Home Boot Bemanning Project Fotoalbum Logboek Kortom Contact Links Franšais English

Back to the general overview, click here.

 

Our English Pages (2)

 

  From NIEUWPOORT to HORTO

1. The canals to the Med , 2007

 

Back to the general overview, click here.

 

1. To the Med: the canals, the river Saône and the river Rhône.

 

The start ...

 

NIEUWPOORT, BELGIUM, July 7th 2007

 

At our pontoon, VVW Nieuwpoort

A last look ...

Free ...

Leaving the yacht harbour ...

On the river IJzer, on the way to Veurne-lock - one of the Ganzenpoot locks -, our first lock ...

Here we come ...

 

... To the Mediterranean Sea:

crossing France by the canals, the river Saône and the river Rhône

 

Click here for the map of our trip by the French canals.

Click here for the overview of our trip through the French canals, and our notes concerning the harbours and stop places.

 

 

NIEUWPOORT: approaching Veune-lock

our first lock ...

Bye-bye ...

 

Leaving NIEUWPOORT behind us ...

WULPEN- bridge

 

Between WULPEN and VEURNE

...

 

On the way to VEURNE

VEURNE: Nieuwpoort-lock

 

 

France ... from Dunkerque to Vitry-le-François

 

Our " trip to the Med "starts on the 7th of July 2007: 200 locks between our pontoon in Nieuwpoort and Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône! We are glad that we decided to cross France by the canals, the weather is horrible!

 

1st stop: WATTEN

2nd stop: AIRE-SUR-LA-LYS

3th stop: COURCELLES

 

The first stop is Watten, 52 km but only 2 turning bridges and 4 locks further. We need still some practice, our "lock-manoeuvres" are not very coordinated. Second stop: Aire-sur-la-Lys; we are lucky today: a very friendly "big boat" gives us a lift alongside through 2 big and difficult locks ( Flandres and Fontinette ). So, we have nothing to do, but ... we do not learn anything! Third stop: Courcelles-les-Lens: a tiny harbour in what was a very industrialised area ( MetalEurop ). It looks idyllic, but a friend who is visiting us tells that the area is still very polluted.

 

From WATTEN to AIRE-SUR-LA-LYS:

A nice welcome from the owners of a nice barge: we can go alongside for the passage of two huge and impressive locks: Flandres et Fontinette

Ecluse Fontinette ( lock )

From AIRE-SUR-LA-LYS to COURCELLES:

Canal d’Aire and Canal de la Deûle ( Canal Grand Gabarit CGG )

 

 

Next day: further on to Etrun.

In the pilot it's mentioned that we would find water and some other facilities, but there is nothing at all... just a pontoon and ... silence.

4th stop: ETRUN-BOUCHAIN

 

5th stop: CAMBRAI

 

After Etrun-Bouchain, we leave the Canal de Grand Gabarit (no more very big boats) to join the Canal de St Quentin. We get for the locks a "remote control box": we are supposed to start the lock functions ourselves... and... it works! So, on the way to Cambrai: we have to climb ladders, hold ropes very strongly ... the water comes really quickly into the locks... but we also are learning quickly.

Cambrai is not really a harbour but a nice "halte nautique", and Monsieur Gerard, the harbour master, is very friendly and helpful.

 

Lock on the CANAL DE ST QUENTIN

SOUTERRAIN DE RIQUEVAL ( tunnel )

As we are the smallest, we are the last in the convoy towed by the "TOUEUR"

   

12.07.07 Seventeen locks and 2 tunnels (one of them is more than 5km, we are towed by a "toueur", ): we don't sleep very well that night, at Lesdins, in the middle of nowhere... but again we appreciate the silence.

  Stop under the rain between Gare d'eau de Lesdins and the lock of Lesdins    

 

   

13.07.07 To St Quentin, a harbour with showers ... but that's all we can say about it: it is not a pleasant place to stay because of the noise!!! Unfortunately we have to stay here because of the "14 juillet" ( National Day in France ): the locks are closed.

We visit the town and can do some shopping;and ... the weather is ... very nice!

Sunday morning we leave at 8 am waving good-bye to our friendly Dutch neighbours. We are now "avalant" ( going downstream ) : the lock-handling is much easier, we don't need to climb, the bollards can be taken from the boat.

After 12 locks we arrive at Chauny, where we stay 2 nights because of a forecasted thunderstorm ... that does not come ...

