October - Port de Lille to Canal de la Somme

Our first days steam from Lille to Douaiwas in very windy, wet weather, marking the end of summer and the start of autumn as gales lashed us and the beautiful trees started turning from green to all the colours from green, red, orange, yellow and brown. Even in the hard rain Tilly likes to be involved in the action at the bow in all the locks. After the gales we got a lot of days with misty still mornings which are very peaceful, followed by a slow clearing to warm afternoons.
Douai autumn
Moored in Douai ‘Scarpe inferior' were 5 other pleasure barges which were gathered up for the winter. They were congregated in the corner of this mooring site almost as a single raft, tied off to a couple of dolphins and the bank. They share a limited electricity supply to keep them charged up through the winter. We met owners of 2 of these and went onboard for drinks and chin wags. It's nice to meet other boaters to pass ideas and experiences.

Somy Boiler

The Somy boiler failed in Douai so our few relaxing days became a round of trying to buy parts locally, which we couldn't do, followed by further trouble shooting and finally success. It all started with dirty fuel filters, followed by bleeding and eventually (we think) the poor fuel supply lead to carbon deposits on the sparker electrodes which stopped them igniting the fuel. We felt pretty good when we did solve it though.

Lorna & Tilly

Access to the bank was a bit awkward with our high bow and the low slippery grassy bank. Tilly puts up with being carried up a ladder though.

From Douai we travelled 4km on the Grand Gabarit before turning off on the Scarpe superior for Arras. Immediately this became a narrow, overhung and twisty canal and we were stopped at the first lock with a red light. We had failed to get the remote ‘zapper' which we needed to operate these locks. We should have collected this at the last lock on the Grand Gabarit. A narrow boat, from the UK, chugged around the corner, overtook us and entered the lock, not many of those over here. Meanwhile Lorna had to cycle back about 1km to collect our own ‘zapper'.
Calm morning
We did just 2 locks on the Scarpe superior before seeing a nice mooring just past the lock in Brebieres. Tilly needed a walk and we wanted a break so we stopped for the day, stretching our ropes out to the 50m bollards in the grassy bank and pulling the boat as close as we could to the sloping shallow water. As there was no traffic we weren't worried about sitting against the canal bed. Later that day, while I was talking broken French with a local, Tilly made a leap for freedom off the boat and started charging up and down the canal path with glee on her face. Then round and around a field at full speed, it was funny but we didn't want her scaring the cows so were relieved when she let me catch her. I'm in overalls as I was doing engine room checks and Tilly is black from the knees down and looking very pleased with herself.

Caught Tilly

Caught Yah!



Next morning was a perfect dawn with mist on the water and vapour trails in the sky. A walk to the Patisserie and slow breakfast before setting off and putting ripples on the perfectly still water.

We soon found that we had to stop the engine in every lock and clear the engine inlet strainer of weed, grass and leaves. The logical place to do this was tied up in each lock, unfortunately there was great clumps of weed stuck in each lock so as soon as we set off again we sucked in more trouble. No problem, just routinely stop the engine and empty the strainer whenever the cooling water flow became a dribble.

We stopped in St Laurent Blangy near Arras for 3 days as we got to explore the city and do the big Saturday market. Arras has a big WW1 war history with tunnels to visit and nearby Vimi ridge also, all very much worth visiting. The last lock through St Laurent Blangy wouldn't operate, as it was probably shut down for the winter, so we had to back up and turn around in a shallow area with very little space. Much churning of mud and blocking engine strainers followed until we forced her around to face back the way we had come. We took another 2 days to get out of the Scarp superior, mainly due to 1 lock failure (costing time), filling the tanks at one lock (1.5 hours) and then getting into a queue of commercials at the final lock which, of course, we were the lowest priority.