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Kerr Barging Blogs

We have spent a fair bit of time cruising in the South Pacific aboard our 33 years young 11.1metre yacht, Pastime of Sydney. We are now cruising through the canals and rivers of France on our old barge, "Anja", which was built in the North of the Netherlands in 1903. Anja was 110 years old in May 2013 and we celebrated with good French Champagne- but the boat did not get any! In 2014, for Anja's 111th, we took her back to where she was built in the North of the Netherlands.

Anja and ourselves home

We delivered Anja to her winter home on the Yonne River at Migennes without problem. We completed 2,588km this year.

Then it was off to the beautiful St Malo by train where we spent a pleasant day before taking the ferry to Guernsey to visit our latest grandson and his mum.

After Guernsey, we took another ferry to Weymouth, England. We rented a car and travelled for almost 2,000kms visiting Cornwall and other places. David returned to the place (Binbrook) where he lived for two years on the air force base and revisited the school he attended nearby 60 years ago. We also visited the place where his Ridgway ancestors lived prior to the 1800s and discovered the grave of his great, great, great grandfather who was born in the 1750s.

We had an uneventful trip home until our arrival in Sydney at the start of a massive storm. We had to circle for 35mins but once we landed were not able to move due to the danger to ground staff. We sat there on the runway for a further one and a half hours. Finally, the Captain gave up and brought the 777 into the gate with no outside assistance.

Immigration was quick, but because of the dangerous conditions, baggage could not be unloaded. So, we spent a further one and a half hours sitting on the side of the baggage carousel. Customs would not let anyone out without their bags and the airport would not let the bags be removed from the 'plane! Finally, Customs gave in and we were allowed out of the airport at midnight without our bags. That was Tuesday night and now, Saturday morning, the bags have still not arrived.

Best Regards,

Dave and Penny

Congratulations Christian and Chantal

A very BIG "Congratulations" to our dear friends Christian and Chantal who completed the "Chemin de St. Jacques de Compostelle" yesterday. They have walked all the way from their house in Burgundy (Charbuy, Bourgogne) to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. That is a distance of 1860km, all on foot and across the Pyrenees. They have walked several hundred kilometres each year for a number of years to complete this amazing feat. It has been their holiday each year for three to four weeks each time. They can onkly take a short time each year because of their commitments to their "Bed and Breakfast"- Les Chouettes (Chambre d'hotes in French).


They finished this wonderful pilgrimage on the day we completed our journey on Anja in 2014 and what also makes it special is the fact that it is my (David's) birthday.


In other news, we left Anja at her winter home this morning and then took the train to the beautiful St Malo in Brittany (Bretagne). We completed 2588Km on Anja this year (but we were not walking!)

collThe happy couple at the end of a wonderful journey

Fire Organ and Patrimony Day

We have continued smoothly up the Yonne River. We have been here many times before and it is always good to find something new.


IMG 0480
A pleasant house on the Yonne River

 IMG 0490
Anja at Sens town quay

For instance, we spent a couple of days in the historic town of Sens at the time when all of France is celebrating "Patrimony Day". Different towns do different things to celebrate their culture and heritage. Sens has been celebrating the 850th anniversary of its magnificient Cathedral. A French stamp has been issued in honour of the event. This was the first Gothic style Cathedral in all of France. It was where Thomas A'Beckett gained refuge prior to being executed later in England.

Fire Organ at Sens Cathedral

One of the events on Patrimony Day was a special and very unusual concert on the Parvis (which is a town square immediately in front of the Cathedral). A large and strange-looking organ, comprising about 200 pipes, was serected on the stage. No-one really knew what was going to happen. The square and surrounding streets were packed with thousands of people and we were there too!

The Fire Organ breathuing fire

Firstly, the Devil appeared and described Hell. This was illustrated by dancers whirling burning firebrands and great gushes for flame and deep throated roars from the Fire Organ. That was followed by an organ recital from within the Cathedral and the organist's hands were projected on a giant scree. This was God speaking. Then came a female soprano, singing with the organ- also God speaking. The Cathedral Organ then played a two-organ piece in conjunction with the spectacular fire-breathing fire organ. The fire organ worked by huge gouts of gas being fired through the tubes and ignited at the same time. You could feel the heat from the huge flames even 100 rows back, where we were. The noise was huge. Then there was more fire dancing and a devil and an angel decended the sheer front face of the Cathedral on wires, performing a type of synchronised ballet. Wow! What an unusual event.

 IMG 0482Church of St MauriceIMG 0487700 year old wood statue- St Maurice

We also got to see inside another historic church- St Maurice's- which is on an island in Sens. The church is rarely opened so we were fortunate as it is the only time it has been open in our approximately 10 visits to the town.

 IMAG0602Lunch- an unusual presentation!

Anyway, the spectacular warm weather continues but sadly, we will have Anja back to her winter home in just 36hrs. So, the geraniums and herbs are gone and we are well into our list of things to do before leaving. We are at Joigny, only 8km from Anja's Migennes home.

 IMG 0478Water Jousting in St Mammes

Best Regards,
Dave & Penny

The Marne, Seine and Yonne

Since leaving Sillery two weeks ago, we have been travelling well and have arrived in Sens, just 45km from Anja's winter home at Migennes.

