Dropped mooring at 07:30 and headed for the SE exit of Portland Harbour. Wind N3-4. Twenty minutes into the trip, not yet out of Portland Harbour, and I run into my first obstruction, in the shape of a Royal Naval ship, frantically flashing his Aldis lamp, trying to get through the same gap in the harbour wall as me! I couldn't read his signal, but I got the drift of what he was trying to say! So turned to Starboard, with the intention of circling then slipping out behind him. Then the MOD Police entered the scene, insisting that I use the NE exit, as another ship was about to leave. I found no problem with that, and complied. The problem arose when I wanted to cross the seaward side of the SE exit as the NATO "fleet" of about 8 ships were all making their escape following in the wake of the RN, heading down and around the Bill. I was heading for the E Shambles buoy, so I crossed NATO's path yet again. The crossing then became uneventful. Wind dropped to N2, then veered to W3. I didn't allow quite enough for the E setting current, so passed a ½ mile W of EC1, which I had never seen before. Entered Cherbourg via the S entrance to the Grand Rade at 21:00 BST. Tied up on an almost empty visitors' pontoon at 21:30. Packed the "electronics" away, and trotted down to the Capitainerie; passing a group of drunken youths to buy a phone card, but it was shut of course, as it was 23:00 local time. Used the coin phone to do my duty to the family, then returned to get my head down as had the drunks, there was now no sign of them.
19 May. Slept until 09:00 BST and made the adjustment to French time. Ate
breakfast in the cockpit, as it was another lovely day, but could not shake off the feeling
that something was wrong. Then I saw it, or more to the point I didn't see it! My
Ensign was missing, the staff was in place, but its top had been unscrewed and put back on,
after the removal of my nice old, well weathered Ensign. I now have a nice new nylon French
made Ensign, and mine I guess, is now on some French youths bedroom wall. So much for VE
Ensign 45ff 53ff / night
Left Cherbourg visitors' pontoon at 06:10 so that I would be out of the Grand Rade and on
my way in good time to catch the East set of the current, wind W3 and overcast. At about
08:30 I took down my main and put up a second fore sail, which I had been kindly given just
before I left Weymouth. I don't know what it's called, but it's like a Genoa version of a
cruising chute. A Genaker? I have a spinnaker pole which I use to prop out the roller
reefing Genoa when running, and this now came into its own. The wind picked up to WNW4 and
by mid-day I was running at just over 7 knots over the ground. I was doing so well I made my
landfall at 14:30, but like all passages - where you are heading towards cliffs - it's a
long run in. I found the estuary channel buoys that I was looking for, had the usual trouble
identifying the actual harbour entrance of a port previously unvisited, but like everything;
it all became clear in the end. That is, providing the correct numbers, have been entered in
the little 'black box'.
On that subject, I have complete faith (subject to the normal cross checks) in my Navstar DECCA. It has given me good and reliable service for some seven years, once taking me from Cap de la Hague to St Peter Port in thick fog. Except one time in Weymouth Harbour when passing in close proximity to one of HM's Ships it started behaving strangely, and on closer investigation I found all the memory contents had been obliterated!! This is in stark contrast to the GPS that I treated myself to, in anticipation of balmy Med. cruising. It had an annoying habit of intermittently resetting itself and starting to hunt for Satellites after a change of display function and then occasionally not satisfied with that, it also erased all waypoint data. This turned out to be a firmware bug, but that was no help to me setting off across France. Why do Manufacturers wait for the complaint to come in before fixing long known problems? I found Le Havre Port de Plaisance OK but getting onto a pontoon posed a bit of a challenge, due to a strong crosswind. Made the statutory phone call home and stretched my legs finding my bearings around town. Saw some people with a supermarket bag full of shopping and asked directions. I got the last 'roti' chicken (reduced price), so scurried back to make a dinner to compliment the chicken. I found 'Classic Gold' on the radio (828 kHz). Slept well.
21 May. Solicited a couple of Frenchmen from another visiting boat to help me take
down my mast, and then we had a couple of beers. I Sorted out all my fenders, then set off
to pay my dues and have a shower.
Shower token 8ff (on a timer) Pontoon 69ff / night
Plan the departure from Le Havre for local LW, it's best if this is at about 06:00, to get a full daytime tide to take you up to Rouen. There is nowhere decent to stop before Rouen, and the current is too strong to work against it. Watch out for the partially submerged piles when crossing from Le Havre to enter the channel (at buoy 9 or is it 5). I think Honfleur is a non-starter to depart from as you have to lock in, hence you loose half a tide waiting to get out, or you have to fluff around leaving early and then spend time sitting on mud! A nice place to visit though. The cheapest place to have your mast down is Le Havre. You can also have it done at Rouen but you will then have to mess about doing it before you can get under the bridge and tie up at Villetards pontoon.
I now paid the penalty for the previous good passage. I had calculated tides for the sea passages, but had not taken into account the time of the month with regard to what time water stops rushing out of the Seine! This meant that I could not make any headway up the Channel de Rouen until 13:00. (LWD 13:10 BST) Passed some nice little villages; but nowhere to stop due to concert banks set at 45° and the current running fast, at about 6 knots. As you are not allowed to navigate on the river from 1 hr after sunset to 1 hr before sunrise, I could not make it to Rouen in one hop. Getting close to sunset, I started to worry about finding a suitable place to spend the night. At Duclair I saw some yachts on moorings on the starboard side just before a bend in the river. On the principle that if it's good enough for them.... I looked to see if their was a vacant buoy, but no such luck, so I found a suitable spot, put down an anchor on a snagging line, and made dinner. I never sleep well at anchor, so just to be on the safe side I put down my second anchor - a Bruce, and went to bed. I was woken three or four times through the night by a violent rocking caused by the wake of passing big ships.
