We cruised back to Argeliers and upon discovering that ‘Athos’ would shortly be returning to her mooring from the dry dock, availed ourselves of a nearby spot recently vacated by ‘Saul Trader’. Over the next few weeks, despite several drive-bys by officers of the VNF, we were left in peace.
Much of Peter’s time was spent on the seemingly never ending alterations to the barge necessitated by the Rhine Certificate. He fashioned an oil separator for the bilge pump in the engine room and covers for the moving engine parts using leftover panels from the plate warming trolley and some wire fencing. That trolley had definitely been 35 euros well spent. He also installed a Murphy Switch (which indicates a low fuel level), a fuel cut off lever (which has to be outside on deck) and finished the lid of the Butagas bottle locker.
Apologies to those not interested in the technicalities, but here is just some of the work.
Exhausts covered, moving parts and turbo protected, wooden surround for the generator and wooden flooring removed…….
Metal flooring and a cage covering alternators and belts….
All fuel pipes and filters replaced, Murphy switch and fuel cut off levers fitted….
Bilge pump oil separator.…
New steel ladder, 2 x 6kg fire extinguishers…
Gas bottle locker, (ex Plate Warming Trolley)
Blue board, still a work in progress……..
………ok, back to the main reason for being here !
Meanwhile, I pottered around feeling like a spare part and enjoyed more walks along the canal with Margreet and Boulder. As the temperatures improved daily, every vineyard seemed to have someone beavering away pruning row after row of vines. I also continued with my counted cross stitch- worryingly addictive; and read more Jo Nesbo and Stieg Larsson novels- also addictive!
We spent some pleasant evenings with Margreet and Johan and enjoyed meeting their Dutch friends Renee and Frans who were doing the paint work on ‘Athos’. Renee introduced us to the fine red wine from Chateau d’Agel about 5km away and we enjoyed a ‘degustation’’(tasting) there one afternoon, returning to port with three cases of wine and two rather attractive wine glasses.
Enjoying Fajitas aboard ‘Rust Roest’ with Renee and Margreet.
And lurking behind a model engine- ‘Strategeme’ a lovely local red.
One evening we drove along the canal to Roubia. On board an old barge ‘Tourmente’ there was a concert by a group following a tapas-type meal. The trio comprised a singer/accordionist, double bass/clarinet player and keyboard player. The excellent music was typically French and of the story telling variety. Everyone had a good time and even though our grasp of French was considerably less than most, we enjoyed ourselves.
We had a day out at Gruisson where the deserted beach looked very dejected despite the sunny weather. A walk up to the ruined tower gave us a panoramic view of the surrounding area and a welcome couple of beers in a bar quenched our inevitable thirsts.
Nicci the tour guide.
En route through Narbonne, we discovered a workshop which provided metal of all shapes and sizes and also did welding.
We returned the following day with various sketches and measurements. Amazingly, the foreman understood my French and Peter’s drawings and after two subsequent visits and over 300 euros poorer, we are now the proud owners of a new aluminium engine room floor, steel ladder to the engine room and ‘Blue Board’ frame; and all this in spite of me mistaking a ‘plafond’- ‘ceiling’ for a ‘sol’ – ‘floor’!!
Not quite as bad as me telling a VNF chap who was doing a survey of boats in Argeliers that we had been there since the ‘ice cream’- ‘glace’……………instead of the recent ‘freeze’ – ‘gel’! No wonder he looked rather bewildered.
Unfortunately we lost our Broadband connection for several days and put it down to the recent solar flare activity which had caused problems with some satellites. We felt very isolated during this time and realised how important the internet connection was for us.
As the weather warmed up I was promoted from ‘chief cook and bottle washer’ to ‘painter of hand rails’ after careful instructions from Peter in the finer points of brushwork………….well 25 metres is a lot of barge to cover on your own. Fortunately we finished just a few days before the famous ‘Midi’ plane trees started to shed their seed pods everywhere.
The traffic on the canal gradually increased and three passenger barges running school trips stopped over night on several occasions. As the Easter holidays approached, several hire boats cruised by and we knew it would soon be time to leave.
With most of the bigger alterations done to ‘Aurigny’ we hoped that the Rhine certificate would soon be ours. A speed trial on the Etang de Thau would be the last requirement and with that in mind we set off east on April 2nd having filled up with water and paid Julian (‘Athos’) for the electrics.