We had a quick trip down the beautiful Marne River through the magnificient countryside of Champagne. The grapes were ready and the harvest beginning for the Champagne grapes. We stopped off in one of our favourite towns (Mareuil sur Ay) to buy some champagne, but alas we were too early and everyone was closed for tasting and sales until the afternoon.

The Marne River was quick because we were travelling with the current and the locks worked very well for us with only minimal delay. The weather continued to be magnificient with temperatures around 25-30deg and very little rain. Amazingly, our Geraniums and herbs have fully recovered. They had been looking quite sick after the relatively cool time in the Netherlands. Now, they are an excellent colour and flowering very well.

My (David's) back continued to heal quite well after the surgery to remove a lump. The cuts were quite deep and NursePenny has been changing the dressings each day. Within  one day of the surgery, the pain was less than with the lump and now it is hardly noticeable. The Pathology results came back (thank you to the Collet family) and show that the most likely diagnosis for the lump is okay and that the nasty part was completely removed.

Our trip up the Seine was much better than last year when we got "stuck" because of repair work on lock gates when they discovered Asbestos in the gates, delaying the repairs by almost a month. The Seine this year was a pleasant and uneventful trip and we stayed at places where we had stayed before.

We continued to have problems with the parcel of spare parts from the USA. Every day, there was a different story. Sometimes two times per day. Because there was no external invoice on the box, I had to separately send the details. Also, the incoming Customs declaration was not specific enough (i.e. it did not say that the parts were for an alternator). So, this caused about 10 days delay. Then the Customs process itself took an additional two weeks. Finally the package was ready to be delivered! But again, problems. The Post Office delivery truck took it to the Post Office but it was 8 minutes before the Post Office opened. So, he took it away again saying that it could not be delivered. Then they decided that because it was an International parcel, they would not deliver it to a Post Office but also would not change the delivery address! What a nightmare. In the end, I travelled over 500Km return trip on six trains and a taxi and picked it up from an Industrial Area South of Reims. This took nine hours, but I had plenty of time to read my Kindle (eBook) in the beautiful park at Reims and also on the trains. Lugging the large parcel around was not much fun, particularly in Paris which was 30degC. I carried it through Gare de l'Est, Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon in Paris. In order to collect the parcel, we stopped in St Mammes which is a delightful small town at the confluence of the Loing and Seine rivers. We have been there several times before and we discovered a good walk in the woods that we had not previously known. The famous painter Sisley did many paintings in the vicinity and lived there for a while.

After the Seine, we have been coming up our final river, the Yonne. We know it very well and always enjoy the trip. There is very little traffic, perhaps one or two boats per day so the locks have always been ready for us.

Best Regards,

Dave and Penny

Champagne Country

Sillery, a small village just South of Reims provided a comfortable, friendly and helpful stop for over a week while David had some medical attention and waited unavailingly for a parcel to get through customs. We finally left with the package still in the Customs system but fully appreciated the assistance of the Post Office staff in sorting out the issues. This is a Grand Cru Champagne town so one of the top ranked towns.

IMG 0388Fort de la Pompelle. The new bridge replaced an old one over the moat.

While in Sillery we went to Reims and re-visited its magnificent Cathedral, particularly to see a photo exhibition documenting its destruction during World War 1. Because of its status in French history as the place of coronation of Kings, it was specifically targetted by the Germans for massive bombing raids and was effectively in ruins at the end of the war.

IMG 0401Bunkers within the Fort

IMG 0417Within the Fort

Sillery is the site of one of several huge National war cemeteries with 12,000 graves of French soldiers killed in local fighting. Within easy cycling distance of Sillery is the Fort de la Pompelle which was captured by the Germans on September 4th 1914 and recaptured on September 24th then held by the French for the duration of the war, the only fort held in this hard- fought battle front. To mark the 100th anniversary a new museum was opened there in June this year. In the process of restoration the bodies three French soldiers were found, killed almost exactly one hundred years before. This was an excellent museum with displays in three languages.  

IMG 0451The French war cemetery at Sillery

An unusual event in Sillery was the arrival of a Danish Family, parents and two children, 5 and 7, who are travelling from Copenhagen to Istanbul by outrigger kayak. The kayaks can be pedalled, paddled or sailed, but it seems that peddling is the most used method, especially on French Canals. They are 4 months into the trip which is expected to take 15 months.  

IMG 0441Intrepid Danish Family- Copenhagen to Istambul by kayak

Again the Marne River has taken us by surprise with its beauty. The vine- covered slopes and tree- lined banks are dotted with tiny villages with fortified churches and stone farm buildings. It's early autumn and we have had foggy mornings which add to the atmosphere, and deciduous trees starting to colour yellow and red. As we are going down river we have the advantage of the current. the locks have been automated and work well, so we are fully enjoying excellent cruising conditions.

 IMG 0453The comfortable and beautiful Marne River

Best Regards,

Penny and Dave

IMG 0465Village with its old fortified church on the Marne

IMG 0460Fog lifting on the Marne

IMG 0457Typical wine village in Champagne