Last Autumn, on our way from Pont de Vaux to our new home at St Quentin, we'd stopped at Pinon where I was put ashore in search of a baker. Having run the gauntlet of the guard geese at the VNF wharf, I'd discovered the Champion Supermarket with its own halte nautique around the bend and under the bridge from where MWNN had pulled in. Pinon was marked as an important victualing point. When we arrived at lunchtime, there was a peniche tied up at the end nearest the supermarket entrance, so with much grumbling about the selfish Belgian, we roped off at the far end. This turned out to be the best place to spend the night, as the supermarket generator was audible at the peniche's spot.
The fridge was absolutely bare, save for a couple of bottles of Leffe 9% and some diet coke. Fresh milk was down to less than half a litre and there were three more breakfast bowls of wheetabix requiring pasteurised milk to keep Hesadevil sweet tempered. Anyone who knows my passion for tea understands that I cannot put a foot to the floor before I've consumed my third breakfast mug of tea. Armed with my shopping list, we toured the supermarket searching for lait pasteurise. The shop assistant pointed us to the racks of UHT and sterilised milk when we asked, as did the supermarket manager. Both were adamant this was fresh milk and neither had heard of lait microfiltre (which we'd first encountered in France before it crossed the channel to the UK). I resigned myself to going native and having brioche and coffee for breakfast until we reached St Quentin. The supermarket was open on Sunday morning so we were able to buy fresh bread before heading off for Guny.
After a rainy start to the day, the weather was kind and the gods smiled on us at the neat little halte nautique at Guny. The information board informed us there was shopping to be had in the village. The wind was growing stronger, so after we'd roped off securely at three points, MWNN took Loony GSD for a stroll to see how far the village was (6 minutes) from the mooring. We decided to stay for the night rather than motor on and look for a wild mooring. I watched the rain clouds roll in and dropped the front cratch covers. MWNN returned just in time to clamber aboard before the rainstorm struck. Unfortunately, he'd left the starboard side flap of the rear deck's sun canopy in place. The boat surged and bucked in the storm, rain bouncing in from the open hopper windows. At one point, the boat heeled over alarmingly. The centre rope is attached to the roof of the boat at one end and a bollard at ground level at the other. As it tightens, it pulls the boat over on that side - the same side as the sun canopy flap which was acting as a sail. Do you l know the angle of heel of a narrowboat? Nor do we - but it's not a lot. MWNN released the flap and re-tied the stern rope on a 'spring' to allow us safe movement in the gale. The storm was short lived but it put a lot of water into the bilge and soaked my bed cover. We both agreed that it had been a wise decision to stay where we were as we would not have been able to navigate safely in those conditions. The words of the hymn 'for those in peril on the sea' were on my mind each time the boat had listed and rocked.
The weather forecast for yesterday arrived today. After breakfast (using the last of the fresh milk) MWNN walked into the village for some excellent baguettes and we cast off in good sunny weather and stiff breeze. A couple of km upstream, I spotted what I thought was a dog trotting along the towpath towards us - it was a beautiful fox, gleaming russet in the sunshine, loping along through the track between the long grass. Behind him was a smaller fox. They were heading in the direction of the mooring. It was late in the morning for foxes to be out but many of the houses on the outskirts of the village kept free range fowl. A little further along we pushed a kingfisher from one perch to another as we drove the fish ahead of us, two jays watched us from a fence post and the silence was broken only by the throb of the engine, birdsong, and the sound of the wind in the trees. We kept the good weather until after lunch when we lost the sun and it clouded over. The winds have never been less than strong but the rain stayed away until after we'd moored up for the day. I 'd planned to pot roast a chicken on a day such as today - it went into the oven just as MWNN found a suitable place to stop just above the pair of locks at PK 79.
With 4 locks and 18km to go, we should complete the last leg of the return to St Quentin tomorrow. I need a launderette, fresh milk, and wi-fi connection to update my virus protection and purchase more credits with my roaming ISP before we think about heading off on another circular cruise. MWNN is keen to do some trips by road, using the boat as our base. It makes sense to check out new cruising territory so that we know what facilities are like before we cast off. Things have changed dramatically since we first cruised these northern waters in 2000. Then, there were very few facilities for pleasure boats and we had to rely on water points at the locks and tie up with working peniches alongside wharves and high walls. There are more halte nautiques with free facilities now that there are more French cruising in their own and hire boats.