  Port de St-Quentin  

 

Port-Relais of Chauny

 

   

In Abbecourt we leave the busy canal to Paris and reach the very nice "canal de l'Oise a l'Aisne". We are again "montant" ( going upstream), ... with a remote control. The lock houses are very well kept: wonderful gardens, lots of flowers ... and nice weather...

After 8 locks (just before another tunnel, the souterrain de Braye ) we stop for the night on a small pontoon close to Pargny, with water and electricity. We are alone, and enjoy ... a complete silence!

   

Pargny

Pargny-sur-un-nuage

 

   

18.07.07 Behind a big boat, we pass the ( tunnel ) souterrain de Braye and return our remote control box in Berry-au-Bac.

Now we have to learn how to handle a new lock-opening system: a hanging plastic tube that has to be picked up and has to be turned 1/4 tour in an anti-clockwise direction. When we miss one - what happens once - we have to turn back and start again.

Our boat is very low: so we have to enter the locks very slowly, otherwise the "eye" doesn't register our entrance and the doors remain open.

We stop for the night at Courcy, under a big tree and we get a beautiful sunset.

   

 

     

   
 

Reims

             

 

19.07.07 Arrival at Reims, a very noisy harbour very close to the very busy ring road, but near to the town centre and the magnificent cathedral! But we decide to leave ... whatever happens the next day: the noise is really unbearable.!

 

   

20.07.07 We leave Reims around midday - after a rather heavy thunderstorm - for Sillery: a very well kept small harbour, very quite (important after Reims!) with ... nice showers and facilities, but nothing to visit as we are here in the middle of nowhere ...

   

Relais de Sillery

updating our website

 

   

21.07.07 We leave Sillery for Condé-sur-Marne - where we arrive in the late afternoon, after four locks ( = écluses ) montantes ( going upstream ), and the passage of the souterrain de Mont-de-Billy - 2302 m long - and eight grouped locks avalantes ( going downstream ).

Condé-sur-Marne: a quiet small town with very much flowers offering not a real harbour, just a few pontoons with water and electricity. But the stop place is not the nicest, close to huge silos, filled by noisy tractors ... at apéritif-time!

   

 

souterrain de Mont-de- Billy

 

Condé-sur-Marne

 

 

   

22.07.07 We start a new canal: the "Canal latéral à la Marne", and pass by Chalon-sur-Marne where we are a tourist-attraction on this Sunday late morning - the lock is in the middle of the city and there are a lot of strollers around the lock ... .

When arriving in Vitry-le-Francois, we moore just outside the small harbour: there should be 1m50 water inside but there seems to be a lot of mud too, and our boat is not easy in going astern.

The weather is changing. Tomorrow it will rain the whole day. We decide to stay one day more.

So, the next day we go inside, alongside the quay just behind a nice American yacht: the owners will invite us for a drink and an agreeable chat.

 

Canal de la Marne à la Saône:

from Vitry - le - François to Heuilley / Pontailler-sur-Saône

   

24.07.07 Before we leave Vitry-le-François the "capitainerie" announces our arrival at the next lock, the first one on the longest canal we have to follow: the "Canal de la Marne à la Saone", 114 locks (most of them are manual) and a lot of drawbridges.

We leave at 10 o'clock in heavy rain... so we decide to stop in Orconte. Glad we did: it is a wonderful "halte nautique" in the middle of a beautiful landscape ( the village is at 500m ), with a hot (!) shower, electricity and water. We are alone, the rain stops, we can dry everything and spend here a calm and nice evening in almost complete silence!

   

Halte fluviale d'Orconte

Magic Orconte

 

25.07.07 We plan a stop at St Dizier: there is a lot to visit. But arriving at the "halte nautique" the area looks so devastated, deserted and "broken down" that we move on; furthermore close to the city centre there is a town quay near a big parking place but this also looks so unattractive that we forget the the idea to visit St Dizier.

 

   

This canal is very beautiful, rather narrow but with very little commercial traffic. The locks and bridges are handled by students as a holiday or summer job; every canal section has his own group of assistants and each boat has "his" student for a number of locks. Most of them are very friendly and efficient.

We stop at the " picnic area " of Bayard: there are only a few bollards, that's all, but again in nice surroundings. There is only one other boat: a couple of "Toulousains", by a drink they give us a lot of useful information for the rest of our trip.

