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 April 2016

22nd - 29th April. A week spent at Fragnes, waiting for the flooded Saône to go down, then up the Saône to Chazelle, which lies to the south of Seurre.

We have enjoyed our week at Fragnes, doing all those little jobs that always need doing. The boulangerie is closed for annual holidays, but Celine, our helpful capitaine, sells bread every day. Fragnes is a very pleasant village, with a good restaurant, and many lovely houses. We found a table tennis table in the park too, so put it to good use!
Holes have been dug for new mooring bollards to be fixed in place. The metal bollard, currently lying on the grass behind the hole, will be held in place by the wooden pole, once the concrete fills the hole.
This man is levelling the concrete, but there is not quite enough around this bollard, so he has called for more.
The tipper truck is full of concrete for the next hole, but stops here so that our man can take a few more shovels full, to level off the base of his bollard. However, the ground is too soft to take the weight of the full truck, and the front wheel slowly sinks up to its axle! At this we thought that we should leave them to it!

Our last painting job this year is the roof. We had thought that this was a task too far, but our enforced stop at Fragnes has made it possible. After washing the roof, we started the painting with grey gloss around the edges. Two days later, having masked this, Andy is now adding the nonslip surface by roller, while my job is to keep the tray full of paint of the right consistency. This seemed to work, apart from a break for rain, half way along the roof!
On Thursday 28th April we set off from Fragnes at last, to go 3km and stop for shopping at Le Clerc at Crissey, which is very near to Chalon-sur-Saône. This mooring, with its own garden, is very convenient for the supermarket. The lock can be seen at the end of the canal, but we stayed here overnight. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time!

We had planned to be at the lock for a 9am descent, but were foiled by two Le Boat hireboats, which shot past us to take the lock. They too had been stuck at Fragnes, while their hirers had to taxi back to the hire base for their cars. Obviously the hire company had sent crew out to bring them home! This lock at Chalon-sur-Saône has a drop of 10.76 metres, being the deepest on the Canal du Centre.
The water in the Saône is still flowing quite fast, and we have to look out for obstacles, like this log which was held across a marker by the flow of the water.
We paused briefly at Gergy, beside barge Eendje. The water level here has been halfway up the fencing above the jetty.

There are a lot of floating logs, wedged to the right hand end of the jetty, here at Gergy.

This fine house overlooks the river, upstream of Gergy.

Spring has suddenly arrived, and all the trees are green!

Ecuelles lock would hold about 50 narrowboats, but we are the only one today!

After 36km on the river, we had had enough, and found a friendly bank for the night, near to the hamlet of Chazelle, just to the south of Seurre.

Friday, 22 April 2016

17th - 21st April. Down the Méditerranée locks to Santanay, then on to Fragnes.

At lock 1 the mural on the control house fascinated Shannon. “ Are we going along that canal?”
St Julienne-sur-Dheune is a small village, with a small church too, but it was lovely inside. Every hour the church bell rang out, to tell us the time. A few seconds later it rang the hour again, in case we missed it the first time! At midnight this seemed like a lot of ringing! There was no sign of a second church anywhere in the village.
Assuming that the locks closed for lunch between 12 and 1, we set off to find a German couple already in the next lock with their cruiser, just before 1. They had entered the lock at 12.30 and pulled the blue control rope, which duly closed the top gates, allowed about a foot of water out, then stopped! Fortunately Mr Eclusier arrived, refilled the lock, and beckoned us in too. We continued on with them, the only delay being when we both had to pull in to allow this Hotel boat to pass us.
We went down 11 locks together to reach St Léger-sur-Dheune, another pleasant village. These are our first ducklings of the year, which came to greet us. They already knew all about boats being a good source of food!
Moving on we moored at Santenay, in the heart of a wine growing area. This pleasant mooring overlooks the Dheune valley, with Santenay village not too far away.

We found this little lizard sunning himself on the bench there. His fingers are extremely long!
The track to Santenay leads across the River Dheune, which is followed by the Canal du Centre as far as Chagny. There is a lot of water in the river, which does not bode well for our journey up the river Sâone later this week. Santenay has a large town square, with a fountain (dry at present).

The town is surrounded by vineyards. It is really surprising how small the vines are at this time of year, but they are just starting to grow new shoots. Some men were putting plastic sleeves on the smallest shoots, to protect them from frost.
On leaving Santenay the lockkeeper at the first lock wanted to know how far we were going today. "Until we see a nice grassy bank" does not go down too well! We compromised with "5 or perhaps 6 locks". In fact we went down 5 locks before stopping opposite this field of rape. The evening light really deepens its colour. Our eclusier arrived in his van to ask "You stay here tonight!", but seemed happy to leave us to it, with a promise that we would be at the next lock tomorrow morning at 10am.

