May – Sept 1995
18 May. Portland – Cherbourg HWD 02:00 BST 77 nmls 14 hrs
Dropped mooring at 07:30 and headed for the SE exit of Portland Harbour. Wind N3-4. Twenty minutes into the trip, not yet out of Portland Harbour, and I run into my first obstruction, in the shape of an RN ship, frantically flashing his Addis lamp, trying to get through the same gap in the harbour wall as me! I couldn’t read his signal, but I got the drift of what he was trying to say! So turned to Starboard, with the intention of circling then slipping out behind him. Then the MOD Police entered the scene, insisting that I use the NE exit, as another ship was about to leave. I found no problem with that, and complied. The problem arose when I wanted to cross the seaward side of the SE exit as the NATO “fleet” of about 8 ships were all making their escape following in the wake of the RN, heading down and around the Bill. I was heading for the E Shambles buoy, so I crossed Nato’s path yet again.
The crossing then became uneventful. Wind dropped to N2, then veered to W3. I didn’t allow quite enough for the E setting current, so passed a ½ mile W of EC1, which I had never seen before. Entered Cherbourg via the S entrance to the Grand Rade at 21:00 BST. Tied up on an almost empty visitors’ pontoon at 21:30. Packed the “electronics” away, and trotted down to the Capitannery, passing a group of drunken youths, to buy a phone card, but it was shut of course as it was 23:00 local time. Used the coin phone to do my duty to the family, then returned to get my head down, as had the drunks, as their was now no sign of them.
19 May. Slept until 09:00 BST and made the adjustment to French time. Ate breakfast in the cockpit, as it was another lovely day, but could not shake off the feeling that something was wrong. Then I saw it, or more to the point I didn’t see it! My Ensign was missing, the staff was in place, but it’s top had been unscrewed and put back on, after the removal of my nice old, well weathered Ensign. I now have a nice new nylon, French made Ensign, and mine, I guess, is now on some French youths bedroom wall. So much for VE Day. Ensign 45ff 53ff / night
20 May. Cherbourg – Le Havre HWD 04:45 local 70 nmls 11 hrs 50
Left Cherbourg visitors’ pontoon at 06:10 so that I would be out of the Grand Rade and on my way in good time to catch the East set of the current, wind W3 and overcast. At about 08:30 I took down my main and put up a second fore sail, which I had been kindly given just before I left Weymouth. I don’t know what its called, but its like a Genoa version of a cruising chute. A Genaker? I have a spinnaker pole which I use to prop out the roller reefing Genoa when running, and this now came into its own. The wind picked up to WNW4 and by mid-day I was running at just over 7 knots over the ground. I was doing so well I made my landfall at 14:30, but like all passages where you are heading towards cliffs – its a long run in. I found the estuary channel buoys that I was looking for, had the usual trouble identifying the actual harbour entrance of a port previously unvisited, but like everything, it all becomes clear in the end. That is, providing the correct numbers have been entered in the little ‘black box’.
On that subject, I have complete faith (subject to the normal cross checks) in my Navstar DECCA. It has given me good and reliable service for some seven years, once taking me from Cap de la Hague to St Peter Port in thick fog, except once. In Weymouth Harbour when passing in close proximity to one of HM’s Ships it started behaving strangely, and on closer investigation I found all the memory contents had been obliterated!! This is in stark contrast to the GPS that I treated myself to in anticipation of balmy Med. cruising. It had an annoying habit of intermittently resetting its self and starting the hunt for Sats. after a change of display function, then occasionally not satisfied with that, it also erased all the waypoint data. This turned out to be a firmware bug, but that was no help to me setting off across France. Why do Manufacturers wait for the complaint to come in before fixing long known problems?
I found Le Havre Port de Plaisance OK but getting onto a pontoon posed a bit of a challenge, due to a strong cross wind. Made the statutory phone call home and stretched my legs finding my bearings around town. Saw some people with a supermarket bag full of shopping so asked directions. I got the last ‘roti’ chicken (reduced price), so scurried back to make a dinner to compliment the chicken. I found ‘Classic Gold’ on the radio (828kHz). Slept well.
21 May. Solicited a couple of Frenchmen from another visiting boat to help me take down my mast, then we had a couple of beers. I Sorted out all my fenders, then set off to pay my dues and have a shower.
Shower token 8ff (on a timer) Pontoon 69ff / night
Plan the departure from Le Havre for local LW, its best if it’s at about 06:00, to get a full daytime tide to take you up to Rouen. There is nowhere decent to stop before Rouen, and the current is too strong to work against it. Watch out for the partially submerged piles when crossing from Le Havre to enter the channel (at buoy 9 or is it 5).
I think Honfleur is a non-starter to depart from as you have to lock in, hence you loose half a tide waiting to get out, or you have to fluff around leaving early and then spend time sitting on mud! A nice place to visit though.
The cheapest place to have your mast down is Le Havre. You can also have it done at Rouen but you will then have to mess about doing it before you can get under the bridge and tie up at Vittards pontoon.
22 May. Le Havre (Point Km 367) – Duclair pk 277 90 km 8 hrs 10
I now paid the penalty for the previous good passage. I had calculated tides for the sea passages, but had not taken into account the time of the month with regard to what time water stops rushing out of the Seine! This meant that I could not make any headway up the Channel de Rouen until 13:00. (LWD 13:10 BST) Passed some nice little villages, but nowhere to stop, due to concert banks set at 45o and the current runs fast, at about 6 knots. As you are not allowed to navigate on the river from 1 hr after sunset to 1 hr before sunrise, I could not make it to Rouen in one hop. Getting close to sunset, I started to worry about finding a suitable place to spend the night. At Duclair I saw some yachts on moorings on the starboard side just before a bend in the river. On the principle that if its good enough for them…. I looked to see if their was a vacant buoy, but no such luck, so I found a suitable spot, put down an anchor on a snagging line, and made dinner. I never sleep well at anchor, so just to be on the safe side I put down my second anchor – a Bruce, and went to bed. I was woken three or four times through the night by a violent rocking caused by the wake of passing big ships.
23 May. Duclair – Rouen pk 242 35 km 5 hrs 05
Up at 07:00, a nice sunny day and ready for an early start, but that was not to be. My main anchor came up OK without using the snagging line, my Bruce though got hooked, and I hadn’t bothered to put a snagging line on it! I tried for 2 hrs to free it, but no joy. In the end I had to cut it – an expensive night! It also cost me 2 hrs of following current, so I didn’t get to Rouen until 14:25. Tied up at Vittards Pontoon, they have very good facilities. 30ff / night.
