So, it seems I tempted fate once again. The slightly 'smarty pants' tone of my last post might have requested a more appropriate title - something like Pride Comes Before...(you know the rest). To be fair, I was just relieved that the resident engineer seemed to have found a way around a major repair. He clearly had that too good to be true feeling because first thing next morning he said, 'I'm not happy. There's more to it.'
He then proceeded to dismantle the gearbox once again - and he was right.
I'm a little vague on the technical details but the source of the problem was eventually found and was one of those things which apparently had been on the verge of going wrong for longer than we've had the boat. In short, a welder had had a brain fade - or perhaps a coffee break - exactly halfway through a job and had welded only two of four sides of a small rectangular piece of steel deep in the guts of the gearbox. After 8 plus years of use this had come adrift. I suppose we were lucky that it didn't fail while we were barrelling down the Rhine or Rhone. We were also lucky in that Mike, the port captain at Meilhan, was able to lend us some tools and gear that we don't have (is there stuff we don't have?) as well as put us in touch with Trevor the Welder.
The gearbox is now back together again and we are on our way. We toyed briefly with the idea of continuing to Castets but from some reports the weed has taken on triffid dimensions so we've abandoned that plan until such times as the weed muncher materialises. So, we are heading back along the canal in the direction of Buzet where we will be leaving l'Avenir for a couple of months while we return to Australia.
The past two months have been frustrating in many respects. The weather has been much colder than we expected. I never thought I'd be wearing thermals in the South of France in May but then perhaps we've become a bit soft not having experienced 'wintry' weather for years. We haven't done much cruising at all. On the other hand we have had lots of time to get to know some terrific, interesting people from different backgrounds; each with their own stories, all supportive and keen to help whenever possible. Bravo to the boating community!
A special mention also to the French people we befriended on our many trips on the local bus from Meilhan to Marmande - particularly one regular who helped us with French vocab and where to find obscure tools as well as entertaining and informing us with some juicy local gossip.
Lastly, on a purely personal note, I've also been reminded, once again, how truly lucky I am to have an engineer onboard!