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Old 03-09-2016, 12:24 AM   #1
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Windmills & wine

Hello everyone and welcome aboard 'Snow Mouse', our 42' Broom.

Last year I posted on TF our journey from the middle of Ireland to Dunkirk, France.
It was the first part of our overall journey and the thread is called 'Ireland to the Mediterranean Part 1'.
After a hectic winter schedule we're now preparing for the next leg of our journey, this will take us from Dunkirk,France, up through Belgium and into Holland.
From there we'll go through part of Germany, then Luxembourg and finally back into France and on down to the Med.
I will post photo's and snippets of local information in the same format as last year which most folk seemed to like, as we travel along.
Be Patient, there may sometimes be a small delay in posts as we might not always have access to a Wi-Fi signal, there's no point in buying an all singing all dancing system just for a few months, we already have French system on board.
Over the winter months we've been living on board on our comfy Birchwood 33' cruiser in Narbonne, it's for sale and hopefully we'll get a buyer before we leave, if not it will keep our mooring space for us when we return to Narbonne on 'Snow Mouse'.
Many of you are not familiar with Europe and it's canal system so rather than posting one large map which would be difficult for you to visualise and follow, I will post a map of each country as we enter it and you can then be able follow our journey easier.
I hope you'll enjoy it as much as we intend to.
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Old 03-09-2016, 03:57 PM   #2
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Have a very good and enjoyable trip, looking forward to see the photos.
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Old 03-10-2016, 12:00 AM   #3
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Thanks Olivier.
Just like everyone else planning 'a big one' it's been a hectic winter, catching up from our last adventure, planning the new with some personal TLC thrown in along the way. We went for a weeks holiday in the French Alps to follow in the footsteps of Hannibal when he took his elephants over the Alps to attack Rome century's ago (photo) some feat in those days.
As our boat was pre owned we also wanted to keep the momentum going on upgrades for easy cruising and reliability.
Y'all know the kinda thing, uprated alternators, 'run dry' impeller kits from Speedseal, modified oil change pump for easy clean servicing, new Cat Water/fuel separator, new ropes, curtains etc. etc. the list goes on.
One of the problems we encounter is that most of the French chandlers and marine suppliers/agents are inflexible.
As our boat was built in England naturally the equipment suppliers were too, and that makes replacing things costly from a shipping point of view, or as we tend to do, combine a trip home by car and collect it ourselves.
The bonus of course is that we get to renew our old friendships and make new ones. The French can't understand why we love dry cured thick cut back bacon and damn good aged Irish beef for example ( the French eat theirs fresh, flash fried and very rare) so we take a cool box to restock with goodies too.
Just like you guys we love a sundowner at the end of a day so we nip over the border from France into Spain where we can buy spirits like Irish whiskey very cheap around 15 Euro's a litre for Tullamore Dew, Jameson's and Bushmills, note, Irish whiskey is spelt with an e and it's triple distilled for purity and smoothness. Scottish whisky is also very nice of course but only distilled twice, I'm biased so buy some Irish and boost our exports.
Spanish brandy is also much cheaper at around 10 Euro's a litre.
All this means an extra couple of 2,500 kilometre time consuming trips to transfer all these bottles and the junk we've acquired on our old boat to our new one.
Photo's of Cenis valley in the French Alps that Hannibal traversed with his army and elephants.
Husky Dog sled competition.
With all those dogs around NEVER EAT YELLOW SNOW !
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Old 03-11-2016, 04:10 PM   #4
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As part of our preparations for our forthcoming adventure we had to go home to Ireland, then return via England to pick up some spares.
I've posted quite a bit on here about WW2 because quite simply there is so much that's been preserved it's impossible to miss.
The first part of our trip of 3000 kms takes us up along the Cherbourg peninsular and I've posted photo's of the Omaha beach in a previous post..
If you haven't already, I thoroughly recommend, you search online for a film called 'The Longest Day' of the D-Day landings on the 5th & 6th of June 1944.
In that film it shows the parachute assault by the American 82nd Airborne division at 04.30 on the 6th of June. The town of St Mere Eglise was the target and during the parachute landings Pvt John Steele's parachute got hung up on the church spire, he was captured by the Germans and released back to the Americans later that morning. The town of St Mere Eglise has an original DC3 and glider used in the assault along with many other artefacts in it's war museum.
A parachute and an effigy of John Steele are to this day shown suspended from the church spire to commemorate the town being the first town to be liberated in France.
On a lighter note we spotted these wild deer grazing in the field just outside St Mere Eglise.
Apologies for the turned photo.
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Old 03-11-2016, 11:26 PM   #5
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Irish, great photos and narrative of an area that someday I WILL visit. I have a few things I need to do first but then it's off across the pond to see what side of the world.


