5 days and 4 nights on la Saône

August 21st to 25th

We liked the Saône. It is generally a pretty river and in the southern part there are plenty of places to moor – not so many after Tournus for a biggish barge like Calliope. It would have been easy to spend far longer on the river, exploring towns and villages, but we were on a mission, catching up on the two weeks we lost trying to get new batteries down at Frontignan.


So this chapter is short, and actually quite sweet. We left the port at Lyon in the morning, getting a good view of the city and its fine buildings as we drove through.

594BE8D7-D839-4C01-89F0-71713AC70CC2All the way along, after Lyon, there were gentle rural views interspersed by old villages, small towns and churches; always something to see. By side afternoon we were ready to find a stopping place, and saw a pontoon at Anse just the right size.

6202478D-D31C-46B6-A5FE-71F52A727000During the evening I went for the short walk to the Anse swimming lake – an exceedingly popular spot on the hot day. And in the morning before we left a kingfisher joined us long enough for me to make a photo through the window!

Despite rather liking the mooring we had only allowed ourselves one night in each place, so next day we were off to Mâcon where we hoped to meet a passing ship (a Westerly actually) from the same Haslar Happy Hour Yacht Club, the antidote to yacht clubs,  that we belong to back in the UK.

2B026251-806E-4608-A405-15C9D957BCB8Just before we cast off, yet another seemingly overloaded commercial barge went by – literally looking as if it was under water amidships!

370DE7E5-A4EB-4E5C-829B-F344910A8FDDWe had heard of a new long pontoon in Mâcon just before the multi-arched old bridge. and heading for it, we found it completely vacant – wow!





Once moored, rested and showered we went into town to meet the crew of Kraken, and there, in mid France and almost 500 miles from the official club house, we had a happy hour or two together.






A3FA649B-1DBF-4B34-AE76-940E0B9FD878Our mooring was also popular with local teen-agers, again, who decided that their favourite place on the long long quayside to eat burgers and fries at 1am was the part of the quay adjacent to us!  Ah well, we were also able to enjoy the modern instalation nearby.


Once more only one night allowed, so on another blue sunny day we carried on north, passing Mâcon’s waterfront houses, and also passing Kraken and crew heading in the opposite direction.

D983CF00-D385-4DEC-A343-F903FF862706With such a wide space to drive in, and such broad bridges, the cabin girl was able to not only take a turn at the wheel, but go under bridges too! I could even drink tea at the same time.

BFF41E2D-006D-4804-B86A-7F00253D3BE7Our trip was becoming increasingly rural, and a different kind of farming appeared. Dairy and beef herds were all along the banks, with cattle frequently standing in the water to cool down as we went by. Some evidently found us as interesting as we found them!


Unusually for us, who spend most of our time as a twosome, we were again heading to meet up with friends. This time it was to see Tam and Di, our ICC barge tutors from 2012 who now have a home not far from Tournus. Once more the mooring fairies smiled on us and there was space on the wharf.

51C2E98E-8450-4591-A36A-14131B58FD0FIt was wonderful to see them again and we had a lovely evening with a to-die-for prawn rice dish from Di’s famous cuisine and very nice white (or two) from Tam’s cellar. The evening was made complete for Stewart when Tam got his new banjo out and put it through its paces. Happy days!




Before we left Tournus the next day I went in search of bread and milk, allowing me a quick walk round in a rather grey light, but enough to show off a little more of the local stonework.

65228F81-D50B-44EA-97F5-AEC526F88CF4Then on upstream, occasionally left in the wake of hotel barges – bouncy bouncy!A6EF558C-0E48-402E-BC27-03E54B24F983We passed through Chalon-sur-Saône, remembering it form two years before when we had stayed nearby on the barge for a week and had quite a good look round. This time, a whoosh under the bridge and we were gone!

This is when mooring began to be difficult. We had planned a 4 hour day, but after 6 hours and passing by Gerry, Verduns and Écuelles without finding anywhere to moor I phoned ahead to Seurre marina. When they too responded with a “Non, je suis desolée” we decided to try mooring at the lock.

