Canal du Centre, Chalon s/Saone – Digoin, (May 2012)

Sunday 20th May

Mock Orange at Fragnes

We caught the 9.30 ferry from Dover, leaving England in cold grey weather and arriving to similar in Calais.  The temperature there was 10 degrees, but as we drove south the skies brightened, the temperatures rose gradually to a high of 25 degrees and the scenery began to look very spring-like.  Later the temperatures plunged by 10 degrees when we drove through a dramatic hail and thunderstorm about an hour before arrival.  France does rain like few other countries I’ve visited.

We arrived at the boat around 6.00pm, and this time the wheelhouse was festooned in cobwebs.  Everything else was in order though, and the port was very quiet.  Beatte and Alan were on their boat on the next pontoon.

Monday 21st May to Thursday 24 May

The weather was awful, steady downpour and not particularly warm.  We watched as the pontoons rose on their stanchions, and the boats were standing at a height we’d not seen so far.

Alan and Beatte had been about to leave on the Tuesday morning, but Philippe (Capitaine) told them the Saone was running so high he was going down to the lock at the end of the Canal de Reyssouze to shut it down.  We drove down to Tournus, where the northernmost quay (where we moored last visit) was completely submerged.  There was a whole tree trunk wedged behind the southern pontoon and a fair amount of debris in the water.

It stopped raining Wednesday evening, and overnight the level in the port dropped by about 14 inches, though the Saone was running at 800 cubic metres per second (cumecs) at Ecluse de Couzon, compared to 60-100 cumecs when we had travelled up last September.   It continued to rise to 1100 cumecs.

Alan gave us a website which dealt more specifically with various points on the Saone, http://www.rdbrmc.com/hydroreel2/  – very useful.  We drove up to Tournus again on the Friday, to find that the level was even higher than when we went Tuesday, the northern quay still completely submerged, and the southern quay full of boats, the depth now permitting mooring on the inside of the floating pontoon.

The postponed departure gave us time to complete a few jobs, clean the boat, and pot up the pansies we’d brought with us from the UK.

Glorious sunshine and temperatures rising to 26-28 degrees right through from Thursday to Saturday.  We decided to set off Sunday.

Sunday 27 May

 Left the port at 9.00am and reached Tournus at midday, averaging 7 kph against the current.  The levels were down at Tournus compared to Friday, probably by at least a metre, but the mooring rings on northern quay, the submersible, were barely above the water line.  Plenty of mooring available on the floating pontoon before the bridge heading upstream.

Cleared Ormes lock at 1.30pm. Shallow rise, (2.5m normally but today less than 1m) with wall inset bollards and one sliding pole around the middle of the lock.

Disused lock at Gigny – good moorings on the Saone

Arrived Gigny just after 2.00pm.  Just in time for the start of the Monaco Grand Prix.

Gigny is a disused lock which provides a mooring for maybe 20 or 30 boats, electricity and water provided.  For our sized boat (16m) the overnight charge was 15 euros.

There is a restaurant with an outside terrace overlooking the Saone (closed Mondays), and

The restaurant at Gigny, terraced dining overlooking the Saone

adequate car parking facilities. Long term moorings are available.

Monday 28 May

 No visit from the boulangerie van this time, as there had been four years ago, and we were underway by 9.15 am.   Not much traffic on the river and we reached the lock leading onto the Canal du Centre shortly after it had closed for lunch.

Moorings and restaurant at Fragny

Arrived at Fragnes around 2.00pm and managed to squeeze into a space on the quay in front of the restaurant.  This is a nice spot, with a restaurant, boulangerie, hairdresser all in one complex.  A junior school backs down onto the canal.  Today was a bank holiday so everywhere was quiet.  There doesn’t appear to be an epicerie anywhere in this village.

A pleasant afternoon, with another two or three small boats arriving and a second hotel boat, Caprice, in addition to Hirondelle which was there when we arrived.

Tuesday 29th May

 The boulangerie opens at 7.00 am until 1.00, and then again from 3.00 until 7.00pm.   The tourist office opens at 9.00am where you pay for the moorings.  €8.40 including water and electricity.