Rouen is well worth a couple of days. The cathedral looks good when lit up at night. Rouen is also a convenient place to buy your canal licence. Out of Vittards -Right, Left, Right, up to the top of the hill and its the end building on the Left. In the front door, ahead through the next door and its at the end of the corridor on the Right. Do some calculations before you buy, as the fee is calculated on Length X Breadth and is banded, so if you can minimise your area you can save a lot of money. They didn’t ask for ships papers so you can be quite creative! You have three options of licence – a full year, a ten day (tick off the days you actually travel) licence (this leaves scope to forget to tick off the odd day or two as they don’t do too much in the way of checking once you are into the canals). And last but not least a two week holiday licence. The ten day one is the best if you are just heading for the med. then staying there for a year or so.
On licences, the RYA say the French require a certificate of competence, in the form of a Sports Boat Cert. or equiv., but its like most things in France – what they say and what they do!!! If you haven’t got it, don’t worry about it. No one asked to see it.
24 May. Laid in until 10:00. Overcast and rain. Sightseeing day. Heard on the news that Harold Wilson had died.
25 May. A Public Holiday. I unpacked my bike and did the Grand Tour of the outskirts of town.
26 May. Rouen – St Pierre du Vauvray pk 189 1 lock 53 km 8 hrs 15
Left at 10:00, all went well until the first lock. A Police launch advised me where and how to tie up (at the front, and use a single line hand held amidships). Like a fool I took their advice and ended up broadside in the lock. There was no damage, but it gave the spectators a laugh! otherwise a beautiful day. Tied up just past the town, at a little pontoon. Met an old chap and his wife – they live in a cross between a mobile home and a prefab., but they had a large and beautiful garden, which they tend with love. He suggested I went for a walk and gave me directions. His route was about 1 km, but I misunderstood and did about 8 km! in the end I hitched a lift back – knackered, but having seen a lovely view of the river with the sun setting.
27 May. St Pierre du Vauvray – Vernon pk 150 1 lock 39 km 6 hrs 05
Woke at sunrise, took a photo and went back to bed! Ended up not getting away until 09:45. The second lock went well – I did it my way! Not too near the front of the lock and two lines, I left the forward line short and fixed, then took in the slack on the stern line as the boat rose up the lock. Vernon is a pretty little halt, the entry to the pontoon is a little tricky due to shallows and tree trunks trapped in the shallows.
28 May. Rained all morning but cleared up for about three hours in the afternoon. I cycled out to Giverny to see Monets house – full of tourists! The YC Sec. came for the birth money in the evening, but he didn’t have a key for the shower. 30ff / night.
29 May. Vernon – Mantes la Jolie pk 110 1 lock 40 km 7 hrs 10
An early start – 07:40. The third lock went well, stopped at the halt expecting to stay the night. Went into town for a look around, and do some shopping, but not very impressed, so at 17:15 moved on.
29 May. Mantes la Jolie – Meulan pk 93 no locks 17 km 2 hrs 20
A good halt under a bridge, easy walk to the supermarket, all facilities – Water, Electricity etc. and no charge. Went for a wander and phoned home. I think I am phoning too often, as its quite expensive. I now use the phone card to phone home, give the call box number, then get phoned back. That makes the card last a lot longer.
30 May. Meulan – Catou pk 45 2 locks 45 km 8 hrs 35
Had a very peaceful nights sleep, woke at 09:30. Bang goes an early start, left at 10:05. A funny day, a cold wind under the cloud, but hot when the cloud moved away.
31 May. Catou – Paris pk 168 6 locks 46 km 7 hrs
Popped into the supermarket before leaving at 10:00. I have looked on the road map and it is only 15 kms to Paris, as the crow flies. The run in to Paris seems to go on for ever, but the first sight of the Eiffel Tower spurs you on. Then you are ‘in’ Paris, I couldn’t put my camera down. Some of the bridges are spectacular. The river traffic is very heavy, there are all manner of boats tied up, or maybe even rooted along the banks. Passed the Notre Dame on the Port side then saw the entrance lock to the Paris Arsenal Marina also on the Port side. It is controlled by traffic lights and monitored by video cameras. You pay, but you don’t suffer from the wash of other river traffic. All facilities are included in the price, and it’s a good place to see Paris from. 72ff / night
1 – 4 Jun. Sight seeing, I have never spent any real time in Paris, so this is an opportunity not to be missed. After three days, my legs feel like lead. I was going to leave on the 4th. but yet another Public Holiday – all the locks are closed, so used it as a day of rest and recuperation.
On from Paris you have three basic routes a North route that has long tunnels and lots of locks. A middle route which also has tunnels and a Southern loop route with no tunnels which I took – I think tunnels are to be avoided!
5 Jun. Paris – Melun pk 110 5 locks 58 km 10 hrs 15
I have met up again with ‘Aegean Delight’ a Gibsea 96. Vince & Irene are heading to the Med for a couple of years or so, and we have decided to travel in tandem. Up early, showered & ready to leave at 09:00. By the time we had paid and got out of the lock it was 10:00, and pressed on to Melun. We had to tie up to trees on the bank, as the ‘Halt Nautique’ was missing. Its a nice quiet little backwater, with Swans, Signets, Ducks & Ducklings.
6 Jun. A lazy day, cycled around Melun, a lovely moderate sized town, did some shopping, and got two punctures!
Canal du Loing
7 Jun. Melun – Nemours pk 30 8 locks 48 km 9 hrs 20
An early start, at 0700. This bit takes us off the Seine and onto the Canal du Loing at St Mammès. Things then became totally different. The Seine was quite wide, and we were running against a constant one knot current. Big locks, and not too many of them a day. Now we have a narrow canal, no current, and lots of small locks. A lovely day – shirt off, and got a slight sun burn. V&I had a nasty experience while waiting at the bank for a lock to open. When it did, a Peniche came out and as it went by, due to the displacement of the water, their boat started to go broadside, and the stern just bumped the Peniche. Vince had been stood on the bank, just holding the boat lines. I was luckier, as I had put stakes in. Even so, it nearly ripped out the stern stake. An early lesson!!
Tied up on a nice little pontoon in a back water just before the lock at Nemours. V&I couldn’t get onto the pontoon, as it was too shallow for them. They went through the lock and moored to the bank. We paid for a nice day, it rained all night!
