Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Summer cruise part 3
Canal de Bourgogne
The Canal de Bourgogne links the river Saone with the River Yonne which is a tributary of the Seine and provides the navigable link between the two major waterways. It covers a distance of 244km and has a total of 189 locks .At its summit there is a 3.5 km long tunnel.
On 7th July we locked up to the Canal de Bourgogne from the river Saone at St Jean de Losne. The first thing you encounter is the large boatyard complex with boats and barges as far as you can see and all sorts of activity in progress.

Our first night was spent moored in the countryside next to a supermarket. We has been advised to stock up before be started as good supermarkets were in short supply on the canal. Next morning after taking on supplies we were about to leave when we saw a hotel boat approaching .As they are very slow and also have right of way we allowed it to pass and settled down to let it well in front of us. The canal in this area is very straight and surrounded by corn field as far as you can see. We stopped for the next night at Epoisse. All around were harvesters cutting the corn and tractors bringing the grain to great silos on the canal bank. It is clear that barges once transported the grain from these silos but nowadays the quays are empty.

After this we proceeded to Dijon which is a large town. Just as we were in the outskirts a lockkeeper asked us to wait a little while at one of the locks. We thought there was a problem with the lock but suddenly a group of people with cameras & mikes turned up on the side of the lock .They turned out to be a crew from French TV making a feature on the canal. They filmed us in the lock and then interviewed the skipper for the programme.
     The town of Dijon is very attractive but the mooring was blighted by vandals letting the mooring ropes go during the night. We put a chain on ours after the first night.

             From Dijon we travelled to Velars sur Ouche and then to lock 34 Moulin Banet where there is a restaurant in the lock house and a mooring place with electricity and water. This is a nice rural mooring and we stayed there for a number of nights covering Bastille Day .Everything closes in France for Bastille Day including the locks so it was important to have a good mooring. Interestingly the hotel boats were allowed to travel and we watched a number pass through the lock while we waited.
Following this we visited Pont dOuche and Vandenesse en Auxois where there is a fabulous Chateau on a hill overlooking the town. This also appears to be a terminus for hotel boats as we saw some tied up waiting for guests while others disembarked their visitors. Finally we ascended eight locks in quick succession to Escommes to await permission to traverse the 3.5km tunnel at the summit level of the canal.

The tunnel proved not to be as daunting as we had feared and 45 minutes later we emerged at the port of Pouilly.  As this appeared to be a pleasant place we decided to stay for a few days. The additional attraction was that we could get Wi fi from the tourist office in the port aboard our barge. This is a rare event on the French waterways so we took full advantage checking our mail and using the internet.

After a few days we decided to move on only to find that due to water scarcity in the canal we had to share the locks with another barge. As this barge was travelling with only the skipper on board it made for very nervous times in the locks. When the other barge stopped at the port of Pont Royal we continued on hoping to be on our own the next day. We moored overnight at a waiting jetty a couple of locks on .During the night we discovered that the lockkeepers had foiled our plan when we found ourselves slipping out of the bed.They had dropped the level to the point that we were aground. However after some effort we got afloat and got the barge out in the canal where it could float evenly. It was clear from the attitude of the lockkeeper the next morning that we were not supposed to be afloat. He allowed us through the lock but from there on we were delayed in every way possible until our companion from the previous day caught up. In all we did 60 locks together including 30 in one day. We stopped at Veneray where there was a Hire base that looked almost abandoned but we got electricity for the night.

  Following this we travelled on to Montbard where our friends Doug & Sue visited us. We had planned to stay a few days and in general slow down after the staircase of locks the previous few days. However this was not to be. Malcolm the skipper of the other barge travelling with us has been talking to the lockkeeper who informed him that the canal between Montbard and Tonnere was to close in two days due to lack of water.We called at the tourist office and the girl there repeated the story so we decided to get going the next morning. Malcolm decided to turn back as he needed to get to St Jean de Losne.
On the morning of Friday 24th July we left Montbard with the intention of travelling as far as possible towards Tonnere. We got to Raviere the first nigh reasonably easily. We noticed an increase in weeds and a significant drop in the canal water level. The following morning we left bright and early and had only travelled two kilometres when we ran aground in the middle of the canal. Four hours later and with the assistance of two lockkeepers pulling us with ropes we got to the next lock. We had a mountain of weed around the prop and after getting it partially cleared we continued on to Ancy le Franc being shadowed by the lockkeeper on his scooter in case we needed help. I must say the in general in this part of the trip from Poully we had found the lockkeepers not particularly helpful but the one at lock 77 (a lady) and the one at lock 78  more than made up for it with the help they gave us.