The lock above Fragny

Set off just after 9.00, the first lock (34) being just round the bend. The locks are automatic with detector beams before and after the lock entrance, and red/blue cords to start the locking cycle.  Fine at the first lock which isn’t very deep, so Neville got off to pull the cord.

When we entered the second lock (33), deeper at 3.2m, the pole with the red/blue cords was set right up towards the gates, by the ladder.  Seemed the best idea was to put up the ropes to the quay bollards by standing on the roof of the boat, and then ease forward so that I could reach forward from the bow of the boat to pull the cord either behind the ladder whilst remaining on the boat, or from the quay having climbed the ladder.  Which I’m not keen on.

You can see how close the control box/ladders are to the front of the lock.

The whole manoeuvre would be better tackled with someone off the boat, but there was no landing stage before the lock.

Just as we were about to do this, a man from the house by the lock came out and pulled the cord for us.  Good man!

At lock 32 (5.2m deep) Neville let me off before the lock (no landing stage but easy to pull over to the side).  There are also steps at the side of the lock if you pull up at the mouth of the lock.

There are sliding bollards here, but very well spaced apart so you’d need to tie one on and then manoeuvre to the other if you’re using front and midship ropes as we do.  But again the controls are right up before the lock gates, and there is a good 7 metres between the front floating bollard and the ladder/controls.  I stayed on the quayside to operate the controls and we tied only the middle rope – the lock was not turbulent.

Lock 31 (2.5m) has a landing stage before it, but I stayed on the boat, inching forward to pull the cord and then moving back again.

Lock 30 didn’t work, and neither did the red alarm button.  A very welcome opportunity then, not only to speak French over the telephone (where my comprehension drops by about 50%) but to engage in a spot of lock-ladder climbing.  Oh deep joy!

It seems that the locks can be re-set remotely, as the woman who eventually answered the phone advised me to try to pull the blue cord again, and this time the doors began to close.  As we completed the process a VNF van arrived, to check that everything was OK.

Thereafter the locks, of varying depths, were reasonably close together so I walked between them.  If we’d remembered to put the pedals back on the bikes it might have made a nice ride instead.  We made the last lock, 24, just before Chagny at 1.00pm having had to wait for boats coming downstream at a couple of locks.

The deep locks had floating bollards, all were set automatically for oncoming traffic and operated by the red/blue cord.

Moorings at Chagny, 2012

Moored in the basin at Chagny.   You always expect that things will have improved over time, but Chagny is now a sad looking mooring compared with four years ago.

Chagny 2008

The electricity bournes are out of action, though there is water, and the gardens at the side of the VNF offices are a pale imitation of what they used to be.  The tile factory at the other side of the basin from our mooring is still in operation, and the roar of their HVAC system persisted right through the night.  We probably wouldn’t stop there again except in an emergency.  It’s a shame, as there’s such potential here.

Wednesday 29th May

 Continued towards St Leger-sur-Dheune. Same kind of locks, same kind of inconvenience in the positioning of the controls/ladders, right up at the front of the lock.  You just can’t quite make a positive connection when you pull the cord from an angle from the boat.  It was easier to be put ashore before the lock or walk between them.  Just the four locks before we arrived at Saint-Leger-sur-Dheune.

St Leger sur Dheune

A nice little town with quite an open port most of which seems to be for Locaboat.  There is a Petit Casino, chemist, two boulangeries, a Credit Agricole, several hairdressers and a fairly large electrical store in the town.   There is a sign indicating an ATAC supermarket, though the local Casino had most of the things we needed.  A nice little restaurant by the canal, offering a two course meal for 26 euros per person.  At lunchtime a buffet meal was available.

This is a Locaboat base but they permit other boats to use the pontoons when free, preferably boats of less than 15 metres. The draught at the pontoons is 1.10m.  There is also space on the quay, part of which was taken up by a boat for sale, but we managed to get on the quay leaving the requisite 25 metres in front of the office for ‘renseignment’.

The cost per night for us was 12 euros, including electricity.  A pleasant overnight stop with a friendly manager at the Locaboat office.

