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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 is back at Migennes!

Anja is back in Migennes, on the land.


Simon Evans brought her back safely just before the Yonne was yet again closed becase of bad flooding.


So, a successful end to our 2013 cruising season, although the end of it has cost us a lot of additional money with the expensive marina on the Seine and then having the boat professionaly taken to Migennes.


See you all next year!


Best Regards,


David and Penny Kerr

What we are doing

Thank you friends Christian, Chantal, Val and Mike for your words of encouragement and also to the others who have emailed and called.


We also received the exciting news this morning that Wendy (and Dave) efficiently produced granddaughter #2 last night! Fantastic and we had some Moet et Chandon tonight to celebrate (thanks Liz!)


Christian, I am not sure the President can solve this in time but we know he would listen to you if you wrote to him!


We came South along the Seine to Evry. This is the Ecluse  before the place with all the problems. The Eclusier was very kindl; he came down and chatted with us while we obtained some water from his hose. He even showed us a comfortable and safe spot where we could stop in front of a lock which is out of order. So kind! He knew more about what was really happening than some of the Head Office people.


The Assistant Director of the Haute Seine Division oif the VNF has been very honest and helpful in advising us and answering questions.


We cannot wait around until finally Coudray lock is opened- a month or more. They have decided to recommission the second lock which has been out of operation for 15 years but this will take about three weeks (timing not guaranteed) and involves dredging and repairing control gates and valves.


We have not been able, at this late stage, to find somewhere else to leave the boat for winter.


Singapore airlines flights are fully booked for more than a month ahead so changing is not an option.


A harbour about 15kms North has kindly rearranged their boats and made a space for Anja. So, we will take her there tomorrow and she will be safe for a month. Simon from the boatyard in Laroche Migennes will come and take Anja "home" for winter as soon as the Seine is unbnlocked.


We will fly back to Australia on Friday (60hours from now).


This is a very expensive solution. The only alternative would be for David to stay on for 5-6 weeks and take the boat back and hope to get a flight booking. That would entail problems wth The Australian Tax & Health authorities.


So, that is the decision- leave the boaty and go home.


Best Regards,


Dave and Penny

The VNF Sinks our Plans!

We have been waiting South of Paris to start our sprint up the Seine and Yonne Rivers so that we can leave the boat for winter and fly home to Australia this Friday. The Seine RIver was due to re-open tomorrow morning (30 September). We had been concerned that the Yonne River, being smaller than the Seine, would also re-open on time but always thought the Seine was secure given how large it is and how important to waterways traffic in France.


Well, the unthinkable has happened and now the Seine will not be re-opening tomnorrow (after a five week closure for important works). It is going to be closed for a further FOUR weeks. On top of that, the upper parts of the Yonne are scheduled to close for planned works on the fourth of November. So, if VNF missed the deadline on the Seine again, we would be stuck further up the Yonne River.


The VNF have been very confusing so far. They found asbestos in the lock gates of a lock where they were working, one week before the scheduled re-opening. First they said this would delay re-opening 10 days but now they have changed this to 28 days! There were no contingency plans in place. For instance, there is a second lock at the site in question and VNF told us this would be useable. Then four days after telling us this, they told us they have now discovered it has been out of order for 15 years!


There is huge disruption to commercial traffic and we are sure there are lots of angry business people around- not just us.


The VNF is trying to work out what to do and so are we.


Best Regards,

Dave and Penny

Adrift in Paris

Well, here we are South of Paris. But, it was not looking good for a while.


Readers will recall that, at the start of our trip, we had a log jammed in the propeller as a result of the flood debris in the swollen Yonne River and the fact that we were the first boat through. However, it was in a safe place and a kindly VNF (waterways) man helped us using his work boat.


We prepared carefully for the long day travelling upstream through the crowded waterway of the Seine in Paris because this is one place where you do not want your engine to stop or some equivalent event to occur.


Well, unfortunately it happened to us! We were going well when suddenly the engine slowed from 1,200RPM right down to 300RPM. In other words, it was running extremely slowly and very soon, so were we. Immediately, we started to move across the river to where there were some large live-aboard barges moored. Then we stopped and the current started to carry us backwards. Checking in the engine room, the engine was running but no motion at all was being delivered to the propeller- it looked like the gearbox was dead.


Penny got out the Red Flag to warn people to keep clear and that we had trouble. David discovered that we could make extremely slow progress in reverse gear. So, basically we were able to just keep up with the current by going reverse into it and angle the boat so that the current slowly took us across. The owner of the boat we were (gently) heading towards came out and yelled that we could not stop there. We politely told him that we had no choice and that the gearbox was "kaput", so he took our lines and made us fast to his vessel. At least we were now safe and not going to be skewered by a Bateau Mouche (sightseeing boat) or 5,000 tonne barge.


I climbed over the back of the boat but could feel nothing untoward at the back of the propeller. The owner of the barge came down and said he was a mechanic and had a look at things. He pronounced that the gearbox was definitely dead. He then kindly offered to let us stay there while we bought a replacement gearbox or disassembled and repaired ours.


