Welcome to the 12th blog in the Olivia Rose Diaries. We’re still in Basse Ham! We had hoped to leave mid-week but the weather turned against us, with a series of thunderstorms, torrential rain and very strong winds. We’re under no pressure to leave, and had no desire to battle our way through that sort of weather, so we decided to let it pass through. After 12 weeks, what’s another couple of days?
We’ve just found out that the VNF(the organisation that manages the waterways) in this north-eastern corner of France regularly go on strike in June. Initially we thought that the river would be shut completely, which was incredibly depressing, but instead it seems the strikes take place on more of a wild-cat basis. At some point during the day, locks may shut and no-one knows when that will be or how long the closure will last for. Typically it will be for around an hour and boats just have to wait. Apparently we can ring ahead to each lock and ask them if there is anything planned on the morning of the day we leave. We may be lucky and have a day with no strike action planned in our area, but if not we could be in for some slow and tedious cruising.
I have always assumed that strikes were held in protest against a specific event, rather than taking place on an annual basis regardless of what was happening politically. We have spoken to some of our French neighbours about this and they shrug their shoulders and say that the French people are never happy and so there is always something to strike about. They also say that they personally don’t agree with it and regret the general perception in Europe of the French people as always resorting to strikes. It is only a small percentage of the population who do this and yet they are all tarred with the same brush.
Some of you have asked where we are headed so here is a brief outline of our proposed route. I’ll preface this by saying it may change, indeed it has already as you will see. The one thing we have learnt above all others over the past three years is that too much forward planning is a waste of time – Plan A invariably moves on to Plan B, whether it is due to strikes, locks breaking down, water running low or, of course, a pandemic.
Plan A had been to head north through Belgium into the Netherlands, but with so much uncertainty over whether the virus will come back, and also because much of what we wanted to see in the Netherlands would have been in cities and museums with a lot of people around, we decided to postpone that for a year and stay in France. Plan B had been to go south along the Canal des Vosges but that is shut due to water shortages. It is supposed to open again at the end of June but we don’t want to wait that long and are not convinced that it will definitely open anyway.
Plan C had been to head east on the Canal de la Marne au Rhin, back towards Strasbourg, from where we would go up the Rhin (which is actually south-bound but we say ‘up’ as we are going against the flow – confusing I know). However we have just found out that the VNF have closed the first part of that route for lock maintenance until the end of June.
We are currently going with Plan D which is to head west on that same canal, despite rumours of the weed being so bad already this year that boats are struggling to get through, and once we reach Vitry-le-Francois we can decide whether we turn north to do a big loop via Paris, or head straight down the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne. We are aiming for Pont de Vaux just off the River Saone which we hope will be a suitable place to base ourselves for further exploration and also as a winter mooring for Olivia.
As you can see, we are already on Plan D and we haven’t even left yet! Who said this was a simple life?
Future blogs will depend upon a reliable Wifi signal so they may not come out every week as they have done to date. However, I will definitely keep blogging and sending pictures of what we find as we travel and those of you who are followers will get an automatic notification through when I do put a post up.
I hope you are all getting out and about a bit more, some more than others I know.
Take care and I’ll be in touch again soon.