Canal de Briare
8 Jun. Nemours – Cepoy pk 3 11 locks 27 km 6 hrs
0600 start, still raining, didn’t get through the lock until 0700, no lock keeper about, I think he had slept in due to the weather! I ended up operating the lock myself. The sun came out at about 1000 and the rest of the day was lovely. Arrived at Cepoy at 1300, put up a Sun awning to get some shade. Later in the afternoon I went for a bike ride, to get the feel of the area.
9 Jun. V&I and I cycled to Montargis to look around and do some shopping at the Intermarché. On our way back, on the outskirts of Montargis, we saw a Brit flagged ‘Fisher 30’ tied up with its nose pointing in the opposite direction to us. So we dropped by, to be sociable and find out where they had come from. A very friendly couple, who invited us aboard to sample their wine. They were returning to North Antrim (NI) to earn some more money before returning to Spain, having spent 3 years in the Med (mostly Spain), but had also visited Tunisia, Minorca and Sardinia, so they were quite helpful in providing Vince with info. They were staggered by French prices!
10 Jun. Cepoy – Chatillon Coligny pk 29 14 locks 31 km 7 hrs 30
Yesterday we had found that the Intermarché at Montargis backed onto the canal at pk55, and their was a suitable tie up point, so after an 0830 start, we stopped there for 1½ hrs to do a major shop, and for Vince to shock up on diesel, as in UK, it is considerably cheaper at supermarkets. A lovely day but it started to rain just as we tied up for the day. We are well into the routine for locks now. We were in luck at this ‘Halt Nautique’, as it was new and only just opened today. No hot water yet, so a cold shower. Cycled around the village, but didn’t find anything to making it a prolonged stay.
Canal Latéral à la Loire
11 Jun. Coligny – Chatillon sur Loire pk 192 20 locks 35 km 9 hrs 10
A cool morning, with mist on the canal. A hard push today, 12 up and 8 down locks, which are much easier. Went over Gustave Eiffel’s viaduct or is it an aqueduct? at Briare – most impressive, and tied up 5 k’s on at a Halt on a nice quiet cut out on the outside of a bend. A pontoon with electricity, water, toilets and a piping hot shower, but everything has its drawbacks – no hooks to hang towel!
12 Jun. Cycled back along the tow path to Briare, for a look around in the morning. I think the aqueduct is its most impressive feature, though it has a nice little ‘pontooned’ harbour if you want to make the detour down through the lock to it.
13 Jun. Chatillon sur Loire – Menetreol pk 157 5 locks 35 km 5 hrs 20
Another 35 k’s today but only 5½ hrs as there was a quarter of the locks. That included a ½ hr hold up waiting to get into a lock that had a hire boat in. I tied up, walked up to the lock to find out what the problem was – no problem, just some Germans waiting in the lock for their friends boat to catch them up! The lock keeper then took the hint, shut the gate with much Tutonic protestation, and pushed them on through, so we could get on in. We saw the other hire boat about another ½ hr later! We tied up at the Halt early afternoon, the Mains and Water had a padlocked cage over them. A LARGE Dutch motor yacht with two men on then turned up, and they went off and sorted out an old woman to turn up with a key – she unlocked, waited until we had plugged in, then locked up again!
The big ‘sight’ in this area is Sancerre, a village perched on the top of a damn great hill, and famous for its wine and goats cheese! I cycled up there in the afternoon, it’s only about 4 k’s away but it’s all uphill at 45o. The village is very ‘touristy’ but the view is fantastic. There are lots of local artists galleries and some Roman stone carvings set into the walls in the centre of the village.
14 Jun. The Dutch boat left this morning, the old woman came trotting out muttering away to herself – it turns out that she wants to charge 20ff for the electricity, and the Dutchmen had gone off without paying. I said that I was not going to pay either, as she had not said that there was a charge, and there was no notice to say so, either. She trotted off, then returned with a felt tip notice – electricity 20ff, water 10ff. Vince and I pulled our plugs in disgust! Had a fairly lazy day, cycled to an Intermarché in the morning, then cycled around the area in the afternoon. Three holiday boats turned up for the night, filled with 21Brits from an inland waterways club on a busman’s holiday! In the evening went over to V&I for a drink, a very pleasant evening.
15 Jun. Menetreol – Marseilles les Aubigny pk 125 9 locks 32 km 5 hrs 30
Good facilities at the Halt, but the charge was 25ff/night which included electricity + 10ff for water and 10ff for a shower, so we moved on along the canal for about ½ a mile and tied up to the bank for nothing!
16 Jun. Marseilles les Aubigny – Nevers pk 101 4 locks 27 km 5 hrs
Woke up to a lovely day. I wish we had gone on a little further yesterday evening, as we passed two lovely Halts, the first was at pk 123 just by a house owned by two Brits, the second at Cours les Barres (pk 120) by a landscaped garden, with a new pontoon and a water supply, where we filled up. We have now started filling up with water where we find it ‘grates’. We went through our first step lock today – 2 locks in 1, at le Guetin taking us over l’Allier we went in to the bottom lock, the water is then let out from the 2nd upper chamber until the water in both chambers are equal. We then passed through into the upper chamber, which is then filled, raising us a total of 16 mtrs. This let us out onto another aqueduct over the river. Not as ornate as the one at Briare, but just as impressive when you pass over it. Stopped at a Halt at Plagny but saw that they wanted 12ff / night inc. of electricity + 10ff for water and 8ff for a shower, so we ‘upped sticks’ and went on. Turned left down a small branch canal to the basin at Nevers (2 mtrs draft) – I am glad we did, as its only a short cycle ride to the City. The Cathedral stone work is very ornate, and it’s a very peaceful location. I collected another puncture on my way back.
17 Jun. A lay in this morning, a strip down wash, washing into soak, then into town for another look around. It was close today, and the sun had trouble coming out. Back to the boat for a ‘siesta’ then cycled out 3 kms to the Intermarché, to replace a gaz cylinder (90ff).
18 Jun. Nevers – Decize pk 168 5 locks 34 km 8 hrs 15
Fine misty drizzle all day. V&I had a little trouble coming out of the automatic lock from Nevers basin onto the main canal – it started shutting on them when they were half way through! It turned out that it was faulty, as it had also happened to another boat we met later. Not a good day, waited 1½ hrs. for one lock, and the automatic lock down into Decize was not working, so we tied up at the Halt on the canal. I cycled down into town – quite nice. Saw an Australian ensign at the Halt in town, so went for a chat. A very friendly group, they invited me in for a drink, and about 4 Whiskeys later I was invited to join them for Dinner. It turned out that they came over from Australia for a month on the canals every year. Had a little trouble cycling back!
