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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.

Mosel in Germany

Note: Photos have now been added.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our trip down the Mosel River. We are inclined to support the superlatives in our guide map "The Mosel River between Trier and Koblenz is one of the loveliest stretches of landscape in all Europe" but would have to add "in our limited experience". Apparently the appreciation of its beauty is nothing new. 1600 years ago, in the poem "Mosella" by Ausonius, tutor to an Emperor's son, it is described as a "grape vine enclosed amphitheatre".

IMG 2861Among the Mosel Vineyards
There are mountains on each side with grape vines tucked in wherever they can grow and many castles, some ruined, some preserved, perched high on the ridges. The towns have picturesque churches with interesting spires.


Several Mosel towns have been the centre of wine production for 1,000 years. Wine growing was begun in Roman times and we spied a Roman wine press house along the banks of the river.
The towns along the banks, like those on the Mosel in Luxembourg, are mainly devoted to grape growing and selling and added to this is major emphasis on tourism. During this holiday period which has coincided with a spell of perfect summer weather there are tourists everywhere, and most towns are geared to accommodate them and entertain them. In Cochem, for example, the main part of town consists almost entirely of hotels and guest houses, cafes and restaurants as well as wine shops and gift shops. We saw one bread shop and a single fruit shop. People come here by car, bike, and train as well as on huge river boats including hotel barges, day- trip boats and ferries from other towns along the river. The towns are beautifully kept with attractive and varied brightly painted buildings and flowers everywhere. We hope the photos do them justice.

 IMG 2879A typical Wine Town

As well as the crowds in towns along the Mosel, large numbers of people stay in camper vans, caravans, tents and cabins. There seems to be a large camping area every few kilometres usually packed very tightly. Some are attached to a boat harbour, some around small inlets and others are simply by the river banks. We tied up in one such area attached to a boat harbour. It was over 20 hectares in size. Some of the vans and cabins were probably fairly permanent fixtures (like the " On-site vans" we are used to). Many had little gardens around them and satellite dishes set up. Flags were everywhere, mainly German. We particuarly liked the satellite dish painted in German colours.
The river is used by rowers, kayakers, jet skis and water skiers as well as a few people fishing or simply travelling along the river. Most of the "sport boat" traffic, that is the non- commercial traffic travelling distances along the river, consists  of small to medium sized motor boats from Germany with a good number from the Netherlands. Boats like Anja are very rare in the Mosel below Trier, where the Sarre River comes in. French and British boats favour a loop along the Mosel and then onto the Sarre River and back into France but they rarely venture further North on the Mosel as we have done. The only other Anglo- Saxon  boat we have met was a small barge a bit like ours (although smaller) with Americans on board.

 IMG 2843Roman Bridge across the Mosel at TrierIMG 2722Marker along the old Roman way from Metz to Trier

Cycling is very popular in this area. There are excellent and well- supported cycle paths along the Mosel and hundreds or thousands of people are using them. Some of the buses are equipped with bike trailers and the trains accommodate bikes as well. There are cyclists of all ages and situations, some travelling in large groups. A few  look dedicated and well- trimmed but most are families or couples of a variety of sizes and ages. We also see some very keen hikers climbing great heights. I don't think the Avalon Senior walkers would include these walks in their programme.

 IMG 2865Steep vineyards, some of which are at 72 degreesIMG 2883Old castle ruins along the Mosel

Towns along the Mosel are very subject to flooding. The flood levels are marked on the bridges buildings and in some cases have penetrated into townships several blocks away from the river. There was a very serious flood down river in 1993, whereas further upstream, 1983 was the worst in recent times. Building foundations and cellars are made of slate so do not absorb the water, as long as they have not been cement rendered by those not realising the reason for leaving the walls untreated. In one restaurant where we dined, we would have been 3metres underwater in the 1993 flood and that was above the ground floor.


The current assisted us while we were going downstream, particularly in narrow spots, just after locks, and as we neared the junction with the Rhine. It increased greatly after a bout of heavy rain but fortunately slackened off by the time we wanted to turn around and head back against the current.

 IMG 3094Big barge, ferry and us squeezed into lock. No room left!

Our reference books and articles about this route warned us about the huge wash from the large barges and hotel boats that travel day and night. In fact we have very little wash and disturbance from them but always notice when a small speed boat or jet ski is passing. There are not many stopping places so we cannot always visit the most interesting towns except by train, bus or cycle. Cochem was a fortunate exception.