D585C8AF-3A53-489C-BD45-D1D2619D56CCWe have heard of many boaters mooring at the big river locks, but have never needed to do it ourselves until now and radioed the éclusier on he VHF. Asking in my very best (Portsmouth High School) French if it were possible he immediately replied ‘Yeah, no prob’ (or something similar) so hence this wonderful, very very tranquil Seurre lock mooring.


There are several ‘lasts’ around this. It turned out to be our last night on the rivers, last night on the Saône, and next morning it was our last ‘écluse à grand gabarit’, or big gauge lock of 185m length and 12m width. From now on it would be more like 39m x 5.2m!

We were set on a course to buy gazoil (diesel) at St-Jean-de-Losgne so that we could confidently carry on up north and we drew into the fuel pontoon expectantly. But we were disappointed. Despite it being a Saturday in August the fuel office was closed until Wednesday! And the supposed self-service option was out of order! So on we went.

3A697964-2428-4B7F-B35F-98C2604DBE91Once more we had plan A, B and C overnight mooring choices. This meant that we went up past Auxonne through the first of the little locks, number 20 at Dérivation d’Auxonne – oh so narrow – and hoped to moor at A ………. no luck.

C09EF10D-3ED5-4777-B18E-4383A783B093The skies began to darken in an alluringly velvet manner and we carried on to pass B (Lamarche) and C (Pontailler).



Hmm – nothing for it but to carry on to the entrance to the Canal Entre Champagne et Borgogne, and leave the Saône behind, and we finally reached the turning into canal.


0CA36A40-D371-4BD6-8802-602DC607F9E9The canal looked so tiny, after the river, but small is very very beautiful.

378150A6-BEC1-439F-84A2-AAFB2C49FE70Within minutes we came into Maxilly to find a commercial barge just leaving, thus providing us with a space to tie up. We are off the river and back on the canal system again!




Langres down to Heuilley – our descent on Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne

May 31 and the first few days of June


It rained all day! We had another very wet journey, starting with the two locks to the tunnel – all covered on the last chapter.

We had got to about 1500 foot above sea level, which is where we began at Saint Valery-sur-Somme on April 1st, exactly two months before.


Into the Bourgogne side

Setting off into great unknown again – we jumped off another cliff – went up last of the 3m locks before going through a 5km tunnel (we only kissed the tunnel wall once).

This was almost immediately followed by 6 x 5m locks going down, down, down. We were full of anticipation and adrenalin for this flight, but they were pleasantly tame and gentle.


Spot the swallow. (Funny name for a swallow)

Chatting to the eclusier at Lock 1 I asked about a huge old barge called Peter Pan that was moored up, and discovered that this was, genuinely, the ice breaker barge! A fluffy baby swallow preferred it as a summer perch.

We carried on down the chain in the rain, through locks 2 and 3.


Watching the waterfall into the lock

All was going well, until at lock 4 we had an unexpected red light and had to call the en panne cavalry.


Up for the basin; down for alarm!

And then, ‘quell domage’; the blue lever to operate the lock was too stiff for me, so Stu came to help – and in using the red lever to steady himself managed to set off the emergency stop in error; very embarrassing! Ah yes – the sign does say ‘up’ to operate, and ‘down’ to sound alarm. Whoopsey-day.



Saone side scene

The scenery was very different this side of the wet mountain – cattle grazing in alpine like meadows.




And the lock gates were different too – made of large panels of metal.





The barge came to a delightful woodland mooring at Piépape, becoming more delightful as it gets drier, but with more grey clouds looming. I decided that my reward for being so wet should be a hot chocolate with rum – mmmmm.

We crossed our fingers as we said that the weather should be getting better as we come down from the high hills over the next couple of days………

I went for walk round village of old stone buildings and houses – and got lost, so had to sneak into the grounds of the chateau, where I discovered I was locked in the grounds, and had to climb over wall into the graveyard to escape! But in doing all of this I discovered that Piépape had a boulangerie, open from 7.30-8.30 only.

