National Geographic : 1964 Aug
us of Vermont, with farms, pastures, distant mountains, cattle, and trees. Little towns nes tled under their church spires. Blue sky, high piles of clouds, and an occasional field of mustard accented the scene. We climbed through the center of France lock by lock. They were all narrow, usually leaving Yankee six inches on either side. Some times, as at Conflandey, currents and wind made navigation extra tricky, with all hands needed to maneuver fenders so that lock sides would not mar the ship's painted hull. Giving the lock keeper a hand is part of the fun of French canals. The lock keeper is often a Yankee attract woman, who may be any age from 20 to 75, but she knows all her lock's peculiarities, and her muscles have long since adapted to its needs. Conversation usually re veals that she has a number of children, that her husband works in a factory or on ca nal maintenance, that barge traffic is heavy or light to day, and that she has lettuce or honey or eggs for sale. But conversation is not in English. One jovial guest of ours, who did not speak French, was eager to lend a hand. But because of his gray hair and Santa Claus tummy, the lady lock keep ers were always offering to do his share too. "How can I tell them I want to work because I need the exercise?" he asked. The rest of us taught him to say "ventre trop gros" stomach too big. He would amplify that statement with dramatic gestures. It was an immediate success and established cordial relations at all locks. Locks often are the center of a region's social life. At some, especially on Sundays, a big family group would come to look us over. And they are news centers, too information of all kinds travels from lock to lock and boat to boat. Some Dutch friends, driving home from 171 Italy, followed Yankee's progress and located us simply by inquiring at locks and showing a picture of the ketch. Locks serve also as makeshift post offices. Propped in the windows of the occasional little offices of lock keepers were letters ad dressed to canal vessels. I thought it would be nice to receive a letter at a lock, but we never saw any addressed to us. I loved to take short side trips on my motor bike. Irving would roll it ashore while Yankee lay high in a lock, her deck even with the pav ing. It would be only a few minutes to some s an audience at Fontenoy le Chateau on the Canal de l'Est. Ed Holland, upper right, one of the ship's passengers, closes a lock gate before water is let in. KODACHROME BYJOSEPHJ. SCHERSCHEL © N.G.S.