Germany has surprised us in some ways. Undoubtedly very naive, we had thought everything would  run very smoothly but have not found it so. Our first night in Germany was spent in a marina and we were pleased to learn that the bread van would visit and stop about 20 metres away at 8.30, good timing because we wanted to be away by 9am. At 9.20 we finally heard the promised horn, several hundred metres away and across the Harbour. Dave used all his bread calories reaching the van before it left. Then there is the issue of credit cards. Restaurants generally don't accept them; we spent less than $50 at a gift shop in a major tourist town, and David had to produce his licence and then sign after the card had been swiped through one of the old machines. Even in the back blocks of France, there are always electronic bankcard machines which use PINs.  

 IMG 3049Huge statue of Wilhelm II (note tiny people on the ledge!)IMG 3051The confluence of the Rhein and the Mosel Rivers at Koblenz

In Cochem and Koblenz we found out about queuing. First there was a long and static queue at the single ticket window for the train. Fortunately with two of us there, one could wait in the queue while the other investigated the ticket machine, found an "English" button and located and paid for the right ticket. We left a bunch of Americans who had arrived at least 20 minutes early bemoaning their fate because they would miss the train and their connecting boat. Then there was no indicator board to tell us which platform to wait on. Again two heads are better than one and we boarded the train successfully. Twice in Koblenz we went to the Post Office and both times found a long queue, making no progress at all. We gave up at that point. Finally we went to the supermarket in Cochem and found one person serving and a queue of eight people, rapidly increasing. Maybe we should expect such experiences in the tourist season. Probably the final straw was having to pay 50 centimes each for every visit to the toilet except for one place which would not dispense change so cost 1 euro though it did dispense a rather useless voucher for 50 centimes. It was good to get back to Anja to familiar rather than tourist territory. On a positive note, the people here have been courteous, the tourist offices helpful and people in small towns ready with assistance.


Best Regards,


Penny and Dave


Luxembourg was a good transition point for us, with its three official languages, French, German and Luxembourgish. It takes particular pride in its "European" identity and has been a wholehearted supporter of the European Union and the various agreements which preceded it. Several EU headquarters are located there and there is a significant international community.

IMG 2696Modern Luxembourg

The country is tiny: population 500,000, land area 2,586 square kilometres. It is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. It was a Roman fortress but its modern history starts when a Frankish count built a chateau there, on a rock well situated high above the river.


Our first night on the barge outside France was spent in a small wine town in Luxembourg, Bech-Kleinmacher. The grape vines were planted on the slopes on both sides of the river and came down to the water's edge in places. As we went along further, we were amazed to see areas of vines planted on seemingly impossible slopes and in small plots in amongst rocky spurs. Some are equipped with tracks for an inclinator. Almost every village along the banks of the Moselle seems to be centred on the grape. People seem to rise early here: the bells of the village church in Bech - Kleinmacher woke us at 6.30 am with a peal which seemed to go on for several minutes. We have not noticed this anywhere else so maybe the people of that town believe in the early bird getting the worm.


2690Old Luxembourg

There seemed to be a large number of Luxembourg locals coming to these river side towns to enjoy the summer warmth there. Remich particularly was set up with attractions for visitors such as a beautifully decorated merry- go- round and many tables for al fresco coffee and dining. The Esplanade Hotel there would have been at home at Manly Beach (Sydney, Australia). Fortunately, the Merry-g-round played many different tunes during the day- we were only four metres away from it!


IMG 2714

We spent a day in the city of Luxembourg which could be easily reached by bus from Remich, one of our stopping points. The bus trip itself was interesting as it revealed the attractive hilly terrain which makes up the country. Luxembourg started as a fortress on a plateau, (more details). There are some very attractive buildings and the museum provided an excellent and realistic feel for the history and culture. For example, we learned that the people of Luxembourg are mad on football (Soccer for us Aussies) despite the fact  that they have won only five of over 200 international matches spanning the last 50 years. Winning isn't everything in Luxembourg! It was difficult to obtain lunch in Luxembourg despite the huge number of restaurants. Time after time, we were asked if we had a reservation and turned away because the place was full. Finally we found a place in a small corner of the town.


