The 26th saw us departing Cergy and commencing our return journey up the Oise.

Colours were slowly turning, but as with all years, our October departure meant we would miss their full glory.

A lone pilot drew our attention at one stage.

For me, it was a time where successfully helming into the locks came with greater ease each time, whilst for Anne and Cliff it was a chance to helm our girl.

Our second day out brought with it a tonne of excitement, or was it?

Arriving at one of the narrow locks, a commercial barge was in the process of being lowered to our level. On the starboard bank, just to the side of the structure, were the moorings for waiting. Pulling up at the one farthest from the lock, Gratis was tied and we waited.

A cross wind blew, cooling the air.

At last the lock gates opened and the barge commenced inching its way out. As the bow emerged, it became evident that this was a double, with that at the front being pushed. All was going well until the second was just over half out.

It was at this stage that the cross wind commenced pushing the bow of the first barge away from our side of the bank. As with all motion, there is always a secondary effect, and for the barges it meant the rear of the second began turning toward Gratis.

Between the combined length of the two vessels, and with a car stored in front of the windows on the left hand side of the working barge, at this stage, we were in the captain’s blind spot.

Appearing to take place in slow motion, but in actuality only taking seconds, in a blink of an eye I was in the process of moving for the side as Bob commenced yelling, ‘Get off. He’s going to hit’.

With that, all four of us raced to the life lines and clambered off board. That in itself was a sight to behold, as four slightly aged Aussies disembarked in all modes of inelegant style.

On shore, turning to watch, my heart was in my mouth as the realisation that this could be the end of Gratis raced through my mind.

The back end of the barge just clear of the lock, it was at that stage that the captain at last sighted our girl: the look on his face was that of abject horror!

With a rapid burst of the engine, and a spin or two of the wheel, he worked at correcting the effects of the wind, thereby saving Gratis from destruction with just millimetres to spare.

The moment past, a sigh of relief shooting through we four, a moment to calm, at last aboard we climbed – through the gateway this time.

Light green, in motored Big G and the journey continued.

Bob and I couldn’t believe that in all the years we have been travelling the canals, this year has seen us encountering two near misses!!!

After a night spent at Pont l’Eveque, the day of our arrival in Peronnes was certainly one with a difference.

Having completed traversing the tunnel – and there was a wait this time, we exited into a cloud of white that created a beautifully mystical scene.