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.

Monday, 22 May 2017

15th - 18th May 2017. On through the villages of Cusey, Piépape and Heuilly-Cotton to reach the summit of the Champagne – Burgundy canal.

At Cusey we met two French cruisers, going the other way. There have been very few boats moving on this canal. They arrived just before we did, but squeezed up to make room for us as soon as they saw us coming. When I thanked him for this, he replied, « C'est naturelle », which was very nice.

Cusey church is unusual, with this circular part at the east end.

There are several old houses in Cusey like this one, with the barn built into the house.

By contrast, this is part of a new development in the village.

The Champagne to Burgundy canal is very attractive, with tree lined sections alternating with views over the wide countryside.

The River Vingeanne has run alongside the canal, all the way from the River Saône, but is quite shallow here, as we are nearer to its source. Shannon thinks that it is a great place to retrieve sticks!

The church at Piépape has an unusual round tower.
The last eight locks up to the summit are all 5.12 metres deep, but are so gentle that we are not using any ropes at all. All that Shannon and I have to do when we get there is to lift the blue rod to activate the lock.
We are moored at Heuilly-Cotton village, on the summit level at a height of 1116 feet 4 inches above sea-level. This is about twice as high as Standedge tunnel in the English Pennines! This is an attractive village, with many large properties.

Balesmes tunnel lies ahead of us. This tunnel, like most in France, is one way only. It is 4820 metres long.

There are lights throughout the length of the tunnel. Fifteen seconds after passing each green light, all the white lights behind us go out, so then that looks very black!

It was raining before the tunnel, but this end is quite dry.

This heron sat quietly, watching us pass by close to him. He does not see us as any threat.

Friday, 19 May 2017

6th - 14th May 2017 Games on the boats, then the Marché de Fleurs at Auxonne. Off the River Saône on to the Champagne à Burgundy canal, visiting various small villages on our way.

We brought the flowers into the cratch for three days at Auxonne, while it rained, and rained. Meanwhile we spent the time, either on Lumacona or The Puzzler, both socialising and playing cards and all sorts of other games too, with Caroline and Peter. We were sad to leave them.

The cathedral in Auxonne is having a face-lift, and looks much lighter in colour than it did when we last saw it.
The 8th of May was the Marché de Fleurs. There was a street market, with a great many bedding plants and other flowers for sale. We heard a band, but could not find it anywhere, which was not surprising, as the sound was coming from speakers, spread throughout the centre of Auxonne!      However, there was a parade of soldiers, gendarmes and here we see the pompiers (firemen), who marched better than all of the others.

Moving on up the river, we visited Pontailler-sur-Saône.

The lavoir here is in working order, and Andy can be seen winding the chain, thus lifting the wooden platform which hangs over the river.
Soon after the next lock, it is a sharp left on to the Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne. This canal used to be called the Canal de la Marne à la Saône, and still is, by many boaters! We entered the first lock, where we should automatically be given our own telecommand box but, as was the case in July 2015, when we were here last, nothing worked. Eventually Monsieur VNF arrived to help, and gave us our box. An inexperienced German yacht joined us in the lock while we were waiting, so we locked up two locks with them. Their skipper was rather uncomplimentary about our use of one rope with the engine, not realising that our using two ropes with no engine on a 16 ton steel boat, with overlapping boats, would have been bad news for them!

We stopped first in Maxilly village, where a fellow boater kindly gave me a spare marigold plant. Then it was on to Renève, where as usual nothing was open. We liked this house though.

With the flowers now quite happily back on the roof, the Viaduc d'Oisilly can be seen behind us. It is 293 metres long and was built in 1886-7.

Mooring near to Beaumont-sur-Vingeanne, we completed a circular walk through two villages, but the castle is only open to visitors in July and August.

These turrets in the farmhouses are most attractive, and we saw these in both Beaumont and in Dampierre-et Flée.

Our mooring here looked out over open fields. Yes, this is the towpath – most of them are of this quality in this part of France.

Shannon has a new place to travel, on top of the long coiled rope, on the bows of The Puzzler. This rope is used when going up locks.

The donkey on the left is as big as the horses, being a French Poitou donkey.

Some of the lock houses on this canal are uninhabited, so Andy is taking a quick look inside.

