Carry on up the Sambre!

The French Sambre

26th to 29th August 2021

This is a nice short blog, especially in comparison to some of my recent ramblings. We had three nights and the best part of four days on this stretch of the 2021 voyage. Bienvenue en France!

We left Erquelinnes on a blue and sunny morning, crossing the border into France almost immediately at the Belgian 0 kilometre post. A squat reminder of the border crossing.

We were passing through Jeumont and its Haute Nautique a few minutes later, wondering whether the water and electricity borne now worked – others boaters had reported them as out of service.

This is where we had walked to the day before to find fresh milk. All these cows we keep passing, and the only milk in most supermarkets is homogenised on the shelf stuff.

A kilometre on we met the first lock on the French section of the Sambre, mooring up below the lock on the waiting pontoon to find out how these locks will operate.

It keeps us on our toes moving from one water way to another and one country to another at the same time. At least the language didn’t change – Wallonia to France.

Mounting a somewhat underused staircase to the lock we could see that we must collect a remote control from the hut, and do to that we must use the intercom – or filling that phone the command office further along the river. The intercom failed, so a call was made, and after a few translation difficulties we were delivered remote control number 18 through a reverse ‘letter box’.

We were off – and in charge of our own lock operation. We have met this system before in France, and rather like it, although on some waterways the lock operating systems are out of order as often as they work. Fingers crossed!

We were heading for Hautmont and its modern port. That meant another two locks and 18 kms – a good morning’s journey. The lock at Hautmont has an interesting approach, round a bend, under a bridge, and with a weir stream kicking Calliope to one side! All was managed perfectly by the Captain at the helm.

The port is immediately after the lock, large and newly appointed, and deigned for smaller boats within, plus a long pontoon outside, on the river, for larger vessels like us.

All of our moorings so far this year have been free, but we were happy to pay the €20 (€1 per meter) for a night here. We were able to fill up with water, get rid of all our rubbish, and have an easy place to tie up to.

A short walk into town to find a boulangerie for lunch time bread revealed the church and fountain of the main square.

A later, longer, walk took us past again as we went in search of a radiator cap. We did find the Norauto store, but they had nothing as old fashioned as a radiator cap!

However we found another store that sold us a new clock for the galley wall, a new lamp for the back cabin, and some transparent hose that the Captain had a use for.

I will leave that to your imagination!

The view up river from our Hautmont mooring was industrial, but also dramatic as clouds rolled in that evening.

By morning the black skies were blue, and being enjoyed by a young heron on the quay until it saw me and took fright – and flight! I was more excited by the prospect of fresh French croissants on our first morning in France, and returned to yesterday’s boulangerie to buy some – a real treat!

We had read that the new port included a ‘pump out’ to empty black water tanks (the poo tank to the uninitiated) and a diesel pump operated 24/7 by credit card. We couldn’t see either of these facilities, and on asking the Captiaine we were told they were ‘la bas’ with a casual wave of the arm upstream, but not working.

We set off on a short 9 kms cruise to find a country mooring for the next night, and just round the first bend found the pump out and diesel quay – smart and new, but awaiting repair! Maybe next year …..

Our view from the Quartes mooring

At Quartes, below the small town of Pont-sun-Sambre, we spied the waiting pontoon for the lock – ideal! We stopped for lunch to try it out, and with no other traffic on the river needing to use the pontoon I phoned the local VNF office to ask if we could stay there for the night. Bien sur! No problemo!

It was a wonderfully relaxed day, with this vista all around us while we were on the boat. We walked up into the town and found the boulangerie ready for use the next morning. It is a fascinating little place in some ways, causing me to look it up on the internet and discover that Robert Louis Stevenson had written an excellent chapter in his book ‘An Inland Voyage’, about his travels in a canoe through Belgium and Northern France.

It is very well worth reading – far better than my paltry way with words! Here’s a link

Despite the charms of Quartes we were wary of overstaying or welcome on a lock mooring and were ready to leave next day. We had realised, looking at the map, that a four mile trip round a loop in the Sambre would place us closer to the boulangerie than walking from the Quartes mooring so this is what we did.

We moored at the ‘official’ Pont-sun-Sambre mooring and I walked a few hundred yards into town – to the most popular boulangerie I have even seen! I joined 8th in the queue and before I got into the shop there were fourteen behind me! We were across the road from the post office, which I was delighted to see had been the post office since 1932.

Captain Stu and I were surprised to find a traffic light system in operation at the next lock, and to see it with a double red light – which means ‘en panne’, or out of order! And as we drove towards it we could also see a fire engine, another emergency vehicle, and lots of pompiers (firemen) looking onto the lock. Had there been an accident?

But almost immediately the lights turned to green and red – lock in preparation – and the gates opened for us to go in.

We had a cheerful ‘Franglaise’ conversation with the pompiers and it seemed they were simply ‘looking at’ the lock, maybe to understand how it now operated with its new traffic lights.

They waved us cheerfully on our way.

Three kilometres on from that excitement, and along some narrow waters with startling skies above, we found the slightly muddy pontoon at Bras Mort de Leval.

The ‘dead arm’ mentioned (Bras Mort) refers to a tight twist of the Sambre that was nipped off in 1836 to make a more navigable canal for the barges working up and down the river. Leval refers to the nearby village which was served by the river traffic almost 200 years ago.

But the evening was perfect – sundown on the back deck and total peace and quiet apart from distant trains. This is what we cruise for!

(Oh, and for the croissants, cheeses, beers, waffles, wines ……….. )

And then in the morning the best bit of nature watching! A stork following the cows and egrets across the field opposite.

Apologies for the lack of clarity – only had my phone to hand!

But the black and white of the cows complementing the black and white of the stork was something a bit special!

And here we are already on our last day on the actual river Sambre. We joined it at Charleroi 10 days ago to come upstream fore the first time. We went the other way last year, down stream to Namur where it joins the mighty Meuse.

Lets enjoy a little more of the lovely River scenery.

Amongst the fields and woods we had locks 3, 2 and 1 to go through . At Number 2, Hashette, the lock keepers house stands empty and deserted because of the automation along the French Sambre.

The big VNF notice on the right tells us that it is available as a ‘project’, which essentially means you pay them a tiny rent in return for doing the house up to a standard agreed with them.

It’s in a lovely remote place. Any takers?

We continued through number 3, Les Étoquies, where we chatted with a retired lock keeper living by the lock with his three dogs, goats and chickens.

Then, as we reached Landecies where the river meets the canal head on, we confusingly meet another lock number 3. This is the start of the locks for Canal Sambre à l’Oise. The first 3 continue going upwards, numbered 3, 2 and 1!

I noticed a very different type of paddle on this lock. (This is the part of the lock that lifts to allow water to pour in from above.)