   

Bayard

ECLUSIERE ITINERANTE

 

 

26.07.07 From Bayard to Joinville we get a very nice sailing in a charming wooded landscape alternating with clearings, where small streams are running before disappearing in the river Marne, hills, small valleys, narrow passages, nice drawbridges, small locks with wild waters ...

From Bayard to Joinville we get for the lock passages - not always very easy for a small sailing boat - the well appreciated assistance of a charming itinerant trainee lock-handler ( éclusière-stagiaire itinérante ) - a nice holiday job for this young student, we think.

Seven locks - the lock of Joinville is full-manual! - and five manual bridges.

Finally: we get summer weather!

At Joinville there are more traveling boats; two leisure barges are alongside of the largest part of the quay. A friendly Dutch couple allowed us to moore alongside.

As there are some facilities here, this is also a well-known spot for campers.

ALONGSIDE in JOINVILLE

 

 

   

27.07.07 From Joinville to Froncles ( in the early XX century well known for his steelwork: les forges de Froncles ). The rhythm of the canal navigation is now well installed, and we understand better now why seven to ten days are needed to reach the river Saône. The commercial barges (les "chargés") are this year in very little number, so everybody who is working on the canal is very anxious about the future. A hopeful sign is that "la plaisance" is increasing.

Still accompanied by the very friendly female lock handler we slowly " climb higher and higher " to the Plateau de Langres.

The river Marne is always at a very little distance and the valley is colourful, varied and always surprising.

After nine locks and two bridges we reach Froncles: a new, nearly empty "harbour", with all facilities ... but the harbour master only appears rather late in the evening ( about 8pm ) and gives only little time for a quick shower ( the toilet is always open ).

 

FRONCLES

   

 

28.07.07 Our departure is postponed because there are 4 ( four ! ) commercial barges announced ( an exceptionally great number ). All full loaded and progressing very slowly. So there should be no chance for us to overtake them as the canal is so narrow and the loaded barges have to keep the middle of the channel ).

We stay and very lucky we are: it rains all day long. An opportunity to inaugurate the brand-new washing machine and tumble dryer.

 

   
 

RIAUCOURT. on the way to CHAUMONT

     

 

29.07.07 Froncles-Chaumont: 11 locks to pass and today we are stucked with a late and rather lazy young trainee lock handler ( a boy this time ) not well awaked after his Saturday-night-out!

Many times drenched by heavy rain we arrive late at the Port de plaisance de Chaumont when a very different lock opens: a downpour drowns the canal, the harbour, the boats ...

We will see nothing from Chaumont ...

 

 

   
 

On the way to ROLAMPONT, in the early morning

Lunch-time on the way to ROLAMPONT

ROLAMPONT  

 

30.07.07 Departure for Rolampont: 15 locks higher. The rain has stopped and colourful life reappears up and around the canal. Our lock handler for this day is a very friendly older man, after our complaint about yesterday ... He gives us a lot of information about the live around the canal, about the situation in the winter - the problems with ice and snow -, about the maintenance, etc.

In Rolampont, again we meet the leisure barge Marie-Hélène and again we get a sympathetic hospitality and a mooring alongside. Her Dutch owners are on the way - slowly - to the Lot et Garonne.

   

31.07.07 Another seven locks are awaiting us between Rolampont and our next stop, Langres.

The climb to the Plateau de Langres will be finished after about 3 hours. On the way we met a heavy loaded barge and we were forced to go very close to the starboard bank of the canal and for a moment we got stuck in the mud ...

Langres is really worth a visit, not only because of its 2000 year history but also for its wonderful situation, high on the Plateau. We need a 20' climb by a footpath from the canal to the city - a bicycle isn't of any use here.

   
LANGRES
LANGRES

 

01.08.07 Today we have two locks, still montant - upstream - to climb to the entrance of the Souterrain de Balesmes.

 

   
 

Access to the SOUTERRAIN DE BALESMES

SOUTERRAIN DE BALESMES, approaching the exit

CUSEY  

If there is no commercial traffic it takes about 30' to pass the tunnel, but if we are unlucky we have to wait 3 hours ... But we are lucky! After the second and last lock we get the authorisation to proceed into the tunnel. Here we pass the waters-separation line: from here all the water and rivers are running to the Mediterranean ... Behind us "la Marne", in front of us "la Vingeanne" and then the river Saône.

