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, 24 July 2018

15th - 23rd July. Back to the Canal des Vosges, then the River Moselle to Toul, where our French friends from Mussey joined us. We continued on to the Canal de La Meuse to Commercy.

Having rejoined the Canal des Vosges, we locked down with two other craft, a yacht and a cruiser. It worked very well, with the faster yacht going ahead between locks, to set the next lock, then The Puzzler going in first each time.

Early morning reflections along the Vosges.

Once out on to the Moselle, we have to beware of commercial barges. Yes, that is all one huge boat!

This brown butterfly came to see me.

Our friends from Mussey joined us in Toul, and Blandine was immediately useful in the galley (La cuisine d'un bateau!)

Meanwhile, Bernard was steering The Puzzler.

Next it was Blandine's turn. She too steered very well.

Evelyne is making sure that she knows where to go.

We stopped at Pagny, alongside Barling, another narrowboat. Deux cigars Anglais!

Paul and Pia came over to France six weeks ago, and are enjoying their continental adventure.

Pétanque was our game for the weekend, with Andy and Blandine against Bernard, Evelyne and Sally.

Soon it was out with the champagne for an aperitif!

Time for le petit déjeuner.
We are here at the second lock going down towards the Meuse. Around this lock beside the cement factory all the stonework, as well as the grass, is quite white with cement dust!

Sally, Shannon and Evelyne are relaxing in the front. (merci à Bernard)

There was no room for us at the main mooring at Commercy, so we went back past Aldi to moor here. It was a good place for pétanque, and, sadly, Andy and Blandine won again! Nous sommes désolés!

Shannon did not know what to make of Evelyne's nightshirt and bonnet, never mind the pantalons!

We were sorry to say au revoir to our French friends, but hope to see them in England next year. It has been another good weekend!

Friday, 20 July 2018

12th - 14th July 2018. Down the flight of 14 locks and along the embranchement to Epinal, where we found Quaintrelle already there.

The 14 locks which lead down to the Epinal embranchement are close together, and this one was beautifully decorated with flowers.

There are big pounds (water storage areas) between each of these locks.

Epinal is just over 3 kilometres along the embranchement from the main canal des Vosges.

We found Quaintrelle in the port, so the two boats renewed their friendship too! It was good to see Aileen and Mike again.

Epinal has been here since the 10th century. It is quite a long walk from the port, but is an interesting town to visit.

In the garden of the Maison Romaine there are more than 500 varieties of roses.
The modern church, Notre Dame au Cierge, was built in 1956-1958, and is a listed building. It is part of the town planning which was changed during the rebuilding of Epinal, after the bombings in 1944. The main stained glass window tells the life story of the virgin Mary, and the church can seat over 1000 people.

From the back of the church the side walls seem to be solid, but on looking backwards, one can see all the stained glass. This reminds us of Coventry Cathedral, where this is done too. It is very effective.

This is Libertė, a sculpture cast in bronze, in the centre of town. The two fingers in a V-shape are a symbolic gesture of the quest for freedom.

St Maurice Basilica was first built in the late 10th century and is an impressive building.

Inside, it is a real contrast to the Notre Dame au Cierge.

Different parts have been added over the centuries, with this entombment dating from the 15th century. Even today, the figures look very lifelike.

This Chinese Pagoda was first built between 1805 and 1808, and encloses a staircase leading up to the Parc du Chateau, on the north side of the town.

The medieval castle, in the centre of this 26 hectare park, was torn down in 1670, by order of Louis X1V. However, it still looks quite impressive, even as a ruin.

There is a good view of Epinal from the park.

Back at the port, Aileen and Mike are relaxing in the heat. There was an antiques fair along by the port today, and we also went to visit the Musée de l'Image. This museum shows the complete history of printing from the 17th century to the present day, and was fascinating. We finished our time in Epinal having a superb BarBQ with Aileen and Mike.