This is probably a bit geeky of me! But I love locks and all their differences. This one has 8 rounded ‘shutters’ in the gates that gradually lift, allowing more and more water in. Maybe both the other two rising locks on this section will be the same ……

Tomorrow we will move directly onto the Canal de Sambre à l’Oise, and it will probably will seem very similar – except that after the next two locks going upwards we will find ourselves descending.

Heading north up La Meuse part 1

The waterways comprising La Meuse include the river itself, the Canal de la Meuse, called, prior to 2003, the Canal de l’Est Northern branch. At the same time the southern branch was renamed the Canal des Vosges. Together they formed a 245 mile long canal within the Franco Prussian border.

This part, Part 1, is about our travels on the Canal de la Meuse – the northern branch.

June 19 – June 26 2019

Leaving Void-Vacun under storm skies

It was time to change canals – always interesting to find out what the new waterway will be like.

Propping up the bridge

We left Void, still on the Canal de La Marne au Rhin, first thing, passing under the bridge that was closed the day before, and which clearly still has more work to be done.

After a sort stretch we found ourselves on a short aqueduct over a river (was it La Meuse) before needing to take a share left hand turn onto our new canal. I rather liked the geometric Art Deco style of the aqueduct railings.

And immediately our first lock was upon us, opened by our nice new yellow zapper. We could see close by a huge cement factory that appeared to utilise stone and/or chalk from close by quarries.

When we got to the second lock we were right alongside the said cement factory, listening to the grinding of its huge evolving tubes. Everything, and I mean everything, was covered by varying depths of fine white powder. The whole factory was white, almost ghostly.

Our zapper quickly had the lock doors open, we were in, tied up, and Calliope decended to the bottom …. but the down stream lock doors remained closed.

Luckily I was above the lock, waiting to walk the kilometre to the next one, so could easily go to the ‘Aide’ button and call for help. But poor Stu was down in the depths, and then it began to rain! No matter – within a few minutes the VNF Service van arrived and we were on our way – all the way to lock 3 where the upstream lock doors didn’t open.

Once more I was above the lock, having walked from the previous one, and on the intercom again for Service!

All of these halts gave me a chance to take a look at the lock door make-up on this canal – and we were back to the metal doors that I had not see for some time; great big plates of metal, riveted together.

We did far better from then on, and at lock 4 we enjoyed the shapes and arches of the three bridges after the lock. (Touch to port skipper….)

We arrived at Eaville where we wanted to stop, and after a French family kindly moved their cruiser back a couple of bollards we were able to tie up for lunch and for the night – just before the next lock.

Those morning storm clouds continued to gather and soon after lunch the first of several thunderstorms passed across and we were pleased we’d elected to stay put.

Eaville church

We found time during one of the drier moments to walk the kilometre up to the village of Eaville, looking for fresh milk (no luck). We did find quite a grand church for such a small place, with a bike on display in front, (see bottom left) to promote the fact that the Tour de France would be passing through the village soon.

Next day we set off as soon as the locks opened, but not as early as the three boats already waiting below the lock to ascend once we were out of the way. Where had they come from??

We were moving along between pastures and villages in a distinctly river fashion, rather than canal …

…. and indeed the Meuse river joined and left us as she meandered slowly down hill. The junctions were all different – and as the weather kept changing the light in the photos is all different too.

Stopped off in Commercy long enough to do a quick shop in Aldi, which is right by the quay (no fresh milk there either), and then I walked up into town to look for madeleines as this is the town where they were invented. But would you believe it, unless I wanted to buy a kilo of them I couldn’t have any – except fancy gift wrapped ones!

One woman lavoir – I can’t help but wonder who it was for.

Then on we went downstream, passing at one lock the smallest lavoir I have seen so far – a one person lavoir!

The river/canal had some interesting quirks, like this railway bridge on an S bend, which as you come downstream you can hardly see! It is overhung with foliage, and the railings to the walkway through bear testimony to the number of boats that have bumped along the side on their way through.

I enjoy seeing the differences between canals in all kinds of ways. On this canal the lock houses are more cottage like, but still have an extra floor at the back on the slope down from the canal. They have the name of the lock engraved in stone above the door, a nice touch in this area of quarries.

We do get animal moments along the way! This little collection includes a young fox being seen off by a pair of magpies (the fox seems slightly bemused); a nesting grebe guarding an entrance to La Meuse river; and some inquisitive young cattle that I encountered on a rural bike ride to a supermarket!

Back to the journey! We were heading for St Mihiel, and hopefully a mooring in the town – but that was not to be. At least I caught sight of the local lavoir, unusual with its two slender central columns supporting the roof.

Just beyond St Mihiel we saw a possible mooring, at the edge of a rather run down looking campsite. It looked a bit shallow and the bollards were set back from the edge, so we came in slowly and all was doing well until I dropped a fender in the water, and got stranded on the land, and lost my rope all while the current was gently easing the boat back out into the river. Oops. Second time round was thankfully accomplished with more dignity.

The manager was out playing table tennis 50 yards from the quay, so I asked him if it was ok to moor. “bien sûr” was the reply.

Settling down with a cup of tea we noticed wed were directly opposite a peaceful WW1 cemetery, the white crosses and Islam markers shining against the grass. So many of these in the area – such a waste of young lives.

Before the afternoon was over I jumped on the bike and cycled off to the Intermarché while the skipper did manly things down in the engine room – a 9 minutes cycle ride from the boat according to Google Maps. After 25 minutes, much uphill, and getting lost twice I found it and hooray, they had fresh milk! It was on the way back down tracked between fields that I found the aforementioned cattle.

Next day, and the next lock, held a surprise – we had forgotten that the zapper was to be redundant for a while and we were back to manual lock keeping.

This has disadvantages – progress is slower – and advantages – we get to step off and do some turning of handles to open and close the lock gates.

The scenery along the Meuse is superb, pastoral, open and wide, often with a church spire or two to break up the horizon. There will be more examples to follow!

And we saw strange things like a tractor being ‘storked’ and an old tree that from a distance looked like an olive tree – perhaps someone will put me right as I don’t expect an olive tree in the middle of of a field of cows in north east France.

Lunch time was spent at Ambly-sure-Meuse, a grassy mooring at the edge of a small village recreation ground. Despite its small size Ambly does have a boulangerie so déjeuner requirements were met.

We hadn’t seen a boat since we left St Mihiel, but suddenly after lunch we passed quite a few, all in pairs – maybe on their way to find Noah’s ark (rather a tenuous connection). Many were cruisers, many looking similar and many from Holland, so we began to wonder if they were hire boats. But also a pleasant surprise – another Piper Boat, Tadham Castle.

