Musings‎ > ‎

1. In the beginning

In the beginning, we were novices pure and simple.  OK, we knew how to navigate, we knew how to steer the boat, we had the paper qualifications and the maps: still, we were novices.

It was a clear day in the middle of May when we finally released our ropes and gently backed away from our finger mooring at St Jean de Losne.  A blue sky with whisps of high cloud, the sun shining but still a chill breeze in the air as we put our nose out into the Saone and headed north at a nice steady pace.  We waved to people – quickly though for fear of not paying enough attention to where we were going - and

they waved back to us.  We anticipated every curve anxiously, hoping not to see some monster approaching us from the opposite direction, and gradually we began to calm down.

After a couple of hours we began to close in on our first lock, at the approaches to Auxonne.  Getting closer, we saw that some damned fool had left a piece of plastic hose pipe dangling from a wire above the river.

“Watch out for that,” we said to each other, “it could still be live and we don’t want to get electrocuted before we even get to our first stop.”

So we gave it a wide berth, and approached the lock.

We got quite close.  The lock gates were firmly closed, so we stopped and drifted gently.

After some minutes, we began to wonder what was happening – it was all very quiet.  No sign of a lockkeeper looking at us, no sign of another boat in the lock.

So we tooted the horn.  Nothing.

Tooted again, longer.  Nothing.

We revved up the engine to make some more noise.  Nothing.

“Let’s back up a bit and see if we attract someone’s attention by moving,” I said.  Nothing.  And about 30 minutes had passed by now.

“Perhaps I should go on shore and walk up to the lock and see if there’s anybody there,” said Claudia.

“Yes, but how will you get on shore?” Michael wondered.

“Look, there’s a little landing stage over there.”

“OK, I’ll try and get there.”

“Good, but watch out for that pipe.”

“I will, I will.”

Carefully, we manoeuvred the boat nearer to shore, passed the pipe.  Close to the shore, we saw a little sign half-hidden in a clump of trees.  There was a drawing on it of a hand turning a piece of pipe.

We stopped.

“You don’t suppose”

“Do we dare?”

“What if we break something?  Or get electrocuted?”

“We’d better try.  I’ll steer, you touch it.”

We swung round, right back up to the pipe.  The boat continued to move and the pipe started to slide down our side - without flashes of electricity shooting out.  Decisively, Claudia reached out and grabbed it like a dangerous snake, quickly twisted it to break its neck, and hurled it away.

Almost immediately, an orange light began to flash above the lock gates, and within seconds, the gates themselves began to open!

We moved forward again, and noticed another boat beginning to approach behind us.

“Let’s us go in, and then wait and see if they come in as well.  After all, we’re still not sure how to close the gates again.”

We began to learn.                                                                                        

(c)2005 Michael Marriott