IMG 2723Typical Wine Village

IMG 2724The start of many vineyards

It seems as if Luxembourg has lower taxes than Germany and France. Interesting as Luxembourg has the second highest GDP per capita in the world. We were able to buy fuel at significantly lower prices than in France or Germany. A friendly man we met on a train also told us that tobacco and coffee are a lot cheaper than he can buy them in Germany. He travels five hours by train once each month to fill up a suitcase with these items. He does not drink so could not tell us if the same applied to alcohol. We paid low prices for local wines, so perhaps so.



Best Regards,

Penny and Dave

IMG 2680Old Luxembourg Viaduct

The Moselle

The Moselle River rises in the Vosges mountains in France and flows in a generally North Eastern direction into Germany to reach the Rhine River at Koblenz. The next part of our trip is planned to take us as far as Cochem, a town about 50 kilometres from the junction. We will then retrace our steps as far as the Sarre River which will take us back into France.


The river winds past areas of farmland and later leads into the vineyards in Northern France, Germany and Luxembourg. At first the surroundings are flat but in places the land climbs rapidly to high peaks which are often topped with a chateau. There is some industry along here and several power stations, one of them nuclear but mostly coal fired. There is a great deal of heavy barge traffic, transporting the raw materials. The barge loads seem to include coal, gravel, gas, and crushed metal.


It has been very relaxing to go with the current along the river with the locks widely spaced and quite large. Sometimes we have shared them with enormous barges like Big Ben. Their drivers are unfailingly courteous and thoughtful. Though the books warn about the large wash that such barges produce, our experience has been that small speed boats and jet skis have more impact on us when we are tied up. They create more waves and show less understanding of the effect of their speed. Still, it is a very large river and possible for everyone to enjoy it.

 IMG 2437145metres x 12metres x 4, 000tonnes

The first major town we visited was Pont a Mousson which had been a University town as far back as the 16th century. The town square was huge and had been set up for the regular Saturday night concerts held throughout the summer. It was surrounded by covered arcades.

 IMG 2443Pont a Mousson (very early University Town)

The most memorable visit along the French Moselle was the city of Metz. Here we stayed in a Port de Plaisance on a lake very close to the middle of the city, surrounded by beautiful gardens and several arms of the river. A “Beach” had been set up for the summer with bathing huts and umbrellas, imported sand and plenty of activities. The real summer was just about to arrive after an early cool and wet period and families and young people were out in force enjoying themselves.

IMG 2552The lower section of Metz by night

We were about to go to bed on the first night when we heard the sound of music close by. We followed the sound and were able to experience the Metz summer sound and light show “The Dancing Fountains”. Hundreds of individual jets of water were synchronised with the music to form a beautiful spectacle not unlike fireworks- they were given different colours, their height and angle varied, and at times they were used as a background to project laser images telling stories which featured Graoully, the Dragon of Metz.

IMG 2575Dancing Fountains (Metz)

IMG 2574Dancing Fountains


We took the “Little Train” tour of the city to see the major sights and get a feel for the history and stories. Later we visited the excellent museum, to fill in the details. Metz boasts 3,000 years of history, dating back to the Celtic tribe the Mediomatriques which gave the city its name. It became one of the biggest cities of Roman Gaul and we enjoyed walking through the well- preserved Roman baths which had been unearthed when the museum was being enlarged.


The Cathedral in Metz is noted for its soaring vaults and huge areas of beautiful stained glass.  They claim the biggest area of stained glass in any Church in Europe. The oldest Church building in Metz started as a Roman thermal bath in the 4th century. It later became an Abbey.IMG 2663Metz Cathedral


Metz was German territory from 1870 until 1918, then again from 1940 until the end of 1944. Whereas most of France had been liberated by September 1944, the Germans held Metz until mid- December of that year because of the excellent defensive position of the town and its ancient fortifications, including those built by Vauban in the 17th Century. Last year we visited Verdun which had held out the German assault throughout World War 1, because of Vaubon's fortifications there. Also ironically, the “Joan of Arc” fortress held out for two weeks longer than anywhere else.  The German influence is still very evident in important buildings such as the Railway Station, 300 metres long and planned to be able to de- train some 50,000 troops and their equipment including horses, in one day.


Metz is in Lorraine, the home of the small “Mirabelle” plum which is used for the jam that David likes best. We went to dinner there and chose and enjoyed the “Mirabelle Menu” which featured the Mirabelle as an ingredient in each of the three courses. This sounds a bit much but in fact the ingredient was well assimilated into every dish.


