(21) The dry dock at Gailhousty – Early July 2011.

We had a week at Salleles d’Aude to relax prior to entering the dry dock, which we knew would be very hard work. During this time we enjoyed a visit from Sue and Keith (ex –colleague of Peter) who were staying at Cap d’Agde. Peter also made a trolley/rolling board which could be used for lying on underneath the barge. He also had to deal with a diesel leak in the generator which was caused by a bolt on the filter coming loose and the filter getting rashered by the fly wheel resulting in a spray of diesel.

 Chilling at Salleles d’Aude.

SAM_2094 Another form of chilling ! …sorry but there are quite a few fish picures from here on !

 The weather was scorching and we spent much of the time inside watching Wimbledon. The afternoon prior to entering the dry dock, we cruised down and turned around in the River Aude below the lock, as boats are required to face upstream in the dry dock. Our new friend Patrick from Eole (the barge with a Jacuzzi on the back deck) drove Peter back to get the motorbike. He asked us if we were hiring a pressure washer and was surprised when we told him we weren’t. If only we had listened!!

The lock keepers (three of them) arrived as planned at 8.30am the next day and we were soon high and dry; Peter having already positioned the ropes in the correct places to keep us from floating over too quickly.

 Beginning to flood the dry dock.

 Nearly up.

 A really nice place to dry dock….having the place to ourselves.

 It was the first time we had seen ‘Aurigny’s’ hull and realised we would have our work cut out to complete the job in the nine days we had given ourselves. I asked one of the lock keepers if she knew of anyone who would be able to check our anodes (which we were sure would need replacing.) Fortunately she later returned with a telephone number and we arranged for William from ‘Meca Fluvial’ to come the following evening.

 A little bit of scraping !

 Peter and I spent the rest of the day scraping the hull using wallpaper scrapers and getting absolutely filthy. Only the underneath remained we and hoped that Peter, with the help of our son Adam, would be able to complete the rest prior to painting. Adam was due to arrive that evening, flying in to Beziers Airport. Peter collected him on the motorbike and we spent a pleasant evening catching up on his news.

 Adam arrives and has just a few hours to relax before work starts.

 The next day, Peter and Adam tackled the ‘bottom’ wearing masks and armed with wallpaper scrapers and a stiff wire brush. I ensured they were fed and watered and did the odd bit of scraping to show willing. By the end of the day they were even filthier than we had been.

William duly arrived and after examining the barge closely said “you haven’t pressure washed this have you?” Apparently, the only way to prepare a steel hull for painting is to spend a day pressure washing it. Patrick had been right!

 Two days of this only to discover it still needed a pressure wash.

 William advised that after pressure washing, the hull should be primed before painting two top coats. The anodes required cutting off and replacing with welded ones and a couple of redundant outlet pipes needed cutting off and collars welding on. Our anticipated cheap dry docking had become an expensive one in the blink of an eye and to make things worse we had wasted two days of hard graft scraping the hull unnecessarily………………

 A day of high pressure !

  ……….However, every cloud has a silver lining and William was ours. He was able to provide a ‘man with a pressure washer’ (Joseph), primer, anodes, expert welding services and a proper trolley (ours having died after just one day! ) We had just enough time to get everything done, including refloating the barge in order to move it the few feet required to access the bits we had been resting on.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but we had adopted the philosophy of ‘why spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar?’ and had the comfort of knowing that it had been a job well done, even if it had cost considerably more than a ‘ha’porth’. We also had a new friend in William who was more than happy to advise us on all manner of barge issues.

Adam was a star, working tirelessly on every task and always with a smile. He even let me spray him with cold water from a hose as he washed the sides of the hull in preparation for yet another coat of paint. We couldn’t have done it without him.

The day before we were due out of the dry dock, Peter and I washed the topsides of the barge and were amazed at the difference. We then motorcycled to Narbonne on an abortive search for stainless steel nuts and bolts for the grill on the bowthruster. On our return, Adam was once again painting the hull and carried on while we went for aperros in a camping car of some new French friends who had delayed their departure in order to see us off.

 Two coats of primer and a chance to paint the anchors.

 Getting there –  Adam still has enough energy left to take the photo.

That evening as we watched the DVD of ‘Castaway’ a thunderstorm raged around us and with our curtains open we had the benefit of both surround sound and vision as Tom Hank’s plane crashed. Our departure from the dry dock was delayed as the lock keepers had forgotten about us. This was strange as another barge ‘Dauphin’ was ready to take our place.

 A job well done. Now for a week’s relaxation as Maria, Adam’s girlfriend arrives.

 Rather later than expected, we moved off and up to Salleles d’Aude where we had just one day to prepare for the arrival of Adam’s girlfriend Maria and a week’s well deserved down time for us all.

That evening there was great celebration in the town and a drum banging procession passed by on the quay. We had experienced ‘Bastille Eve’ at Macon the previous year, but alas there was no firework display this time. Instead, Adam and I joined the procession which ended up in the town square. Here we were amazed to see youngsters setting off bangers a few metres away from pensioners waltzing to along the music and baton swirling majorettes!

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