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2012-May-17 - France Trip 2012 - Carcassone to Ecluse Fonfile (Thursday)
A fine calm morning progressing to rain and wind by the end of the day.

We were ready to leave at 9.30 - so after letting the harbour master know we moved in to the lock through the opened gates without any problems.

Some people from Hobart (in a neighbouring boat) held our ropes and chatted to us while we waited for a second boat to move in to the lock with us.

He told me a lot of reassuring things such as how bad everyone else is on their first day.

While we were waiting, Linda saw another boat leave its moorings, lose control and run its prow in to another boat at high speed. She was sure she saw a crack appear in the hull of the boat that was struck.

After this I didn't feel too bad about our level of expertise.

Looking at the canal guide that Nichols had given us, we worked out that we could comfortably reach Le Somail on time if we achieved "two pages" of travel in the guide each day.

This meant that if we reached Trebes that day we were on target and if we could possibly make Homps we were doing very well.

Our technique gradually became better during the day - I still did a lot of panicking and shouting at Linda but eventually we achieved a working rhythm.

Whenever we came in to a lock, or had to moor off while waiting for a lock to open - I would gently steer the boat in to the canal bank and throw it in to reverse at the last moment.

Then leaving the throttle in neutral I would climb over the front railings holding on the the prow rope.

While avoiding falling in to the canal I would hopefully jump on to dry land just as the boat nudged the bank.

I would then run a few metres forward to the bollard (if there was one) and tie the rope off firmly.

Meanwhile Linda would have come as far forward as possible along the side deck and would throw the stern rope to me from a short distance.

I would grab this and run to the back bollard, loop it around so it moved freely and pass the trailing end of the rope back to Linda who would secure it on the boat cleat.

At this point we might need to mess around for 30 seconds pulling on the ropes so that the boat was correctly positioned against the bank.

I would then run back to my front bollard, release the tight knot changing it to a sliding loop, climb back over the prow railing and tie off on the boat cleat.

This meant that if we were ready to enter the lock, or the lock levels were changing - we could release the boat from its moorings while standing on the boat.

By the end of the trip we almost looked like we knew what we were doing!

Around 3.00 in the afternoon we stopped for a late lunch at Trebes.

We tied up right outside a fish restaurant on the canal bank with many interested patrons watching avidly as I vainly struggled with the ropes.

The restaurant owner came out and helped us tie down.

After this we really felt obligated to eat there - but it turned out to be a very enjoyable meal anyway.

Around 5.00 pm we came to a lock called Ecluse Fonfile.

There was a boat already moored before the lock but we could not tell if they were tied up at the lock or waiting to go through.

We moored just in front of them and had a chat with them to see what their intentions were.

The locks were already set up for a downward descent so we were surprised when the lock operator decided to bring a boat up through the lock.

Once that happened, the boat before us pulled out in to the channel expecting to make a descent but the lock gates closed again and another boat started to be brought up from below.

We expected a delay of another 20 minutes but after half an hour there was no progress so we went to ask what was going on.

It turned out that there was an absolutely huge cruise canal boat in the lock.

It only had a metre or two of clearance at either end of the lock.

It appeared that there was a problem with the sluices in the lock.

Whenever the lock keeper activated the mechanism to open the sluices a huge jet of water hit the prow of the boat from the bottom of the sluice.

This was tumbling over the whole front deck and flooding the luxury bedrooms underneath.

They tried several times over the next two hours and a technician eventually turned up from the canal authority.

They only succeeded when the technician took a manual crank handle and manually opened a specific portion of the sluice gate.

The boat could finally move through the triple lock and exit in to the canal.

By now it was 7.30 pm - well after the lock keepers knock off time of 7.00 pm

I asked him in my best French if they intended to clear the back log of boats that had been waiting for the last few hours.

He said "non" and then in English "There is a limit!"

We accepted that we were not going to make any more progress that night and bunked down until the morning.


Ecluse Fonfile

Wall of water flooding the prow of luxury boat

The boat barely fits within the lock

An interested crowd gathers