These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over eight years now and are still loving it. Our Ulster born Shih Tzu, Shannon, has grown up, and has taken over the boat! After three wonderful years in Ireland, we transported The Puzzler to The Netherlands, and spent a year there. In 2015 we went southwards, to reach the north of France by June. After glorious weather throughout the summer, we arrived in Roanne in late October, and enjoyed our winter in this friendly port. We cruised extensively in France in 2016, returning to Roanne for a second winter.


Sunday, 15 October 2017

1st - 12th October 2017. After Beffes we walked by the River Allier, then crossed it on the aqueduct at Le Guetin. A visit to friends at Nevers, then on along the Canal Latéral à la Loire to find more friends at Beaulon. Finally on to Pierrefitte for our winter's wood.

We moored at Beffes, hoping to top up our water, and to have electricity overnight. However it is now October, and they have both been turned off for the winter!


These little red beetles seem very happy here.


It is a good walk down by the river Allier, from Le Guetin. The aqueduct behind us is a splendid structure.


Shannon was more interested in retrieving her stick!

The staircase lock at Le Guetin leads us up to the aqueduct. We need our longest rope at the bows for the bottom lock here.

As we cross the aqueduct, the river Allier is far below us. Shannon has had a trim, so she wears her lifejacket each morning to keep her warm.


A most impressive aqueduct.
We went down to Nevers to visit friends, who had been in Roanne with us last winter. It was a really good day, with a game of quilles too.


We were sad to say au revoir.


Is this a Praying Mantis? He came to visit us, but had little to say!


We have had several wild moorings on the canal Latéral à la Loire.


That evening we were treated to a lovely sunset.


It is nice to see a few more boats about. Two boats going up in a lock is OK, so long as we are all careful.
Another wild mooring underneath an oak tree. The only disadvantage of this was that the acorns fell on the roof of the boat throughout the night, which was a little noisy!
Moving on to Beaulon, we found six boats already there! However our friends invited us alongside, and we had a lovely evening with them the next night.
After that it was on to Pierrefitte for our winter's fuel. We could choose our wood this time, and it was then cut, and delivered to The Puzzler within 24 hours. Now all we have to do is lift it on to the boat!

Monday, 2 October 2017

18th - 30th September 2017. Along the Canal de Loing and the Canal de Briare, to join the Canal Latéral à la Loire. We harvest walnuts and sloes, but buy wine in Monetréol-sous-Sancerre.


To the south of Souppes the Canal de Loing has a very attractive section through the trees.

By lunchtime Sally is on the roof again, collecting some more walnuts.
The bottom gates at lock 35 have been damaged by a peniche, which must have come up underneath the walkway. It was lucky that he did not lift the gates too!

The approach to Montargis reminded us of Utrecht, in The Netherlands. We are now on the Canal de Briare.


At last we have found some sloes! Andy is going to patent our “sloe pricker”, which makes the job much quicker than by using the forks.


Shannon has spotted a cat in a tree by a lock.
We had to wait over lunchtime at Rogny-les-Sept-Ecluses. The mooring on the other side was a bad height for us, but this side was shallow, so the plank did a good job. The swans were very hungry.

These are the original seven locks of Rogny, while the new flight of six, starting to the right here, each rise over 4 metres.

We had a proper walk round Briare this time. We were here two years ago, but did not stay here then. The church of St. Etienne is lovely.

The rose window, situated behind the organ, is very unusual in that it shows all the signs of the zodiac.

We are leaving the Canal de Briare as we cross the aqueduct to join the Canal Latéral à la Loire.

The river Loire is far below the canal here. We will travel near to the Loire all the way to Roanne.


Forty kilometres further on, we find vines again, near to Sancerre.
Monétréol-sous-Sancerre is an old village in the heart of the vineyards, with wine 'caves' to see. Both the ones we visited were based in farmyards, but we preferred the wine tasting room of Lepresle, which was a basic outbuilding of the farm. His wine tasted better too!

Looking back towards Monétréol, the hill town of Sancerre can be seen above it. We visited Sancerre in early September two years ago, and really enjoyed it.