What comes now is a "going down" - avalant ( downstream ) -, by a succession of 44 locks, a real staircase!

Our next stop is Cusey, moored alongside the canal bank, tied to two trees. The small stop area doesn't exist anymore and the new one is under construction.

This night we get a terrible thunderstorm ....

   

02.08.07 From Cusey to Ceuge: the sun is back, but the storm left in the water big pieces of wood, with many leaves floating around, so careful navigation is needed to the tiny village of Ceuge.

There is a very small pontoon ( only one small boat can moore ) but the village has an unique drawbridge and a charming old washing place ( le lavoir ) near the XIIIth century church. The picture La veuve Couderc with Simone Signoret was made here.

   
Lunch-stop waiting in the lock
On the way to CEUGE, lock

 

03.08.07 Another four locks to Heuilley where we leave the Canal de la Marne à la Saône, our host for so many days of nice navigation. We feel a little sadness, like when leaving a nice friend for a long time ...

 

 

The river Saône: from Pontailler-sur-Saône to Lyon

 

   

We arrive now in the area where mass-tourism leaves its traces: we meet our first "charter boat"!

The locks are easier, bigger, better equipped.

The river Saône is now our wet motorway to the South and our first stop is Pontailler.

We spend the night moored at the small waiting pontoon ( no water no electricity ) in the port de plaisance ... but we have a delightful Friday evening, watching - at good distance - the arrivals of the charter boats and the change of crews, and seeing how they are manoeuvring themselves in smalls shrubs and mud!

   
 

The River SAONE between Heuilly and PONTAILLER

     

PONTAILLER

 

 

04.08.07 We leave Pontailler early for St-Jean-de-Losne, 20 km and two locks further; we want to avoid the company of charter boats in the locks. The locks are not directly on the river: we have to follow a dérivation - a kind of canal - to round the barrages on the river. The locks are "automatic": we have to turn 1/4 tour on a hanging pole to start the opening cycle. Once the door is closed, we have to push up an other pole to empty or fill the lock and command the opening of the other door. As always, after the opening, we have to proceed very slowly otherwise the lock-eye doesn't see our boat going out ( min. time for the "eye" 8 sec.).

 

   

On the river we have not much favourable current. The weather is nice and we enjoy the marvelous scenery surrounding us. An uncountable number of anglers are hidden in the green riverbanks, well equipped with tents and umbrellas.

Saint-Jean de Losne is a cross-road of waterways: here starts the well-known and very touristy Canal de Bourgogne, the play garden of overnumerous charter boats. The city is also a well-known assembly place and turning point for commercial barges and tourist boats. Saint-Jean de Losne is the smallest town in France but has the biggest harbour of the inland waterways, with all facilities and a big visitors pontoon ... unfortunately occupied by a great number of boats for sale!

   
 

On the way to SAINT JEAN DE LOSNE

     

SAINT JEAN DE LOSNE

 

 

The view over the river, from the bridge, is magnificent and we see some very big barges - future companions on the rivers Saône and Rhône - moored alongside, opposite the town quay. A very small museum tells about the life on the river over the last 100 years and gives an interesting survey of the "batellerie" ( the inland shipping ) from the beginning of transport on canals and rivers till now; we also get there a good idea of the different kind of barges and ships we are going to meet on the river Saône and the river Rhône, and an explanation about how locks are working.

05.08.07 There are seventy kilometres and two locks - Seurre and Ecuelles - between Saint-Jean de Losne and Chalon-sur-Saône.

At Saint-Jean de Losne we will start our sailing on "la Grande Saône", so the locks will be bigger; the wearing of a life-jacket is now an obligation.

The weather is again very nice, the landscape very varied. We pass the entrance of the canal Rhône-Rhin and Verdun-sur-le-Doubs and, just before our arrival in Chalon, the entrance of the canal du Centre.

 

   

We round the île Saint-Laurent to reach behind it the well-sheltered harbour.

We get a mooring on a finger pontoon inside the harbour: so there should be no risk to be damaged by one of the still increasing number of charter-boats, looking for "a berth for the night"!

The evening is very warm and until late in the night the terraces of cafés and restaurants are very crowded.

But tomorrow the weather will change again: thunderstorms are forecasted.

We decide to stay a couple of days.

