Blog Voyage - Days 15-21

New to Blog Voyage? Here's the links to the key days 15-21...


Day 15 - Blanzy (Saône-et-Loire) to Chagny (Saône-et-Loire)

Day 16 - Chagny (Saône-et-Loire) to Tournus

Day 17 - Tournus to Lyon

Day 18 - Lyon to Viviers

Day 19 - Viviers to Avignon

Day 20 - Avignon to Sète

Day 21 - Sète and home

Day 15 - Blanzy (Saône-et-Loire) to Chagny (Saône-et-Loire)

We awake and we’re still on the same canal bank - that’s a good start as we are tied to screw drivers, crowbars, an industrial drill bit and a metal bar - all driven into the soft grassy bank. The lock keeper shows up at 8.45am and the lights go green - we’re off!

We pass through Blanzy (a couple of kilometres the other side of the lock and where we slept the night before). 8 locks to the summit and 11km’s.

The lock keeper opens the first two locks and shadows us to one lock before the summit - maybe they just want to get us off their patch?

The direction we’re heading in is north east - and this makes the light on the lock really difficult to judge - but between Ocean 2 and Ocean 1 (the summit) the canal narrows and we can only see one bank as the other is in darkness.

The canal also narrows below every bridge - to the width of a lock - and out of the darkness we see the commercial vessel - can you see it under the bridge? Not a lot of room - we reverse and tuck in tight to the right - trying to stay off the rocky lined canal bank and give him enough room to swing out to turn the next corner. The boat is carrying a crane and the guy is a lot cooler than me about the whole situation - but he’s steel, big and commercial - we’re small, fibreglass and pleasure - I know who would come off worse!

 


The summit, from this point on every lock is down - to sea level all the way!!!


Every time we pull one of these cords we wonder if it’s going to work!

Med 1

...we have 35 locks to go until we reach the Saône - and the first four are each only 500m apart.


And very deep!


We love the automated locks, as we discover they don’t stop for lunch - or do they?

12.30pm and the next lock has no lights on - we spot a restaurant and go for a beer and when we ask about food the lovely French landlady says - ‘you need time, have you got time?’ We have a beer and leave the delicious smells behind to return to the boat - what a result, the lights are on and the lock keeper is sorting it for us - he explains it’s the only one not working - so he needs to manually sort it .

We pass through a very pretty place with lots of hotel boats, we spot one has a pool - too late to photograph that one but the next has a hot tub.


It was all going swimmingly until we meet a boat coming in the opposite direction - the lock automatically closes immediately as it leaves - then drains - we don’t understand but after 5 minutes the lock keeper shows and resets it.

Another lock with lights off - last but one between us and where we plan to meet Maggie & Kathy - no one about, no numbers to call - we wait around for 15 minutes and wonder if we’re going to have a repeat of last night. The lock keeper shows, sorts it and the next lock is 500m - we promise ourselves a beer as soon as we’re through it.

Beers served, Ian takes the helm for the 10km to Chagny - we pass a boat moored up on the way, which is also from Poole. On the final approach we recognise two people on the towpath - Maggie & Kathy waving and taking pictures they arrived 10 minutes before - now that’s timing!

They shoot off to find a hotel - we all agree to a cheat night off the boat and a nice meal in the town.

We give (well Josh really) the boat a good cleaning before we get picked up to go to the hotel.

With a Cognac night cap, we get back to the hotel as we’ve arranged to have Maggie onboard for the last leg on the canal route into Chalon-sur-Saône.

 


Day 16 - Chagny (Saône-et-Loire) to Tournus

We get to the boat after a good nights sleep and the luxury of two showers. All engine checks complete and we’re off for 8.30am, we’ll have a coffee when we reach Med 24 (the next lock downstream). Only 12 between us and Chalon-sur-Saône and the end of the canal system. Ian notices the VNF van (the lock keepers van) as we depart. Are we going to get told off for leaving before 9.00am?

No, he’s only put the lock on for us - and we’re on our way again. The locks are deeeeeep!

They have 'floating bolllards' so they drop as the boat does.

The journey is approximately 3 hours if all goes well - and by 9.30am we’ve done three - only nine more to go! The last one is manned and we need to be there at 11.45am or we’ll wait until 1.00pm (the now 'infamous lock keepers lunch hour').

The Sunday morning was buzzing with cyclists, joggers, dog walkers, parachute and teams of 'rollerbladers’.

By lock Med 28 (of 36 down from the summit) we were growing in confidence but are taken by surprise by an angry goose who comes running out at us - goose tax - It’s quite clear we can’t pass until he gets some bread.