Calliope passes on down stream

And Tadham Castle took a photo of us too – a passing Piper photo shoot.

Afternoon brought us in Dieue, and luck was with us as there was just space for us to squeeze in in front of an Australian catamaran on the quay. It turns out that Dieue has quite a history, and there were two sign-guided tours, one around the village itself and one around its neighbour Rattentout across the canal. We set off round the Dieue tour.

We saw where the embroiderers lived, the cobbler (now in semi ruins), the miller (now a brewery and bar), and lots of lovely old building with various functions of old. And of course a lavoir.

Later I went for a walk round Rattentout, somehow less quaint, but with a couple of interesting sights.

I followed the signs up a steep lane called Rue de les Carrièrers (quarries) wondering if anything would be at the top. At first all I could see was a path into a wood.

Then I saw a sign half hidden amongst tall nettles. Surging forward bravely I read that there was a statue to the virgin Mary, looking out over the valley. Sure enough as I walked into the wood I suddenly found her, on a mound of rounded stones. And from there, a great view across the Meuse.

Lavoir de Rattentout with raising floor

The second special find was a lavoir the likes of which I have never seen!

The water flows under the lavoir, rather than in front as is normally the case. And because the water level could change frequently depending on the activity of the turbines in a local factory a system of Archimedes screws and cast iron wheels allowed the floor to be raised or lowered. Amazing!

Our day at Dieue was Midsummers Day, the longest day of the year, so at sundown I took a photo to celebrate the solstice.

Next day was Saturday and we were heading to Verdun. The river was lovely along the way, plain easy sailing, and by 11am we arrived at the interesting tunnel through the fortifications built around the city by Vauban in the 17th century. The tunnel leads immediately to the lock down into the town.

It was an interesting manoeuvre for the Captain as we approached the tunnel from a right angle and could not be sure if there was a boat coming towards us, or in the lock. There did not seem to be the usual traffic light system to let us know whether to proceed or not, so we moved forwards cautiously until we could see that the lock gates were open for us – then full steam ahead(ish).

We had hoped to find a space in Verdun but the only spaces on the long pontoon were too short for Calliope. We did note another Piper barge, La Bas, on the pontoon, and they offered for us to raft up against them, but too late for Captain Stu to change course. It did have one good result – Patrice on La Bas took a photo of us as we passed on.

Belleville mooring in the morning sun

We headed on another kilometre to Belleville-sur-Meuse and made fast with ease to a pleasant little pontoon at the edge of a small park. After lunch and a siesta we were ready for a walk back into Verdun.

Gate of Verdun

We walked by the huge gateway to the town and explored some of the old narrow streets.

We walked up to the top of the hill by the huge statue of Charlemagne, looked in a few shops for shirts for the Captain (did you know that French for a short sleeved shirt is chemisette?).

We also found a restaurant that looked worth returning to later.

Then back down to the quay in the hope of finding the crew of La Bas aboard – and they were.

After a good bit of Piper boat, waterways, and general barge conversation we were treated to a glass of absolutely delicious champagne – very special because it is only made with white grapes. We also heard of an imminent heatwave set to sweep across Europe, including France, in a few days time.

The railway bridge at Belleville-sur-Meuse

Stu and I left them in peace and after a beer on the quay and a wonderful traditional meal at the little restaurant we had found we walked back down the river to Belleville, passing one of many beautiful bridges.

(Although it is not easy to see in the photo, this bridge must only be passed under by the right hand arch, which then leads into a 20 km canalised section of the river, whilst the other arches lead towards a long weir.)

It is now Sunday and a morning visit to the boulangerie for a baguette is essential as they all tend to close at noon. With bread safely aboard we carried on our journey on another glorious day, and with countryside stretching to either side. The only sadness in all of this was knowing how this same countryside and surrounding hills were the scene of the Battle of Verdun during WW1.

A hundred years on, and in addition to the military cemeteries there is still some evidence, such as the remains of blown up bridges, decimated villages and memorials.

Our next stop was Consenvoye, a village occupied by the invading army a century ago. It was here we saw an interesting tiny part of the post war reparations. On a walk round the village Stewart and I saw a building at the top of town that we both thought looked like a modern lavoir, but it was impossible to get in or even to see through the windows. I did ask if I could sit on Stu’s shoulders, but he declined!

Later, in the evening, I went for a second walk and this time saw a van pull up by the building so I used my best school girl French to ask about the building. On hearing that it had indeed been a lavoir, built after the war, I asked to see inside. It is now a village store, but it is clear that this was a very modern lavoir compared to many I have seen. And interesting to me that in 1919, when my grandmothers were in their twenties, a lavoir was still considered to be the way to wash ones clothes in rural France.

So enough of war, important though it is to remember.

The mooring at Consenvoye is on a small loop of the river that passes close to the village. The village was in there middle of a major brocante (like a car boot sale) when we arrived. We were surrounded by cheerful stalls on both sides of the narrow channel, so initially not the quiet mooring we had anticipated! But all good fun.

It was a hot day and we needed to fill up with water with the heatwave on its way.

Such a shame that the tap sent a fine spray in all directions from the connector, and that I had to sit and wait until the tank was full!

By early evening the brocante had ended, the stalls packed up, and quiet descended.

There was another interesting find at Consenvoye – a vending machine that apparently baked fresh baguettes 24/7 so for a Euro one could get your daily bread in a village that no longer had a boulangerie. We did not buy one, although I was keen to try the experience.

Next day I walked over to the adjacent lock to see if the éclusier had arrived at 9am as promised; the previous day they were a bit late. Stewart meantime reversed out of our mooring channel and came round to face the lock

We then discovered something that we have not seen since the Yonne river, three years ago. The lock here has sloping sides and a floating pontoon to attach to during the locking process. It all seemed very modern, easy and tidy.

While I am on the subject of ‘les écluses’, or locks, here are a couple of observations from this canal/river.

We have become used to bollards inset into the walls of deep locks so that you can move your ropes up (or down) as you go. On this canal there were a few alternatives to the inset bollard. There have been crosses, half-rings, bars and the good old sliding pole, but much broader than before.

old lock house with current itinerant éclusier’s hut next door

There have also been changes on the lock houses, the later ones being smaller and with gables above the front door.

These seem to be the more rural, remote, locks, with bigger houses attached to locks on towns and cities.

And the names of the locks, originally carved in stone above the door, as mentioned before, are gradually being replaced with blue metal signs, sometimes placed straight on top of the stone one as here at Sep.

Now that the éclusiers travel between locks and no longer live in the lock houses, unless they have bought them, they are provided with a little ‘hut’ instead, where they can make coffee, phone calls and have a loo.

