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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.

Turning around

The Canal des Vosges is 121 kms long and has 93 locks. It was complete in 1882, following the route that Roman General Lucius Vetus planned around 2000 years ago.


Sadly we have now had to turn back without travelling on this canal. We had first planned to come this way last year but the canal collapsed at Charmes and we could not get through. Even before we entered the Petite Saone we knew there were some problems again this year. First we had news that a lock gate was not working properly and that stretch would be closed while it was repaired. We planned to get there quickly and through it before the closure. Then this plan was changed because, closer to us, a different section was closed urgently on June 11th because there was danger of a lock wall collapsing. Change of plans again: now we would go very slowly and fill in the time before it was due to re- open after four weeks of work. We have therefore been meandering along for a fortnight and running out of towns to visit. Even worse, we have run out of 3G internet reception. With vlllage populations mainly below 500 and the largest Port sur Saone below 3,000, this area has not yet been part of the 3G revolution.

img 1998One of the 360 varieties of rose at Joinville Chateau
This morning we had word of a third collapse, this time of a dyke, as a result of which the first 22 kilometres of the Canal starting at Corre are closed for an indefinite time while it is fixed. We decided that with three closures already, one because of a gate, one a lock wall and the third a dyke, there was no certainty of making our way along the canal uninterrupted. The chances of being trapped between futher breakdowns seems quite high, so we reluctantly decided to turn around and head back the way we have come, down the Saone and back into the Canal to Champagne. We can then turn East and still complete our circuit into Germany although it is a great deal further. Today we have travelled long and hard, covering in one day, the distance that took four (very easy) days in the other direction.

 img 2027Cute fellow made of flower pots at the canal edge

To make life "interesting", we have also been having some engine cooling problems. David bought a mail order infra red thermometer and has managed to track down and rectify a number of problems, most of which have likely been there for about five years.Fortunately, there is a good source of engine spare parts for us, here in France. On top of that, the postal service (La Poste) is really, really good.


img 2032More pleasant sculptures at the canal side (Fishing!)

Best Regards,


Penny and Dave

Anja's Garden

This year Anja has a garden. Now the front deck is repainted and bike racks are on the stern we have plenty of room to enhance her charm with plants. So before we set off this year we planted geraniums which have rewarded us with a wonderful display.

We also have enhanced our cooking and our salads with thriving chives, thyme, basil, parsley and coriander. I have never been able to grow coriander successfully at home so I am excited by its success. The rocket has been good but is going to seed. However I see new plants growing up in the pots so we won't be without our rocket salads.

It has rained consistently so I haven't needed to water the plants very often. When necessary I can use the canal water which seems to be much valued by the local gardeners, perhaps because it is full of extra fertilisers from rural run- off.

We were careful not to expose our tender garden to the elements before May 10th; we were told that before that date there is a chance of frost, after that it is unlikely in the centre of France. We noticed that planter boxes appeared everywhere after that date. Wherever we went there were new pots full of small plants. The bridges and streets have holders in place and the planter boxes were lifted in, already in bloom. I am taking notes of the prettiest flowers for next year but so far we are very happy with our cheerful geraniums.




Penny and Dave

The Petite Saone

After leaving the "Canal between Champagne and Burgundy" we turned into the Saone River, called the "Petite Saone" in these higher reaches.IMG 2281The Petite Saone

We stopped in some very attractive towns including Pontailler, Mantoche and Gray. One night was spent anchored in a small inlet surrounded by water lilies, visited by swans, frogs, fish and dragonflies.
We had a memorable dinner in Pontailler, choosing the regional menu and enjoying what it offered, including frogs legs (Penny's first occasion to try them).

IMG 2194Our stopping place in Mantoche
Gray is the largest town in the area and has a prosperous but turbulent past, so many of the old buildings no longer exist. It was a major port so the banks of the river were lined with quays.


As we worked our way up the river there were fewer towns nearby and there were even days without fresh bread available.  However, two   lock keepers offered local wine for sale, one adding honey displayed so that it caught the eye as the boat rose in the lock. In one lock cottage we bought a dozen eggs collected on the spot, with explanations that the two white eggs were just as good as the ten brown ones. Another had a magnificent vege garden and we bought a lettuce cut while we waited. The keeper's wife had baked rhubarb tarts.  In a very remote mooring, an elderly man and his wife drew jp in a small white van late one afternoon with a basket full of farm produce- eggs, lettuce, beans, carrots, radishes and courgettes. All prices were very moderate and the food could not have been fresher.

IMG 2274The town of Gray
In the small town of Scey sur Saone (1600 residents) the old mill on the river has been converted into a hydro- electric station producing 340Kw. This is the first example we have found of such a useful conversion. Scey sur Saone was also where we enjoyed this year's "Fete de la Musique", held around France on or close to the Summer solstice, June 21st. In Scey it took the form of a concert at the Mairie whose building also is the village school. There were stalls selling soft drink, beer and wine as well as frites and sausage baguettes. The first act featured a dozen children from the primary school singing very beautifully. Next was what I know as a concert or stage band featuring musicians of all ages playing instruments ranging from flutes to tubas to percussion, no strings. Their standard was excellent and we thoroughly enjoyed some old favourites from our many years of attending similar concerts featuring our children playing flute, clarinet and tuba.

IMAG0208Fete de la Musique- Scey sur Saone
The concert was moving onto some rock numbers when we decided to call it a night and go home for our own dinner, a bit more to our taste than sausage baguette and fries.


Port sur Saone was the final town we visited on the Petite Saone. Like Gray it has been a major port for river traffic, but it seems to have had a more industrial past.