19 Jun. Decize – Diou pk 26 10 locks 42 km 7 hrs 30
Really hot today, made a good distance. Had a makeshift cockpit shower in the evening, using my camping water container suspended from the mast.
20 Jun. Diou – Digoin pk 4 5 locks 22 km 3 hrs 40
A late start, at 10:00, a real scorcher today. Digoin has good facilities, including a chandlers, you can spend one night free of charge on a marina style pontoon with water and electricity. Did oil change 156 engine hrs. In the evening got chatting to an elderly British chap over a couple of G&T’s. He is 79, deaf as a post, and has been running around the French canals for 22 yrs. Also met a Dutch chap who runs around in a canal tug – quite a size!
21 Jun. A slack day today, bought a replacement Danforth anchor for the Bruce I lost, very cheep – 142ff, so also bought a small folding grapnel – useful for pulling into the bank.
Canal du Centre
22 Jun. Digoin – Montceau les Mines pk 64 17 locks 50 km 9 hrs 05
A long day, left at 08:15. We have started heading North again, so I had the Sun on my back – though only a slight sunburn. Their is a lot of wild life about, Herons, Fish Eagles, and occasionally things swimming across the canal – light golden brown, and about the size of a small Badger, with a Rat like tail – it turns out that they are Coipue. Swans and lots of Swallows or Swifts (the ones with the short V tail), and I must not forget the Moor Hens and Ducks, all with chicks, very sweet! Met up with something different on the way into Montceau – lifting bridges. Controlled by a keeper, you request passage through by pulling a rope suspended in the middle of the canal. Tied up at 17:50 on an almost empty marina type pontoon, and went for a ride around town – quite large.
23 Jun. Stayed put today, sunny but very windy. Cycled around town and the outlying area. Went to a ‘Park’, which was an open cast mine – reclaimed, it will be nice when it’s finished! A small Brit canal boat turned up today, a man in his 70’s, on his own. He has been over here 4 yrs, he got his barge over on the back of a lorry, it’s about 28ft x 6ft6, minute compared to the French barges. Went around to V&I’s and found Vince up to his chest in the water, with his bike laying on the pontoon. Apparently he had been walking back to the boat with it, and not looking where he was going, it went over the edge, with him following it! He recovered the bike O.K, but he had lost a new pair of glasses.
24 Jun. Montceau – St Leger sur Dheune pk 33 28 locks 31 km 8 hrs 25
Market day at Montceau – a good sized market, saw a lorry selling Grand Father clocks, but nearly all fruit, veg and meat. We didn’t set off until 11:20, I think we will be at the highest point after going up another 9 locks. We then went down 19 locks, nearly all automatic, dropping us 80 mtrs. It was a strange sensation between these down locks, you feel like the canal is flowing down the hill, but logic says that it can’t be, as all the water would all end up in a heap at the bottom! St Leger is a quiet little village. V&I got charged 7ff for their nights stay, but I went into a small, shallow harbour and got missed, electricity was available as well.
25 Jun. St Leger – Chagny pk 19 4 locks 14 km 2 hrs
Sunday morning – boiled up 3 kettles of water and had a strip down wash before moving on. Only a short hop today. A nice run into the town, with a large cut for boats to stop over. Found I had another puncture, so had to sort that out before going for a ride around. Another hot day, with a Northerly breeze.
26 Jun. Chagny – Chalon sur Saone pk 142 12 locks 19 km 5 hrs 20
A day of note, we dropped another 50+mtrs. In the last stretch of canal we met up with two Paniches – quite a surprise! the last lock, which has a “guillotine” type down side exit, dropped us 10.7 mtrs onto the river Saone. After the narrow canals, to turn onto a wide, fast flowing river was quite a change. Chalon has a big marina, with a large Hypermarket just over the road. You can’t enter the marina backwater from the North end, as they operate a clockwise one-way system. A very picturesque entrance, tied up, put on my Drysuit and mask and got under the boat to clear the weed from the prop and log, which had packed up completely for the last four days. Then went for a well deserved shower.
27 Jun. Chalon – Gigny sur Saone pk 123 no locks 19 km 1 hrs 50
Stayed at Chalon until 14:00 for a look around, a nice town. Did some shopping, then a short run to Gigny. This Halt is an old disused lock, but it was sold off in 1993, as a commercial enterprise and they wanted 30ff / night to tie up inside the lock, so we moved out and tied up on the ‘up side’ for nothing – they try not to make it obvious that you can do that! A hire boat went through the same scenario and then joined us. A little later a Paniche turned up and tried to move us out. It was the ‘wife’ who did all the shouting. She said she would phone the Police, but they didn’t appear to be interested. We held our ground, as there were no Paniche mooring bollards, and no mooring restrictions. When she finally shut up, and we could speak to her husband, what he wanted was enough space to unload the family car, so we all shuffled up a bit so he could get his stern up to the ‘flat’. A lovely clear night, watched the stars / satellites through the binoculars.
28 Jun. pk 123 – Macon pk 80 1 lock 43 km 4 hrs 30
This is more like it! 10 km/hr, Autohelm on, sit back and sunbathe. What a scorcher! Thank heavens for my awning – a two man tent fly sheet. Didn’t stop at Tournus, as it felt like I had only just set off, but it looked as though you could tie up on the wall. Perhaps I should have stopped here last night. The wall at Macon was OK, but got a bit rocky when the large trip boats passed. Fresh water available but no showers, so had a cockpit shower from the water container that I had left stowed on deck all day – the water was quite hot. I finally got around to making up the plastic netting that I had bought at Rouen! Into Mosquito / bug nets for the cabin door and hatches, I can now sleep with the door and hatches open and not share the cabin with 1001 bugs – it works well – a nice cool evening breeze.
A lazy day looking around Macon. Restocked on cold drinks. The bridge looks really beautiful at night with all the lights on.
