Canal du Midi Log
From Sete we crossed the Etang de Thau and entered the Canal du Midi!
8th August left early and crossed the Etang de Thau (2 hours) before the wind got up and entered the Canal du Midi - pretty busy area with boats parked everywhere, Glenans sailing school, permanent liveaboards, all pretty squalid etc. Did not look very attractive and I was glad I had not crossed the previous evening as parking would have been difficult.... THEN IT ALL CHANGED!
Became pure "wind in the willows" very very beautiful indeed.
A lot of big 40 -45 ft hire boats driven by people 'sans permit' with no experience but with lots of fendering, rubber strips and speed limiters..... Purchased fuel from hire base at 20% surcharge straight out of pump - alternative was to hump Jerry jugs.... Got to Colombiers - a large village port de Plaisance with small supermarket, 2 restaurants - one on quay side - the Ecluiser and one in the village. Had an expensive meal and not particularly nice one in l'Eculiesier.
9th August left fairly early but felt pretty queasy! Spent morning 'driving' with one hand into locks and baffing into bucket held in other hand! L'Eculiser had got my stomach and dosh. By midday I could continue no longer and parked up in charming village of Le Sommaile. Spent rest of day in bed and loo!!!! I have eaten out all over the world and have a strong stomach but other than one time in Hong Kong I have never been so food poisoned!
10th August Better - left and got to St Martin - all still beautiful and absolutely charming!
11th August Arrived in Carcasson at mid-day - went shopping for food etc then carried on out of town. Because of lots of local 'unemployed' it did not feel a very secure place to park. carried on till dark.
A word of praise for the architect of the canal du midi.... He constructed this canal with remarkably few locks in spite of a considerable rise in altitude. (You can make much better mileage than in the northern / eastern France canals where the locks are prolific)
12th August stopped at Castelnaudary lock for night - all so pretty.
13th August Castanet -Toolosan. .... reached summit and started going downhill. Locks of course much easier to cope with but there are miles of beautiful reaches following the contours of the land with no locks at all - brilliant construction and design and always beautiful! The Canal du Midi locks are oval rather than round (to permit faster filling!) and makes parking a bit more of a challenge. There are lots of very clever 'flights' of locks' which are difficult to single hand and need the assistance of someone on shore to put the lines over bollards. Unlike the other canals these locks start at O9.00 - close 12.30 to 13.30 for lunch and finally at 19.00.
14th August Passed through Toulouse and past the Airbus factory and a yard which maintains 'live aboard' Peniche. A very ancient and interesting town. Odd to be passing through the suburbs in a boat. Grissoles for the nights mooring.
15th August Valance d'Agen. Towns little municipal FOC port de Plaisance. Town itself charming and ancient with excellent little supermarket. worth a visit!
16th August Through town of Agen and its dramatic viaduct of the canal over the river and now in the Canal Lateral de la Garonne. Parked by the 14th century farm museum of le Ferm deFollett. Bit shallow but did not have to use stakes... A lot of the locks are now automatic - later they require the lever to be pressed twice - the second time when the lock has emptied which means you are way below the height of the leaver! when you press/push the lever the first time watch the gates close behind you and the 4 shutters raise on the gate in front. When all 4 have risen and your boat is starting to go down press the leaver for the 2nd time and it will 'remember' and the gates will open when the water level has dropped! (not a lot of people know that!)
17th August Castests. The end of the Canal de la Garonne. A sort of Port de Plaisance for 3 euro a night in front of the last two locks. these only operate at local HW of la Garonne and you can arrange with the lock keeper to let you out (or in) half an hour before HW. Need to move with other boats as there is only one lockage each way at each HW.
18th August 07.30 into the first of the two exit locks with 2 other boats. Into the river about half an hour before local HW. River full of debris and big with sand banks and sticky up bits. Needs full attention. If you flush the loo the water comes in very **** mud colored and you may think there is a problem. When the ebb starts the river runs at 4 to 5 knots in the middle. Got to Bordeaux at midday and parked up on excellent floating pontoon outside 'port of bordeaux' lock. This opens at local HW so had to wait till 18.30 to lock into the basin and go to inner basin. You can use the crane here DIY for 32 Euro and there are all the chandlery, sail lofts etc you need around the basin no 2. Parking is on a sliding scale but for a month for my 10metre Prout 33 charged at 150% it is 90Euro a month - lots of liveaboards and although not that attractive with ww2 german submarine pens on one side and stern/bows to mooring system I think it is a good - fairly safe place to leave a boat for a while.... I hope it is!
Bambola is now in the basin waiting for deliver of new furling gear for the headsails and for La Rochelle to become cheaper in October when I will move her down the river and into the Vieux Port my home town.
It took 10 days to do the trip from Sete to Bordeaux. Half a day of which was spent being sick as a parrot! Cannot truly imagine it is possible to do it much faster! It appears to me to be the most beautiful canal/river passage in France. This is reflected by the intensity of hire boats running up and down it. They do spoil it a bit, making some parking places look like a caravan site, but the folks in these self drive hire boats have paid a lot for the privilege - 2 - 3 thousand euro a week!!! They are friendly and try to drive their boats sensibly but have mainly had no training whatsoever!! Some of the lock flights are a little daunting but wonderfully engineered.