What's a few more locks? We were nearly finished with the Vosges Canal and had to make a decision pertaining to our route to Toul, France. Our options were to travel via the Nancy Embranchment (18 locks, 10.2km) or the southernmost portion of the Moselle River (3 locks, 21km). We were leaning toward the least amount of locks! However, while moored at the Richardmenil quay, we got to chatting with our neighbors and learned that there would be a lock closure on the southern section of the Moselle River on the day we'd intended to travel. And so the decision was made for us, we'd take the Nancy Embranchment to Toul.
During our afternoon in Richardmenil we thought we'd mentally prepare for the next day's locks by taking a nice, leisurely hike. We found our way into town and then spotted signs for Le Bois Imperial
; the signs were accompanied by nature conservatory signs. That sounded perfect for a woodsy hike, as we'd translated it to read, 'The Imperial Wood'. When we'd arrived however, imagine our dismay when we'd discovered that 'The Imperial Wood' was in reality a housing community. Yet another, "C'est la vie!" moment...I'm beginning to understand why the French coined that phrase!
The Nancy Embranchment locks were in series; one set of 5 going up, one set of 11 going down, and 2 going down at the very end. We were so busy locking we had little time to admire any scenery. Going through the city of Nancy, however, offered little scenery as we wove behind the city's center through a trash laden canal. Nancy was not actually that inviting from the canal-front; although there is one port available it was considered expensive at 20-Euros/night. We eyed several public quaysides but after responding to a few cat calls from intoxicated Frenchmen who had spotted our American flag, we decided we felt safer continuing onward for the night. Thanks to our EuroCanals
guide, we knew there would be a halte just outside of the city at the town of Champigneulles.
From Champigneulles we continued to Toul. We had no charts for these sections, our only resource was the EuroCanals guide and we still had our clicker from the Vosges Canal that we hoped would continue to activate locks. At the end of the Nancy Embranchment, we stopped at a red light for a very large lock that appeared to have a lock-keeper's house. We'd not seen a receiver box for the clicker, even after circling to ensure we hadn't missed it. We moored Detour
at the quayside for waiting boats, and we walked all around the lock which was not being manned at the time of our arrival. How on earth do we activate this thing? I tried hailing the lock-keeper on the appropriate VHF channel and received no response. And then, there was some activity in the lock. A southbound boat was being lifted. Hooray! Brian walked back to the lock and asked the crew aboard the rental canal boat how they had activated the lock. "It opened!" they informed us, "Green!" they shouted in broken English and some German. Hmmm... After the boat exited the lock doors remained opened, but the light remained red. Red means no entry. Now we had to get creative. At the entrance to the lock there was a large sign with the lock's name and a telephone number. Great day for our French calling plan to have run out of service! Thank goodness we had a data connection and were able to call the telephone number using Skype. A man answered, and my French request to him sounded something like this, "Hello, Mr., pleasure boat wait lock closed please." Miraculously, this man understood my request and nearly instantaneously the lock traffic light changed from red to green (he very likely checked his lock surveillance camera and saw us moored).
Lowered down, we motored beneath a set of railroad tracks, and emerged in the Canal de la Marne au Rhin Est.
Thank goodness for directional signs! We followed a directional arrow to yet another lock with a lock-keeper's house and this time it was manned, probably by the man who had answered my telephone call. I hailed the lock-keeper on the VHF as prompted by a sign, and he answered! Here we returned the clicker from the Vosges Canal (hoping for the best without it) and were lowered.
And so, we continued on our way to Toul.