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.

Preparing for departure

Hopefully now, those of you on the subscription list are only receiving one email per blog. The Corsica and Alps photos are now in our online gallery, nearly all captioned at:

We are a little behind with our blogs because our Internet for the month is running out too early. The approximately 500km trip to Migennes was uneventful with relative light traffic. We diverted off the main autoroute for lunch at an Auberge and also visited Époisses. One of our favorite cheeses comes from there and bears the same name.

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Époisses Chateau


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IMG 20170531 141041Tired, we arrived at the boatyard where Anja is stored. Not quite ready for the busy 8 days of preparation work. Every previous year, we have stayed at Les Chouettes. However, after many years of hard work, Chantal and Christian have sold the premises, moved to an apartment and purchased a motorhome so that they too can roam Europe. We could have stayed at a nearby camping ground or another chambre d'hôte or a hotel. Instead, we stayed on Simon's péniche in which he used to live with his mother before buying this boatyard. This was extremely convenient, being 50metres from Anja and was fully contained with all facilities. It is large, equivalent to a house in size. Only occasionally does he let people stay there as it has been his home for many years. So, we were very fortunate. Thanks Simon!

We worked hard every day but had the nights free. The boat was dirty from the winter and from dust in the yard so there was a fair amount of cleaning. However, inside was perfect with no dust, no mould, no water leaks; unlike some other boats, we never have problems like that. The three solar fans undoubtedly help. Because winter is often -12 degrees, everything freezable had to be emptied and/or treated with antifreeze before winter. All was good. We had packed up everything possible the previous year and wrapped the mast and bowsprit in covers. All else was in lockers or the engine room or otherwise inside the boat. We did have one sadness, having opened a porthole and then experienced very heavy rain which damaged 17 or more books.

As well as unpacking everything, we had to reconnect power and water and make sure everything was okay. We only had a problem with one tap washer- not bad after 8 months of storage. Because the boat had been in one position for 8 months, there was some minor sun damage to a few parts of hull paint and varnish on the sunny side of the boat. These incurred about 8hrs of unexpected work to fix. Scheduled work included replacing the timber on the boarding ladder, sanding and re-painting the rudder, re-gluing/sanding some timber on the mast support and then oiling it. The rudder had not been repainted for 6 years unlike the rest of the boat which we redid a couple of years ago. We also stocked up on provisions including that staple

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IMG 20170605 123549Our stay encompassed two Thursdays, so Penny twice visited the truly excellent Migennes Marché. For the first time ever, David did not make it to the market. We returned the rental car (always a big relief) and were craned back into the river. Penny organised and potted geraniums and herbs during the cranage. IMG 4969The boatyard also applied tar where the boat had been on chocks over winter because we had asked them to apply two coats of tar to the hull while we were back home in Australia. There was one slightly problem with the cranage. I (David ) did not think we would fit into the space at the quay (which is supposed to be kept clear), because an English fellow had put his small (and cute) boat at one end. It was only when Anja was hanging over the space, with the 40tone crane at the edge of the river, that it became clear Anja would not fit. So there was hasty rearrangement and we made it- just- with the little boat centimeters from us and another boat and our rudder missing the boat behind by centimeters only because it was angled to one side. Our bow and bowsprit were leaning menacingly over the little boat which was less than half our width. We were too tired to go anywhere that day, so Simon kindly let us remain overnight at his loading quay where we had a long and excellent sleep. The next day, we headed off downstream on the Yonne River

IMG 4970Best Regards,

Dave and Penelooe

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Annecy- French Alps


Firstly, our apologies to those who received more than one (indeed, up to six) email notifications of our last blog. Hopefully the problem is now corrected.IMG 4831

It was quite late before we arrived at our next destination, Annecy. We landed at Orly airport, collected a hire car and drove almost six hours (570Kms)  to our apartment base for the next five days, Comfort Suites at Seynod, just outside Annecy in Seynod. This offered self catering accommodation close to the busy and popular tourist destination of Annecy. The roads we travelled were almost all Autoroutes which were much less stressful for the driver (and passenger) than the smaller roads in Corsica. The tolls added up but we could see the benefit in the three laned 130 kph smooth road surfaces, the viaducts flying over valleys and the tunnels going through mountains. We also appreciated the discipline of drivers in pulling out to the far (left ) lane only when they were actually overtaking a car or truck. No-one stayed there indefinitely so the far lane was routinely available for overtaking when required.

