The Journey

This is the story of our journey on our Hallberg Rassy 352 ( HR352 ) sailing boat, Valhalla, through the French canal system from Port St Louis du Rhône Marseilles to Le Havre in 2009. This was the final leg in a Circumnavigation which started in 2005. There is also another wordpress blog, Sailing the Cyclades,  with details of our cruise round the Greek islands prior to the journey through France.

(Click on the photos to make them “supersize”)

11th May 2009 – Port St Louis to Vallabruges

We set off in Valhalla, with her plethora of fenders, two planks and the bimini up, and enter

St Louis Lock into the Rhone – the first of many!

Port St Louis du Rhône lock at 0900. After very small descent we are out into the mighty Rhone.  We make a very pleasing five knots despite having current against us. The plan is to stop at Arles but where the pontoons should be there is a construction site. So we carry on and go through the Ecluse Vallabregues. A little scary as we rise about fifty feet but with Valhalla moored to a floating bollard by a centre cleat it is a very smooth ascent.

 Vallebruges lock

All the Rhone locks have floating bollards. We adopt a centre cleat mooring. As our cleat is not “central” we attach a fender to the vulnerable bow light and stand by to fend off the lock side with a short pole as there is a tendency for Valhalla to swing her bow in. At 1700 we stop for the night at Pt 265 on an outside berth at a small marina on the starboard bank at the village of Vallabregues.

12th May – Vallebruges to Avignon

Slip the mooring at 0725 – we have not had to pay the mooring charge as there was no one around to collect it! We are maintaining a speed of 6 knots this morning whereas when we arrived last night our speed was down to 3.8 knots. We think it may be due to when the hydroelectric plants control the flow and we consistently find there is less current against us earlier in the day.

Pont d’Avignon

Three hours later we are passing the ruined half bridge that is the Pont d’Avignon and we moor against the quay wall on the starboard side – the marina was demolished in floods in 2003. There is electricity and water and a fee of 18.60 euros a night.

13th May – Avignon to L’Ardoise

We slip at 0725 and with our destination a small marina up a cut at Pt 218 which we reach at 11.20. It takes us 1hr and 10 minutes to negotiate the

Avignon Lock – always let the big fellow go first!

Ecluse Villeneuve-les-Avignon as we have to wait for a barge. L’Ardoise marina is in the middle of nowhere but has water and electricity and a fee of 14 euros. Its position, next to a cement works, is definitely not picturesque, but it has the advantage of being out of the stream and the wash from barges. The manager is friendly and let us use her internet facility.

14th May – L’Ardoise to Valance

Slip L’Ardoise  at 0610 and see the first kites of our trip as we motor up the cut to rejoin the Rhône.

Caderousse Lock – So that’s why we have to wait so long!

It is  a long day starting with Ecluse Caderousse where we wait half an hour for it to open. At 0840 we are passing St Etienne de Sorts but fail to see the pontoon that we think should be there. After 18 miles we enter the Canal de Mondragon, a chute for a hydroelectric plant, where the current can run strongly. Sure enough our speed drops to 4.9 knots but we are compensated by seeing two superb cranes fly overhead.By 1030 we are though the Ecluse Bollene  – a rise of 23 metres

Crikey – this is deep!

and the highest lift of our  journey. As the Rhone locks are bottom filled the ascent is very smooth and after entering a big black hole we exit into sunlight. The passage through the next lock Chateauneuf is by contrast very slow with a wait for opening but we are through by 1355. By the time we get to Ecluse Logis Neuf at 1640 we are not only getting tired but it is pouring with rain. One last lock at Beauchastel at 1855 and an hour later at 2010 we are moored in Valence Marina – and it is still raining. We have covered 106 km in 14 hours.

Valence’s well appointed marina

16th May – Valence to Des Roches de Condrieu

We spend the 15th in the Marina and it rains all day. We pay our dues of 19.50 euros a night and, after a wet walk to the local Casino supermarket, we use the on site Wifi. Then at 0705 on the 16th we set off again. Thankfully the rain has stopped and our departure is watched by a marsh heron. 0805 sees us exiting Ecluse Bourg-des-Valence .