My last bit of lock info for now is two photos of rusty old lock ‘gear’

The first is some kind of pulley system attached to the quay of a lock. We have seen these just a few times and must be linked to pulling laden barges into locks, maybe after horses had disappeared and various narrow gauge railway engines had taken their place on some canals.

The second is a winch at Remilly-Aillicourt lock, where we were moored up for the night – you can just see Calliope framed in the triangle of the winch.

Now back to the journey.

Soon after Consenvoye, in fact 4 locks after at Warinvaux, we moved from manual locks with cheerful éclusiers arriving in vans to do the work, back to ones operated with our yellow zapper.

We stopped briefly at Dan-sur-Meuse, in the lock (a bit naughty that) because I had seen that there was a boulangerie on the lock island. I rushed off and within 10 minutes had the daily bread. As we left the lock there were lovely views of the Dan-sur-Meuse church placed high above the river. No risk of flood up there!

For part of the day’s trip we were buzzed repeatedly by a slinky military helicopter that was virtually on its side as it went round tight corners. We think it was the new Guepard helicopter, maybe on secret trials as it was working above a large flat field with no military installations in sight.

Eventually, after a long day for us – almost 30 kilometres in what was becoming a heat wave – we reached the outskirts of Stenay and were delighted to see that the mooring we hoped for, an old factory mooring opposite a small weir, was free.

Phew! Tied up, parasol up, cool drinks up on the back deck and we were sorted for the evening.

It has to be said that I was ready for all of the above. This is how hot I had got.

Whereas later in the evening, with parasol down, Captain Cool was looking good.

I did take an evening walk round Stenay once it had cooled down to about 28 and there was plenty of shade. There were some interesting buildings, but nothing special until I saw the old mill in the last in the sun’s rays.

Calliope moored against a high old industrial wharf, opposite a weir

We were now onto our last day on the Canal stretch of La Meuse. The day started with me gallantly cycling to the local Intermarché, a mere two kilometres – but Google maps failed to tell me that it was up hill again! I walked up part of the distance, between fields of wheat so no unpleasant.

Once back on board we cast off and were away to the first lock, just round the corner. There were only 5 locks for the day, but 36 kilometres, on another of the heatwave days. No wonder we saw so many cows paddling in the water.

We found a relaxing place to stop for lunch before the voyage went on.

We passed storks circling in the sky (yes there is a stork up there), a church with a definite change of shape at Remilly-Aillicourt, and boys making the most of the hot weather by jumping in from a bridge over the (canalised) river.

Moored for the night above Ramilly-Aillicourt lock

When we moored up just before Ramilly-Aillicourt lock we were once again very hot – about 34 degrees in the wheelhouse even with the windscreen down and a reasonable breeze blowing in.

Stewart had a siesta. I went to find somewhere to swim, but finding a place to get in, or rather get out, of the river was not so easy. Eventually I found I could climb down next to the overflow from above the lock – delicious cool clear water to flump and splash about in!

After supper, when the air had lost its heat, I took off with the camera and took a couple of reflective photos that seemed too work quite well. One was of the railway bridge, where not only did the stone supports reflect well, but also the track of the bridge, looking almost real across the surface of the water.

The other was simply of Calliope, gently swaying in the evening sun.

And then there was the comfy Captain waiting to welcome me back home, with all the paraphernalia .

So just one more thing before we leave the Canal de l’Est Northern Branch, alias the Canal de la Meuse, we have yet another change in the look and feel of the levers used to set the lock operations in motion, caught in its full glory at Remilly-Aillicourt lock

We were 6 kilometres from Sedan where the next day we would enter the official La Meuse river, taking us on to Belgium. A fiery sunset was a reminder of the heat of the day gone by, and the heat of the day to come, destined to be the hottest of the heatwave.

Two Rivers Cruise – La Saone et Le Rhone

From Chalon-sur-Saone, through Lyon, to Saint-Gilles

Thursday 18 August 2016

IMG_1728Leaving Fragnes (we like Fragnes) after a full moon night and just after breakfast we had a final short trip on Canal du Centre from countryside towards La Sâone.


First we had to pass the the industrial end of Chalon-sur- Sâone, with the usual warehouses, old quays and occasional beautiful rusting barge before reaching the tall, narrow 10.76m ‘bis’ lock to drop us down to river level.

The mighty lock 34 of Canal du Centre – ‘bis’ – ready to lower us to Sâone level.

And it started to rain! Ah well – boating is a water sport I guess.

We joined the big wide Sâone uneventfully and started chugging downstream at a good pace, enjoying the grey-hued view of Chalon from the water.

The statue is important to me, and all those who wield a camera. It is of the unlikely named Nicéphore Niépce, born in Chalon in 1765 and widely credited as the inventor of photography.

tournus__afterThe countryside below Chalon is rather flat – less interesting than some, but the wide, open, view and the wildlife made it very enjoyable on a day when clouds lifted and the sun came through..

From the tall and narrow to the wide and shallow – we went through our one Sâone lock of the day – all alone in a huge space! Life jackets on! It’s the rules!

Chalon, after, Ormes lock

Chalon, after, Ormes lock

And look who we saw the other side of the lock!  Our friends on Lapin Vert, the theatre barge, last seen on Canal de Bourgogne weeks ago.

Not far on from the lock we came to Tournus and moored up at the quay – what a pretty place, full of history!

I loved some of the balconies, and all the flowers!  It is a must for another visit, to explore the abbey sector and the many little narrow streets.

We saw all weather from sun, clouds, pouring rain, mist and back to sun again by 11am the next day, when we were finally able to move on down the river.


The Captain feels he is relaxing into river ways quite quickly. Huge hotel barges ply up and down but there is plenty of space for us all on La tranquil Sâone. Cattle and horses graze; towns and villages look down at the water.

maconWe cruised a massive 57 Kms on Friday, past the graceful riverside house of Macon and ending up moored near Belleville. Macon, which looks a pleasant city. It’s a shame to miss such an important wine growing region, but if we are to meet our mates Chris and Tasmin in 3 days time we need to keep going.

Below Macon we began to see a new set of watersports make use of the river – water skiing, power boats, jet skis and ribs were more prevalent than skiffs and kayaks!

It is so much quicker with about one lock a day, and at a steady 12 Kms an hour with the current. Friday’s lock was called Dracé – as wide and empty as Ormes the day before, out in the country, with the hill town of Mogneneins in the distance. In contrast the abandonded old lock of Thoissey, just after Dracé, seemed gentle and contained.

drace_lock__after__almost_perfect_mooring!Soon after Dracé we spotted a ‘perfect’ rural mooring for us – except that the pontoon was 8m long and we are 20m. In a canal it’s ok to moor in such a short space, but on the river, with big barges, jet skis and power boats sending wonderful wakes our way, we thought it might not be wise.

