(5) Clamecy to Auxerre

The success in the first lock set the pattern for the rest of the day, although we had a worrying few moments when the canal crossed the Yonne with its strong current running from right to left. I also had to raise and lower the most demanding lift bridge to date while Peter manouvred the barge through the gap single handed and without my words of wisdom to help him! We also came across the most bizarre lock garden we have ever seen which was full of model Disney figurines and garden gnomes.

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 Lift bridge.

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 The Disney scene.

We encountered more low bridges and were now cruising confidently under them with only 4 inches clearance, our faith in ‘Wentworth’ being complete.  The canal was delightful with fields of yellow rapeseed, dandelions and early crops as well as huge limestone rocky outcrops like those at Saussois.

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DSCF0017 Thank you Wentworth, you’re a star !

 At Cravant we were told that the next lock was broken, some English boaters having found themselves at a strange angle in the middle of the night after the water had drained out lowering the level in their pound. Here we moored for several days on a very short quay among lots of camper vans (all the rage here.) We decided to cycle the 5 or so kilometres along the side branch of the canal to Vermenton rather than take the barge. She had spent a winter there in her former life. We were glad to have made that decision as the port was full and quite expensive. The town was pretty and we had the first of many croissant au armandes in the main square.

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 A slightly battle weary Aurigny at Cravant.

 As the shops at Cravant were not great we cycled to Vincelles for a recce and decided to move down the next day. On returning to the barge we were surprised to see a cow walking along in the canal. With gentle persuasion from a farmer and the fire brigade, she eventually found a place to climb out and was last seen heading up the embankment with several people in pursuit!

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 Dipsy Daisy !

 We left next morning, confidently manouvring out of the port………………….only to hear a loud cracking sound from the bow. We had forgotten to lay the mast down and it had hit the bridge we were entering! Only a broken bulb fortunately, but lesson learned.

We spent a few days in solitary splendour on the quay at Vincelles in a very pretty spot. Whilst there we visited the Bailly ‘Caves’- once a quarry and subsequently used for growing mushrooms. It is currently a massive underground world where they make and store 7 million bottles of the Sparkling ‘Cremant’ White Burgundy…..which was very tasty.

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 Vincelles.

 Our friends Chris and Erf stopped by en route from England to their home in SW France on a mercy mission to deliver our new French Carte bleue. We had been experiencing difficulties with said card since before leaving St Leger-des-Vignes and had been unable to persuade our French bank that it was really no help them sending the card to our English address as we needed it in France!

We left Vincelles and headed for Auxerre, the highlight of the day being when we went through the last lock on the Canal du Nivernais. We could hardly believe it when we saw the sign and were proud to have made it. In high spirits we cruised onto the River Yonne and were almost brought back down to earth with a large bump. Wind and a strong current nearly combined to force us into the first bridge as we passed through and we cursed the fact that our bow thruster wasn’t working. However St Nick   (apparently the patron saint of bargees when he isn’t doing the rounds on Christmas Eve) was looking after us and we made it through with our wheelhouse in tact.

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 Saint Nick !

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 Plaque for St. Nick.

 The first lock on the Yonne seemed huge by comparison to those on the canal. They are operated automatically by a man in an office and we initially had trouble deciding which side to tie up, as we had never had the choice before. We decided not to moor in the port at Auxerre, as for a barge of our size this can prove expensive. Instead we stopped for free, 10 km away at Gurgy and cycled back to sightsee the next day. We took a picnic with us and enjoyed taking in the sights which we have found is much easier by bike. Auxerre is a lovely city with quaint old houses and cobbled streets. Well worth a visit.

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 Exploring Auxerre.

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 The Yonne – end of April 2010

The Nivernais joins the Yonne valley after leaving the tunnels at the top. It merges with the River Yonne from time to time before arriving at Auxerre.  The Yonne then continues north until Laroche-Migennes where the Canal de Bourgogne begins…….

………..At Gurgy, we met Penny and Frank on ‘Westfries’ and they marked some good mooring spots on our newly acquired Burgundy guide. We also had a visit from Mick and Rose en route back to ‘Calypso’ at St Legers-des-Vignes.

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 A balloon instructor dips the basket into the river. Clever.

 We left just before 1pm and encountered what was for us another ‘first’. There was a light at the lock showing green, but no lock keeper in sight. On checking the guide we discovered that we had to use our radio to contact the VNF. Once more the rusty A level French was put to the test and amazingly it worked. As if by magic the lock gates opened and we were in a wide lock………..which side to choose? Other ‘firsts’ included passing a large commercial barge which was unloading gravel and having to hover outside a lock waiting for the passage of another barge. It was starting to get busy. We had a scary moment when the commercial gravel barge we had passed came steaming up behind and then manoeuvred to moor before the lock. All this with no signals of any kind!! Peter did well to keep us out of her way and when we made it through the lock we received a ‘parfait’ from the lockkeeper. Praise indeed!

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 First encounter with a commercial in a hurry.

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