We are still ahead of shedule, despite stoping short of our target, Fronkles, yesterday. The rain came down in stair-rods all morning (told you scepticism was the way to go) and by lunchtime MWNN had had enough. We pulled in to Vieville at about 2.30, having dismissed our Eclusier for the day, and vaselined ourselves into the only gap on the pontoon, between a peniche and a broadbeam cruiser. There was both water and electricity (free) which was a good thing as there was damp washing needing airing from the session at Chaumont.
In the 7 years we have been cruising the French Inland Waterways, there has been a decline in the number of commercial barges (peniches) and an increase in hireboats and privately owned leisure boats. There is much evidence of the growing awareness of the need to provide facilities for Plaisanciers, particularly on this half of the canal. We are passing through the Haute Marne where each little village is busily installing new moorings with facilities, in some cases alongside campsites or leisure centres. The only mooring we've paid for so far is Chaumont.
From Vieville to Joinville was pleasant, though very overcast, the magnificance of the scenery, Douglas Pines lining the canal, wooded cliffs, and glimpses of the Marne running alongside us, shrouded in gloom. We locked down with a very enthusiastic young student Eclusier and were making very rapid progress until, at lock 38, she asked if we minded sharing a lock with the boat coming down rapidly behind us. We didn't but had a wait of about 15 minutes until they caught up and wondered if they'd slow us down as the Belgian boat was wide and needed both lock gates opening (narrowboats are only 7 feet wide and fit through one gate).
We shouldn't have worried. About 100 metres after leaving lock 38, the Belgian boat roared past us and disappeared round the bend ahead. The next lock was 3 km away and I presumed they'd go through alone and leave our lock keeper with the task of refilling the lock for us. But no - there they were waiting in the lock when we got there. Our lock keeper was working both boats with one of the crew of the Belgian boat cyling ahead to open the gates.
After tying up at lock 43, the Belgian skipper asked MWNN if we'd be prepared to leave with them at 8 the following morning. I said "no way Jose", and then explained that we needed to find a vet for Loony GSD - a convenient excuse, as I wasn't going to explain my morning routine to them and I'm sure they've thank me for our slow speed (narrowboaters do it slowly) not hindering THEIR progress by now.
The Chief organiser of the Lock Keepers turned up and tried to hold a lengthy conversation over the roar of water cascading over the back gates of the lock together with the noise of our engine. MWNN waited until the Belgians had left the lock, then I moved the boat to the lock ladder, roped off on it, and switched off the engine. The Chef d'Eclusiers had located a vet close to the mooring and gave us directions to it, along with his phone number for us to use when we knew what time wew would be leaving the mooring.
We pulled into Joinville (again a lovely facility for boats and camper vans with free water and electricity) just after 4.30, MWNN walked to the Super U supermarket in about 10 mins and booked an appointment with the Vet on the site for 9.50 in the morning. We then tried to phone 'the Chef' but found that there we no bells on the mobile. We'd decided that we would make Tuesday a stopover day so that we could attend the vet's, do more shopping, do a little boat maintenance and some hand laundry and rest.
Tuesday 19th September - Joinville Stopover
Dozens of bells on the mobile this morning so MWNN phoned the Eclusiers the news that we'd be leaving at 9.30 TOMORROW morning. The vet gave Loony GSD an injection of cortosone, told MWNN to halt the pills and resume after 3 days or so ONLY if the dog has difficulty getting up. Meanwhile, she is to have complete rest for 3 days and then rest and gentle exercise for the next three weeks. The vet is totally clueless about life aboard a boat - how do you rest a dog when there is a very steep set of steps to be negotiated (going up is a struggle, going down is causing damage unless someone supports her from the bottom of the steps and prevents her from jumping) every time she needs to go for a pee? Then there will be times when we can't get the boat close to the canal edge because of lack of depth and she either has to jump the gap or 'walk the plank' - which she can't do easily as her back legs don't follow directly behind her front any more.
We're all settling for an afternoon nap and keeping our fingers and paws crossed that the vet's treatment works and the rain holds off during the day for the next couple of weeks.