Up at 07:00, a nice sunny day and ready for an early start, but that was not to be. My main anchor came up OK without using the snagging line, my Bruce though, got hooked and I hadn't bothered to put a snagging line on it! I tried for 2 hrs to free it, but no joy. In the end I had to cut it - an expensive night! It also cost me 2 hrs of following current, so I didn't get to Rouen until 14:25. Tied up at Villetards Pontoon, they have very good facilities. 30ff / night. Rouen is well worth a couple of days. The cathedral looks good when lit up at night. Rouen is also a convenient place to buy your canal licence. Out of Villetards -Right, Left, Right, up to the top of the hill and it's the end building on the Left. In the front door, ahead through the next door and it's at the end of the corridor on the Right. Do some calculations before you buy, as the fee is calculated on Length X Breadth and is banded, so if you can minimise your Area you can save a lot of money. They didn't ask for ships papers so you can be quite creative! You have three options of licence - a full year, a ten day licence (tick off the days you actually travel - This leaves scope to forget to tick off the odd day or two as they don't do too much in the way of checking once you are into the canals). And last but not least a two week holiday licence. The ten day one is the best if you are just heading for the med. then staying there for a year or so. On licences, the RYA say the French require a certificate of competence, in the form of a Sports Boat Cert. or equiv., but its like most things in France - What they say and what they do - If you haven't got it, don't worry about it. No one asked to see it.
24 May. Lay in until 10:00. Overcast and rain. Sightseeing day, heard on the news that Harold Wilson had died.
25 May. A Public Holiday. I unpacked my bike and did the Grand Tour of the outskirts of town.
Left at 10:00, all went well until the first lock. A Police launch advised me where and how to tie up (at the front, and use a single line handheld amidships). Like a fool I took their advice and ended up broadside in the lock. There was no damage, but it gave the spectators a laugh! Otherwise a beautiful day. Tied up just past the town, at a little pontoon. Met an old chap and his wife - they live in a cross between a mobile home and a prefab, but they had a large and beautiful garden, which they tend with love. He suggested I went for a walk and gave me directions. His route was about 1 km, but I misunderstood and did about 8 km! In the end I hitched a lift back - knackered, but having seen a lovely view of the river with the sun setting.
Woke at sunrise, took a photo and went back to bed! Ended up not getting away until 09:45. The second lock went well - I did it my way! Not too near the front of the lock and two lines, I left the forward line short and fixed, then took in the slack on the stern line as the boat rose up the lock. Vernon is a pretty little halt; the entry to the pontoon is a little tricky due to shallows and tree trunks trapped in the shallows.
28 May. Rained all morning but cleared up for about three hours in the afternoon.
I cycled out to Giverny to see Monet's house - full of tourists! The YC Sec. came for the
berth money in the evening, but he didn't have a key for the shower.
30ff / night.
An early start - 07:40. The third lock went well, stopped at the halt expecting to stay the night. Went into town for a look around and do some shopping, but not very impressed, so at 17:15 moved on.
A good halt under a bridge, easy walk to the supermarket, all facilities - Water, Electricity etc. and no charge. Went for a wander and phoned home. I think I am phoning too often, as it's quite expensive. I now use the phone card to phone home, give the call box number, and then get phoned back. That makes the card last a lot longer.
Had a very peaceful nights sleep, woke at 09:30. Bang goes an early start, left at 10:05. A funny day, a cold wind under the cloud, but hot when the cloud moved away.
Popped into the supermarket before leaving at 10:00. I have looked on the road map and it
is only 15 kms to Paris, as the crow flies. The run in to Paris seems to go on for ever, but
the first sight of the Eiffel Tower spurs you on. Then you are 'in' Paris, I couldn't put my
camera down. Some of the bridges are spectacular. The river traffic is very heavy, there are
all manner of boats tied up, or maybe even rooted along the banks. Passed the Notre Dame on
the Port side then saw the entrance lock to the Paris Arsenal Marina also on the Port side.
It is controlled by traffic lights and monitored by video cameras. You pay, but you don't
suffer from the wash of other river traffic. All facilities are included in the price, and
it's a good place to see Paris from.
72ff / night
1 - 4 Jun. Sightseeing, I have never spent any real time in Paris, so this is an opportunity not to be missed. After three days, my legs feel like lead. I was going to leave on the 4th but yet another Public Holiday - all the locks are closed - so I used it as a day of rest and recuperation. On from Paris you have three basic routes:- a North route that has long tunnels and lots of locks. A middle route which also has tunnels and a Southern loop route with no tunnels; which I took, I think tunnels are to be avoided!
I have met up again with 'Aegean Delight' a Gibsea 96. Vince & Irene are heading to the Med for a couple of years or so, and we have decided to travel in tandem. Up early, showered & ready to leave at 09:00. By the time we had paid and got out of the lock it was 10:00, and pressed on to Melun. We had to tie up to trees on the bank, as the 'Halt Nautique' was missing. It's a nice quiet little backwater, with Swans, Signets, Ducks and Ducklings.
