The drive South, from Le Mans…

through Tours, Poitiers, Angouleme and Saint-Medard-en-Jalles to Bordeaux was an uneventful 500 km (OK David – 300 miles)
and we only got lost once…

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Another of our famous ‘left turns’ at Bordeaux, and a final 150 km dash through the lush Garonne Valley (and Sauternes region) to Agen, to take delivery of the boat by 3:00 pm.

Then a radical change of pace for the next 7 days…

Across the famous Agen Canal Bridge, down through 4 locks to the Canal de Garonne, several more locks, a tight turn at Buzet, another lock – and down into the River Baise. Two full days, cruising at 4 knots, to the navigation limits at Valence sur Baise. And back again, slowly this time, five days, through the 17th Century (and older) villages of Condom, Moncrabeau, Nerac, Lavardac, Vianne, Buzet (again) and back across the Canal Bridge to Agen.  Glorious places…

I’ll tell the story in pictures and keep the captions brief…

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Never piloted a boat OVER a bridge before… You sure this thing will fit?

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REALLY sure?

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Yup… Just!

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Going Down? Our first of many locks…

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What happens if I pull this?

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What do I do with this coil of rope?

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And this one? (Some people never learn!)

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The American Lady from the Rick Stein Series video…

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A new skipper emerges…

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Buzet – and a reflective moment for Keith. The monument’s text pulls no punches!

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No – NO! You tie it like this – here, let me show you…

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JB took a taxi back to Agen – retrieved his bike – was waiting for us in Lavardac!

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A bridge somewhere… One of many…

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Yes – he fished… No – he didn’t catch a pike… so shut-up OK?

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Lavardac on a quiet Sunday evening…

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We were NOT able to choose the name of our boat!

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A dancing (Canadian) lock keeper… and…

Famous last words… “No need for the fender David – I’ll use the bow thrusters to compensate…” Yeah, right!

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Just another Chateau… I could have cropped the picture better…

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A younger (non-dancing) lock keeper…

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Nerac – where our pilot had (just a little) trouble exiting the lock…

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This is the one – even the bow thrusters couldn’t handle the cross current… well – that’s MY excuse!

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…before mooring gracefully for the night…

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So peaceful…

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What’s he thinking?

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JB on the camera?

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And wandering the streets of old Nerac…

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Sundry sunburned sailors…

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Patricia’s the world’s best cook – but can she…?

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“Caution, slow down in 150 metres, cows drinking. Thank you!”

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Keeping an eye on his bike…

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Day after day – boring landscapes…

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Patricia! Stop that!

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Rose from Maman’s private supply – a toast to absent friends…

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“Not me Officer – I never touch the stuff…”

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Our lock keeper – resting…

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Two Little Maids from Spain are we… JB’s fan club

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What’s that up ahead? 

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Bow rope duty (in the locks) was the hardest…

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John, David and Patricia

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OK – so what now? Turn around – and go back…

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We wanted to go ashore – and those rotten buggers wouldn’t let us…

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40 years ago, WE looked like that too…  

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What the bloody hell are they doing? Waiting for the lock to clear ahead…

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On the Fore Deck…

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Still on the fore deck…

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On the Poop Deck…

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Keith wanted this picture – but I can’t remember why…

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We had to return the boat that afternoon, but before that we had one last crossing of the…

Pont Canal d’Agen

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Agen’s Canal Bridge

Built in 1749, 539 metres long, 23 ‘basket angle’ stone arches on 22 pillars. The canal is 8.82 metres wide, with 2 tow paths, allows only one way navigation. A Lock and a basin are located downstream of the aqueduct bridge, and another basin is located upstream. I could have spent days on this thing…

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but on this last day, JB had the helm – and he wasn’t giving it up for anybody…

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The last lock before the Pont Canal d’Agen…

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Clockwise: A reflective moment – Outrigger fishing on a Canal Boat? – Time to pack away the fishing gear – David’s waited 40 years for this shot (and with MY camera, a momentary lapse in concentration!)

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Keeping his eye on the Pont Canal – dead ahead…

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Here we go – Keith looking anxious…

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Drive on James – carefull – don’t spill the wine…

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Slow down – I have to get back on…

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Ahead – the last turning basin… before we arrive back at the…

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Boat Harbour.   So, we arrived back in Agen and, as you can see, we had a terrible time – did not enjoy ourselves at all…

It was all over, I thought… but maybe not…
A Wonderful Surprise!

And it seemed everyone knew – except me…

There I was, wandering quietly back from the Internet Cafe, when I ran into Keith. He told me that he was going into Agen in search of a baguette (he had missed lunch), so I took him to a baguette shop I knew of. He changed his mind. Then he wanted 3 more bottles of Mandarine Liqueur (so we could have one each for presents), and I took him to a supermarket I had found. They had none, and we visited 3 more wine ‘Caves’ before we found what we needed. It was now after 5:00pm, and he said “Let’s go back to the boat…”

It seems that while Keith was keeping me busy in town, JB (who told me he was going to look at bike shops) was meeting his sister at the train station, and they needed time to check her into her hotel, and then smuggle her on board the boat. David and Patricia were also involved, and now I understand why they didn’t want to travel further up the Lot River that afternoon!

Carla had 2 weeks vacation, and had flown from Oz to London, gone to Wimbledon with an old friend, flown to Toulouse – then trained to Agen. She was then hidden in Keith’s cabin. As we climbed on board, we announced that we had 3 more bottles of our new favourite liqueur, “we can finish one tonight – and still have one each left over…”

And a voice from below said, “You may need an extra bottle now!”

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My Princess emerges…

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No lame caption can do justice to this moment!

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Or this one…

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“This is no big deal, anyone can drive this thing!” She wanted to see the Pont Canal – so JB gave her the helm and we set off on a Sunset Cruise…

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The kids were in charge of the boat – so we cracked one last pose…

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and (more importantly) one last bottle of wine…

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Carla – fitting right in…

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Back at the Marina – tying up! All secure skipper – let’s go and eat…

Our Last Supper…

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For the first time in several days, Patricia didn’t have to look after four hungry lads… My opinion? The food on board was better… It was a subdued evening. We knew that something very special was coming to an end, we would be saying our farewells in the morning, and…

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for the SECOND time in 40 years, going our separate ways.

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More on The Second Trip – 2006… 

1. Together Again
2. Ickham to Le Mans
3. Agen, Canal du Midi, la Baise
4. Heading North, Le Tour
5. Hannover and Holland
6. Final Week/s in Paris?
7. A Few Panoramas

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