Friday, December 24, 2010


November/December 2010

Time moves on its never-ending manner and we are now surely into the cool part of the year with temperatures falling a little more each day. From mid 20's about 3 weeks ago we are now down to 10 degree days, so it is out with the winter coats, gloves, hats and scarves plus the winter sheets are on the bed and we have bought an electric blanket too, so it is not only a sign of the seasons but a sign of age increase as well.

We are, however, so grateful to be in this town to enjoy a relatively busy atmosphere due to the number of shops which are open for business and peoples activities.
While it is full-on in most of the Western world with Christmas shopping adverts filling TV screens and shop windows, here in France nothing apparently happens until the first of December which is great really in so many ways unless you are trying to buy decorations like Christmas lights. No Carol singing or street lighting yet.

Today I lit the log burner for the first time this season which is so effective in heating the boat and I have to say that the fact that I had added an extension to the chimney, the fire seemed to burn cleaner and hotter than previous so may it be the sign of a new improved system as judging by the weather forecast we will need good heating.

We were invited out for dinner the other evening to an English couples home right here in the centre of the town. Howell and Maria had bought this old, fairly dilapidated 3 storey house probably built in the 17 or 18 hundreds, some months ago and as Maria is a very skilled interior designer and Howell a great organiser, they have transformed this place into a beautiful modern home with all the creature comforts one could wish for. We were treated to a great evening of food, wine and music and lots of laughs which was so good then we wobbled off home to “Somewhere” being led by Harry (thank goodness that he knew the way).

All of this came about following our visit to the Remembrance Day service at the local cenotaph along with about 100 French people where Rhonda and I stood with our Australian and New Zealand flags paying tribute to our fallen from all wars when Maria and Howell came over to us as we seemed to be the only English speaking folk there. Afterwards we had a coffee and a chat with them and agreed to catch up, hence the dinner invite. It is wonderful how friendly people are in this part of the world.

Apparently there are a number of English folk who have either bought new or existing homes in this area or have taken on projects like Maria and Howell have done which further endorses the claim that Moissac is one of the most popular towns in France for ex pats to retire to.

Today, the 28th November, we awoke to about 50 mm of snow coating everything and it was very pretty and Christmassy if you like that sort of thing. The snow lasted most of the day and was followed the next day by real cold which confirmed the early winter which had swept the UK and other parts of Europe was certainly reaching right down to here much to my disgust and to the local’s surprise. Apparently we are told that this weather is not due until late January or early February if at all. Oh well it is something we can’t do anything about except to keep warm and enjoy.

We arranged to buy a steyr (about a cm3) of firewood at a cost of €65.00, cut into 300mm lengths, oak and poplar mixed to keep the log burner going as we are advised that it could be a long cold winter ahead. A couple of trips in the car to the woodman saw us with our firewood all bagged or stowed in the bow locker onboard. Now it is my job to split it so that it fits into our little log burner but the resultant fires are a delight on these freezing cold nights and day time temperatures. Having just said that, today the temps rose to 18 degrees as a thaw swept across us from the Mediterranean and it is supposed to stay this way for the next few days so fingers crossed.

Rhonda's Comment: This sweet little dog was seen at the markets, it was not "For Sale" but had to sit beside his owner all morning!!!!

We had our old barge mates Iris and Grahame contact us to see if they could come and stay for a few nights as they had just sold their boat and were doing the rounds of contacts made over the past few years before they return to Australia via the UK early in 2011. They have had 5 years on Manatee and have sure covered some mileage in France, Holland, Germany and Belgium. They have a wealth of knowledge on all of the related canals and towns and ports along the way so if you require advice or assistance at any time contact us and we can forward on your request to them.

While they were with us we guided them on a day out tour visiting some of the nearby towns and country sides which took us out to the well known city of Cahors which is sited on the banks of the upper Lot River which was in fairly full flush making the idea of boating upon it quite scary, hence their navigation period is fairly limited to the height of summer only. On through some fantastic rolling country side which is predominantly used to grow grapes and other fruit including Kiwi.

After visiting small towns along the Lot River Valley, we climbed to the top of the escarpment some 100 metres above to view what can only be described as breathtaking scenery of the jewel of the valley below and then to have it all capped off by finding this medieval hamlet perched on a peak and hanging off the sides of the rock face and harbouring a couple of little shops and restaurants. The “roads” through this hamlet were like mule tracks and I don’t know how the locals transverse them really as heavy snow lay in the lanes and on the roofs even at 3.00pm on a sunny day. Some photos of this magic sight, St-Cirq Lapople are included in the blog and while I do apologise for the quality of them the scenery was too beautiful to not include.

We have found since our visit that it is rated so well as an artisan resort and must be fabulous to visit in summer. The whole valley below is easily accessible and offer nice camping grounds and boating launch facilities etc for those few months when navigation is possible.

After Iris and Grahame had moved on we took another trip to Buzet our favourite wine supply town about an hours drive from Moissac to see our pals Louise and Alex who had just returned from a trip to the UK and where they had purchased good old pommie foods and even an electric blanket for us. We stayed the night on board “Riccall” with them enjoying a great evening meal and a few drinks I might add.

