Page 23 - Yachter Spring 2024
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                                    Vire 6hp’s spark plug had chosen that moment to carbon up with a resultant drift into a steep inaccessible bramble bank with no trees to tether to; the boak hook and deck scrubbing brush the only mooring option twisted into a briar patch. But this was not enough to match the suction from the barge that caused the stern to be sucked from the bank with the top of the laid flat mast catching on the barge’s handrail. Shooting off backwards, the bargee ground into his reverse gear doing his best to affect an emergency stop so that the shaken crew could detach the mast. Amazingly, the only damage was a slightly bent pushpit where the mast foot had been tied.
After Toulouse, the Canal du Midi rises
to its summit near Castelnaudary, the home of Cassoulet, before heading on down to the Med. In 1981 the Spring sunshine had shone on the snowclad Pyrenean peaks to the south; 40 years later having now turned to the dark side after our sailing ‘hands’ had gone to university, BEATRIX, a Linssen GS29.9AC
was heading north visiting old haunts.
The impossibly perfect blue Provencal skies and Summer heat of a hot Covid cruise down
the Rhône and along the coast were finally set to break, threatening to soak the steaming hot clay bowl of Cassoulet being delivered
to the boat after a cruise from Bram near Carcassonne. The hearty slow-simmered stew of Toulouse sausage, confit duck, pork, and haricot beans, is one of the great hallmarks
of French country cuisine. Cooked for hours until the beans and meat meld into a dish of luxuriant, velvety richness, it was matched to a bottle of Saint-Joseph bought a few weeks earlier in Tain L’Hermitage. The Cassoulet arrived at the same time as torrential rain, heavy thunder and long lightning strikes
that immediately cleared the heavy humidity of a late Occitanie Summer’s day, causing devastation in the nearby Tarn valley.
French gastronomy is renowned and never more so than when sailing the waters of the Rhône and Saône rivers. The Cité du Vin in
Bordeaux with its adjacent mooring or the wine museums in Sancerre and Pouilly sur Loire when moored close by on the Canal du Centre are enthralling. Walking up from the quay into the refreshingly cool underground Cave de Bailly for dégustation of Crémant de Bourgogne, Irancy or Saint-Bris, just a short cruise up the Canal du Nivernais from Auxerre, is perfect on a hot day. The Parisian cuisine in a classic Bistro off the Place de
la Bastille next to the Bassin de l’Arsenal is impressive with service to match, particularly after being chased by Bateaux Mouches and barges past the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty’s quarter scale baby sister and around the Île de la Cité. Even feasts at Moët & Chandon’s Orangerie in Epernay, a staggering distance back to a River Marne mooring
after copious quantities of their different champagnes, doesn’t quite make the grade in comparison with Lyon and say, the late Paul Bocuse, nicknamed the Pope of Gastronomy; his L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges au Mont
            DU VIN, DU PAIN, DES BASSINS 23

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