Wednesday, May 4, 2011


As the season turned from the odd winter chill towards spring and all the fruit trees came into blossom along with the daffodils, crocuses and early wisterias, more folk seemed to be out and about smiling as the sun warmed the bodies so we made plans to head off from Moissac. After finishing staining the wheelhouse and cleaning up as spring demands, we were set to go but as you know the best made plans of mice and men can easily get waylaid which is what happens.

The saga re motor vehicles continued with the fellow who had paid 50% deposit of the purchase price for the car turned up on settlement day asking for his deposit back stating that a mate of his had offered him a vehicle free of charge. This of course mean't that we had to re-advertise the car as soon as the paper would accept the advert for reissue but valuable time was lost.

We then had three separate groups of locals who appeared to be of North African descent all who tried to bargain down the price and eventually a deal was agreed with the terms stated by the agreed purchaser “I will go and get the money and be back straight away”. Well, we are still waiting and similar events have happened twice more. Why people have to tell lies I don’t know but that is the way it has gone so we are still the owners of two cars.

Rhonda's Comment: "Oh Dad, I have my bag ready and no motor scooter."

I can’t say plus a motor scooter as the last night in Moissac a group of 4 lads walking past the boat at 3.40 am just picked the bike up and walked off with it and despite the CTV capturing the images, the lack of clarity prevented the police from identifying them. The fact that we had a security combo lock cable through the back wheel and the steering lock activated and it was covered and strapped down they knew how to affect a clean getaway. Oh well we better tell the insurance company which was in Cambrai where we bought the scooter two years ago. At the time we could not find anyone who spoke English and it was so difficult finding any company who would even consider giving us insurance due to the fact we were “newbies” but eventually thought between us we had it all worked out. When we tried to claim they advised that we had struck off the theft cover and only had third party cover…Bugger.
Rhonda's Comment: This is the spot where the motor scooter should have been!!!!

Never mind the weather continued to improve and we had to get to Toulouse for our booked appointment with the dry dock so we set off feeling a bit sad after spending 6 months at Moissac and leaving new and old friends and acquaintances behind.

With much waving and kisses being thrown, away we went up hill as they say when you are going into locks which are empty due to the flow and riding up on the fill until you can drive out at the top. This means, as no eclusiers are available to take a rope for you, Rhonda had to be dropped off somewhere prior to the facing lock and walk onto the lock to press the "ok" button up on the side then as I drove “Somewhere” in, I would throw her a bow rope which was generally a couple of meters or so above the boat and which she would fasten over the bollard. This would secure us until the lock was filled and we could drive out. With the distances between locks the first being as little as 500 metres apart she decided to walk from lock to lock which was great for me but she sure slept well that night. I have to say that Harry is of no use whatsoever and just accepts all that is going on.

We stayed in Castelsarrasin for two nights enjoying the renowned Thursday street market and a quiet spell. With the need to push on we cruised for about 3 hours and then stayed overnight at a very pretty mooring at St-Porquier. The next day we headed on up the canal and as we entered into the port of Montech which was looking full, we were fortunate enough to be waved into a berthing position by Clive and Diane "Havink" whom we had met some weeks earlier at a function at Moissac and he directed us to berth alongside another barge whose owners were living back in London so we were able to access water and power and as the weather was exceptional we stayed for 5 nights.

Rhonda's Comment: Clive and Di have their boat for sale - a lovely Dutch Steel Cruiser.

This town is a very nice place with local shops and bars and we enjoyed spending time with Clive and Di and on our 3rd day there Clive came along with another old mate of ours from S.J.L. Terry and wife Sandra off "Felix" who had just come into port as they were heading to the south west area for the season and had fitted into a small finger berth alongside Clive. We enjoyed an evening up on our sundeck having a few cool drinks and telling each other stories, some true, some not so true depending on the time of the evening, but it was a really nice get together.
Rhonda's Comment: First Drinks on Board for the Season.