We also took the opportunity to call on a German couple, Herman and Ulla who are also wintering over in Buzet. Our conversations are somewhat limited due to our poor understanding of their language but they make a big effort with English so we get by and do enjoy a lot of laughs as Herman is a funny man once he lets loose and is just another one of the things which makes barging such a delight as you get to meet so many people along the way with similar interests.
Rhonda's Comment: "Somewhere" looks beautiful - please note Santa up the mast.

Well life back in Moissac has slowed down except everybody is scrambling to get their Christmas shopping completed and the street lights and decorations have all been put up and the town looks lovely. At the port around 10 of us boaters put up strings of coloured and flashing lights around and over our boats as there is an annual contest with prizes being donated by the owners and Mayor who comes to judge followed by food and mulled wine at the Capitanerie’s office etc. Well due to some corrupt voting practise, we missed out on any prize so drank their wine, ate their food and came home with our tales between our legs. There is no justice !!!!!!! Just wait until next year.
Harry had to go to the vet for his annual check-over which he just loves (yeah right) and apart from some minor ear infection he checked out fine so next he was off to the Toilettage (dog groomer) which he also just loves, however, he looks good so is nice and neat for Christmas. Now we have to put his jacket on him when it is particularly cold until his hair grows a bit but he sure moves quicker I am sure.

Well, we have mailed off all our Christmas cards and received a lovely display in return. (For those who haven’t mailed us yet, late arrivals will be accepted) Ha ha. Now all we have to do is hope that Santa knows where we are.

Rhonda's Comment: As seen at last week's market - who said legs don't look good in stockings.

French Oddities worth noting:
1/ It seems that all over the world, chips are referred to as French Fries but in France they are called Frites.

2/Fifteen or so years ago roundabouts were an oddity on
France’s roads but since then they are the traffic controller of choice. There are thousands of them and even in the smallest village of a few hundred residents you may encounter 5 or 6 roundabouts.

3/Post offices which are still government controlled are another of those ‘socialist’ institutions where there is no rush or effort to help minimise waiting queues. There may be 30 customers standing in line with only one person serving and yet they may well choose to stop everything to take a personal phone call or to chat to a person they know and will ignore everyone else.
4/ The love of paperwork or form filling also amuses us with Insurance Companies seeming to be the worst of all and despite the fact you may hold a policy through the ABC Company taken out in City Big it does not mean that the same named company in City Small will accept anything to do with your policy or even accept payment for renewal as they appear to be franchised so operate quite separately.

Well, today is the shortest day in the northern hemisphere so the longest night is soon to fall upon us, so I will away as I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to get an extra few hours sleep.

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel and a sincere best wish for 2011
Kindest regards to all
Ken, Rhonda and Harry

Saturday, November 13, 2010


27th October 2010 to 7th November 2010

Today the 27th October saw us arrive in Moissac at the end of our cruising season and where we will stop over for the winter in the northern hemisphere. After 195 days, 1140 kilometres travelled and 180 locks encountered we spent our last day travelling the 10 kilometres from Malause to Moissac.

We have just spent the last few days catching up with Louise and Alex off “Riccall” who we had met last year on our travels. We only had a few days with them unfortunately as they are so much fun and we find that they are wintering-over in Buzet. So we will be making trips there to see them for sure as the wine in Buzet is really lovely too!

As we had been doing for the past few weeks since turning around for the return journey, Rhonda drove the car from one lock to the next to take the ropes as I would enter on “Somewhere”. This procedure allowed us to avoid having to go back on the scooter to get the car and to have to move it on to the next stopover. Sliding the boat through the lock with someone handling the bow rope and pushing the control buttons to fill or empty the lock just made it so much easier and safer than scrambling up ladders etc.

Over the past weeks of travels I had become somewhat alarmed at the way the engine water temperature was rising above normal so with the help of our knowledgeable boater Alex off “Riccall”, we checked all the usual causes like water strainer, impeller, heat exchanger and drive belts and even back flushed the water pick up hoses using my deck wash hose which has a fairly strong water flow, all without finding a real problem. As I was leaving the last lock of this journey I was doubly concerned that despite running up the revs the boat seemed to be dragging and not gaining speed almost as though the boat was rubbing against the lock wall and the more I pushed the revs the more the water temp rose making “Somewhere” look like a steam train, so after about 250 meters I stopped the boat and in desperation put it in reverse and gave it full revs and almost immediately could feel a dramatic effect in its pick up speed so when returned to forward all was showing as clear, the temp returned to normal and away we went in a very relieved manner I can assure you.

Thinking it must have been a sheet of plastic or similar which had been blocking the intake flow so fingers crossed from now on, however, I have since been told that it is not unusual down here in these narrower canals and when the leaf drop is happening that some of this leaf litter carpet can block the prop housing and slow the boat and cause temperature increase. You have to see the leaf content in the canals to believe just how much volume there is and as there are virtually only deciduous trees growing anywhere near the canals and every tree strips itself of every leaf, one can get some idea of what it is like. I mention this just in case any other boaters who are reading this, experience similar problems.