We carried on to Belleville, and at first were alarmed to see a ‘No Mooring’ sign on the pontoon. We came up close, peering through binoculars, and saw below something that indicated it was the next day that mooring was forbidden, so tied up and crossed our fingers. All was well.

No time to explore Belleville this time, but an absolute definite for next time we pass through.


After a nice calm night and pink purple dawn we had pouring rain – I don’t think it stopped until about 3.45 that afternoon! Nonetheless the intrepid crew slipped mooring ropes and set off to Lyon.


On the way we saw some lovely countryside – hills, woods, islands, lakes – and attractive villages; but all through windscreen wiper!

And there is always the industrial side of the river, lending purpose to the maintenance of the locks, banks,  and navigation buoys.

We caught sight of the National Patanque Competition at Trévoux – an Italianate town somehow transposed to La Sâone.

I don’t give much info about the towns, but Trévoux is worth a quick mention. It was capital of Dombes, an independent principality with its own parliament until 1762. It has a 10th -13th century castle amongst other old buildings and is famous for diamonds and dictionaries – and Petanque!

As we passed through le point de Trévoux we remarked on some languishing ladies in blue atop the ornate piers, unconcerned by the rain.


Route de Soleil!

Also unconcerned by the rain, or perhaps to escape it, were the cars whizzing South on the Route de Soleil, passing overhead for about the third time!

And then we stopped at Neuville-sur-Sâone for lunch. I ran through the rain to find a boulangerie, discovering on the way set of lovely lanes flanked by small shops of all types – how France used to be, but maybe tarted up for the Lyonnaise who were not far distant.

neuvilleNeuville-sur Saone has a claim to fame, linked to the Lumière Brothers. A congress of French Societies of photography took place in Lyon in June 1895. They had a boat trip on the Saône, to Neuville-sur-Saône where Louis Lumière filmed their landing on the Pastor dock. The following day the film was screened at the closing session of the congress. This film is considered to be the first “news” movie, the ‘ancestor’ of all news.

As we came on down into the Lyon conurbation we passed so many lovely houses and buildings, all set against a wet grey sky so not shown at their best.

But it did give us a typical parapluies sur le pont moment.


We were on the look out for gasoil and somewhere to moor, and found both. The diesel pump was at a very friendly boatyard / chandlery. We filled up to be sure of propulsion on the Rhone.

lyon__mooringThen returning up stream half a kilometre or so we tied up on a tree-lined quay in the middle of the city. When the sun comes out this is going to be spectacular!

lyon_nightThe skies cleared as it became dark, bringing ‘spectacular’ forward by a few hours.


Sun shining; it  was spectacular all over again.

There were no traumas joining the Rhone – just suddenly very wide, though no perceptible increase in flow. Seemed a quarter of a mile wide, so even had thee been loads of river traffic we would have been ok – and as it was we were the only ones there!

The confluence is marked by a slim isthmus of grass – and a huge modern museum building – both equally amazing in their way.

We had a bit of hanging around for the first lock, Pierre Bénite, as we had not qute grasped the ‘registration’ system, but once in the ‘sas’ (lock chamber), the floating bollards took us down the requisite 9m very gently.


Rules is rules, so life jackets on for the lock. We would be at our most vunerable waiting for a lock the Captain says, so we were lucky; with a low flow and a back breeze we were fine.

lyon__after_1Calliope glided on down the river, with the scenery opening, closing, changing. We passed towns and villages more reminiscent of Italy than France, so definitely now in the South and with a Roman influence.

lyon__afterOn the canals our expectations were to achieve 20 Kms per day; on the river, with few locks and a following current we have been doing 14Kms per hour on Le Rhone! White Water Barging!

We ate lunch on the go, with co-pilot taking the wheel while Captain ate, weaving my way in and out of bridges and boats coming the other way – with yards and yards to spare I must admit!


Just after lunch, before digestion set in, we were at the second lock, Vaugris. We only gave the éclusier a kilometer’s notice of our arrival, so we bobbed about a bit waiting for the lock to be set for us, and another bateau de plaisance also travelling downstream.

These big locks are so gentle that once tied up one can loll on deck during the descent.

By now the wind was starting to pick up …. Is it the Mistral???? We have been warned about the dangers of the Mistral, but ‘hell, came from a winter in Gosport!’

And its not the Mistral. It is northerly, but it is only 15kph, and its warm – though a 3 to 5hph flow coming up your aft at the same time makes it interesting . . . . 

We passed Viennes; it looks fascinating from the water, and through the greyish light; a town-in-waiting for exploration.

We were by then deep into Côte du Rhone country, slipping by lots of named vineyards; we passed so many vineyards – it was mega frustrating not to be stopping and trying them all, but actually there are very few mooring places on the Rhone. Capital V, capital F.

Our planned mooring at Chavanay was spotted from about 1.5 Kms away – a 20’ pontoon for our 20’ boat, empty. Hooray!

chavanay_mooring_3About half an hour after our joyful mooring out in the country we were joined by a HUGE hotel barge who was disembarking passengers for a coach trip! The Captain of this barge was superb, mooring up to 5 ‘ducs’, or huge black poles sticking out of the river, to which are attached gangways to the land.

Half an hour later, it was gone.

We had moored by a tall, elegant, simple monument. The plaque was a sad reminder of WW2 – something we thought we had left behind further North. The village were obviously very proud of this young man.

Stu and I took a walk round the village, bumping into the remnants of a holy of festivities  – the Vogue fete!  The band played on, with musicians in a variety of locations (and libations), and people (in a variety of locations and libations were joyous.

Not sure whether any of them made it it the evening’s dance and the 1.30am ‘Grand Galop’!


And Chavanay has wine caves too – for next time.

It all led to a peaceful moonlit night on the river and a beautiful clear morning..


We liked the mooring at Chavanay, but had to continue next day, leaving the monumental nuclear power station on the opposite back behind us.

Setting off towards the South, we descended through Sablons lock, which had one huge door each end that opened sideways, and a hydroelectric power station alongside. To be honest, most of these big Rhone locks incorporate hydroelectric – good source of power.

Callliope cruised on, between Andance and Andancette, the former being clearly labelled! Three crosses on the hill above the church stood strong against the blue sky.


Many of the small towns and villages along the Rhone are just out of site, behind trees, or well above flood levels. One that we could see was St-Vallier, where La Galore river enters the Rhone under a low bridge. Nauticulars will notice the white horses just forming; time to re-check the wind forecast . . . .


Before we reached Gervans lock the Tour d’Arras came into view above the trees, though the town of Arras was out of sight.

We were on and through this 11.5m lock quite quickly – getting used to them now, radioing ahead to say we are nearby.

arras__near__windyBy now the wind was picking up, a daily feature, probably linked to the ground warming up in the high temperatures we have been enjoying!

