Website of sailing yacht Tokomaru2's circumnavigation of the world
Crew: Nick Thomas and Liz Vernon
Canals and Rivers of France
Canals and Rivers of France
Date of visit: May to September 2009
Pilot Book and Edition
We used several guide books
1, Inland waterways of France, David Edwards-May, Imray, 7th ed, 2002
This is a very technical book - a sort of tabular chart. I did not think it would be very useful until we discovered that both the Guide Chagnon and Navicarte for the Rhone would remain out of print until mid summer, which would well after planned schedule for the Rhone trip.
There are three French publishers of chart- Guides to the rivers and canals: Chagnon, Navicarte and Breil. Not even the specialist nautical book shop in Marseille had all of them and the Publishers are not keen to give their date of printing so determining which is most suitable ia a bit of a hit and miss affair. In all three cases the nautical information is padded out with tourist information lifted from tourist office brochures.
1, Guide Chagnon Cartguide Fuvial. These are now A4 size the charts are orientated so that the direction of travel is “horizontal” along the river/canal. These guides had the most detailed nautical information but could not be relied on for depth info in some places.
2, Navicarte These are tall thin books orientated so that the direction of travel is “vertica” ie up or down the page. Nautical information is put in a side bar with feint arrows point to the appropriate place on the chart. These were not always easy to follow. Indeed it was almost impossible too figure out from this information whether a mooring spot was suitable enough.
3, Breil. These are A4 size with a “north up” orientation. The nautical information is less good than the other but the topographical information is better if you want to make short excursions from the boat by foot or bike.
As far as mooring up, especially with a deep draft boat, the most useful information comes from CA members reports and notes.
Canals and Rivers of France
General Comments, Attractions
WE had our masts transported from Port Napoleon to Honfleur by Wolfgang Graff. This worked out very well - cost Euro 900.
Camping gas did not seem to be as readily available along the canals as it is in harbours along the coast of France. Diesel at canalside locations was about €0.25 more expensive than supermarket forecourts.
We used an Orange France payg sim. Cost €20 - €0.38 for calls in France, €0.75 to other countries in Europe. This we thought very expensive. Roaming with a UK operator turned out to be cheaper for most calls.
Internet: Using cybercafes is quite expensive in France unless you go to one in a “studenty” or immigrant area. "Netabord" gives wifi access in many marinas on the north and west coasts of France but not inland. Cost €4 per hour €14 for 24 hours the ticket lasts for 2 months. Orange, SFR, and Bourgitel have internet dongles. You need a French bank account to obtain one on contract. Only Orange and SFR offer payg. The cost is an extortionate €7 per hour which lasts a month or €20 for 4 hours to be used within 2 months. In practice this worked OK if using a program such as "outlook" or "thunderbird" where you can read and write emails off line and use on 2-3 minutes of the internet time to send/receive.
Port St Louis
Bus to Marseille €8.50
May 2009 - pontoon missing, the only possible stopping place was in petit Rhone at tiny stone key by the first bridge.
Vallabreges pk 262 just past the Beaucaire lock. Of the 20 or so places 19 are permanent residents. Town is very pleasant. €23 per day for 11m. Some of the pontoons have electric and water.
Town quay "quai de la liigne" has all facilities. €18 per day or €72 per week including electricity and water. There is a discount if you don't use electricity. Internet and wifi are available in the place de Pie. In case of mechanical problems DON'T go to "Sud Maintenance" as recommended by Capitanerie - expensive and incompetent.
We anchored in the river. It was a very pleasant change to being moored up in town.
There seems to be less water here <1.8m in many slots. The ones directly ahead from the entrance were best. €12 per night including electricity and water. The restaurant "Relais de Viverais" served an excellent meal. It is about 2k out of town on the D86 north just after crossing railway. In the lower town square there were only bars and cafes. The tourist office was very helpful.