Tax paid and some hard stares later, we leave the goose fed and his territory robustly defended.

We reach the village of Fragnes-la-Loyère and Lock ‘Med 34’ - where Maggie joins us for the final leg of the canal inland system.

If you want to overdose on beautiful scenery then this is the place.

We approach Med 35, it’s 11.48am - will the light go green?


The lights green and the drop is very dramatic.


Med 34b (the 35th lock down from the summit) - the three amigos have completed the Canal du Long > Canal de Briare > Canal Latéral à la Loire > Canal du Central …and we’re in the final lock - the depth gauge on the boat reads 20m.


And this is why…


It’s so impressive - and VERY quick.


We’re down in 10 minutes and the humongous roller shutter door begins to open.


And continues until we get the green light - It’s scale is awesome!
 


As we enter Chalon-sur-Saône, Maggie takes in the sights of this Roman city and the birthplace of photography.


Kathy meets us there and we have a farewell lunch with our shipmate Ian.


It really is a lovely meal and a great way to send off our now ‘seasoned crew member’ and welcome on board Kathy Megson for the last leg of this trip to Sète (fingers crossed).

We’re on the Saône and back to the commercial locks - there are four before we reach Lyon - we won't get there tonight, but aim to be there tomorrow to meet some friends on the Modball Rally.

Along the way we have a young boy on a jet ski play with our wake.

We moor up for the night at Tournus.


We moor up on the town quay and Josh and I go explore its wealth of old buildings, alleyways, cafes and restaurants.

With a bite to eat we watch one of the many cruise ships pass by.

We head back to the boat and the beautiful sunset.


10.00pm another river cruise ship passes by - and we feel the wake for the next 10 minutes!

Lyon tomorrow and hopefully meet with some old pals!

 

 

Day 17 - Tournus to Lyon

I wake to the water slapping the hull, this might sound idyllic but believe me, it’s irritating - I look at the time 5.45am. Might as well get up, then I hear the boat behind pull away from the quay - I get dressed, wake Josh and we leave Tournus.


Tournus gets bathed in the yellow morning light...

and Josh goes back to bed, I’ll do the first few hours while he gets his beauty sleep.

The next town is Macon, and we meet a commercial vessel.

Josh and I drank a bottle of wine from here with our meal last night.


Josh wears his life jacket as we enter our first commercial lock of the day..

We got told off yesterday by the lock keeper who wouldn’t activate the lock until we put them on.

The scenery is beautiful

As we approach the outskirts of Lyon, the buildings are like something out of a fairytale.

Lyon is the third-largest city and second-largest urban area of France.

It is located in the country's east-central part at the confluence of the rivers Rhône and Saône.

The marina is off the Saône just before the confluence and that’s why it’s called confluence!


It’s a purpose built basin with trendy apartments one side and a huge shopping centre the other - with restraints lining either side.

We get settled in, restock the essentials with (wine, rum, and some food).


There’s some sort of corporate team building going on with x4 ‘dragon boats’ racing each other - they have practised all afternoon and then have three races - the team in shot came last in all three (by a country mile).


We catch an Uber to the Place des Terreaux and Bartholdi Fountain.


The city is alive and the most people we’ve seen since leaving Paris.

We head to the Sofitel Lyon, by chance a group of friends are on a car rally - and we’re both in Lyon on the same night - here’s that car park under the hotel.


Adam Ball’s yellow Lamborghini… co-piloted by Gareth Seymour.


Mark Wagstaff’s Ferrari California.


James Wilsons Porsche… co-piloted by Simon Marsden.


Trevor and Emma Wells in the M3 BMW.


It was a bit like herding cats as they had driven from Paris that morning, (we’d set off from Paris 9 days ago) so this is the best team shot I could muster! We part company as we’re knackered and have another early start in the morning - but it was great to see everyone and have a catch-up!

We get back to Quiet Storm and hit the sack - we have a long day ahead tomorrow on the Rhône and the speed limit is 18kts!! It's a chance to see how the engines perform before we do the Med leg!

 

Day 18 - Lyon to Viviers

I wake at 6.17am and decide to get the boat ready, being as quiet as possible - taking the rubbish, unhooking the electrics - Josh appears and in no time we’re on the move again.


When we were going upstream the left bank to us was called the ‘right bank’ (ie the right bank if you were travelling downstream).

As we leave Lyon I notice the silo with Gauche painted on it - were travelling downstream towards the sea - our left (or port side) is now adjacent to the left bank.


Once we’re under this bridge the Saône ends as it is concurred by the Rhône.

The first lock is just a couple of km’s from the confluence - and it looks very deep - 15m to be precise. Once through the lock Josh double checks the speed limit - yep, 35km or 18kts.