Someone needs a haircut!


By the weekend the sun was hot enough for sunbathing, although the mooring was a little rural.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

11th - 17th September 2017. Off to Northumberland for my niece, Emily and David's wedding.


A couple of days cruising took us to Souppes-sur-Loing, where Andy and Shannon were to wait for me.
On Friday I was off to the north of  Northumberland, where the scenery is wonderful. I am here for my niece's wedding tomorrow. This is the superb view from my bedroom window, where I am staying with my cousins.




Here is my niece, Emily, and her new husband, David, in the Threshing Barn at Doxford Barns. These barns have been renovated and make a great place for a wedding, being full of character.


The bridegroom's family photo just beat the rain.


However, the bride and her family kept dry, here in the Great Hall!


Cousin Oliver watches my brother, John, with his daughters Emily, the bride and Harriet, her chief bridesmaid.

Back at Doddington, the three cousins, Oliver, Sally and Jonathan are in the orchard. It has been such a good weekend, catching up on family news.


A long-time family friend, Susan, was staying at the house too, which was great fun.

Meanwhile Shannon is working on her best photographic smile, as she and Andy have spent a quiet few days at Souppes.

Monday, 11 September 2017

3rd - 10th September 2017. On to Meaux, still on the river Marne, and on to Lagny-sur-Marne. In Paris we turned left on to the river Seine, then upstream to join the river Loing at St. Mammes.

When we arrived in Meaux, there were five boats here, including Puddleduck and Oribi, but the others all left us! We hear that the Marne is to close at the end of this week for three weeks, which is a surprise. There is still plenty of time to get to the river Seine though.

From Meaux we were on the Canal de Meaux à Chalifert, which runs alongside the Marne. We managed to pick over 400 walnuts there, mostly from the roof of The Puzzler.
Our next mooring, back on the River Marne, was Lagny-sur-Marne, which was an important centre for the Resistance in northern France during the second World War. The bridges from the quay to the jetty are apparently removed in winter, which is a nuisance for continuous cruisers.

We visited the 13th century abbey of Notre Dame des Argents , which was also visited by Joan of Arc in 1430. It is interesting how the houses here are built directly on to the abbey.


The sun is shining in through all the stained glass windows, and reflecting on to the pillars.



The pictures are painted on to the glass in these older stained glass windows.




We were told that these windows are more recent, with each piece of glass being a different colour.

While on the next canal section, a barge, carrying containers, filled the waterway. Barges do not seem so big out on the main river.

Back on the Marne, we are now in the outskirts of Paris, with trees everywhere, and some very fine houses to be seen.


As we approach the River Seine, this sand barge is a sign of things to come!

The junction of the rivers Marne and Seine is dominated by this enormous Chinese restaurant. We have just come down the Marne, from the left, and are now going up the Seine, to the right of the restaurant.
The Seine is built up for a long way upstream from Paris, but this mooring, just 20 kilometres from the junction, was recommended to us by friends. A mini oasis amid the houses!



Further on, there are many smart houses along the banks.


There are also large communities of residential barges.


When the wind blows, it can be quite bleak out on this river!


I think that Endurance is the largest barge we have seen on the Seine.
However, Exelmans comes a close second. He swung his stern in to the bank behind us, and then quickly off-loaded his car with his own crane, before continuing. He left his wife with the car, throwing the car keys to her, across on the bank. Luckily, he could throw well, and they did not end up in the river!

After we had moored above the lock at Bois-le-Roi, a double barge squeezed in behind us. There was just room for him, or rather, them! They were a pair of barges lashed together, with one pushing the other. The captain craned their car off the barge VG, ready for an evening out.


There was an interesting sunset over the lock that evening.

Next day we completed our journey on the Seine, turning on to the river Loing at St. Mammes, to moor at Moret-sur-Loing. Last June this mooring was under water.


Moret is upstream from the mooring and the town bridge crosses the river Loing here.

Moret was badly flooded last June, as can be seen by the height of the water level, marked by the red arrow, well above Andy's head, by the town bridge.


50 yards upstream of the bridge, to the right of a small island, would not have been the place to stand then!