Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Tranquillity and a Force 8 Gale

The Canal linking Digoin and Roanne is known as “The Tranquil Canal” and is certainly lives up to its name. The majority of the canal passes through countryside and farm land taking in a few small towns and villages along the way.

There were very few other boats, which we put down to it being towards the end of the season, but have since discovered is due to various French governmental departments ignoring each other.

The lack of boats, particularly hire boats, is apparently due to the large amount of weed in the canal. In France the navigable rivers and canals are managed by VNF – they operate the locks, maintain the canals and keep everyone moving, and the non-navigable rivers are the responsibility of the state.

At Roanne the Loire (non-navigable, therefore a state responsibility) is linked to the end of the canal (navigable, therefore a VNF responsibility). The Loire is full of weed and some of this passes into the canal. Well, quite a lot of it. So much so that the hire boat operators have all told their clients that if they want to go to Roanne and their propeller gets full of weed, the boater must pay for the repair.

So, they don’t come. VNF seem to spend a lot of time pulling weed out, but every day more comes in and the state apparently is unwilling to spend any money on a barrier which would allow water through but stop the weed.

And due to this a really nice marina is nearly empty in the summer, small towns and villages along the way have no tourist traffic and it contributes to the shops and cafes closing, which is very sad.

Roanne marina is full all winter; it’s a very popular winter mooring place and we are really enjoying being here. Some residents are year-round on big converted peniches and some, like us, just moor up in the winter.

The view from our boat looking back towards the canal
The weather has mainly been very good, still in the mid-20’s until the middle of last week, but we did have two nights with force 8 gales, which were less fun. We are tightly tied up, but the boat still moves around a bit, plus you have the sound of the water slapping again the steel hull, which didn’t make for a very restful night. Emma didn’t notice a thing and slept right through!
The view from our boat looking towards the end of the marina
There is a lot to do and see in Roanne, plus the marina social life, so there is no time to be bored, despite being in the same place for longer than at any time since we left home in the late spring. So far we have been to two parties, had guests from other boats visit us, visited the annual food festival, the Charolais Cow Fair and been to the circus, amongst other things.

The circus set up at the end of the marina last weekend and we decided to go, hoping that Emma would be able to sit still all the way through (which she pretty much did; only getting fidgety towards the end of the second half). I’m not a big fan of circuses myself; I don’t like clowns and don’t enjoy performing animals, which they still have here.

However, I did enjoy quite a lot of this show, particularly the acrobatic displays. Some of the animal performances made me uncomfortable, particularly the elephants, but the animals did appear to be in good health and well cared for. Oddly, the animals which didn’t worry me were the tigers, I just found myself thinking “Oh well, if they get fed up they can always eat their keeper”. Probably not the response the ring-master was hoping for.

Amar's Circus, picture taken from our boat
The Charolais Cow Fair was a very big hit with Emma, partly because going there meant a trip on the bus each way, and she loves buses.

A prize winning Charolais
As you’d expect, there were lots of cows (the clue is in the name) but also local food stalls an excellent mini-farm for children and some very, very placid miniature ponies taking children for rides in a pony-cart.

Emma on a pony cart
When not pulling children around the ponies stood patiently whilst hoards of very inexpert children attempted to groom them. From Emma’s point of view it was a top day out – two bus rides, lots of cows, ponies to play with and funny geese in the mini-farm. A pretty good day from my point of view too – E2.50 for the buses and E3.00 for the fair
Emma making a goose chase her hand through the glass

The weather is now getting much colder, so we will start looking for somewhere in Spain for a few months very soon. It will be a shame to leave Roanne and all our new neighbours, but some winter sun will be welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Always enjoy catching up with you - so removed from life here, and such an adventure! Shame about the weed in the canal. The french authorities seem to like making things complicated - and then pass the buck...
    Social life sounds great!
    Good luck with next leg of your journey x