With the last lock transversed and being able to get under way, Rhonda was able to go on a couple of kilometres ahead to Moissac ready to guide me in to our berth which is abreast on the quay with easy access to power and water and pump out if required plus the fuel dispenser is only 20meters away. With the whole surrounding area being nicely sealed it will be great for when winter arrives, however, today the weather is just as perfect as it could be so do hope we get to enjoy more of it.

We are surrounded with about 40 or so boats all like us who are either living aboard during winter or who are or have left their boats here for the winter period while they return to their homes located as far away as the UK, South Africa, Holland, Germany, Canada, USA, Australia or even New Zealand. Apparently it is unlikely to ice over, however, there was a touch of frost first thing this morning ahead of the delightful sunshine etc.

The couple, Iain and Kaz who are the Capitaneries for the port are lovely helpful people who have built an enviable reputation and are really valued by the tenants of the marina and who join in with social activities and who seem to know wherever and whatever information is required. As a couple they have spent many years looking after a fleet of hire boats before taking over the marina. Their knowledge is most valuable and as they are of English descent they help us Anglos a lot.

The town of Moissac is just big enough to be interesting and with all sorts of shops ranging from fashion to art to hardware and boasts 3 large hotels and offers all the main service providers for phones, insurance, car servicing, plumbing and so on plus it has two theatres and a 6 movie house complex. With its own well rated hospital and medical centres I think we will be well served and we are assured the town does not go dead like St Jean-de-Losne in the winter nor do shops or restaurants or markets shut down so the signs are good and it is so easy to get straight out onto the very best type of motorways so travel to other parts of France and to Spain etc is easy.

Moissac is built along the banks of the Tarn River which has offshoots to the canal where the port is built so always there is a slow flow of water which helps move the pollution down stream to the where the canal joins the Garonne River which flows down to the Atlantic coast. This area is famous for its history of being linked to the Christian King and the Benedictine monastery of which there are still columns standing as a part of the Abbey Church which has been fully restored and is quite magnificent.

The area is very popular with trampers, walkers and strollers due to its great mix of easy rolling country through the orchards, vineyard and many waterways and on into the town itself which is also interesting to view. Campers are well served with lovely grounds and facilities right on the river side. Famous for the Chasselas grape (purported to be the sweetest grape in the world and to which we would not argue against) and it has its own AOC. ( Appellation ).

As we are so close to Toulouse, 65kms, Agen 45 kms and numerous other towns it is easy to make visits to enable a change of environ simple and interesting. As you can read from my comments we are looking forward to the next few months of being Moissacians.

After settling in we discovered amongst our mail that it was that time of the year where we needed to go to the Netherlands to have my superannuation papers signed and stamped. We looked at ways to travel ranging from flying to going by rail but there seems to be no discount fares unless you go via UK which we didn’t want to do so decided to take old Betsy (our car) and drive up. It is a heck of a long way (1100 kms) but provided you go via the main motorways and pay the road tolls which apply only in France it is pretty smooth driving so we set off on a Sunday morning which was great as the heavy trucks are supposed to stay off these roads on this day so we drove as far as just north of Paris and stayed in the first of the Premium Classe motels which are found along the motorways and towns and are pretty basic but clean and reasonably comfortable and offer a continental type breakfast and also allow Harry to stay in the room all for around €54.00 per night which is quite good value.

The next day, we continued on towards Breda which is just over the border in Holland, however, it seemed as though all the trucks who had rested the day before had decided to get out on the roads early and we joined a traffic jam of trucks of at least 30 kms in length. It was just amazing to inch along for an hour or more beside a solid wall of trucks from almost every corner of Europe. I know we have commented in the past about the volumes of heavy traffic criss-crossing this continent but on this day we were stunned by the sight of it all.

Eventually we got clear and made the balance of the trip to Breda without incident and stayed overnight nearby in another Premium Classe motel. We couldn’t help but notice how much colder it was in the north so heaters were on high, coats were worn with scarves and so on. Next morning off we went to get my papers stamped. In the office at 8.35am out at 8.37am.

We drove back to Paris and as Rhonda has always wanted to visit the Palace of Versailles we decided to stay overnight and do the tourist thing next morning. It was bitterly cold I have to add but we got there early in the morning just ahead of the tour coaches and bulk of tourists so got parked really close to the entrance to this amazing structure. Constructed originally for Louis XIV, this palace and gardens form one of the most famous world heritage monuments and stands out as the most complex achievement of French history of the 17th century.

The building and its grounds were continued to be developed and upgraded for almost 500 years by sons and grandsons (using some 30,000 workers and soldiers) who have added their own touches to the palace so a visit is just a mind boggler plus you can go on to visit the further two smaller apartment blocks of Trianon and Marie-Antoinette.

A walk through the palace reveals huge displays of paintings, sculptures and design works collected over the centuries and I am sure real art critics could spend days browsing and learning about these French masters.