   
 

CHALON SUR SAONE

     

CHALON SUR SAONE

 

 

 

09.08.07 Four days later. The night has been rainy as the last days too but finally the thunderstorm didn't come. This sad weather didn't keep us from visiting Chalon-sur-Saône: la vieille ville - the old town -, the squares, the cathedral, the well-known bookshop La Mandragore, etc.

We leave Chalon-sur-Saône at 8 o'clock for Tournus.

 

   

After 29 km and one lock we moore at the floating pontoon close to town centre.

It's still raining ... and it's only midday, the level of the river Saône is already high ....

We have an appointment with friends: we're supposed to picnic alongside the river but the weather conditions turn even worse.

We finally have our picnic inside the boat, the heating at full power ... and we don't see a lot of Tournus !

   
 

On the way to TOURNUS

     

TOURNUS

 

 

 

10.08.07 We leave Tournus for Mâcon, 32 km further, under dark skies. Arriving in the vicinity of Pont-de-Vaux, once again it starts raining. The river banks have been deserted by the anglers, the camping sites are mostly empty. We hear at the radio that the level of the river Rhin and the river Doubs is rising, camping sites are evacuated and villages are flooded ... The level of the river Saône is still rising too and our speed over the ground is a lot faster than yesterday. Ultimately in the afternoon the rain stops, but at that time we are already moored stern to the pontoon, a buoy at the bow, in Mâcon harbour, where we arrived around midday.

   
 

To MACON

The river SAONE close to MACON

PORT DE MACON  

Unfortunately the harbour is about 3 km from the nice city centre. There is a new floating pontoon in the centre, but it gives berthing only to a few boats, without facilities.

 

11.08.07 We leave Mâcon in the early morning: a light fog is floating over the river. At the Pont Saint-Laurent the current runs around 1,8 knots. The passage of that bridge - also famous for shipwrecks! - is rather impressive, because of the narrowness of the arches. We pass the Dracé-lock without loosing time. Then the sun appears while we are passing the Port de Belleville on our starboard: on the small floating pontoon an English sailing yacht, the crew is looking to us. A little salute.

Further on lies the charming Montmerle: we have a very nice view on this very flowered small village: la Chapelle des Minimes, the centre, the quays for big (hotel)boats, the floating pontoon for leisure crafts ... some call it la perle - the pearl - du Val de Saône. But little later we sail again along more industrialised riverbanks, close to Villefranche.

The river is now really dragging us: the current adds 3 knots to our boat speed, our GPS marks 8,5 knots SOG! Then, on the left bank, Trevoux appears. The river becomes more narrow, more winding, more wild: on our starboard the île du Gouvernement and the île de la Pradelle , then l'île Beyne . The still more violent river Saône turns into the direction of the barrage de Couzon-au-Mont-d'Or.

We try to berth in the Port du Val de Saône, but the finger pontoons are hampered, only a very few places are available, other fingers are already submerged!

   

We abandon our project to stop here due to the current and the rising water and we continue to the lock of Couzon ( max.4m). We will fall only two metres, the rising of the waters is a little alarming reality! And on the VHF we hear a conversation that confirms our fear. They plan to close the locks, so, as we can believe the lock handler we will be the last locked boat ...

At Fontaines-sur-Saône the floating pontoon is invisible - perhaps submerged? : we decide to go on to Lyon, 15 km further on, when suddenly, behind the île Roy, just before the bridge of Collonges-au-Mont-d'Or, a Halte nautique, attracts our attention.

We decide to try to moore alongside, by a turning upstream manoeuvre against the current. On our second attempt - the violent current drags us to much off - Eric succeed to jump on the small floating pontoon and to tie a rope on our middle cleat.

Finally we will need in totally seven mooring lines to get a good sharing out of the tractions.

 

COLLONGES AU MONT D' OR

   

We have a look around. It's by crossing the road that we realise that the pontoon gives access to the well-known restaurant of the famous chef Paul Bocuse! So, Kaat decides to enter in competition with him for our dinner, because to reserve a table in the restaurant of this very famous chef, it takes several months!

This night we will check every hour our ropes, because the mooring bits are not floating!

Approaching LYON, L'ILE BARBE

Crossing LYON

Crossing LYON

   

12.08.07 15 km to Lyon, 55 km to Les Roches de Condrieu where we want to stop. It's early Sunday-morning, the town is still awakening when we are crossing Lyon.

First we pass the île Barbe, then the fifteen bridges, the quays - some are already submerged, others will be soon.

