The barge rally was done and dusted so it was time to "get on the road" again and complete the circuit of the central French canals. We wouldn't be doing the Nivernais as we had concerns about bridge heights and water levels.So it was back along the Yonne revisiting some of the places we had stopped at before. Once we passed Migennes, however, we were in new territory. As we pulled into the mooring at Laroche St Cydroine we saw a narrow boat heading our way from down river. Lo and behold it was Quaintrelle, who we had first encountered after the Pouilly tunnel. They were having troubles with the hydraulics on their bowthruster so were heading back to the boat yard. We had met up with them at various points and now Aileen quipped that they were turning up like a "bad penny". After spending the night here we continued down river while they heading back up. Joigny was our next port of call and we arrived in time for the Fete de la musique. This usually means free concerts and/or impromptu busking by local musicians. It was a stinking hot day and the night was quite balmy, however, the music wasn't as interesting as some other places we have been. We were in for a spectacular sunset though.We stayed in Joigny for a couple of days, hoping for some cooler weather, before we headed on down to Sens. As we headed to the Quay we couldn't believe our eyes. Moored up was Quaintrelle - how did they get here before us when last we saw them they were heading in the opposite direction. Apparently while we were hiding from the heat in Joigny they had managed to pass us but they were still having problems with their bowthruster. There was an hydraulic specialist in Sens so they were hoping for it to be fixed this time.
Sens is a cathedral town and has a rich history based around a Roman city built in the first century BC. The museum, attached to the cathedral, has some amazing examples of Roman artifacts and mosaics. There was even an excavation site in the crypt area. We also visited the covered market hall which has a good array of fresh produce.Once again we said goodbye to Aileen and Mike as they now thought their hydraulics were fixed and they had booked into Arsenal Marina in Paris so needed to get a wriggle on if they were going to be there in time. We stayed a few hours more before heading off to Pont sur Yonne, to find Quaintrelle there ahead of us. They were still having problems but this time the mechanic was going to come to them. As we anticipated that this would definitely be our last time together we decided to walk into town for a drink at a local bar. But before we could do that, the heavens opened up so we settled for drinks in our wheelhouse.
Next morning three of us, including a small cruiser, headed towards the first of our locks for the day. The locks on the Yonne river are different to any others in France - they have sloping sides which means as you go down in the lock you could become stuck on the wall if your ropes are too tight. In some cases, as in this lock, there is a small floating pontoon so that smaller boats can tie up without needing to worrying about getting stuck on the sloping walls. As we were the biggest barge we tied up to the floating pontoon and the others arranged themselves alongside us. Easy!! We descended the lock quite slowly and safely. Onto the next and last three on the Yonne. We knew these didn't have any floating pontoons so Kevin and I had decided not to tie any ropes as we had already experienced being caught on the sloping wall in a previous lock a few days ago. So we hovered at the back of the lock. The cruisers gave their ropes to the lock keeper and held them loosely and also used poles to keep them off the sides. Mike and Aileen in Quaintrelle decided to loop one rope over a bollard while poling front and back. As the water started to recede Quaintrelle got caught on the wall at the rear and started to list really badly. Aileen screamed for the lock keeper to halt the water flow which he did and then helped them to push their back end off. All turned out OK but everyone was a little tense when we approached the next lock. So Aileen and Mike decide to follow our example and hover backwards and forwards as the water receded. Needless to say we were all rather relieved to get out of the final lock with Aileen declaring that she never wanted to see another lock again.
We were now on the Seine River and soon turned off for the Loing River, the start of the Loing, Briare, Loire canal system. We finally waved goodbye to Quaintrelle as they made their way up the Seine to Paris. We fully expect to see Mike and Aileen again but I think next time it will be in the SW of France, somewhere near Bordeaux.