6 Jun. A lazy day, cycled around Melun, a lovely moderate sized town; did some shopping, and got two punctures!
An early start, at 0700. This bit takes us off the Seine and onto the Canal du Loing at St Mammès. Things then became totally different. The Seine was quite wide and we were running against a constant one knot current. Big locks, and not too many of them a day. Now we have a narrow canal, no current, and lots of small locks. A lovely day - shirt off, and got a slight sun burn. V&I had a nasty experience while waiting at the bank for a lock to open. When it did, a Peniche came out and as it went by, due to the displacement of the water, their boat started to go broadside, and the stern just bumped the Peniche. Vince had been stood on the bank, just holding the boat lines. I was luckier, as I had put stakes in. Even so, it nearly ripped out the stern stake. An early lesson!! Tied up on a nice little pontoon in a backwater just before the lock at Nemours. V&I couldn't get onto the pontoon, as it was too shallow for them. They went through the lock and moored to the bank. We paid for a nice day, it rained all night!
0600 start, still raining, didn't get through the lock until 0700, no lock keeper about; I think he had slept in due to the weather! I ended up operating the lock myself. The sun came out at about 1000 and the rest of the day was lovely. Arrived at Cepoy at 1300, put up a Sun awning to get some shade. Later in the afternoon I went for a bike ride, to get the feel of the area.
9 Jun. V&I and I cycled to Montargis to look around and do some shopping at the Intermarché. On our way back, on the outskirts of Montargis, we saw a Brit flagged 'Fisher 30' tied up with its nose pointing in the opposite direction to us. So we dropped by to be sociable and find out where they had come from. A very friendly couple, who invited us aboard to sample their wine. They were returning to North Antrim (NI) to earn some more money before returning to Spain, having spent 3 years in the Med (mostly Spain), but had also visited Tunisia, Minorca and Sardinia, so they were quite helpful in providing Vince with info. They were staggered by French prices!
Yesterday we had found that the Intermarché at Montargis backed onto the canal at pk55, and there was a suitable tie up point, so after an 08:30 start, we stopped for 1½ hrs to do a major shop and for Vince to stock up on diesel; as is common in the UK, it is considerably cheaper to buy at supermarkets. A lovely day but it started to rain just as we tied up. We are well into the routine for locks now. We were in luck at this 'Halt Nautique', as it was new and only just opened that day. No hot water yet, so a cold shower. Cycled around the village, but didn't find anything to make it a prolonged stay.
A cool morning, with mist on the canal. A hard push today; 12 up and 8 down locks which are much easier. Went over Gustave Eiffel's viaduct (or is it an aqueduct)? at Briare - most impressive - and tied up 5 k's on, at a Halt on a nice quiet cut out on the outside of a bend. A pontoon with electricity, water, toilets and a piping hot shower, but everything has its drawbacks - no hooks to hang towels on!
12 Jun. Cycled back along the towpath to Briare, for a look around in the morning. I think the aqueduct is its most impressive feature, though it has a nice little 'pontooned' harbour if you want to make the detour down through the lock to it.
Another 35 km today but only 5½ hrs, as there was a quarter of the locks. That included a ½ hr hold up waiting to get into a lock that had a hire boat in. I tied up, walked up to the lock to find out what the problem was - no problem - just some Germans waiting in the lock for their friends boat to catch them up! The lock keeper took the hint; shut the gate with much Teutonic protestation, and pushed them on through, so we could get in. We saw the other hire boat about another ½ hr later! We tied up at the Halt early afternoon, the power and water had a padlocked cage over them. A LARGE Dutch motor yacht with two men then turned up, and they went off and sorted out an old woman to turn up with a key. She unlocked; waited until we had plugged in, and then locked up again! The big 'sight' in this area is Sancerre, a village perched on the top of a damn great hill, and famous for its wine and goats cheese. I cycled up there in the afternoon, it's only about 4 k's away but it's all uphill at 45°. The village is very 'touristy' but the view is fantastic. There are lots of local artists' galleries and some Roman stone carvings set into the walls in the centre of the village.
14 Jun. The Dutch boat left this morning, the old woman came trotting out muttering away to herself - it turns out that she wants to charge 20ff for the electricity, and the Dutchmen had gone off without paying. I said that I was not going to pay either, as she had not said that there was a charge, and there was no notice to say so. She trotted off, then returned with a felt tip notice - electricity 20ff, water 10ff. Vince and I pulled our plugs in disgust! Had a fairly lazy day, cycled to an Intermarché in the morning, then cycled around the area in the afternoon. Three holiday boats turned up for the night, filled with 21 Brits from an inland waterways club on a busman's holiday! In the evening went over to V&I's for a drink, a very pleasant evening.
Good facilities at the Halt, but the charge was 25ff per night which included electricity, + 10ff for water and 10ff for a shower, so we moved on along the canal for about ½ a mile and tied up to the bank for nothing!
Woke up to a lovely day. I wish we had gone on a little further yesterday evening, as we passed two lovely Halts; the first was at pk 123 just by a house owned by two Brits, the second at Cours-les-Barres (pk 120) by a landscaped garden, with a new pontoon and a water supply, where we filled up. We have now started filling up with water where we find it 'gratis'. We went through our first step lock today - 2 locks in 1 - at le Guetin taking us over L'Allier. We went in to the bottom lock, the water is then let out from the 2nd upper chamber until the water in both chambers are equal. We then passed through into the upper chamber, which is then filled, raising us a total of 16 mtrs. This let us out onto another aqueduct over the river. Not as ornate as the one at Briare, but just as impressive when you pass over it. Stopped at a Halt at Plagny but saw that they wanted 12ff / night inc. of electricity + 10ff for water and 8ff for a shower, so we 'upped sticks' and went on. Turned left down a small branch canal to the basin at Nevers (2 mtrs draft) - I am glad we did, as it's only a short cycle ride to the City. The Cathedral stone work is very ornate, and it's a very peaceful location. I collected another puncture on my way back.
