January 8th: New Year River Bank Walk. Time to walk off the turkey with a stroll from Borris down to the Barrow and along its bank to Ballytiglea Bridge.Refreshments afterwards at “Áras na hÁbhainn” with Josie and Fritz.
January 24th: Monthly meeting Doyle’s Pub Graiguenamanagh 8.30 pm.
February 28th: Monthly meeting Doyle’s Pub Graiguenamanagh 8.30 pm.
March 27th: Monthly meeting Doyle’s Pub Graiguenamanagh 8.30 pm.
April 24th : Monthly meeting Doyle’s Pub Graiguenamanagh 8.30 pm.
May 5th -7th : Cruise to Goresbridge and Slyguff. BBQ at Slyguff lock Sat 5th .
May 29th : Monthly meeting Doyle’s Pub Graiguenamanagh 8.30 pm.
After a very busy wonderful summer and a lot of kilometres on the clock, it was time to turn
to France again, via the Canal St Quentin and its tunnel, of nearly 6km this time, through which boats
have to be towed by an electric tug, as there is little ventilation. We had heard grim tales of boats being
damaged while being towed through at the end of a long string of craft so were somewhat anxious. However,
we were the sole customer that Sunday morning, the tug coming to collect just Aquarelle. It took us 1 hour
35 minutes to get through the tunnel: slow going and slightly chilly, but dry. Well lit, in places the overhead
cables for the electric tug were very low, hanging just over our heads as we stood on the aft deck.
There is a tow path on one side with timber along the edge which the tug and barges lie against; the other side
is all rough rock and brick with protruding, jagged edges here and there, dangerous for craft at the end of a
long tow. However, we had a completely trouble-free, if not slightly boring after a while trip to add to our
Down on the Oise, we met up with our second daughter, son-in-law and other two grandchildren for the cruise up
the Seine into Paris, through very windy, showery weather, but great to have them with us, albeit for such a
quick visit. Paris well, among other things we took in a quirky and fascinating guided walking tour through
lesser known parts of Montmartre, home to many famous artists and writers, including a 700-bottle-a- year
vineyard! One final Irish visitor signed on at Morêt-sur-Loing and, with Mike, introduced some French children
in the playground beside us in Namour to conker playing, keeping them fascinated and amused for ages. He also
helped replace an unsealed double glazed window unit in the galley most useful!
When the amphibians had dispersed we cast off and followed two laden barges into the caisson
where we tied up alongside and watched the descent. We had been lucky enough to have had a tour around
the works of the this lift during the time it was being constructed but not yet operational, while at a
World Canal Conference in 1999, so this was a particularly interesting trip for us.
Something not to be missed, and yet there is something of an anticlimax when one travels through it.
There was absolutely no feeling of motion whatsoever, and it was only by watching the surrounding countryside
carefully and the gate disappearing above our heads as we went down that we were aware of descending.
There is also a loudspeaker both on shore and in the lift that gives information about the movement of the tank.
We reached the lower level within seven minutes. Altogether another strange but fascinating experience.
The following facts may be of interest to the curious:
the actual structure has a height of 117m, a length of 130m and a width of 75m. There are two tanks of
112m x 12m each, and a depth of water which varies between 3.35m and 4.15m.The twin tanks are operated
independently and by electro-mechanical means. The tanks which boats enter are suspended by cables and
are balanced by massive counterweights made of concrete. The cables and counterweights can be seen moving
as the tanks ascend and descend. Truly awesome feats of engineering!
Our route brought us via the 73m boat lift at Strépy-Thieu and we tied up at the quay until given
the green light,at the new concrete 500m aqueduct from which there is a wonderful view out across the valley.
While awaiting our turn to enter and descend we were most surprised to see some 13 or 14 weird looking craft
exiting the lift: amphibious vehicles of all shapes and sizes, buzzing around on the water like so many manic
water-boatmen, those rather jerky little aquatic insects one sees sometimes skating about on the surfaces of
canals, ponds or streams.