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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.

Tragedy in France

Almost a week has passed since the terrible attacks in Paris.

We heard of them quickly because our son-in-law is a journalist and was on duty at the time.

Our hearts go out to all affected by this tragedy. There has been an impact on everyone.

We have come to know the French people and their culture, patrimony, spirit, kindness and other virtues- particularly over the last six years that we have been staying  in France.

We often recall the poignant words of our friend Laurent who in 2010 told us that his was the first generation for several hundred years who had not experienced war in France in his lifetime. We are particularly saddened this has changed so much for him and others. He told us: "....when I woke up this morning, we had been attacked in the night and we were again at war."

We are proud that our own country, Australia, like many other countries, held prayer vigils, lit the public buildings with the colours of the tricolour, held periods of silence and sent our heartfelt condolences. Our Premier said "We are going to find the biggest French flag in the region and place it on the Sydney Harbour Bridge."

So, our own hearts and prayers go out to you, our French cousins and we are sure that all of our readers share the same sentiments. We know that your strengths include the way you work together , your great and strong spirit and your passionate love for your country. These and other strengths will help.

Best Regards,

David and Penelope



The last leg

Hi Everyone,

Sorry for the delay in posting the remaining section of our 2015 barging adventure on Anja. We have been super busy and some sicknesses have intervened.

img 2700Moret on the Loing RiverWe really enjoyed out leisurely promenade to the top of the Seine and back, exploring parts missed last time and we also enjoyed the lack of fierce current which made things more challenging on the previous visit.

img 2699The bridge at Moret sur Loing

We came back to Moret sur Loing and stayed for a week just near the meeting of the Loing and Seine rivers. We had explored Moret sur Loing previously, but this time experienced more of its beauty and interesting history. The famous painter Sisley lived here and he was friends with many of the Impressionists whose paintings we have enjoyed in other parts of France, but particularly the lower reaches of the Seine. Our eldest daughter and family joined us and we had a great time with them, including one of our grandsons who kept us very entertained and occupied.

img 2688The old mill, now museum at Moret

After our sojourn at Moret, we headed back to the confluence of the Seine and Yonne for the final leg of about 100km back to Migennes, the winter resting place for Anja. We also finished off some improvement tasks- in particular, repainting the decks. We re-did the upper deck in 2011/2012 and it simply needed a light sanding and another coat of marine enamel. The decks where we walk needed a lot of scrubbing, sanding, fixing some of the non-slip surface and then repainting with a different paint intended for garage floors, driveways and car traffic. We did this because the International brand deck paint had not proved to be good for heavy wear. On top of this, we have our decks white to reduce the temperaure on hot summer days and white is probably not the ideal choice for keeping clean. We also sanded and varnished the port (left) side of the wheelhouse. This completed a long term project to remove all the "gunk" applied by the previous owners to the excellent wood of the wheelhouse and return it to a natural, varnished finish. So, Anja was looking particularly pretty and probably the best since we acquired her.

img 2745Spick and SpanThis all went remarkably smoothly as did the trip up the Yonne. We have been up and down the Yonne so many times and are very familiar with all the places. The lock keepers are good and seem to remember us and always had things ready for a quick passage. We were surprised at the busyness of some of the places. In some, we could find no space to stop and therefore made use of places like Silos for some overnight stops. This is fine a long as you keep out of the way of commercial traffic. Also, the silos were ramping up for the harvest but were not yet fully busy. It is possible that the pleasure traffic has increased on the Yonne or maybe it was because we were there in peak season, rather than our more normal early/late timing.

The Yonne region was unseasonably dry. In fact, when we were there, it was already the driest for about 50 years and summer was a long way from over. Fortunately, the Yonne and Seine RIvers are not affected by lack of water, unlike many of the other rivers and canals which were affected by closures and restrictions.

We arrived at the boat yard  the day before our departure to Australa. Everything on the boat was clean and tidy. We were rafted up to a couple of other boats and would leave Anja there so that Simon could lift her out when ready. Penny was really pleased that Simon wanted our geraniums which were still looking excellent and we did not want to just throw them away.