The size and layout of the whole complex is mind boggling and without wanting to bore our readers here are some facts which illustrate the above points. There are 700 rooms, 2153 windows, 352 chimneys, 67 staircases, 11 hectares of roof, 800 hectares of garden and so on and so on. All I can add is to say if you are in Paris, do not miss this marvel and allow at least a full day to see it and go in the spring or summer to see the fantastic gardens at their best.

Well once we left there we headed for home and as usual I wasn’t listening to Rhonda’s instruction on directions to follow so all of a sudden she barked at me that I had missed a vital turn and Tom Tom was not impressed either so without checking on my surroundings too much I did a highly illegal U turn on a several lane avenue and headed back the way we wanted to go. After Rhonda regained her speech voice she said “did you not see where you did that turn” - it was right outside one of the main Prefectures of the Gendarmes, however, my good luck charm must have been working as nobody followed or tooted.

As it was bitterly cold and while we had thought of staying overnight it was surprisingly quiet on the motorways so we made the effort and drove direct to Moissac arriving by 6.00pm which was great going. Well done Betsy.

One of the remarkable sights we witnessed going and coming particularly in rural France was the autumnal colours which were quite vivid. With thousands of hectares alongside the motorways the sight of the red, gold, brown, purple and green deciduous trees is something to behold and even the media have reported that due to the late and long summer this year the colours are so much more pronounced than usual so we were lucky to see so much of it. We couldn’t believe it when we got out of the car at Moissac as the temperature here was 16 degrees so after the chill of the north we felt great to be back. I am sure it will get a lot colder soon but we will make the most of the milder conditions while we can.

In preparation for winter I have got the fireplace set up, added an additional piece to the chimney to hopefully stop sap leaking over our cabin top again. Ran the oil burner for a test run and checked the radiators so am happy that all seems good for the cold season.

The trees look more like scarecrows as they are losing more and more leaves which are like carpets floating down the canal to the Tarn River to make the long journey out to the Atlantic Ocean.

Rhonda has just told me that we have had 2400 people so far read our blogs from the four corners of the world so we are delighted that we can offer some insight to this wonderful world of canal boating here in France. Thanks for the many comments and we hope we can continue to keep the blogs interesting so keep your comments coming in and again, take care and good luck.

Love Rhonda, Ken and Harry.

PS. I was delighted to read that the Blue Flag BI Monthly Journal for Barge owners and users had seen fit to publish my letter article on Plastic Pollution of our waterways and oceans. It is only with the spread of such news that more and more boaters can do their bit to get that plastic out of the water and to bin-it. Thanks.

Harry's Comment: Hooray, another park and this one is really good.

Friday, October 15, 2010


1st October to 13th October, 2010

Well as I said at the close of our last blog, we would be heading back along the canals now as our north west adventure had been completed after dropping Lois and Dave off at the Marmande bus station and watching them disappear. We then headed back to the boat and prepared her for the beginning of our return trip with Rhonda taking the car to the next lock while Harry and I drove “Somewhere” single handed.

We did well for a first try as it was perfect conditions and we tied up at a nice little village with good facilities to stay for the night at least. With the next day being Rhonda’s birthday, we headed off to Casteljaloux to find a Chinese restaurant which she had spotted when last in the town. It was a buffet type more like those we were used to in New Zealand and for €11.00 each which included a starter, main and dessert plus a free carafe of Rose wine each, we sure tucked in to the great array of delightful food which was hot and tasty. It was easily the best Chinese food we have had since leaving New Zealand so I have to admit to having two goes at the mains plus the dessert and I think Rhonda did the same. I know it may not mean much to our readers but as we do love good Chinese food this was a treat to us as previous restaurants have only offered mediocre food at quite expensive prices.

While in Casteljaloux we toured about and found that the town is famous for its geothermal baths which are situated inside a large hotel complex which we went into to view. It was quite a place to see and obviously is regarded as a top tourist stay as it was well supported by the senior folk from all around and judging by the size of the carpark which is about the same size as that at the AC Baths in Taupo. Unfortunately we had not taken our togs so could only look on with envy. The hotel is luxurious too and offers almost every sort of health treatment related to hot pools and massage that one could imagine. The staff were all dressed in very chic uniforms and quietly moved about the premises. It makes our hospital staff seem a bunch of elephants in comparison and I say this from experience as on a number of occasions when staff seem to have little or no consideration for the patients need for peace and quiet. Sorry I got a bit side tracked there.

While also on the subject of getting side tracked I failed to mention in our last blog that when we pulled into one little port while having Lois and Dave on board we learned that there was an orchard of plums just nearby that was really neglected so they took some plastic bags and brought back about 15 kilos of beautiful plums (Prunes) which Rhonda stewed up, made jam and preserved while we demolished the rest in their raw state. There was no mention of constipation for the week. It is terrible to see the waste but I guess this was one orchard which the grower was able to let go and claim his subsidy from the government anyhow.