From Ancy le Franc we travelled to Tanlay.We visited the Chateau there and it was good to see that the grounds of this magnificent building were being used by the local population for a market and boules competition. From Tanlay we travelled to Tonnere where we decided to rest up for a week as the danger of canal closure was past due to a feeder entering the canal at this point. Tonnere is an interesting town. There are many old buildings mixed with newer ones. The Fosse Dionne is a circular basin feed by a natural spring that was used as a public washing house. Its depth is unknown and in the past a number of divers have lost their lives trying to find the bottom. Other places of interest are the old hospital built in 1293 and the church of St Pierre built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the town.

 From Tonnere we travelled to Flogny la Chapelle and then to St Florentin. As we had not planned to be in Migennes (which was to be the end of our trip) until the end of August we decided to stay for a week here as well. The weather was very hot so we just relaxed and went for long walks every day. Finally we decided to move on and arrived in Migennes on 10th August. Due to the fact that we had to cover some of the journey faster than anticipated due to low water and the threat of closure we found ourselves in Migennes two weeks ahead of what we had planned.However we contented ourselves with doing a few maintenance jobs on the barge and going on day trips to various locations on the train.


                                            END OF THE ADVENTURE 

On 31st August we left the Canal de Bourgogne and travelled to the boatyard of Evans Marine on the River Yonne where we tied up Delfini at the quay wall thus bringing our adventure on Continental waterways to an end

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Summer 2015 Part 2
We left Fragnes on Monday 8th June. Locked down (10.76 m) to the river Saone and turned northwards .It was our intention to take two days to get to St Jean de Losne but as things happened we continued on and did the 70 Km in the one trip.(This was our longest days cruising since we came to France.) En route we through the large locks at Ecuelles and Seurre on our own. It was a little uncanny being in such large locks on our own.

After a couple of days in St Jean de Losne we continued on to Auxonne. We had not visited before and were anxious to view this historic town. As you arrive in the town an old fortress reminds one of the military heritage of the town .It was here that a young Lieutenant Napoleon was stationed at the end of 18th century. Unfortunately our stay was a little disturbed by the presence of high powered speed boats zooming up and down opposite the moorings instead of the area designated for them. Happily the water police dealt very effectively with the situation on the second day. I saw the owner of one of the offending boats get a bundle of papers from the police that he almost needed an assistant to carry.

The annual blessing of the boats and water festival was set for St Jean de Losne for the weekend   of 21/22nd of June. We went there as observers but were invited to line up face on to the quayside alongside the large commercials. It was a really good festival and we were more than a little surprised to be called up alongside the commercial skippers to receive a special presentation of two specially inscribed bottles of wine.

Following this rather exciting weekend we left St Jean de Losne and headed for the Canal du Rhone au Rhin. We entered this canal at St Symphorien which is a base for a lot of barges. After this we travelled to Dole passing through an alien looking Chemical factory. All sorts of solvents and products such as caustic soda are manufactured in this complex. From Dole we travelled onwards to Becancon stopping at a number of remote moorings on the way. This section is mainly the River Doubs and is pretty wild with locks beside open weirs and fast flowing side channels .It reminded us in many ways of the River Barrow in Ireland.
In Besancon we visited the Citadel which overlooks the city. (The navigation is in a tunnel beneath it).It is also possible to travel around the city on the loop but depth is limited. The Citadel is 118m above the city and was completed by the famous architect Vauban on behalf of King Louis XIV. It has been used as a barracks a military school and prison. Nowadays it houses three museums a Zoo and exhibition centre.

After Becancon we doubled back stopping in Dole where we met up with a few of the barges that had wintered in Roanne. Enough to say that we had a rather jolly weekend. Following this we retraced our steps once more to St Jean de Losne where we locked up to the canal de Bourgogne on Wed 8th July.