We kind of felt that we were now over the hump of the canal, and on way down towards the Med now.

June 1

Hooray – better weather, and in fact it got better and better all day, ending up with beautiful sunny blue sky evening. We started the day walking into the village for a baguette as we had a long days travelling ahead (for us).

We started at 9am and ended at 5pm, taking in 17 locks and a viaduct (just a very short very pretty one over the River Badin.)

The canal was calm and green; all was well with our world. By late morning we were at Lock 21 – half way down the 43 locks (well almost). Sadly it was one of the many many lock houses that are now empty and abandoned.

We took a lunch stop at Cusey – a pleasant enough rural Halte Nautique. Soon after we got going again we passed from Haute Marne to Cote D’Or – a major landmark on the journey.

Some interesting moments – a rook flying school; Stu hung up in a lock when the ropes got locked in a crevice and had to use emergency procedures; later ended with mooring a 20m boat on a less than 5m pontoon! No probs.


Has summer arrived??

The weather improved – the rain stopped and blue sky appeared.

Looks like we have found another fairly isolated and picturesque place, (St Seine sur Vingeanne) with water rats (nice ones), black kites, songbirds and a variety of butterflies and insects! Thank goodness, as it is about two hours to the next mooring South!

The evening was lovely and we sat on the back deck drinking a toast to our grandson who was 12 that day – although we were unable to speak with him as totally out of internet reception .

June 2


Wet weather again

More rain! Is it really June? It poured and poured and poured, but we braved it and walked to St -Seine-sur-Vingeanne to the boulangerie, or so we thought.

What an amazing beautiful old village and chateau. It certainly was raining when we started out, but did stop later. Just as well because we discovered that the expected boulangerie was another 800m on into St-Seine-la-tour! We kept going and got bread, plus paté rolls for supper.

I went balmy with the camera as there was a multitude of ancient stone buildings in various states of repair – here are a few.

Back to Calliope and a quick lunch with our Saint-Seine-la-tour pain. Yum yum.


After lunch we continued southwards – looking for the sun!  Captain Stu rather liked the metal bridges on this side of the canal, wondering if M. Eifel had had a hand in their design. We passed under quite a few – not sure which one this is!

We got down as far as Oisilley – first the famous viaduct, and then another very rural mooring on another tiny wharf. (8m long this one, positively huge . . ) Lovely. Suddenly we have internet again, and discover most of middle France is under water! So it wasn’t just raining in the mountains!

Next day walked to Renève for bread – much further than expected – and when we arrived the boulangerie had no bread, but husband expected back with some soon – so we waited (me sitting on the church steps) – and only one baguette appeared!

June 4th

After a second night at Oisilly we went on down to Maxilly – seriously near the end of the canal – and stayed there two nights. There was a good boulangerie, but nothing else, in Maxilly so I cycled to Pontailler for a supermarket top-up.

We took a walk to Heuilley-sur-Saone along a lane lined with poppies and cornflowers – a rare very hot day.


Contemplating La Saone

Although the VNF had announced that levels were falling Stewart wanted to check the river levels for himself. (Down to about 3 knots from 7or 8 the day before, with dead animals and halves of trees whooshing by).


Maxilly sunset

As mentioned, it was a very hot walk, and the day ended with a wonderful sunset.

We met up with a great Dutch couple – Jom and Dorothy – from an adjacent camper van and put the world to rights that evening over a couple of bottles of Rosé.


June 6th

All looked ok, so we prepared for the last little stretch of the Canal Entre Champagne et Borgogne – just 2 locks, 4 bridges, and about 1.5kms!


Maxilly lock


First, Maxilly lock – just a few metres form ur mooring of the last two nights!






Then down the canal towards the last lock, number 43.


Bye bye zapper

At Lock 43 we had to return our trusty zapper – the one given to us 18 days and 143 locks before at Vitry-en-France.

We were off onto the Saone!