(25) Kate, Peter, Megan and Robert’s Visit 15-25 August 2011.

 

 

Summer crops nearing harvest.

 We returned to Salleles d’Aude for a few days to chill out and prepare for our next round of guests. Whilst there we had a visit from William’s business partner Johann who gave us more advice us about the batteries and we were relieved to hear that they would probably last the summer if we ran the generator more and charged them fully twice a day.

 A much more important harvest…fuel for next year !

 The weather settled into a hot spell and I really enjoyed visiting the pottery market in the main square before our trip back to Narbonne. At midday I was amazed when some women started putting out free wine and nibbles on trestle tables at one end of the square, these were soon being enjoyed by all the visitors, including me!

 The pottery market.

 Anyone not thinking of the film ‘Ghost’ ?

 Nicci….’Well it’s a bit early in the day, but alright then’ !

 We said a final farewell to Patrick and Michelle, our frequent neighbours on Eole, who were heading off to go north before winter. We then left Salleles d’Aude once again for the cruise to Raonel lock.

Here Peter struggled to land yet another feisty carp just as some heavy rain was setting in. The next morning after taking the wheelhouse down we set off for Narbonne to meet up with my sister Kate and her family.

Lights, camera, umbrella…action !

 Raonel lock and the wheelhouse down for another trip through Narbonne.

Our cruise was going smoothly until we reached the one way section in the centre, where both lights were red. We never discovered the reason for the closure, but fortunately it only lasted a couple of hours and we made it to our usual mooring less than an hour before they arrived. We had decided to switch the freezer off in order to preserve our batteries and would rely on the purchase of lots of ice to keep our drinks cold from now on.

It was another public holiday and Narbonne was relatively quiet with only the cafes and a few shops open. Kate and the family had a trouble free journey from Devon and the children were soon into the swing of their holiday, both enjoying the fishing.

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 First carp for Robert.

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 Megan lands a beauty.

The next day after looking around the indoor market at les Halles, Peter (2) and I drove to Port La Nouvelle where we left the hire car before returning by train to Narbonne. We left in hot sunshine mid afternoon, aiming to stop a short distance away at the ‘memorial’ mooring for the night. Just as I was below making tea, I heard a dreadful grinding noise coming from the wheelhouse and rushed up to find Peter wrestling with the steering wheel. A couple of bolts had sheared off! As we drifted to the edge of the canal, Peter calmly took a mallet and crowbar to the problem and managed to make a temporary repair. We were soon on our way.

We enjoyed a barbecue, boules and lovely sunset that evening and Peter had another go at the steering wheel with a more permanent repair.

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 Peter Hill readies himself for the BBQ !

 After leaving mid morning, we cruised through Mandirac lock and stopped at ‘red bollards’ for a long lunch break. Our aim was to reach the lock at Ile St Lucie as it closed for the night, thereby enabling us to use the first part of the lock to moor in, as we had on previous occasions.

Barely half an hour into the cruise, the temperature gauge on the dashboard indicated that we were overheating! This meant another unscheduled stop while Peter investigated. Apparently the water level in the cooling system was low suggesting that it might have sprung a leak somewhere. Peter topped it up intending to investigate further when we reached Port La Nouvelle. Now apparently bad things come in threes and so I racked my brain in vain for the third thing……

We were able to moor in the lock as planned and while Kate and Peter cycled to check the hire car, I prepared dinner. The cupboards were well and truly bare now and Lidl’s in Sigean beckoned.

We left at 9.30 the next morning for the short cruise to Port La Nouvelle. On each prior occasion other than the first, we had moored up in the canal so that Peter could check the state of the flow/wind/tide before we ventured into the port. Today all appeared calm so we didn’t………….Big mistake! As we nosed slowly into the port to turn around, the tide and wind combined to force us over towards the pontoons where lots of small motor boats were moored up. Peter fought against the wheel while I tried to fend off our runaway barge from a small boat.

Somehow we avoided damaging anything, although the rope cut clean through one of our thick rubber fenders when it got caught on the pontoon. As we made our way into the fishing port, we wondered what the effect would be on the barge as we tried to turn sharp right back into the canal……..fortunately we made it, although I decided that was the last time we would attempt that particular manoeuvre, as my nerves wouldn’t stand another potential crash. We moored on the quay with relief and I reflected that bad things evidently do happen in threes and that had been the third. At least we could relax now.

After our dramatic start to the day, the remainder was very pleasant. We made use of the hire car to visit Lidl’s and Super U and then drove to the beach for lunch in one of the restaurants there. After lunch, the cloud cleared and the beach beckoned so we went back to the barge to change and spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach. Only a slight rip-tide marred the experience as Kate, Megan and I realised we were swimming nowhere fast. Fortunately, we all made it safely back to shore and had the back up of the ever vigilant lifeguards had we needed them.

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 Some beach time for Megan and Robert.

 After three days at Port La Nouvelle, we cruised back up to ‘red bollards’ while Kate and the gang went to the beach. They had taken the sat nav with them so they could find us again but unfortunately, it played up delaying them for over an hour. Just after they found us, we watched some cowboys rounding up some young black bulls on the opposite side of the canal…………… lots of whooping and dust!

We had hoped to stop here for a couple of days as the beach at Gruisson and Narbonne Plage were fairly close, but the presence of mozzies in the evening and night was cause for concern. The next day after an abortive search for a local supermarket (well it was a Sunday I suppose) Kate, Peter and I drove into Narbonne and ended up buying Monoprix’s last sausages and kebabs.

We had decided to cruise to Narbonne (which was popular with the family,) while they went to the beach. We enjoyed an urban barbecue and sat on deck till midnight listening to the live music from a nearby restaurant. There were some good sized carp caught too.

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 Hope Robert doesn’t expect this every time he goes fishing !

 With three nights left of their visit, we spent most of the next day in Narbonne before heading off once again to the lock mooring at Raonel. From there we would head to Salleles d’Aude for one night before returning to Narbonne where we had left the car. This would mean taking the wheelhouse down and putting it up twice more which was becoming rather tedious. However it did give Kate and Peter the opportunity to see a different part of the canal as well as the dry dock we had stopped in. Kate and I also visited the 7 Ecluses Cave for a spot of wine tasting which I had been meaning to do every time we had stayed in Salleles D’Aude.

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 Kate’s tasty Paella at lock Raonel.

 The next day with a storm threatening, we left Salleles d’Aude for the return trip to Narbonne and delayed taking the wheelhouse down until we reached Raonel not wanting to get soaked. In the event, the rain amounted to a quick shower which did nothing to reduce the heat. We spent another pleasant last evening together on deck sitting out till late. Kate had booked a hotel for four nights near Cap d’Agde and they were looking forward to the second part of their holiday.

We had a quick change over the next day at Narbonne with my friend Linda arriving by train from Carcassonne less than two hours after Kate, Peter, Megan and Robert left in the afternoon.

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