Back to France

For a while the Leie snakes around the border unsure of where to belong,  to France or Belgium? We also felt a little sorry to leave Belgium. But then the Leie turned into the” Lys” and we were back in France. 

Our first stop back in France was not very idyllic. Right next to our mooring was a dredger barge, bringing up huge shovels full of silt from the bottom of the canal. It was very noisy, but also fascinating to watch!

The following day we sailed down the free flowing Lys through calm rural landscape. No prestige houses here, but beautiful horses, cows, sheep and birdlife.

We made it to Haverskerque where the port was full but found a lovely spot on the river bank complete with free water & electricity.  A few other canal boats were moored there and at least 5 people jumped to our aid. Among them an English couple Sue and Malcolm on a barge called Vrouwe Roziena II. Lovely people and very easy to talk to, especially after one of Sue’s home made Sloe Gins! Sue and Malcolm were extremely helpful, even took us on a shopping trip with their car.

Due to the summer holidays the river at Haverskerque was very lively with people paddling and rowing down the river. The port hires out canoes, paddle boards and pedal boats and one French teenager called out to us in his best English: zee sun is shining and we ‘ave fun with zee vateur!

From our boat we also watched a beautiful 19th century wooden barge approach. Unfortunately we couldn’t take a photo of it. Because as the English bargee was asking advise where to go the barge came dangerously close to ramming us. I have never seen Austin jump up so quickly as then, when his precious boat was in danger!

It turned out that the English owners had sailed her all the way from Turkey and the Black Sea to France, but didn’t have any maps for France and were wondering where they were. Amazing!

Next day we turned from the Lys into the Grand Gabarit. It was a Sunday and there was no traffic at all. As a matter of fact the only barge coming towards us was the Romance with Bob and Anna on board. Like us, Bob and Anna had their winter mooring at Toul. It was a big hello in the middle of the canal. Sadly we learned that they are returning to the UK for good. Bob gave me a message for all the people from the Port de France in Toul: that they made it ok up to here and they will be in Dunkerque tomorrow waiting for favourable weather for the crossing.  

The Grand Gabarit looked quite different today. Huge grain laden barges coming from behind and ahead churning up the waters. We found a quiet sidearm with good pontoon, but no services at La Bassée and stayed for the night.

© Austin Robinson 2019