, while the extra 100 had to stand.

The Orchestre Bavarois were performing tonight, and were very good indeed, with a varied selection of rousing Bavarian songs. We did not know all the words, but managed to link arms with our neighbours, and “lean left, lean right, lean forward, lean back, stand up, sit down, lean left, lean right”! Everyone had a good time!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

11th - 13th August. On past Deluz and Chaleze to Besançon, then on to Thoraise.

Beyond Laissey, the cliffs still dominate the right bank of the Doubs.

At Deluz, it is an attractive mooring for cruisers, but we are too long for these jetties.
On the canal section before Chaleze, we found some superb blackberries. However it was quite shallow here, so Sally was dropped off to pick them, while Andy skilfully manoeuvred The Puzzler in the narrow channel!

Back on the river, the reflections get better and better.

As the hot weather has returned, we are under the trees again, but with cows for company this time.

Approaching Besançon , we will take a sharp left turn after the bridge ahead, to go underneath the citadel!

This tunnel is a useful short cut, to avoid the large meander of the Doubs around Besançon .
At the far end of it is lock 50, which leads back on to the Doubs. Once through the lock we turn a sharp right to moor at this end of town, on the free jetty. Today is “see the town” day, as we visited the citadel last time.

In Besançon there are many fine buildings. This one used to have a fountain in front of it, but not any more.

Eglise Saint-Pierre was built between 1782 and 1786, although the first church on this site was built in the 4th century. It is very dark inside. Its high steeple served as a bell tower for the town hall.
This Roman arch is nearly 2000 years old, being built in 175 AD in honour of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor at that time. It now leads through to Saint-Jean Cathedral.

Inside the cathedral the stained glass is very impressive, and creates a much lighter feel to this building.
Leaving Besancon, we have a long afternoon sailing with 14 kilometres and 5 locks to reach the tunnel of Thoraise, mooring just beyond it. The waterfall over the entrance does stop for us to go in, and there are light effects right through the tunnel.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

4th - 10th August 2015. Map of France. An exciting week for Shannon, as we sail on to Baume-les-Dames. Next stop Laissey.

As we are only a few kilometres from Switzerland here, it seems the right time to locate us on the map of France. Access to the internet is poor here, so apologies for the delay with this post.
Since turning round, we have been making our way slowly back down the Doubs navigation. We had one very wet day, moored at Colombier-Chatalot, before shopping and refuelling at Isle-sur-le-Doubs. Then it was on to moor below La Goulisse lock, where we originally moored the other way round. In the evening we walked about half a mile further on, when Shannon decided it was time for her evening dip in the river. Ignoring the fact that there was no way down, she launched herself over the edge, to land in a heap in the shallow water below. That was fine, until she tried to climb back up to us, and failed! If either of us had gone down to her, then we too would have been stuck, so eventually Andy went back to get The Puzzler, as it was getting dark. Shannon was even more upset at this point, feeling abandoned, so cried loudly, until she realised that I was still there, above her. Andy returned in about twenty minutes, and beached the bows of The Puzzler, just downstream of Shannon. She refused to swim to the boat, so he climbed into the water to retrieve her. By now it was pitch dark, which is why we moored the other way round, on our return to the jetty!
Next day we located the bank where all of this happened. It was a brick wall, supporting the bank, which had created the problem. Twenty yards either way would have been OK, but it was too dark to see that last night.
She spent Friday afternoon relaxing on the front of the boat, with Andy. Later on that evening we were treated to the best display of sheet lightning we had ever seen, with thunder rolling all around us. Saturday brought more thunder too, so we stayed put. The cyclists keep on coming past on this long distance cycleway from Nantes, on the Atlantic coast, to Budapest. Today a couple went past on a tandem, with a trailer containing two sleeping children.

In each herd of cows, there are a couple with bells on. These bells are not very big, but can be heard for a long way.

Another picturesque village, which spreads up the side of the valley, is Hyèvre-Paroisse.
This is Grand Crucifix lock, with the weir behind it. Shannon dropped the apple she was carrying over the edge of the concrete slope, at the near side of the lock, and reached too far for it, with the predictable result! She went head first down the slope to the reeds below .

Here are her skid marks, outlined in black! It has been an eventful week for her.

Monday was a misty morning, giving the forests an eerie look.

In Baume-les Dames we visited the old part of the town.
In the old Abbey there was great anticipation, as the World Cup of Draughts, Round 5, takes place here this week. There are 16 competitors, of whom 12 are French and two are Russian, with one each from Poland and Germany. The afternoon competition was a friendly speed draughts contest, with 24 draughts and twelve minutes each, in which to beat your opponent.

After passing the village of Ougney-les Champs, the forest continues ahead of us, along the valley of the river Doubs.
We had a very enjoyable evening at Laissey, drinking champagne on our new friends boat. I even received my first kiss from a Frenchman, who was seven today!