La Saône – a big river with big mood swings

I’d lke to just preface this section by saying ‘yes, the river did change from blue to grey/green and back again, many times. It’s not just my photography!’


7 days in early June 2016

Setting off


Au Revoir Canal

At last, after all the floods and dangerous currents, the rivers were on ‘green – passable with particular vigilance’.  The weather was fair so we decided to leave the safety of Maxilly and set off for Gray to find a mooring to meet up with some of the family.

We approached the T junction into the Saône and turned left with no problem, into a canalised section of the river.

First real waters of La Saone

Then we were out onto the big river herself. It was not too bad!  It seemed very full and although flat calm at first there were some swirling and wavelets in places. However with  a full sun in the sky we were warm, dry and happy.

Three days ago when we walked down to have a look this was running at about 10 knots with big lumps of tree and dead animals racing by. Yesterday it was running at 5, and today a manageable 3, but with one eye on the weather forecast and the other on haters.

Beware, alligators

There were quite a few boats around – far more than we had normally passed over the past two weeks.  Also ‘alligators’, or big chunks of tree trunk taking their own passage downstream towards us.  Alligator watch was the crew’s work for the day.

The joining of the Vingeanne

We passed by a pretty bridge where the river Vingeanne joined; we had a close relationship with the Vingeanne as it had run ‘parallel’ to our last canal for some miles.

At time La Saône still seemed quite angry, rushing against our progress upstream, but we made it all the way to Mantouche where we had hoped to stop. No chance; the wharf we had hoped to moor at was only just visible above water, so carried on to Gray.

Coming into Gray lock channel

When you come upstream to Gray the river widens considerably. Our second planned mooring spot was not looking good – a sloping stone wall with no bollards or rings visible.

Gray torrent

One can see a big bridge and long weir in front of you, with a small channel into the lock on your left. That was where the Captain had to persuade Calliope to go, passing close enough to a suspended pole so that crew could turn it and operate the lock; then waiting outside the lock channel, in the headlong stream, behind another boat.

La Saone in torrent



And the river was raging!






Calliope was pushed around in every direction by the swirling currents from the overfull weir but our trusty helmsman made it! She’s a good girl is Calliope when she’s a mind to be . . . . 

Moored at Gray Plage



There is some good news here. After the lock we carried on to Gray Plage, a relatively new place to moor. Although not easy to stop anywhere around Gray, after expending some effort to get the right ropes in the right places and stop the current sweeping our bow out, we realised we had tied up at a perfect place for the family to join us.


Lovely place to be with family

We were next to a play park, shady trees, picnic tables and grass. Other children were already there playing in the sunshine and we couldn’t wait for young Sofia (17 months) to arrive the next day and have fun.

We had an interesting first evening and night, firstly meeting a Syrian man and his three young children (Mother was killed in the war 3 years ago); he generously agreed us some of the food he had made for his children. And secondly with a midnight guitarist – a young man who though this was the place to bring and electric guitar and amplifier for a practise session!

Day 2

Parasol, and later parapluie!


We had a busy day getting ready for Hollie, Rick and Sofia to arrive – beds to make up, food to buy, shopping for a parasol and base to keep us shaded in the balmy weather.





Sofia 2

Sofia found it a long day’s travel. but caught up on her showbiz gossip!


We had a lovely evening with them, including time for Sofia to be in the play park. Such a poppet!

Days 3 and 4

We all went for a good walk round Gray, up to the chateau, the church, intrigued by the old streets, and saddened by the number of closed shops and empty houses.

There were marvellous views from the chateau terrace, out ver the city and to our mooring in the distance.

We had spotted a restaurant down by the river and stopped in there for lunch; time for Stu to relax and Sofia to enjoy another baguette.

The afternoon was a time for napping, playing, and preparing for a gentle evening on board.

Lavoir, Gray


Next day a second walk to Gray and the discovery of a lavoir (old wash house) – one of my favourite buildings, reminding me of the one in a Maltese village where I spent two years of my childhood. I can always imagine the local women (almost bound to have been the women) gathering with their washing and for a good chat. Not something that would have been so popular in Britain with its much colder climate!

Good Menu de Jour

Then back to La Plage and the excellent restaurant there for another good outdoor lunch.

Pink Champagne from Conde sure Marne

We all had a relaxing afternoon, then an evening on board with pink champagne and a game of Scrabble.

Keeping cool under the trees

It was so hot  that we took Sofia ashore in the shade for her supper at one of the picnic tables under the trees, and looked back at the boat.













Day 5

Sadly it was time for the family to go back to UK – just a chance for a snap by Calliope and a good time hug.

Leaving  Gray

But no time for tears. We were setting off down stream, through the lock (with water still turbulent), and back down the Saone – a much faster trip travelling with the current!

Pipers passing

We were soon past Heuilley and the entrance to Canal Entre Chamagne et Borgogne, seeing our first other Piper boat (Kororareka) since we arrived in France.


Then on past Pontpellier and down to Auxonne.

Wondrous, lustrous

Along the way Stewart pointed out some strange horizontal rainbow style lights in the sky – not sure that the camera has quite caught them as we saw them.

The river was still quite high in Auxonne, narrowing the options for us to moor. There were no free moorings available so we went into the H2O marina.  It is neat and well run, but at €20 for one night was more than we budget for. However it provided our second Piper moment of the day when we moored up next to Manuka; she is a lot shinier than we are after all our travelling! I must get cleaning!

Axon running duck

We were placed on a hammerhead mooring at edge of marina, thus looking out over the river, and were entertained by running ducks along the bank.

Next Day

Moored on the river, Auxonne – form the other side.

A trip to the boulangerie also exposed the potential to move to a free mooring near the bridge; it looked good and we took a short trip round to it.

Although a bit grey we went for a good walk round the town, amazed at yet another set of incredible buildings. Fascinating and welcoming place we’ll be back here for sure.

After supper back on board we caught a bar where we could watch the England Euro 2016 match. Met Steve from Vrouwe Cornelia and cheered England on together.

Next Day

Rain sets in

We had planned to move on downstream, but the weather was so dire we stayed.

Gardening time

When it cleared later I potted on the tomato seedlings  before another walk round town. It turned out to be the Oingons Tart Festival (I think) and the judging of the tarts had just taken place – in the company of a decorated goat!

June 13 – last day on La Saône

Although rather grey and with plenty of potential for rain, the weather had improved. We cast off at 9.30 and pointed the bow downstream. The river was also rising again, and the thought of a quiet calm canal just around the corner we cut and ran.


The river was still running quite strong so we made good time to St Jean de Losnes, passing the entrance to the Canal du Rhone au Rhin as we went.


We turned off the river and into the basin so that we could stop in at the Ets Blanquart boatyard chandlery for fenders and maps. Another fascinating place; could have staid longer and definitely could have spent a load more euros. . . . 

After a quick lunch on the visitors moorings  we were ready to begin our journey up the canal de Borgogne – the next chapter!




Published by lesley-jane

Wife of Stewart, mother of 3, Granny of 6 (yes, I am happy to define myself by my family; I value them more than anything), and living abroad Calliope, our replica Dutch Barge, currently cruising the inland waterways of France, Belgium and The Netherlands. Retired from a couple of enjoyable careers, and now being closer to the real, outdoor me. Love water, fascinated by animals, enjoy music, support Pompey and try to find fun in all parts of my life.

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