Another wild mooring – at least the bows are well in!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

29th April - 6th May 2017. On to Fragnes, then up the Saône to Saint-Jean-de-Losne, before moving on to Auxonne, meeting our friends at every port.

We caught up with other boats at Fragnes, joining (from the left) Caroline, Andy, Peter, Rachel, Bill, Jane and Jake there. Another late evening, with some people dancing the night away!

Shannon will accept Trigger if she is safe on Andy's knee.
We moved off early on Tuesday with Quaintrelle, to stop at the shopping mooring for Leclerc, on the outskirts of Chalons-sur-Saône. Where the metal edging of the mooring here leans out towards the canal, it has been infilled with concrete, so at least there is no gap!

The rain started just as we went out on to the Saône, but Shannon didn't want to be inside. The rain is too heavy for some of our plants.

Once the rain cleared, the river looked more inviting.

We moored at Gergy, then on to a rural spot at Chazelle, which we found last year.

Walking round this small village, I thought this wall needed a helping hand!

On Thursday we moved on to Saint-Jean-de-Losne. Beyond the trip boat, the next five boats all overwintered in Roanne!

The Puzzler can be seen outside Catherine Clark, where Jake and Rachel have all three dogs near at hand.
We are leaving Aileen and Mike here too, with Quaintrelle, though we will no doubt see them again, later this year.

Dare I go any nearer? Most boats have dogs.

Friday was a lovely day, with all the trees looking really green.

Mooring outside Lumacona at Auxonne, there was a superb sunset.

Monday, 1 May 2017

17th - 28th April 2017. Having eventually descended Bourg-le-Comte lock, we continued on to Digoin, joining the Canal du Centre there. Then it was on to Génelard where narrowboat Quaintrille joined us. Continuing on the Canal de Centre to Savernay.

Bourg-le-Comte lock should have had its new gates fitted two weeks ago, but they are now ready to use, although there is still work to do round the lock
On Monday morning we went into the lock, which was then emptied. It is a very deep lock.
Madame Eclusier then tried, and tried, to open the bottom gates, but failed. Eventually the lock was refilled and we backed out, to return to our place above the lock. I then had to walk round to the other side to retrieve Shannon, who had hopped off in the lock while we were busy minding The Puzzler! A couple of hours later we were again in the lock, with a hireboat too, while the bottom gates still were not opening. They attached some webbing strapping from the top of the right hand gate to the crane, and winched it tight. Monsieur Eclusier climbed on top of the gates to drive a wedge in, and forced the gates open. The problem was that the wooden seal between the two gates had swollen in the water, and it seemed that the winding gear had then been damaged by enthusiastic use! It was a relief to be able to continue.
At Digoin we walked by the river Loire, where the vegetation caught on this tree shows how high the floods were last year.
Sailing on over the aqueduct.
At Génelard we were joined by narrowboat Quaintrille, with Aileen and Mike on board.
After a pleasant evening on Quaintrille, we shared locks on Sunday.
There are some commercial boats on this canal, making a narrowboat look very small.
We are about to be eaten by this crocodile-type lift bridge!
We moored here at Montchanin with Debbie at the same time last year. The reservoir for the canal is reassuringly full, after a dry spring.
Our flowers are now in the big pots, but have to come inside at night still, because of the frosts. It was minus 2.6 last night, but the days are really warm. Here we are starting down the Mediterranée locks.
This last week has been one social whirl! After a pleasant evening with Jake and Rachel at Saint-Julien-sur-Dheune, we moved on to Saint-Léger-sur-Dheune, mooring by Owlpen apartment. First it was a quick(ish) drink with Gill and David there, then back to The Puzzler where Aileen and Mike joined us for the evening. Next day we caught up with them at Santenay.
On Friday we walked down to Santenay, then up through the vineyards on the other side of the valley. Every possible part of the hillside is used for more vines. They are just starting to grow.
Further on, Santenay can be seen below the vineyards.
We have reached our destination! After only one wrong turn, where the windmill was hidden behind a tree, it just took two hours to get here. It seems to be in good condition, although it is not currently in use.
We walked back down the road and then everyone had a much needed rest.
Later on Jake and Rachel arrived on Catherine Clark, and we all had a very enjoyable evening round the picnic table. Trigger and Shannon are becoming friends, though he is more enthusiastic than she is. Our pre-dinner drinks lasted until 10.30 pm!