After a hot and humid day, a couple of thunderstorms broke during the evening, with some heavy but intermittent rain.  The canal has been very quiet, only one boat passed during the day, towing another smaller boat which was deposited at the pontoons.  Three or four others came up during the afternoon and moored also at the pontoons.

Thursday 31 May

  We left around 9.00am to find a lockie at the first lock (19).  He didn’t offer to take the ropes, but did pull the blue cord for us before he drove off.

As we left that lock we realised the bow thruster was not working, so proceeded fairly slowly whilst Neville checked out the fuses.  No sign of a problem there.

No lockie at the second lock, (18) and assuming we’d be on our own on this link, I decided I’d see if I could walk to the next lock to be able to operate the controls from the quay.  I managed to walk a short distance before the road petered out, and from then on there is no towpath at all, and a busy main road on the other side.

Whilst I was walking, a huge black Newfoundland dog managed to release himself from his enclosure at a  farm about 300 metres from the canal, and came hurtling at top speed after me, barking loudly.  Fully expecting him to leap I prepared myself for a dip in the canal, but his owner, with a worrying note of panic in his voice, shouted frantically from the farm and he pulled up about a metre behind me before slinking off back home.

Neville brought the boat in at a reasonable spot to allow me to get back on the boat, but along here the sides of the canal are quite often sloping.

The lockie reappeared as we were finishing up at lock 17, wanting to know if we’d stopped, so I explained we’d been going slowly whilst trying to check out the bowthruster problem.  We thought then he might be with us all the way, but he only reappeared now and then, at the more difficult locks.

You could get off at this lock entrance if there is not a lockie in attendance.

At lock 16 the lockie was there to take my rope, though he never offered to take Neville’s.  No way we could have got up to the lockside without using the ladders, which again are placed at either end of the lock.

At locks 15 and 14 Neville hitched himself up onto the side but lock 13 appeared deeper, and as we were considering how to handle it, the lockie reappeared.

At 12 the lockie remained in attendance to take my rope and operate the control, this time at the back of the lock.  There was some initial unexpected turbulence here.  This seemed to be the last of the linked locks, and the lockie disappeared back down the canal.

Lock 11 has been completely refurbished, partly with EEU funding it seems.  The surfaces are gleaming white cement, with no moss or lichen, and the new control boxes/ladders (two of them!) are actually placed where you can reach them from the boat. All this in addition to a getting-off point and steps at the lock entrance made us wonder whether we’d died and gone to heaven after all this time.

There are vannes in the gates here, and there is some initial turbulence.

Lock 10 is a deep lock with facility for getting off at the lock entrance and two sliding bollards on the other (right) side of the lock.  Another  lockie arrived to check our plans for tonight and tomorrow, but didn’t stay.

You can walk between this and next deep lock, although 9 does have getting off facility should you decide to remain on the boat.

Same layout, but both locks fairly turbulent.

Arrived St Julienne 12.15 having encountered no other boats and no sign of anyone following us.  Later in the afternoon one boat passed us heading upstream.

St Julienne sur Dheune, with the restaurant at the bridge

This is a pleasant, quiet little halt with no electric/water on the quayside.  They seem to be in the process of installing more bollards on the locksides here.  There is a sign saying to contact the Mairie for water, and another saying that a bread van calls at the bridge at 8.30am.  Check out the pretty little garden below the mooring, and the restaurant, Auberge le Manoir on the opposite side.

We had an excellent meal there, one of the best we’ve had in France:  Cuisses de Canard with duchesse potato, fresh carrots, green beans and cauliflower, together with bread and a bottle of Haute Cote de Beaune, came to 49 euros.  For those who want more than one course, there are a variety of pricing options/combinations available.

Auberge du Manoir

During the course of the afternoon Neville checked the bowthruster mechanism at the wheelhouse control end, and then took the bed apart in the front cabin to get at the mechanisms there.  Nothing obviously wrong, and the fault had been intermittent so he cleaned the brushes, and put everything back together again.  It was working fine.