We have also been able to buy tomatoes very cheaply so relish has been made which will keep us going for the winter we hope. We did miss out on the millions of blackberries which grow along the canal sides but as the weather had been so dry the fruit never really grew in size so we kept passing it by saying that surely it would grow soon but in the end we missed out. Pity as last year’s crop was so juicy and plentiful we had jams etc for the whole winter.

Now back to reality, we had a weeks stopover at Le Mas d’Agenais which is just a hamlet really but the marina is beautiful to stay at so I was able to spend the week pottering around doing some touch up jobs which needed to be done and while there we met some really nice folk who were passing through including Doug and Daphne who mentioned that they had met some really nice kiwis a couple of years ago and when they (Doug and Daphne) went to New Zealand this couple, Bob and Cheryl, loaned them their beach house in North Auckland and really made them so welcome. They turned out to be folk from Auckland who we knew from meeting with them several times including when they had left their barge just along from ours in Saint Jean de Losne and were really a fun couple to be with during their stopover. It is a small world as they say.

Today we moved to Villeton which is only about 8 kms from Le Mas and is also a nice spot where we had stayed on the way down. Again Rhonda drove the car and I the boat which is working out fine at present and saves us going back on the scooter to collect the car. As it is easy to drive our car to some of the sights we wanted to catch up on, we will stay here for a day or two at least.
Today being the 30th of September (my birthday) and reaching the great age of 69 (I can hear all the cries of “I can’t believe he is that age”) but that is ok as some people are lucky to retain their youthful good looks. Yeah right!
As a birthday present Rhonda had booked me into the Thermal centre at Casteljaloux for a swim in their luxurious heated pool complex followed by a massage which was just wonderful and the answer for my jammy shoulder. Of course there was a trap as in return I had to take her back to the Chinese restaurant which we found last week for lunch. Oh well we all have to make sacrifices.

Rhonda reminded me that I had failed to tell you about us getting our credit card details stolen by a hotel restaurant when we were in Agen last month. When Rhonda went to pay our bill, the waitress said she had to take the card out the back as the counter credit card machine was not working. Once Rhonda had signed it off we left and it was only by chance that a couple of days later when Rhonda checked our account, she noted all these debits totalling NZ$5000.00 had been deducted for purchases made from a mail order house. The ANZ credit card company back in New Zealand were marvellous in their promptness to halt the transactions which were still being activated and stopped the card and had the fraud squad contact us for any details we could give them. Within a couple of days they had credited back all the debits and issued new cards which they express couriered all the way to France for us. It just goes to show how easy it is to get ripped off, so lesson one is never let your credit card be removed from your sight and to realize how easily it is to be conned.

Well after another few days of fabulous weather with temps up to the high 20s early 30s, we awoke last night to a real sudden change of windy conditions plus rain and a temperature drop to the high teens only, so it is out with the track suit and as it is too wet to paint the boat it is time to settle down to the final day of the Ryder Cup or to switch channels to the India –v- Australian cricket test or to The Commonwealth Games from Delhi. I honestly don’t know how I ever had time to work at any stage so apart from walking with Harry I am in a fairly static status.

Unfortunately the good weather returned so my lazy days were over for now so as I needed to get a coat of black paint on the above waterline below the rub strake it was a case of keeping on keeping on and eventually got this done thanks to the long extension handle I made up allowing a reach of around 2meters to get to the bow and the stern areas. Talk about heath robinson but it worked anyhow.

While doing the painting when one allows the mind to wander as watching paint dry is not the most interesting way to spend some hours, a few points came to mind which I will share with you.

When we were berthed up in Beziers some few months ago, we started talking to a group of English fellows who were interested in “Somewhere”. One of them seemed to look somewhat familiar and as we got chatting and met up with them again on board for a cool drink he introduced himself as Peter Harrison who once he knew we were from Auckland said he had spent a lot of time there and in fact had bought a home in Browns Bay. This fellow was the head of Great Britain’s America Cup/Louis Vuton syndicate when the cup was held by New Zealand. He had spent over a year there and only sold his home a couple of years ago when funding for any further challenges dried up. We had actually met Peter at a Royal New Zealand Yacht Club luncheon during the period of Team New Zealand holding the Auld Mug.

He and 6 of his mates had hired a canal boat for a couple of weeks to give one of them a send-off to remember as a he was getting married at the end of the week. You can imagine how much hilarity was going on and when I asked him why a canal boat when as you would probably realise he owns so many yachts and launches in the UK, but he said that little else compares to the pleasure of pottering along the French canals as we have done with so little pressure, which is so true.

We have met so many folk from so many countries and because we are all doing a similar thing, almost everybody gets along with each other and is ready to share a cuppa or a glass of wine and to have a chat about their experiences which in some cases is just amazing and when you learn about some of their backgrounds it just goes to show that the spirit of adventure is not dead and only needs a spark to get it fired up and you are on your way.

The same goes for all the thousands of Camping Van people who transit this country and so many other European countries. Many of the stay-over places are alongside where we moor up so again we enjoy meeting them too and exchanging tales. On top of this we have recorded how so many cyclists use the tow paths which run alongside the canals so it is usual to have at least one or two cyclists stop by when they see our Kiwi flag to ask about New Zealand and/or about barge life.

