If everything was to go perfectly our way, a contradiction in terms when one is referring to French Canals, I calculated that we might actually get to the top of the downward chain exactly three minutes too late to make it to the bottom. I wondered what our chances would be of picking up a valuable three or four kilometres on the run to Toul.
The first two hours of the day were encouraging to the point of causing excitement, we'd actually picked up almost ninety seconds, if we could do that for the next two hours we'd be there!
That is exactly when we caught up with the Dutch couple in the large cruiser, and they were not a pair of happy campers. It would seem that a couple hailing from a country best known for its efficiency, had simply refused to allow them into the lock, closed the gates and departed, leaving them (and for that matter us) with a dozen or so locks in an automatic chain, completely out of synchronisation, and in need of a good deal of work by the lock keepers on route just to keep us heading in direction forwards. We thought about our shattered plan, and took solace in the fact that it didn't seem to be anywhere near as disastrous as their shattered plan, and got on with enjoying our day together at least until we got to the top of the hill when we lost sight of them in their haste to make up for lost time in the ten kilometres of lock-free canal before the descent.
The descent is a chain of locks, each separated by at most a hundred metres, and timing being what it is, our new Dutch friends found themselves separated from their nemesis by exactly one lock, and we followed them by the exact same distance, through the miracle of automated technology, none of us able to move closer or further away.
In the meantime, through circumstance that were completely inexplicable, after a somewhat tension filled last hour, we managed to enter the last lock in the chain at exactly one minute to six, to be met at the bottom by the now smiling faces of Remco and Clara.
We'd had enough excitement to last a week.
We had arrived in Epinal, it was time to change our plan.