Luzine Halt – between Valence and Condrieu. We didn’t stop here, but it looks a useful stop

As we leave the next lock, the Ecluse Gervans, at 1030 we see a pair of grebe. By 1340 we have passed through the Ecluse Sablons and two hours later moor in the marina at Des Roches de Condrieu. We meet Alistair and Carol on board Big Ann who are also heading for Le Havre.  With a shallower draft they are able to access some of the more eastern canals and, after seeing them in Lyon, it is Paris before we met up again. The marina charges 16.50 euros  a night and there are a few local shops nearby.

17th May – Roches du Condrieu to Lyon

Only a few more miles of the Rhône to go and we slip at 0815 and are through the Ecluse Vaugris an hour later. Then at 1235 we exit the last lock, the Ecluse Pierre Benite, take the port hand fork and we are in the Saone river .

Quay Marshal Joffrey – very convenient for the town centre

We moor on the Quay Marshal Joffrey on the starboard bank where there are no facilities and no charge. We experience no problems with security during our visit, something we had been warned about. Lots of restaurants and we heartily recommend the Bouchons, the regional form of Les Routiers restaurants, and in particular Chez Georges. There are internet cafes and all the usual shops to be found in a large city and we even find a nearby shop where we can change our camping gas.

Chez Georges Bouchon – excellent value!

The Rhône – Retrospect

Our journey covered a distance of 180 nautical miles from Port St Louis and we averaged 4.9 knots.

One of the many vineyards on the Rhone

We had seen hundreds of vineyards as we passed through the area of the Cotes du Rhône. There were beautiful wooded hills, rocky outcrops sometimes with castles on the top, lovely chateaux and ancient villages. However stopping to investigate these further is seldom possible as there are few places to moor and nearly all quays we passed had no parking signs on them.

A chateau on the Rhone

Where it is possible to stop it is usually at a small marina and the nearby town was often not very exciting. The one exception was picturesque Avignon with its famous bridge, which now ends in midstream making dancing on it somewhat precarious. The other bonus was the wildlife. We saw numerous herons, including one catching and eating what was either a very long thin eel or a snake. One of the strangest sights was a seagull sitting on what we thought was a whitish log which turned out to be a four foot long dead pike. Despite seeing hundreds of fishermen on route we never saw one land a catch. The weather was very changeable and we went through the whole gamut of shorts and t-shirts through torrential rain and a temperature which required the heating on. Luckily there was very little wind during the whole journey.

20th May – Lyon to Montmerle

After a day or two exploring Lyon we are eager to be off as, although the mooring is safe, there is a lot of wash from tourist boats. We slip at 0800 and by 0930 are exiting Ecluse Couzon.

Montemerle Halt

The Saone locks have no floating bollards and mooring is much more awkward, necessitating “climbing” the warp from bollard to bollard mounted in the quay wall. However the rise is far smaller than in the Rhone ranging from 4m to 12.5m. The Saone is also busier with numerous hotel barges and hire craft. We moor in Montmerle on a pontoon on the port hand side before the bridge with electricity and water at a charge of 10 euros a night. We have travelled 56 km.

21st May – Montemerle to Tournus

Next morning there is a local market on the quayside and we set off at 0815 with a good supply of baguettes. We negotiate the Ecluse Drace by 0930 and arrive at Tournus at 1445 after 60 km.

Tournus pontoon

The mooring is on a new long pontoon on the port hand side but we note that a lot of the space is reserved for hire boats. Stopping early for the day ensures we can get a berth and we tend to follow this routine, as from now on there are numerous hire craft. The mooring is free with water and electricity laid on. There are a lot of fishermen on the pontoon and we see our first catch. It is  a visiting Dutchman who pulls out a superb carp which he gives to a neighbouring Frenchman.

A Dutchman’s catch in a French river!

We must have passed hundreds of fishermen during our journey to Le Havre but this was the only fish we ever saw anyone catch.

