Chitry-les-Mines - Clamecy

After arriving in Chitry-les-Mines, on Thursday the 30th of April, France experienced torrential rainfall - at least the part of France where we were, being the centre of the country. Sometimes we really had no idea where the vastest mass of water was: underneath or on top of our ship. Although we hardly ever cruise on the Sunday (‘blog-day’) we published our blog page last Saturday and left on Sunday the 3th of May at 9:35AM. This picture makes the enormous volume of water that had poured down on Friday and Saturday patently obvious. The canal is at towpath-level and the meadows between canal and river Yonne are largely inundated.

Another image of the Yonne-valley. The herd of cows (‘Charolais’) in the far distance seems still capable of finding room to graze, although the soil they’re on must be swampy to say the least.

That Sunday we descended 9 locks all the same, progressed 14 kilometers (a quarter under 9 miles) and moored at 2:32PM opposite Le Boat’s base at Cuzy/Tannay. The green posts on the bank that promise us boating people water and electricity are thoroughly wrecked. Apart from that it is a lovely spot. Once more the flooded meadows (meadow = ‘prairie’ in French) are clearly visible. In fact the entire Yonne-valley is filled with water, water and, again, water wherever one looks.

L'Yonne after heavy rainfall

The running water one sees at the start of this video is not yet the river Yonne itself. It is, believe it or not, fast flowing water at the lowest point of the meadow(s) next to the river. After some 20 seconds the river Yonne itself –even faster running- and a bridge on top of it come into sight. The village in the background is Cuzy, east of the river. Looking downstream it’s obvious that the river has burst its banks extensively. Tannay Gare is across the canal, a few hundred meters west of the river. Note the birds. They sing whatever the circumstances.

A close-up now of a herd of lovely young Charolais cows, already visible at the third picture. We think they are just adorable. Curious too. And a bit pitiful, given the circumstances. Later on the owning farmer brought them a layer of straw, covering the mud between the gate and the water. We don’t know whether that was an improvement for the animals. Whatever, it did make for a better look.

Eventually the animals’ curiosity was satisfied and they left, looking for something to eat possibly. We have seen them knee-high in the water, paddling around, but here they seem to be on higher grounds. This picture is the result of using our ‘8x optical zoom’ (it’s printed on our tiny camera) to its maximum. One can’t do that when having trembling hands…

The next morning, Monday the 4th of May, a part of the herd obviously got fed up with the wet and muddy circumstances and decided to break out and to savour to the full the untrodden grass on either side of the towpath-track. (Of course they stopped grazing when they noticed us. They are so utterly charming curious.) Later on they passed us –at the double, bless them!- and stopped alarmingly close to the road. Fortunately they met the rest of the herd curiously standing on the other side of the gate (see 3rd and 5th picture) and stopped there. We called (tel. 17, very simple) ‘la gendarmerie’ and explained the situation to them. They promised to go find ‘le propriétaire’. We felt reassured and left at 9:07AM thus being able to arrive on the agreed time, 9:30AM, at the first lock for the day at a distance of 2 kilometers (1 mile and a quarter).

We arrived at 9:30AM sharp at lock 38-39 ‘Tannay’, as the double number suggests a ‘staircase’ lock of 2 in 1. To our surprise already three boats were waiting which is unusual, as the VNF staff ‘performs like an oiled machine’ – as we use to say in The Netherlands (and perhaps in other countries too). Well, not always but close to it anyway. The problem appeared to be, believe it or not after all this surplus water the days before, an empty, or nearly empty, or at least very low, pond downstream of the lock(s). We never discovered the reason, as VNF is a working oiled machine – not a talking one. Yes, maybe we could have asked. But they seemed to be hardly approachable, not talkative at all and only communicating among themselves. To avoid possible questions: the fifth boat arrived after us.

What does one do when forced to wait? One makes pictures of the scene, of course. The upper lock of the two is pictured here, all sluices opened, letting water freely go through into the second lock, respectively into the lower pond of 4,2 kilometers (over 2,5 miles).

Here’s the lower lock of the pair, getting water from the upper lock uninterrupted for hours. Yes, hours!

The second lock again, now looking towards the long, long pond. It’s not hard to imagine that it takes a long time to rewater a pond of the described length…

…certainly when looking at this picture, showing the level of the pond not even immediately after our arrival, but almost 1,5 hours later, at 10:52AM (thanks, camera!). We had no idea that it would take another hour before we were finally able to move on.

We had to wait for 2 1/3 hours, until 11:50AM, before being able to enter the first lock for the day. After that it was lunch-break, so we entered the second lock not earlier than 1:56PM. Of course this had to do with being held up by the boats in front of us too. Because of the delay we were not all that optimistic about reaching our destination for that day, being Clamecy. Nine locks down however, the double one included, and propelling away 17,5 kilometers (some 11 miles), we did! After the final lock of the day we had a bit of frightening, well, at least uncomfortable, experience. The 2 kilometer (1,25 miles) long pond was shallow to such an extent that the boat behind us saw us (our boat that is) slightly hopping up and down. We were really in doubt: is something wrong with our engine? Or the gear box? It was an uneasy experience, ploughing the mud, but finally we made it. Mooring time at Clamecy 5:00PM. Not bad at all, looking at the circumstances. It had been sunny all day – which makes a substantial difference. It’s a dead end where we are. The lock leading into the river Yonne is just visible, underneath/behind the green(ish) swing bridge. The people on the right hand side are walking on the dike that separates the canal from the river.

