PHOTOS

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

Liberty
Liberty

An 'Aquanaut' Dutch-built steel cruiser, 11.4 metres x 3.75 metres. Built 1995. This photo was taken on only our second jaunt out of the St-Jean-de-Losne marina. We may look relaxed, but...

'Greenbanking'
'Greenbanking'

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

Liberty on the Rhone
Liberty on the Rhone

Passing through the Cotes du Rhone wine region

The south of France, and snow!
The south of France, and snow!

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!

Comforts of home
Comforts of home

The salon. The banquette on the right can be converted into comfy double bed

Salon looking aft
Salon looking aft
The 'Bond Lounge'
The 'Bond Lounge'

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...

The cabin
The cabin

Comfy 'island' bed, plus two wardrobes. The bed lifts up to reveal more storage underneath

Interior helm
Interior helm

For steering on those days when the weather precluded being 'up top'

The Engine
The Engine

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!

Daily checks
Daily checks

We got used to checking filters, coolant level, linkages etc. A good habit to get into!

Flybridge
Flybridge

The 'up top' steering position - our favourite

Canals, locks and stuff like that

Canal du Midi
Canal du Midi

In spring. The plane trees just starting to bud

Always something of interest
Always something of interest

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

Canal du Midi in leaf
Canal du Midi in leaf

Just gorgeous

Sad, so sad
Sad, so sad

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

Like rotting teeth
Like rotting teeth

Stumps of felled plane trees like a row of rotting teeth on the Canal du Midi

Take Five
Take Five

Saxophonist taking advantage of the excellent acoustics at a lock

Only the dead fish
Only the dead fish

Our inspiration: 'Only the dead fish follow the current. Are you a dead fish?'

Caution low bridge!
Caution low bridge!

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

Big lock on the Rhone
Big lock on the Rhone

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...

Student lock-keepers
Student lock-keepers

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

Slope-sided lock
Slope-sided lock

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

Bollene Lock
Bollene Lock

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.

Floating bollards
Floating bollards

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!

Cascade!
Cascade!

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

Danger!
Danger!

This is a cill, below the lock gates. You don't want to get your boat caught on it as the water level drops!

Sharing locks
Sharing locks

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

Bliss
Bliss

The Canal du Midi on a late spring evening

Plane trees on the Midi
Plane trees on the Midi

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...

The Round Lock at Agde
The Round Lock at Agde

An unusual lock because it has three gates, allowing you to choose between going east, west or south.

Curvy lock on the Canal du Midi
Curvy lock on the Canal du Midi

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.

Fonserannes Staircase, Canal du Midi
Fonserannes Staircase, Canal du Midi

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).

Scary!
Scary!

Our first view of the Fonsarrenes staircase locks. It turned out to be less frightening than it looked, but a challenge nevertheless

Lock with control cabin
Lock with control cabin

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!

Double lock at Castelsarrasin
Double lock at Castelsarrasin

This one had a lock-keeper, or éclusier, who operated the controls in his office in the building on the right.

Wildlife

Heron in flight
Heron in flight

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!

Fish gasping
Fish gasping

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!

Flamingos
Flamingos

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...

Coypu
Coypu

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

Turtle
Turtle

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...

Egret
Egret

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!

Fish - trout?
Fish - trout?

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)

Bigger fish
Bigger fish

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.'

More trout!
More trout!

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.

Ducks, but French ducks
Ducks, but French ducks

No surprises to find ducks on the waterways. As it says in the book, canardly have been surprised...

Camargue white horses
Camargue white horses

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.

Snake!
Snake!

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.

Goose
Goose

Or goose liver paté, if you want to be mean...

Dragonfly
Dragonfly

Irridescent loveliness

Deer
Deer

Mother and child

LISTEN: Nightingale on the canal, 11pm -
00:00

Civilization

Approaching Lyon
Approaching Lyon

The view as you approach on the Saone River from the north

Holy building Batman!
Holy building Batman!

