Friday, 29 June 2018

Making Progress!

Making Progress!

Monampteuil 02000

Day 11. Sunday 24th June. Sun and clouds 22 degrees. Rowed 19 km To Frise pk 43.5 Rowed 122.5 Driven 201.3 miles Cycled 58.5 miles 

Day 12 Monday 25th June. Sun 26 degrees. Rowed 26.5 Kms to Bethancourt at pk 63.8 Canal du Nord. Rowed 149 km Driven 224.8 Cycled 68.5

Day 13. Tuesday 26th June. Sun 26 degrees. Rowed 11.2 km to tunnel at pk 75. Wild camped at tunnel relaunch bridge at pk 81. Rowed 160.2km Driven 261.3 miles Cycled 68.5 miles

Day 14. Wednesday 27th June. Sun 30 degrees. Rowed 24kms to pk 8 on Canal Lateral a l'Oise. Rowed 184 Kms Driven 284.8 miles Cycled 70 miles

Day 15. Thursday 28th June. Sun 30 degrees. Rowed 19 Kms to pk 14 Canal de l'Oise a l'Aisne. Lifted out and drove to camping at Monampteuil. Rowed 203 Kms Driven 325 miles

Day 16 Friday 29th June. Sun 33 degrees. In Monampteuil. Rest day. Washing, cooking, cleaning, bunkering and blog.

Oh joy, the punishing current has finally decreased to the extent that I am able to lift the  milage more towards our planned target. We are now into an even more beautiful part of this lovely winding river. The water is crystal clear with waving weed easily seen beneath Oggi and a sight of occasional fish in between. The only trouble ( big) is acres of the bloody stuff on the surface making rowing difficult. 

Fishermen are also a hazard, some with rods of 20 feet or more reaching half way across the river. Their attitudes range all the way from friendly encouragement to outright offensive aggression. The size of their bellies and the quantity of their equipment seems to be a good indicator, just as our skiing friends will recognise on the slopes! Others though give a cheery wave and offer help whenever if may be needed.

Monday saw us clear the River Somme with a couple of eclusiers waving us on our way into the Canal du Nord. What a difference! From this dream of a river with their excellent organisation and friendly and helpful staff into a commercial canal with regular barges of 120 feet and pusher tugs up to 240 feet. At the first lock I entered with a green light showing, no response from the woman in the control tower, climbed 4 meters up a muddy ladder with line over shoulder, the woman watched and then went to lunch, I got the message. From then on we lifted out before, portaged and put back in after with our permission from VNF to use these locks kept in our pockets.

By Wednesday approaching the last lock a frightening double of 6.5 meter locks with a short rowing gap between, I sprinted for 4 Kms to keep up with a Dutch boat to share his lock. It was very hard work but otherwise I had a couple of kilometres of portage. The body certainly felt it though. Round the corner into Canal Lateral a l'Oise was frustratingly a traditional French bar on the bend with shouts of Bon Courage and a lift of glasses from the patrons. I now encountered 1 km/hr of current and a very strong Easterly head wind. After my previous efforts I am aching everywhere. It is now a forest on both sides with no stopping places. Just as well as I could be easily tempted. I put myself under London Bridge in a Fishmongers Cup Race with Don Bartliff ( Boom Boom, as he was known by his voice ) screaming " we've left the Navy and Marines behind let's get the LFB ( London Fire Brigade)" and just kept pulling in 30 degrees temperature. Finally Sara helped me out of the boat some miles later to portage around the lock to her wild camping spot.

Almost fully recovered the next morning I was away by 8 am to row the 5km to the junction with the Canal de l'Oise a l'Aisne, while Sara went back to the previous lock to negotiate the loan of a Telecommande to open the next 13 automatic locks to come. The two male VNF operatives were initially unhelpful however a VNF lady (herself a skiff rower) argued our case and with Sara's and Sally's charm won the day and we got the Telecommande although it led to over an hours delay. Another 45 minutes was lost due to an arrogant peniche skipper who hogged the lock while he filled his water tanks leading to us losing distance. Boy, was that beer and shower appreciated when we reached the campsite and better still the day off today!

Just a word about the river Somme though. This lovely river has every facility a canoeist could require with special pontoons along the way. For the cyclist there is an excellent paved cycle path. There is history, places of interest and wildlife to satisfy all interests and above all, the staff are just so pleasant and helpful. All this is totally underused and only 30 miles from the Newhaven Dieppe ferry.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Triple Celebrations!

                                                             Triple celebrations!!
Chipilly, 80800

Day 6. Tuesday 19th June. Overcast 24'c Rowed 13 Kms to pk 102  Wild camped at  Ailly.  Rowed 55.2 km. Sara driven 126.7 miles and cycled 48.5 miles


Day 7. Weds 20th June. Overcast 24'c Rowed 13.5 Kms to pk 89.2. Camped Corbie. Rowed 77km. Sara driven 152.5 miles and cycled 58.5 miles. 

Day 8 Thursday 21st June. Sun and clouds 24'c Rowed 14.2kms to pk 74.5. Rowed 91kms. Sara driven 173 and cycled 58.5 miles.

Day 9 Friday 22nd June. Sun and clouds.24'c Gusting wind. Camped  Chipilly pk 62.5.    Rowed 12km to pk 62.5.Rowed 113kms. Sara driven 184.5 and cycled 64 miles

Day 10 Saturday 23rd June Sun and clouds 20'c. At Chipilly. Rest day.

