The Scenic Route!
Enter at St Valery sur Somme. Into Canal du Somme, Canal du Nord, Canal lateral de la l'Oise, Canal de l'Oise a l'Aisne, Canal de l'Aisne a Marn, Marn, Saone, Rhone, Petite Rhone, Canal du Rhone a Sete.
10 La Soane et la Seille
16 La Rhone
11 Canal du Midi (for Sete if not exiting at the more expensive Port St Louis at the end of the Rhone)
The following is my log of taking Eloise a Prout 33 catamaran down the canals to Sete from St Valery-sur-Somme.
(breakdowns in Red!)
July 6th back on board in St Valery Sur Somme at the marine Port de Plaisance prior to entering maratime lock into the canal system.
Fit Plastimo Electric Toilet to please 1st mate. Rain. Stock up with food from both local excellent supermarkets. Rain
July 7th Rain fill 3 x 25ltr spare jugs of Diesel. (use club trolly) London bombings! Rain
July 8th. Rain Receive permission to move through 1st tidal lock into canal but no further as the rain has caused a tree to destroy a wier just past Abbville! Now on pontoon in Canal du Somme.
July 9th Rain
July 10th Rain
July 11th Received permission to move 8K to Abbville. Great! Join half a dozen other boats waiting for repairs to weir to be finished. Large supermarket with fuel next door to mooring. Told we may be able to proceed tomorrow!
Real Start of Trip
July 12th at 13.00 a lock keeper arrives and tells us we may proceed - get to Piquigny. - 27 nautical miles by GPS.
July 13th Piquigny to Mericourt - 25miles. - moored with stakes to the bank. OVERHEATED TWICE! WITH BLOCKED COOLING WATER FEED!
July 14th To Peronne - tightening fan belt!16 miles only as it is a public holiday and enter into THE CANAL DU NORD.
The Somme was a very quiet and domestic canal - verdent countryside, sometimes quite narrow and lined with trees. Charming and Friendly the canal company encourages pleasure craft and frequently the locks are open and ready for you before you arrive! The locks are manned mainly by students doing 'summer work' in the university break. - certainly a trip on the quiet side. (Quite strong cross currents before some of the locks.)
July 15th Canal du Nord is a major commercial highway for Penich - in 13 hours of motoring and 11 locks make Chauney. Plank was essential as several of the locks had shuttering rather than concrete and the fenders would have vanished into the gaps leaving the rubbing strake against the rusty metal, 1 long tunnel of a Kilometer and pretty narrow but well lit. (note the branch via HAM has been closed for years and will probably never reopen as it has silted up. At one stage there were 3 peniche in front of Eloise to go into a lock which only takes one at a time! I put in the long day to get out of the Canal du Nord and the Juggernaught Peniche racing past any possible mooring night and day! Water flowing into locks pretty powerful and in one I just had to let go the line but a 4.80 + fenders catamaran in a 5 mtre wide lock there is not far to go! Park up in Chauney knackered!
July 16th Unpark to go into Canal de l'Oise a l'Aisne and as I am turning around the engine stops. have enough way on to make the bank and moor up and open engine compartment. A short rubber hose conecting the plastic fuel feed line to lift pump has broken. - cut it off neatly put the shortened section back on - bleed the engine and nothing! Strip the lift pump which is pretty old, clean it up and reassemble it - bleed the system - nothing. look at the rubber hose and see it has broken again. Looks fine but is actually perished! A nice lady gives me a lifgt to a car shop where I buy new fuel hose, fit it bleed the engine and am on my way by 13.00! get to Anizy - 15 miles progress only....
July 17th make 27 miles progress and end up just north of Reims - locks are challanging as Eloise has a beam of 4.40mtrs + fenders and plank making around 4.60mtrs and the lock width of 5mtrs with cross currents just before the gates!
July 18th Total cock up going into lock with particulalay strong cross current after rain! end up broadside to gates! 2nd attempt OK... ish. Fan belt slack again and water intake filter clogged.Parked in Reins port de Plaisance
July 19th Reins port de Plaisance - cost 11 Euros a night inclusive of electricity and water. Did lots of shopping etc. social visit from brother in law. Not easy place for fuel or gas. Good supermarkets and town shops. Departed 14.00
July 20th Locks difficult as depth of canal has been increased to hold 'fuller' barges but the sides of lock have not been raised! The top of the side is only a couple of inches from top of water when lock is full. Fenders float so it is very difficult to protect hull. some boats have strips of 2x1 on ropes suspended at water level. Seems to work well.