Avant-garde architecture at the confluence of the Saone and Rhone rivers

Indent
Indent

More radical architecture

Space ship
Space ship

Looking like it's just landed post-inter-galactic mission, this is yet another example of Lyon's approach to 21st century design

Pont du Gard
Pont du Gard

Two thousand-year-old Roman aqueduct, still standing, still amazing

Pont du Gard portrait
Pont du Gard portrait

From every angle the aqueduct is mind-boggling

Pont du Gard impression
Pont du Gard impression

This is actually a reflection of the aqueduct in the river, then inverted 'the right way up' to look like an impressionist painting

Cruas old town
Cruas old town

Medieval masterpiece in a dominant position overlooking the town below and the Rhone

Cruas architecture
Cruas architecture

Many of the old buildings look like the occupants have just gone out to herd the goats

Cruas old town street
Cruas old town street

A walk through yesterday

Cruas nuclear power station
Cruas nuclear power station

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

Cruas castle
Cruas castle
Decize old town
Decize old town

No shortage of quaint turrets, towers and battlements wherever you go in France

Grau du Roi
Grau du Roi

Literally, The Pond of the King. This is an entrance to the Med, hence the fishing boats

Castelnaudary
Castelnaudary

One of our stopovers on the Canal du Midi

Carcassonne old city entrance
Carcassonne old city entrance

One of the first examples of a dedicated conservation effort

Carcassonne towers
Carcassonne towers

Medieval splendour

Gargoyle in Carcassonne
Gargoyle in Carcassonne
Carcassonne old city street
Carcassonne old city street
Beziers Aqueduct
Beziers Aqueduct

Yes that's Liberty crossing it, as we escaped the dreadfully run-down Beziers 'marina'

A small farm in the country
A small farm in the country

Just a typical modest farm...

Liberty at Tournus
Liberty at Tournus

On the Saone river. Free mooring right by the town centre

Temple at Vienne
Temple at Vienne

Temple of Augustus and Livia - seemingly complete

Viviers
Viviers

Approach to the cathedral

Boats - afloat and not

Verdun sur le Doub
Verdun sur le Doub

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

Hotel boat at Vienne
Hotel boat at Vienne

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'

Colourful boats
Colourful boats
Picton
Picton

Keith and Hilary's Dutch barge 'Picton' - named after a small New Zealand town where they lived for a few short years

Duck!
Duck!

Hotel boat on the Saone squeezing under bridge at Lyon

Waiheke
Waiheke

Kiwi friends Wynn and Anne's boat 'Waiheke' - an ex-hire boat in joint ownership

A DIY boat
A DIY boat

You don't need to spend a fortune to enjoy the waterways :-)

A boat, or maybe a caraboat?
A boat, or maybe a caraboat?

Just one of the more inventive craft we saw

Oops!
Oops!

Our welcome to the Port de Beaucaire - a salutory lesson

Yours for a song
Yours for a song

Looking for a doer-upper? Plenty of opportunities on the French waterways :-)

Worst nightmare
Worst nightmare

The sort of thing you don't want to come back to after a nice lunch in town

A bit low in the water
A bit low in the water

Beaucaire - our winter port

Beaucaire marina - first mooring
Beaucaire marina - first mooring

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

Sunny spot - second mooring
Sunny spot - second mooring

That's Liberty second from left, in our sunny winter mooring spot

Our favourite bar
Our favourite bar

Le Nautic - small but perfectly formed. The local gathering place for ex-pat boaties. We loved it

Fabrice
Fabrice

One half of Le Nautic's proprietors, Fabrice was skilled at pancakes and pizzas

Some boats over 100 years old
Some boats over 100 years old

Never a shortage of things to look at in the Beaucaire marina

Brocante market
Brocante market

Our weekly antiques fix

A welcome from the locals
A welcome from the locals

Ivan and Liz. She said he was the only one in the community who could actually dance

One man and his dog
One man and his dog
Cycle race
Cycle race

The event that saw us trying to become sports photographers