At Troussey, we exited the Canal de la Marne au Rhin and Detour
was lowered down Ecluse #1 to begin the Canal de la Meuse. Not our most scenic entry, however the farther along we travel through the Meuse, the more beautiful the scenery does become. The Meuse River winds its way from Troussey to the Belgian boarder; it has mostly been canalized but there are sections where canal and river meet. This journey will be our final section of the French Waterways.
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Factory at Ecluse #2[/caption]
At Ecluse #3, we pulled aside to make way for two motor yachts traveling upstream to exit the lock. The automatic lock was aware of our presence, thanks to us having clicked the receiver box upon approach. When the light turned green, however, we had a bit of a snag! We'd caught some weeds that interfered with our propulsion and steerage. Yikes! The lock gates closed but the light remained green. It seemed the lock was just as startled as we were! Fortunately for us, a Voies Navigables de France (VHF) lock-keeper was present and witnessed our strife. He was actually raking weeds from the base of the lock doors, and he'd cleared quite a pile! He reset the lock for us, opened the doors and allowed us to enter. As the rushing water lowered Detour
, it also cleared the weeds from our rudders and prop. No damage done, just weighed down. With a friendly send-off the keeper informed us he'd remain in the vicinity in case we needed him at the next lock. We had no other troubles through the afternoon, and completed seven locks and 16-miles during a five-hour day.
We moored for the evening at the halte at Sampigny. A Belgian motor yacht joined us and soon we had befriended one another. Ron and his wife invited us aboard their home-built steel motor yacht to enjoy a delicious, chilled, Duval. "A Belgian beer," Ron explained as he poured it into an appropriately shaped goblet, "best enjoyed from the tap in Belgium." We shared some of our Cote d'Or dark chocolates with them, also Belgian which gave us all a chuckle since it was not exactly a new flavor for them! Ron gave us great tips about the Belgian canal systems, stops worth visiting, and about Belgium as a country. He is also a diver, so he and Brian swapped stories about diving and fishing. We chatted about our experiences in France; many worth a hearty laugh especially when they pertained to our struggles with the language. It had been a delightful evening at our private, little halte!
An intentionally short travel day followed; we motored for just two-and-one-half-hours completing nearly seven-miles and traversing three locks. At Ecluse #9 (our second that day) the locking process seemed to have been successful but after being lowered the lock doors simply did not open. We were trapped! I shimmied out Detour
's bow rail and latched onto the ladder at the very front of the lock wall to climb out to use the emergency call button atop. VHF was quick to respond, per all of our experiences thus far, and we were soon released by the very lock-keeper who had come to the rescue the day prior when weeds faltered our approach.
The Meuse broadened, and after what seems like forever, we spotted navigational buoys ahead. No worries though as the buoys were practically on shore and we weren't likely to get that close for fear of the weeds. Interesting that we've grown so accustomed to shore-side moorings and Detour
's shallow draft that we are more concerned about catching weeds than running aground! We did use the buoys as a nice reminder that since we are being lowered in locks, we are traveling downstream, and returning to the sea! In Europe, this means keep green to port and red to starboard.
We approached a very full pontoon at our destination of St Mihiel. The only open space, just behind a Dutch flagged motor yacht, was 12 meters long according to the Dutch captain aboard who saw us eyeing the space and shouted the dimension to us. Can't quite squeeze Detour
and her overhanging mast into that. Another of the docked boats, a French motor yacht, welcomed us to raft to his vessel by enthusiastically waving both of his hands and pointing to his boat. So we did, and it was a fabulous choice!
We weren't yet keen on rafting etiquette, but tied off with ease and the French captain told us we could cross his bow anytime to get ashore. He also told us the water and electric at the pontoon were free. We'd planned to stay one night, so didn't bother running wires across his boat. I must say that this sailor (he previously sailed on the Mediterranean before retiring to a motor yacht) and his wife were the most friendly, outgoing French couple we have yet interacted with on the water. Despite their lacking English and our lacking French we were able to converse through a series of charades and generally understood what the other was saying. We determined where each boat was headed, and since they were en-route to Southern France and the Canal du Midi I gave them our Rhone River and Saone River fluvial guides. In return, to our surprise, they exchanged their Netherlands canal guides. Later that evening we enjoyed cocktails together and continued to get acquainted, including having ended the night with boat tours!