Abemama is now through all those popular hot spots choked with hire boats and by picking the days known to be traffic free, we had a good fast run through Toulouse and into the quiet of the Canal Laterale. We are also in the last week before French schools restart, so there are less people and they are of a different sort. From here, one more half day will see us at the Atlantic end of the system.

For us, it has been a hectic and ad venturous time since the last posting. We have put in some long days and also had to do a pile of magazine work, which took the 6 days of our stop over at Castelsarrassin, where we have a number of French and radio ham friends. Cruising and radio are a good mixture of pastimes.

We also developed a rattling noise near the prop – no vibration, no loss of speed and no lessened manoeuvrability – just niggling. A lung dive indicated something amiss with our Spurs rope cutters. A dive in full gear – like swimming in lentil soup – showed it to be more than a lose grub screw.

Castel has a boat yard run by some super people. At 1600, they craned us out and at 1700 popped us back in after we had replaced the Spurs nylon bearings. One wall had been completely cut away – possibly by fishing line. This is not a indictment of the gear. It has been on the boat for 10 years and has served us very well. In the canals, I would not be without it.

The Yard charges ’50 per crane hoist – in or out – but only asked for ’50 all told, because we did not need to be unslung, nor propped up – we have bilge keels additional to the long keel. They would also winter store us under cover for ‘300 for 6 months and even offer a caravan to sleep in if you are working on the boat for a few days.

That is very fair finance and matched by the harbour at Castelsarrassin. This is now a paying stop. For an alongside berth, water and ‘lecky’, the charge is 10Ffr a night. In similar vein, our French friend Alain took us in his van to Intermarche, where we found diesel at 4.97 Ffr/ litre – as opposed to 7Ffr in the Toulouse harbour of Port Sud.

This was much less than we would have paid for a drink. A yacht skipper berthed near us, came down the quay with a bottle a 2 glasses, which he generously filled ‘As a reward, because you have been working hard all day´ The liquid was 80 year old cognac. Nectar.

Since Castel, we have put in another long hot day of 62lkm and 19 locks to get through Agen. Unfortunately, our normal ultra reliable engine has been cutting out at low rpm – in some very hairy p[laces – and also losing power and stopping at cruising revs. It has needed severe bleeding before restart. Today, we have changed the filters and one dodgy looking injector. It is one of those times when I wish I was a mechanic.

If this treatment does not work, we need to look elsewhere. Watch this space.