Thanks for taking us along on your journey.
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Old 03-11-2016, 11:51 PM   #6
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Entertained by a Lodi, CA winemaker (and boat lover) while in a hurry to imbide: a joy:

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Old 03-12-2016, 01:35 AM   #7
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GFC,
I have to be careful in case I bore people of a younger generation but anyone with any interest can easily spend a leisurely week just along the Cherbourg peninsula alone.
We travel that way to catch the Irish ferries cruise ferry from Cherbourg direct to Rosslare in Ireland and I'm happy to make the post interesting for as many people as possible.
Markpierce, I can see your gonna fit right in France as you appreciate being out in the sun with food, wine and good company.
France boasts the largest vineyard in the world with 50 million hectares of vineyards and, err maybe I shouldn't tell, but it exports some of it's heavier reds to America fortify the lighter California wines.
The reds we drink as much as possible to dull the mind from the complete a*****s in government. Apologies for being political.
Here of course you can travel by boat along the canal, moor up to the bank and just dander into the vineyards and sample the grapes 'au naturel'.
I don't know if you get migrating birds passing through your vineyards in California as we do down here but when the machines have passed to harvest the grapes from the vines, they always miss some grapes, these ripen so much the sugar content slowly turns to alcohol.
Migrating flocks of birds stop off for a while to fatten themselves feeding on these alcohol rich grapes before the long sea crossing over the Med to North Africa.
One of the funniest sites is a flock of tipsy birds, they gorge so much on these they're falling about like a group of sailors on shore leave and can't take off until they sober up.
When they finally get airborne, DON'T LOOK UP !
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Old 03-14-2016, 12:27 PM   #8
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Rambler, great stuff! Keep it up! My kind of trip. I understand from a Scottish friend that as children they'd ferment old oats to feed to wild geese to make them drunk and easy to catch! They wouldn't have had access to grapes in the Outer Hebrides... Cheers!


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Old 03-14-2016, 03:01 PM   #9
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Ah ! the canny scots !
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Old 03-14-2016, 03:18 PM   #10
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To try and help to put things in perspective I've attached a map of the European waterways to give you an overview.
Altogether there are 45,000 miles of rivers and canals which are navigable and with such a plethora of choices as to where to cruise ensures there's something to suit everyone's taste.
I will post an individual map of countries we pass through on our journey.
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Old 03-14-2016, 05:20 PM   #11
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Wow, if I'm seeing the map correctly, it looks like one can cruise from the English Channel across Europe to the Black Sea?
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Old 03-14-2016, 06:17 PM   #12
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Hi MrJim.
Yes indeed you can, however the lower reaches of the Danube would be 'challenging', it's a bit like the Wild West down there and light fingered natives abound. I know of people in barges who've tried it and had to turn back.
On the European canal system you can cruise from the Med up to Russia, the Atlantic (read 'How to Cruise Between Two Sea's' on Amazon kindle, the Black sea. North sea, English channel, Baltic sea.
It's such an amazing and diverse system and over the coming months we cannot hope to physically (and financially) cover it all but we will cover enough to whet your appetite.
Likewise we envy you the ICW, I think the older and more informed we get the more we have the burning desire to explore.
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Old 03-15-2016, 12:39 PM   #13
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Thanks for sharing your trip! Loved the last thread and am looking forward to this one evolving!
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Old 03-18-2016, 03:20 PM   #14
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Did you read the post last year called 'Ireland to the Mediterranean Part 1' ? ?
On page five I related the story of the evacuation of the British army from the beaches at Dunkirk by the Winston Churchill's flotilla of 'Little Ships'.
During the winter months I spent some tracking down any surviving 'Little Ships' to get you a photo, I nearly missed her, she's called Omega and lo and behold she's moored in the South of France. Here she's seen with a winter cover.
She's owned by a Belgian gentleman and that's as much as I found out.
You can see the plaque she was presented with after the evacuation (if you can enlarge it helps to see the detail..
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Old 04-01-2016, 12:31 AM   #15
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This weekend we head North to begin de winterizing/washing/modifying/victualing in preparation for our exciting summer adventures.




