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Kerr Barging Blogs

We have spent a fair bit of time cruising in the South Pacific aboard our 33 years young 11.1metre yacht, Pastime of Sydney. We are now cruising through the canals and rivers of France on our old barge, "Anja", which was built in the North of the Netherlands in 1903. Anja was 110 years old in May 2013 and we celebrated with good French Champagne- but the boat did not get any! In 2014, for Anja's 111th, we took her back to where she was built in the North of the Netherlands.
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Travelling Back

We turned west at the end of the Sarre Canal, to start our long trip back to Migennes. The first step was the Eastern section of the Canal from the Marne to the Rhine, which we had travelled last year to head west from Strasbourg. This time we turned off it at a small canal called "The Nancy Embranchment", just before we reached Nancy. This branch is only 10 kilometres long but has 18 locks, and over the last few years has rarely been open. It was closed from 2003 for about five years, opened briefly and then closed again because of some massive dam failure. It was reopened in June this year then briefly closed again because it was full of weed. So we were very keen indeed to travel it now because there might never be another time! Also, it connects with the Canal des Vosges and the very end of the Moselle river so by going that way we would be breaking new ground.

 IMG 3240A serene Canal

The canal was very modern, the locks worked well, the countryside attractive and altogether travelling it was a very pleasant experience. Had we wanted to stop there were plenty of places to pull over, but in such a short length we went straight through. We met only two boats on the entire length.


From the Nancy embranchment we turned briefly West into the Canal des Vosges. The 3 kilometres and two locks we travelled will have to fulfil our desire to be on this Canal. In the past our plans to travel it have been ill- fated because of its many unexpected breakdowns. Next waterway was the Moselle at the beginning of its navigation. Having travelled for so long on it during our German trip we were very pleased to see it at its source. We had to readjust again from the small canal sized locks to the large river ones built for huge commercial boats. The Moselle is at present suffering from very low water levels because there has been hardly any rain, so we had to wait an hour while any boat in the area was collected to make it worth while to operate the lock. A small police boat worked like a sheep dog to round up any boat in the vicinity. Then we all went through the subsequent locks together. One of the boats kept dashing ahead but inevitably had to wait until we arrived after travelling at a much more sedate pace as befits our dignity and advanced years.

 IMG 3242A fortified Church

Soon we had reached our turn- off point and we entered our fifth different waterway in 2 days, the Canal from the Marne to the Rhine, Western branch. From now on we are retracing our steps from earlier this year. As this has coincided with some very hot weather in France, it is quite relaxing to concentrate on  keeping cool rather than feeling compelled to go out to explore. We have had eight days in the last ten of temperature over 30 degrees and up to 37 degrees. The Ministry of Health put out warnings to drink plenty (I think they were referring to water, not wine) and to seek medical attention in cases of extreme lethargy. Most nights cool down well and this morning was quite cold at 13 degrees.

We thought that re- tracing our steps would mean we could shop without the usual searches. Not so! We stopped near Nancy at a place remembered from last year, where there are good bollards handy for a huge supermarket and a self- serve petrol station. We don't usually top up our fuel tanks from jerry cans but thought we would make an exception as it was so close and put in two or three to be sure we would get back to the next river- side pump. What a disappointment! The big supermarket was closed for renovations and I had to shop at the alternative, Lidl, an Aldi- type chain. I bought the essentials without spending much money but as we had been six weeks without finding anything but an Aldi or a Lidl, I was really wanting to replenish my stocks at a supermarket which offered more lines and more choice. Then David was charged for 37 litres of diesel for filling a 22 litre jerry can, and as this was a self- service booth attached to the closed supermarket, there was no- one to fix the problem. He filled several more (at the correct price), so the average price came down somewhat.


Our complacency was shattered also at several towns where we thought we could easily find the boulangerie. We found the boulangeries all right but had forgotten that this is holiday time so many of the bakers are away. They close the shutters and put a sign up saying "Conge" (annual holiday) and naming the date of their return.
 IMG 3249Another fortified Church from the 12-13th Centuries

We are enjoying the chance to travel back through this most attractive part of France and to see the countryside with its summer aspect. This morning we watched as the mist rose from the canal in the cool morning air. The children are still on holidays so we see them cycling, swimming and fishing, with friends or in family groups. On one really hot day we came across several groups of older teenagers using the lock as a huge swimming pool. Large signs at every lock strictly forbid swimming in the locks and warn of the danger, but as often happens in France, the lock - keepers were turning a blind eye.


David's bread- seeking adventures continue. Early one morning he came across a group of four young teenage girls who had probably been having a sleep- over as they were lolling around on a rug at 7am. His query about any boulangerie in the village was greeted with peals of laughter and a great deal of giggling. He took that as a "no".  Fortunes were much better on another day when he had not even tried to find a baker in the tiny town where we stayed overnight. Just as we were entering the first lock that day a bakery van pulled up and asked if we would like to buy some bread. "Yes Please"!


Best Regards,


Penny and Dave

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Anja back "home"
The Sarre and the Saar


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Thursday, 30 May 2024

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