The religious tradition is kept alive, largely by the members of a yacht club upstream. Every year on the last Sunday in September they celebrate the Pardon de la Batellerie, pardoning of the skippers.
This is a colourfoul event. The members of several yacht clubs attend mass, enjoy being pardoned and having a good glass, put on a parade of pleasure craft with amateur sailors standing to attention, while the locals try to get rid of old stuff at a quayside flea market.
The parade is only one of the highlights. Another one, quite exciting, is the... Duck Race!
Here they are, all dressed up in their individually designed and numbered racing colours, concentrating on the important race to come.
Alas, their span of attention lasts only until halfway the race. The duck in the lead discovers something edible beside the track and subsequently all other participants are side-tracked.Could this be sabotage? There is betting money at stake, you know.
The finish-line is the dotted line between the orange cones, and that is what they reach in the end.
Click on the Multimap image to see Marchienne-au-Pont on the map. Scrolling westwards takes you to Maubeuge. Multimap fails to show you clearly where the locks are. There is one every few kilometres.The rise and fall is very gradual. maybe 2 - 2,5 metres / 6 - 8 ft per lock. This stretch of the river is canalized, meaning no parallel canal has been dug. Closer to the source things change. How to overcome a watershed from one navigable river to the other will be the subject of a soon to be published piece, so keep watching this space.
Photos Koos Fernhout