After about six weeks of little or no rain, there was a huge storm that night! Somehow, this managed to sink one of Simon's barges that was moored nearby. This submerged the power cord and basically shut down all power in the shipyard, including to us. We awoke in the dark and at about 4am prepared for our departure (we did not want to use the boat batteries as the boat would be put away for winter). We sloshed through the totally dark, muddy and waterlogged boatyard pulling our wheeled suitcases. It was still pouring with rain. We got to the railway station in plenty of time, only to find that our train had been CANCELLED! The next one was not for about three hours and was a slower train! The stationmaster was very good and confirmed our changed itinerary would work with extremely tight times to make connections and the flight. We asked him for a letter in case we missed the flight and needed to claim on insurance. He and another man searched the computer system for a template but could not find one. So, we wrote us a long, personalised letter with all the details of our old reservations and the new times, with precise arrival and connecting times. Fortunately, we did not need it because we arrived in Paris on time, David ran ahead and got our RER (train) tickets, we got off at gare du nord and sprinted to another train which took us to Charles de Gaulle. There we had an anxious couple of minutes wait for the train shuttle followed by a run to check in. We had made about three train connections with only one mintute between each one. We got through tcheck-in and they took our bags. Security was crazily slow but they finally put on extra staff and we made it to the 'plane not long after they started boarding. We were tired but had done it and the remainder of the trip back to Sydney, Australia was uneventful.

This year, we completed about 1,800 Km which was shorter than our more normal 2,500-2,900Km but it was very relaxing, wth good visitors and we filled in gaps from previous years.


Best Regards,

Dave and Penny


img 2724


 img 2726Walks with the family in Fontainbleu Forest and Chateauimg 2744Sinking on the Yonne


© (c) 2015 D & P Kerr

The Petite Seine

IMG 2598Loading a commercial sand barge on the Petite (upper) SeineSoon after the last lock on the Canal du Loing we turned onto the Seine River, this time heading away from Paris. We were keen to explore again the Petite or Upper Seine, last visited in flood times in 2012. That trip was quite quick and stopped at Nogent sur Seine: We were keen to go further if possible, perhaps even to Marcilly, which our chart guide indicates as the head of navigation.
So it was back to the world of large commercial barges and huge locks. The trip went very well. We used to be worry that the lock- keepers would be a bit disdainful of pleasure boats when they were mainly dealing with huge commercial barges, but on the contrary we have found them very friendly and helpful. Several times we have had the keeper lean out of his office, high above the lock, or come down from it to talk to us. In 2012 we were using a mobile radio with limited range and our understanding of the language was in its early stages. Now that we have upgraded to an excellent radio and David at least can communicate well. This means that we can contact the lock ahead to announce our arrival and to get some idea of what is happening so there are fewer last minute surprises. We travelled up the river during the weekend when there is less traffic. The journey back was quite slow because some laden barges travel at about 2 or 3 kilometres an hour, and also take up the whole lock, so there is a lot of waiting for everyone. There was one extra delay in a "derivation", a canal which traffic uses as an alternative to the river to cut off bends or to approach a lock. This is a particularly narrow derivation, and it seems that there was simply not enough water depth for the two boats to pass, so one ran aground. It took about 45 minutes of fiddling about to get them moving again. Meanwhile there was quite a build-up of traffic behind. Still, everyone remained very calm, at least outwardly.  

stuck"Betty Boop"- on the left- is firmly stuckThe main towns along this part of the Seine are small but full of interesting history going back to the establishment of the first mill in Nogent in the 9th Century, visits by such kings as Henry 1 and Henry IV (the house where the latter visited his mistress is duly recorded) and events from the Napoleonic Wars in most town. Here Napoleon stayed; here stayed the Tsar  Alexander. In fact, in Pont sur Seine and Bray sur Seine, the same lodgings, still standing, were chosen  by both Tsar Alexander and Napoleon (in turn) as they passed through. It is quite common to find houses built in the 14th or 15th Century still in good repair and the churches date from the 11th or 12th century. The towns in this area were also very involved in World War II and a memorial in Bray has a long list of names of those who died fighting in the battle that freed the town in August 1944.