We don’t waste any time testing the engines!

They run fine and we think the past day an a half of clean fresh water has worked its magic and appears to have flushed the silt from our engines and the impellers appear to be ok (fingers crossed).


It’s 8.00am and we’re tearing through the kilometres.

Passing the vineyards either side of the Rhône.


The whole area has been flooded with a series of hydro energy dams and mega locks to make it navigable - it’s beautiful.


We catch up with a ferry and another pleasure craft - we overtake them and will beat them to the next lock by just under an hour.


The boat responds well and it’s just lovely travelling the way it was designed to.


Passing beautiful places like Andance as we zip along the Rhône.


Another pretty Rhône town - Saint Vallier.


At the next lock, we follow in a large commercial ship - so big it pretty much touches both sides.


Getting out takes it 12 minutes - longer than the lock takes to complete its cycle.


We go for the ‘let’s get to the next lock before him’ tactic - worse case we get in first and have a 12 minute head start to the next lock while they negotiate their exit.


No such luck, we are made to wait at the next lock so the commercial ship enters first, and the next one, and the next one - finally the last lock of the day and 160km’s further on from when we started the lock is on green.


We can’t believe it and enter swiftly, out into the marina - which looks great on Google Earth and has great facilities according to the guide book - and is only 3 km’s on from here.

Oh dear!

It appears the whole marina is under reconstruction but given we have little choice - we moor up on what’s left.

Viviers looks majestic.

There is a bar, we go to explore audit’s the coolest we’ve come across and serves great food - Josh and I have three Leffes which hit the spot and we’re all knackered.

The day has involved 12 hours travelling from the moment we left Lyon to when we arrived here.

But while we rest, the commercial boat steams ahead - we'll probably be behind him tomorrow too now!

The bar is great, and the vibe is sub zero - amazing!

Here’s the view as I write up what happened today!
Knackered, going to bed now….

 

 

 

Day 19 - Viviers to Avignon


The meal last night was fab, but lets just say the moules didn’t like me - so I had a rough night, when we finally emerged it was 7.45am and Kathy had made a cafetiere for Josh and I, and tea for herself. We’re going to start the day civilised and more relaxed - it’s our 26th wedding anniversary (as Josh reminded us) - we’ve only got about 4 hours travel today and then we should be in Avignon, where we can celebrate properly.

Kathy and I celebrate with a spontaneous skinny dip! (It's actually the card Kathy gave me - I'm afraid to say I forgot to get one!)

As we sit, the construction workers arrive and start the generators and heavy machinery (used to make the new marina) we quickly finish our drinks and get off. As we do Kathy and Josh talk about strange noises in the night (no not me - although there were plenty!) but clinking noises and engines or motors running. When we depart we see one of the huge hotel cruise ship has moored the otherside of the construction workers.

Lets just say Josh and I are enjoying the new speed limits.



The conditions are mirror flat although the scenery is largely boring and industrial.



In the distance you can see Tricastin nuclear power station.

The first lock of 4, and we pick up our commercial travel companion for the day - we’ve only got 60Km’s - so hopefully we’ll not be held up too much.



Lock 2 and the commercial ship is still holding the locks up but this one has a 22m drop - the biggest yet!

Same deal as yesterday - we overtake, wait at the next lock - and the commercial takes as long to get out of the lock as the lock cycle itself. However, we use the opportunities to relax, have a coffee and are much more chilled about it than yesterday.

At last we see some nice scenic vistas - this is Roquemaure.

Followed by Chateauneuf de Pape (one of my favourite wines!)


Finally we get a break on the locks and catch another commercial vessel who was held up by this container ship - so we hit the lock just as it becomes ready (which in real terms saves an hour hanging around).



We have a couple of kilometres after the lock and we double back - Avignon is on the left bank of the Rhône river.



And we pass the famous bridge, where Kathy burst into song!



The bridge is actually called Pont Saint-Bénézet.


As the tourists take their pictures on the bridge (at a cost of €5 each to walk on it) - something we later do, but we all agree we had the best view from the boat.

The view from the Pont Saint-Bénézet, with the Palais des Papes in the background - and to the left, you can just see where Quiet Storm is moored for the night


The Pont Saint-Bénézet, also known as the Pont d'Avignon, is a famous medieval bridge in the town of Avignon, in southern France. A bridge spanning the Rhône between Villeneuve-lès-Avignon and Avignon was built between 1177 and 1185. As you can see it didn't last - maybe if it had, it wouldn't be so famous.


