Saturday, 21 July 2018

Over the Continental Divide.

Day 33. Monday 16th July. Sun 30 degrees. Rowed 19 Kms to wild camp at pk 108.5 Chaumont. Now rowed 458.9kms Driven 605.1 miles Cycled 171 miles.

Day 34. Tuesday 17th July. Sun 30 degrees. Rowed 21 Kms to wild camp at lock 14 Pommeray pk 130. Now rowed 480kms, driven 623.5 miles and Cycled 184 miles.

Day 35. Wednesday 18th July. Sun 30 degrees. Rowed 19 Kms to pk 149 and drove around tunnel Balesmes. Now rowed 499 Kms, Driven 653.6 miles and Cycled 190 miles.

Day 36. Thursday 19th July. Sun 30 degrees. Rowed 12 Kms (15 locks) to Camping pk174 Dommarien. Now rowed 511 kms, driven 665.9 miles, cycled 190 miles.

Day 37. Friday 20th July. To Martigny. Sun 30 degrees then thunder storm. Rowed 18 Kms (12 locks). Now rowed 529 Kms, Driven 690.8 miles, Cycled 196 miles.

Day 38. Saturday 21st July. Cloudy 20 degrees. In Martigny campsite (No WiFi) rest day.

Today is Saturday 21st July and we are happy to be installed on the remote, run down campsite of Martigny. The weather broke yesterday morning with a half an hour of thunder and vicious squalls ( but thankfully no rain) the wind strong enough for me to put full weight on the oars and barely make way. Knowing more was to come I kept pulling hard and for the first time since we started helped by a small bit of current so was able to pull out and tow Oggi to the camping by 3pm. By early evening we were sitting out torrential rain/ice, constant lightning and all the trimmings of full on storm.

That said, far too much has happened since I last had time to update our experiences to be covered in this necessarily brief update. Suffice to say considerable progress has been made with the most important being that although not yet reached the halfway mark we have finally crossed the Continental divide where water flows South rather than North. Haute Marne connects into Cote d'Or by way of the 5 km plus 6km approach of the Balesmes Tunnel through which it is considered too dangerous for me to row so unfortunately we must add another 11 Kms to the distance to be made up when possible.

The last few days to the tunnel were strenuous but fast, commencing with an interesting contre temps with an irate eclusier who suggested that we had broken his locks. We think it turned out to be some sort of electrical fault so once it was sorted out in true French fashion, he directed that we should be accompanied by a VNF worker for the rest of the time in his area of command. We feared the worst, but the next day we were introduced to a charming group of students VNF had taken on for the holiday period. They were a joy to be with and worked enthusiastically to give us an easy passage. Some, though willing, gave every indication of being unused to the heavy manual labour involved in opening sluices and gates by hand. My rowing was also tested to the full keeping up with two motor boats between locks for some of the journey. Fortunately they were both understanding but their exhaust fumes at the bottom of the locks were choking.

From the exit of the tunnel it is 64 Kms to the Petit Saone river, passing through 42 locks and dropping overall 153 meters. The first eight locks drop 41 meters in just five kilometers. Quite an experience with fantastic views over open countryside.
Sara is kept very busy dashing back and forth activating sensors at each end of the locks, taking my lines and using the operating handle in the middle for much of the time. On other occasions I do it myself when access is difficult for her, she is shopping for supplies or performing some other essential service. I then have to make sure I leap back in to Oggi before she sinks down into the void. At least half the sensor boxes are home to colonies of wasps which can make life very interesting!

We have to keep the canal control informed of our location at start/ stop/ finishing times, as do all other craft. Again, what a nice co operative bunch they are. We are immediately entered into their computerized systems and if everything goes according to plan chains of locks can be programmed to be prepared for your arrival once Sara has telephoned them. For the most part everyone complies, but there are a few like the German gin palace yesterday which ignored the red light from the lock I had just left and only a desperate hard astern saved him from being crushed by the closing doors. Then there was a Swiss 40 footer who made a dash for the lock I had already set in operation and it's wash pushed Oggi away from the lock side just as I was getting in.

It is not all laughs though. In one lock I was asked to help the frantic resident of the lock house to search around for her 3 month old Boxer puppy, missing for the past couple of hours. Sadly I did not find him.

We should be into the Petit Saone river by Monday and still don't have permission to use the locks or any response from our email so it could get challenging next week. I am sure we will find a way around it somehow!!

Uploaded on 3g. Pictures will follow when we have WiFi.

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