30 Jun. Macon – Trevoux pk 31 1 lock 49 km 5 hrs 05
God it was hot today, the beer consumption rate has gone up. There aren’t many places to tie up on the Saone, but the scenery is great. Tied up to a barge which looks to be a semi-permanent fixture (unmanned / disused) just above the bridge at pk 31. A pretty little town, the flags are all out and they have rigged a bandstand, so there must be something on – probably tomorrow night (Saturday). Wrong! Seems like some sort of promo. They had a group, 3 men and 2 gogo girls, singing RAP which is hard work to listen to in English, but in French ……! Then the main attraction of the evening, a middle aged pop singer, singing to a pre-recorded backing (karioki)? His main gimmick was to put on a silly hat, in keeping with the beat / theme of the music. American Indian drum beat – War Bonnet. Eastern tempo – Fez. All too rapturous applauds and cheering then 3 encores, carefully timed to end at 23:45.
1 Jul. Trevoux – Lyon pk 3 1 locks 28 km 3 hrs 10
A strong head wind today, I think its the effects of a Mistral blowing up the Rhone valley. It’s a long run into Lyon, always dominated by the Fouvière basilica – quite a sight. Found a good spot to tie up just before Pt Kitchener-Marchand, at about pk 2½, you suffer a bit from wash during the day, but the nights are peaceful (ignoring the rats out on their evening foraging along the quay)! Fresh water can be had from a tap inset in the wall on the opposite bank of the river. An adapter is necessary, in the form of a length of 2” plastic hose, as I think the tap was intended for a fire hoses! Went for a wander to stretch my legs and got caught in a thunder storm. You could see it coming, but it was nice to cool down, as it was oppressively hot today. Back to the boat and stripped off for a cockpit shower. I have found that timing is everything, you need to take your shower about an hour before you loose the sun. that way, the water cools you down, the sun still has enough heat to help dry you off, but disappears before you can get hot and sticky again.
2 – 4 Jul.
Sunday – a large street market along the banks of the Saone, very good, stocked up on fresh veg and bought a spit roast chicken for dinner. We had one hell of a thunderstorm in the evening.
Monday – spent the day looking around the main City. Went over to have a look at the Rhone, fast flowing and no apparent halts in the town area. Found a chandlers, Port Rambaud, at about pk ½. On my return I found a note, an invite to drinks on a large Australian boat. They have been around a bit, Hong Kong, Singapore, Aden, Saudi Arabia, Malaya, Sumatra and into the Med via the Suez Canal. Five years in the Med, and now heading to UK.
Another thunderstorm in the evening, impressive lightning this time.
Tuesday – Took funicular rail up to the Fouvière basilica, its only about 150 years old but very ornate. There is also a Roman Amphi Theatre, part of a Roman Fort. Cooler today, a bit of wind.
5 Jul. Lyon – Vienne pk 29 1 lock 32 km 2 hrs 50
Fast going now. Vienne is a lovely old Roman Town. Treated to a Jazz Festival.
6 Jul. Vienne – Tournon pk 91 3 locks 62 km 6 hrs
Pushing on, “Going with the flow”. Starting to look much more arid.
7 Jul. Tournon – Valence pk 110 1 lock 19 km 2 hrs 50
Got to Valence pk 112 in 2 hrs 10, but there was nowhere suitable to tie up. Turned around and motored back and tied up just down stream of the bridge at pk 110, after having tried a likely looking spot, but there was lots of underwater rocks in the shallows. It took 40 mins to cover 2 km against the current. There are lots of places on the bank that look inviting, but lots of submerged boulders. Nice town accessed via tunnel and across a park.
8 Jul. Valence – Viviers pk 166 3 locks 54 km 5 hrs 40
A sleepy old Gallo-Roman 1st C City that has declined to a village. Lovely narrow cobbled streets. A good place to tie up in a tributary, out of the main flow, and a good supermarket about 10 km away with cut-price fuel.
15 Jul. Viviers – Avignon pk 242 3 locks 73 km 8 hrs 10
Was going to move on to St Etienne yesterday, but it was Bastille Day, so locks were all shut. So it was straight on to Avignon to meet Jo. Tied up at Marina on a finger pontoon, all mod cons.
Jo arrived from London by coach on the 16th she turned up in jeans and Doc Martins! She then set off for the boat as if she was on a route march, I was trailing on in shorts and flip-flops darting from one patch of shade to the next – it was approaching 40°C, I had to slow her down. When we got to the boat I dug out a waterproof cockpit cover, spread it over the cockpit sole, filled it with water to make a paddling pool. We lazed in the pool and had a couple of beers.
18 Jul. Avignon – Arles pk 282 1 lock 40 km 4 hrs 15
A good pontoon with water laid on
19 Jul. Arles – Port St Louis du Rhone pk 323 no locks 41 km 4 hrs
Stayed on the riverside of the lock. Lots of large Mosquitoes came out at sunset. The mast went up without any problem.
21 Jul. Port St Louis – Port Gardian 37 nmls 8 hrs
We had no problem getting into or out of the lock, went over to the Marina to fill up with water and shower then left at 10:00. There was a bit of a sea mist but it cleared once we were clear of the long ‘run out’. A quiet trip, wind S 1-2 except where we watched a large Swiss Motor Yacht cut the corner at the mouth of Le Grand Rhone and proceed to run aground! He was steering from a flying bridge so I guess he hadn’t looked at his charts or where he was going. We were considering going to help but watched them all pile over the side and push themselves off. When we got in to Port Gardian we went for our first dip in the Med.
22 Jul. Port Gardian – Palavas les Flots 24 nmls 5 hrs 40
Had a lazy start at 10:00 wind W 1-2. So hot that at 11:30 we hove to for an hour and went for a ‘blue water’ swim. I also took the opportunity to scrub around the hull. At about 14:00 the wind started to pick up W 3 and we started to sail. By 14:15 it was NW 4-5 and I put some reefs in – just in time – as by 14:30 it was NW 6 and every one was running for cover. Luckily Palavas was sheltered from that direction so the entry was OK. I nearly came unstuck in the Marina as I tied up in the first slot I saw then went to the office to find the visitors berth. They took my details and I gave them the normal 19ft routine. They then pointed me to a slot on the visitors pontoon that was just about 22ft!! Luckily I could stand off from it and let the wind squeeze me in.
23 Jul. Palavas les Flots – Sète 14 nmls 2 hrs 30
Got the bikes out and we cycled the 10 km into Montpellier. A lovely old City with some interesting “new bits”. It was a long hot cycle back. After packing the bikes away and showering we set off at 18:00. Found a nice spot to anchor just E of Sète, and watched a lovely sunset, all peace and tranquillity. Then, wait for it, as soon as the sun had disappeared the wind came around and off the land, picking up to about N4. So I didn’t have the peaceful night I was expecting, and was up to watch a lovely sunrise.