In the 14th century, this city in the South of France was the seat of the papacy (Palais des Papes) and once rivalled the Vatican. There’s no doubt it’s stunning - but it’s very touristy (oh, now there’s a surprise!) and the streets are lined with the normal tourist tat and herds of all nationalities following tourist guides.

Josh treats us to an anniversary meal and as we walk a couple of streets back from the tourist throngs we get a glimpse of the real town.

We even catch an open air performance by the school of music.


Quiet Storm rafted up on the town quay at Avignon, the large ‘hotel ship’ to the right is where the temporary capitainerie is located (the normal one is ‘Kaput!' according to the nice lady who sorted our berth). However, the temporary replacement shower facilities were actually one of the air conditioned rooms - and as it was 33C - we all took our time showering!



The view from the office as I write todays blog - not bad, the air’s cooled off and Kathy and Josh are sorting out our flights home on Saturday - not far to Sète now - this is where we’ll leave the boat for a couple of weeks, and then we’ll return to do the last leg to Denia.

 

Day 20 - Avignon to Sète

My alarm goes off at 6.00am and Kathy groans - this is supposed to be a holiday. But we have a day where we want options as the quickest route to Sète is by sea – but if it’s rough we can double back and do 90kms into Sete via the canal system and navigable étangs – but Josh and I really want to get back into the open sea.

As we slip away from the beauty of our mooring at Avignon and coast downstream to the bridge, the light and silence adds to the magnificence of the town (not to mention the lack of tourists!)

The bridge is bathed in the morning light and I’m convinced we’re one of a very small group fortunate enough to get this view of the bridge.


We are back on the main river and motoring at 18knts towards our first lock


The lights are on green and we see on the AIS were ahead of a commercial travelling upstream - a few minutes later and the lock would have been closed as it prepares for it...

as it is we catch it and in less than 10 minutes we’re on our way again.

The views are mundane with a few exceptions which are spectacular.

Here’s The Château de Roi René in Tarascon - an imposing castle which was built in 1401 by the King Louis II of Anjou, and completed in 1449 by his son Rene I.

We turn off the Rhône to the Petit Rhône - a smaller river which will take us to the Rhone-Sete canal and the Mediterranean.
We’re sure we’re on the right river but a bridge 1km confirms it - this will be a slow couple of hours at 12km per hour (6kts not the 18kts we’ve been doing)


Hmmm - the photo below the fact this was the narrowest stretch and had a fallen tree on the right bank!

We reach the next turn off - the Rhone-Sete canal and a step closer to the Mediterranean.


The lock keeper is absent and we float for 10 minutes calling on the VHF and eventually honking the horn (which is very loud)


We get the green light and the lock gates close on the river system (probably the last river Quiet Storm will navigate - for a long time anyway)


The lock drops a whole 30cm - a lot different from the 22m yesterday


The narrow canal still runs commercial and they don’t leave much room - sometimes because they don’t move from the middle.


The canal runs through the Camargue and the banks are frequently populated by the famous wild white horses synonymous with the region. The Camargue horse is indigenous to the Camargue area and it’s generally considered one of the oldest breeds of horses in the world.


We laugh at the Egret birds casually pitched on the horses backs.


We pass our first marina with ‘Med mooring’ - using anchored lines and not pontoons.

Sometimes the commercials don’t leave much room because they take virtually the whole width - logic says the canal must be wide enough for two commercials to pass - but it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

We pass Aigues-Mortes a walled city which was established in the 13th century as the first Mediterranean port in France on the orders of the King of France, Louis the IX.

We’ll stay at the next marina which is on the coast and return by cab to explore.

Not far now and the étangs (salt lakes) on either side of the canal are full of pink flamingoes.

As we approach Le Grau-di-Roi the first lifting bridge is raised as we approach.


Next is a swing bridge, we need to wait until 2.00pm for this so we moor up and Josh and I explore the overnight options - I’d like to explore Aigues-Mortes.


The place is pretty rundown and we decide it’s not for us, the swing bridge opens and we’re into the Med.

Well, once we’ve passed by the picturesque dock.

Oh how it feels good to be back in the sea.


Sète is on the horizon and an hour at 20kts we’ll be there.


Outside Sète harbour entrance and you could say Josh was pleased.


Entering Sète harbour Kathy gets a personal welcome.


A spanking new marina, a lovely French lady who speaks perfect English and is VERY helpful, and....

Toilets and showers - lots of them, we’ve died and gone to heaven!


We’ll take it - we walk back to the new capitanerie office (not yet occupied) and move to our allocated mooring.


Quiet Storm back in a proper marina - with proper boats!


After a couple of ‘Megson Measure G&T’s and a couple of hours power napping’ we’re off out to hit the town!