There is a beautiful new marina just north of the Nuclear PowerStation. It is not very large but the harbour master is very welcoming. Depths around 2.5m. There is a plan attached to the red beacon just before arriving. The Rhone current is quite strong until you are inside the harbour so entry is crabwise. The old town is very charming and well worth the visit. €18 per day, €70 per week.
Sanitaires are a bit slumy compared to Cruas. €19 with only 2 amp electricity included we felt was expensive by river standards. 16 amp electricity is available at an extra charge. The hypermarket Geant Casino is only 500m away it has everything and at a good price. The walk/cycle however is not so charming along a busy road. There is a chandler here with a reasonable stock.
Valance town quay
It would be an act of desperation to try to moor up here even if you could find space amongst the barges. The road next to the quay is the A7 - auto route du sud - we could see no way of getting to town unless you like playing "chicken".
Roche de Glun
This is a very fine "halte fluvial" consisting of a pontoon for 2 boats, a low pontoon used by the dinghy sailing club and 3 finger pontoons which at one time could have taken 6 boats. Unfortunately the fingers no longer have much depth alongside as weed has grown up all around them. There is free electricity by the finger pontoons but you need an 80m electric cable to reach it. The village is pleasant with a café, 2 restaurants and a Spar supermarket. It would be ok to anchor here as commercial traffic is not allowed in this embrachment. It is busy at weekends but quiet midweek.
We had inconclusive discussions with local yachtsmen as to the depths in the port plaisance and so did not stop. We did see a "trader 50" motorboat moor to the quay just to the south of the YH entrance.
The halte fluvial here was a gem peaceful and out of the current. There is space is for only one boat. Which is fine if you're the one. If another boat is there you would have to move on or use the slopping quay on the Andance side. This was the first place we noticed a change in river level - about half a metre. The bridge across the river to Andance has no walkway and therefore not pleasant for pedestrians.
Roches de Condrier
€17 per day, €82 per week for 11m. Visitor dock is the end of first pontoon on the right after passing the marina breakwater (which is itself a pontoon). The town itself is quite sleepy but the marina and facilities are pleasant enough.
Although the halte fluvial on th l/b is well marked with a blue "P" this quay is mostly taken up by the hotel boat and the day tripper boat. A quieter mooring is to be had on the r/b on a floating pontoon opposite - big enough for 2 - but no other facilities.
There is a well marked halte fluvial with 6 finger pontoons and other facilities on the l/b. However it has become silted up and is therefore unusable. There is another pontoon nearby with a "no parking" sign (sauf authorisation) which it is possible to use for 1 night.
The quay by the VNF office on Marachal Joffre worked fine for us although there is a bit of movement caused by passing ships and shore side activity. The "no parking" sign refers to boats >50m not small vessels. A Norwegian boat had one of their lines cut but we had no problems. May be it helps if you prominently fly a courtesy flag and are discrete with an ensign? There was no sign of the proposed marina (Jun 2009).
A pleasant small town. Space for 2-3 on quay. We had 3m here but it is shallow by the ramp. Free mooring and electricity - up the steps. We found a "manflap" with taps under but no water was forthcoming.
Villefranche sur saone pk40.5
This is called halte nautique Jassans-Riotier. Again free mooring for 72 hours and electricity - June to September - but no water. The small town of J-M was perfectly presentable to us with all the usual shops and a Carrefour supermarket. Space for 4 on outside of T with 2.5m depth.
Montmerle pk 52
This was full when we passed in June 09. The cost on a sign was €10. Barges lining themselves up for the bridge appear to cause a lot of wash disturbance judging by the hullaballoo we heard on VHF 10.
Pont D'Arciat pk 73
This is called Halte fluvial Creches sur Soane. €7 for mooring and €6 for electricty payable at campsite reception. A very nice supervised swimming area has been created in an old gravel pit adjacent to the campsite. Bread is available from quayside restaurant/snack bar.