Friday 1st June

Walked to the bridge for the baker, but unsurprisingly he didn’t turn up.

I was at the locks by 9.00 but the lights didn’t come on.  We hung around outside the lock.  Then a VNF man came, went inside the hut and drove off without saying anything.  Still no lights.  No response to the red button, then after ten minutes the van returned, and the lockie told us to go in the lock.  Lights not working at the entrance was normal, he said.

We worked through to the top of the locks with me walking between most of them.  Most if not all of the deep ones have a place to put off and steps at the mouth of the lock.  No incidents except in one of the latter deep locks the turbulence caused the rope to saw on the floating bollard base, fraying it down by half and necessitating a doubling up of the rope to ease the load on that part.

Arrived at the summit, the other side of Ecuisse at 11.00am.

The Port de Montchanin-Marine turned out to be a little creek off the canal, and although there was a space that would have accommodated us, the bank was rough and the edges unevenly rocky.  We pulled out and went back to just by the bridge, where there is a straight sided quay just by a VNF office.  No services, but a pleasant enough halt on the right hand side of the canal.  It was wide enough here for us to turn the boat round.

A ten minute walk down the road which crosses the canal took us to an Intermarché where we were able to get a few essentials that had not been available in St Leger.  There is also a boulangerie down that road, shortly before the supermarket.

Later on another couple of boats pulled up to moor, but besides those two, we saw only one other boat all day.

 Saturday 2nd June

 I walked up to the lock, within sight of the mooring to check the status, and it was empty.

The boat behind us set off about ten minutes before the locks opened at 9.00.  We’d booked a nine o’clock departure with the lockie  so I indicated that we’d follow them.  However, they sped ahead, pinched the lock and left us stranded with the controls now out of sequence.  Fortunately a VNF van passed after Neville had put me ashore, and he came and re-set the link for us.  I’d already tried pulling the cord to see if doing so would close the gates and start the lock, but I think the whole sequence has to be programmed from the start of the link. Good start for the day.

We arrived at Blanzy around 11.30.  One other boat there, and room for us and another couple of small/medium boats.  Water and electricity available, but only two power points.  Boulangerie on the main street, turn right at the moorings, but the Casino shop has now closed down.  There is a Maxi Marche at the top of the hill if you continue past the boulangerie, but I don’t know how far, as we didn’t really need anything.

The Quay at Blanzy

This is a nice little mooring, with trees on the quayside.  The last time we were here (four years ago) it was very noisy with a lot of building work going around the bridge.  There is now a smart new bridge with blue wrought iron railings, so I guess that must have been what was going on at that time.

The mooring filled up as another two boats arrived later in the afternoon.  The weather remained quite hot, although clouds gathered towards six pm and the forecast is for rain tomorrow.

Sunday 3rd June

 There was a mild thunderstorm in the night, and we had to get up to close the roof hatch and replace the upper panes in the windows.  (When the weather is hot the way it has been, we take out the small upper panes and stick a customised sheet of mosquito netting across the opening.)

We’d told the lockie we would be at the first lock by 9.00 am.  It’s a bit of a pain having to keep advising the lockies where you’re stopping and when you’re setting off again – it takes some of the spontaneity out of the cruising, but I suppose it’s better than hanging around waiting for someone to come and start the cycle off for you.

It was raining hard, so we decided we would stay put for the day.  At a moment when the rain abated I set off for the lock on foot to tell him in case he was hanging around waiting for us.  Of course as soon as I was underway the heavens opened, my trainers were squelching and my trousers were drenched and plastered to my legs.  I ploughed on, thinking the lock would be round the next bend … but it was a lot further than I’d imagined.  As I got within a couple of hundred yards I could see a boat rising in the lock, so decided to turn round – we obviously weren’t holding anything up.

The lockie eventually called at the boats on the mooring and handed us a telephone number to ring before we decide to set off.  This lockie, who’d been with us for several locks yesterday, had an incredibly thick French accent; usually I can get the general drift of what’s being said to me, but this one was completely beyond me.  I even heard him on the phone having to repeat himself three times.

