We said good-bye to the Canal de Nivernais at Decize, but still had a few more days before we were to say good-bye to Jenny and Charlie so as a boatload of 4 we voyaged down a small section of La Loire to join the lateral canal.
Two seemingly big, adjacent, locks called Ter and Bis act as the barrier between river and canal and we approached with caution the blue rope ‘pull’ that would prepare and one the first lock for us.
The doors were a new fascination, having a ‘window feature’ at the top allowing us to see in and through each lock. I guess these are filled in when the river is in flood.
It’s great having guests aboard who are comfortable with the lines, allowing this totally amateur photographer time off for a few extra shots! Thanks Jenny.
Once the two locks were traversed, quite simply as it happens, our joint reward was time off on the front deck taking in the scenery.
I noticed on the Canal latèral à la Loire that the locks were different again from other canals. For example each gate, or porte, has two vantelles, or paddles, allowing more control over the rate and direction of water flow into the lock. On the whole this resulted in a smoother climb for Calliope and crew.
The day was fine and the journey relatively undemanding, with only 5 locks after Ter and Bis. Charlie and Stu took turns at the helm while Jenny and I took in the view.
Nature had some surprises for us. Stu noticed two storks standing in their nest atop a telegraph pole some three hundred yards from the canal and despite distance and the movement of the boat I caught a ‘not-too-fuzzy’ photo.
Then there was the amazing living slime on a lock wall – what is that stuff??
And the baby poule d’eau (moorhen) found by the éclusier in the swirl of scum and weed by the lock gate, followed by a second found by me, its little head just trying to lift and breathe through the mess. The éclusier’s wife took them in to care for.
We had chosen our mooring for the night with care – Les Vanneaux – because it had a restaurant and our guests had offered to take us for a meal. Having moored up right beside the restaurant we approached with fingers crossed as it was Sunday and highly likely to be closed on the evening ……. but we were in luck. A simple barbecue menu was on offer each evening from Thursday to Sunday. Stewart and I enjoyed both our treat and the company!
Next morning we awoke to an eerie mist across the river, lending quite a magical feel to the start of the day. It soon cleared and by the time we were on our way the sun had swept up the moisture; another blue blue day began.
There was a definite new confidence to the crew; Jenny was throwing ropes onto bollards with far more ease and Charlie was understanding how a cumbersome barge reacts, compared to his beautiful sleek sailing yacht. Look – no hands . . . . .
Needing bread for lunch we stopped at Garnat-sur-Engiêvre and walked into the village – but all was shut on a Monday, so back to the boat and onward upstream to Beaulon where there was the promise of ‘lundi pain’. The captain took the opportunity to stretch his legs, which were stretched more than expected! He was gone for half an hour or more, returning with packaged pancakes, croissants and sliced brioche; all he could find left on a Monday shelf in the one small shop open. It was an interesting lunch (not . . )
Hunger sated for now we moved on towards Diou, are stop for the night. On the way we went through and over the lock and viaduct near Dompierre. The latter took us over little the river Besbre which joined La Loire about 4km down.
The last night’s stop for Jenny and Charlie was at Diou. We had hoped to moor on the quay, but when we arrived it was full so we pulled out the stakes and hammer and moored up on the grass bank. Next day, as the photos declare, our friends on Piper boat Rangali left the quay to go downstream.
A rare photo of Stu and I on the back deck was taken by Charlie. Thanks mate!
That evening and next morning we wandered round Diou, admiring its stretch of La Loire, the church, useful small shop, excellent boulangerie, and an ancient wine press (??) hidden in the corner of an ancient garage.coach house.
Diou still has a decidedly rural feel, so plenty of opportunities to see cows, donkeys and ponies!
At 11am it was time for Jenny and Charlie to swap barge travel for the faster alternatives of taxi, train, plane and ferry to return to the Isle of Wight. We waved good bye, then headed for the short stretch of canal towards Digoin.
Just before Digoin we saw the right hand turn towards Roanne – 56kms – and left the Canal Lateral á La Loire for a week or so.
Our objective? To reach Roanne in time to tidyup boat, shop, and hire a car – then collect Keeva and Abi from Lyon airport; the next episode will describe it all.