3 new bridges are in various states of construction between here and Macon - at pk 73, pk76 and pk 79.5 where the shallow water is indicated on the chart.
Macon pk 80 onwards
Immediately after this bridge on the R/B is the hotelboat jetty directly followed by a new floating pontoon halte fluvial for plaisanciers. There is space for 4/5 boats. Max length 25m, max stay 3 nights, no anchoring, no refuelling and no rafting up. It is free but no electricity or water on the pontoon. There is however, a tap on the quay above. Beyond this a "boardwalk" has been constructed which continues under the bridge. L/B pontoon- halte fluvial St. Laurent - upstream of bridge has space for 3 boats max. Again free with no electicity or water. Max length here 15 m and max stay 36 hours. These 2 pontoons became full soon after we arrived.
Very popular mooring spot. From friday 6pm to saturday 6pm hire boats have priority on the north end of the pontoon. Free water and electicity. Town v. nice there is a secret passage from the unpreposesing front street to the main street - rue de republique - which run parallel. Max stay on pontoon is 2 nights but there is some liberal interpretations of this.
Challons sur Saone
€19 for 11m inc water and electricity.
Carrefour across road in large retail park. The adjacent sports shop exchanges camping gas cylinders. Service wash available on St Laurent island 1km(expensive), or self service in Challons 2km.
Canal du Centre
None of the information we had read had properly given us the right impression of how strenuous the up hill section to Monchanin would be compared to the Saone and Rhone. There are 2 types of lock: a, approx 2.5 metre rise and b, approx 5m rise. The latter have floating bollards like the Rhone but for some reason they don't keep pace with the rising waters which means that lines go slack just at the time the incoming water produces the greatest turbulence. We found mooring to the bollard amidships as we had done in the Rhone was not very satisfactory mooring to both bollards was better though this would not be possible if you are sharing the lock. The other difficulty is reaching the starting mechanism of the automated locks - which is all of them until beyond the summit (in July 09 the remainder down to Digoin were in the process of automation.) A pole like a street lamp contains 2 ropes - blue to start and red for emergency stop. There is no way of knowing until inside the lock on which corner this will be found. The ropes continue down into the lock inside a ladder, as the ropes become covered with slime it is not easy to tell which colour they are. So you have to climb the ladder which is not conveniently situated in relation to the bollards. Truly a pestilential arrangement. With a large crew the best thing is to send one on ahead on a bike to operate the lock. In order for the lock mechanism to work the boats presence has to be registered on a sensor this did not always happen and assistance had to be summoned. This comes in the form of a VNF official who patrols the canal in a Renault Clio. With the shallower 2.5 m locks it is not so bad but from a yacht deck it is not so easy to reach up to the bollards on the lock.
Fragnes pk 8
This looked very nice but the available places were less than 1.8 so we had to continue.
Chagny pk 19
Mooring is possible r/b and l/b water but no electricty.
Santanay pk 24
St Berain sur Dhune pk 36
Halte with bollards and picnic tables, good depth
Ecluse 6 Motte or Ecuisse pk 46
Good depth but few bollards fair walk to town of Ecuisse
Monchanin pk 52
We could not find a place here
Blanzy pk 61
We only just about found enough depth here by fendering off about 0.5m from the quay good shops in town and sncf station. Electricity and water still free (2009) but only 1 pod so long cables and pipes may be required.
The locks are being automated between ocean 11 and 23. It was nearly completed by July 2009. only lock 14 actually required manual labour by lock keepers.
Genelard pk 82
Still free 2009 we found good depth here >2m. There is one "pod" on each side of the canal each with 4 water and electricity outlets so long cables may be needed.
We did encounter shallow water between locks 12 & 13 and between 21 & 22 as we were definitely "ploughing"; in our view this due to the water level being lower resulting from faulty lock gates the vnf official agreed that the water level was lower than normal but declined to be more forth coming.
