Finally leaving Auvelais with our new travelling companions we continued along the commercial waterway still going downhill to Namur. This city, featuring a medieval citadel is at the confluence of the Sambre and the Meuse and was established as an important post in Celtic times.
The Meuse has its origins in France and flows through Belgium and the Netherlands into the North Sea. We are now heading South, upstream.
We crossed the border and into France on 2nd May. The first town after the border is Givet with a mooring along the town wall and a ladder to climb to street level. Perhaps this type of mooring has been installed to prepare the crew for the subsequent ladder climbing out of the locks on this section of the waterway.
The modern large commercial traffic can proceed no further than Givet, so the next part of our journey is along the canalise Meuse is used only by pleasure craft.
Lock operation on the Meuse explained
Just before we entered the town of Givet we pass through the lock “the 4 chimneys” or quatre cheminees. The lock is manned and the lock keeper checks that your boat papers are in order and gives you a controller to operate the locks up stream.
The next two locks are also manned and flank each side of the Ham tunnel. The tunnel was dug in 1880 and is 564 metres long. Sorry no pictures as both the captain and crew were busy with the navigation.
The remaining locks are unmanned. If there are any problems you must contact a control centre and wait for a representative to arrive. And yes, this is France so there are always problems. On this trip we waited outside a lock for 1 hour as the door didn’t open and we had a few occasions when we were stuck in the lock with the doors shut. The final insult was in one lock where two young lock keepers who had fixed the operation of the lock for the boat ahead of us, watched me climb a wet slimy 3 metre ladder to secure the lines on the dock.
When you are travelling upstream the locks are a bit more challenging for the crew. They vary in height from just over a metre to over 3 meters.
After 6 locks and 1 tunnel we reached our destination for this section of the journey, the Dutch Barge Association Rally at Fumay. What followed was 3 days of catching up with friends, sharing barging information, oh and lots of drinking and eating!
After a weekend of fun and frivolity we remained in Fumay for another few days to gather our strength, before meandering south to Charleville Meziere.Reluctant to seperate from our travelling companions we continued in convoy.