Monday 4th June

 Showery and cool.  The lockie’s van was parked outside our boat, so when he came back, presumably from having his breakfast, we said we’d like to leave at 8.30 if that was OK.  Again I couldn’t understand a word he said in reply,  but he seemed amenable when I repeated what I’d said.

Went off to the boulangerie on the right of the bridge but it was closed.  There is another right at the top of the hill, so I continued on though on my return I thought I saw another one on the other side of the bridge.  Even at the top of the hill I couldn’t see any sign of the supermarket that I’d been told about.

Arrived at the lock at 8.30 – no lockie.  A different guy turned up at 8.45.  We shared the lock with the NZ couple that had moored up at Blanzy but they were calling off at the Le Clerc supermarket which backs onto the canal near Montceau les Mines.  There’s a lot of building work going on just there, right up to the side of the canal.  Watch for a marker buoy on the port side (from Blanzy) indicating narrowing of the channel here.

After the second lock we entered Montceau les Mines.  Another boat was waiting to come into the lock, obviously having left the moorings this side of the bridge.  They were a bit concerned because there were no lights at the entrance to the lock, so it’s not clear how you’d start the cycle off coming in the opposite direction, and particularly so if no-one is coming down the lock.  If we return this way, I’ll try to remember to ask the capitaine how this operates.

Moorings at Montceau les Mines

The mooring can accommodate quite a lot of boats, and though they are pontoons, there are a couple of hammerheads which could comfortably accommodate us on our return journey, which we hope to time to coincide with one of the market days here.

The first bridge is a vertical lift bridge, the second (where the bridge controller is located)

First vertical lift bridge

is a side lifter, and the third another side lifter, which raises to an almost dizzying 90 degrees.  You can hear the bells ringing to signal to road traffic, and there are lights at each bridge though they weren’t working at the final bridge and the controller had to wave us on.

2nd side lifting bridge

3rd side lifting bridge

We kept an eye out for the dangling rope we’d used to signal ahead when we were coming in the opposite direction, but this seems to be no longer in operation.  As there is a bend in the canal here, not sure how the bridge controller knows who is approaching from the Genelard direction, unless there are sensors in the bank, so it’s as well to approach the bend slowly.

At the next two locks we were accompanied by two lady lockies, both itching to help us lock downwards.  And there appear to be four control posts too, all in slightly more helpful locations.

After Montceau en route to Genelard

By mid morning it was no warmer, thought the sun would emerge now and then.  It seemed strange to think, when we were warming ourselves with hot Oxo drinks, that the night before last I’d slept on top of the bed, with the fan going full speed.

Around 1.30 arrived at Genelard, plenty of space in the large basin there, four boats on the other side, and a narrowboat on our side.  Electricity and water available.  So far as we are aware, no charges here either.  Nobody came last time, or this, and there are no signs to indicate otherwise.  Ideally we’d have liked to stay another day, but for some reason our internet connection doesn’t work here, or when it does work it’s slow and intermittent.

Walked over the bridge into the town.  It was very quiet, but as with our last visit, it was a Monday. There is a boulangerie on the right hand side partway up the hill, next door to a Petit Casino supermarket which opens at 7.30am but is closed all day Monday.  There is a museum here which has been closed both visits, commemorating the fact that this town marked the demarcation line between Vichy France and occupied Northern France.  We think it’s open Wednesday to Saturday in the summer months, 10-12, and 2.00 to 4.00pm.  Hopefully our return trip will coincide.

Genelard Basin

When we got back, all three of the boats that had been at Blanzy arrived shortly after one another, and there was a shortage of available power points, only three working ones being available.  About ten boats in all by the end of the afternoon.

We watched the Jubilee concert in front of Buckingham Palace; time for Elton and Cliff to give it a rest I think, but Tom Jones could, deservedly go on for ever.  (And we’re not even fans of his!)

Tuesday 5th June

We got one bike out to act as a shopping trolley for our trip to the supermarket.  What with the front basket, two side panniers and the rucksack on his back, I was free to enjoy the walk back to the boat whilst Neville sailed down the hill at top speed fully laden.

