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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.

Follow our 2016 adventure here. Remember that you can alway see our progress on a map with a general description of progress on the front page of our website or by clicking here.

On the Somme River

A day and a half after the Fete Nautique, we were on the Somme River, which we last visited (and thoroughly enjoyed) in 2013.
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We made our way down to Amiens, which was the perfect place to meet up with our daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. They had a good flight from Australia and were able to take the TGV direct from the Airport to Lille and then back down to Amiens. The little two year old had been expecting to be on grandma/grandpa's boat every day for the previous week. We think it was hard for her to understand that there are actually two boats, on opposite sides of the world. She was apparently very puzzled when the journey to the boat included Sydney Airport!
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All went well with the visit. We cruised down to Abbeville (not far from the sea)  where the family members took the train to Saint Valery, including the historic steam train which goes around the Bay. Wiliam the Conquerer left from here to conquer England.
IMG 3679Anja at Amiens
Abbeville also had an excellent "Plage" set up for the summer. There were separate sections set up for different age groups, plus jumping castles, climbing frames and heaps more. It was also free and the children loved their two visits.
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While cruising up and down the Somme (192Kms in total), we made sure to eat the Picardie specialties such as Ficelle Picarde and Maroilles cheese and see a few things we missed in 2013.
IMG 3573The pretty town of LongOne of these trips included Le Hamel and the Australian memorial there. Le Hamel was the site of the famous 93min battle planned and executed by General John Monash. This meticulously planned battle was totally different from the earlier battles where the Generals typically threw men into suicidal charges as if they were just numbers on a sheet of paper. The memorial does an excellent job of portraying the events of 100 years before. This area is also where Baron von Richthofen was finally shot down, having downed 80 enemy aircraft.
IMG 3541Le HamelIMG 3545Australian Memorial
The weather was excellent for the three weeks on the Somme. One or two days were over 30 but the remainder around 25degrees.

We went kayaking on a 7Kms round trip up a disused arm of the Somme- we enjoyed fantastic scenery and birdsongs. Muscles were only a little sore afterwards. Our family members also went kayaking and the girls really enjoyed it despite being only two and five years old.
IMG 3666The girls were amazingly fond of and discerning about French cheeses. We started with eight different cheeses and they ate all of them. The younger grandchild particularly likes blue cheeses, but they both enjoyed them all.
IMG 3690Artist at work in AmiensFeeding healthy Rocqefort appetites might get a trifle expensive when they return to Australia!
IMG 3693Unusual "floating" houseIMG 3691Entry to Hortillonage (island gardens)
Now, we are off the Somme and at the North end of the Canal du Nord (only 12Kms from Cambrai) and are heading towards Lille, where we will pick up some more visitors who will be with us for about a week. Then we head further North towards Dunkirk and Belgium.
IMG 3681Notre Dame Amiens (2.5x Notre Dame, ParisBest Regards,
Dave and Penny

IMG 3558Fishing contest (Concourse de Peche)

365km in a week!

It has been a very busy week, after the slow start. We were pleased to finally escape the Yonne River and get onto the Seine.

There, we made the decision to travel a lot further than normal, aided by the good current in the River. So, we got to Paris in one day (instead of our normal two days) and then spent another day getting to Andresy instead of our planned two days.

At Andresy, David picked up some new diodes for the big alternator/welder. These were ordered the night before and came from France, Belgium and England in less than 24hrs to the local Bric a Brac store which is a Relais for UPS. Fantastic service!

It was about this stage that we learned our daughter and family would be arriving in Amiens a day earlier than we had expected. So, we headed off North on the Oise River- This time pushing against a strong current and only making half the speed we did on the Seine.

We are over-nighting at Longueil-Annel and are fortunate because it is the annual "Pardon". There are many boats here and they are well "dressed" with flags. There is music, food and the very entertaining jousting competition on the river, just above the locks. So, we have put up Anja's mast and added a number of flags so that we fit in with the other boats, large (110 metres/2000tonnes) and small (7 metres).

The trip through Paris was uneventful. We were very lucky because (at 055am) Penny noticed that the first lock at Port a l'Anglais was showing green. The lock keeper had started early to accommodate a couple of commercial boats that wanted to make the 15minute window for getting past Notre Dame. We did not think there was much chance of us making it, but went at close to our maximum speed and DID make it- with 4 minutes to spare. We were the last boat through and the only non-commercial craft. We had an excellent and non-stressful view of Paris's magnificient bridges and other attractions as there were no Bateau-mouches (tripboats) at that timne of day.