22 May – Tournous to Fragus

The 12th century abbey 

On the 22nd we explore the interesting old town with its 12th Century Abbey where we are treated to an organ recital. We have a “make and mend day” generally cleaning the boat. We have already used our auxiliary tank (100litres) and now empty our two deck carried 20 litre fuel cans into the main tank. David and Leslie who are heading to the Med on yacht “Hie” come over for drinks in the evening. We leave in the morning at 0815 and are through Ormes, our last Saone ecluse, by 0910. Then it is into the Canal de Centre. Suddenly we are on a waterway that is only about two boat widths wide and there is less than 30cms under the keel. The ascending locks are automated. On the approach to the lock the boat breaks a radar beam and the lock either shows a red or green light. We adopt the following method to negotiate canal locks. If it is not otherwise engaged the lock opens and we enter dropping the crew (Peter) ashore with the bow warp then the helmsman gets the stern warp ashore. Continuous loops around bow and stern bollards taken back on board mean we can leave when the gate opens without going ashore again. If the lock is automated before getting back on board  the crew pulls a rope which starts the automation working.

Fragnes quayside

The rise is only 2m in the first lock that we go through at midday. During our canal journey there are none of the big rises that we had become accustomed to. At 1230 we moor at Fragus, with difficulty as we run onto mud but, with assistance from the owners of the barge Hilda May, we moor and spend the night there at a cost of 6 euros. Hilda May’s crew give us a lift in their car to the local Carrefour and we are able to stock up with vegetables and fruit.

24th May – Fragus to Chagney

We slip at 0907 leaving a muddy trail and manage a very creditable 10 locks before we stop alongside a wall in the woods outside Chagney at 1305. Two of the locks do not open or close properly and we have to contact the eclusiers via an intercom in the lock. VNF are very quick to respond. They contact us every day whilst we are on the Canal de Centre and ask when we intend to stop and when we will be setting off the next day.

Pretty but deadly debris!

The decks get covered with debris from the overhanging trees – as it is late spring this is something that happens all the time during our journey and of course some finds its way into the engine filters which we check almost daily.

Check the water inlet filter regularly!

25th May – Chagney to Canal Museum

We leave at 0745 and manage to negotiate 16 locks before reaching Eculsses at 0230 where we moor on the quayside opposite the canal museum.

Opposite the canal Museum – useful halt but no facilities

Our plan of leaving and stopping early works well as the stopping places where we have enough depth to moor are limited and get very crowded. We are now sharing the canal with barges, particularly hotel ones, and also hire craft and they do not tend to stop early so never have a problem finding a mooring.

26th May – Canal Museum to Blazney

 

Slip at 0910 and motor to Blanzy, arriving at 1240.

Great free halt at Blazney

This is our third free stop in a row and this has free electricity. We spend two nights here as we have travelled through 28 locks over the last two days and feel we need a break. We have completed the ascent locks and are one lock into the descent. Some of the descent locks are manned and close between 1200 and 1300. As we have to stop for lunch our progress is not so rapid. Our method of stopping if a lock is otherwise engaged is either to hover or to put the bow into the bank and use the bow ladder to get off or if possible hold Valhalla there with a boathook wrapped into the vegetation – not too difficult as we have usually run gently aground. We only had difficulty in extracting ourselves on one occasion during our whole journey! Some of the locks have stopping places with bollards and we use these where there is sufficient depth.

28 May – Blazney to Genelard

We leave Blazny at 0855 following a French barge and descend via 9 locks, doing our first ploughing in a shallow patch between locks 13 and 14.

Genelard

We moor at 1245 at Genelard, where there is a large “pool” with free moorings on both banks and electricity and water. There is an internet facility in the library and a few shops in the town. Genelard was on the demarcation line between the Vichy French and the Free French areas in the 2nd World War and this is the subject of a small museum on the starboard bank. We stay for four nights spending a lot of time polishing the hull.

1st June – Genelard to Digoin

After a very pleasant four nights in Genelard we slip the mooring at 9am.