When is a tree not a tree…

We’ve been disappointed with the standard of the Petit Casino’s this trip; maybe it’s a regional thing but we’ve found them to be poorly stocked with little variety.  The one halfway up the hill here was one such and we didn’t get half of the things on our list, simply resorting to essentials like milk and water.  Oh and that other stuff, what’s it called …  comes in shades of red and white … wine, that’s it.  Bread from the boulangerie next door to the supermarket.

A pleasant morning cruising down the locks into Paray, with no incidents, sharing the lock with Bolero, a cruiser who’d been moored at Blanzy.  Plenty of space on the quay at Paray le Monial, where we both moored up, to be joined later by Waikiki which had been moored at Genelard.

Paray-le-Monial

We took a stroll round the town in the afternoon.  We’d been here four years ago and nothing much seems to have changed.  There’s a real mix of ancient and sophisticated-modern in this town, with clothes shops, high fashion shoe and handbag shops nestling among old fashioned shops selling religious memorabilia.

There’s a very good supermarket (8 a Huit) on the main street into the town, where we managed to get everything that had not been available in Genelard.  We called at the Tourist Office to pick up a map so that we could find our Credit Agricole bank, and popped into the Basilica Sacre-Coeur once again, if only to marvel at the sheer naffness of the restoration that’s taken place here.

Basilica Sacre Coeur, Paray

I mentioned this in an earlier trip report – the stonework appears to have been rendered and/or colour washed, and white lines have been painted on to give an illusion of sandstone slabs.  I read on the internet that electric underfloor heating has also been installed here.  English Heritage would have a blue fit if they saw this.  Whilst searching the internet to determine the views of others on this renovation, which was carried out in 1995,  I could find no mention of it, and yet not too much eulogising about the architecture of the basilica.  Seems to me a bit like the ‘elephant in the room’.

The cost of mooring for a boat our size here (16m), including water and electricity, is 13 euros.  We decided we would stay for two nights.

Wednesday 6th June

 

The quay at Paray

It began to rain during the night, and was still raining when we woke in the morning.  The representative for the council came for the mooring fees whilst we were having breakfast.  When the rain eased off we went for a walk around the town to find the bank, and to get some bread.  There used to be a couple of boulangeries quite close to the quay, but they appear to have closed, so we found one on the main high street.

When the weather cleared later on Neville started work on some of the hardwood window frames which showed signs of the varnish flaking off.  He re-varnishes every year, but still it needs doing.  Later on we got the bikes out and rode down to the Cave on the opposite side of the canal to get some wine.  If you continue a few hundred yards further on there is a bricolage, should you need one.

There is a Chinese restaurant not far from the quay, on the main street leading to the town, called “Aux Baguettes d’Or” and we decided to call there for our evening meal.  We had a lovely meal, not your typical ‘hotplate in the middle with main course bowls” type of thing.  The food came arranged on a plate, with a mould of rice and a shaped cluster of stir fried vegetables.  I had ‘canard lacqué’ (a full breast of duck, thinly sliced and coated in a rich sauce) and Neville had ‘poulet d’Amande’ (chicken in sauce, sprinkled with almonds).  We had one starter between us, Sui Mai , which was five dim sum type of things, served with artistically arranged sauces.  The whole thing was a bit like ‘nouvelle cuisine’ Chinese food, though very healthy servings.  We were both full.  One I’d definitely recommend, at 42 euros including two small carafes of red wine, and a pot of green tea.

Thursday 7th June

Paray

Raining again!  Our South African locking companions of Tuesday set off quite early, and the hire boat next to us was preparing to leave at 9.30, at which point the heavens really opened!  The lockie appeared in his van asked what time we were leaving (I said 10.00am) and then he tried to coerce us into leaving with the hire boat, getting very exasperated with us when I said we weren’t ready to leave yet – we still had to fill up with water.  I asked him what time was convenient for him then, and he said it didn’t matter!  But clearly it did.  That’s pretty annoying, if he wanted to save water he should have called round last night to find out when boats were leaving, not try to rush people off at a moment’s notice.