17 Jun. A lay in this morning, a strip down wash, laundry into soak, then into town for another look around. It was close today, and the sun had trouble coming out. Back to the boat for a 'siesta' then cycled out 3 kms to the Intermarché, to replace a gaz cylinder (90ff).
Fine misty drizzle all day. V&I have a little trouble coming out of the automatic lock from Nevers basin onto the main canal - it started shutting on them when they were half way through! It turned out that it was faulty, as it had also happened to another boat we met later. Not a good day, waited 1½ hrs for one lock and the automatic lock down into Decize was not working, so we tied up at the Halt on the canal. I cycled down into town - quite nice. Saw an Australian ensign at the Halt in town, so went for a chat. A very friendly group, they invited me in for a drink, and about 4 Whiskeys later I was invited to join them for Dinner! It turned out that they come over from Australia for a month on the canals every year. Had a little trouble cycling back!
Really hot today, made a good distance. Had a makeshift cockpit shower in the evening, using my camping water container suspended from the mast.
A late start, at 10:00, a real scorcher today. Digoin has good facilities, including a chandler; you can spend one night free of charge on a marina style pontoon with water and electricity. Did oil change 156 engine hrs. In the evening got chatting to an elderly British chap over a couple of G&T's. He is 79, deaf as a post, and has been running around the French canals for 22 yrs. Also met a Dutch chap who runs around in a canal tug - quite a size!
21 Jun. A slack day today, bought a replacement Danforth anchor for the Bruce I lost, very cheep - 142ff, so also bought a small folding grapnel - useful for pulling into the bank.
A long day, left at 08:15. We have started heading north again, so I had the Sun on my back - though only a slight sunburn. Their is a lot of wild life about, Herons, Fish Eagles, and occasionally things swimming across the canal - light golden brown, and about the size of a small Badger, with a Rat like tail - it turns out that they are Coipue. Swans and lots of Swallows (or Swifts? The ones with the short V tail), and I must not forget the Moor Hens and Ducks all with chicks, very sweet! Met up with something different on the way into Montceau - lifting bridges. Controlled by a keeper, you request passage through by pulling a rope suspended in the middle of the canal. Tied up at 17:50 on an almost empty marina type pontoon, and went for a ride around town - quite large.
23 Jun. Stayed put today; sunny, but very windy. Cycled around town and the outlying area. Went to a 'Park', which was an open cast mine - reclaimed, it will be nice when it's finished! A small Brit canal boat turned up today, a man in his 70's, on his own. He has been here 4 yrs, he got his barge over on the back of a lorry, and it's about 28 ft x 6 ft 6, minute compared to the French barges. Went around to V&I's and found Vince up to his chest in the water, with his bike lying on the pontoon. Apparently he had been walking back to the boat with it, and not looking where he was going; it went over the edge, with him following it! He recovered the bike O.K, but he had lost a new pair of glasses.
Market day at Montceau - a good sized market; saw a lorry selling Grand Father Clocks, but nearly all fruit, veg. and meat. We didn't set off until 11:20. I think we will be at the highest point after going up another 9 locks. We then went down 19 locks, nearly all automatic, dropping us 80 mtrs. It was a strange sensation between these down locks, you feel like the canal is flowing down the hill, but logic says that it can't be, as all the water would all end up in a heap at the bottom! St Leger is a quiet little village. V&I got charged 7ff for their nights stay, but I went into a small, shallow harbour and got missed, electricity was available as well.
Sunday morning - boiled up 3 kettles of water and had a strip down wash before moving on. Only a short hop today. A nice run into the town, with a large cut for boats to stop over. Found I had another puncture, so had to sort that out before going for a ride around. Another hot day, with a Northerly breeze.
A day of note, we dropped another 50+mtrs. In the last stretch of canal we met up with two Peniches - quite a surprise! The last lock; which has a "guillotine" type down side exit, dropped us 10.7 mtrs onto the river Saone. After the narrow canals, to turn onto a wide, fast flowing river was quite a change. Chalon has a big marina, with a large Hypermarket just over the road. You can't enter the marina backwater from the North end, as they operate a clockwise one-way system. A very picturesque entrance, tied up, put on my Drysuit and mask and got under the boat to clear the weed from the prop and log, which had packed up completely for the last four days. Then went for a well deserved shower.
Stayed at Chalon until 14:00 for a look around, a nice town. Did some shopping, then a short run to Gigny. This Halt is an old disused lock, but it was sold off in 1993, as a commercial enterprise and they wanted 30ff / night to tie up inside the lock, so we moved out and tied up on the 'up side' for nothing - they try not to make it obvious that you can do that! A hire boat went through the same scenario and then joined us. A little later a Peniche turned up and tried to move us out. It was the 'Wife' who did all the shouting. She said she would phone the Police, but they didn't appear to be interested. We held our ground, as there were no Peniche mooring bollards, and no mooring restrictions. When she finally shut up, and we could speak to her husband, what he wanted was enough space to unload the family car, so we all shuffled up a bit so he could get his stern up to the 'flat'. A lovely clear night, watched the stars / satellites through the binoculars.