Sadly during our stay we had a call from my niece Kaye in New Zealand advising that my beloved sister Thelma’s health has almost completely failed and she was not expected to be with us for many more days. I am so glad that we took time before leaving New Zealand at the start of our adventure to travel to visit her and her husband Mel to celebrate the many great times we had enjoyed so much and to say “good bye” and repeated this with my brother Russ and his wife Margaret. Since leaving New Zealand we have lost my brother-in-law, Mel and my sister-in-law has developed severe dementia and is confined to a rest home. I only mention these somewhat morbid facts to again highlight the need to say, fill your lives with whatever you have dreamed of doing as time is not forever and we can be so quickly robbed of such dreams and opportunities.

After another day we headed off to catch up on some of the lost time so we pushed on from Montech and managed a 7 hour day which is most unusual for us but mooring spots are infrequent on this leg of the journey. At one point when we thought we would just pull into the bank and tie up for the rest of the day, we found that the depth was insufficient and in fact we sucked up a heap of mud causing lack of water flow. The engine heat alarms went off so it was a very slow hour or so until I was able to flush enough mud from the system and to allow us to move on to a suitable tie up point which on this occasion we chose to tie to one of the landing platforms below a lock. As it was late on a Saturday afternoon we were sure that canal traffic had finished for the day which was true so a quiet night was spent. These landing platforms are built alongside the canals as points where one can get off to walk up to the lock to operate the system and this is what Rhonda would do, however, they aren’t always available so in such circumstances it means that I have to slide the boat alongside the bank to let her off and as Rhonda’s athletic prowess is somewhat limited we need to be almost stopped and as close as possible to allow her to allow her to get off, hence the grounding and gut full of mud. Why there aren’t platforms at every lock I do not understand.

Harry enjoyed his new surroundings and walks along the canal path after being stuck on the boat for so long and as Sunday dawned and all was quiet we decided to stay here for the day and to watch the Malaysian Grand Prix which is a new love of Rhonda’s.

A new day dawned and with only 15kms showing on the canal chart we decided we would go right through to Toulouse which turned out to be easier said than done due to two locks giving problems and delaying us plus again getting overheating problems. Some of the locks leading into the city of Toulouse are quite difficult in that they are very tight as they are built on severe turns and can also be very slow fillers so a complete cycle of one lock can take almost 30 minutes. We slid into the port of Toulouse to find it fully occupied so took the chance and tied up to the wall opposite which is alongside a busy road.

Thank goodness for double glazing as it sure minimised the feared noise level and after a short rest spell we wandered over to the nearby Irish Pub where they offer good old styled English food and have a huge array of rugby jerseys and country flags adorning the walls including Jona Lomus 1995 World Rugby Cup famous Guernsey. With the staff all speaking English and the menu printed in both French and English we were able to pick a delicious meal which was not too expensive and was such a change from the usual French formulae fare. We noticed that they offered an All Day Full English Breakfast menu for the weekends which may be of appeal at some time but typically French, when we asked what time they opened for breakfast, we were told 12.noon to 3.00pm. One has to smile for sure.

Rhonda's Comment: The water goes down.

Had a great nights sleep and up in time to get the boat to the gates and bridge leading in off the canal to the VNF yard by 8.30am. We were there on time but the VNF were late so we had to drift about until they duly arrived to shift the bridge etc which cuts right through the tow/ cycle and walk path so people going to work were delayed while we slid through the very narrow entrance. Once inside we were directed to tie up to the quay only to be told once we had done this to untie and to make the right hand turn into the flooded dry dock pen. This managed, we were tied into position and the pump out took place. It took an hour to drain the water and it was fascinating to see the bottom of “Somewhere” for the first time.

Rhonda's Comment: The wretched green plastic bag.

Despite the green slime and fresh water mussels which had grown on the hull we were surprised how well the state and general condition was. The contractor said that due to the lack of any damage and such little wear that the anodes would not even have to be replaced so this speaks well of the Victron Isolating System preventing the uptake of wild electrolysis etc. Then I noticed a woven belt rope wound very tightly around the prop shaft and even worse found a small but almost perfectly fitting plastic bag jammed into the fresh water intake reducing the potential volume by at least 3/4 so this may well have been the reason why our water temp has been rising particularly when mud was added to the equation. Fingers crossed. The contractor started to water blast the hull almost immediately and worked diligently through to 4.30 pm so we then sat on the rest rails drying in the sun. Sadly when I looked into the bow thruster I noticed it had only two blades so guess this is a job for experts over the next few days.