Seen from the opposite river bank our boat is just perceptible underneath the houses on the right hand side. Even further to the right of the picture the green fence around the lock, leading from the canal into the river, is visible. We knew before arriving that the river is closed because of the water masses that are still coming down. Although this picture was not made on the day of arrival, Monday the 4th, but not earlier than Thursday the 7th, it’s obvious that the Yonne basin still has to get rid of a huge amount of water. The middle part of the weir (‘barrage’), so far as we understand closed under ‘normal’ circumstances, is still fully open – up to today (Saturday the 9th).

Another picture of river and weir. Both thresholds look pretty peaceful; they certainly did not when we arrived. After arrival, so on Monday, we asked a lock keeper an opinion about his expectation regarding reopening the river. He answered: Friday (‘sans pluie’). On Thursday we asked one of his colleagues the same. He had no idea and pointed out that the river was still draining 100% more than what is normal at this time of the year.

The lock and its exit onto the river. When entering the river one obviously has to be aware of its current. We are still on the canal, behind the lock, slightly on the right hand as seen from this point of view. ‘Still’ means Saturday the 9th of May. It has always been the plan to wait here for our youngest grandson, who will be with us the coming week. Already two weeks ago we bought train tickets from Clamecy to Paris (and back) to pick him up coming Sunday. (His father, who executes his job in France during the week, will bring him from The Netherlands to Paris.) So this was all planned, we love to be comfortably moored for almost a week in a lovely town that is completely new to us. It’s a mere coincidence that the river is closed at present.

An overall picture of weir and lock as seen from the ‘Pont de Bethléem’, looking south. The river is ‘borrowed’ for some 3,4 kilometers (over 2 miles). Thereafter both river and canal follow their own courses again – shoulder to shoulder. The merging-for-a-short-distance process will be repeated several times before the river Yonne becomes uninterrupted navigable as from Auxerre (looking downstream) before ending into the river Seine at Montereau-Fault-Yonne.

In the middle of the already mentioned ‘Pont de Bethléem’ a statue is erected in honour of the ‘flotteurs’ of Clamecy. ‘Flotteur’ was a profession and meant taking care of large rafts, built together from logs of wood. The rafts had Paris for a destination; the wood was burned in Paris’s stoves. Appropriately more about this coming winter; see the last picture. There’s a Wikipedia-page only in French about this profession. Seeétier).

A few pictures about picturesque Clamecy itself cannot be left out, self-evidently. Here we see the Rue de la Voûte.

A little restaurant with an outdoor sitting area on a tiny square, next to the Rue de la Monnaie. The street on the left hand side is, not surprisingly, called Rue du Canal – the dead end where we are in now was leading into town and is partly infilled (as happened all too often). There’s a note outside the sitting area asking passers-by not to make pictures when customers are sitting there.

Several streets are (partly) formed by steps. This one is called Rue du Café. A hint for future Clamecy-visitors: when it is one’s wish to avoid ascending the Rue du Café just follow the Rue de La Monnaie uphill and arrive at the Rue de Grand Marché without the necessity to use steps. (You’re most welcome.)

This time of the year there’s a lot of commemorating concerning the end of WWII. So it’s appropriate to show one of Clamecy’s war memorials to you. This one is a special one, as it was destroyed by France’s (and The Netherlands’ and Belgium’s) eastern neighbours on the 18th of June 1940. After the war the inhabitants of Clamecy (‘Clamecycois’) decided not to rebuild it. Hence the appearance of the memorial ever since.

Already visible on the last picture, left, is this detail of the memorial. On top it depicts its former glory, dating from after WWI, being a triumphant French military trampling the German Eagle. The text underneath reads: ‘The Monument before its ‘profanation’ by the Nazis on 18 June 1940’. We wonder all the time what it’s like being a German of the third or even fourth generation after WWII while visiting a country like France and being confronted with this sort of references to a past that was created by their considerable faraway ancestors. Fortunately Germany nowadays is a fully accepted, even leading, EU-country – and its inhabitants do not differ nowadays all that much from you and me.

The last picture now for this week is the façade of Clamecy’s ‘Museé d’Art et d’Histoire Romain Rolland’. The latter was a Clamecy-born writer, even a Nobel Prize winner (1915). We are, however, not planning to dedicate a blog on him and therefore limit ourselves to mentioning his unsurpassed Wikipedia-page: What we will do is a blog about the ‘flotteur’ and his, even her, life. Initially we planned to integrate it into this week’s blog. It would have been too much though, so this has to be postponed to the coming winter, when we are out of subjects… Bye for now.