IMG 4837 Our first visit was to Annecy itself, a short bus ride away. It is a pretty and interesting town set at the top of Lake Annecy with two canals in the Old Town enhancing the interest of ancient buildings and narrow alleys. We were there on the Saturday of a four-day long weekend and the streets and the lake were packed with tourists, especially in The Gardens of Europe and the adjacent foreshores where there were boats and pedal vehicles of all sizes and shapes available for hire. IMG 4846Chateau d'Annecy

There are high mountains all around but the town itself is quite flat. Later we walked along the Western edge of the 14km long Lake enjoying the expected reeds, trees and birds but surprised to come across a snake, the first we have seen in France. Our trip to Chamonix took us higher into the Alps, closer than ever to those snow covered peaks we had seen from the plane. IMG 4885View from Chamonix

Mont Blanc is very close to Chamonix but we still could not see the whole mountain; cloud cut off the top from view. We could persuade ourselves that we had seen Mont Blanc in two sections. We wandered around this very pretty town with its amazing views, with the River Arve racing along the length of the town, coloured green/ grey from the mineral deposits in the area.

On the theme of going higher each day, David next took to a hot- air balloon to rise over 2000 metres. The alps spread out beneath the balloon; sometimes the Montgolfier skimmed quite close to jagged rock formations but David was confident in the skill of his very experienced pilot. After almost 90 minutes, the landing was a bit tight, skimming the trees in the small field, but achieved safely. IMG 4910Inflating the Montgolfier

He then enjoyed a 30 minute drive through the mountains to return to the launch area. This ride was a gift promised for David's 60th birthday so it was only just redeemed before his 70th which is later this year, but it was worth the wait to be able to enjoy such stunning scenery. IMG 4932View from the balloon

Our trip to the Alps finished with a drive to Geneva, only 45 minutes away. There we took in the modern city, explored the old town and met a newly- discovered cousin who works there. We had a most enjoyable meal on the Lake shore with him, then back to our apartment to prepare for our return North to Migennes to get Anja ready for our last season of cruising.

Best Regards,

Penelope and David

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During our trip to Corsica we stayed in Ajaccio, the capital. We arrived in the middle of Friday afternoon peak hour and our first impression was of the difficulties of driving and parking. This view was reinforced each time we used the car but then we had chosen to stay in a city! Apart from that, our week on the Island was most enjoyable, scenically beautiful and interesting historically. Our apartment was well placed above the Old Town (with a secure car park) and we enjoyed strolling down to the town; along the very busy waterfront with ferries, cruise boats and pleasure craft coming and going; checking out the beaches; exploring the Old Town; dining at excellent and affordable restaurants and shopping at the markets for our fresh supplies.

IMG 4590View from our Apartment balconyWe found Corsican honey, cheese, ham and wine as well as local fruits, vegetables and fish. We also had the chance to sample a Corsican liquer made from local berries. Ajaccio is definitively a Mediterranean city, geographically located almost in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. The weather was brilliant so we could eat all our meals on our apartment's balcony, enjoying the views of sea and mountain. Our explorations of the Island beyond the city of Ajaccio first took us to the headland west of the town where we walked the Coastal Track, giving us fantastic views of the Gulf of Ajaccio.IMG 4597Bush regenerationThe path was very steep in parts but nevertheless there were several people on mountain bikes as well as some very fit looking runners. The view from our apartment was dominated by the very steep mountains which seem to rise straight out of the sea. A single chain of mountains makes up two thirds of the Island of Corsica and separates the East from the West. There are at least 45 separate peaks higher than 2,000 metres. The highest is over 2,700 metres- but it is only 20 kilometres from the sea! By comparison, Mount Kosciuszko is 2,228 metres. We ventured out by car to explore the Coast to the north of Ajaccio, following the winding , mountainous, two lane narrow road to various coastal towns including Cargèse, settled in the 17th Century by Greek refugees. Two beautiful churches face each other across a gully, one a (Latin rite) Catholic Church, the other Greek Orthodox.IMG 4633View from the Churches

The separate populations have assimilated over the intervening four hundred years, and the same pastor serves both congregations. Just North of Cargèse is Piana, an old and well preserved town. Just north are the IMG 4650Rock formations near Piana"Calanques", a rock formation which is World Heritage listed.