24 Jul. Sète – Agde 17 nmls 4 hrs 15
We didn’t “up anchor” until 10:15 as I had gone back to bed! Then we only went into Sète (45 mins) to make use of their facilities and have a look around. Quite a busy port, fore and aft mooring and lots of wash from fishing and trip boats. The town wasn’t bad though. Eventually left at about 15:00 and had a nice sail around Cap d’Agde, then motored in past Grau d’Agde, under the bridge (TA: 12mtrs) and found a place to tie up on the W side of the river just before the low bridge, right in Agde town. Its difficult to find a place to tie up, as in places their is an under water ledge. You can raft off other boats though. A nice old town with narrow streets and lots of arty-crafty shops.
Canal du Midi
25 Jul. Agde pk 231 – Villeneuve les Béziers pk 214 2 locks 17 km 3 hrs
Up at 08:00 and mast down. Apparently there is a man who comes around and collects money but we managed to miss him. Left to get to lock for 14:00, as it has set opening hours. The woman in charge rules with a rod of iron. You have to put someone ashore before you enter the (round) lock, and she checks your carnet to ensure it has been ticked off. I was in trouble from the start – I tried to enter before she gave the say so, I wasn’t going to put Jo ashore, and she wouldn’t let me in until I had, and I hadn’t ticked off the days on my carnet (even though it was an annual one and not enough space for my time in the “system”). I tried putting my point of view, but my French wasn’t up to it. The best place to be in the lock is right over on the N side (directly opposite where you enter from Agde) as there is a “cut out” in the round wall and you are in a sheltered position when the “flood” arrives. Lots of bumper boats on that part of the canal. We were seduced into stopping by a camp site (free showers and mooring), it was good, but it would have been better in Béziers on the quay, also free.
26 Jul. pk 214 – pk 172 5 locks 42 km 6 hrs 30
Watch out for the lock after the Béziers quay, it’s big with drop down ropes to hold, and they let the water in fast. Also read the book, as the next lock is a set of 7 which has set times for traffic in each direction (upstream – 10:00 to 11:45 & 16:00 to 17:30). We just missed the morning opening, so had a prolonged sightseeing session. Capestang has an Intermarché.
27 Jul. pk 172 – pk 131 6 locks 41 km 10 hrs
The biggest feature was the Flies lots and lots of Flies. Locks on the Midi are hard work, going through the up locks, you have to put someone ashore before you enter, as the steps are on the gate and trying to drop someone off there then trying to angle in to the bowed side of the lock isn’t very easy.
28 Jul. pk 131 – Carcassonne pk 105 11 locks 26 km 7 hr 15
Free water at Trèbes just past the bridge on the right. Carcassonne – good halt, large supermarket, Casino I think, East out of town over river bridge, past old city (well worth seeing) and up the hill by the round-a-bout.
29 Jul. pk 105 – pk 73.5 8 locks 31.5 km 6 hrs 15
30 Jul. pk 73.5 – le Ségala pk 54 13 locks 19.5 km 8 hrs
Castelnaudary isn’t much to speak of. pk 54 is the top of the hill. The rest of the Midi is very boring.
31 Jul. le Ségala – Toulouse pk 5 12 locks 49 km 9 hrs
Stopped at the Port fluvial on the Right Bank, just passed a Paniche, but I think its OK to stop on the left side. It’s a better place to stop than the basin further on, and I didn’t notice any noise over night. There is a water pump on the left side, which produces about 1 Ltr / min. Toulouse isn’t the most inspiring of towns!
1 Aug. Toulouse – Montech pk 41 14 locks 46 km 7 hr 30
Watch out for the lock after leaving the Port fluvial, there is a twist pole somewhere under the bridge, which I missed, to alert the lock keeper, as he doesn’t stay at the lock. Be careful entering the basin, as the exit is immediately sharp right. I popped out into the basin saw the exit too late to turn right, so turned left, left and left, but at least it meant that I could look through the exit bridge to make sure that nothing was coming the other way before committing myself.
The first half of the Latéral is very boring. The locks are nearly all automatic and the first half dozen or so, plus other odd ones are unmanned. Twist pole to prepare lock. Green light to go in. If something is coming out, do not go in until – the other boat is clear of you, you have twisted the pole (again), and you have a green light. Otherwise you get in, the gates shut, and nothing else happens. Your stuck! When you’re in – Turn lever to start lock operation – gates shut, water empties. Turn lever a second time to open exit gate. We found that you could turn lever to start lock operation, wait until exit sluices are fully open and the boat is starting to sink, then turn lever the second time and hop on board. The exit gates then open automatically when the water has drained.
2 Aug. Montech – Valence d’Agen pk 81 21 locks 40 km 10 hrs
A nice halt with pontoons. Scenery starts to improve again. They have a Pageant here on the Friday around 4 Aug. Quite a big performance, right on the canal. Halt at Moissac pk 64 had no shade. Lock #16 pk 47.5 isn’t automatic, the book says it is.
3 Aug. Valence d’Agen – Damazan pk 140 10 locks 59 km 9 hrs
Lots of weed in this area. I had to get in and clear the prop 3 times. The halt at Agen looked very commercial. Buzet halt was very busy. Damazan was quiet, clean loo in village! and some very old buildings.
4 Aug. Damazan – Castets en Dorte pk 193 11 locks 53 km 8 hrs
Halt at la Falotte pk 147 looked pretty. The end of the canal section, you need to sort out High Water times in advance of arrival, as they will only let you lock out at the appropriate time (Bordeaux HW local time + ½ hr) or (HW GMT Dover – 2½ hrs = time to lock out of Castets en Dorte, French double summer time).
5 Aug. Castets en Dorte – Bordeaux pk 5 56 km 5 hrs 15
The lock wasn’t due to open until 15:00 (HW Dover was 17:20 GMT) but a peniche was due so we didn’t get into the lock until it had gone through. We finally got out onto the Garone at 16:00. The current was going like a train, at times we managed 8 knots + over the ground. The wind was against us, which created some very choppy water. We arrived at the marina at Pt de Lormont at 20:15, (make sure you start your turn to port in good time, to get the feel of the current as you will have been out of tidal waters for some time), to be welcomed by the (over) helpful Y.C. Resident / Barman. Keep some forward drive on until you have some lines made fast, as I kid you not about the current. The Y.C. showers are good and its the cheapest place to get your mast up.
