21. Jollies on the Yonne (May June 2107).

The Seine proved to be a busy waterway, with lots of large commercial barges and pushers ploughing up and down.

We left Ablon Lock around 9am for the cruise to Melun where we hoped to find space, there being several boats and barges heading south to the DBA rally in Auxerre. Fortunately there was room for us and we met up with ‘Esme’, ‘Passe Lagom’ and ‘Jenal’ again, enjoying the first of several convivial barbecues there.

Melun is a pretty town with good shops and I enjoyed a walk and coffee with Diana (‘Esme’).

After just two days we headed off once more and came across several slope sided locks on the River Yonne. Those with a pontoon at the back (as you go upstream) are easier, as once secured you simply float up with the pontoon as the lock fills. However, those without pontoons require a rope to be taken from mid-ships to a bollard to the rear of the lock which assists the helmsman in positioning in the middle of the lock as you go up. Apparently the design makes for a stronger lock structure.

Not the best system.

Hovering in the middle is even more tricky when going up.

Our pledge not to have long days this season went out the window as we cruised for eleven hours in increasingly wet weather to a pontoon at Pont sur Yonne. The space was tight, but a pleasant Australian couple moved back slightly to let us in which was a great relief.

The old pont.

We stayed several days in this little town and I enjoyed wandering around the market and a couple of walks. We met Mary and David who were trying out the boating life on their new ex-hire boat ‘Escapade’. Peter and David found ‘boules mates’ in each other and enjoyed playing on the adjacent terrain for hours on end.

Our next stop was Sens where once again we joined fellow bargees heading to the Rally. We stayed several days on the quay and moved twice as barges headed off. Eventually we were close enough to take advantage of the free water and electrics there.

Sens Cathedral.

We enjoyed more socialising and barbecuing plus a lovely meal out as the guests of Jenny and Alan (‘Jenal’) in a restaurant by the Cathedral in the town square.

I also took advantage of having to pass through Paris to collect the car from La Ferte sous Jouarre, by spending the day in Paris. Always a treat; I walked along the Seine from the Gare de Bercy and enjoyed a light lunch in a restaurant on the Left Bank in sight of Notre Dame Cathedral, next a walk inside the Cathedral which my Mum loved, so I lit a candle in her memory and finally, a wander through the flower market to the Gare de l’Est.  My 80km drive back to Sens was the only low point in the heat of the late afternoon.


Within minutes of my return we were enjoying aperos on deck with Sharon and Stan (‘Encore’). The splendid summer ‘Sound and Light show’ started that evening so I went with them to see it leaving Peter fishing onboard.

Sens all lit up.

Sens mooring.

The next day, as space became available, ‘Riccall’ and ‘Anthonia’ arrived after hot-footing it through northern France and we enjoyed another evening barbecue catching up on news. The weather had settled into a fine spell which would last until the end of the month.  ‘Esme’ completed the reunion of ‘Bruges Bargees’ the next day as we enjoyed a warm evening on ‘Anthonia’s’ deck.

A very pleasant few days.

We left early the next day and had a pleasant scenic cruise to Joigny where we moored before the town on the right, near the grounds of a hotel. A short walk into town late afternoon and a tasty seafood risotto washed down with a bottle of our recently acquired Champagne rounded off a perfect day.

Lovely spot just before Joigny.

With Auxerre in our sights, we cruised to Gurgy through more scenic countryside. The little port had certainly changed since our previous visit seven years ago. We didn’t recognise it as we approached, as there is now a new pontoon with electrics and water. Fortunately a cruiser moved up a little and once again we were able to squeeze in amongst several DBA barges.

‘Escapade’ arrived having managed to repair their hydraulics and get a slot at the Rally and we had a ‘pick ‘n mix’ meal together.

Gurgy, thirty paces from a wine tasting !

Our arrival at the Rally site was timed well and we expected to stop in Auxerre for just one night. A couple of locks prior we heard that we could proceed to our allotted space that day, as we would now be moored on the outside of ‘Elyssium’ our draught being 1.20m and the recent dry spell having reduced the water level. Result!

So by late afternoon on 14th June we had moored up at the 25th Anniversary DBA Rally in Auxerre.

The next morning we were joined by Pat and Alan Wershat who we had previously met on the Canal Laterale a la Garonne at the start of our second season. They are still very much enjoying touring in a camper van in their seventies and nineties respectively!

Our socialising continued at an aperos session on ‘Libellule’ and communal barbecue in the park where we were joined by Pat and Alan once again. The jollities went on well into the night.

Not a bad spot for the DBA rally.

The first of the official DBA activities was a visit to the Auxerrois and Chablis vineyards the next morning. In St Bris-le-Vineux we enjoyed a tour of the caves and wine tasting at Domain Bersan (now in its 21st generation) plus a guided tour of the church. This was followed by an excellent buffet lunch and copious quantities of local wine courtesy of the Maire of the town. The rest of the day was spent socialising with other rally goers as the temperature soared.

The ‘Chablis Grande Cru’ vines.

A very informative and pleasant tasting.

The second activity was a guided tour of the historical areas of Auxerre which is an interesting and attractive town. This was followed by the first rounds of the boules competition with eighty competitors playing in pairs, which took over much of the available path in the adjacent park and provided an unusual spectacle for the locals.


That evening we were all invited to the VIP salon in the local Football Stade Abbe-Deschamps for a champagne and canapes reception, team photo and tasty celebratory dinner. Short speeches by the Maire and founder members of the Amis des Canal du Nivernais made us very welcome.

Lovely meal at the football stadium.

Once again socialising went on late into the night on the good ship ‘Elyssium’

With temperatures in the mid to high 30’s, it was refreshing to get out onto the river at midday on Sunday (as the locks closed for lunch) for the canoeing/rowing race.

And they’re off.

A worthy second place.

Various craft entered including our Canadian canoe, a kayak, a skiff and several dinghies.  I persuaded John Best (one of the organisers) to join me in ours and we were pleased to come second after Jeremy (‘Anthonia’) who beat us by about half a length. It was much further than I had expected too, so a good work out for one and all!

Lenny in his skiff naturally left us all standing…or rather floating…but he had good naturedly decided not to enter the race.

Jeremy, the exhausted winner. Lenny in the skiff who finished way ahead excluded himself on the grounds of superior equipment !

That afternoon the boules competition continued under blue skies in baking heat and the final took place at the barbecue over the river in the Port de Plaisance Aquarelle. Peter and Val emerged as victors after a very close final match against Pol and Colin. They won a bottle of Cremant de Bourgogne and chocolate boules trophy each and I also won a bottle of Cremant. All in all it had been a successful weekend for team ‘Aurigny’.

Hot competition !

Style !

The finalists.

Consumable prizes !

An impromptu karaoke session on Aurigny’s front deck put paid to our planned quiet evening, and was enjoyed by those taking part…

Morning after !

As the DBA festivities drew to a close it was great to have met up with old friends and to have made many new ones too.

As several barges left to continue their travels, we stayed two more days enjoying the company and trying to stay cool. This I managed by playing on the water in our canoe and trying out Diane’s (‘Elyssium’) paddle board and swimming in the river.

Cooling off.

Everyone agreed that it had been an excellent DBA Rally and we have the Bests and Sopers to thank for organising the whole thing.

All we needed now was a week or so to recover.

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