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Strawberry Orange Banana Lime Leaf Slate Sky Blueberry Grape Watermelon Chocolate Marble
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John Liley

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  1. It was built, I understand, in part as an experiment, as were the lifts at Montech on the Garonne, and Beziers on the Midi, as small-scale prototypes for something similar on the projected Rhone-Rhine Canal. The conclusion, in the end, was that locks would be preferred after all. The Rhone-Rhine project was subsequently abandoned, extraordinarily, on environmental grounds.
  2. Waiting at Arzviller on the Marne-Rhine Canal. A loaded barge was coming down.
  3. So many issues here it might need another thread! Which is better: 1. A keeper at every lock 2. Travelling keepers you have to wait for 3, Do-it-yourself locking, as in the UK(The French have looked at this and been appalled) 4. Remote controlled locks (from an office with cameras somewhere else. 5. Automatic locks (with emergency attendance when it goes wrong) The Nivernais has choice 2, with 1 at busy times of year. We find this agreeable, and the student keepers excellent (also, in my observation devoid of any anti-German feeling, or similar). We never tip with cash, nor have I seen it expected, though we do sometimes offer a drink, and take a fair share of working gates and sluices - as in the photo.
  4. In normal times (remember those?) the Nivernais management employs students to operate the locks in the tourist season, giving them serious instruction beforehand. And in my observation it works very well.
  5. The mixture of equipment on the flight stems from the days when local resistance members would sabotage the locks. To keep traffic moving the German occupying forces used whatever sluices they could find. Another occupation story is that the railway that accompanies the Canal dy Nivernais once had double tracks, until one set was taken off and moved across Europe, it is said, for use in Roumania.
  6. It's a big cherry area, much enjoyed, many times! One thing I did not mention was that the standard way of negotiating this lock in times of flood was to tie to the bank then work the vessel through by hand. That came to an end when the bollards on the towpath were removed to make it easier for the grasscutting tractor.
  7. It being sunny today I trust some photos in the rain can be excused. Here, at Champs-sur-Yonne, is one of the hardest locks to get into when the river is running. A strong sideways set takes a vessel towards the jetty, so you approach close to the towpath, then turn at an angle. Barges here were made of far thinner metal than narrowboats ever are, so, with a full-width vessel it pays to be careful. I once saw a laded Dutch freighter taken sideways here. The steerer saved the day by easing the vessel forward until the starboard side of the bow was just inside the lock. Meanwhile his pal dropped a tyre in at the stern against the jetty. They then just pivoted the boat straight against the lock entrance using the engine. To add to the show their Alsatian dog stood with its paws on the wheel as if it had done the whole thing itself.
  8. Leeds again, but 49 years ago. The Co-op had two tugs and several unpowered barges, bringing coal from the Aire & Calder pits right into the city centre.
  9. Nowadays in France canalside dogs are amiable, albeit sometimes on the scrounge. In my earlier years it was not so. There are few experiences more disconcerting while climbing a ladder than to hear some slavering mastiff galloping round to grab you. Official dictat put a stop to this in the end, with lock-keeper's guard dogs kept behind a fence. Worse still was the rampant billy-goat at St Didier on the Nivernais, which would come across the gates in pursuit of trouble. We would put out decoys to keep the thing at bay.
  10. A look on the Internet reveals that this ship, the Heavy Lift Vessel Blue Marlin was attacked by pirates off the west coast of Africa last year, having just delivered a cargo in Equatorial Guinea. The crew of 20, locking themlves into the "ship's citadel'" called for help and patrol craft and helicopters were despatched - the pirates, meanwhile, letting off forearms and causing enough damage for the vessel to be rendered inoperable. A tug was sent, and the crew were later complimented fon their actions. There was a picture some years ago of a similar stack of Chinese-built vessels on a raft stranded up an African beach after the towline had parted. Never a dull moment in the barge trade.
  11. Re narrow boats in containers, I really don't know. Two into one was what I was told, but there may be some misunderstanding here. I was told that, initially, a British-built boat was more or less taken to bits and its details pored over. We were looking for some boat builder for the proposed water park and got the impression these people could turn out anything. The water park people also wanted a lock to be built and all manner of stuff, including restaurant boats and electric propulsion throughout. My head was beginning to spin early on, particularly as several bridges had already been build to unnecessarily tight dimensions and they had dammed off the natural connection with the River Xiang. Wheyher it all got built I wonder.
  12. More on Changsha. An incidental discovery was that here a business had produced well over a hundred narrow boats and shipped them to England, two at a time, in containers. With government aid it has since morphed into a substantial shipyard. Working hours are long, so our visit provided the welcome excuse for a business lunch. The lady in blue did the English-Chinese translation on the narrow boat job.
  13. A brief change of scene. This is Changsha, a city of over seven million people in central China. A friend who is a heritage consultant was on a water park project there and invited me along. What stood out very soon was the lack of understanding there of leisure, ie the idea of doing something for its own sake rather than gaining a qualification/ gathering kudos/ aspiring to be in the Olympic team. There has, after all, been little opportunity for such dalliance in times gone by. My suggestion for a dinghy sailing club bit the dust early when it emerged that for much of the year there is hardly a breath of wind in the place. Traffic on the Xiang River was more or less constant, with, amongst the bigger stuff, a steady flow of smaller craft, not unlike the west-European spits.
  14. Or was it the Gertrude? Sorry for the mistake. Concentration is wavering in these peculiar days.
  15. I recall that the Beatrice, when she went out of trade, passed into the hands of Peter Scott, naturalist, painter and son of the polar explorer. She was widely used in the campaigning days of the Inland Waterways Association under the leadership of Robert Aickman.
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