Against the Current paints its own picture of France and the year we spent on our boat exploring it. However, for those of you desperate to know what Liberty and some of the places we visited were like, and to see what we captured while trying to become wildlife photographers, this section is for you. Click on any image to enlarge and read the full description.
(These images are free for you to download and use as you wish providing you include an acknowledgment to Mike Bodnar and a link to www.againstthecurrent.uk. If you need higher resolution versions please email the author with details. Thanks!)
Liberty - inside and out
Free mooring! We tried to do this as often as possible, just tie up alongside the edge of a canal in the middle of nowhere. You have to rely on your own power and water etc, but with Liberty's generous battery bank and water supply, we found we could go a full seven days without needing shore support
Passing through the Cotes du Rhone wine region
Yes, unbelievable, but this is what we woke up to one morning on the Canal Rhone a Sete. By lunchtime the snow had disappeared, the sun had come out and it was around 20 degrees. Go figure!
The salon. The banquette on the right can be converted into comfy double bed
Liz in the circular banquette dining area for'ard that can be turned into a round bed. We never did find a source for round sheets...
Comfy 'island' bed, plus two wardrobes. The bed lifts up to reveal more storage underneath
For steering on those days when the weather precluded being 'up top'
Beneath the salon floor. With the sound baffles removed there's good access to all the mechanical bits. The engine is a Yanmar 110hp diesel. The sharp-eyed among you will notice water in the bilge forward of the engine. This was the result of my spilling water while working below, not an indication we were sinking!
We got used to checking filters, coolant level, linkages etc. A good habit to get into!
The 'up top' steering position - our favourite
Canals, locks and stuff like that
In spring. The plane trees just starting to bud
Even industry adds to the interest. And let's not forget, if it weren't for the needs of industry and commerce the canals wouldn't have been built
One of the tear-jerking sights on the Canal du Midi: diggers and other heavy equipment being used to fell some of the 42,000 diseased plane trees
Stumps of felled plane trees like a row of rotting teeth on the Canal du Midi
Saxophonist taking advantage of the excellent acoustics at a lock
Our inspiration: 'Only the dead fish follow the current. Are you a dead fish?'
This is us cruising 'topless' - meaning we had to drop all the canvas bimini top, the equipment rack and even the flybridge windows in order to get under some of the low bridges. Oh, and not forget to duck as well
Holding on as we drop down to a new level. The lock-keeper is in the control tower in the distance. I should be wearing a life jacket...
During the summer months it's common to find that your lock-keepers are only about 19 or 20 years old - students earning a few extra Euros during the holiday
These, on the Yonne, presented their own challenge, as it was tricky to tie up to the edge, and we had to keep Liberty positioned mid-lock as we dropped, so that we didn't grind our hull or tip over
The deepest lock on the Rhone. In the image, Liberty has dropped 22 metres down to the next level. We sailed into a swimming pool and exited from a watery warehouse.
We liked these. In some of the big locks on the Rhone, we'd tie up to these and the bollards would then float up or down according to whether the lock was filling or emptying. Easy!
Some locks fill with a vengeance, the water entering like a mini Niagara. This can bounce your boat around if you aren't managing your ropes properly
This is a cill, below the lock gates. You don't want to get your boat caught on it as the water level drops!
Quite often we'd have to share a lock with another boat or two. This one is a commercial 'peniche,' which - like all bateaux commerce - has priority for entering and exiting
The Canal du Midi on a late spring evening
The Canal du Midi is famous for its plane trees, planted to provide shade and to secure the canal banks from erosion. Sadly they're being attacked by a fungus and there is a possibility all 42,000 of them will have to be felled. The work has already started...
An unusual lock because it has three gates, allowing you to choose between going east, west or south.
These curved sides are common on locks on the Midi and were designed to prevent the lock sides from collapsing. Same principle as an arch, only on its side.
Six locks in a chain, or staircase. It scared us when we first saw it from the bottom, and was no picnic going up, but we made it, and entertained the onlookers at the same time. This isn't one of our images - it's taken from a postcard (thank-you to the photographer).
Our first view of the Fonsarrenes staircase locks. It turned out to be less frightening than it looked, but a challenge nevertheless
We came across a few of these. Self-operated, the buttons to fill or empty the lock are inside the cabin, with instructions in French, English and German. Bad luck if you're Dutch!
This one had a lock-keeper, or éclusier, who operated the controls in his office in the building on the right.