Digoin Marina

We negotiate 11 locks, which are nearly all automatic, and reach Digoin at 1430 and moor in the marina. It is very shallow towards the end of the journey and we have to do a lot of ploughing.

2nd June – Digoin to Garnat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crossing the canal Bridge over the Loire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We leave at 0920 and as the depth is only 1.5 metres we plough our way across the aqueduct over the Loire. We are now in the Canal Lateral a La Loire and this is manual lock territory.

Very convenient deep water pontoon at Garnat

We manage 9 locks and moor on a pontoon at Garnat just before 1600.

3rd June – Garnat to Decize

Before we leave at  0910 we cycle into Garnat village to buy a baquette. We go through 6 manual locks including the usual stop for lunch, which we spend sitting in a lock, which is open on our approach, waiting for the operator to come back on duty at 1300.

Decize marina

Then it is through an auto lock on the starboard bank to a mooring in the marina in Decize, where we find a depth of 1.8 metres on the hammerheads. We buy some fuel in our cans – 52 euros for 44 litres which was expensive for 2009. We cycle to a nearby Intermarche for provisions and find the diesel there is far cheaper and not too far to collect using  a trolley for the cans.

4th June – Decize to Marseilles-les-Aubginy

We motor through an automatic lock just after 0900. We then have a frustratingly long day. We intend to stop at Plagny but find the pontoons there had been privatised in 2004.

Lock keepers cottage at Fleury

Marseilles-les-Aubigny

We have to continue motoring until 1830 and eventually find a mooring with sufficient depth when we reach Marseilles-les-Aubigny. We thankfully moor on a pontoon in 2.3 metres, rather late in the day as by then the lock just ahead is shut for the night. We pay 15 euros for 3 nights. The next day we cycle to Charite sur Loire an sixty minute ride away and a lovely picturesque old town. We explore, have lunch and find the internet at the tourist office.

A much needed drink in the Irish pub at Charite

That night the local band is playing near the mooring and this is followed by a firework display.The following day there is a car boot sale on the canal bank and we buy two metal stakes ( one is actually a crowbar!) which will help us temporarily moor when we have to stop outside locks. We had tried to find something like these before we set out but could not find anything in Port Louis.

8th June – Marseilles-les-Aubigny to Lère

 

Lere

It is raining when we slip our mooring at 0915 and we motor 50 km reaching Lère at 1825. We have great difficulty reaching the quayside by a silo as there is hardly enough depth and we have to plough to reach the side. There are very few places on this canal with enough depth for Valhalla, hence our rather long days. We stay two nights and find there is a very old church, where we join a couple of tourists having a conducted tour. We also use the internet facility in the tourist office.

10th June – Lère to Briare

We leave Lère at 0840 and after two locks we are crossing over the Loire on

Eiffel’s Pont Canal at Briare

the extraordinary Pont canal, which was built by Eiffel of “tower” fame, and we enter the oldest canal in France – the Canal de Briare. At 1140 we moor on the Quai de Commerce where the charge is 10 euros a night. We go shopping and eventually find a Carrefour supermarket. The next day we explore the aqueduct and also walk down by the river Loire. Then we cycle along the canal bank to the first of the chain of 14 locks we will be going through tomorrow.

12th June – Briare to Rogney-des-Sept-Ecluses

 

Rogny – note the old flight of 7 locks in the background

We slip Briare at 0835 and at 1210 moor for lunch at Point 15 on an old silo quay where the depth is 1.7 metres. By the time we stop at Rogny-des-Sept-Ecluses and moor on Quay Sully north of lock 18 we have completed 14 locks – eight up and six down. The old flight of locks which originally gave the town its name are still there as a tourist attraction but are now replaced by a new flight where boats can pass each other on the way up or down. The old flight had to be taken in one go which must have held up traffic considerably. We sightsee on the 13th in the small town and find the tourist office surprisingly has no internet. At 12 euros with electricity and water it is one of the costliest moorings on the canals to date. Luckily no one came to collect the fee the first night as we would have complained. The toilet block was shut until the next day and the nearby water supply was not accessible as permanent berth holders were very securely attached to it.

