On Monday the 26th of August 2013 we left Châlons-en-Champagne to travel ever so slow towards Vitry-le-François where we had made an arrangement for a safe mooring, starting 3 days later. The distance by the canal between these two towns is only around 34 kilometers (well over 20 miles), combined with just 8 locks, something we are able to do in one day. The arrangement, however, made us stop already at around 2:00PM after less than 1,5 hours of cruising and ascending only 1 lock. This is the mooring spot close to a place called Chepy. Note the bridge in the background.
Coming back on the subject ‘bridge’, the documentation about Le Canal Latéral à la Marne informs us about the headroom (‘tirant d’air’) being 3,5 meters (11,50 feet). The only measure for us is to lower our mast before cruising, as the top is close to 4 meters (13 feet). It’s on our check list and it works – as long as one avoid thinking that consulting the checklist is superfluous. (Don’t ever do that; you’ll pay the price eventually!) Of course the commercial boats know it all. Never the less it’s a sort of nail biting experience to look at a commercial boat nearing a bridge – this one in particular, just behind us. He made it. Just. Of course.
We stayed for two nights close to Chepy and left on Wednesday the 28th of August, planning to go to a place called La Chaussée-sur-Marne – under a 1.000 inhabitants, so don’t be ashamed if this village is unknown to you. The intended mooring place was not for us, because the bollards were at least 30 meters (100 feet) apart –too much for our 18,31 meters (60 feet)- and the possibility for an extra spring (‘steekeind’ in Dutch) was nonexistent. Oops, on we went. A few hundred meters upstream an alternative caught our eyes and that is what is shown by this picture. We had done a distance of only less than 10 kilometers (6,25 miles) and 2 locks. It took us 2 hours all the same – so we must have cruised in reverse. State of maintenance substandard we’d say, so we only stepped on the shore when absolutely necessary – and that’s for tying and untying the ropes. The British neighbours in front of us had seen us last year in England on the Thames at Goring. Spot on!
There was another, unexpected, reason not to go ashore. Shortly after we had moored at La Chaussée-sur-Marne two dogs ran towards the two boats, the young one frightening aggressive and barking continuously. They both obviously had escaped their cage – later on proved by the owner frantically shouting them back into safety (for us, that is). We chose not to try to calm down the dog –he (she?) did not seem to be all that reasonable- but to take a picture of the animal instead. When he noticed the photographer he was absolutely willing to pose and show us his flashing set of teeth.
Thursday the 29th of August we finally were able to go to Vitry-le-François, the towns ‘Halte Fluviale’ to be exact. We had visited this marina some 8 days before by car (visitors with a car sometimes come in very handy) and arranged for a three night stop. We have built some experience with the slapdash manner this sort of things are registered (or not at all) so we rang them twice afterwards to reconfirm. We needed the space because we desperately wanted a safe place to leave our floating home unattended for a few days to be able to visit a wedding in The Netherlands. Both times a friendly person on the phone assured us that the wanted space would be reserved for us. Ab-so-lu-te-ly sure. We even agreed about our time of arrival: between 1.00PM and 1:30PM. We left (the dog) at something over 10:00AM, climbed 5 locks and arrived around the arranged time. All the spaces engaged! Sold out! Sheer stress! Now what? Eventually we moored at 1:15PM next to a Swiss boat ‘Troll’ from Basel (Basle). He promised to leave early the next morning. Later on a Belgian arrived and moored against our ship, after guaranteeing to leave very early the next day. When the attendant of the marina arrived around 4:00PM she made clear that the Swiss guy was supposed to leave in the morning of the 29th but had decided to stay another night without consulting the marina authorities. Grrrrrr…
Friday, early in the morning, the two boats on either side of us left – so we were no longer ‘sandwiched’ and had the rest of the day available to prepare the ship for being abandoned for a few days. Stress gone, intended mooring spot taken. Pffffff…
On Saturday the 31st of August 2013 the wedding ceremony took place at Heerlen and we were invited for the big party, commencing around 7:30PM. This left us the day to visit the very attractive city of Maastricht. Here is a picture of the river Meuse in Maastricht and the Sint-Servaasbrug (St. Servatius Bridge), thought to be the oldest bridge in The Netherlands. Of course we included the moored boats there, although we’d prefer a more sophisticated harbour, like ‘Het Bassin’. Boats can’t use the arches – only the part that is visible on the left hand side of the picture, once consisting of two more arches, since the thirties of last century equipped with a steel drawbridge.
In Maastricht we remembered a shop selling clogs. For tourists, so they are able to decorate some wall or cabinet with them – preferably with wooden tulips, a small windmill and a mini bike. The male part of the two of us, however, uses them by putting his feet inside of them and actually walking around. They are very well suited to use during any season, under any terrain circumstance or type of weather. After having used clogs for over 6, 7 years finally a hole appeared in one of the old ones. Should the shop in Maastricht still be there? Yes, it was. Here the old and new pair of clogs are brought together for the occasion. The old ones will have a decent last task, being kindling wood when we need the stove to come back into action again. Would you believe that the new ones are some 4 to 5 centimeters (0,166666 foot) higher than the old ones? It’s obvious that a wooden sole last for a long period!
The evening of the party then, Saturday the 31st of August 2013. As a sort of warming up for the centre of attention, of course being the bride and groom, a picture of one of the immaculately groomed guests, happening to be ‘la capitaine’. She cares a lot for her privacy and wants nothing to do with the so called ‘social media’. This picture, however, could pass the screening as the chance that someone would recognize her is practically nil.
This time we saved the best for last, which are inevitably the bride and groom. Here are Sylvia and Hakim, formerly employed by De Wit Assurantiën bv – and le capitain was co-owner of that business. They now run Stockhouse Dumpshop at Heerlen, see their website http://stockhouse.nl/. Don’t they look lovely, beautiful and happy? We sincerely wish them every good thing one can think of. They are enjoying themselves at the moment on the exotic island of Bali. After the return journey on Sunday we are back in Vitry-le-François. To be continued.