14 days on the Nivernais Canal

If you are ever going on the Nivernais, allow a month or more. There are lots of lovely places to enjoy and explore. Our 14 days were magical, and tiring! We were on a mission to meet firstly two friends, and then a grand-daughter, hence the speedy trip.


Migennes lock

Migennes lock

Talkin’ ’bout Migennes-eration – a good place to set off from. (Ho ho ho – Hope I get old before I die . . . )

On Yonne

On L’Yonne

To reach the Canal du Nivernais from the Canal de Bourgogne we had a short trip out on L’Yonne – a river – wide and flowing much gentler than it had been until quite recently.

First floating bollard lock, Bassou, Yonne

First floating bollard lock, Bassou, Yonne

The Yonne has some HUGE locks, sometimes with sloping sides and floating pontoons.  Not sure about them! (Billy totally unfazed, contemplating the end of the bit of string)

Bridge, Pont and lock de Raveuse

Bridge, Pont, Bill and lock de Raveuse

To navigate the locks we had Bill helping with ropes, Stu maintaining our position with the engine and Lesley out of sight with rope between teeth while taking this photo.

Neron, Whoops. lock blocked,

Neron, Whoops. lock blocked,

At Neron a holiday boat locked us in the lock, making a strange manoeuvre …… something most of us have done in the early days, and no doubt will inadvertently do again at some point in time.

heron in lock gate

heron in lock gate

From Neron to heron on the inside of a lock gate – novel way to fish.

Auxerre, Bill’s first view

Auxerre, Bill’s first view

Bill spies Auxerre and its heavyweight crouching churches. (Heavyweight crouching churches? . . . . )

Auxerre mooring 1a

Auxerre mooring number one

Auxerre – first mooring on wall, requiring ladder scramble ashore – fun in a long dress and with a bad back – not!

There are so so many old houses and churches. Lovely lovely meal out with Bill at restaurant behind the red and green sun shades; restaurant is called St Nicholas after the square and after the patron saint of mariners. (Thanks Bill – good to have you on board)

Onto our second mooring – right by a couple of bars, but feeling safe under the godly surveillance of three churches! Mind you if we had know the cost of staying there each night, which was NOT displayed at our mooring point, we would have remained on the wall.


Allez les bleus




Euro 2016 final; the locals prepare, but I am drinking the wrong colour beer – Kriek.  Either sad French or elated Portuguese fans kept us awake much of the night!






Auxerre town 7

Auxerre – a modern aspect


Leaving Auxerre

Time to leave after two nights with a top up of fuel and water, and a serious lightening of the bank account. Ah well . . . .

We were sort of off the river and into the Canal du Nivernais, although much of the ‘canal’ is delightfully the river. And despite the town’s historical links, Auxerre lock has the most modern surround I have seen.


Champs-sur-Yonne bridge and needle weir

Some points of interest along the way.


Upstream from Auxerre

Bailly; there’s a massive wine cave in them there hills! It’s full of creamant bubbly-luscious drinkable stuff.  Visited, did tour, tasted, bought some; saving it to savour.


Upstream from Bailly

The countryside opened up to reveal hills and pastures, forests and cattle.


Lavoir de Barzarnes

On our way down from Bailly we found a pretty little mooring by a bridge near Bazarnes and I was despatched to the village to find bread.  Before I found the boulangerie I saw the telltale roof of a lavoir down a little lane. It was one of the most beautiful I have seen, with a small river flowing in one end and out the other. Wish I had had some washing to do!

Mailly-la-Ville was planned as a three night stop, to take us through Bastille Day when (we thought) the locks would all be closed. The three pontoon moorings were just right for us and several other boats, with free water and electricity. The village had character, boulangerie, épicerie and a bar. Really nice stop over place!


dragonflies and water lily in L’Yonne


Mailly-la-Ville’s Bastille Eve Fireworks (both of them at once)

On 13th July the local children paraded with lanterns to their firework display on the bridge to Mailly-L’eglise.

Discovering that the locks were open on 14th July we decided to move on south, past the Roches du Saussois ……..

…. enjoying views of L’Yonne …….

…….. fascinated by the antiquity of the Chatel-Censoir lock house, and the modernity of the éclusier’s little office.

The views and nature were unendingly fascinating; hopefully these picture will paint the thousand words my brain cannot bring together.


Alongside at Lucy-sur-Yonne, after thunderstorm


Our next night was at another tranquil village mooring – Lucy-sur-Yonne. We were just a few yards away from the river and a lavoir – but I have restrained myself and not included this one.





Chateau de Faulin

We walked out between the wheat fields in the late afternoon sun to take a look at Chateau de Faulin – a fortified farmhouse. I long to know who they were fortified against. Were there marauding peasants? Was Bourgogne at war with another region of France? Someone who knows history will let me know, I hope. (I suspect it was the Blooming British pet)

The opposite bank at Lucy-sur-Yonne provided a gentle parade of animal life, including an occasionally noisy family of geese and a cat who did not become a snack.


First view of Coulange across L’Yonne



Next day we continued west a bit towards Coulanges, then gradually south again.

We had a ‘feeling foolish’ moment, approaching a closed point levée, looking around for an éclusier on bike or scooter to open it, with Stu gently braking mid channel. Ah, I see it now …. one of has to get off and operate it!  There’s a mini mooring and a set of buttons to press!  Push and press at Pousseaux.

And what is that beyond the bridge??

Old lock and farm buildings seem a natural part of their surroundings as we float on by.

