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2012-May-15 - France Trip 2012 - 1st lock disaster, Carcassone port (Tuesday)
A fine calm morning quickly progressing to very windy by mid morning.

It was a beautiful morning moored at the canal bank in Brahm.

We sat out on the front deck of the boat and ate our breakfast.

I have to admit - I booked the boat 9 months ago and with the pressure of work for clients, I had completely omitted to do any homework - ie read the instruction manuals or review where we were going.

Linda was keen to get going and didn't want to waste time with our heads in an instruction manual so we set off in ignorance hoping for the best.

We approached the first lock just after Brahm.

The last time I had been on a canal boat was in England 28 years ago.

There - you just approached the lock, jumped off the bank at the lock, operated the lock, went through and changed the levels yourself.

In my ignorance I chugged up to the lock expecting to operate it myself.

The next thing I knew was there was a french lock operator lady yelling at me to back up.

It turns out I should have moored 50 metres back up the canal and waited for the lock operator to do their thing.

A strong wind had come up, and combined with my total lack of boating skill, I was unable to back the boat up at all.

Fortunately, a very helpful gentleman in the boat behind us took over control of the boat and then held ropes while the lock was opened and guided us through.

The lock operator was very angry with us and I felt like a total moron.

I noticed her phone through to the next lock operator - probably to tell them that a total dickhead, english speaking tourist was coming through.

After the drama of our first lock, we chugged on for another couple of kilometres until we were opposite a town called Villesequalande and tied up to the canal bank using our pegs.

Linda was starting to fret about not having all the supplies we needed so we jumped on our bikes and pedalled a kilometre in to town only to find that everything was shut for the midday siesta.

Empty handed, we rode back and stayed moored at the side of the canal for the next hour while we carefully read the instruction manuals.

The next few towns along the canal looked rather small and distant from the canal. We decided that we would attempt to make it all the way to Carcassonne that night and seek supplies.

We went through a single, a double and then another two single locks to reach Carcassonne around 5.00 pm.

Fortunately the supermarket was open until 7.00 pm so we were able to stock up on supplies.

Also, anyone mooring in the protected harbour and paying the 17 EU fee is entitled to use the shower / toilet block and connect to water and electricity at the mooring point.

Linda was dismayed at the amount of mould in the shower stalls and preferred to use the funny little shower on the boat.

I was just happy to use a big robust ordinary shower and wasn't at all concerned about the organisms growing on the tiles.

We did a lot of motoring that day - possibly 7 hours all up.

Let me make a few observations about canal boating.

  1. When a boat is stationary - it has no steering
  2. When reversing, a boat has almost no steering.
  3. When reversing in a wind, a boat has absolutely no steering.
  4. The persons most likely to be shouting helpful instructions is a person who has no idea that the boat has no steering
  5. The male brain lines up a course of action, commits to the action, starts calculating the actions required and is unable to change the chain of events at the last moment.
  6. The female brain thinks nothing of saying things like "No - don't moor there, go a further 5 metres up" or "Now go to 3 metres sideways - why aren't you moving 3 metres sideways"
  7. Your wife at the back of boat, or helpful strangers on shore, have absolutely no idea of the mechanics being required to manoeuvre the boat and it is safer if you totally shut them out of your awareness
  8. In the middle of highly urgent actions - such as attempting to stop a large expensive boat crashing in to a canal bank or attempting to control a boat in high wind standing on your own on the canal edge pulling on two ropes, or trying to stop the boat rotating across and blocking the entire canal - your partner can be relied upon to say highly relevant things such as :
    "Oh - my laundry just fell down" or
    "Stop panicking" or
    "Shouldn't that line be above the rail." or
    "Do we really need to tie the stern off as well"
  9. When having to manipulate the throttle to achieve a low impact contact with the bank, run to the prow to jump off with a rope, calculate in your mind whether you will fall in the water or reach the shore - you can rely on your partner to shout out something helpful such as "Oy - don't fall in the water" - causing you to baulk and very nearly fall in the water.

Needless to say - some very terse words were uttered that day and we were lucky to still be married by the end of the week.