We had intended to continue up to the top of the Saone at Corre and enter the Canal des Vosges to join the Moselle River and proceed into Germany, but at Port sur Saone we found that the Canal des Vosges was closed at Corre for an indefinite period. 



Penny and Dave


IMG 2170Typical French Village (Courchamps) IMG 2199Notre Dame Chapel- Gray Basilica
IMG 2219The beautiful Mairie at Gray (on voting day for the new government) IMG 2235The old Citadel walls at Gray
IMG 2260The bridge at Gray IMG 2271Our friends the Hauckes visit us
IMAG0211Our beautiful mooring at Scey sur Saone IMG 2279Lavoir (old washing house) at Ray sur Saone 
 IMG 2280The Chateau at Ray sur Saone IMG 2272Swans on the barrage at Gray 

 IMG 2286Giant stone book of rememberance at Ray sur Saone

IMAG0204Beautiful carved wooden mermaid sculpture at Scey sur Saone 


In our home town of Avalon we have a  troublesome roundabout. Just as you come off the "Bilgola Bends" which take a twisting route towards Avalon Beach, there is a small but scary roundabout with roads coming in at odd angles. It causes all sorts of problems for visitors and locals alike. Every now and again the Council plants shrubs there in an attempt to make it attractive but they need to be very low profile. Inevitably they suffer and die.
The other Avalon roundabouts are nothing more than raised concrete circles at intersections of small streets. The local bus and any trucks need to drive over them because it is not possible to go around.

img 2266Colourful kites on the Gray roundabout

Here in France we have found that most roundabouts are much larger and allow those approaching more time to judge where other roundabouters are going. The other major difference is that many of these roundabouts are decorated, some with plantings of flowers and shrubs, others with feature displays. We were recently in the town of Gray and admired two  roundabouts in the middle of town. Summer was about to start and a dragon boat carnival was being held. One roundabout was set up like a beach. Sand had been imported and blue striped bathing sheds, palm trees and beach umbrellas enhanced the beach effect. The second roundabout sported colourful kites. I'm not sure if the drivers approaching had time to admire them, but we pedestrians really appreciated the effort.

img 2258Summertime roundabout- Gray

Seeing these took us back to the first time we had noticed a roundabout feature in France. This was in the small town of Genlis in Cote D'Or, Burgundy. Each of the four approach roads featured a sculpture of a woman representing the agriculture and industries of the area. We were setting up Anja before we took possession, driving a rental car. We used to always come in from a particular direction and were tempted to drive round and round a few times to get a better look at them, but it was always too busy. In the end we just had to stop the car and get out to have a closer look.

three girlsGenlis Roundabout

 genlisGenlis Roundabout





Best Regards,


Penny and Dave

Plateau Towns

We have recently visited three interesting towns built to take advantage of small plateaus above the surrounding countryside. It is easy to see how much confidence the "high ground" allowed and it seems that none was successfully invaded.

The town of Joinville was first a Roman town (369) but the town that remains was built around the foot of an 11th century castle, the home of the Dukes of Guise who were powerful in the court of France. Of particular note was Jean, the 9th Sire of Joinville who accompanied Louis IX (St Louis)  to the Crusades and was his chronicler. He was rewarded with the belt of St Joseph, now on display in the 13th Century Parish Church. While this may or may not be actually the belt of the Saint, it is very ancient  (it was brought back from the Holy Land in 1250) and we were surprised to come across it in the FrenchIMG 1966 countryside.

During the 16th century the Joinville family also built a holiday chateau in the town itself and that has been preserved. We were fortunate to arrive here during the "Festival of Gardens". The extensive gardens of the chateau and the Chateau itself were open to the public and featured  magnificent roses and pretty walks winding in and out of the streams which ran through the gardens and formed a moat around the chateau. We succumbed to the challenge and attempted the maze.  

Joinville Chateau


Joinville is built next to the Marne and several other streams run through it. There are many fine ancient houses still in excellent condition, attractive stone bridges and also "Lavoires", communal laundries, built along the streams. The streets and lanes were very windy and crooked and many buildings leant into each other.IMG 1973Joinville Chateau gardens


The next "Plateau" town was Chaumont where the castle was built in 940, though now only the base of one tower remains. The walls were 2.6 metres thick.IMG 2080Chaumont US-French War Memorial

The Basilica of John the Baptist at Chaumont dates back to the 13th Century and is notable for its fine art including both paintings and sculptures. It is the venue for one of the first pilgrimages of France, the "Grand Pardon", when all sins were forgiven for those who were present.It was instituted in 1475 but is celebrated only during the years when the feast of St John the Baptist, June 24th, falls on a Sunday.  As it happens, 2012 is one of those years and it is clear that there will be great celebrations with concerts, street decorations, re-enactments and displays as well as religious observances. Judging by the photos from the past there will be huge crowds coming to Chaumont that weekend.

IMG 2077
Old chapel- Chaumont


The third "Plateau" town is Langres, again built on a high spot dominating the surrounding countryside. The first town here was built by the Romans and the fortifications date back to the 3rd century. A 1st century town gate remains. The excellent Museum and Art Gallery displays artefacts from the Gallo- Roman period including a huge mosaic unearthed when the Museum was being modernised.
A walk around the ancient town walls gave wonderful panoramas over the surrounding plains.
We were grateful to discover a bus which took us to the centre of the old town, and an inclinator which gave us a head start coming down.

IMG 2146Langres Street

Best Regards,

Penny and Dave

 IMG 2151Langres Roman Mosaic

Here is a slideshow with some other photos of the three towns. We will add some further descriptions, but until then:

The firemen/women were practising their skills just behind Anja. This is the third time this has happened on this trip!


Note: please be a little patient before the pictures start appearing...