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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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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

Location (Map)

10400 Nogent-sur-Seine, France
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Tragedy in France
Canal du Loing

Comments 1

Guest - Herman on Saturday, 25 July 2015 18:09

Wow, just good narrative and great photos make it like I am there. I am also getting feeds from friends who have recently sailed the Med - the coasts of Morocco and Spain and now in Finland sailing the Baltic. It is pretty cold here so you are in the right place.

Wow, just good narrative and great photos make it like I am there. I am also getting feeds from friends who have recently sailed the Med - the coasts of Morocco and Spain and now in Finland sailing the Baltic. It is pretty cold here so you are in the right place.
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