Herons love to stand on duty at the side of the canals waiting for fish activity, but they nearly always take off as a boat approaches, then gracefully fly ahead and land again. So it was always a challenge to photograph them because they'd never keep still. This is one of dozens of attempts!
On the Canal Rhone a Sete on a very hot day, these fish spent quite some time 'gulping' on the surface. Hard to believe they might need some air!
As usual, camera-shy. Can't blame them for being tucked in though - this was early December and it was bitterly cold. For some reason they'd missed the flight to Africa...
More beaver than rat, or the other way round? These furry creatures are common on the waterways, and recognisable by their bright orange front teeth
One of only two that we spotted on the canals in the south of France. At least they were prepared to sit still for a photo...
Ubiquitous along the waterways, they very rarely stayed still as we passed by on the boat, so the challenge was always to capture one in flight. This is the only one of dozens worth sharing!
The canals and rivers seemed to teem with fish, especially carp. These two trout (?) we spotted from a bridge over a river - most of the canals are too muddy to see anything unless it leaps out of the water (which happened a lot)
This is a carp, freshly caught from the canal. I asked the man in French if this was to be his dinner tonight. He replied, 'Carp.'
We caught these two at the supermarché (I know, it's cheating). Trout proved to be one of the best value meals we could find.
No surprises to find ducks on the waterways. As it says in the book, canardly have been surprised...
Famous in the Camargue, the horses are actually born black or dark brown. That's an egret perched on the back of one. Horse and bird seem very happy with the arrangement.
You can't tell from the picture, but it was about a metre long. Turned out to be a harmless grass snake, so no need to panic.
Or goose liver paté, if you want to be mean...
Mother and child
The view as you approach on the Saone River from the north
Avant-garde architecture at the confluence of the Saone and Rhone rivers
More radical architecture
Looking like it's just landed post-inter-galactic mission, this is yet another example of Lyon's approach to 21st century design
Two thousand-year-old Roman aqueduct, still standing, still amazing
From every angle the aqueduct is mind-boggling
This is actually a reflection of the aqueduct in the river, then inverted 'the right way up' to look like an impressionist painting
Medieval masterpiece in a dominant position overlooking the town below and the Rhone
Many of the old buildings look like the occupants have just gone out to herd the goats
A walk through yesterday
The downside of Cruas. The nuclear plant is situated here to take advantage of the Rhone for cooling water. The pretty images of old Medieval Cruas took some getting to avoid any intrusionof modernity
No shortage of quaint turrets, towers and battlements wherever you go in France
Literally, The Pond of the King. This is an entrance to the Med, hence the fishing boats
One of our stopovers on the Canal du Midi
One of the first examples of a dedicated conservation effort
Yes that's Liberty crossing it, as we escaped the dreadfully run-down Beziers 'marina'
Just a typical modest farm...
On the Saone river. Free mooring right by the town centre
Temple of Augustus and Livia - seemingly complete
Approach to the cathedral
Boats - afloat and not
Our first overnight mooring, and the fog we woke to. A gauge on the bridge to the left revealed that the river had once risen almost to the top of the bridge. That's Liberty, second from the right
These, and other commerical vessels, passed by at speed all night long, creating wakes that rocked us unbelievably for periods of up to twenty minutes at a time. We didn't get much sleep, and came to realise why a boat's wash is called 'a wake'
Keith and Hilary's Dutch barge 'Picton' - named after a small New Zealand town where they lived for a few short years
Hotel boat on the Saone squeezing under bridge at Lyon
Kiwi friends Wynn and Anne's boat 'Waiheke' - an ex-hire boat in joint ownership
You don't need to spend a fortune to enjoy the waterways :-)
Just one of the more inventive craft we saw
Our welcome to the Port de Beaucaire - a salutory lesson
Looking for a doer-upper? Plenty of opportunities on the French waterways :-)
The sort of thing you don't want to come back to after a nice lunch in town
Beaucaire - our winter port
The boats ranged from old and battered to sleek, modern and looking like they'd just been on display at the Paris Boat Show. One of them even had a remote-controlled gangplank
That's Liberty second from left, in our sunny winter mooring spot
Le Nautic - small but perfectly formed. The local gathering place for ex-pat boaties. We loved it
One half of Le Nautic's proprietors, Fabrice was skilled at pancakes and pizzas
Never a shortage of things to look at in the Beaucaire marina
Our weekly antiques fix
Ivan and Liz. She said he was the only one in the community who could actually dance
The event that saw us trying to become sports photographers