They have a jousting contest on boats in the canal to the étangs.


The rowing boats charge each other with a guy on the back who has a lance and shield.


This guy lost!


We figure the blue team won as they were waving flags at the end and the red team were sucking on lemons.


Sète is a busy port and seems to come alive at night - we’ll explore more tomorrow.

 

 

Day 21 - Sète and home

Wakening without an alarm, without having a target destination and with nothing but a whole day ahead to get the boat cleaned, laundry sorted and then meet with Wendy and Ron O’Meara, who are currently house hunting in the Dordogne and living in a Chateau on the river Lot at Duravel.

7.30am and all is well until Kathy checks the message which has just buzzed into her phone - and easyJet inform us our flights are cancelled due to a French air traffic control strike. Suddenly our brains go into overdrive, as we realise we’ll be looking at alternative transport home along with everyone else who planned to fly Saturday.

Kathy and I opt to sit at the table in the cockpit and get our home bound transport sorted as a priority.

Oh? Thick mist, heavy due and quite breezy - good job we travelled across the Med yesterday

Before long Josh has surfaced and he and Kathy sort out train tickets from Montpellier to Ashford International in Kent (under my direction of course). They’re about the same times as our original flights but double the price, however we no longer have the luggage restrictions - and easyJet’s T&Cs say we can be compensated for any expenses incurred by the inconvenience (we’ll see how that plays out).

Josh keeps his promise to the Germans we met and wears their football shirt now we have reached the Med.

 

Then gets on with giving Quiet Storm a good cleaning.

Kathy comes back with the laundered clothes, towels, etc, and the boat takes the look of a gypsy camp

Wendy and Ron arrive and we walk to the hotel they’ve checked into and meet them, and they generously treat us to a fabulous lunch.

Then on to the canal where the jousting was the previous evening for a couple more bottles of wine.

It’s great to catch up with their house hunting adventures, they’ve had an offer accepted on a very impressive property and its now going through some checks, surveys and if this goes well they could have themselves a new house and potential business - but their family will be visiting to help them make the final decision.

We walk back to our respective accommodation past the fishing fleet and arrange to meet at the boat later for more wine - I’ve always liked France!

Ron and Wendy take a look around the boat and then we get on to the most important part of boating in France - wine tasting!

Tomorrow evening we’ll be home, Josh drinks more rum than I thought he could consume and gets affectionate with his mummy!

The next morning we’re up and plot the next leg of our adventure, Sète to Escala - some 85 nautical miles and if the weathers good, it should take about 4 hours (Just in case you were wondering 1 nautical mile = 1.1508 statute miles). Escala is a port Josh and I know very well through our boating with Bob Watson, and we’ve decided if we’re feeling ok here we may push on and do another 70 nautical miles - it would be a long day but we could then have a day and night in Barcelona.

 

Plus the Gulf of Lyon down to Barcelona puts the most unpredictable sea states behind us - the weather forecast and the actual weather can be quite different in this area due to the winds. (It is famous for having the highest percentage of gales in the Mediterranean). Fortunately most of these winds are in the winter and in the summer it's a more likely to be the prevailing onshore sea breeze, the Marin. The one we don't want to experience is the Mistral - a strong, cold, northwesterly wind that blows from southern France into the Gulf of Lion – it can blow to a force 6 in less than an hour an last weeks if the conditions are right.

From Barcelona we’ve picked a place called Peniscola, another 95 nautical miles south, it’s very historic and has links with Avignon and the Knights Templar. From there we’ll move one port away from our final destination - and to another beautiful Spainish costal city - Valencia (approx 70 nautical miles). Valencia to Denia (our new home port) is a further 60 nautical miles.  Unlike the 120 nautical miles we did crossing the channel, we’ll only be a few miles off the coast and will be in sight of land - so never too far away from the safety of a port should the weather turn on us.

 

The journey home (Day 22)...

Flights cancelled we took the train to Lyon from Montpellier, then the Eurostar to Ashford - what a joke. The picture below shows what it's like when everyone on a train has to get off (with all their lugage) to show tickets at desk 1, French Passport Control at desk 2, UK Passport Control desk 3,  then go through 'airport style security' where the signs said no guns, bullets, knives, explosives, weapons - I presume it was ok the 4 hours until this point?

We arrived knackered and decide we will not be returning by train - if it can be helped. Ian was there to give us a lift home at about 10.00pm (in his lovely new, navy blue, Bentley Bentayga) and we arrived home about 12.30am - I'm very ready to have the first nights sleep in my own bed for 3 weeks - thanks again Ian!.

Flights booked - to be continued 12th July!

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