Compiègne - Saint-Quentin

In recent weeks the Sunday has been our ‘day off’. As you’ll understand our life is not easy at all, oh no, sometimes causing a desire to do nothing at all. That’s to say – we use the Sunday for doing things like writing letters/mails, creating a new blog page or just idling away. Duty calls again every Monday, however, and this one was no exception. We left Compiègne 10:44AM on the 12th of May, left the river Oise almost an hour later, entered Le Canal latéral à l'Oise and moored at Chauny after more than 6 hours, at 5:03PM. Four locks elevated us another 10,32 meters (34 feet). Chauny’s harbour did not offer us an easy space to moor, so we preferred to moor opposite of it. Admittedly no facilities, but for free.

During our first summer season in France we had to buy diesel (‘gasoil’) from a pump next to the waterway. There are only a few of them in France, so one pays the maximum prize. We told you about this last year (Week 30/31 – 2013, Commercy-Le Chesne) after we had taken in 366,31 litres and paid an eye watering € 571,44, which makes € 1,56 a litre! As we had no room for jerry cans (French: jerrycan or jerrican, oh la la) we decided to have a bench at the front of our ship in which to store them. Next to the bench and jerry cans (and a funnel) we bought a foldable hand truck. Thanks to the unsurpassed DBA we’d learned about Chauny that close to the canal gasoil is for sale for a reasonable price. We visited this firm, Ets Dercourt, agreed upon a price of € 1,34 a litre and were welcome with our 3 new bought 20-litre-jerry cans the next morning 8:00AM sharp. As expected, the (nice enough) French guy was a bit belated (‘j’arrive’). The deal was that he’d fill the 3 jerry cans twice. After that he had to go for other business – and we were moored to the opposite bank of the canal, causing him to wait some time for our return. On the way to our ship with three filled up jerry cans one of the wheels of the hand truck got stuck between the ‘ribs’ of a drain cover. The responsible one for the hand truck, being the male part of the two of us and obviously not fully awake yet, had to let go of the hand truck. (Familiar? Did it ever happen to you? Golf or shopping trolley?) Anyway, the thing slammed to the ground and… broke in two. A gasp, a bit of swearing – and the hand truck was a write-off. We had to call our friend to inform him that our planned second visit had to be cancelled. Later on – see hereunder- this appeared to be a unforeseen blessing.

The diesel-story meant that we left Chauny one day later than anticipated, on Wednesday the 14th of May, immediately entering Le Canal de Saint-Quentin. Ten locks, 24 kilometers (15 miles) and 5 hours later we approached a three-forked area, formed by Le Canal de Saint-Quentin and Le Canal de la Somme. The latter is unfortunately no longer navigable since 2004, caused by being silted up. The three-fork has created an island in the centre of it, named Saint Simon. This picture shows us approaching the island. The intention is to round it, thus enabling us to moor on our right hand side. The next picture will clarify what is meant by this manoeuvre – apart from the fun in itself to round the island.

Here it was that our journey on that day ended, at 3:28PM. It makes clear what we meant by preferring to moor on our right hand side. The entrance/exit from the wheelhouse on the starboard side is far more easy than the one on the port side. If anyone wants to know exactly why, he/she is invited to visit us and see for oneself. This is a nice picture, we like to think, but there’s an even nicer one, last Wednesday already published on Facebook. For variations sake, this one is the choice for the blog page. No-one there, the entire island for ourselves, picnic tables, a barbeque, in short: peace. Peace? All of a sudden, it was the late Friday-afternoon, a family turned up, fired up the barbeque, had a good time and left not earlier than midnight-Saturday-morning. A few male family members were wearing camouflage-clothes, looking 100% fit to beat Putin’s entire army. They were peaceful, nevertheless, and probably played paintball in the dark – or something, we lack binoculars with night vision.

Speaking about paintball… A few times, or probably more than a few times, la capitaine has pointed out that some paintwork has to be done. At long last all available stuff was accumulated, as this picture shows. There are three colours: straight-forward beautiful dark blue (lower part of the hull), light blue with a hint of lilac (roof) and subtle cream (in between). Some of the original paint is still available, lucky us! And of course there is/are grinding equipment, primer, brushes, white spirit and extension cables. Put on your overalls and go for it!