Paray le Monial pk 101.5
We found 2.0+ metres alongside the quay although we did find a change in level of 10-15 cms during our 3 night stop. €11 in 2009. Very attractive town in July and August it hosts a pilgrimage. A lot of pilgrim activity takes place in the adjacent park requiring many large and small tents and much singing.
Despite the good depth at the quay we again found shallow patches opposite the supermarket upstream from lock 24 and between 24 & 25 again it seemed to us due to faulty lock gates letting water out (but we are not lock experts).
Digoin pk 114
The capitanerie claims there is 2m though out the basin our manoeuvrings agreed with this despite depth problems further up. Hireboats have priority on the Capitanerie side r/b The capitanerie's writ includes the l/b pontoons and the quay immediately downstream of the bridge l/b. Cost €5 + €2.7 for electricity.
Capitanerie hours 8-10am, 4-7pm showers open within these times. Camping gas is available for exchange from "Intermarche" 100m north on the bridge road. Diesel is available from the quayside underneath the Capitanerie; it is organized by the "maison de bateaux" shop via a long hose the price €1.25 per lt is about €0.25 above supermarket prices in July 2009.
CANAL LATERAL DE LA LOIRE
The aquaduct had ok depth and the section between locks 5 and 6 has been reshuttered so the water loss is no longer a problem but we did encounter shallow patches between locks 7 and 8 this section was worked from 27-29 July 2009 with only one days notice! we touched the sill leaving lock 9. Again due to the water level being below normal.
Garnat pk 40.5
There is a pontoon which is orientated perpendicular to the bank in addition to the quay with bollards. The pontoon has 1.9m. There is a water tap some distance from this. The small village nearby has some basic shops.
Decize pk 68.5
Quay on r/b before junction has <1.5m. and no barges to moor up to. We managed to moor about 2m off and get ashore by plank. Quite a pleasant town.
Nevers pk 100
We were told the basin now has <1.7m
Plagny pk 103
The pontoons do have 1.8m but we were "shooed" off them, no reason was given - they did seem a bit collapsoid.
Le Guetin pk 110
The wide section near Gimouille (pk 108) is no longer beaconed as shown in "Vagnon" and is barely 1.8m.
The double lock has a rise of nearly 10m in 5m increments. This would be problematic if you are the 2nd boat in. The quay now has <1.8m.
Cours les Barres pk 120
This is a very popular quay and boats clearly "squat" here for weeks. The bit of quay we tried had only 1.5m but we were able to raft up. The sanitaires had not been graced by a cleaner in some time.
Marseille sur Aubigny pk 125
We liked this place: it had >2m depth on the pontoons, electricity and water (needs pliers or key to turn on), and a wifi signal. €4.50 payable at the Mairie. 2 small shops, a supermarket is 4km away. The pontoons are immediately above lock 25: a 12m pontoon arranged diagonally in front of the sanitaires and a second one with fingers next to it. The remainder of the quay is mostly taken up with fairly permanent barges.
The yard and quay above lock 26 did not look so nice.
We touched, briefly, on the sill of lock 25 but were ok with lock 27.
Herry pk 143
We found 1.5 - 2m depth for the last (northern most) 50 m of quay which is shuttered and has mooring rings. The depth decreases to 1m south of this down towards the notice board. Near this is a box for electricity and water; electricity is for charging phones only! To obtain water a notice informs that tokens are needed €0.50 for 50 litres, what you do with the token was not clear.
Monetreol sur Sancerre pk 157
This a sloping quay 1.5m max depth. A bakery, bar and restaurant and that's it. We rafted up and this worked out fine. No charge for mooring, electricity and water €3.
Chatillon sur Loire pk 192
5 pontoons have been arranged perpendicular to the canal bank depth 2m. This gives space for 10 but only 2 for visitors when we were there. Otherwise it's a sloping quay. €9 inc water and electricity.