This is more like it! 10 km/hr, Autohelm on, sit back and sunbathe. What a scorcher! Thank heavens for my awning - a two man tent fly sheet. Didn't stop at Tournus, as it felt like I had only just set off, but it looked as though you could tie up on the wall. Perhaps I should have stopped here last night. The wall at Macon was OK, but got a bit rocky when the large trip boats passed. Fresh water available but no showers, so had a cockpit shower from the water container that I had left stowed on deck all day - the water was quite hot. I finally got around to making up the plastic netting that I had bought at Rouen into Mosquito / bug nets for the cabin door and hatches, I can now sleep with the door and hatches open and not share the cabin with 1001 bugs - it works well - a nice cool evening breeze.
29 Jun. A lazy day looking around Macon. Restocked on cold drinks. The bridge looks really beautiful at night with all the lights on.
God it was hot today, the beer consumption rate has gone up. There aren't many places to tie up on the Saone, but the scenery is great. Tied up to a barge which looks to be a semi-permanent fixture (unmanned / disused) just above the bridge at pk 31. A pretty little town, the flags are all out and they have rigged a bandstand, so there must be something on - probably tomorrow night. Wrong! Seems like some sort of promo. They had a group, 3 men and 2 gogo girls, singing RAP which is hard work to listen to in English, but in French? Then the main attraction of the evening, a middle aged pop singer, singing to a pre-recorded backing (karioki)? His main gimmick was to put on a silly hat, in keeping with the beat / theme of the music:- American Indian drum beat = War Bonnet. Eastern tempo = Fez! All, to rapturous applause and cheering then 3 encores, carefully timed to end at 23:45.
A strong head wind today, I think it's the effects of a Mistral blowing up the Rhone valley. It is a long run into Lyon, always dominated by the Fourvière basilica - quite a sight. Found a good spot to tie up just before Pt Kitchener-Marchand, at about pk 2½. You suffer a bit from wash during the day, but the nights are peaceful (ignoring the rats out on their evening foraging along the quay)! Fresh water can be had from a tap inset in the wall on the opposite bank of the river. An adapter is necessary, in the form of a length of 2" plastic hose, as I think the tap was intended for a fire hoses! Went for a wander to stretch my legs and got caught in a thunder storm. You could see it coming, but it was nice to cool down, as it was oppressively hot today. Back to the boat and stripped off for a cockpit shower. I have found that timing is everything; you need to take your shower about an hour before you loose the sun. That way, the water cools you down; the sun still has enough heat to help dry you off, but disappears before you can get hot and sticky again.
2 - 4 Jul. Sunday - a large street market along the banks of the Saone, very good, stocked up on fresh veg and bought a spit roast chicken for dinner. We had one hell of a thunderstorm in the evening. Monday - spent the day looking around the main City. Went over to have a look at the Rhone, fast flowing and no apparent halts in the town area. Found a chandler, Port Rambaud, at about pk ½. On my return I found a note, an invite to drinks on a large Australian boat. They have been around a bit, Hong Kong, Singapore, Aden, Saudi Arabia, Malaya, Sumatra, and into the Med via the Suez Canal. Five years in the Med, and now heading to UK. Another thunderstorm in the evening, impressive lightning this time. Tuesday - Took funicular rail up to the Fourvière basilica, it's only about 150 years old but very ornate. There is also a Roman Amphitheatre, part of a Roman Fort. Cooler today, a bit of wind.
Got to Valence pk 112 in 2 hrs 10, but there was nowhere suitable to tie up. Turned around and motored back and tied up just down stream of the bridge at pk 110, after having tried a likely looking spot, but there was lots of underwater rocks in the shallows. It took 40 mins to cover 2 km against the current. There are lots of places on the bank that look inviting, but lots of submerged boulders. Nice town accessed via tunnel and across a park.
A sleepy old Gallo-Roman 1st C City that has declined to a village. Lovely narrow cobbled streets. A good place to tie up on a tributary, out of the main flow, and a good supermarket about 10 km away with cut-price fuel.
Was going to move on to St Etienne yesterday, but it was Bastille Day and the locks were all shut. So it was straight on to Avignon to meet Jo. Tied up at Marina on a finger pontoon, all mod cons.
A good pontoon with water laid on
Stayed on the river side of the lock. Lots of large Mosquitoes came out at sunset. The mast went up without any problem.
We had no problem getting into or out of the lock, went over to the Marina to fill up with water and shower then left at 10:00. There was a bit of a sea mist but it cleared once we were clear of the long 'run out'. A quiet trip, wind S 1-2 except where we watched a large Swiss Motor Yacht cut the corner at the mouth of Le Grand Rhone and proceed to run aground! He was steering from a flying bridge so I guess he hadn't looked at his charts or where he was going. We were considering going to help but watched them all pile over the side and push themselves off. When we got in to Port Gardian we went for our first dip in the Med.
Had a lazy start at 10:00 wind W 1-2. So hot that at 11:30 we hove to for an hour and went for a 'blue water' swim. I also took the opportunity to scrub around the hull. At about 14:00 the wind picked up W 3 and we started to sail. By 14:15 it was NW 4-5 and I put some reefs in - just in time - as by 14:30 it was NW 6 and everyone was running for cover. Luckily Palavas was sheltered from that direction so the entry was OK. I nearly came unstuck in the Marina as I tied up in the first slot I saw then went to the office to find the visitors berth. They took my details and I gave them the normal '19ft routine'. They then pointed me to a slot on the visitors' pontoon that was just about 22ft!! Luckily I could stand off from it and let the wind squeeze me in.