We felt rather sick. We could see ourselves missing our flights next week or at least David having to stay behind.


Then some guys in a couple of work boats arrived and tied up to us, offering to help. Their job is to clean up weeds and debris from the Seine and they work for the Conseil General. They offered to tow us back down river several kilometres to a boatyard and workshop. We thanked them and agreed. Unfortunately, because of our weight and their smaller size, they were unable to tow us- we kept spinning in slow circles. The other driver called his HQ on the radio and asked for advice and finally, with a struggle, they towed us upriver several hundred metres to the pontoon where they normally store their boat. Then they offered to get a friend to tow us with a larger boat. At this point, "calm wife" (i.e. Penny) suggested it might be worth double checking the propeller before undertaking more drastic actions. Fortunately, where we were was now a much quieter and less dangerous place to go swimming around the stern. So, into the swimmers and down David (me) went. I discovered a very large blanket- double-bed size wrapped around the propeller and the drive shaft! I got a lot of it out and then one of our new friends said he would finish it off. We think they were feeling their responsibilities for keeping the waterways clean of stuff like this. So, finally, the remainder of the blanket was removed and a test showed that we could again travel in both directions and that apart from the gearbox being a little hot, nothing appeared damaged. We think the blanker was not obvious when we were going backwards because it was under the hull, then when we were towed, it moved to a more visible spot. In any case, it is amazing that we had been able to move anywhere at all.


So, off we went again and had no more dramas. We geve our friends a couple of bottles of wine, which they tried to refuse but hopefully will enjoy. They travelled in front of us for several kilometres collecting rubbish from the Seine in front of us and keeping an eye on us to check we were okay.


So, yet again, we have been impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of people here. As Penny often says "The French people have a Soul" and it is true!


Best Regards,

David and Penny



Heading Home (Maybe....We Hope!)

Once we left Compiegne we headed back along the Oise River towards the Seine, to follow it to the Yonne and Simon Evans' boatyard in Migennes, where Anja will again spend the winter months. The early part of September has been cold and damp, an early taste of autumn, but the second part of the month has again become sunny and mild, the sort of weather we had experienced previously at this time of year.

Our return trip is not straightforward as there is a scheduled closure of several locks on the Upper Seine and on the Yonne, which we must pass to get back to Migennes. They re- open on September 30th at 6am which allows us four days to make the sprint before we need to leave for our plane. We will have 140 kilometres and 26 locks to negotiate during daylight hours, and will be competing with the built- up commercial traffic which will also be keen to get going after a four week closure on the Seine and 6 weeks on the Yonne. The Seine locks are mostly duplicated so can pass a large number of boats through in a day. The Yonne is much slower and the locks are older and hard to negotiate.  

The Waterways authority (vnf) publishes a summary each week to inform users of the state of the waterways. On Friday the summary mentioned that there were some problems with gates on the first closed lock, Coudray, and therefore "perturbations" would continue for another twelve days, though the rest of the work is going  well. David emailed today for clarification of the situation and we were relieved to find that one of the two locks will be available. So as long as we can get through that lock despite all the traffic built up, remembering that commercial traffic always has priority, we should both be on our plane on Friday October 4th.

With time to spare we visited towns along the way previously missed, including Pontoise, an ancient Royal town. We planned to spend some days at Andresy where we had enjoyed a relaxed time earlier in the year, but on arrival found that  massive riverfront renovations are taking place. We have so far survived the dust and noise, the most impressive being the thumping of a pile driver about 50 metres away. It broke down this afternoon but no doubt will be back in action tomorrow. The train goes straight from Andresy to Paris so we fitted in a visit to the Musee d'Orsay particularly to see the Impressionist collection.

 IMG 8187
High above Pontoise (view from the Citadel walls)

The citizens of Andresy are not very happy with the works. Firstly, a large number of beautiful trees have been cut down. The town said that only some diseased trees were to be cut down but now it appears that all of them have been removed to make way for massive roadbuilding activity. There is no picture of what it will finally be like but does not look very good so far. There are many posters about the "assassination of our town" and "vote them out of office at the elections next March". COincidentally, the works are due to be completed in March. The local shopkeepers are struggling with all the mess and difficulty for customers to move around. Each evening and particularly on the weekend, local people "rearrange" barriers and signs to make life easier. The workers put them back in place this morning after a weekend of "rearranging". It is very interesting to watch from the water.

Meanwhile we are getting through all the large and small tasks before we leave the boat. The better weather makes it easier to dry the clothes, bedding and cushion covers and to allow David to touch up with paint those areas which are showing signs of wear. One sad task is to remove our flowers, which won't survive winter without us. In Andresy the planter boxes by the river are empty because of the building work, so we transplanted our blooming geraniums there to give them a last chance to be enjoyed.

IMG 8195Our Geranium donation to the Ville d'Andresy

We prefer to have a few days at the quay at Migennes to finish off such tasks as oil changes, but this year there will be no such luxury and David will have to do it en route. So our fingers are crossed but there is nothing we can do until Monday morning next, except to get ourselves into position at the start line and make sure the engine is functioning smoothly.


Best Regards,

Penny and Dave