Sadly at around 2.00pm, the news arrived that my sister in New Zealand had passed away and while we are really saddened by the news as reported earlier, it was not unexpected and can only add that at last she is now at peace. Her children and grandchildren can now grieve and support each other as only a death seems to bring us to do.

Day two and the work progressed quickly as the hull had dried quickly in the nice spring sun so sanding of the odd area where we had scraped heavily was carried out and so began the under sealing ready for the blacking to be sprayed on. Two coats later "Somewhere" looked great so we decided to have the green panels re-done as they had got a few scrapes over the years so this area was sanded, primed, masked up and the green paint was sprayed on and she sure looks like new again. Serge, the contractor is a great tradesman who deserves all the great references we had received about him prior to getting the work done. He is a master at his trade and sure knows the marine industry so well.

As Saturday was a day to get off the boat, Rhonda and I and Harry travelled into the city centre by bus to see the sights so to speak. As I have reported in the past when we stayed here in the port, the city is known for its pink colour due to the bricks which are used so much in its general construction. Sunday was time to get the boat cleaned up ready for the dry dock to be filled with water, however, as we still awaited the arrival of the bow thruster propeller replacement propeller so fingers crossed it will be here Monday. Monday arrived and of course no propeller had arrived but as it was “on the VNF schedule,” we had to go out of the dry dock but could rest up in the pond area just outside of the doors. This despite no-one was coming in and the big barge sharing the drydock with us was having extra steel plates welded to her hull so they had to stop work, clear out all their tools and equipment so the water could be let in to let us out and they had to wait while it was drained again. Half a day lost, all for nothing but it was “on the schedule.” Crazy to say the least.

We sat outside in the pond awaiting the arrival of the bow thruster prop. Fortunately I was able to use the time to start repainting the wooden sun deck so after sanding, priming and undercoating we started this awful job but it should look great when finished. Rhonda spent her time doing a full spring clean inside which was much needed due in part to the amounts of dust which plagued the area. On Tuesday and with no sign of the bow thruster propeller Serge rang Vetus in Holland only to be told that the money transfer he had made to them in full payment including "Rush Courier" had not cleared the bank so the prop would not be sent until that had happened. Amazing as I could have paid for it on my credit card as no transfer bank transactions seem to be activated in real time like we are used to in New Zealand so it is a case of sit and wait.

Later in the day we received a call from Kaz and Iain at Moissac to say a young fellow had turned up there with my motor scooter but sadly it had been damaged quite badly and had been thrown into the river so who knows what the real damage is or whether it can be repaired. They had stripped off the front cowl to hot wire it and removed the rear mudguard which carried the number plate and tail lights etc but they had not noticed the little “I love New Zealand” sticker I had put under the seat so it was easy to get confirmed identification. Apparently the Gendarmes called down to the marina to view it and now want to interview me when I return. Goodness only knows why. They sure couldn’t find it themselves. Oh well another adventure awaits our return to Moissac next week all being well.

We were to have friends from New Zealand arrive to spend some time with us on the boat but Jenny phoned today to say they were stuck in Switzerland as no rail seats are available until after Easter weekend so they won’t now get here until Tuesday at least. This might be a blessing as I will push on with the painting and we will effect the cleaning which is so necessary after a term in dry dock with all the grinding, welding and spraying going on every day. While the weather has been fine, each day of late has been quite windy so this has held the temperatures down and it has been strong enough to stir up dust from this unsealed work area so everything is coated inside and out.

Well the exit day arrived at last and with Serge fitting the new bow thruster propeller and all seeming to be fine including getting the Sum Log working for the first time ever as our mate Alex off “Riccall” had crawled under the boat while it was in dry dock and found that the little impeller had never been able to turn so with deft hands, he trimmed some of the plastic so it can freely turn so we were delighted to see it keeping a reading of our speed. He is a clever little fellow is that Alex. At 3.00pm as per the VNF schedule we were allowed out of the pound onto the main canal so pottered off through Toulouse which was in a quiet mood after unexpectantly being well beaten in the semi final of the Heineken Cup, Europe Rugby championship by Leinster so they now have to sit by and watch the finals from the stand or on TV.