Got the bikes out and we cycled the 10 km into Montpellier. A lovely old City with some interesting "new bits". It was a long hot cycle back. After packing the bikes away and showering we set off at 18:00. Found a nice spot to anchor just E of Sète, and watched a lovely sunset, all peace and tranquillity. Then; wait for it, as soon as the sun had disappeared and the wind came around off the land, picking up to about N4. So I didn't have the peaceful night I was expecting, but I was up to watch a lovely sunrise.
We didn't "up anchor" until 10:15 as I had gone back to bed! Then we only went into Sète (45 mins) to make use of their facilities and have a look around. Quite a busy port, fore and aft mooring and lots of wash from fishing and trip boats. The town wasn't bad though. Eventually left at about 15:00 and had a nice sail around Cap d'Agde, then motored in past Grau d'Agde, under the bridge (TA: 12mtrs) and found a place to tie up on the W side of the river just before the low bridge, right in Agde town. It's difficult to find a place to tie up, as in places there is an under water ledge. You can raft off other boats though. A nice old town with narrow streets and lots of arty-crafty shops.
Up at 08:00 and mast down. Apparently there is a man who comes around and collects money but we managed to miss him. Left to get to the lock for 14:00, as it has set opening hours. The woman in charge rules with a rod of iron. You have to put someone ashore before you enter the (round) lock, and she checks your carnet to ensure it has been ticked off. I was in trouble from the start - I tried to enter before she gave the say so, I wasn't going to put Jo ashore, and she wouldn't let me in until I had, and I hadn't ticked off the days on my carnet (even though it was an annual one and not enough space for my time in the "system"). I tried putting my point of view, but my French wasn't up to it. The best place to be in the lock is right over on the N side (directly opposite where you enter from Agde) as there is a "cut out" in the round wall and you are in a sheltered position when the "flood" arrives. Lots of bumper-boats on that part of the canal. We were seduced into stopping by a camp site (free showers and mooring), it was good, but it would have been better in Béziers on the quay, also free.
Watch out for the lock after the Béziers quay, it's big with drop down ropes to hold, and they let the water in fast. Also read the book, as the next lock is a set of 7 which has set times for traffic in each direction (upstream - 10:00 to 11:45 & 16:00 to 17:30). We just missed the morning opening, so had a prolonged sightseeing session. Capestang has an Intermarché.
The biggest feature was the flies - lots and lots of flies. Locks on the Midi are hard work, going through the up locks, you have to put someone ashore before you enter, as the steps are on the gate as dropping someone off there, then trying to angle in to the bowed side of the lock isn't very easy.
Free water at Trèbes just past the bridge on the right. Carcassonne - good halt, large supermarket, Casino I think, East out of town over river bridge, past old city (well worth seeing) and up the hill by the round-a-bout.
30 Jul. pk 73.5 - le Ségala pk 54 13 locks 19.5 km 8 hrs
Castelnaudary isn't much to speak of pk 54 is the top of the hill. The rest of the Midi is very boring.
Stopped at the Port fluvial on the right bank, just past a Peniche, but I think its OK to stop on the left side. It's a better place to stop than the basin further on, and I didn't notice any noise over night. There is a water pump on the left side, which produces about 1 Ltr / min. Toulouse isn't the most inspiring of towns!
Watch out for the lock after leaving the Port fluvial, there is a twist pole somewhere under the bridge which I missed, to alert the lock keeper, as he doesn't stay at the lock. Be careful entering the basin, as the exit is immediately sharp right. I popped out into the basin saw the exit too late to turn right, so turned left, left and left, but at least it meant that I could look through the exit bridge to make sure that nothing was coming the other way before committing myself. The first half of the Latéral is very boring. The locks are nearly all automatic and the first half dozen or so, plus other odd ones are unmanned. Twist pole to prepare lock. Green light to go in. If something is coming out, do not go in until the other boat is clear of you; you have twisted the pole (again), and you have a green light. Otherwise you get in, the gates shut, and nothing else happens. You're stuck! When you're in - Turn lever to start lock operation - gates shut, water empties. Turn lever a second time to open the exit gate. We found that you could turn the lever to start lock operation, wait until exit sluices are fully open and the boat is starting to sink, then turn lever the second time and hop on board. The exit gates then open automatically when the water has drained.
A nice halt with pontoons. Scenery starts to improve again. They have a Pageant here on the Friday around 4 Aug. Quite a big performance, right on the canal. The halt at Moissac pk 64 had no shade. Lock #16 pk 47.5 isn't automatic, the book says it is.
Lots of weed in this area. I had to get in and clear the prop 3 times. The halt at Agen looked very commercial. Buzet halt was very busy. Damazan was quiet, clean loo in village! and some very old buildings.
Halt at la Falotte pk 147 looked pretty. The end of the canal section, you need to sort out High Water times in advance of arrival, as they will only let you lock out at the appropriate time (Bordeaux HW local time + ½ hr) or (HW GMT Dover - 2½ hrs = time to lock out of Castets en Dorte, French double summer time). The Garonne
The lock wasn't due to open until 15:00 (HW Dover was 17:20 GMT) but a peniche was due so we didn't get into the lock until it had gone through. We finally got out onto the Garone at 16:00. The current was going like a train, at times we managed 8 knots + over the ground. The wind was against us, which created some very choppy water. We arrived at the marina at Pt de Lormont at 20:15, (make sure you start your turn to port in good time, to get the feel of the current as you will have been out of tidal waters for some time), to be welcomed by the (over) helpful Y.C. Resident / Barman. Keep some forward drive on until you have some lines made fast, as I kid you not about the current. The Y.C. showers are good and it's the cheapest place to get your mast up.
