May 3rd & 4th, Shelly & Wendells Canal Adventures

The Great Lock-keepers!

Monday, May 3rd

We left around 9am, heading into a day with 7 locks ascending to the Balesme Tunnel. This would be Wendell and Shelly’s first experience with a tunnel. Before we reached the Tunnel, we had a lock keeper that was assisting us with several locks and in-between two of the locks there was a swing bridge. As we waited in the canal for the lock keeper to open the swing bridge, we noticed that he was doing it manually with a heavy rope. Not much was happening and he seemed to be straining. We decided that the “men” could help and so I motored to the edge where Wendell and Ken got off the boat and ran to the aid of the lock keeper. He was very appreciatative and together the three managed to get the bridge open. I motored through with Shelly and we picked up the boys at the next lock. ( the lock keeper gave them a ride. Note Wendell waving in the truck!).

Approaching the tunnel we discussed with Wendell and Shelly how “easy” the tunnels had proven to be and how well lit they were, etc. The Tunnel Balesmes is 4820 meters ( 5 kms) with “traffic” lights to let us know it is ok to go. We discovered that the “automatic” motion censored lights inside the tunnel were not activated and consequently we were forced to have our spot-lights on and focused on the walls to make our way. The books will tell you to watch for debris in the tunnel, but we (Shelly) only observed dead animals that drowned in the tunnels. We finished the tunnel and at the summit then face 5 fast locks descending back down. We were kept busy and could not let our guard down for a minute.

After the Tunnel, we reached Piepape around 4:30 at a simple Halt Nautique with no “extras”. We walked to the town to discover that everything was closed. We had an early dinner and checked our plan for Tuesday’s route.

Fishing seems to be a way of life on the Canals!

Tuesday, May 4th

Woke up to cooler temps and light rain. Ken and Wendell walked for bakery and I boiled eggs for egg salad sandwiches we had planned for lunch. Today’s drama was the engine overheating and our having to “tie-up” with our stakes due to no mooring in the small canal. We missed the last lock we had planned to go through so we stayed for the night between the two locks. No official docking or mooring there but the stakes and our “gang-plank” worked well and we knew there would not be any boat traffic. We used the bike foot pump to clear the water intake valve of the clog. I had purchase a simple plastic foot pump for bikes and beach toys and it proved to be handy in this case. Pasta, wine and bakery bread for dinner. Boat was cold and the hot meal helped!

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