Every country in the world seems to have cyclists making the most of the great pathways and facilities provided for bikers so you can see whole families of Mum, Dad and a few kids all cycling together and pitching tents to stopover and to getting their food sorted. It is marvellous and you can imagine what great memories the kids have in later years and at the other end of the scale like now that school holidays are over and the weather is not quite so good, is to see the retired folk who go pedalling past as they relive their earlier trips and experiences. It is not uncommon to see people in their 70s and above going by or calling in to chat. The only thing we don’t subscribe to is that many of the men must still imagine that they look good in their Lycra cycle outfits which generally they don’t, but never mind they are all having the time of their lives by the sound of it.

Another point which may be of interest, is that the millions of plane or oak trees planted at about 6 m intervals along the sides of the canals not only are valued for their shelter and cooling for boats (originally to give shelter to the men or the horses which towed the barges) which may tie up along the banks and whose roots help hold the canal banks together, but also provide a great source of firewood when it comes time to cut them down when they get Elm’s disease but the leaves which fall at this time of the year provide a valuable liner for the canals and assist in retaining the water which can be lost so easily if a bank gives away.

Now back to reality again, today which is wet again has given us the opportunity to slob out in front of the telly and to watch some of the Commonwealth Games then some of the India –v- Australia cricket test to some of the first rounds of the Heineken Cup European Rugby competition, so my eyes are quite square and early night is required so to all you readers, take care and we will bring you further news in the next few weeks.

In my last blog I expounded my thoughts on the damage being done to our planet and in particular the oceans by the huge amounts of plastic being dumped into the rivers, canals and beaches which takes almost forever to break down and in doing so kills so much fish and bird life in a very cruel way as the fish and birds see only the filmy or floating bits which they mistake for food and then cannot pass it through the body slowly bringing them to an agonising death. I was pleased to get a couple of positive responses from folk who share my concerns and take action to pick up and dispose of plastic found along the roads, drains and waterways as they do their walks etc.

Thanks guys. Maybe some more will join in this campaign. If you want to see the real size of this problem, please go into Google, search for “island of plastic”. 100 million tonnes of this stuff are floating in the Pacific Ocean so have a look and it will surely awaken the dread in you that I have over this ever increasing problem.

The other point I raised was “how do you get leaf sap and stains off your boat?” One reply from New Zealand was to use either Kerosine or Parrafin or a local boater told me to buy the cheapest bleach and mix it 60% to 30% water, mop it over all surfaces which I did as it is so cheap and it worked well. Remember to rinse it off after an hour.
Here endeth the lesson.

Kindest regards to all from Rhonda and me and of course Harry who by the way fell into the canal today trying to be smart and jump the gap from boat to shore. It is funny to watch him scramble to the bank then just wait to be rescued. He’s a funny little fellow but a great mate.

Kms this season: 1055
Locks this season: 163

Saturday, September 25, 2010


September 2010

As sad as it seems, there is a definite showing of leaf fall along the canals as the trees which have been so deprived of rain for the past 10 weeks are slowly turning their leaves brown and are falling in greater quantities each day.
While the temps have been as high as in the high 30’s to the mid 40’s for weeks, I guess this has taken its toll on the greenery and as soon as we get a cold snap there will be heavy carpets of leaves everywhere indicating summer has gone by.

Never mind, we are still sweating it out at the moment and as we have now left Moissac after a great weeks layover, we are heading further north west for a few weeks towards Bordeaux to see how far we can travel before turning back to winter over back in Moissac.

Rhonda's Comments: Hope Harry doesn't get any ideas!!!!!!
As this canal runs alongside the rivers of firstly the Tarne and then the Garonne, we are amazed at the amount of water which flows by. Even the canal has moving water at about 1 km per hour so it is a lot cleaner than the Canal du Midi. We are lucky to be able to view these accompanying waterways from many areas on our canal. Much of this flow is used by an atomic electro power plant situated nearby where we have berthed up for a couple of nights. It was here where we first came to visit Valance D’Agen and to call upon Cheryl and Bob from Auckland who were enjoying their stopover here on “Whio” back in May 2008 as a part of their canal adventures at that time. It must have been something about this area too as Bob complained about the huge amounts of leaves which needed to be cleared off the decks each morning and it is exactly what we have found too, however, as we are entering Autumn. The leaves falling contain a brown glue type substance which sticks to the boat like nothing we have come across before and after leaving it unattended for one day it has taken two days to be able to move some of it, but certainly not all. It is dreadful, and leaves a horrible brown residue on the paint and even using the most potent brew of cleaners I can mix, my efforts have only been partially successful so if you have any advice you can offer or if you have come across this problem, I would sure be grateful. According to Alan on “Nordland” who has been using these waters for many years, says it has never seemed to be this bad before. All advice will sure be welcomed.

Rhonda's Comments: These tomatoes ended up as "Relish".