IMG 2609The grand Mill at Nogent- first one was in 858!
We were a little disappointed when we reached Nogent to discover that the river is no longer negotiable beyond that point. Instead we hopped on our bikes and cycled as far as Pont Sur Seine. We could see that the navigation was shallow though the locks seemed to be in good repair. Nogent itself is the second busiest cereal port in France. There is a also a lot of sand dredging so a great deal of barge traffic downriver from Nogent, but no commercial barges go beyond so there is no financial imperative to keep the river dredged. Sadly there seem to be very few private boats using this stretch. We are here at the height of the tourist season and we are the only pleasure boat to go to Nogent in more than ten days.
With so many boats coming and going, life can be quite interesting. The first incident however was even more surprising on a busy water way: a deer swam across the river in front of us. Its antlers first alerted us to its activities. Another sight was on one of the huge barges passing with about 1,000 tonnes of sand, 70 metres long and about 8 metres wide. Three little children  on board were really enjoying access to their huge travelling sandpit. Most of the barges with little ones also have an inflatable swimming pool on board, good for these hot days. We have noticed though that the children are often to be seen travelling with their parents or grandparents in the cabin. Perhaps they will be the next generation of bargees. 

The weather continues to be very pleasant though there is talk of drought and water restrictions have been imposed in about half the departments of France. We are pleased that the remainder of our trip this year will be  on rivers rather than canals, as they are less affected by water restrictions. It is ironic that the areas which were affected by flooding at the beginning of our time in France are now suffering from lack of water.

IMG 2651A travelling sandpit

IMG 2610Henry IV house

IMG 2616Pont sur Seine- Penny on her bike

IMG 2657Park of the Giants (Plane trees)- good stop for Anja in BrayIMG 2655500 year old wooden house in Bray sur Seine
IMG 2646It is best to have respect for 2,500 tonne bargesBest Regards,

Penny and Dave

Canal du Loing

IMG 2501Old Lavoir at Chateau Landon

We had only one more step along this network of Canals before we reached the Seine River: The Canal du Loing. The Canal, which always runs close to the  Loing River is about 50 kilometres long with 19 locks which are all now automatic and work very well. In fact, we would give this canal the prize for the most reliable automatic locks we have used. It was completed in 1723 by the Duke of Orleans to connect his Canal going to Orleans with the Seine. It was sold to the State in 1860. There were several commercial barges on this Canal. While it was good to see them, we were pleased not to get caught behind any going along, as their normal speed here is 4 kilometres an hour. They are of necessity very low entering and exiting locks because they fit into the lock completely without any space to spare. If the driver doesn't steer straight there would be quite a mess- but they are so skilful that accidents are not common. 
The countryside is mainly rural, with forest areas along the way. We had travelled the canal four years ago and did not remember these forests, then realised that was in mid- April when the mainly deciduous trees would have been quite bare. Now we were travelling in the height of summer and the  foliage dense providing very attractive views.

IMG 2495The old Abbey
We cycled to the old fortified town of Chateau Landon. The main attraction is an 11th Century abbey now appropriately used as a retirement home. The views from its rooms must be magnificent as it is perched on a spot overlooking the surrounding valley.

IMG 2502Looking up to the town through 100 narrow stepsFete National, July 14th was looming so we wanted to find a suitable town to experience the celebrations. We found that Bagneaux sur Loing was celebrating with fireworks so headed there. The mooring is alongside a factory that dominates the town but seemed to be closed. We got talking to a local who frequently walked his dog along the canal, and he filled us in one the  history of this town and of the factory itself.

IMG 2577The huge and historic glass & Pyrex factory on site of the first glassmaking
Sand ideal for glassmaking is found in this area. As a result, Bagneaux has had glass works dating back to 1750 when the royal glass works were established on the site next to our mooring. The factory near us had for the last 100 years been owned by Corning to produce Pyrex glass. There have been two other glass works also owned by Corning and one partly owned by that company, producing a variety of specialist products such as ceramic glass for cook tops and high quality optical glass for products such as telescopes. Specialist glass workers were attracted to live in Bagneaux and most of the population of 4,500 were employed in that industry, attracting support organisations such as a welfare society to take care of their special health and other support needs.