It almost felt as if we were back at sea – in a good way –  no, not so good some would say . . . . . .

We needed to reach our hoped for mooring at Glun to meet friends, so a quick bowl of cereal lunch for Stu and yesterday’s bread for me as we continued.

I took a turn at the helm, taking Calliope through the relative narrows by La Table de Roi – a small (6’across) flat rock in the channel where, apparently, Louis IX stopped to eat on his way to the Crusades.

We came into the Hermitage area, past Tain and Tournon and the many many vineyards terraced onto the slopes.

Tournon is overlooked by two watchtowers, and connected to Tain by the first suspension bridge over the Rhone in 1825.

glun__afterThe wind continued to pick up – blowing harder than forecast, but with a bright sky and sunshine – harder than forecast is correct.

We reached the wonderfully name Glun, and la Roche de Glun, and turned away from a canalised section onto the old Rhone and the hoped for mooring – which was totally full!

Stu managed a difficult astern manoeuvre in the wind, back onto the main route, refocussing to the South, with me contacting the friends and changing our meeting point.

A quick look at the map suggested that I should phone the port at Valence, and an extremely pleasant Capitaine told me he had a hammerhead on ‘J’ for our 20m boat – the second pontoon.

buorg-les-valence__lockThe 12km trip included another lock, Bourg-les-Valences. Here the ‘door’ rises up behind you out of the water, although this photo does not show the actin very well.

We entered the port a Valence  with me on the bow looking for pontoon J; the one closest to the entrance for H. The sign for the next was hidden by masts and wheelhouses, but surely would be I, not J? ………. As it emerged I could see that it was G, and coincidentally realised that in the French pronunciation of the alphabet, G is J, if you get my meaning!

Good, all sorted, and we moored up with welcome help from another boater as the wind was blowing us straight off the pontoon. We quickly met up with our friends, and after a 800m walk to Casino (supermarket, not entertainment!), we settled down to a very pleasant evening.


Lovely day – horizon to horizon sunshine, low winds. Perfect half days cruise, with Captain  Stu sharing the helm and binoculars with his old old Lake District boatman friend Chris – drinking orange juice look; mind, it was early. 

Through Beauchastel lock, past la Voulte with its fascinating buildings and lovely rock formations and onwards to find a resting place with a restaurant, if poss!

The four of us came down to le Pouzin quay which looked like a difficult mooring; the wall was tall, the two bollards too far apart to both be used, and the railings potentially insecure! Despite there being little to hang onto it all worked out , with the exception of one rope snapping after a small boat with a ridiculously large wake went by. Ah well.


Lunch weas enjoyed by all, followed by a stroll round town for the men and relaxation for Tas and I.

The ropes continued to be tested by some big commercial barges and hotel boats – will they even get under bridge?


Hey, got me a swimming partner, so while the old boat mates spun yarns and drank grog Tasmin and I took the healthy option of a cool down swim in the river. The current was strong enough to be testing, but not frightening, so good exercise for ten minutes or so.

Then off to a local pizzeria for a treat meal – all delicious, and with some delightful translations on the menu

le Pouzin

Chris, Tasmin and Stu at le Pouzin bridge

The evening walk back through warm air, past the illuminated bridge, to our floating apartment was just perfect.


This was ‘extreme écluse’ day; le Logis-Neuf (11.7m), Chateauneuf (16.5m) and the enormous Bollène at 22.5m!!!! (That is an 8 x storey building, with its roof on . . . . heroic engineering, and the smoothest decent ever.)

Prior to that we had a breakfast of croissants and hot chocolate before moving off in splendid sailing conditions; enough breeze to cool us down now and then, full on sun, and a gentle but persistent current in our direction.

Our first lock, Logis-Neuf, was the baby of the day. We had quite a wait for the lock to be ready, and then quite a wait for another boat to arrive and join us in our journey  11.7m down. It gave me time to inspect the floating bollards more than usual!

Birdlife was a bit more prolific than usual, with plenty of cormorants and gulls – and on a floating branch, an osprey. The photo, though not good, is included as we see them so rarely. Can I say “Cormorants to the left of me, gulls to the right. Stuck in the middle with Stu’? (Doh!) Guess it depends how much of a music lover you are!

In contrast to each other my Mediterranean garden was at the fore as we passed the nuclear power station at Cruas, where attempts have been made to make one of the cooling towers attractive.

chateauneuf_beforeFurther down river we saw the delicious town of Montelimar in the distance rive gauche, and beyond the inky outline of a mountain range.

Soon after the 16.5m Chateauneuf écluse came into view. As usual we radioed ahead to announce our presence. I know I am a bit of a lock nut! Chateauneuf had interestig features – ‘wine-stain’ colours to the locked, massive curved doors either end to hold the weight of water, huge doors part way along to make a smaller lock (I guess), a bit of a waterfall leaking in at the top end as we descended, and a rising, curved door, with metal gate beyond, to let us out at the bottom of our 54 foot drop.

There’s a couple of short videos filming the start and finish of our trip down at The start of the descent and ‘Getting to the bottom of the lock’

Below Chateauneuf lock is the Donzère Gorge. The river narrows appreciatively, although not to the scale of other famous gorges. There are many magnificent rock formations and cliffs that once formed the immediate banks of the river.

We had hoped to stop above the lock at Bollène, but the quay was full of commercial barges being loaded with very dusty stuff so we continued, down through the absolute biggest lock in Europe.

Does it look or feel different to the other big locks on the Rhône? Well probably not a lot, at least not on a benign August day, but just knowing that you are dropping the height of three houses is something to keep you awake on a dreamy afternoon. (Actually I had to be woken up to do it!)

It was a 10 minute smooth as silk descent from hot sun to welcome shade, and I even got a good shower from a spray leak in the wall at about 3m down, that continued to soak me with water all the way down to the bottom!

The associated dam and hydroelectric power station was designed by architect Théodore Sardnal, built in 1947 and officially opened in 1952. It is now a historic monument, as well as a working generator.

Still with Tas and Chris aboard we arrived at Saint-Etiennes-des-Sorts to find the pontoon occupied. We turned round and examined found tall wall at the upstream end of the village and located enough rings, some at water level and some 4′ above. With ingenuity, acrobatics, boathooks, (competent helmsmanship) and leaning overboard we managed to tie up securely for the night – although it did require the deployment of our ladder to get on and off the boat, even for swimming!

Across the river, solidly watching from the top of a cliff, was the Mornas Fortress, with colours changing as the day progressed into night.

St Etiennes,

St Etiennes

Downstream, as twilight faded in, we could see a cluster of village buildings, including the church overlooking the water.