At 9.45am this working barge, Kendall, came past extremely slowly. They are from Belgium, and are on their way to the south of France, but are suffering from lack of sufficient water for their barge. The locks on this canal are 38.5 metres long, and Kendall is 39 metres long! It was a slow morning, following them!
We arrived at Fragny on Thursday, and had it confirmed that, at present, the river Saône is closed to navigation. The water in the river is the highest that it has been since 2003. Hopefully we will be able to continue up the river from Chalon-sur-Saône to St-Jean-de-Losne, and join the Canal de Bourgogne within a few days.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

12th - 16th April. Debbie is with us on the Canal du Centre from Digoin, via Paray-le-Monial and Génelard to Montchanin.

From our mooring we were straight into lock 1 on the Canal du Centre, and on over the aqueduct to cross the river Loire, into the town of Digoin. Shannon was not too sure about the aqueduct! We have followed the Loire all the way from Roanne, but will now be beside La Bourbince river as we continue along the Canal du Centre. In Digoin our first visit was the Ceramics Documentation Centre, where we learned all about the Digoin Pottery Industry. This is well worth a visit.

Eglise Notre Dame de la Providence dominates the centre of Digoin. Look at the left top of the tower!

Yes, it is a real stork on her nest! She was still for so long that at first we thought she was a sculpture.
Having been built in 1869, this is a comparatively modern church. It was built in the Romano- Byzantine style, so is different to most of the older churches.
Moving on along the Canal du Centre to Paray-le-Monial, we continued the religious theme with a visit to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. This church was rebuilt in the Romanesque style on a 12th century base, we think in the late 19th century. It was promoted to the status of Basilica in 1875.

Inside, it is quite different to the church at Digoin.

There are cloisters within the Basilica. This reminded me of the race in the film “Chariots of Fire”.

From the other side of the building the varied levels make the Basilica look like a different church!

This laden donkey seems to be quite happy on his travels.
Wednesday was quite cold, so Shannon is wearing her jersey. The black skies behind were very threatening, but did not catch us until we were moored at Génelard.

Two hours later, the weather had cleared, and we were delighted when Cassandra and Heidi joined us that evening.
This bridge at Génelard was a checkpoint during the second World War, between the occupied territory, and the free French. The museum here was extremely interesting, teaching us a lot about the occupation of France during World War II.

The picture of the working boat in the cutting after Génelard, reminds us of times gone by too.
Another momento of the pottery of the area can be seen in this sculpture at Ciry-le-Noble. It is decorated all over with pieces of broken pottery.
We moved on to Montchanin quite early, hoping to avoid the following storm. Debbie will take a taxi from here tomorrow to Le Creusot, on the long haul back to England. We have had a great week with her, and Toad too, of course!

The black clouds arrive later in the day, bringing this hail storm!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

9th - 11th April. On the Canal de Roanne à Digoin.

Apologies to everyone for the delay with our blog since leaving Roanne, but there have been internet problems!
It is good to be on the move again, after five enjoyable months in Roanne.
Our first night was spent in Briennon. We had to moor on the main canal so that the satellite dish could get its signal. Well, we had to watch the Grand National!

In Briennon it was blossom time for Mum and Debbie.

Briennon Church is a typical French church, nestling behind the bushes.

Moving on, we can look right across the valley of The Loire.

The magnolias are in full bloom now, but they do have a short season.

The stitching on the zip of the cratch cover needs attention, yet again, so Mum is a seamstress today.

Our second night was a wild mooring. There was no moon so it was a really dark night here.

On Monday we went down the lock Bourg le Comte, which has a drop of 7.19 metres, and is the deepest on this canal.

This creature was exploring the bank. We thought at first that he was a coypu, but on looking at his tail, he is probably a beaver.

This was the closest that we have been to a stork. Perhaps he was pretending to be a heron!

Off he goes!
Looking back up the Roanne to Digoin canal, from the canal Lateral a la Loire. We have just turned right (to the left of this photo) to moor before the aqueduct.

The reflections are impressive this evening, especially when seen on Debbie's camera!

This is one of our favourite walks, below the aqueduct down by The Loire. We have all caught the sun today!