With Jenny and her cousin Des still floundering about the south of France trying to catch us up we headed to Grisolles a small town right on the rail and said we would meet them there around 1.00pm and this was confirmed by them on text. We stood on the platform and watched several trains rip by then one stopped but no sign of our guests so after an exchange of texts we learned that they had got on a non-stop train from Toulouse to Agen, missing Grisolles and going on even past Moissac so Rhonda, Harry and I retired in amazement to the local truck lunch stop and had a wonderful meal of Canard with salad and Frites of course plus a carafe of Rose to wash it down. Well if you are a duck meal lover you could not have got a better meal as it was delightful and the steaks of duck were cooked to perfection. With full bellies we waddled back to “Somewhere” for an afternoons rest which was great and to await the planned re arrival time of 8.40 pm for our guests after they had returned to Toulouse and restarted their journey on a train which did stop at Grisolles. What a laugh to say the least.

Rhonda's Comments: Jenny. All smiles - what should have been a 30min trip turned out to be a 6 hour trip!!!!

Now I do have to tell you that Rhonda was awake at 6.00am to watch "The Royal Wedding" can you believe that (for those who know Rhonda, they would not be at all surprised by that and in fact would have expected that she would have waited up all night for it to come on). I must admit even I enjoyed it. From Grisolles we headed to Montech only to be flagged down by Alex and Louise off “Riccall” who had cycled down from about 4 kms up the Canal Montauban. As they insisted on us having a drink to say ‘Hello’ to Jenny and Des and to toast the newly married royal couple, it was around 7.00pm before we said good night to them as they cycled with a slight wobble off into the evening sunset and we set off to the closest restaurant as Des and Jenny said they would shout us a meal. Boy what a feed we had and they had Canard for the first time with Rhonda and I had the best steak I have had in France. What a great respite I have to say so a real fun evening was had.

As we had been told by Alex and Louise what a great trip it was up to Montauban with only 9 locks to face we travelled this new to us canal and arrived at the end of the canal to find them setting up for a day of athletic prowess with multi sports etc all about to happen the next day. With Des and Jenny needing to get a train booking to Nice they walked to the station, getting lost again, while Rhonda and I gave the boat a clean. We sat up on the sundeck upon their return enjoying the views and a quiet drink or two as the vans and tents for the BIG athletics day were set up right beside our boat.

Rhonda's Comment: Passing "Riccall" - Louise, Ken loves those legs.

Unfortunately our guests had scheduled to leave us at 8.30 am the following morning so off they went and Rhonda and I spent the day watching all the activities of the locals. Like the sound volume from the PA system which steadily got turned up in volume to where it was a blur in the end, however, it was all over including the Line Dancing displays by 3.00pm so we couldn’t complain really.

Rhonda's Comments: Just loved the french line dancers, dancing to "Country Road" by John Denver. I was the only one who knew the words!!!

Today we set off amid rumours of a VNF strike to get back to Montech but found no such problems so are almost back to old home territory again and have asked if we can go out onto the River Tarn to stay in Moissac when we get back. With a planned overnight stop in Castelsarrasin flagged as we had made such good times we headed to Moissac a day earlier than planned. As we wanted to go down onto the river off the canal we had to book the lock changes with the VNF so 2.30 pm was set down for us.

It was like arriving back home and we were delighted to get through the locks and out onto the river only to find our old mates Alex and Louise with Riccall already ensconced there so gave us a hand to tie up and get secure so this really is the close of another adventure for this blog so will close off for now while and await the arrival of Daphne and Claude from Waiheke Island in Auckland so some fun times ahead are assured.

As we will have completed 3 years living on “Somewhere”, come October, exploring this great country and seeing so many wonderful sights, after much agonising I have decided to put the boat on the market for sale so we will see what the advert brings.

Meanwhile we wish you all the very best wherever you are.

Kindest regards
Ken, Rhonda and Harry