7 Aug. Bordeaux – Pauillac pk 50 45 km 2 hrs 45
Tied up in the harbour to wait for the tide.
7 Aug. Pauillac – Royan pk 100 50 km 4 hrs 50
HW Bordeaux was 04:39. We left at 06:45 so as to arrive at LW Pauillac (10:00). A good trip with a following wind. Had a look around town, a visit to the Intermarché and a thunderstorm, then left at 16:15 (HW 16:00) for Royan (LW 21:00). Make sure your fenders are stowed and everything is secured as for sea, we had a F4 head wind and a very rough trip. You can do the full trip in one tide but I didn’t fancy the 04:40 start.
The Bay of Biscay
10 Aug. Royan – La Rochelle 49 nmls 8 hrs 45
Left at 07:00 (HW Pointe-de-Grave was 05:36) Arrived 15:45 (HW La Rochelle 17:34), so had the current with us all the way. We went into the town quay (it’s the same price as the marina), and much nicer, but it is a fair hike to the toilets and showers (past the garage). You need to get a key from the Port Office.
12 Aug. La Rochelle – Les Sables d’Olonne 35 nmls 9 hrs 45
Left at 08:00 (HW La Rochelle 06:40) Arrived 17:45 (HW Les Sables d’Olonne 18:48). We went under the bridge and round the N side of the Ile de Ré. Had wind and current against us, so a long trip. Les Sables visitors pontoon is very convenient for the supermarket, (up pontoon ramp, straight ahead to dual carriageway, turn right to pedestrian crossing, cross and turn left as to go back along dual carriageway, then turn immediately right (no entry road) up to T junction, turn right 100 mtrs, supermarket on left. Diesel very cheep for France 3.53ff / Ltr). I had to buy my first diesel here – 40 ltrs, but 20 would have done to get me to Jersey where diesel is 19.5p / Ltr. which is cheaper than Guernsey. Toilets at Les Sables not so convenient, (up pontoon ramp, turn left to end of car park, left past chandlers and over bridge to next chandlers, telephone, toilets and showers on right.
14 Aug. Les Sables d’Olonne – St Gilles Croix de Vie 16 nmls 5 hrs 45
Set off at 10:00 heading for the Ile d’Yeu on a starboard tack, but the wind picked up to NNW F6, and as the Port Joinville Harbour was on the N side, I decided that we would give the Ile d’Yeu a miss for today. So we tacked, giving a good heading in the right direction for Port la Vie. A nice little seaside town, but watch out for strong currents in the harbour around the corner by the visitors pontoon.
15 Aug. St Gilles Croix de Vie – Ile d’Yeu 18 nmls 4 hrs
Set off at 12:00, a couple of hrs before LW. HW Ile d’Yeu was at 20:30, so we had to wait in Port Joinville outer harbour, in one of three raft outs of 12 yachts each, until the bassin à flot lock opened at 18:00. None of the French had put out shore lines out, I was near the outer end of the raft and the wind was blowing us back onto the next raft, so I put one out. The French answer was to run their engines ahead, to try and hold station.
16 Aug. Ile d’Yeu – L’Herbaudière 22 nmls 6 hrs 30
A quiet little village, entry easy and well sheltered. A store and a couple of chandlers, no supermarket.
17 Aug. L’Herbaudière – Le Croisic 24 nmls 5 hrs 30
We went into Le Croisic at low water, and there wasn’t much of it! Plenty of water in the run in channel, but it makes you understand why you need to follow it, as everything else dries out. There is an Intermarché up towards St-Goustan, about 1.2 km away. Quite a nice seaside town.
18 Aug. Le Croisic – La Vilaine mouth 16 nmls 5 hrs
18 Aug. La Vilaine mouth – Arzal Lock 10 km 1 hr 15
The tide was low, but had no problem as the channel is well buoyed.
18 Aug. Arzal Lock – La Roche Bernard 1 lock 7 km 45 mins
Arrived at Arzal Lock at 18:20, had to wait for about 20 mins for it to open, then left it at 20:20. We took our mast down at La Roche Bernard, you can do it at Redon, but if you do, you have to negotiate a swing bridge (Pt de Cran), (opens : 09:30, 12:30, 13:30, & 19:30). It takes 3 hrs 30 to get there from La Roche Bernard.
19 Aug. La Roche Bernard – Redon 32 km 3 hrs 40
Mast down in the morning, then left at 17:00. We stopped just outside Redon, a wharf wall just past the camp site, rather than pay in the Port de Plaisance. Intermarché is near the camp site, at Pt d’Aucfer. Redon is well worth a look around.
20 Aug. Redon – Mâlon Lock 38 km 5 hrs 20
We were heading to Messac, but stopped for an hour at a fête en route, so didn’t quite make it to the lock in time.
21 Aug. Mâlon Lock – Rennes 12 locks 50 km 10 hrs 20
Stopped in Rennes just before left turn into lock Mail 1. Toilets and water to hand, it’s also convenient for the lock keepers house, as you have to knock on his door to arrange passage through Mail 1. You can also stop just after Mail 1, where there is more shade, but I’m not sure about facilities. Rennes is well worth a day or two.
23 Aug. Rennes pk 1 – Lock 21 nr Hédé pk 41 20 locks 41 km 9 hrs 40
The top of the hill. You need a rest here, as you have 10 locks in 2 km’s, and I doubt if anyone could make it that far in one hop from Rennes. There is a good waiting pontoon.
24 Aug. Lock 21 – Dinan pk 78 27 locks 37 km 10 hrs 45
Only just made it in one hop, as we were held up by a “slow” boat. At Dinan there was a lot of algae in the water causing many problems. Interviewed by French TV about the algae problem.
25 Aug. Dinan – La Rance Barrage pk 98 2 locks 20 km 3 hrs
We gave two French girls a ‘lift’ to the Barrage.
25 Aug. La Rance Barrage – St Malo 4 nmls 45 mins
Mast up and a hot shower. You need to check local Tide Tables, to catch the ebb tide from Chatelier 18 Lock. Also give yourself just over 3 hrs, to arrive at the Rance Barrage Lock in time for the ¼ to the hour “release”. Over at St Malo there are some large waiting buoys to tie up to until the town lock opens.