The current is carrying us: Notre-Dame-de-Fourvière, the Cathédrale Saint-Jean, the quay Maréchal Joffre, where, for the numerous plaisanciers moored alongside, the day in Lyon starts with a sympathetic salute to us. Some of them are looking a little bit surprised to that small sailing boat passing at such speed, at an hour of sailors are thinking of their breakfast!

But we are already gone ... to where the river Saône is mixing her waters into the river Rhône...

 

LYON, QUAI MARECHAL JOFFRE

   

 

The river Rhône: from Lyon to Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône

 

   

We call our first Rhône-lock on VHF: Pierre Bénite (max.11,80m), 20 minutes before ETA: the lights will be red/green, we are told. When arrived, we enter three minutes later the immense lock: 195mx19m! We are alone in it on our small 8m50 boat!

We will fall only a full eight metres, very slowly and smoothly moored on a big floating bollard.

Leaving the lock we are on the dérivation-canal that short-cuts the river Rhône for 12 km and that takes us along the refinery of Feyzin.

We find again the river Rhône in all its beauty and majesty just before Givors. A charming scenery we were waiting for since a long time! Our speed over the ground ( SOG) is now 9,8 knots.

Around midday we have Vienne on port. The Gallo-Roman city gives us a nice welcome with a bright sunshine and the bells of Sainte-Colombe.

After Vienne we pass the Vaugris-lock (max.6,70 m) and at km 41 we arrive in les Roches de Condrieu.

 

ECLUSE PIERRE BENITE

   

 

   

We have to prepare our approach with care because of the heavy current - there is the general downstream current and in the entrance a very heavy turning upstream current. The situation allows any error: we have to avoid being taken by the current. Kaat makes the boat progressing "like a crab" through the entrance leaving the small jetty at good distance on starboard, a manoeuvre we did many times when entering the harbour of Breskens (NL) in the mouth of the river Schelde.

We moore at the visitors pontoon. For the very friendly harbour master we can stay there if we like it.

From here we have a splendid view on both, the river and "Les Roches".

   
 

LES ROCHES DE CONDRIEU

     

UPDATING THE WEBSITE

 

 

Hot and very nice weather but in the evening a mean little shower spoils the end of our dinner!

 

13.08.07 Sun, very nice weather. By train we go to Vienne. Eight minutes later we are in what was the capital of the Dauphiné. The Tourist Office worked out a visit of Vienne in a few hours: we just have to follow the small yellow arrows and the bronze medallions, indicating the discovering-itinerary on the pavement. The old city-walls, the Saint-Pierre church, the cathedral Saint-Maurice, the temple of August and Livia, the rue des Clercs, the church and the cloister Saint-André-le-Bas, the Roman theatre, and finally this old town that we contemplate from the heights of the Belvédère du Pipet - impressive view on the Rhône upstream and

       

ST MAURICE CATHEDRAL

TEMPLE OF AUGUST AND LIVIA

EGLISE ST ANDRE LE BAS

ROMAN THEATRE

JARDIN PUBLIC ROMAN ROAD

VIEW OF VIENNE FROM THE BELVEDERE DU PIPET

 

downstream of the city and, far off, the Montagne du Pilat. Vienne seems to be already so familiar ...

A last café, a walk in the public garden - , very flowered and where many citizens, not having deserted their city in this month of August, are trying to find some coolness, - and we are already on the way back to the smallest city of France, on surface. At cheese-time, after dinner, again we get a short but heavy and nasty shower ...

17.08.07 We leave Les Roches de Condrieu for the new harbour of Cruas, 104 kilometres and 5 locks further on. We enjoyed very much our stay in les Roches de Condrieu, here well-known as le Midi moins le quart - " a quarter of an hour before the Midi " : the quietness and the charm of the place, the nearness of Vienne, the walks to Condrieu on the other bank and along this majestic river ...

But also more" technical" reasons have encouraged us to stay here longer. The river showed his power: the water level was higher than usually in summertime, the current was more violent and the Rhône was carrying more wood than usual. Enough reasons for a longer stop. Also the S-wind was very sensible, so there was an uncomfortable wind against current situation.