We have enjoyed staying here at Valence D'Agen as it is a pretty town with very large markets on Saturdays and Tuesdays which seem to offer so much of the region’s produce ranging from meat and vegetables to all the wonderful fruits of the area. We have gorged on the sweetest nectarines, apples and apricots plus kiwi fruit I have ever eaten plus some of the home cooked breads are so tasty too. As this is right on the edge of the famous prune production areas as well, you can imagine how many plum trees are in the area. I believe every one must have clean innards as the fruit is set in so many ways from fresh to preserved to iced to any way you can imagine this fruit can be set for consumption. I have never tasted anything like it.

Talking about eating new and different foods, in the past few weeks I have also eaten gizzards, magret of canard (duck) and goats cheese all of which I found to be very nice. It just goes to prove that as usual, I like so many people, have been put off the idea of eating a number of foods due to disliking the idea of doing so rather than trying it.

We are lucky with the weather over the past few days as it has cooled a little, down to the mid 30's which is quite bearable and with the clear blue skies and light breezes that waft through Rhonda is not complaining too much but as we know winter will soon be on us and I will be complaining instead.
Yesterday I hitched a ride with Alan and Margaret on “Nordland” who we have met up with frequently over the past few weeks and who were heading back to Moissac where we had left our car. It was great to be able to sit back as a passenger and do nothing but enjoy the scenery for the 4 hour trip including a stop for a nice canal side lunch and listen to Alan giving his news and advice on the area due to his many visits to this territory and then to gather the car and come back to “Somewhere” to find Rhonda and Harry fine and relaxed too.

Rhonda's Comments: "Starry, starry night".

Today we motored up to Agen for a drive to see what the boat trip will incur and get a feel for the big city before we head off in the boat tomorrow for a two day cruise to get to there next week. The road trip only took an hour but as stated we will have to spend 2 days going by canal.
We have regularly commented on the huge number of cyclists we see on the canal paths and cycle ways every day. From fit young folk to seniors to kids riding all types of bikes from sports to tandems to lying back versions to three wheelers many towing trailers loaded with tents and camping equipment strapped down on them. Facilities are really good along the way with camping areas and ablution blocks made available for free or minimal charges. This sport is sure growing and becoming even more popular. The other day a fellow stopped with his mate and proudly showed off his Silver Fern tattoo on his bicep and told Rhonda that he had it done when he was staying in New Zealand a few years ago for a period and worked picking fruit etc. He said how much he loved the country and all of its beauty and freedom. When asked where he and his mate had come from this holiday he said that they had cycled from Berlin and were heading towards Bordeaux and then would cycle back again. What an effort but he seemed to feel it was a normal holiday activity. How do you feel????

We spent most of the next day pottering along to the mini port of Boe which is attached to the township of Bon Encontre all just some 7 kms from Agen. As we had been told this was a nice place to moor up we were disappointed to find that the jetties only suited much smaller boats than ours but we found a concrete abutment nearby which suited us to tie to and after running out 70 meters of power cable we were able to top up and run fans and ovens and so on. Water was another problem as the nearest tap was almost 100 meters away but after taking the scooter back to Valence-D’Agen to get our car again we stopped off and bought another 50meters of hose as we have often found where we could do with the extra so we returned to the boat and were able to top off the tanks and shower until our hearts delight and Rhonda did a couple of loads of washing. One may wonder why we bothered going to this extra cost etc but where we are moored is just so quiet and lovely so Harry has a new park to explore and this morning came back from his walk with another couple of dogs in tow so he has lots of fun and we have the car and the scooter parked just 15 meters away from the boat which is great and as the fee is only €2.50 per day we will stay for a few days I think.

During our stay we had a small type hotel boat come in to stay so we moved “Somewhere” along to allow them room to offload their 4 passengers and to wait for more to arrive. “Saint Louis” with owners Barbara and Alisdair originally from the west coast of Scotland where they operated accommodation type ventures before buying “Saint Louis” and setting her up as a boutique hotel boat. As Alisdair is a qualified Captain and Barbara is an excellent chef and the staff who are terrific being Kelly from New Zealand and Harry from England look after their passengers to a very high standard and a couple of New Yorkers took the time to come and to chat to us singing the highest praises of this little ship and her company. The next passenger group were Aussies and Swedes so the chat at dinner time etc must be varied and interesting. We were invited to view the boat and loved what we saw so no wonder they have little or no trouble in keeping a list of guests booking for a weeks canal travel all of the season.

Rhonda's Comments: We had a wonderful evening onboad "St Louis" with Barbara, Kelly from Auckland and Harry (not our Harry, a human Harry).

This day we also waited to collect our friends from Auckland Lois and David, who had arrived the previous evening in Agen and we drove them to the boat for a day of relaxing as they had had a very busy schedule up until then. The next day we barged for the day towards Bordeaux and stayed at a couple of towns with nice ports and shopping or tasty type restaurants and enjoyed some great food and I have to admit to eating Kangaroo for the very first time at one of them so am getting quite adventurous in my culinary tastes.