Then, getting close to Clamecy at La Forest, a wake up to the crew as we took a 45 degree swerve to the left to go through a very narrow and awkward barrage flood gate! I don’t know how Stu does it; all I have to do is click the shutter! Narrow’s OK, it’s the little side currents they throw at you that keep you on your toes. That said, I’m awful glad we’re not any wider. . . . 

Clamecy lived up to its description as a ‘pretty town’ with many medieval buildings, streets and steps. It has a massive and interesting history linked to the timber industry, floating logs and rafts down to the Seine and Paris. We were lucky to get space in the port, and used it as a stepping off point for exploring the town and the market.

Two little details – the statue on Bethlehem bridge of a ‘floateur’ waiting for work with the logs and rafts, and a magnificent butterfly that spread its wings on the ground before me.

Clamecy also boasts two lavoirs – a renovated one, now used as an art gallery, and a very sad, tired one and full of weeds, where the roof has fallen in

Our next stop at Monceaux Le Compte was a few hours longer than expected!

Montceau aground

We woke up aground. Ooh La La to starboard

Several hours, conversations with éclusiers, and multi litres of water we were off. What had happened to us, and several other bats up and down the pound? It seems that three days of small mistakes in water management had resulted in too little left on the canal.

We continued through ‘drawbridges’ at Dirol and elsewhere, noticing lots of extra water flowing over the top of lock gates and into the locks!

Leaving Montceaux late we adjusted the plan and had a short day to Chitry Les Mines –  scarily hitting some rocks whilst mooring, but seemingly no damage. The photos show peaceful views out of the port, across the canal – and omit the three large boats full of youngsters on an activity holiday!  Despite the apparent threats of late night noise they were worn out by 1030 all became quiet.

We arrived hot and slightly bothered, so I went in search of foot cooling resources. I hardly dare mention that I discovered an ideal spot in a lavoir. The Yonne flowed by, depositing clean sand, and I lay down in the water to lower my core temp.

Oh yes, there is also a good cafe there – good prices and smiling service.

Next day was designed to be a short trip to Sardy where we would take a good rest before tackling the 16 locks to the top. We neared Sardy in temperatures of the high thirties, looking forward to stopping. Then, one of those serendipitous interventions, a lady éclusier mentioned that the 3 boat loads of kids were also going to Sardy and maybe we would prefer to moor above écluse 12?  We took her advice, steeling ourselves to the additional 5 locks, and what a good decision.

The magical mooring above écluse 12 is a barge’s wonder to behold! Truly.


Fully clothed, soaked and cooled – and happy



My first action once moored was to cool off in the water. Too hot to waste a moment I was in fully clothed again.

The area around the mooring abounded with creatures and plants – lots of butterflies and other nature to get close to.

So now we just had 11 locks and three tunnels to the top.


3 elusiers at ecluse 3

The final 11 locks in 2 kilometres were made easy by young, hard working, teams of éclusiers and stunning scenery.

The tranchée to the tunnels was very beautiful, if a little precarious – with rocks at the edges just below the waterline.

Three tunnels and three approaches for Le Capitaine to steer through, light/dark/light/dark/light/dark/light. Gimme an F . . . 

Baye mooring

And out onto the lake at Baye – wow!!!!  Another swimming opportunity.


Low bridge.

First challenge after Baye at PK 62 is a bridge, unnamed, and no wonder. It is apparently 2.7m high, which is interesting in a boat 2.85 high …… made it with inches to spare!

There’s a treble lock  closely followed by a double lock on the way down to Chattillion. Our éclusier on the first three also had lovely little chocolate fondant cakes for sale – €2 each.

We passed over a small aqueduct that took the river Aron below, and through Mingot lock towards Châtillon-en-Bazois.


Chatillon approach – Aye aye, what’s going on here? . . . .



I am sure Captain Stu will have something to say about the hairpin bend and bridge into Châtillon!  The map gives an indication of the necessary manoeuvre.





View from the wheelhouse

We moored up below the chateau, where we belong – and discovered that there was a ‘jazz festival’ at the port that very evening. This event was simply lovely small town France get together. We were made so welcome; tout la monde was served an aperitif of rosé wine with pamplemousse (grapefruit) and we could buy tickets for various sausages with chips.

The DBA recommended our next mooring – thank you; another gem.

Anizey is a basin above a lock, just after another bridge we should not fit thorough! This bridge is also labelled as 2.7 and we are 2.85 ……. (Bit tight this one, with a footpath off to starboard)

I liked the bridge, the mooring and the nature.

Butterflies and lizards to enjoy as I wandered round the sunlit, then twilight, basin.

Next day was the final dash to Cercy-la-Tour where we were due to meet two friends Jenny and Charlie from Tulsa Oklahoma. We got as far as Villard lock, 19, only to be stopped for lunch. Never mind – it was a very pleasant place to eat and relax – and take photos!

Cercy-La-Tour is a great place to welcome friends to the French canal system. The village, up a steep hill, is ancient and picturesque.


Cercy-la-Tour lock


The lock is one of the most colourful!

(Thank you Jenny for this, and several other, photos!)





The scenery after Cercy, down to Decizes, was open and full of colour (and weed)




and Jenny and I could relax on the front deck while Charlie was first Lieutenant to Stu.




She took some great photos along the way – here’s a few I love.



The mooring we chose in Decize was right next to supermarket, ideal for taking on food, drink, and gas!




We walked into town for a couple of drinks at a pleasant bar, getting a good view of the old Loire, bridge, and the city on the way.

The next day we left the Nivernais, spending a short time on the Loire before gong through two interesting locks, Ter and Bis, to join the canal latèral à la Loire – and the next chapter!



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!