IMG 2583The glassblowers
Then two things happened: the special sand started to run out; and in January 2014 Corning reorganised its operations and closed those factories in the town which it fully owned; the final factory was able to be kept running because there was a different majority owner. It employs 400 people making ceramic cook tops and similar products. It is the biggest in Europe and one of the largest in the world (it has three factories worldwide). The town population is currently half what it was, but the Mairie next January is re- opening the huge main factory area for smaller businesses.

IMG 2581The Mairie
The townspeople are still being well looked after by a very active Mairie which incidentally is housed in the most magnificent building we have seen for a town of this size. The fireworks are an example of their active involvement and of the town's response. The venue was a large area of parkland near the Canal, starting with food on sale at 7pm and culminating in the fireworks at 11.30. From about 6.30 there was a steady stream of families passing the boat with picnic rugs, chairs and hampers. A second wave started about 9pm, presumably of those who had eaten at home, so we decided to go along at 10.15 to get a good spot. The whole area was covered by people from tiny babies to the elderly and there must have been at least 10,000, several times the population of the town.  The fireworks were certainly worth waiting for, half an hour of really spectacular action, enhanced by the very pretty setting.  

IMG 2536The crowd building towards a final 10,000IMG 2541IMG 2550IMG 2541

After this very informative National Day stop, we continued along the Canal du Loing to its end where it joins the Seine at St Mammes.


Best Regards,

Penny and Dave

Briare Canal

IMG 2281Pont Canal at Briare (canal 60+ metres over the Loire River)

The Canal Lateral to the Loire ends at Briare with the crossing of the Loire River on a magnificent Pont Canal, 663 metres long, decorated at each end with imposing spires and lined with elegant lightposts, all designed by Eiffel, of Tower fame.

IMG 2314This commercial barge had only 5mm gap each side!From here we travel on the ancient Briare Canal, begun in 1604 during the reign of Henry IV, delayed following his assassination in 1610 and finally completed in 1642. At two points along the Canal it is possible to inspect the original staircase locks which changed levels very rapidly at Rogny and Dammerie. It is only 57 kms long with 35 locks, joining the Canal lateral to the Loire to the Canal du Loing, and so part of the continuous route from the Seine River to the Saone River thus from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

IMG 2318The old 7 lock staircase of Henry IV
The Canal was moderately busy with one or two commercial barges (of Freycinet size) and a few rental craft, but mainly with privately owned boats like Anja. There are several very attractive and very old towns along the way and good provision of moorings.

IMG 2335The Briare Canal at Dammarie

IMG 2339The less-known but equally ancient 4 lock staircase at Dammarie

In Montbouy we came across a 2nd Century Roman Amphitheatre. This was a real surprise and this large Amphitheatre had some unique features in how the stones were held together. It was very large and we could not fit it in one photo, so here is a part of it.

IMG 2369

IMG 2363Pretty Lavoir at Montbouy (anja in the background)

The Canal ends at Montargis, sometimes called "Little Venice" because of the many small canals dotted through the town. It is beautifully decorated with flowers on the many bridges and even in tiny boats on the small canals, and thoroughly deserves its status as a "four flower town", the top flower rating- Paray le Monial is similarly ranked.

IMG 2380Montargis
From Montargis it was convenient to visit Orleans, 60 kilometres away, the largest city in this area. The bus trip took a little over an hour and cost 2.40 euros a person, so was a very good way to make the trip.  It was very popular. It was full to capacity and left about 10 potential passengers behind on the return trip to catch the next bus an hour later.

IMG 2383The magnificient Cathedral at Orleans
Orleans was a most attractive and interesting city, set on a very broad stretch of the Loire River. It seems to welcome visitors with excellent tourist information throughout and very reasonably priced and beautifully presented attractions. The Cathedral is magnificent. The Art Gallery displays some stunning paintings and we were very excited by the bronze objects from the second century BC  displayed in the Museum of Antiquities. These were found buried close to Orleans and are in amazing condition.
The breaking of the siege of Orleans was one of St Joan of Arc's major triumphs, so she is widely remembered. We were also pleased to find a plaque to acknowledge the contribution of Australian and other Allied forces to the defence of France.



IMG 2442Magnificent bronze horse from 200BC

 Best Regards,

Penny and Dave

IMG 2457Old paddle-wheeler on the Loire at Orleans

IMG 2469Old Orleans street