July 21st Travelled with nice older couple in steel 'Pedro' canal boat. Tightened fan belt again.
July 22nd Some very narrow canals. Got forced into bank by Peniche waiting to enter lock I was leaveing. He occupied all mid stream and went ahead the moment I left the lock. Result I went aground as he 'sucked' all the water out of the side of the canal - my stern swung around and we scraped the inflated dinghy hanging off the davits as fender down the side of the Peniche. A few hours later at another lock the same situation as a Peniche waiting to enter as I exited made me pull further over to a space on the right and I went hard aground with both hulls!! In neither case was there any damage to Eloise. A bit of damage to my good humor! Throttle cable (morse cable) broke - Throttle bodged with string from throttle leaver round little block and into cockpit - works fine!
July 23rd Overheating.... Install new impeller - I think the problems of the impeller running dry when the water intake is blocked by debris damages the rubber - Canals start to get wider. Great!
July 24th Water intake blocked again - clear it. String throttle works just fine!
July 25th Arrive Chaudrey midday. Fuel up and food up in local supermarket. Chaudrey Port de Plaisance with electricity and water for 7 euro a night! Fuel has to be jerry jugged. Not ideal but supermarket excellent. Order new morse cable from Ted Johnnson in France for overnight delivery by French Parcel Post service. Buy high stool to sit on whilst driving!
July 26th Morse cable arrives 09.00 and spend happy morning fitting it. Fill up with water but have to wait for 13.30 lock to set out.
July 27th Go through very long 4 kilometer tunnel. Diesel return pipe falls off - fix with string. It too is perished but looks fine externally!
July 28th Did long 11 hour day 08.00 to 19.00 and make good progress towards the Saone
July 29th Break out into big wide Soane River and huge easy locks at at 14.15.
July 30th Arrive Chalon Sur Soane - have expensive and delicious dinner but older lady at next table almost dies! 362 miles down the road so far.
July 31st Heading down stream - Fan belt finally gives up ghost. Park in disused lock and put on new belt. Get to Belleville sur Saone 408 miles on GPS best day for distance achieved so far - 46 miles! (I should be sailing!!)
August 1st LYON! parked under willows near city centre.
August 2nd Departed 08.00 and purchased Fuel from the Riverside Barge past last bridge. Big Locks really easy with floating bollards.
August 3rd La Roche de Glenn. Alongside village pontoon for night with 4 other boats
August 4th La Roche de Glenn Mistral blowing and gusting 30 Knots - decide not to move - engine not powerful enough but see others pass....
August 5th Big problems finding a parking place at end of day. tied up alongside very unwelcoming little stinkpot occupying all of village pontoon..
August 6th made it out of Rhone into Petit Rhone - via maritime lock into Canal de Rhone a Sete. Stopped at Galacian.
note: would have been about 1 day more to Port St Louis if we had carried on down the Rhone.
August 7th SETE. Parked outside external bridge on Etang de Taue Junction. Smashing little local restaurant with all items priced at 3 or 4 Euro. Local folks come from miles around! Best meal of trip and for the least money!
By going into SETE Port you can put the mast up and head out into the Mediterranean
Summery: we really got going from St Valery sur Somme on July 11th and arrived in Sete on. August 7th evening. = 27 days (almost 4 weeks) - Moved every day except the day of the mistral but had several half days.
This route is longer in time, by a week, than the 'classic' Paris route but is far more varied and explores different canal systems. Because my wife is ill and incapacitated, I single handed the entire trip, except that a few lock keepers - thinking I was truly alone - helped me with my lines. Used the stakes and hammer frequently. Had to carry jugs of fuel occasionally and the plank was important for protecting Eloise and for getting ashore sometimes. Overall a good experience. Camping Gaz was easily obtainable
629 nautical miles - 1165 kilometers, by gps, at an average speed of 4.4knots!