After Metz we had one more night before we left France. We stopped in Thionville. Summer was definitely in the air and the local people were enjoying the afternoon on the river, many taking advantage of a fair along the river banks, many others zooming up and down on jet skis. At times we thought we were back at sea on Pastime!


Next stop Germany or Luxembourg, so we would be without internet or phone access, except at expensive roaming rates. We had a German phrase book but no proper dictionary and no really detailed maps so next morning we were able visit the Tourist Bureau and take advantage of their free Wi Fi to upload some of these essentials. We had tried in Metz but the promised Wi Fi in the marina had been a disappointment. We also picked up a handy bike route map. The concept of bike touring here is well- developed and the detail on these maps makes them very useful for boat people, as well as giving details of places of interest and cycle paths when we arrive somewhere. We were very grateful that we would not have to worry about changing currency as we moved across the borders. Thanks, EU.


Best Regards,


Penny and Dave


IMG 2506 IMG 2501
Many fountains at Metz Looking along old canal at Metz
IMG 2614 IMG 2617
The fortified part of Metz (from Anja) Lake at Metz where we were

Another canal transversed

Six days of travel have taken us from Vitry le Francois to Toul, along the Western section of the "Canal from the Marne to the Rhine". Last year we travelled the Eastern part, from Strasbourg to Nancy. A section of the canalised Moselle River now separates the Eastern and Western sections of the Canal though until 1978 they formed a single canal.

IMAG0227Naix aux Forges

The Canal from the Marne to the Rhine was built in the first half of the 19th century to link Paris with the Rhine. The Western section which we have just competed is 130 kilometres in length and has 98 locks, so we were kept busy with ropes and pull cords throughout. Fortunately there were two "chains" where one lock would open as the previous one closed, which reduced waiting time substantially.

There are two tunnels, the longer, Mauvages tunnel, is 4877 metres long, so almost identical in length to the Balesmes tunnel (4820m) which we negotiated a few weeks ago. In a  previous blog we described how uncertain we were, and remain, about when to go into the one- way Balesmes tunnel. There was no uncertainly with the Mauvages Tunnel. There were clear notices for many kilometres leading up to it, informing us that we would be towed through the tunnel, and clearly stating the fixed times each day that boats could travel through, once each way in the morning, once in the afternoon. If a boat is not there when the convoy leaves there is no alternative but to wait, perhaps until the next day.

Four locks before the tunnel two quite senior lock- keepers arrived to give us the regulations about passing through the tunnel including not lighting a gas stove, not holding up a boat hook and not shouting. They told us we would be the only ones passing though in this session.

When we arrived at the tunnel mouth, right on time, we found that we were not in fact to be towed. The tower had been out of action earlier in the year, and though it is now fixed the decision has been made to let smaller boats pass through under their own steam. However, the two eclusiers who had met us earlier hopped on their bicycles and donned their head lights to ride through with us to make sure that all was well.

In fact we discovered the hard way that the tunnel has a very low arch at the side away from the tow path. As a result our high and wide roof scraped even though the boat did not touch the side at water level. David had a repair job on his hands at our next stop.

IMG 2312Tronville- another "little Venice"

The major town (population 16,000) is Bar-le-Duc, settled first in Roman times, with a Roman road still evident. Like so many similar towns in this area the main town was built on a higher plateau, and in "Haute Ville" the streets are lined with well-preserved Renaissance houses which belonged to the upper classes, clustered around the Chateau which is now a museum. We visited the museum and were stunned by the quality and preservation of the many 500 year old paintings. Bar le Duc was also at the start of the "Sacred Way" which was the only road out of range of artillery in WWI and used to supply the town of Verdun which held out for the whole war and is the only town to have every been awared the Legion of Honour as a town.

The smaller towns also offered interesting features. Several, including Tronville, had "fortified churches" dating from the 12th century. The bell- towers were constructed with battlements and arrow loops in which townspeople could shelter and defend themselves in the event of attack.

The Roman influence was strong in this area from 100 BC. In the tiny town of Naix aux Forges (population around 200) we saw a note that there was an archaeological site. Further research told us that this had been the large Roman town of Nasium with a population of 15,000. We walked around the area but to our disappointment found little of interest. Then at the next stop, in the small town of Void, we were stunned by the grandeur of the Market and found that it consisted of columns which had been relocated from the Roman temple of Nasium in the 19th century.

