Arriving in Cambrai for the middle weekend in July was great luck. Saturday saw the Tour de France flash through while the town was celebrating French National (Bastille) Day. A magnificent fireworks display erupted over the town hall partially to the rather odd theme music from the 70’s program The Love Boat!
Sunday I sat in a bar watching the World Cup final on my phone with Steve and Anna from Patricia. There was no chance of getting near a TV. Bizarrely the internet video was about a minute behind real TV, so while the whole town screamed I had to wait to see what had actually occurred, although it was pretty obvious.
Leaving Cambrai I continued south on the Canal de Saint-Quentin. A very gentle quiet canal with rolling fields of crops either side. Some pleasant moorings but few facilities. I’d phoned and pre-booked my transit through the Riqueval tunnel before leaving Cambrai. This tunnel is 3.5 miles long and built on the orders on Napoleon, completed in 1810. There’s no ventilation so you’re pulled through by a barge which runs off electric overhead cables that pull a chain from the canal base. It’s supposed to be able to pull 20-30 boats at once which must be slow. For this transit (There’s only 2 a day) I was with a small Dutch cruiser Flujas. The VNF guys gave me a rope to attach to my bow bollards and the cruiser behind had ropes attached to my stern. Being only 2 boats this was easy but there have been reports of boats struggling to stay in a straight line and hitting the tunnel walls as some boats had uneven lines. The trip took 90 minutes and was totally uneventful emerging into a wooded gorge to stop the night.
After the long tunnel there was another shorter one at Le Tronquoy which I transited under my own power. On to Saint-Quentin where I’d planned to moor, however I moved on again after some undesirables took too much interest in my boat finally stopping at a beautiful spot in Le Hamel. Here I met up with the Dutch cruiser Flujas, Ton, Marcella and Bob the dog. Chatting to Ton was excellent as Ton’s a tug skipper and gave me plenty of ideas for a future cruise in Holland.
From Le Hamel it took me a further 3 days to reach Reims. I was keen to arrive in Reims before the very hot weather hit and hopefully be on electric hook up. I managed this but it was long days helped starting early in the cooler air. The locks all the way have been automated either by remote control or twisting or pulling control poles. All but 2 have worked without problem and on those occasions the VNF have turned up fairly swiftly to help me out. Transit through the locks can be very quick often less than 10 minutes. The run to Reims from Cambrai covered 191kms (118miles) and 58 locks. This part of the trip was lovely but I was very ready for a week of Champagne and relaxation in Reims.