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.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

12th - 21st June 2017. Shopping at Fains-les-Sources, then on to Tronville, Givrauval, Pagny-sur-Meuse, through Mauvages tunnel to Toul, where Andy fixed the engine.

We moved on the next morning to Fains-les-Sources, to the shopping mooring. It is tricky to tie up there, but it is very near to the supermarket, hardware shop and a garage for fuel too.

The village of Tronville was a much more pleasant place to spend the night.

The fortified church has been there since the 12th century.

On the far side of the village there were several lovely properties.

For a couple of kilometres we battled our way through this thick weed. Andy says that it is the worst weed that he has seen in 50 years of boating, with the whole canal a solid mass of it

At Givrauval the word mansion comes to mind!

We found a long walk up through the woods behind the village.

It was an attractive place to stay, on our own privare jetty.
I know! I must try and remember to take photos before we are leaving!

Our walk took us to the other side of these woods.
After a couple of quiet days, we moved on towards Mauvages Tunnel, but the engine started overheating seriously, so we had to stop, and drifted about in mid-canal for a while. Monsieur from VNF had been waiting for us at the tunnel entrance, but returned to find us, being none too pleased! However, once the engine had cooled down, we went on through the tunnel, accompanied by Monsieur.

Boats used to be towed through Mauvages tunnel, but now it is Monsieur on his bicycle!
The river Meuse is below us here. We had planned to go down the Meuse at Troussey, but the top five locks are closed just now, due to lack of water. Hopefully they will be open later on. Meanwhile we continue on the Marne au Rhin (Ouest)

At Pargny-sur-Meuse we had our own aquarium, with all sizes of fish. Andy ordered a new hose for the engine, to be collected at Lorraine Marine at Toul.

Most tunnels have lights, but we came through Foug tunnel before 9am, hoping that no-one was coming the other way! Luckily, no-one was.

In Toul our engine was again too hot to continue, so we drifted in to wait on the city walls.
Having arrived at Loraine Marine, Shannon was straight into the water. We had to wait a couple of days for our hose to arrive, then Andy fitted it. More trouble with overheating, due to the leaky filler cap, was sorted by making a new washer out of an old football of Shannon's. She didn't really mind!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

7th – 12th June 2017. At Pargny-sur-Saulx, with American yacht Tsamaya, then on to Mussey for a weekend of Quilles (French skittles).

Pargny-sur-Saulx looks really good in the distance. Close to, though,  we were unimpressed.
The flowers are pleased to be out again at Pargny, where we had a pleasant evening with Janice and Bob on their yacht Tsamaya. They have crossed the Atlantic ocean to be here in France.
Moving on above lock 57, we were surprised to meet barge Forez, backing down the canal towards us! Having been to the factory above lock 56, he has to back down through two locks before he can turn round to continue.
There is another barge waiting at the quay, above lock 56.
Lock 55, just past here, is the first time we need to use our telecommand, but it is not working. Usually, after a phone call, Monsieur will arrive quite quickly, but not this time! One hour, and four phone calls, later, he turned up. He continued on with us, which was a good thing, as our doofer failed us again, two locks later. This time he replaced it with a different one, which has been very good.

We moored at the start of Mussey village, up above this street. The church is on the hill, behind the village.

We walked round the village and visited the churchyard, though the church was locked.

Coming back, The Puzzler looks impressive up there!

We moved on through the lock to the other end of Mussey, and went to find the Quilles competition which we had seen advertised. Yvonne and Leslie were also visiting from England in their campervan.

As each boule is thrown/ rolled, it is collected and sent back via the tin chute.
Andy is sending a powerful shot here. Each turn consists of three boules, trying to knock down all nine skittles / quilles.

This is before his bowl arrived , with all 9 skittles still standing.

And this is after his best shot.

Sally had several goes too, but neither of us won! We each had a best score of 7 skittles down.

On Sunday, the club invited us to share their lunch, which lasted from midday until 2pm. It was a very good lunch, and everyone was extremely friendly.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

28th May - 6th June 2017. On through weed to Joinville and Vitry-le-Françoise, then a right turn on to la Marne au Rhin canal (Ouest) to Bignicourt.

The section of canal before Joinville has a lot of weed. This canal crosses the river Marne many times, so the canal narrows at each aqueduct, where loose weed collects. We have crossed a short aqueduct just before lock 44, and the lock gates really do not want to close, as the weed is so thick. Eventually they were forced shut, so we could continue. A boat waiting below the lock thought that we were messing about!

There are a great many dragonflies about.
We moored at the restaurant mooring at Joinville, as it is much nearer to the big supermarket, as we had seen all of the town, when we were here, two years ago. This weedcollector is a welcome sight!

It was a little tricky, getting near enough to the water tap. We did not have the correct hose fitting, so could not use our long hose, but luckily no other boats came along, while we blocked the canal.
Sadly many of the lock houses are not in use on this part of the canal. The railway lines can be seen just behind this house, so we can go and play on the lines if we are bored! These lines run alongside the canal for miles, but there is no restriction of access at all.

We operate the locks with this telecommand, and Shannon is trying to help.
Leaving the Champagne au Burgundy Canal at Vitry-le-Françoise, we turn right on to la Marne au Rhin Canal (Ouest) and continue to Bignicourt. Jake and Rachel, with Trigger of course, on Catherine Clark, arrived just as we did, so how was that for timing! They have been travelling a different route for the last month, via the Vosges Canal, to get here.

We spent the rest of that day playing games, and had a very pleasant barbeque beside the boats.

Bignicourt was an interesting village, with many different styles in the houses.

Their letter boxes are in groups, instead of each being beside individual houses.

The weather was threatening, but we enjoyed exploring the village.
In the graveyard are some military war graves, commemorating the first battle of the Marne, from 6th - 11th September 1914. The 12th company of the 72nd Infantry Regiment were based at Bignicourt, in order to prevent the Germans crossing the River Saulx, and the canal de la Marne au Rhin, particularly at the lock. As a result of their fortitude in this battle, the villagers of Bignicourt were awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm.

Shannon made friends with a sheep. Neither of them was really sure what to make of each other!

The grounds of Bignicourt Château were open to the public for the weekend. As this only happens once each year, we are lucky to have come now.

As we are not in a hurry, we have stayed at Bignicourt for six nights, which is our longest stay anywhere, during the summer months, since arriving in mainland Europe. It is a lovely mooring.