First French inland cruise, Dunkerque to Lille!

Cruise

Dunkerque was really nice but we needed to get going into fresh water and the French interior. We soon discovered wide, tree lined canals dotted with small towns. Plenty of places to moor up but not with facilities, this was Watten where we tied up close to a small town with a few shops and cafes. Quite nice for dog walking and quiet but 2 nights were enough here.

Barge lift

Moving on we went past this old barge hoist with a peniche rusting gently in each chamber. In England this would be a tourist attraction with a price attached. We didn't see the barges were in there until we were nearly past.

Guillotine lock

This was our first big lock 'Les Fontinettes' with a guillotine entrance and a rise of 13.3m!

Enter lock

Even for us it looks a small entrance but was OK, you can see onlookers stood over the entrance checking to see if we get it right.

Enter lock

It was like a deep dark cave with bollards let into the wall. Lorna had to keep moving the forward spring from bollard o bollard as we rose. I had to cut the throttle each time until she had the rope on the next one up.

Bethune

This was Waterdog moored next to a retired peniche in Bethune, it shows the difference in size from what would have been a large British river boat to a standard size French peniche. This one was being converted into a live aboard by a couple but they had barely made a start in 4 years of living on it. It's a bigger project than Waterdog!

We finally found a water supply in Bethune so we could fill up the tanks which were last filled in Goole. One of our main concerns will be finding water and diesel so this was a relief.

80m barge

This barge arranged to overtake us after a lock, it's fairly standard at about 80m long by 9m wide. The family live in the stern and their car is carried behind the wheelhouse with a small crane to lift it off.

Don

We thought Bethune was small until we turned into 'Don'. The guide book promised depths of 1.8m and moorings at the town quay. What we found was a very narrow channel between collapsed banks but about 1.5m depth, which was enough. At the town was a broken pontoon and no moorings.

We first tied to a couple of trees and then sorted out ground anchors and long ropes so we could take the ropes off the trees as you aren't supposed to tie to them. The ground anchors wouldn't hammer into the ground as I found it had old tarmac under the grass, but I eventually got them in. The bank had collapsed so we were resting against the gravelly bottom so I forced car tyres under us. After a lovely evening and quiet night we were woken at 06:50 by the sound of surging water and the ground anchors pulling out and splashing into the water beside the boat. That would be the commercial traffic starting through the lock a km behind us on the main canal!

Don

Tilly is always desparate to jump ashore so was seriously getting on our nerves, frantically barking and pulling on her lead as we tried to moor up. I eventually was given charge of her so she could be on dry land again. I'm looking a bit knackered as I perch on a steep bank and have just finished hammering in the 4 ground anchors and pulling the boat around after a long hot day.

Don morning mist

The morning was lovely and it all looks peaceful but this is after our ground anchors were pulled out and we had to tie off to trees again while we got sorted. We walked Tilly, bought some bread and prepared to leave.

Calm morning

It all looks lovely but we couldn't turn around as it was too narrow and it was 1 km to reverse along before we could rejoin the main canal. We made it and were on our way in deeper water by 07:30, our earliest start so far!