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.

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.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

7th - 11th October. On down the Canal du Nivernais from the summit to Châtillon-en-Bazois, then on to Cercy-de-la-Tour.

Yesterday, Madam éclusier had told us that there was no bakery at Bazolles. This morning she met us at the first lock with two baguettes, even though it was not her lock. What a service! Locks 4-5-6 are a set of 3rise locks at Chavance, and today we have Monsieur éclusier looking after us.
This wide cill is under the bridge, in the top lock. There is no sign at the lock as warning of this, though presumably our éclusier was keeping an eye, that The Puzzler did not sit on the cill.
This lockkeeper was with us for nine locks altogether, including the 3rise and two double locks, presumably because it is late in the season. Normally it is less than that. Eventually we reached his own house, an attractive smallholding, with goats too among his livestock, near to Orgue lock.
We travelled on to Châtillon-en-Bazois, where we moored near to the Chateau, which is built inside a meander of the river Aron. The Nivernais Canal follows this river from the summit down to the river Loire at Decize, a distance of 66 kilometres. The gardens of the Chateau are very formal, with water features among the hedges.

Sadly, the Chateau itself is completely shrouded by scaffolding, but it is still quite imposing.

Some locks are surrounded with flowers, like lock 17 at Eguilly. A lot of work goes into these gardens, by the lockkeeper who lives there.

Our lockkeeper breaks for lunch from 12 until 1.00, but he had left lock 19 at Villard ready for us, so that we could wait in the lock.

The wall of the small building by the lock was a basking place for little lizards.

At Brienne lock we liked the small neat cottage with blue shutters.

Moving on, the trees beside the canal are still very green, despite the autumn feel to the air.

This heron was not upset at all when we passed quite close to him, as he stood serenely on a branch beside the canal.

Mooring below Bernay lock, we went lizard spotting again. Here they were much bigger, but our film star had lost part of his tail at some time. Despite this, he looked very healthy.

Approaching Cercy-de-la-tour, the 12th century Roman church towers over the houses. The blue narrowboat is also heading for Roanne for the winter.
Walking up from the canal, we can see the 13th century tower, to which Cercy-de-la-Tour owes its name. The original tower was destroyed during the French Revolution in 1795, but was rebuilt in 1883 by the Marquis of Pomereau. It could not be exactly as it was, due to houses which were in the way! However, it is still very imposing.

This statue of Notre Dame was built in 2008 to replace the original one which had been built in 1958, on top of the tower, to overlook the town.

The narrow streets of Cercy lead us up to the tower and the church. Sadly, Debbie and Matt are leaving us tomorrow, to return to England.

Never mind being too shy for us to see him out in the country, this kingfisher is sitting beside The Puzzler on the railing on our jetty in Cercy.
Meanwhile, Shannon is looking after Toad Rawnsley, who is wearing his new England Rugby top. He is a very important visitor, who has his own facebook page, having travelled all over the world!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

1st - 6th October. Debbie and Matt join us at Mailly-la-Ville. On to the cliffs of Roches Saussois, the town of Clamecy, then a flight of 16 locks, followed by three tunnels across the summit level.

Debbie and Matt joined us at Mailly-la-Ville, where the ducks were very enthusiastic about stale brioche!

The next morning we reached Roches Saussois, the tallest cliffs on the Canal du Nivernais.

Debbie, Matt, Andy and Shannon climbed to the top for a fantastic view over to the village of Merry-sur-Yonne, on the other side of the river Yonne.

Even coming down was quite tricky, as it was so steep.

Did we really climb up there?

Yes, we did!

The locks are manual on the Canal du Nivernais, with éclusiers who work them for us. We are allowed to help with the gates though, so Matt is in action here.

Moving on to Clamecy, another town which climbs the hillside beside the river.

The collegiate church of St Martin de Clamecy has wonderful stonework.

Inside it is just as impressive.

Debbie and Andy are in step, as they walk down the steep streets of Clamecy.

Moving on, Debbie is activating the next lift bridge. She must hold the button in all the time, to keep the bridge moving.

We are still tending to moor out in the country. Our éclusier calls this type of mooring “au nature”, which is quite descriptive.
Chitry-les-Mines is named for the silver lodes which used to be worked here in the Renaissance time. Sadly the Chateau has closed for the winter, but we saw the childhood home of Jules Renard, a famous French author, of the late nineteenth/ early twentieth century.

After another double lock at Eugny, there is a kilometre of one way traffic on the canal. It is fairly narrow and we found that, away from the middle, it is quite shallow, but we only touched the bottom once!

Charolais cattle crossing ahead!
On Tuesday morning we went up the last flight of 16 locks, in the rain. We had two lockkeepers who also wanted to get out of the rain so, by using only one gate each time, we completed 16 locks and 4 kilometres in 2 hours and 5 minutes, which has to be a record. As this was our only flight of locks, and our only serious rain of the week, it seemed a shame that they came together!
After lunch the weather cleared and we continued along the summit level. Any boater from England will liken this to the long cutting on the Shroppie, with a similar high bridge.

There are three tunnels next, with this brick lined cutting between the first two, which are 212 and 268 metres long.

The third tunnel is much longer, at 758 metres, but none of these tunnels have lights, as other French tunnels have done.

It is good to see the trees and daylight again at the other end.

We moored near to Bazolles, another attractive village set up on the hillside.