On Sunday, as we were leaving, a great many classic cars were arriving, alongside the port. This is a busy place!

Saturday, 14 July 2018

2nd - 11th July 2018. The Canal des Vosges from Corre to Chaumousey

The river Saone is navigable as far as Corre, then we continue northwards on the Canal des Vosges. Our first stop is at Serre, where the three course lunch at Le Pont Tournant restaurant is not to be missed!

This house at Serre caught Andy's eye when we passed here two years ago, but it is still not for sale!

The Vosges is an extremely attractive canal, with some lovely bright green colours.

The trees just keep on coming.

What a view must be had by this house on top of the hill, overlooking the canal!

Fontenay-le-Chateau is the pick of the old towns on this canal.

This mooring at Pont Tremblant was very pleasant. We turned round to put the bows on to the jetty, but this works fine for us.
This part of the Vosges is a dead zone for the internet, and also for the phone. We climbed up a forest track until we were high enough to find a signal.

All the locks on this section of the canal des Vosges have a rise of about 3 metres. It is quite a reach to put the loop on our rope over the bollard.

It looks even higher from the front of the boat! The square box on top of the pole is the automatic control for the lock.

Shannon copes well with the obstacle course on the roof!

Here Andy is going underneath the canal at Chamoussey. This village is built on both sides of the canal, with several tunnels like this one.

We think that Chamoussey must be in line for the best “Ville fleurie” this year.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

22nd June - 2nd July 2018. Up the river Saône from St-Jean-de-Losne to Corre, stopping at Mailly-le-Port, Lamarche-sur-Saône, Mantoche, Gray, Ray-sur-Saône, as well as wild moorings.

From St-Jean-de-Losne we headed north on the River Saône, which seems very wide, after two and a half months on various canals.
Our first stop was at Mailly-le-Port, where a cruiser moved back to make enough room to get half of The Puzzler on to the jetty. An old man staggered down to the mooring, wobbling on his two sticks, so that he could complain about The Puzzler being over the end of the jetty. “Merde! Merde!” he was muttering, when I went out to speak to him. His problem was that he could see our boat from his house, but he seemed to get over it!
The next night we were at Lamarche-sur-Saône, where again it was a question of squeezing up to make room for everyone. The last boat to arrive was a Swiss crew on a hireboat, celebrating their 60th birthdays. Last year they were on the Canal du Midi for their 50th. As soon as they were safely tied up, they invited us on board for a traditional Swiss cheese fondue, which was very pleasant!

There are many different boats on the river. Here we are sharing a lock with a similar length barge to us, though he is much wider than us. The German boat waiting above the lock was most upset, as he had had to wait for a while, but it always takes time to get a wide boat in to a lock. People who are in such a hurry should not choose a boat for their travelling!

It was quite busy again at Mantoche, but there was plenty of room for all.

This is what you call a Happy Family!

We met John and Karen once again at Gray, and had another very late night!
The next night we were under the trees. This is a perfect mooring for a narrowboat in hot weather, with overhanging trees, but enough depth to get the boat to the bank. It is at Pk 303.5 (point kilometre) The temperature this day was 36.8°C!

The Saône is getting noticeably narrower now, as we continue upstream. Fortunately, there is very little stream to slow us down.
There are many meanders in the river Saône. With big meanders the canal follows a 'derivation', which is a straight cut, starting with a lock, and sometimes including a tunnel too. This one is at Savoyeur.

We are following the main river here, to get to Ray-sur-Saône. The castle is only open on special days, but this was not one of them.

There are five individual jetties here. They were designed for cruisers, but those at each end are fine for longer boats.
The next night we moored at the end of a derivation, near to Chantes. The sign in front of the boat says No Mooring, if you look at the other side of it! Never mind! It was a lovely peaceful place.

This donkey was upset when we did not feed him.

We stopped for a swim today. The temperature inside the boat is 36.5, while outside it has gone off the scale!

Another perfect mooring at this fenced picnic area.