First we have to empty the bottles in the bar of 'Sanity' to save hauling them all the way North.
This turned out to be a very enjoyable solution, as the nigh wen bi and ours frens vishited we foun oushelves avin a schpectacula evenin hic, we finshed the bokkles an collaps inn the bed sumtim later.
Seriously we had a great night of fun and laughter, and yes we did empty the bar, what a send off !
Aspirin for breakfast anyone ?


On a more sober note, when we were searching for the Dunkirk little ship earlier we came across this 3 way lock at the medieval town of Agde, the original town and cathedral are built in black basalt rock from a nearby ancient volcanic quarry
The engineers building the canal du Midi at Agde needed to cross the shallow river Aude.
They built a weir below the crossing point to raise the water level in the river Aude to create a step up, over the river, then step down on the far side via another lock which allows barges/boats to cross the river
The 3 way lock also allows traffic to go down to the lower river Aude below the weir, from there they can follow the river out to the Mediterranean.
If you look closely at the photo you will see the higher water mark on the lock wall.
passing the lock gate facing you takes you up a step to cross the river Aude.
The lock gate in the centre right takes you down 2 metres to the lower river level and from there out to the Med.
The Belgian steel boat on the right is leaving the lock to cruise the canal du Midi.
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Old 04-01-2016, 01:18 PM   #16
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Hey Irish Rambler.

You enjoy your cruise and Happy cruising to you and your Mate. Look forward to your posts.

Happy cruising to you.

Cheers.

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Old 04-05-2016, 02:15 AM   #17
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Thank you very much HF for your good wishes.
A French neighbour from Narbonne has family around Paris and owns a camping car, he kindly offered to bring us and our belongings up to Dunkirk and on his return can visit with his family.
We've some mods to do first on 'Snow Mouse' and then restock for the summer..
The map shows our first planned short shakedown cruise to Bergues and will help those unfamiliar with France's geography.
You can just about see the black line I put on the top right hand corner of the map to show the short Southerly spur to Bergues, then the short Eastwards leg to the Belgian Border.
For any of you war movie buffs get yourself a download of 'The Dam Busters' as there'll be references later in the post that you can relate to.
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Old 04-05-2016, 06:59 AM   #18
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Thank you for the map Irish Rambler.

It nice to see your route and understand where things are so we can follow you with a better understanding. Wow it sure does seem like a wonderful cruise. You both enjoy it and I for one am looking forward to your next post.

Happy Cruising Mate.

Cheers.

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Old 04-13-2016, 01:43 AM   #19
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A final trip to the diesel pump and we're ready at last to leave, time to quit talking and get walking.
It's important here to keep receipts for diesel.
In Ireland/England were allowed to use agricultural diesel which is dyed green in Ireland (naturally), and red in England. This dye is called quintinrazahol and of course stains the tank, subsequent fills will pick up some of this dye and taint the diesel.
(There's a way to get rid of this dye but I can't post it on a public forum).
Because we will be shortly passing the Belgian border the customs guys there get a bit twitchy as it's not allowed to use agri diesel in Europe in pleasure boats, therefore we keep receipts to prove we bought white(road) diesel and any dye is residual.
We say our final goodbye's to Dunkirk, (Dunkirk means The Church among the dunes) it's a great place to winter and the locals have been very helpful and kind. The place itself is steeped in history and well worth a visit if your ever in this region. It's hard to believe as you walk around the centre of the town that it was 80% razed to the ground in WW2 and rebuilt again using the original architectural plans.
Some photo's around the seaport and our friends Pat & Geri in 'Cool Running's' in the first of what will be around 5/600 locks during our summer cruise.
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Old 04-13-2016, 07:57 AM   #20
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Hey Rambler! Watching your adventures with envy. Give 'er!



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