Summer was quite literally in full-swing when Brian and I returend to Detour, she was safe and sound at Port de France. A persistant case of jet-lag had us awakening mid-afternoon to the sounds of cheering and splashing across the harbour. “What the heck,” I stood up in bed, peeked my sleepy eyes out the forward hatch and tried to focus my vision on what I thought was a pole vaulter swinging from atop a row boat? I rubbed my eyes, comfirmed I was indeed awake, and looked once more. Across the harbour, beyond Detour‘s bow, the shoreline and docks were crowded with spectators. Cheers, whistles, and claps echoed around Toul’s inner-harbour ramparts. In the water, two rowboats with teams of 5-paddlers each were facing one another bow to bow. At the stern of each rowboat was a tall platform atop of which stood, or rather unsteadily bobbled back and forth, a spindly young Frenchman. The stern-men ware dressed for battle, helmets atop their heads and chests adorned with deflective, foam armor that had been painted with a coat of arms distinctly resembling a yellow bull’s eye. Firmly in their grasp, the stern-men held long poles which they used to occasionally balance themselves by propping the end of the pole in the bilge of the rowboat. I rubbed my eyes again. We hadn’t merely returned to France, we had traveled back in time! This was a joust! The water jousting proved most entertaining. Amidst the main event were several other games such as kayak races around the jousting ring, and jumping from a platform to strike a bell that hung high above the water. From our American perspective, these seemed to be the games one might find at a child’s summer camp. But the French spectators were raving about it! The announcer’s enthusiasm during jousting rounds kept us on the edge of our front row seats to this major sporting event. Port de France was bustling with canal cruising boats, the month of July being the high season. Just prior to our departure we were thrilled to encounter Americans aboard M/Y Apres Ski. We spent part of the day chatting with Kent and Heather, who have been seasonally canaling for 5-years and were just as excited as we were to no longer be the lone “young couple” in the harbour. They shared great information with us about the French Waterways, and we in-turn shared information about the Bahamas where Kent and Heather plan to explore during their upcoming winter months.
Off again, transiting the Canal de la Marne au Rhin Oust. We confirmed with the Port Captain, and also with Kent and Heather, that if we headed toward the first lock it would just open. Yes, like magic! The locks through this section are automatic and activated via a sensor, so when the boat breaks the sensor’s barrior “Viola!” the lock prepares. Even after our three-week vacation from locks, Brian and I were both still able to enter and exit the locks with, “No touches!” Not even lingering jet lag could hold us down! Without a clicker, however, we were worried about stopping along this section for fear that the locks worked in a series each preparing the next. We did not want to break the series of locks preparing from one to the next as we continued, so the goal for the day was to complete the last lock in this series.
We transited 11 locks, and at our 12th and final lock for the day the perceived series of automated locks ended and we received a new clicker with which to initiate the remaining locks through the Canal de la Marne au Rhin and beyond (those that aren’t manual, manual locks are soon to enter the story…) A somewhat nervous, but friendly teenage boy was manning Ecluse #14 (actual number of the lock, still our 12th that day) at Foug. He used his English marvelously to inquire about our final destination, hand us the clicker, and wish us a good voyage. During the high season, many of the locks (especially the manual ones) are manned by youngsters as their summer jobs. We proceeded through the lock and onward through the Foug Tunnel.
We stopped for the night at the Saint Remy halte. We were the only boat docked with people aboard, and so it was quiet aside from farmers driving their tractors to and from nearby fields. The familiar, fresh scent of, “Eeewwweee cows” indicated to us that the farmers were fertilizing their fields with manure. We were greeted that evening by a very friendly, white retriever who lived in the house beside the halte. He/she spent his/her potty time on the shore beside Detour. He/she wanted a taste of our burgers, but got hearty pats instead. The retriever so enjoyed the pats that during his/her second visit beside Detour the retriever barked each time we attempted to retire into the cabin. “If you keep going up there, he’s going to keep barking.” Brian’s wisdom. But I just couldn’t help myself for a free pup for the night!