HW Bordeaux was 04:39. We left at 06:45 so as to arrive at LW Pauillac (10:00). A good trip with a following wind. Had a look around town, a visit to the Intermarché and a thunderstorm, then left at 16:15 (HW 16:00) for Royan (LW 21:00). Make sure your fenders are stowed and everything is secured as for sea, we had a F4 head wind and a very rough trip. You can do the full trip in one tide but I didn't fancy the 04:40 start.
Left at 07:00 (HW Pointe-de-Grave was 05:36) Arrived 15:45 (HW La Rochelle 17:34), so had the current with us all the way. We went into the town quay (it's the same price as the marina), and much nicer, but it is a fair hike to the toilets and showers (past the garage). You need to get a key from the Port Office.
Left at 08:00 (HW La Rochelle 06:40) Arrived 17:45 (HW Les Sables d'Olonne 18:48). We went under the bridge and round the N side of the Ile de Ré. Had wind and current against us, so a long trip. Les Sables visitors pontoon is very convenient for the supermarket, (up pontoon ramp, straight ahead to dual carriageway, turn right to pedestrian crossing, cross and turn left as to go back along dual carriageway, then turn immediately right (no entry road) up to T junction, turn right 100 mtrs, supermarket on left. Diesel very cheap for France, 3.53ff / Ltr). I had to buy my first diesel here - 40 litres, but 20 would have done to get me to Jersey, where diesel is 19.5p / Litre, which is cheaper than Guernsey. Toilets at Les Sables not so convenient, (up pontoon ramp, turn left to end of car park, left past chandlers and over bridge to next chandlers, telephone, toilets and showers on right).
Set off at 10:00 heading for the Ile d'Yeu on a starboard tack, but the wind picked up to NNW F6, and as the Port Joinville Harbour was on the N side, I decided that we would give the Ile d'Yeu a miss for today. So we tacked, giving a good heading in the right direction for Port la Vie. A nice little seaside town, but watch out for strong currents in the harbour around the corner by the visitors pontoon.
Set off at 12:00, a couple of hrs before LW. HW Ile d'Yeu was at 20:30, so we had to wait in Port Joinville outer harbour, in one of three raft outs of 12 yachts each, until the bassin à flot lock opened at 18:00. None of the French had put out shore lines out, I was near the outer end of the raft and the wind was blowing us back onto the next raft, so I put one out. The French answer was to run their engines ahead, to try and hold station.
A quiet little village, entry easy and well sheltered. A store and a couple of chandlers, no supermarket.
We went into Le Croisic at low water, and there wasn't much of it! Plenty of water in the run in channel, but it makes you understand why you need to follow it, as everything else dries out. There is an Intermarché up towards St-Goustain, about 1.2 km away. Quite a nice seaside town.
The tide was low, but had no problem as the channel is well buoyed.
Arrived at Arzal Lock at 18:20, had to wait for about 20 mins for it to open, then left it at 20:20. We took our mast down at La Roche Bernard, you can do it at Redon, but if you do, you have to negotiate a swing bridge (Pt de Cran), (opens: 09:30, 12:30, 13:30, & 19:30). It takes 3 hrs 30 to get there from La Roche Bernard.
Mast down in the morning then left at 17:00. We stopped just outside Redon, a wharf wall just past the camp site, rather than pay in the Port de Plaisance. Intermarché is near the camp site, at Pt d'Aucfer. Redon is well worth a look around.
We were heading to Messac, but stopped for an hour at a fête en route, so didn't quite make it to the lock in time.
Stopped in Rennes just before left turn into lock Mail 1. Toilets and water to hand, it's also convenient for the lock keepers house, as you have to knock on his door to arrange passage through Mail 1. You can also stop just after Mail 1, where there is more shade, but I'm not sure about facilities. Rennes is well worth a day or two.
The top of the hill. You need a rest here, as you have 10 locks in 2 km's, and I doubt if anyone could make it that far in one hop from Rennes. There is a good waiting pontoon.
Only just made it in one hop, as we were held up by a "slow boat". At Dinan there was a lot of algae in the water causing many problems.
Mast up and a hot shower. You need to check local Tide Tables, to catch the ebb tide from Chatelier 18 Lock. Also give yourself just over 3 hrs, to arrive at the Rance Barrage Lock in time for the ¼ to the hour "release". Over at St Malo there are some large waiting buoys to tie up to until the town lock opens.
Made a tactical mistake, in going West around the Minquies on spring tides, so had a lot of current against me.
Collect fuel at St H, by RJYC, it's the cheapest you will find. Make lots of West heading to allow for strong East current when you are ½ to ¾ of the way to the bottom end of the Little Russel.
If you are heading to Cherbourg, the current takes you all the way.
It is best to have your mast stowed centre and parallel to the water above standing height, to facilitate the rigging of an awning, and for hanging a cockpit shower, if you are not in the 'luxury class'. On that count ensure you have:-
Mains extension lead (10 mtrs) with 'caravan' type fitting, and a converter for French style sockets, (you can buy this at Villetards chancellery).
Small kettle (low wattage from Argos).