CANAL BRIARE - CANAL DU LOIGN
Briare pk 197
The commercial quay is mostly taken up with barges, tourist boats and hireboats. We were lucky as a barge was leaving. Good depth 2m. €9 inc electricity and water. The laundry by the quay on the Henry 4 canal was due to close permanently at the end of Aug 09. The Spar supermarket in town was a bit sparse. There is a Carrefour just out of town.
Quay Sully pk 19
Situated below both bridges on the north side of town. There is several hundred metres of quay. The northern section is occupied by barges and the next section for a hotel barge. There is nevertheless plenty of quay with >1.8m depth. Despite the notices the capitanerie comes round at around 7pm. €11 inc electricity and water. There was a sanitaire but the capitanerie did not seem inclined to open it. There was a good boulonger/patiserie and traiture near by.
Chatillon Coligny pk 29
The halte has 5 fairly short finger pontoons we found >1.8m here. Still free.
Montargis pk 52
Depth good. Although a long quay we only found space for one. Capitanerie opens 5.30- 7pm. No rafting up allowed.
€11 inc electricity and water
Canal du Loing
Dordives pk 14
Very pleasant rural mooring - one of the few we could moor in. Shops in the villlage are quite expensive.
Nemours pk 30
A long quay with a kink in it with 5 bollards and therefore space for 4 boats.
Although a system of jetons is in place for electricity and water in practice it was free. There is a laundry on Rue de Paris with a Champion super market nearby.
Moret sur Loing pk 48
The junction with the Seine is barge city. The halte fluvial below lock 19 was both shallow (with weeds) and on the day we passed full. So we continued to...
The river Seine
These were described in the carte fluvial as "automattic" which is not true. They are electrically operated by a keeper in a box who can be called on VHF. There is no great problem going down as one can simply jump on to the lock side with the ropes. Going up you have to grab a bollard or bar in a cavity in the lock wall which may oy may not actually be there. The keeper in his box is not available to help. Although all the locks are in pairs often only one was actually in use when we made the trip in August 2009. In all but one case it was the right hand one going down river.
St Mammes pk 81
Barges raft up 5 deep here. Just above the bridge is a new halte fluvial. A short pier as been constructed with a hotel boat jetty at its end. Inside this are finger pontoons for yachts. On the downstream side the fingers are parallel to the river on the upstream side they are perpendicular to the river. The downstream fingers have a steep passerelle to the jetty. There are some convenient small shops nearby. €10 inc electricity and water, 3rd night free.
Valvins pk 90
This is a marina by river standards. There are 5 pontoons with fingers and a 6th pontoon at an angle to the river and serving as a breakwater for the others at the upstream end. This is the visitor’s pontoon. An old notice on a pile indicates this is a "port payant", but there was no-one around in August to take our money. Water and electricity was functional but not the sanitaires.
Port Saintry pk 131
A new pontoon with short fingers has been installed. It is really only suitable for small motor boats - 8m or less.
Evry pk 139
There is a long stone quay as a "waiting post" just above the lock. This was quite satisfactory but no facilities except rubbish disposal.
Arsenal Bastille basin pk 168
The lock which rises about 3 m from the Seine is quite an awkward affair with much turbulence. The starboard hand mooring hooks and rough locksides are not yacht friendly. On the Seine end port hand there are floating bollards which make life slightly easier. Tourist boats have priority. There are two sets of Traffic lights one for yachts (plaissancier) and one for commercial boats. The waiting pontoon has an intercom but we obtained a better response on VHF 9.
These are very nice facilities. €31 per night (in August) for 11m inc electricity and water, pleasant unisex sanitaires and a jeton operated laundry. There are some convenience stores and bakeries nearby but no big supermarkets.
We did not see the diesel barge at pk 167 (although we were told it is still there) but there is a garage on the road on the west side of the basin to obtain diesel by jerrycan.
Concorde pk 3
There is, amazingly, a halte fluvial pontoon by the Concorde Bridge with space for one. We never saw it being used. The area all around is a mooring point for "yacht" barges often rafted up 2 or 3 deep.