Being able to do side trips in the car gave us a real look over some outlying towns and showed Lois and Dave what a varied country this is. On Friday we decided to go out into the country to visit some other towns and sights and saw two great areas. One was the ancient city of Pujols on the Lot-et-Garonne. This city was first built in the year 1000 but inhabited since prehistoric times. The earliest recorded inhabitants were half Celtic, half Iberian but it was the Romans who made the most impact by turning this promontory into a fortified camp or beginnings of a castle. The ongoing history is just unbelievable which is worth a study of on its own. The rebuilt town is delightful to see and to visit as it is full of restaurants, antique shops and art galleries and is rated one of the prettiest towns in all of France.

We moved on from Pujols to Saint-Sylvestre-sur-Lot which was the first place we had visited back in 2008 when we were looking to buy a barge named “Affleur d’o”. We had always wanted to return to the local town called Penne-D’Agenais which again is built on top of some peaks giving stunning views over the valleys and river Lot below. To wander through the town which is fully inhabited and retains so much of its history is wonderful with its narrow streets and while I have recorded that I am churched out so did not visit the Notre Dame de Peyragude which is beautifully presented and maintained and of course dominates the town, I did view it from below and was really impressed. Rhonda, Lois and Dave were so impressed with the standard which had been retained hence it is still well attended and visited by religious pilgrims from all around the world.

The drive through the country area was most interesting as the fields are either ready to harvest in the case of corn and sunflower or the orchards are being stripped of their fruit mainly by mechanical pickers as the tees are trained to grow in the espalier style so human pickers are getting quite rare. It is fascinating to see the trees being shaken as the tractors drive along and the fruit falling onto wide canvas slides which allows the fruit to gently tumble down to conveyors that load the very large crates. I can fully realise now how so many tonnes of Prunes are processed and in one town there is even a Museum Of Prunes.
Rhonda's Comments: Crepes, but look at all that cream Dave, I'll swap you.

Today, Monday 20th September we dropped Dave and Lois to the bus station in Marmande so they could travel on to Bordeaux for a few days before returning to New Zealand. That is the end of visitors for this year as far as we know and they were just great to have onboard and we have been so lucky to have had them share so many wonderful sights and experiences with us as was the case with firstly Kerry and Liz and then Daphne and Claude. Due to these folks input, our canal travel has had a whole new dimension added to our adventures and we sure hope that they found it to be the same. We will feel a bit empty for a week or two but we do have a lot planned to do over the next few months and as long as the car keeps going properly we will see a whole lot more of this great country and meet so many more wonderful French folk and hopefully Spanish and Portuguese as well.

This, in fact, was the last day of our adventure to follow the canals westward as it appeared as though the rest of the canal was not of so much interest to us and we were advised not to take “Somewhere” out onto the Garonne for the last stretch to Bordeaux, so we will turn around now and head back towards Moissac for our winter over period. We still have a lot of side trips to do meantime, and have decided that rather than unload the scooter at ports further along the canal and then ride back to then drive the car to the port where “Somewhere” is berthed, Rhonda will drive the car while I drive the boat single handed as the canal is real easy and almost free of other craft now that summer has officially ended. This will be a bit of a challenge as I will have to turn her around in the canal and then negotiate being in line to pull the Tirettes (control cables which hang down over the canal) which set the locks emptying before one can enter and then slide the boat into the lock, run forward to get a bow rope tied and thrown off to Rhonda who will be waiting then get back to the wheelhouse and stop the boat before we crash into the gates. Figers crossed.
The weather is still amazing and apart from one nights rain followed by a drizzly day when Lois and David were aboard, the days have been delightful with cooler mornings but followed by bright sunny windless days . Great BBQ weather for sure.

Rhonda’s Comment: Ken’s Soap Box

Can I draw to your attention our concern about the huge amounts of plastic which is being dumped every day into the canals, rivers and waterways of our planet. While we used to notice some quantities of this amazing but dangerous product while in New Zealand and later in England, we have been horrified by the amounts dumped into the French waterway systems. It seems as though it is socially accepted as you will see groups of people of any age get up after consuming drinks and other foods which are packaged in plastic containers, bags etc and ignore the fact that there can be rubbish bins within a few meters of where they are and just allow the rubbish to blow around and so often into the canals and waterways where it always emigrates to our seas and onwards to one of the great floating islands of rubbish, mainly plastic, in the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans.

Just as a note of interest, we are amazed that while people allow this to happen, when you go to a McDonald’s the patrons seem to believe it is obligatory to clear all their rubbish from where they are eating and carefully deposit in the bins provided. When you consider that there is an estimated 100 million tonnes of this stuff floating around as a part of these floating plastic and rubbish built islands killing so many thousands of our fishes, bird life and even animal life in the cruellest ways possible by strangulation or starvation. Can you assist by removing any plastic around your boat to proper bins.

This is the end of the reading.

As we have ended our north westerly travel, I will close now wishing all our readers a great autumn.

Locks so far this season: 162
Kms so far this season: 1049