Abemama is back in the canals and has been trekking hard since the last posting. The masts came down as easily as ever with the super guys at Cap d’Agde marina. So, in thee past week, we have done 167kms and 40 locks, many of which are doubles and triples. This puts us at Castelnaudary, the birthplace of cassoulet, with 65 kms to go to Toulouse. This means only 5 more ‘up’ locks to reach the summit, before the much gentler ‘downs.’

Yesterday, we did 9 ‘ups’ with a good team of 3 other well handled boats. This makes life much quicker and much less stressful than when you have a clown who keeps hitting the gates and bouncing across the lock, before throwing tangled lines, which fall short and the failing to take up the slack, so he hits the boat alongside.

Our usual plan is to be 3rd boat in, so that we can choose our side. We then only have to be prepared to fend off the 4th boat in if he is not very good and we have 2 oats in front of us to take the brunt of the lock current when it is filling – that is easier on our warps, our fittings and our hands.

We have also abandoned throwing lines to the shore. At every ‘up’ lock, Rita drives the boat in and then passes me the handle end of an aluminium boathook, with both warps looped onto the hook end. I then have both warps immediately to hand, rather than have them hurled several yards apart, and can decide whether to bollard the after line to slow the boat in a following wind, or to take both to the centre of the boat and pull her in broadside to make room for the last boat coming into the lock.

Yesterday, I got off the boat at 0800 and back on at 1200. By cycling all 9 locks (only about 5 miles) I made sure the lock was ready and was waiting to receive the boat so that Rita did not have to drop me off on the lock gate ladder – and then cross the lock to berth on the left – and did not have to go alongside the bank to drop me off. The day before, we got stuck on a tree root doing this in a big side wind and only got off with the help of the lockie sending us a flood, some muscular Austrians and Rita going full astern. Canal trips are always a mild and pleasant adventure.

We have said this before, but there are 2 cruising philosophies. You either voyage far end see many new places, or you enjoy revisiting your favourite haunts. We are not avid museum, cathedral and museum sightseers – cruisers rather than tourists. Both styles have their good points. One of ours occurred yesterday, when a lock keeper friend – to the surprise of the other boats – said ” I heard you were coming, so I have made you a pie with apples from my garden.”

We shall spend a few days here. There is no water tap up here beyond the basin, so no hire boats threatening to clatter us as they come in. The boat is safe on an easy berth. We also have a PBO to write and to email to Poole.

There is no Liveaboards Diary in the next PBO issue (we took a holiday) but will be back in October Issue with a discussion of all the simple, basic equipment which we find invaluable.

Good sailing to you all from Colin & Rita on Abemama travelling along the Canal du Midi.