This was Penny's fifth time in Paris in the one month since we arrived. This is a record.

Incidentally, did you know that there are 1,000 electric cars in Paris with 5,000 allocated parking spots? They are 6euros for the first 30 mins. You put your destinbation into the GPS and it reserves a parking spot near to your destination. You park, plug in the power cord and you are done! What a fantastic service and as with the rental bikes (which are free for the first 30mins) take a lot of polluting traffic off the Parisien roads.

Other cities in France are installing the same system.

Best Regards,

Dave and Penny

On our way!

Due to a shortage of internet download/upload until the end of the month, there might be a shortage of photos on our blogs until then.

The good news is that we were craned back into the water on Monday 20th of June. This went well and Penny (who hates watching it) arrived back early from shopping to witness the last steps. I (David) always explain why Penny is not there- because she is scared to watch- and Simon who drives the crane always says he too is scared to watch! We made a turn in front of the boatyard and sped off down the river at more than twice our normal speed with the engine just idling. As the river was still officially closed, we stopped 2kms downstream at a small town called Laroche St. Cydroine. A nice spot where we have stayed before. We went to the town square for the Fete de la Musique with town singing groups performing. We kept to the outskirts until the Mayoress spotted us, welcomed us and ensured we sat on some of the few available seats. We left before it concluded and tried to sneak away but the Mayoress made sure we understood there was more of the performance to follow.

Unfortunately, the local Boulangerie has closed down but we still managed with baguettes from the Depot du Pain at the Epicerie. During our stay, we went to the Migennes Market (which is an excellent market) and Penny travelled to Paris to vote at our Embassy in the Australian elections. This was her fourth trip to Paris in three weeks! We also discovered that our TV was not working. By a strange coincidence, we also found that France moved to all high definition TV this April. Our TV displays HD but does not receive it. Fortunately, I was able to cycle to a large hypermarche and purchase a small box which gets arounbd the problem plus, as a bonus, the TV receptions is now all high definition.

David stayed behind to mind Anja and also to construct a new front railing. The old one had become rather dilapidated and had also been made in five parts with lots of joins. The new one is made in two parts with very nice wood provided by Simon Evans.

On Friday night, via the internet, we got the exciting news that we could travel further the next morning. We radioded the lock on Saturday morning but received no reply. So we headed down there at 0910 and when almost there, got a call from the eclusier to say he was closed and we could not come. So, we headed back upstream and heard him calling someone else on the radio. Just as we were tying up at the town mooring, he called us, apologised and and that we could come! We did finally enter the lock though it was delayed because of a problem with the sluice gates (this was the first time the lock had been used for a month).

Anyway, we have made it 20kms downriver but are stopped again because the eclusiers (lock keepers) are having to manually re-lift the barrages. This involves lifting steel needles about 8cm wide and dropping them into the water, suspended on a cross beam. There are about 800 of them per barrage and it is very time consuming.

We just got word that we can travel a further one lock tomorrow but then no more until Tuesday. Hopefully we can get onto the Seine later in the week and speed along without delays because we are about 17 days late on our plan for the year.

At the moment, we are at the pleasant town of Villevallier.

Best Regards,

Dave and Penny


With no immediate prospect of the Yonne River towards Paris being open soon we decided to visit Nice, which we had on our 2016 list as our "non- barge" destination.

IMG 3399View along Promenade des anglaisWhen Annette left for the airport for her onward trip to Rome we left too, catching the TGV direct from Paris to Nice, 930 kilometres in five and a half hours. We had found some difficulty in finding accommodation at the last moment and belatedly realised why when we discovered that a match of the European Soccer Cup was to be played in Nice the next day between Spain and Turkey. They were taking no chances on the train: there were half a dozen train security guards and no alcohol was being sold. In actual fact the trip was calm and pleasant and we arrived in Nice very relaxed and caught a bus to our hotel. Considering the last- minute booking we were very happy with its position, with an uninterrupted view of the waterfront looking towards the port and the mountains beyond.