Along the entire coastline there are magnificent views of the picturesque gulfs of the Mediterranean, amazing rock formations and mountains covered by snow even in the middle of May. The next day we planned to visit Corté, in the Centre of the Island so after our rather tense trip by car we decided to catch the train which takes about two hours to climb the 80 kilometres. The views on the trip were spectacular, travelling through the mountains to reach the historic town of Corté, a fortified town in the geographic centre of the Island.IMG 4703From the train on the way to Corté

During the brief period of Corsican independence in the 18th Century, Corté was the Capital of Corsica and always the centre of its fight for independence. It is now a University town. We enjoyed the excellent Museum of Anthropology which gave a well- depicted account of rural life in Corsica over several centuries.IMG 4728Corté's fortified Citadel

The next day we ventured out again in the car towards the South of the Island to visit Filitosa where a settlement dating back to the Neolithic age was discovered in 1946. Artefacts at the site include menhirs (tall upright stones) and basic tools from Neolithic times and from the Bronze Age carved and decorated menhirs and evidence of huts, places of worship, tools and decorations.IMG 4771Mehirs at Filitosa

We could not leave Ajaccio without some reference to its most famous son, Napoleon Bonaparte. We visited the house of his birth which from 1682, Bonaparte's ancestors had lived in this house. He was born there in 1769.IMG 4788Inside Napolean Bonaparte's house

Napoleon was sent away to study from the time he was nine years old but his family continued to own and live in it for most of the subsequent years, except for a brief period at the end of the 18th century when it was occupied by the English. Subsequently returned to the family it was restored first by Napoleon's mother and later by his nephew, Emperor Napoleon 111. It was donated to the French state by Prince Victor Napoleon in 1923. Because of this long family occupation it was possible to explore an ancient house still containing original furniture, tools and artefacts and to become a little more informed about Napoleon's background.

IMG 4812Some of the old tools used thereOur flight from Corsica to Paris afforded another stunning view of the Mediterranean and the snow- covered mountains of the French Alps. The peak of the highest mountain, probably Mont Blanc, was visible above the clouds.

Best Regards,

Penelope and Dave

IMG 4821The Ajaccio waterfront

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Sydney -> Paris -> Corsica

We have been in France for a week now and are about to leave the French island of Corsica for the Rhone Alps.

The flight from Sydney to Paris via Singapore was trouble-free. However we had a very busy day upon arrival. We caught the train from the airport to Gare du Nord then transferred to another which took us to Gare de Lyon. Then a brisk 800metre walk to Gare de Bercy. On the way we stopped at a Tabac and purchased tax stamps which were needed for later. The 150km train trip from Bercy to Auxerre was straightforward; we checked into a hotel and then walked across the river to the préfecture where we picked up our new titres de séjour (long term visas) and handed over the tax stamps as payment. Then we hopped onto another train to deposit various items on the barge and pick up some extra clothing. After that, we trained back to the hotel for a low key dinner and some much needed sleep. We had just flown half way around the world, caught five trains and walked 14,500 steps!

The next day, we were on the train again plus a bus to Orly Airport, from where we flew to Ajaccio on the French island of Corsica. We picked up a rental car at the airport and ended up in a pleasant apartment in a very convenient part of the town. We look over the Mediterranean and are only five minutes from shops and restaurants plus a number of historically interesting sites.  In the next blog, we will detail some of the things we have seen and done in Corsica.

Best regards,

David and Penelope

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Barging 2017

In 2017, our last year on Anja, we will travel through the Champagne Region to the Ardennes and back.
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