Next day the sun streamed in once more. Chris set off early, hitch hiking, to collect his car from Valence, returning for lunch before taking himself and Tasmin home.

Stu and I had a relaxing afternoon and evening, including for me a late evening stroll in the cooler air around the village.


We liked Saint-Etiennes, and seeing the boat on the pontoon leave at 8am we decided to make the 400m journey down to that mooring and enjoy one more day at the village.

We had been told that there were no longer any shops or boulangeries in the village, so we were surprised to read a sign at the pontoon telling us that there was a an selling bread at the bus stop each morning from 8.30-9.30, and an épicerie van once a week on a Friday morning for an hour. We moored up on Friday morning!

I set off to find the bus stop, asking along the way, and discovered that the dépôt de pain had relocated to the Petit Restro. This was easy to find and a friendly welcome resulted in the lunch time baguette and a promise to return in the evening for a beer.


Then, just before 11.30, a van drove along the riverside road tooting; must be the épicerie!  I followed the sound and found a shop-in-a-van continuing everything I could need. His card reads ‘Épicerie, Fruits et Legumes, Boucherie, charcuterie & fromage à la coupe, Depot dépôt de pain, Crèmerie, Produits régionaux, Droguerie, Parfumerie, Timbres post, Presse …..’

I only needed one word for it – superb. In addition to buying some chicken legs for supper I noticed a regional specialty, from Sète, called ‘tirelle’ – or in my words, cephlapod pie. But I don’t know my version until I had heated it up, quartered it and served a portion to Stu – who pronounced it fish paste tart! No, it wasn’t that nice . . . . .


Another relaxing afternoon, reading, gentle cleaning, and an exfoliation of my feet by the local little fish!

One more bit of retailing to do; wine, veg and eggs. I had noticed a big high wall with a big high wooden gate on my evenings perambulation the night before – and a sign saying that they sold ‘vin en bouteilles et ‘bag-in-a-box’, ouefs, legumes et fruits’ – and were open after 1700 each weekday. So off we went to explore, rang the bell in the wall, and went in to an authentic rural courtyard and barn, linked to the Le Jonquiers vineyard.

A 5L Cotes du Rhone winebox €8; a bottle of white Vignognier was €6. I am not sure how much the 10 eggs, aubergines, onions and garlic were, but the total bill was €20. It’s how I had hoped rural France would be. (And the wine was more than palatable; apparently if you buy 4 x 5l boxes it’s only 7 Euros each – I’ve made a note for the trip back . . . )

On the way back we stopped for a beer at Petit Restro, and sat watching small village life swirling gently around us. I could describe so much; I am saying too much already.

saint_etiennes_electricityBut I had better tell you about our electricity cable. We were pleased to moor Calliope in such a way that the stern overshot the pontoon and allowed our 10m power cable to suspend over the water to the electricity point on the land. It worked perfectly – until a large boast with a particularly big wash rocked Calliope so much that the wires popped out of the plug on the boat and disappeared into the river. I hope not too many fish were electrocuted!

After a third wonderfully peaceful evening and night at Saint-Eiennes-des-Sorts we said au revere et bientot.


saint_etiennes_dawnFeeling much more relaxed we awoke to a perfect dawn. A gentle 21Km day was plotted, from Saint-Etiennes to Roquemaure, another free mooring at a small quay.


Our prayers were answered; the quay was empty. Along the way we had just one lock at Caderousse – a mere 8.6m. And I can remember only a few weeks ago being excited about he 7m lock on the Canal de Roanne  à Digoin!

We moored up and stayed two nights, entranced by the ruined Chateau de l’Hers on the opposite bank (it used to be an island in a much wider river, and paired with another castle in Roquemaure village – photos below). Like the fortress at Saint-Etiennes, the stonewalls changed colour with the arc of the sun.

The weather continued to be hot and sunny. We learned that a flat calm morning would likely be superseded by a breeze midday, then calm period in the afternoon before evening breezes blew in.

Saturday was invigorated by wat we thought was a flypast of about 5 sea planes, that appeared to landed the river further downstream. In fact they were part of a firefighting team, scooping up thousands of litres of water to dump on wild fires somewhere – or practising. At one point they swooped down over a barge, landing and taking off not far in front of it; I hope the Captain was expecting it!

IMG_2102Further invigoration for me was through the use of the biggest private swimming pool I have ever encountered – the whole of this stretch of the Rhone just for me, with warm stone steps at the end of the quay for easy immersion. On Sunday I dived in from the boat – feeling quite brave at my age; stupid really.



Stu and I went for a walk round the village in the cool of the morning air. Along the way I saw lots of little white flowers – except they weren’t. They were little white snails!

We found a small town full of surprises; it has rich history, part of which is, regrettably, being the place where that pest of  grape vines, phylloxera, was introduced to France in 1860 from America. Not one to be proud of, but plenty of other points of interest, a lively retail and bar/restaurant area, and the ruins of the aforementioned castle, now part of someone’s home.

roquemaure_duskTwo pleasant evenings at Roquelaure, during the second of which we planned a long day South and onto the Petit Rhône. Seems like a good idea through those millpond calm hours.



Our last day on the mighty Rhône – and it happened to be more than breezey, though certainly not a gale! (Hmmm, it had been picking up since 6am , and the wind forecast predicted 15kph plus later with up to 20kph tomorrow; time to go . . . ) We set off early before the midday winds came in and passed through Avignon lock on a bit of an adventure; our first lock on the Rhone shared with a big commercial vessel – called Poseidon! All went well.

We by-passed Avignon (it is up a side shoot of the river) having a better view of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. I would have loved to see the famous bridge that people danced under, rather than ‘sur’ as described in the song.

last_lock_on_rhone_for_usTaking note of the quite expensive, but not very attractive, marinas along the way we came to our last lock on Le Rhône, with the wind at its trickiest, blowing sideways across the river. We were helpfully blown onto the small waiting pontoon, but that made it difficult for the Captain to persuade Calliope back into the stream and through the lock mouth. He did it! Bravo!

Below the lock the river runs between Beaucaire and Tarascon – both of which have castles. In fact there was a castle on almost every tenth hill we passed, and I had to rein in my photography. Here’s a small selection, especially the Tarascon side, a very together castle, called Chateau de Roy-René, the 15th century King René, son of Louis II of Anjou.

It felt like quite a long day so we were pleased to spy, just before Arles, Le petit Rhône forking off to starboard, with a dredger working to improve the channel nearby. The morning’s high level clouds that had made it less bright than usual were lowering, and making photo clarity difficult for this amateur.

Good bye Rhone

Good bye River Rhone

Goodbye Le Rhône. We’ve spent 9 glorious and exciting days in your company. À bientot, l’année prochaine peut être.

What a change! From a wide open vista back to a quiet, narrower, tree-enclosed waterway.