But today the conditions are milder, a light N to NW wind cools our progress now that the nice weather is well present this morning. The upstream going plaisanciers are less rare and we pass some sailing boats heading north: they still suffer from a violent current. Some will confess to have made only two to three 3 knots, sometimes only one knot of progress! We see them - after a salute - looking to us running seven to eight knots SOG, and at some moments, approaching the dam, in the beginning of a dérivation or, when leaving the lock, we go nine knots! In fact what really determines our progression is the time we have to wait at the locks. We can't complain about the time to pass the locks. We call the lockkeeper 20' before arriving, on VHF, so the waiting time on arriving is minor. Only once, at the lock of Gervans, we have to wait 15': the time for a small hotel boat to enter the lock. We follow it together with two other leisure crafts. Without any difficulty we pass the lock.

On the Rhone we have to manoeuvre with care. So when we enter a lock we first look at which bollard we will moore - at portside if possible; Kate steers the boat along the wall at a distance of 0,5 m, in my hands I have the two springs - aft and for - in a loop, staying in the middle of the boat, to put them on the bollard. First the aft spring: so when the boats stops the wind can't push out. A little traction to correct for or aft and we are ready. In our opinion (and experience) all those big manoeuvres with boot hooks are to banish. Many times we had the opportunity to see how it can go wrong ...

We pass at 1 p.m. the Halte nautique of Les-Roches-de-Glun on our starboard and at 3 p.m. the Port de Plaisance of Valence is on our port: now we have to sail the last 30 km to Cruas.

 

 

We have another two locks to pass before arriving at 6 p.m. in front of the entrance. The approach is little confused: there are only 3 small yellow buoys. Luckily an arm-waving man is attracting our attention: he'll be our land-pilot! Following his indications we return upstream much more than we should have done to pass - our small 10 hp engine at full power - very close to the small north jetty and keeping the yellow buoys at large distance on port. A last turn of 180° allows us to moore on the visitors pontoon in the good direction for departure.

The harbour master, Monsieur Claude Labalette, captain of this nice, very well kept small harbour convinces us by his interesting information of staying more than one night.

On the way to CRUAS; a hotel-boat goes up-stream

PORT DE CRUAS

 

 

 

We have provisions to complete. We visit the Tourist Office but for an internet connection we find no solution as the Mediacentre is closed.

We also realise rapidly that Cruas is very well maintained: our first impression will be confirmed during our whole stay.

           

CRUAS the abbey church ( l'ABBATIALE )

The abbey church

Detail in the crypt

       

CRUAS, the historic village

Abbey castle

CRUAS view from the old village

 

We will visit l'Abbatiale: this church is remarkably well preserved in all her magnificent simplicity since the 11th century. Then we reach the Middle-Age village and the abbey-castle.

 

   

The view is marvellous: on the village, on the Rhône-valley and ... on the source of the present wealth: the nuclear power station!

It seems that the new harbour is yet a success story. Already full and known as very safe ... because the EDF power station can't have "her feet in the water", we are told ! The level of the Rhône in this lock-area is under high control.

In the harbour some improvements are already planned: close to the sanitary block, a pontoon will be added, and the entrance will be better buoyed.

 

 

NUCLEAR POWEr FACTORY OF CRUAS  

 

   

19.08.07 When we leave Cruas early in the morning heading for Avignon, we don't regret our longer stay. Finally one of the most delightfully stops on our trip through the canals and the rivers.

Today is an important day: a long distance - 100 km - to sail and 4 locks, with Châteauneuf (max.18,5 m) and Bollène (max.23 m) as the most impressive. By the approach of a new perturbation with rain and thunderstorms the wind has fallen and is now variable and won't be anymore a factor of disturbance by entering the locks; this is particularly important for the entrance of the Bollène lock (difficult, by north wind and mistral).

The dérivations now are very long and often rather monotonous particularly after Bollène. It is only after this stretch that we'll again meet the river Rhône and his scenery in all its magnificence and beauty: Viviers, the défilé de Donzère, the Mornas Castle, Saint-Etienne-des-Sorts, the Montfaucon Castle, the Hers Tower, Château-Neuf-du-Pape and, the Mont-Ventoux at the horizon.

   
 

DONZERE

     

ECLUSE DE BOLLENE

 
   

Behind the last lock and then after the last curve: Avignon.

To reach the harbour ( in the river arm, with the famous Pont St-Bénézet) we have to pass "le pont rail ", turn left and return upstream in the branch of the river where the harbour is situated - or what is left of it - at 500 m of the town centre and the Palais des Papes.