Arseniere pk 25
This looks like a marina but there was no space for transients when we cam passed.
Reuil-Malmaison pk 45
A pleasant pontoon for about 5 boats on the l/b, the r/b pontoon has space for one. There are about 10 restaurants in the immediate vacinity and this up market "banlieu" is popular at weekends.
Conflans pk 69
We did not see the diesel barge. sept 09
"Villenes-sur-Seine (pk 80)
new marina reported...." if this refers to Dynamic plaisance in the southern arm it looks to be shallow <1.5m.
Port St Louis pk 81
This marina looks a bit forlorn on first sight. The better pontoons are further in. Water and electricity are available with long hoses/cables. Sand barges use a quay just inside the basin. €13 for 11m.
Mericourt pk 120
Disconcertingly you have to head towards the barrage by the Mericourt lock to enter the etangs where the marina is situated. The "accuil" and fuel dock are situated between pontoons B and C labelled from seaward. This has only a depth of 1.8m directly under the fuel pumps but slightly more a few metres northward. Basic sanitaires and a small chandlery in the capitanerie. €24 for 11m in high season (Jun-sept) inc [5 amp] electricity and water reducing to €23 for the rest of the year! Longer stays give much better value. Even so we thought this a bit steep by canal/river standards for such an isolated place and a limited electricity supply.
Les Andelys pk 174
The green pontoon has a notice saying it is reserved for named cruiseships. In any event it has no bollards or cleats to tie to. A pity since it looks to be an attractive town.
Poses pk 200.5
Leaving the main channel between Iles du Trait and Vadeney there is a stone quay with rings and 2.5m depth directly ahead and slightly to port behind ile du Trait. The quay behind ile Vadeney was encumbered with weeds. Further SE behind ile du Trait the quay was being improved and an electricity and water point was being installed (sept 09). A notice indicated that €750k was being spent improving this and 2 others nearby quays: at St Pierre (pk191) and Heudebouville pk 187, I think.
There is a small shop and a couple of auberge here. A supermarket is a 4km cycle to Val de Reuil. It is possible to walk or cycle over the passerelle above the barrage and lock to a large restaurant on the Amfreville side.
Amfreville pk 202
The quay above the lock was busy with barges.
Oissel pk 229.5
A new halte fluvial in the form of a floating pontoon has been installed. It was a welcoming "reserved for plaisanciers" notice on it but no facilities that we could see, as yet.
Rouen pk 242
€16.50 for 11m inc electricity and water.
The nearby laundrette has closed; on the r/b on Rue Amiens near junction with Victor Hugo is another. There is a butcher, a baker and a cheap and cheerful supermarket nearby.
Ducair pk 268
The barge/pontoon has a notice saying reserved for plaisanciers.
Caudebec pk 310
There are 2 large steel pontoon/barges here. River cruiseships used the longer, downstream one. The tourist office information as to their arrival times turned out not to be accurate. The small town is very pleasant. The wash from passing ships is significant but not disastrous with plenty of fenders deployed. The tide turned about 2 hours after the indicated high water at neaps.
Honfleur pk 356
The lock has floating bollards. It operates 24hrs, entry on the hour exit on the half hour. The outer harbour pontoon has space for 3 boats which can be doubled with rafting up. There is electricity and water available. The bridge to the old harbour opens at certain times. We had our mast shipped to "tecocean" who have a small boatyard facility at the far end of the carnot basin. This, disconcertingly, is not shown on harbour plans. It is found at the far end of the east basin. It is accessed via two swing bridges the lock keeper knows the times. The yard is under new management and a pontoon has been installed. Otherwise this basin has a rather rough quay. We were charged €200 for stepping our masts plus €60 per month storage plus €50 for lifting the masts off the truck onto a storage rack. Wolfgang Graf charged €900 to transport the two masts.
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