aka Embranchment de la Nouvelle
May 11 – 18 2018
A week of city-scape, landscape, sea scape and port, as we moved the 35 kilometres from the junction with the Midi, through Sallèles-d’Aude and Narbonne, to Port de la Nouvelle, picking up two visitors and lots of mosquito bites along the way.
Looking back, it had been very very windy for over two weeks – force 7 to 8 most days. The locals say they’ve never known anything like it. Exhilarating, but not much fun for persuading large barges into small oval locks, although with super Stu at the helm all has been accomplished without mishap.
So we began with a strenuous voyage (ha ha) of 3 kilometres, filling and emptying the 5 locks as we went, all under blue skies.
We moored up under palm trees in Sallèles-d’Aude with the front wheelhouse window down, and feeling all set for summer!
From 1730 onwards we noticed something strange going on in the building next to our mooring. Cars drew up, people walked up, disappeared into the basement …… and reappeared with strange plastic containers full of red liquid – even children and dogs!
Aah, good, we have unknowingly moored next to a wine cave! We are now the proud owners of a rosé and a rouge BIB (bag in box) – 5L for €10 and tastes very good, plus my latest aperitif – Andréa”
We awoke in Sallèles-d’Aude on Saturday May 12th – ME Awareness Day and all of the Millions Missing events around the world. Our daughter Hollie is one of the millions missing due to ME, so we played our small part by placing shoes with a message outside our boat for the day.
There was time to take a few photos of the interesting passerelle (footbridge) and the local muscovy ducks, and to visit our neighbours who are bravely doing up a huge old barge, with no previous experience of boats, carpentry or engineering!
We went to sleep with rain clouds collecting until we had an absolute downpour overnight.
Next day dawned a bit better and we set off for a more exciting trip than anticipated. After the heavy rain (7” collected in our bucket!) we set off into the lock at the bottom of the port with our friends Ian and Jill who had arrived on their boat Jazz the previous afternoon, and descended over 4m.
The gates opened, out went Ian and Gill – and as we set off to to follow the huge gates started to close on us. Hard astern saved us from getting severely pincered, and several blasts on hooter eventually raised the red faced éclusier who re-opened the gates for us.
Then in the beautiful Gailhousty lock, with its cleverly designed dry dock, Stewart’s rope got caught on the bollard; eventually he had to undo it aboard and throw it up onto the side, where, luckily, another boater waiting to come up noticed and threw it back on board.
After Gailhousty you are out on l’Aude river, with this fun little crossing to do.
After joining the swollen rushing Aude for a few hundred yards we followed Jazz towards the calm safety of the canal on the other side we were somewhat distressed to see the huge canal flood doors closed against us!
Another éclusier asleep on the job suddenly jumped into action as we bore down (in full reverse) on Ian performing heroic acts of helmsmanship to maintain his position as the gates slowly opened.
Such excitement almost made us stop outside of Narbonne for a beak, but after lunch at Gua, on the outskirts of the city, we felt emboldened and carried on through the lower and lower bridges to the centre.
Merchants Bridge, the last one after the Narbonne lock, is certainly one of the lowest Calliope has encountered, ‘mais pas de promblème’! I’m getting the hang of this language at last.
We found a pleasant mooring just behind Jazz and settled down for a few days.
Next day we collected the hire car and then collected Keeva and Will from Carcassonne airport. Out to an interesting pizza place for supper!
Next day we four had fun on a gale force day in Narbonne. It is an interesting, and in parts lovely, city – the indoor market, right on the canal side, has far too many delicious and tempting food stuffs.
And by night, time to learn some new card games, this one’s polite name being ‘Poo Face”
On Wednesday we left Narbonne in better weather than we found it and took the barge 8 kms down to Mandirac lock – an out on the middle of nowhere kind of mooring – great contrast to Narbonne.
The young ones and I went for an exploratory walk, hoping to find our first étang, but it had been drained for agriculture! However we did find the last surviving barque de patron which is being done up near Mandirac.
Talking of old boats, right next to us was Pytheas – Greek geographer and explorer, no more …..
Thursday, and moving on southwards again. The accoutrements of summer surround me at last as the wind drops; early sun on the water, holiday makers on the fore deck, herb garden, geraniums and a parasol waiting to go up!
As the land strip for the canal narrows between Étang de l’Ayrolles and Étang de Bages the trip takes on a surreal feel, moving on water between waters.
Beng a Nature Girl I’d been looking forward to Isle St Lucie – a small island nature reserve surrounded by the canal and a big étang or lagoon. One of its ‘attractions’ is being left entirely natural – including the marauding mosquitos, and although we were warned about them and had sprayed ourselves to excess, we turned out to be easy prey. Keeva managed 52 bites, Will about 24 and another few dozen between Stu and I!!
This did not deter us from a flamingo hunt on the isle, including going where no man should! Strange but true, the only flamingoes we found were white!
That evening, and next morning, various of our party walked the mile across the étang dykes to reach the sea, with many stunning shapes and colours along the way.
Next morning was just so beautiful I almost forgave the mosquitoes!
We had just 3 kilometres and one lock to our final destination, so that won’t take long will it? Into the lock, start our descent of 0.8m. Hardly a troublesome distance, until the lock mechanism jams in some way and we are stuck! A phone call to the éclusiers soon has us fixed and on our way ……
….. down a rather reedy stretch!
Nonetheless we cruised gently on to Port-la-Nouvelle, trying out a couple of moorings (one had us aground) before settling just before the bridge at the end of the canal.
It may not be the most scenic of our moorings, but is generally quiet (especially at the weekend), very handy to the town and beach, and we quite like it!
It also has better reception for video phone calls home than when we are out in the wilds of nature!
More about Port-la-Nouvelle next week, including combatting the mosquitoes!