There are no pontoons nor fingers: everything was washed away in 2003, the river reached then a incredible high level

 

LA TOUR DE L HERS

AVIGNON LE PONT BENEZET

 

But we can moore easily on four long lines alongside the old town quay, 200 m further. The only floating rest of the former harbour is the Capitainerie - and its sanitary installations: a big barge solidly moored between big pillars, this has resisted to the strong 2003 current.

Thunderstorm ... no thunderstorm for the next day? We don't know anymore, but Avignon is worth staying at least 2 days!

 

22.08.07 Two days Avignon. Instead of a visit to the magnificent Palais des Papes (we already did that in 1978 in excellent conditions during the Avignon Festival) we prefer to stroll through the old town; we walk to the Jardins du Rocher du Dom, from where we have a very nice outlook over both, the river and the Palais, we visit the Halles where all the different perfumes of the Provence are very present ...

         
 

AVIGNON RELAIS NAUTIQUE

LE BRAS D AVIGNON

PALAIS DES PAPES

  LES HALLES  

 

The harbour in the Bras d'Avignonon the morning we left - Thanks to our Danish friends for the picture we got later

The Concordia on the way to Barcelona is overtaking us; we will meet them in Rome-Ostia

We are on the way to Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône and Menton

 

   

So, this morning we leave Avignon at 07.45. The current is less than the days before.

We pass Vallabrègues - there is a small harbour that seems to be full and not very attractive - and reach the Beaucaire lock (max. 15,50 m).

A little later Tarascon and its fortress appears on port, while the Rhône is narrowing. Industries and boring landscapes are alternating. The Petit Rhône, on our right is disappearing between trees and small shrubs.

Our passage of Arles is rather disappointing: the small, but very famous town has literally turned her back to the river; there is an unsteady pontoon full with small boats and it seems that there are no facilities!

Then the river Rhône is winding again but its buoyed channel is still narrower.

   
 

TARASCON

   

CROSSING THE CAMARGUE

 

 

For the Passage de Terrin we have to announce our passage and give our position: the buoyed channel is only 80 m wide and about 4 km long.

 

   

La Camargue is not far away but invisible.The river now seems to loose its force to become a lazy, monotonous waterway between two green hedges. The red and green buoys are more and more sparse. Only on our map we see de presence of les mas - the traditional farms or country-houses in the Provence. Sometimes we pass a half sunken small barge, a pump station for irrigation, one big ship, but mostly we are completely alone.

Then, suddenly, in a curve, a new dike and behind, on the left, the Canal du Rhône à Fos , forbidden for leisure craft, then the salt works around Salin-de-Giraud, the Bac de Barcarin - the ferry, no more bridges downstream from Arles - and at last ... a low tower stands out ... Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône ... and far off... the river disappears in the Mediterranean sea ...

   
 

In the distance an oncoming ship ... it's the Davernes from Saint-Jean-de- Losne

     

LES SALINS

 

 

 

There is one lock left, the lock of Port-louis-du-Rhône, but we get no answer on VHF chan.12: the opening hours of the Ecluse maritime are immutable ... unless you can follow a big ship ... so we'll have to wait till 16H05 ( the opening hours are mentioned in the Bloc marine Méditerranée )! It is now 15H07, so we have time to moore alongside a Belgian sailing boat. The skipper gives us a lot of " local knowledge": he is here already a few months and is preparing a trip to Italy.

   

And then, eventually, it's time for the lock passage. There is only 20 cm difference between the harbour level and the Rhône level but the high salinity of the basin and the fresh water of the river causes sometimes a strong current.

The lock opening goes very slowly and the bollards on the quay are out of reach from our boat. Eric has to climb - no ladder! - 1,5 m to fix the rope. After the identification of our boat by a young student-assistant-lock-handler and an interesting chat about her future job - teacher -, the doors are opening, and the bridge is lifting ...

After 666 miles, 200 locks and 47 days, Nehalinnia enters the salty water of the Mediterranean, the Mare nostrum !

   
 

PORT SAINT LOUIS DU RHONE, ECLUSE MARITIME

     

PASSAGE CONTROL

 

 

Click here for the map of our trip through the French canals.

Click here for the overview of our trip through the French canals.

Click here to continue the voyage: 2. Along the French Mediterranean coast and wintering at Menton (2007-2008) Ep3

Photo-album? Click here!

Back to the general overview, click here. Ep1

Top

Updated 27-feb-14
   
webmaster Q-Webbels