Linda flew from Luton to Carcassonne and then took the shuttle bus to the station. From there she caught the train to Narbonne as Laura and Jon had done earlier in the month. I met her at the station just after 3pm and we walked through the town to the barge. We spent the rest of the day supping my new supply of rose wine and catching up on news.
In the cool of the evening, we walked around as Narbonne prepared for its Charles Trenet Festival, with sound checks on the nearby stage. The next day trestle tables and wine tasting tents were being set up in the main square and the sound checks continued. We debated whether to stay one more night or not, but thought our mooring was a bit too close to the action for comfort.
Linda has a quick shop in the Halles.
After the compulsory shop at les Halles and removing the wheelhouse yet again, we left the mooring for the last time and cruised down to a turning spot we hoped would accommodate us.
Wheelhouse down and turned around, heading back to Raonel lock.
It did and we were soon up at the first lock where a strong wind combined with the tricky weir to make our entry difficult. Fortunately we were protected with old long fenders as we were forced over onto the barrier. Rain threatened and we were relieved to reach the mooring at Raonel Lock where we hastily put the wheelhouse back up.
Entertainment was soon provided by a German couple in a hire boat who bashed into our anchor without a word of apology. Desperate to be first in the lock they motioned to a following yacht to moor up behind them while waiting for it to fill. The yacht promptly ran aground at the side of the canal and a stoic Minervois cruiser (crewed by Brits) spent the best part of an hour trying to drag them off. Meanwhile the Germans cruised into the lock and went on their way while an equally unhelpful French yacht (leaving the lock) initially took the other yacht’s rope and then left it dangling in the water while they motored off! Eventually, after taking some advice from Peter, the yacht was afloat and aiming straight at us. They apologised, blaming the lack of ‘tirant d’eau’ (water draft)………………and that was in the middle of the canal!! They were heading for the coast and having been that way ourselves several times sucking the bottom of the canal, we thought it unlikely that they would make it.
After a chillier night (requiring the use of a duvet again after several weeks without) we headed for Salleles d’Aude in breezy conditions. We filled up with water for the first time since Laura and Jon’s visit- thanks to the large capacity of our water tanks. We had left the tanks emptier so we could sit higher in the water when cruising in the shallow stretches.
Linda enjoyed travelling very much and took lots of photos as she relaxed on deck. After a quick cycle to the supermarket, we all walked over to the 7 Ecluses Cave for some wine tasting and bought several bottles and our first ever vrac. This is a 5 litre plastic box which is filled (petrol station fashion) with the same wine they put in the ‘bag in boxes’, but cheaper. The only downside is that you have to either decant it into bottles to keep it fresh or drink it quickly………….. maybe that’s an upside?!
The result of a wine tasting at Salleles d’Aude !
Whilst at Salleles d’Aude Linda and I walked along the canal to the Roman pottery musem and archaeological site at Amphoralis which was very interesting. Apparently this area of France produced much of the pottery in use at the time and in particular the Amphoras (wine jars) used to transport the local wine all over the Roman Empire. Upon our return to the barge we discovered Peter wrestling with a 60 pound catfish having hooked it forty minutes earlier. He eventually landed it to another ripple of applause from onlookers.
After nearly an hour this one finaly rashered the landing net.
We also cycled to Le Somail by road for a look around and then back along the towpath, stopping for a welcome paddle in the River Cesse.
Pedalling and Paddling !
During our ride we saw David and Lillian on board the pretty luxemotor ‘Carmen’ moored near to Port Minervois. Later they came on board and we gave them the benefit of our knowledge from our travels down to Port La Nouvelle, where they would be heading in a few days. We hoped to be able to use their mooring when we returned to Meilhan –sur-Garonne in a week or so.
Sampling the proceeds from the wine tasting.
All too soon it was time for Linda to leave, catching the early bus the next day from Salleles d’Aude to Narbonne and then the train back to Carcassonne. We stayed three more days at Salleles d’Aude during which time we had a clean and tidy up on the barge, bought some more red and white diesel (delivered by the local BP garage) and did some shopping. We also saw David and Lillian a couple more times before they headed south. We were sad to leave Salleles d’Aude which had come to feel a bit like home and would have liked to have been able to spend the winter there, but unfortunately long term mooring is not permitted. I walked ahead to set the locks as I had on the way down in June, Peter being increasingly confident in managing the barge on his own. In a couple of hours we would be back once again on the Canal du Midi.