IMG 3380The view from our hotel room
Next day we set out to explore the town relishing a sunny warm day after all the rain we had been experiencing. Our first observation was that the beach in Nice is very uncomfortable, consisting of huge stones. No wonder there were so many people offering hired sun baking chairs. Walking or lying on the stones looked most uncomfortable- though many people were doing it, with just a towel betwen them and the stones. The only two children we saw there were filling their buckets with stones and throwing them into the nearby storm water drain. No chance of building a sand castle! We were glad we had not come to Nice for the beach.
Walking along the "Promenade des Anglais" gave us a great chance to enjoy the ornate, well- kept buildings along the waterfront, with the promenades  bustling with activity. We first noticed the "fan base" for the Football, then reached the flower and general markets and the Old Town with its tiny lanes and old houses. At the end of the Old Town is the site of the original Nice settlement on top of a hill and we were grateful to discover that a free lift would take us the 92 metres to the top. From there we had an excellent view over the town with its terracotta roofs and shiny Church domes. In the other direction, the port was full of boats large and small, sailing and powered with the mountains beyond. The Club Med II was in port, with its five masts. It carries 26,000 sqft of sail and must be one of the largest sailing ships in the world.

IMG 3413Nice Port- with sailing ship, CM2
There was originally a Chateau in this park and its remains and those of ancient fortifications and old Roman buildings could be seen here. Back in the old town we visited the beautiful Cathedral of Saint Reparata, first built in the 11th century but rebuilt as a Cathedral in the 17th century. It is unusual in its dedication to a Palestinian woman who was a Martyr.
After lunch in the square we caught the bus to the Matisse Museum, where most of the works were donated by Matisse or his family and traced his artistic development; then to the archaeology museum next door on the site of the Roman city of Cemenelum founded by Augustus in 14BC.
In two happy surprises, we found that a 10 euro entry fee to a museum allows free entry to virtually all other museums (i.e 20) in the city for two days and that  all buses are free in Nice on the day of European Cup Soccer Matches there.
That night we watched the football match in our hotel room. It was fairly one sided and we were just as happy not to be in the crowd of 35,000 at the match.
On our final day we wandered through two more museums, both housed in beautifully decorated and ornate buildings, the Musee des Beaux- Arts which introduced us to many of Nice's famous artists, and the Villa Massena which displayed many interesting artefacts of Nice's modern history. We realised more fully how important tourism has been to Nice for several centuries, which undoubtedly helps to make it a very comfortable city for outsiders to visit.

IMG 3445"The kiss" by Rodin
Our TGV return trip to Paris stopped at Antibes and Cannes which gave us a glimpse. The beaches there certainly looked much sandier and the general architecture quite similar. We arrived in good time in Paris at Gare de Lyon. Our second train was already in the nearby Paris Bercy when we arrived there so we had an uneventful trip home to find Anja as we had left her, still high and dry but quite safe.

The river had dropped to the level of a week before but the critical downstream locks were still closed.

Best Regards,

Penny and Dave

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Floodbound still

In our last blog we were hopeful of soon being able to be lifted into the water. Sadly continued rain kept the levels high and the current fast, so on  we remained on land for another ten days.

IMG 3376Pontigny Abbey- on a VERY wet day
We made use of the last day of car rental to explore nearby attractions, the ancient Abbey of Pontigny and the famous wine town of Chablis.

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Pontigny Abbey was a Cistercian Abbey, founded in 1114 and still in use today. It is a most impressive building with the main Nave of the Church 108 metres long, and a very ancient organ now refurbished and still in use. A concert was to be held that night. This abbey has a long history of giving refuge to English priests in danger including Thomas A'Beckett (later murdered in Canterbury Cathedral) and Stephen Langton, who worked on ideas for the Magna Carta while he was there. He was its first signatory.  

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Chablis is a very attractive old town noted for its white wines, all made from Chardonnay grapes. A thriving market was on when we arrived. We had learned that the current vintage has suffered from adverse weather events (early growth then severe frost and also hail). We decided that the house Chablis at the Restaurante de la Poste was the right choice to accompany our lunch there and were not disappointed.
The trip to the airport to meet Annette went very smoothly thanks to the published list of trains still running during the strike. Because we missed peak hour the trains were not too crowded. It was good to catch up and give Annette some time to relax after the long journey from Australia. We would have preferred that she need not climb the steep ladder to get onto the boat and to visit the bathroom when required, but she took these inconveniences in her stride. It was better than in 2013 when she arrived during even more severe flooding when the boat ladder was knee- deep in flood water.
During her three day stay Penny and she traveled to Joigny and visited the birth place of the foundress of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart who conduct the Rose Bay Convent in Sydney. We were given a very special tour by a Sacred Heart Sister. She and Annette had several acquaintances in common, as both had held leading positions in their Religious Congregations. We also enjoyed the old wooden buildings and historic Churches of Joigny.


Best regards,

Penny and David