The happy painter in full action, removing rust (peeping through where the paint is no longer attached to the steel) with the coarse grinder. The previous picture shows a small grinder too. That’s for the smaller, sometimes almost invisible (from a distance, that is) damage to the paint.

This is what the painter’s hands looked like on the Friday afternoon. Job done, more or less. The longer/better one looks, the more there is. It’s depressing for some, not for the happy painter though. Whatever way one looks at it, it’s a lot better than it was. Believe it or not, there will be a few more ‘painting-days’ in the not-so-far-from-now future. The hands, by the way, will be like before in a fortnight. It’s just a matter of wearing off…

The subject ‘lock’ for a change now. This one is the last one we tackled when traveling to our present (Sunday the 18th of May) place of residence, being Saint-Quentin. All locks on the Canal de Saint-Quentin are in pairs to avoid delays, because in the past this canal was the most important connection by water between the north of France and Paris. Until 1965 that is, when the more modern Canal du Nord was put into use. The locks are all automated and brought into action by using a remote control, distributed to every ship/boat that enters the canal (and collected back when leaving, of course). Usually only one lock of the two is in use, unless there is a problem on the Canal du Nord and the traffic is diverted to the Canal de Saint-Quentin. When entering and using the remote control the light changes from red (no entry) to both red and green (preparing) and after that to only green (enter). When inside the lock a metal bar has to be pushed up and the entire locking-procedure follows smoothly. In areas where vandalism might be possible the locks are completely fenced off, like clearly visible on the left of the picture. It’s impossible to enter the lock-area from outside, which is in fact a pity as the majority of people (walkers, fishermen etc.), being law-abiding as most of us, are unable to cross. A minority rules over the majority once more. The abandoned lock keepers house and the fire inside of it that possibly did not start spontaneously tells it all…

Saturday, May the 17th, we left the island Saint Simon and cruised to Saint-Quentin. It took us 3 hours and 20 minutes, 4 locks included; distance 16,5 kilometers (over 10 miles), arriving 1:30PM. The picture gives a favourable impression of the mooring spot, just upstream of the lock (number 22 for the in-crowds). Pictures can be misleading, of course. Looking in the opposite direction it’s more urban – which means, fencing, less trees, a road, empty cans on the ground, that kind of things. We are happy to be here, though, as there is a convenient supermarket close by, low priced diesel included. See the next pictures. We needed to do some shopping, too, after having been long and far away from a decent supermarket.

The hand truck will not be replaced. In the future we’ll look, if necessary, for a mooring spot close to a supermarket, borrow a shopping trolley, put our jerry cans inside it, thus creating a solution for the transport-part of the story. Of course providing there’s a petrol station nearby as well. Saint-Quentin combines the two, within easy reach of where we are now. So here it is; the shopping trolley, containing our three jerry cans. We walked the way to the petrol station and back four times, which means that we topped up our fuel tank with 240 liters. Even 300 this week, the 60 bought at Chauny included. Our gauge is now back on 100%. The back of the trolley-pusher is below 100% for the time being. Every advantage has its disadvantage (said the man after his mother-in-law died and the undertaker came for the money to take care of the funeral). (Stolen from ‘Three men in a boat’, a really hilarious story. Highly recommended.)

The male half of our crew has been in this awkward position (5 x 3) 15 times this week. The unforeseen blessing –mentioned with the second picture- has been the price for a litre of diesel. That will be indisputable proved by the next picture.

Only, well ‘only’ compared to other diesel-sellers, € 1,279 per litre. That’s the lowest we have seen for ages, be it in France, Belgium, The Netherlands or the UK. So it was not a real burden to go up-and-down four (five) times with the trolley. Compare this to the € 1,56 we paid last year! Yippee! It’s even quit acceptable compared to the £ 1,00 we paid in the UK for 1 litre of red, yes red, diesel after negotiating about the proportion domestic use versus use for propulsion.

Having done some important, unusual, heavy jobs it’s good to sit down underneath a parasol and act as if studying French. In case you haven’t noticed: the weather has been back to its ‘normal gorgeousness’ for some days now. À bientôt!