By the time we left, the skies were clearing.  At the second lock we noticed there were several ravens perched on the lock gates and on the side of the lock.  One splashed clumsily into the water of the lock to grab a small fish, whilst as the water level fell, another raven rather alarmingly swooped the whole length of the lock towards us, to pick off the fish that had been caught on the ledges of the inside of the lock gates.  It was a curious sight, all these flapping fish tails, and predatory ravens sitting on the top of the gates waiting.

Only three locks between Paray and Digoin, and we completed these in warm sunshine, descending into Digoin as the clouds began to gather again.  The pollen count soars once the rain stops and the sun comes out again, and my hay fever is rampant.

We arrived in Digoin just after noon.  I had a memory of passing through this place four years ago, which was quite different to what I actually saw this time.  At that time I had thought the moorings were picturesque and right in the centre of the town, but in fact they’re not particularly so.

It is a reasonable and well equipped port here though, hire boats on one side (Canalous) and pleasure boats on the other.  There are pontoons with a couple of hammerheads for the longer boats, and we managed to get on a side mooring at the far end, next to the bridge.

For a boat our size the price leaps up, 13 euros compared to 5 euros for boats less than 15 metres and electricity is extra.  The capitaine told me that there is a boulangerie on the opposite side of the canal, about 500 metres towards the town, heading towards the Lateral a Loire, together with a florist and restaurant.

Neville continued revarnishing the windows during the afternoon when the temperatures soared and the air became very heavy.  Later, a stiff breeze sprang up, temperatures dropped and storm clouds were visible in the distance.  Around 3.30 the heavens opened, thunder, lighting and a very strong win tossing the branches of the trees lining the port.  Very spectacular.

Throughout our overnight stay there were repeated thunderstorms and heavy downpours, so we didn’t go into Digoin and the next morning, when rain still threatened, we decided to take our chances on finding a boulangerie somewhere along the next stage of the canal.

So that brings us to the end of the Canal du Centre, a pleasant, winding canal, bordered by plenty of countryside full of Charolais cattle chewing thoughtfully as they watch the boats go by.  Contrary to what the navigation guides say, we saw no commercial traffic at all, except for two hotel boats right at the other end at Fragnes.

It is possible to keep on locking right through the day, though if you had a problem with a lock you probably wouldn’t get anybody coming out during the lunch hour.  The locks are programmed, so it’s important to keep the lockie advised of your plans and any deviation to them.  We found the lock keepers in the main to be friendly and amenable, and they seem to rove between the locks checking that the flow of traffic is constant.  The placing of the controls leaves a lot to be desired when you are locking upstream; it’s almost impossible to manoeuvre your boat close enough to the front of some locks to be able to pull the blue cord or to climb the ladders, and there isn’t often a convenient spot for putting crew ashore – it varies though from lock to lock.

Tomorrow we embark on the Canal Lateral a la Loire.

About Sandra

I cruise the French waterways with my husband four or five months a year, and write fiction and poetry. I love animals, F1 motor racing, French bread and my husband, though not necessarily in that order.
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11 Responses to Canal du Centre, Chalon s/Saone – Digoin, (May 2012)

  1. Nice clear account with some great photos.

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      Thanks Sheila; the weather here is only marginally better than what I gather you’re having – the River Saone was in flood when we arrived and now the Loire is too!

      Like

  2. Lynne Ayers says:

    Cruising the rivers, canals and quiet backwaters of France – it would be a dream come true.

    Like

  3. Enjoyable news story. I cycled many parts of the Canal du Centre during the late summers of 2005, 2006 and 2007 gathering photos and information for two of my Bicycle Your France guides; Exploring Burgundy and Secret Burgundy. Less than pleased to read about the turning basin at Chagny. Continue the fine writing.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Canal du Centre, Digoin – Pont de Vaux (July 2012) | castelsarrasin

  5. Pingback: The Canal du Nivernais (May 2014) | castelsarrasin

  6. Raconteur says:

    Wow. So much information with great details. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  7. vallypee says:

    Reblogged this on Val Poore and commented:
    My dreams encapsulated in this blog…just wonderful.

    Like

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