IMG 2318Bar le Duc

Republic day, July 14th, occurred as we were passing through these towns. On the evening before, there was a fireworks display at Tronville. They were lucky to fit it in between some very heavy evening rain. The next night we were in Naix and were again treated to a good display, finishing  three minutes before a really heavy shower though the evening had been fine until then. We were dry and snug in the comfort of our barge.  In Void we noticed that the celebrations had been postponed because of the "meteorological conditions" and rescheduled for August 14th.

We both set off on our bikes to visit Vaucouleurs, the place from which Joan of Arc set out to save France. The distance sounded reasonable, about 13kms, but when we were half way there the route became very hilly so Penelope Joan, still nursing an injured leg, turned back and left David to go on alone. The original Joan would not have been so easily deterred but it proved a wise course of action for her namesake. Even the much fitter David found the going hard at times especially since the town was deep in a valley and accessed over a high set of hills. There was a small museum at Vaucouleurs plus a chapel erected on the oringinal crypt that was there when Joan of Arc came and left. After eating a "Joan of Arc Hamburger" at the Brasserie Joan of Arc, David went to the museum but found it shut. So, he applied at the Tourist Bureau where the woman shut the Bureau and opened the museum for him. Then, later, the chapel was also shut despite signs on it saying that it should be open. So, a French couple, who also wanted to get, in phoned the Tourist Bureau and the same lady again shut the Bureau and came to open up the Chapel. We were also able to go into the crypt and they had a very good audi-visual about Joan of Arc. Joan of Arc ws born about 10km away but I (David) wisely considered a further 20km return over hills might be unwise. As it was, I had a very sore derriere and was quite stiff on return to the boat.

IMG 2407Joan of Arc- Vaucouleurs

Of course, we know a little of Joan of Arc and her name and statues are everywhere in France. But we realised that we do not know the whole story and there were many unanswered questions about who she really was and how she came to lead armies of men into battle.

Fortunately, over 100 books have been written about Joan of Arc and we have been reading the truly excellent account by (of all people!).....Mark Twain. He said it was his greatest book and he spent 12 years researching it and then had six attempts to decide the style of the narrative. It is indeed an epic book and we are finding it hard to put down.

We stopped overnight in Toul (which we visited last year) and have now entered the Moselle River.

Best Regards,

Penny and Dave



IMG 2326Skeleton Sculpture by Ligier Richier (Bar le Duc)


IMG 2339 IMG 2379
St Etienne's at Bar le Duc The Tunnel tower (which we did not need)
IMG 2389 IMG 2398
Lavoir at Void 2000 year old pillars at Void Market
IMG 2413
Joan of Arc Chapel Vaucoleurs

Back to the start of the Canal Entre

We are almost back to Vitry le Francois, ready to turn East along the Western Branch of the Canal from the Marne to the Rhine. We will travel along this canal to Toul where we head  down the Moselle and into Germany and Luxembourg- then back along the Sarre River to France. We have recently had limited 3G mobile phone reception, which has limited our ability to keep the blog up to date. However, as of now, the blog and the photo gallery are fully up to date!

We have enjoyed travelling back along the Canal between Champagne and Burgundy. On the way back, we have been able to visit some new towns which we skipped in the other direction. It is a very friendly canal. When we first travelled it a month ago, we were surprised by the number of people who came up to the locks to talk, ask where we were from and where we were going. There were people taking an afternoon walk, workmen installing heating in a house near the canal, a Dutch couple on a bike tour and very chatty lock-keepers who accompanied us to work the manual locks. A freight line ran beside the canal for quite a while and the train drivers hooted and waved as they passed us.

We wondered if the attraction was novelty as the Canal had just been re-opened. No, it is just a friendly area. The train drivers are still hooting and we had a friendly conversation with a team of nine firemen who were filling their tanker at the lock. They wanted to know where were from and what we were doing. As always, there is amazement that we are from Australia and that we are travelling so far. One of our lock-visitors labelled our trip THE "Tour de France"!


All the best,

Penny and Dave


In France, over 100 years ago, most washing was done in the rivers and canals. "Lavoirs" were set up in most villages and towns. These were usually open-sided buildings with a roof and a supply of water. The most sophisticated one we have seen, had chains and pulleys to raise and lower the floor level to match the level of the water. Many of these lavoirs have been preserved and often beautified with flowers etc. This is a typical lavoir. However, unlike most, it was fed by a spring and was in the centre of the village- some hundreds of metres from the river.


We have even seen a lavoir that has been converted into a pre-school for children!


IMG 2279Lavoir at Ray sur Saone