14th June – Rogney-des-Sept-Ecluses to Chatillon-Coligny

We leave at 0830 but then have to wait and have breakfast outside the lock until 0900, however we are first into the lock. We go through six locks in company with two small

Unusual mooring technique at Chatillon-Coligny

French motor boats and stop at Chatillon-Coligny where we moor with difficulty on the quay helped by  the crew of an Irish peniche. The pontoons do not have much depth but the quayside ahead of the office and towards the bridge is not too bad. Rain seems to have set in and we stay here for a week. The mooring is free and has excellent facilities- water, electricity, toilets and showers, a street market on Fridays and internet in the tourist office. There is one disadvantage as the long quay, which is an ideal mooring, gets booked ahead by hotel barges but this is well marked on the quay with the date they are expected. We have to move twice for barges and then our berth was a scramble across to the shore from our mooring bows in and aground near a French boat that was semi permanently moored there.

Balloon launch

One evening we watched a hot air balloon launch from a small playing field in the opposite bank and fly over the town.

21st June – to Chatillon-Coligny to Montargis

 

Montargis

After slipping Coligny at 0840 we motor through eight locks, stopping as ordered moored up in one for lunch. The VNF man motored up the tow path and found us moored by the bow to a bollard and asked us to go to the lock so that he would waste no time getting us through after he had his lunch. We duly obliged. We arrive in Montargis and moor on the quayside at 1410. It costs 10 euros a night but is well kept with water and electricity.

Montargis flowers

We stay here for two nights as it is a lovely old town with a castle and ancient buildings. There are fantastic flower displays and numerous small canals running through the town with 17 picturesque bridges.

A spectacular display throughout the town

23 June – Montargis to a halt near Neronville

At 0915 we slip Montargis and after four locks and 4 km and we are into our last canal – the Canal du Loing.

Remote canal side halt near Neronville

We have quite a bit of ploughing to do as we pass the busy commercial quay after the 2nd lock. There is much more commercial traffic in this canal and overtaking and passing barges is difficult becasue of the shallow depth. We stop for the night at Neronville, an isolated halte south of lock 7 in 1.9 metres. The following day is warm and sunny and we walk to the historic village of Chateau Landon and see a deer on the way. There are a few small shops in the village among the attractive buildings and we buy baguettes and fresh veg.

Picturesque old town of Chateau Landon

25th June – Neronville to Nemours

We leave at 0850 and almost immediately have to moor again as the lock keeper wants to let two yachts through from the north first so that we can pass each other just outside the lock without danger of running aground. We are eventually through an hour later. Not a great start.

Nemours free quay – with free electricity (in 2007)!

We stop at midday on the quay at Nemours where there is water and electricity and no charge. A helpful Frenchman points us in the direction of the tourist office where we acquire tokens for the electricity – again no charge. We spend three nights here and cycle to the nearby Champion and Intermarche supermarkets and also shop at the weekly Saturday market. We have enjoyed fantastic local cherries during almost the whole of our journey and Nemours  cherries are no exception. We confirm our booking in Paris Arsenal Marina for the 3rd July.

28th June – Nemours to Moret-sur-Loing

We slip Nemours at 0915 and have a slight hiatus at the lock when the lock keeper discovers he has left the key at home! We go through the last seven locks on the Canal and moor on a pontoon at Moret-sur-Loing at 1400.

Marina at Moret-sur-Loing

It is a struggle to plough to the mooring as the depth is only just over 1.5metres but luckily the mud is very soft. There is a mooring office on the quayside and we duly pay 10 euros for two nights  with the bonus of a third night free. There is something of a festival going on in the town with the most quad sculls we have ever seen at one time rowing by and a vintage car rally by the river.

Quad Scull Regatta at Moret sur Loing

The town of Moret-sur-Loing

The Town is lovely and has a small street market, numerous restaurants and a Intermarche.