The Channel Islands and Home
26 Aug. St Malo – St Helier 44 nmls 10 hrs
Made a tactical mistake, in going West around the Minquies on spring tides, so had a lot of current against me.
28 Aug. St Helier – St Peter Port 20 nmls 5 hrs 45
Collect fuel at St H, by RJYC, it’s the cheapest you will find. Make lots of West heading to allow for strong East current when you are ½ to ¾ of the way to the bottom end of the Little Russel.
31 Aug. St Peter Port – Weymouth 70 nmls 14 hrs
If you are heading to Cherbourg, the current takes you all the way.
It is best to have your mast stowed centre and parallel to the water above standing height, to facilitate the rigging of an awning, and for hanging a cockpit shower, if you are not in the ‘luxury class’. On that count ensure you have:
Mains extension lead (10 mtrs) with ‘caravan’ type fitting, and a converter for French style sockets, (you can buy this at Vittards chancellery).
Small (low wattage) kettle (from Argos).
Mains reading lamp (with ‘bull dog’ clamp fitting is useful).
Mains battery charger.
Mains Drill and attachments.
As much water hose as you can carry (20 mtrs) with as many end fittings as you can find, including a trigger action shower attachment – most essential!! and along with the end fittings, ensure you can ‘adapt’ the hose end with progressively larger diameter short (1 ft) lengths of hose, as, no matter what fittings you have, there will always be some that you haven’t. Lyon – tap IN wall opposite side to good tie up point (apart from the Rats) springs to mind!
There are lots of nice little ‘Halt Nautique’s’ on the way up the Seine, all free, with water and often electricity. Also if draft allows, don’t stick to the main channel of the Seine, use some of the back waters. You will be impressed by some of the riverside cottages.
If you have bikes, apart from the obvious repair kits a tow-able golf type trolley is useful for shopping, but mainly for transporting fuel. (it can be 5 kms away) I assume you are Diesel, take as many 20 Ltr plastic containers full as you can carry (covered if on deck, as your not supposed to import ‘extra’ fuel) I got mine from large DIY shops that rented out industrial carpet cleaners – that’s what the shampoo is delivered in!
Boat protection – whether you use fenders or tyres, use good strong planks on the outside of them, held on with either chain or channel them so that the rope doesn’t chafe on lock walls.
They are also useful as gang planks / holding off planks (with spikes through holes drilled in the end), if your draft is such that you can’t always get in close to the bank for the night.
You need a hammer and at least six good stakes commiserate to the displacement of your boat, as if you have to put stakes in while waiting for a barge to come out of a lock, when he passes you his stern will suck all the water, and if you are not well staked you will end up broadside, (that is if you dot bottom)!!! In this situation big trees are better than stakes. I found the waiting area at the ‘high’ end of the lock was always better served – clear flat bank, no underwater obstructions, mooring rings – than the ‘low’ end. None of these luxuries
On the subject of Locks:
Don’t use ‘good’ mooring lines, as they will only be fit for throwing away at the other end! Always ensure you have a good sharp knife to hand on the ‘down’ locks, as on some of them the pointing between the ‘edge’ stones is non-existent, and the last thing you want is for a mooring line to ‘lock in’ and leave your boat hanging, or pull out a deck fitting!
In up locks you must always tie off bow and stern, but then you have options:
As you enter the lock one climes the ladder (it can be on Lt, Rt. or both or not at the entrance end but at the far end!) taking both lines with you if single handed, or just the stern line if there is a crew. In either case lock off the stern line to kill any remaining way, then collect the bow line and make it off. The options now are, as the boat rises, to tighten the lines from the lock side bollard or ring end by the person who went ‘ashore’, or to tighten from the boat end, always via a cleat or a fair lead and winch. NEVER try to hold even a small boat without a turn around something first. As the sluice opens, first you get a cross current, then a back current. This makes the boat very unhappy! If you don’t keep your lines fairly tight, your boat ends up in the middle of the lock.
With hanging lines in the lock they are normally made off at the bottom end, so you put loops around the hanging lines, take them back onboard and make them fast. Ensuring they don’t snag as the boat rises.
In some of the deeper locks the lock keeper will pass down a line or pole with a hook on the end. You then tie a LARGE loop in the end’s of your lines, hook them on and the lock keeper will pull them up and throw the ends over bollards.
In other deeper locks there are floating (rising) bollards. Just tie on and enjoy the ride! Or if single handed, make a coffee.
Only the big locks have traffic lights
Red – wait
Red & Green – they are getting the lock ready for you
Green – enter
Much easier and less tiring.
If you have to wait for the lock to open, the tie up points are always much better.
You will need lines just over twice the depth of the lock.
When you enter the lock you just step off holding both lines, if you have crew, lock off the stern line to kill any remaining way, then take the bow line and just pass it round the bollard (or through the ring) and take the free end back on board. Unlock the stern line and take the free end back with you on board. Then just feed out the lines as the boat drops.
If you are single handed, you only need one line, made off at the boat end about two thirds of the way back along the length of the boat, then proceed as above.
A few gotcha’s:
Rig your planks right down at water level, as some locks are very full
Ensure the free end is on top of, or clear of the end of the line that is taking the strain. Other wise it can lock up and hang the boat.
With iron rings, the weight of the ring chafes the line. Find a stone and put it under the ring to take its weight, and allow your line to run free.
Remember what I said about the edge stones, and sharp knives.
In other deeper locks there are floating (Falling) bollards. Just tie on and enjoy the ride.
On the big River locks, watch out for the current pushing you to the wear, especially if you have to wait. And when entering these locks, be careful if there is a following wind. Stopping can be difficult, with the current pushing you as well, especially if your boat is unpredictable in reverse.
Don’t enter on a Green caused by someone leaving the lock in the opposite direction to you. Wait for them to leave, the light to Red and the gate to close. Then motor to the pole hanging in the middle of the canal, twist it and wait for the gate to open and the light to go green again. Otherwise you can get stuck in the lock!
Weed was not too much of a problem, the Grass was, where the banks had been cut. If you have to go over the side to clear your prop, ware a dry suit, don’t put your head under water, and have a shower when you get out! I saw a lot of dead things in the canals! The rivers aren’t so bad.
On the rivers, Seine, Saone, Rhone. Watch out for trees, logs, pallets etc. And for changes in which side of the river you should be on! (for rounding bends) On the return journey, only contemplate going up the Rhone if you can make >6 Knots, or be prepared for a very long, slow trip.