A triple celebration day today!!! It is our wedding anniversary, we both get a much needed rest, and finally I have experienced a considerable reduction yesterday in the punishing current of the river.

Today will give us the chance to catch up on all those chores which have been neglected, such as writing this blog, laundry, repairing, etc, etc. Although no Anniversary restaurant exists in the beautiful village of Chipilly, 3 km back along the river looks like a likely place to walk to for a pleasant lunchtime celebration meal.

Gosh though, it really has been seriously hard graft and in some areas with a current running up to 5 or 6 km/hr, beyond my skill grade. Consequently in most places it has been a matter of crawling up through the weed, fallen or overhanging trees, mud or old jetties up either side, hiding behind bytes of the river and as a last resort, if the bank permits, hauling out and dragging.

In one area, I made 5 attempts to ride through a whirlpool under a bridge and spun off at the last moment each time. At another Sara researching ahead threw a stick into the heaving white water and watched it be dragged under so I pulled Oggi out before reaching it and portaged. At another I did get through but took half an hour to do so and bent my first rowlock in the process. I could go on but I am sure you get the picture. At such times I just grit my teeth and thought of the many times Don Bartliff my rowing mate and trainer of many years swore at we whaler crew as he bullied us through London Bridge against a Spring ebb and west wind. For that (and many others) this paragraph is dedicated to him and I hope that one of you old Oglers will pass this sentiment on to him through his nursing home, please.

The locks can also be interesting although the River Somme only falls 80 meters over it's 245 km length it is fed by many Etangs and tributaries. For the most part the rise is comparatively small, however some do have lifts of 6 meters or more. For some we lift out and tow Oggi around but for the larger ones where exit is difficult I face the maelstrom of white water and get bounced around like a flat out skier down a mogul field. 

I confess to being flattered by an eclusier (lock keeper) who reckoned I was "real cool"! Generally, all these eclusiers have been most professional and co operative even though they clearly regard me as a complete nutcase having never seen the likes before.

Sara has been working equally as hard planning, organising pitching and re packaging camp and generally not having nearly enough hours in the day. She has to find her way through remote areas, down narrow lanes while still getting the shopping and keeping an eye on Sally. Not bad eh for a girl who has probably driven no more than a couple of thousand miles in the past 3 decades!

Oh yes, in between all the trials, tribulations and shrugging off the many aches pains and blisters the rowing is quite gorgeous on this lovely rural river and after enjoying my much improved speed yesterday as a result of the decreased current I might even get to enjoy it.

Hot weather is now being forecast which might make rowing less pleasant. Anticipate 4 or 5 days of rowing before the next report, and hope that we will now catch up on lost time with greater daily distance.

From our wedding day onwards, (the day before which we discovered the travel agent had failed to book the honeymoon) we have endured an almost annual litany of best laid plans failing. Today was no exception. We walked the 3.5 km river bank to the apparently quaint lock side restaurant and found it to be the French equivalent of Faulty Towers. On entry we were greeted with Gaullic scorn, a lecture on the collapse of the French economy and the unreliability of his patrons so no food for us today. We just had a beer but when I checked the change was told I was as bad as President Macron. Thankfully Sara has prepared for the eventuality and laid on a spread to delight within minutes of our return to the van.

Monday, 18 June 2018

                                         Recovery day!
Long, 80510

First 4 days, cumulative milage.
 Rowed 41 kms ( pk156 to pk 115),
 Sara driven 111miles, cycled 29miles

A much appreciated day off to celebrate Sara's birthday. Unfortunately the only restaurant in the village is closed on Monday so it will be a make do with our last treasured bottles of English bitter. After 4 days of rowing, including trials and the short row to the sea lock and back on the first day, it is sore hands, shoulders, and above all bum!

First day row to the sea lock

We always knew the Somme was likely to be one of the hardest bits of the journey, but 3 weeks of heavy rains (now finished thankfully) has created an hearty current to the sea of up to 4/5 km/h in places. Since my best rowing is only 5/6 km/h it has been hard graft cheating the strongest by rowing close to the steep bank through weeds on the south side or overhanging or fallen trees on the north. We passage planned on 20/25km per day but have barely achieved half of that so far.

                                                The lock at Abbeville

In one stretch it was unrowable meaning I dragged out and lugged Oggi 3k along the towpath which fortunately is well maintained as a cycle track.
                                                               Long lock
The lock system is proving erratic. Lock keepers dash up and down in cars to see you through but require a firm arrival time (based on motor boat average speed of 7.5k), which, of course I can not give. Although working well occasionally, most of the time it is a lift out and portage with Sara & Sally's assistance (they usually arrive by bike along the towpath).

The flip side though is good weather so far and the beautiful river banks of reed and lilly, freely spattered with poppy and a fresia type flower. Birdwise it is an ornithologists paradise, particularly at present with so many protective mums with their clutches of chirping chicks. The innumerable big bellied French fishermen are certainly the noisiest of the wild life of the river. Casting their lines out to the middle, forcing me out into the fastest current and clucking and screeching like trapped hens if I go remotely close. I now look forward to the next 4 days of testing rowing until our next day off on Saturday for our wedding anniversary. Just stopping to fill a drink of water can thrust me back 100m or more and landing places rare so my next post will probably not be until the 23rd for obvious reasons. Hopefully by then the current and my blisters may have diminished a bit and my rowing muscles improved!!!!

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Leaving home!!

We are underway at last!  We are leaving shortly for the afternoon ferry.

Loading Oggi

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Diet and Exercise in Old Age