1st July – Moret to Valvins/Avon (Port du Pays de Fontainbleu)

We slip at 0655 and, leaving the canal system behind, we spend our first day on the Seine. A short wait on the quay before ecluse Champagne 2  and we are through by 0750 and by 0825 we are moored in the Port du Pays de Fontainbleau (Valvins) on an outer pontoon. There is quite a bit of wash from passing barges. We pay our 10 euros for a night and then set off on our cycles to visit Fontainbleau.

Fontainbleu

It is a 5 kilometre ride and on the way we pass a supermarket and get the ingredients for a picnic lunch. The palace is imposing but not as well kept as National Trust properties in the UK as it is a little shabby. The grounds are lovely and we have a great picnic sitting by an impressive canal feature.

2nd July – Valvins/Avon to Paris Arsenal Marina

 

We leave Fontainbleau Marina at 0700 hoping to find somewhere to moor before we reach Paris  but we were unable to find anywhere with sufficient depth. We motor on until 1600 and reach the pontoon outside the Paris Arsenal Marina where we moor and call up the marina requesting permission to pass through the access lock. We are a day earlier than we had planned. It is a long hot wait but eventually we get a green light, lock in and moor on the Capitanerie’s pontoon in the marina at 1720. After the usual formalities at 1750 we motor across to our final berth on a south side pontoon. It is blisteringly hot but we are happy. We have made it to Paris and the Arsenal Marina is superb – great position and facilities.

Paris Arsenal Marina near the Place de la Bastille

Valhalla in the Arsenal Marina

We stay in Paris for 8 days and it costs us 256 euros including water and electricity. The day after our arrival we are busy preparing the boat in order to be ready to welcome  our son and daughter-in-law aboard. That evening they text us to say they have left London on Eurostar at 0800 and are they are with us by 2200. They spend a day sightseeing and take us to a delightful restaurant in the evening . The following day we arrange with the Captitanerie to leave the marina and return to our pontoon and we take a tour on Valhalla up the Seine to the Eiffel Tower and back going past Notre Dame and circumnavigating the Isle de Cite in the process.

David and Sheefali are aboard for a weekend in Paris

They leave us at 2015. Then follows days spent relaxing, sightseeing, shopping and getting Valhalla ready for the last part of the journey.We find there is a great market  in the Place de Bastille on Thursdays and Sundays.

Wonderful market close by

We fill the main fuel tank by getting diesel in cans from a local petrol station. We also meet up again with Big Ann and her crew who are going to stay in the Arsenal for Bastille Day.

Our old friends Bill and Val join us in Paris for the trip to Rouen

On the 9th old friends Val and Bill join us for the journey to Rouen.  They left their car in Rouen  and came the rest of the way to Paris by train.

10th July – Paris to Andresy

We leave the Arsenal Marina at 0920 exiting through the lock, having arranged our departure with the Capitanerie. Then we give Val and Bill Paris our river tour, obviously without the return trip, and the weather was not as kind  – it was sunny but with a chilly breeze.  We negotiate two locks, cover 72 km and moor for the night on a small pontoon in Andresy.

near our pontoon mooring in Andresy

11th July – Andresy to Vernon

After  shopping at an excellent market on the quayside we slip at 0930 on  a dull overcast and cold day. The weather is not being kind to our guests!

Vernon quay shared with large hotel barge!

We go through two locks and after 71 kilometres are safely moored on the public quay in Vernon in 2.2 metres. in the evening  we walked round Vernon admiring its many ancient buildings. We are joined by a very large hotel boat which comes worryingly close to us, both as they dock and when they leave, but they undoubtedly know what they are doing.

12th July – Vernon to Elbuf

We slip Vernon at 0940 and at 1445 we pass through the last lock on our journey north. Then a little excitement as we rescue a dog that has managed to swim to the  centre of what is now a very wide river and is completely disorientated. Its owner with another dog  is frantically running up and down the shore and shouting, all to no avail. We try using Valhalla to herd the dog towards the shore but finish up having to inflate the dinghy. Using this with Peter and Val P on board they herd the animal near enough to the shore that he can see it and owner and dog are reunited at last. Needless to say no photographs of our epic feat as we were all far too busy watching the dog and avoiding going aground during our manoeuvers!! This is also the day when we see the next load of Clios heading for the dealers. These enormous vessels were not an uncommon sight but it was a sign of the times that a large number seemed to be laid up afloat.

