First day on the canal
Narbonne Travel Blog› entry 5 of 45 › view all entries
This was the first good night's sleep for me. Up at 7, I took a bike to get bread & croissants for breakfast. I asked a lady walking along the quay for directions to the boulanger and she said there was none close by but I could get bread and croissants at the “tabac” just across the canal. Taking the foot bridge, the trip was short and I really didn't need the bike at all. The sky held only scattered clouds but wind was cool and very strong. I wrote on deck as everyone else slept.
We are Episcopalians and Earl is our priest so, having all taken our showers and eaten, Earl celebrated mass.
We’d worked out our locking procedure on our last trip. Here’s how it works when going upstream… Before each lock, Earl takes the boat to one side of the canal and I jump ashore. Then I walk (or run) to the lock while he handles the boat. It is my job to either talk to the lock keeper if there was one or to operate the lock if it was automatic. Helen positions herself on the bow with that mooring line and Lin on the stern with hers.
There was a boat ahead of us at the first lock and they had put two men on the ground to do what I do. They were Brits and one was a bit more clueless than the other about how to operate the lock. While the locks on this canal (Canal de La Robine) and the Canal du Jonction are automatic, this one has a lock keeper as well.
This canal, like the two that followed is delightful. It is lined on both sides with huge plane trees, planted hen the canal was built to protect it from the elements. The result, though perhaps practical in origin, is a peaceful beauty that has to be experienced. As it happens, there was a bicycle race heading southward along the tow path so we were treated to an endless string of riders going the other way. I’m not sure our shouts of “Allez, allez!” spurred them on to greater glory but it was fun.When we reached the second lock, two boats were ahead of us so I had Earl put me ashore early. There were 3 boats locking down so we had a bit of a wait. I assumed the guy standing in front of the control panel was the éclusier (lock keeper) but it turns out he was Ryan, an Aussie from the first boat going up. As luck would have it, Ryan and I would be working side by side at many locks all week long. The guys going down were something less than efficient so it took forever to get them out. The next problem was that the wind was blowing the boats against the left bank (our right) and the Aussies had a hell of a time getting into the lock. Next, the Brits approached the same shore to let their guy off but I told him to just stay on and we'd handle his lines. My motives were entirely selfish; had I not done that, they’d have gotten into the same mess as the Aussies and would STILL be trying to get into that lock. Earl, of course, knows what he is doing and had stayed well back out of the fray and entered without any problem at all.