We found the hoped for 6m jetty at PK296.5, as detailed by the DBA members, just a couple of kilometres before St Gilles; we tied up, and enjoyed the solitude.

petit_rhone_bug_2The flora and fauna is so different down here – definitely Mediterranean. I went ashore with the camera, but apart from this red mini beast I didn’t capture anything good ‘on film’. We were a little bothered  by biting mini beasts later, but a mélange of smouldering coils, sprayed skin, swatting and spraying kept us safe for the night.




The scent of sea salt was in the air! Casting off at about 9am Calliope glided through the last kilometres of the blue green Petit Rhône morning to reach Saint Gilles lock by 9.30.

St Gilles lock

St Gilles lock

A quick radio call resulted in the lock being prepared for us – the lock that would take us off the Petit Rhone, off the river system, and back into canals – the Canal de Rhône à Sète.


Would this be a big drop down – after all we have become used to locks from 7m to 20.5m over the past 10 days? Actually no; the drop was 15cms – fifteen centimetres! If you don’t believe me, just look at the waterline.

But it is obvious from the huge lock doors and vertical sets of bollards that in different river conditions it can be a lot more.

onto_canalSo that’s it for this section. The Canal de Rhône à Sète will be a somewhat different experience I think. Let’s see.

Sauntering through Canal du Centre

Whoops whoops whoops! Pressed ‘Publish’ by mistake! But now all sorted I think.


I’m taking a break from lots of words for this canal section, but still got lots of pictures to share.

We joined the canal at Digoin, mooring by the viaduct, and with Keeva and Abi still on board.

After breakfast amongst the sunflowers we set off across the viaduct towards Paray-Le-Monial, with the girls adding a touch of glamour to the proceedings!

We passed under lovely bridges and past the (sadly to be missed) Snail Festival preparations.


Ancienne écluse de Neuzy

We also passed the entrance to an old ‘narrow guage’ canal, complete with its own pont levée.

Next stop, Paray-Le-Monial; an absolutely delightful little town, where I discovered for the first time that moorhens have green legs! (Cool for cats or what?)

Out for a drink and a meal. I had my portion of escargots and Charolais beef and ice cream drenched in local alcohol!

The girls left next day and Stu and I continued on a strangely quiet barge towards the summit of the canal. We had a lovely lunch stop in sight of Chateau de Digoine, with a ‘swarm’ of baby cat fish swimming alongside.

imageI had a delicious lunch à la francàise with things we had bought in the charcuterie, boulangerie and boucherie in Paray – baguette, terrine de Lapin avec noix, oeuf et jambon en gelee, cows cheek salad in vinaigrette and big salad with radishes and dressing.
Tucking in now!



Old furnace near Palinges

We wiggled round Montet where it seems that the canal was forced to go round an important persons chateau – not always easy – and past a beautiful old pottery furnace.

That night we moored up at Génelard. Just what is that creature attached to the quay??

Génelard had several unexpected treasures. One was this 1950’s fake Art Deco facade to an old factory that used to make mechanical parts for locks etc.

Another was the Trancées of Génelard – a cutting sunk round the town.

We carried on upwards next day, passing a famous ceramic tile factory, now a museum and another abandoned kiln. We were getting used to having traffic lights again too!

For cow lovers like me, some different cows. On the left some spotty cows, a change after all the white Charolais. On the right, one white cow who likes to be different – lying on the sun while the rest of the herd  crowd into the shade!

We found one of our (less) picturesque lunch stops by an old cooling tower, but with lovely flowers. As we moved on I was waiting with excitement for Chavannes lavoir, imagining another old stone washing place for villagers, only to find a monster facility to wash coal!

Next set of obstacles were the six bridges of Montceau-Les-Mines – a mixture of types of lift brudge and passerelles – leading us into Montceau lock.

We had decided not to stop in Montceau and continued on to Blanzy – a former coal mining town, though nowt like them that I know.

Next day we made the short trip to the summit at Montchanin, noting a change of traffic light structure on the way (bit nerdy!).

We came through the last lock Ocean side (see explanation later) into the top stretch.


The mooring by the VNF office at Montchanin was quieter than it initially looked, with roads and bridges nearby.

And the town of Montchanin was pleasant, tree lined, with some houses decorated with spare tiles from the ceramics factories (more of these to come!)

After after a night at Montchanin we began our descent. An interesting start with the Captain looking to see if we had missed tripping a sensor on our way into Lock 1 ……. And once in the lock we had a great view down over the first staircase of four.

‘Écluse 1 Med’ had lots of interesting points. Firstly it helped us understand why the locks on the way up were all named ‘Ocean’, being closer to the Atlantic, and on the way down named ‘Med’, being in the direction of the Mediterranean.

Second was the amusing painted lock operation building, with mermaids depicting the  two linked rivers, Loire and Saone, flanking the architect of the canal.

And thirdly, a strange boat shaped sluice, or something……. (Since found out that it was a ‘lock boat’ – they would float it across a lock gate, open the scuppers and sink it to stem the flow of the canal while they worked on the gates.)

As we went into the deeper locks we began to see real floating bollards to descend with; what a treat. We LOVE floating bollards.

As we reached les 7 Écluses we found more houses and shops with the colourful Borgogne tiles.

Next to Lock 6 Med we went by another set of old canal and locks, the water cover in green algae. Next to it was an interesting decorated  building …….

Moving on down we came to what is now one of our favourite stopovers – St Julien-sur- Dheume, a quiet, peaceful village. Lovely lovely.

After St Julien there is a section where the canal and several locks have been moved. We could still see one wall of one of the original locks.

Along the way on this canal were another set of atmospheric abandoned lock houses.

wine_purchase__cheilly-les-marangesSo with With another 46kms still to Chalon we decided to hit another 20 Kms from St Julien to Cheilly-les-Maranges. This turned out to be a good move as we were able to buy some good local wine at Chailly!

The start of the next day’s journey gave good scenic views, plus a wacky garden.


We passed a lovely old steam boat (tug) which deserved a photo.

Then into Chagny over a viaduct above a railway for a change. We found baguette for lunch, and chicken quiche, before leaving Chagny through a narrow channel!

We went down through some lovely locks, both abandoned and occupied, on our way to  Fragnes – and often the ‘garden’ within the lock was just as stunning.




Then at the last lock before Fragnes we thought ‘where is the green light…..?’







Aaah, there it is, amongst the Foliage!






And finally, moored up at Fragny, just outside Chalon!


The cruise down to Chalon-sur-Sâone was a short one and we knew we would be whizzing straight past on a downstream current so we visited Chalon by bus! The old town near the river is a fascinating place to walk around.

Now for our river trip on the Sâone and Rhone!




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.