The quay at Elbuf

It is 1640 when we moor against the public quay at Elbeuf and at last the sun comes out.

13th July – Elbuf to Rouen

When we slip the sun is shining again and we have a quick journey to Rouen where we moor in the Halte Pleasance.

Rouen – Port de Plaisance

We are able to refuel at a pump at last. Bill goes off and brings his car down to the yard.

Rouen

We drive away on the 14th for a day sightseeing and have a very enjoyable visit to Monet’s famous garden at Givenchy.

We have bought a picnic and also stop on the way back to Rouen by a ruined castle on a hill and enjoy an ice cream. A meal out that evening is followed by the spectacular son et lumiere – a 15 minute sound and light performance on the front of the cathedral made famous by Monet’s paintings.

Monet’s Garden

Monet’s Bridge

15th July – Rouen to Honfleur

The next day Bill and Val leave us early to catch a ferry home. At 0750 we slip the marina with difficulty as there is more current just as we clear the pontoon than we had anticipated.

Honfleur

Honfleur Inner Harbour

It is a long day with the worry that we may not make it, but we have calculated well and we are off Honfleur by 1710 where we just miss the lock. However we do not have to long a wait and we are rafted up in the colourful inner harbour in Honfleur by 1835. Almost at the end of our journey through France .

16th July – Honfleur to Le Havre

The following afternoon at 1610  we tear ourselves away from the cafes and the colourful harbour and motor across to Le Havre Marina where we berth on a pontoon at 1825.  We are very lucky to have reached Le Havre today as in the evening the weather breaks and we have several days  of gales with waves breaking over the breakwater.

20th July – Le Havre marina to Quay du Bresil

On the 19th we cycle to the Quay du Bresil where our mast is located and find it and the helpful Stephen Reiset of CNHM, whose office is in hanger 61, and arrange when we will be arriving next morning. We also discuss how we will negotiate the lock into the Tancarville Canal as the Quay du Bresil is on a branch almost immediately off the Canal . We duly slip the marina on the 20th after the harbour master had given us a time for crossing the harbour.

CNHM

We go through the lock which is open for free flow and has  the lifting bridge up, having first contacted the lock controller. We are soon moored on the Quay with the mast close by on the quayside. We then have two days of rewiring one of the mast runs and generally preparing the mast for stepping. On the 22nd at 1430 the crane arrives and before long Valhalla is a sail boat again. On the 23rd Peter installs the masthead aerials, the radar scanner, fixes the deck gland and connects the electrics. We make an early start on the 24th re-reeving sheets and generally tidying things up. We pay Stephan £200 for stepping and storing the mast – the four nights spent on the Quay are free. Then we are off with lock and harbour formalities in reverse and back to Le Havre Marina.

So we journeyed home, leaving on the 26th, spending two nights in Cherbourg and finally mooring in Falmouth Marina at 0400 on the 29th. Valhalla had completed her circumnavigation and was berthed close by the pontoon we had left on 5th August 2005.  By the 31st July we are on our mooring off Flushing and feel Valhalla is really home at last.

Our journey to Le Havre took 80 days. However we came across those who had completed the reverse trip in less than two weeks! It was a leisurely affair that we thoroughly enjoyed. We had negotiated 183 locks and travelled  some 746 km. The majority of the scenery was superb – castles, vineyards, chateaux, fields and woodland, ancient buildings and picturesque haltes and locks. Wildlife was mostly birds including a great many kites, one actually caught a fish directly in front of Valhalla in a lock. We failed to get a decent photograph of the herons which numbered in the hundreds. The food was superb and, although we seldom ate out, we immersed ourselves in French cuisine in the many markets, boulangeries and charcutiers and some great French supermarkets.

This is a journey we thoroughly recommend and we hope that, if like us you decide to travel through France on her many canals and rivers, you thoroughly enjoy the experience.

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