Mains reading lamp (with 'bull dog' clamp fitting is useful).
Mains battery charger.
Mains Drill and attachments.
As much water hose as you can carry (20 mtrs) with as many end fittings as you can find, including a trigger action shower attachment - most essential!! Along with the end fittings, ensure you can 'adapt' the hose end with progressively larger diameter short (1 ft) lengths of hose, as, no matter what fittings you have, there will always be some that you haven't. Lyon - tap IN wall opposite side to good tie up point (apart from the Rats) springs to mind!
There are lots of nice little 'Halt Nautique's' on the way up the Seine, all free with water and often electricity. Also if draft allows, don't stick to the main channel of the Seine, use some of the back waters. You will be impressed by some of the riverside cottages.
If you have bikes, apart from the obvious repair kits, a towable golf type trolley is useful for shopping, but mainly for transporting fuel (it can be 5 kms away) Assuming you are Diesel, take as many 20 Ltr plastic containers full as you can carry (covered if on deck, as your not supposed to import 'extra' fuel) I got mine from large DIY shops that rented out industrial carpet cleaners - that's what the shampoo is delivered in!
Boat protection: Whether you use fenders or tyres, use good strong planks on the outside of them, held on with either chain, or channel them so that the rope doesn't chafe on lock walls.
They are also useful as gang planks / holding off planks (with spikes through holes drilled in the end); if your draft is such that you can't always get in close to the bank for the night.
You need a hammer and at least six good stakes commiserate to the displacement of your
boat, as if you have to put stakes in while waiting for a barge to come out of a lock, when
he passes you his stern will suck all the water, and if you are not well staked you will end
up broadside, (that is if you dot bottom)!!! In this situation big trees are better than
stakes. I found the waiting area at the 'high' end of the lock was always better served -
clear flat bank, no underwater obstructions, and mooring rings - than the 'low' end, which
has none of these luxuries
On the subject of Locks: Don't use 'good' mooring lines, as they will only be fit for throwing away at the other end! Always ensure you have a good sharp knife to hand on the 'down' locks, as on some of them the pointing between the 'edge' stones is non-existent, and the last thing you want is for a mooring line to 'lock in' and leave your boat hanging, or pull out a deck fitting!
In up locks you must always tie off bow and stern, but then you have options: As you enter the lock one climbs the ladder (it can be on Lt, Rt. or both or not at the entrance end but at the far end!) taking both lines with you if single handed, or just the stern line if there is a crew. In either case lock off the stern line to kill any remaining way, then collect the bow line and make it off. The options now are, as the boat rises, to tighten the lines from the lock side bollard or ring end by the person who went 'ashore', or to tighten from the boat end, always via a cleat or a fair lead and winch. NEVER try to hold even a small boat without a turn around something first. As the sluice opens, first you get a cross current, then a back current. This makes the boat very unhappy! If you don't keep your lines fairly tight, your boat ends up in the middle of the lock. With hanging lines in the lock they are normally made off at the bottom end, so you put loops around the hanging lines, take them back onboard and make them fast. Ensuring they don't snag as the boat rises. In some of the deeper locks the lock keeper will pass down a line or pole with a hook on the end. You then tie a LARGE loop in the end's of your lines, hook them on and the lock keeper will pull them up and throw the ends over bollards. In other deeper locks there are floating (rising) bollards. Just tie on and enjoy the ride! Or if single handed, make a coffee. Only the big locks have traffic lights Red = wait. Red & Green = they are getting the lock ready for you. Green = enter
Much easier and less tiring. If you have to wait for the lock to open, the tie up
points are always much better. You will need lines just over twice the depth of the lock.
When you enter the lock you just step off holding both lines, if you have crew, lock off
the stern line to kill any remaining way, then take the bow line and just pass it round
the bollard (or through the ring) and take the free end back on board. Unlock the stern
line and take the free end back with you on board. Then just feed out the lines as the
boat drops. If you are single handed, you only need one line, made off at the boat end
about two thirds of the way back along the length of the boat, then proceed as above.
A few "gotcha's": Rig your planks right down at water level, as some locks are very full. Ensure the free end is on top of, or clear of the end of the line that is taking the strain. Other wise it can lock up and hang the boat. With iron rings, the weight of the ring chafes the line. Find a stone and put it under the ring to take its weight, and allow your line to run free. Remember what I said about the edge stones, and sharp knives. In other deeper locks there are floating (Falling) bollards. Just tie on and enjoy the ride. On the big River locks, watch out for the current pushing you toward the wier, especially if you have to wait. And when entering these locks, be careful if there is a following wind. Stopping can be difficult, with the current pushing you as well, especially if your boat is unpredictable in reverse.
Don't enter on a Green caused by someone leaving the lock in the opposite direction to you. Wait for them to leave, the light to turn Red and the gate to close. Then motor to the pole hanging in the middle of the canal, twist it and wait for the gate to open and the light to go green again. Otherwise you can get stuck in the lock!
Weed was not too much of a problem; grass was, where the banks had been cut. If you have to go over the side to clear your prop, wear a dry suit. Don't put your head under water, and have a shower when you get out! I saw a lot of dead things in the canals! The rivers aren't so bad.
On the rivers, Seine, Saone, Rhone. Watch out for trees, logs, pallets etc. Also for
signs indicating changes in which side of the river you should be on! (For rounding
On the return journey, only contemplate going up the Rhone if you can make >6 Knots, or be prepared for a very long, slow trip!