For over eight years, Neil and Joan have been spending their summers cruising the canals and rivers of Western Europe aboard their now thirty-year-old Dutch motor-cruiser, the “Estate.” This year they are sharing their experiences.
Arrivals are always interesting. That’s the good news and the bad. We landed in Paris in mid-April, returning to France with great anticipation of another season on the Estate. What a wonderful re-entry! The weather was lovely, flowers and trees were blooming, and friends were there to welcome us. After an overnight at the Hotel des Trois Gares, a comfortable, two-star hotel just a few blocks from the Gare du Lyon (where the Air France bus from Charles de Gaulle airport arrives), we headed by train to St Jean de Losne, the inland boating center of France.
We arrived in France earlier this year than we have previously. April and May are dicey months for weather. Also, there are several holidays, state and religious, during these months. Weather and holidays can both contribute to the complexities of travel planning and the availability of boating services. But we were anxious to be aboard the Estate again, and knew we would have lots of work to do before we could start cruising.
St Jean de Losne is a small town in the Burgundy region built on both sides of the river Saone. There is a “Le Boat” rental base for those who want to try boating for a week or two, two marinas (Blanquart’s and H2O), a dry dock for barges, and the lock that officially starts the Burgundy Canal. And boats everywhere, in various states of repair or disrepair.
From the train station in St Jean de Losne, we had the taxi take us immediately to our marina, Blanquart’s, rather than the B&B where we would spend the first two nights, so that we could check out the condition of the Estate without delay. Having just had her bottom painted, she was resting in a “cradle,” waiting to be put back in the water the next day by a large crane. And she looked great to us! Though truthfully, it’s hard to see much when inspecting the bottom of a boat.
We walked over to our B&B, Les Charmilles. Indeed, it did look charming: our room overlooked the just coming to life garden and the already blooming wisteria. After a good night’s sleep with only a few jet-lag problems and a wonderful, typical French breakfast of breads, croissants, home-made jams and café au lait provided by our hosts at Les Charmilles , Sylvie and Gerard, we went back to the marina to nervously watch the craning process. All went well, and we were soon on board.
To back up a bit: when we leave the boat for the winter, we bundle and package our bedding and clothing in plastic bags, and bring inside all the mooring lines, fenders, boat hooks, detachable wood trim, antennas, the gangplank, and anything else that will fit. In general, about half of our belongings end up in places that they do not live in when we are aboard, most of them buried beneath stuff that is normally outside. This has worked well for us as we have had very little problem with weather damage, mildew or mold on our return. However, it never fails to be a bit disconcerting to come back to this muddled environment.
Adding to the mess, there are, of course, the dust and the spiders. How this happens in a sealed boat is quite a mystery. This year somehow we have so far avoided the spiders (they probably haven’t hatched yet), but the muddle was there. And not having been aboard for several months, it was often difficult to remember just how things went back together! That’s when the really interesting part began.
Next Time: Boating in France – First Days Aboard