Artaix - Cercy-la-Tour

Le canal latéral de Roanne à Digoin

A last tribute to Le canal latéral de Roanne à Digoin, this being the section next to Avrilly, PK 39,5. We have been ‘Roannais’ during two consecutive winters, 2013/4 and 2014/5 and feel it is time to be closer to our family and friends. Therefore we have decided to be in Antwerp’s Willemdok next winter. We’ll miss all people we got to know and Roanne itself as well. It would be wonderful to meet again somewhere. Therefore a heartfelt ‘au revoir’.

We left Artaix on Monday the 20th of April. After negotiating seven more locks on Le canal latéral de Roanne à Digoin we eventually turned to the left onto Le canal latéral à la Loire. We tackled one more lock and had an overnight stop at a village called Coulanges. The plan was to stop at Pierrefitte-sur-Loire but we had done that two times before, so what to tell about it for a third time?? Well, there’s not a lot to tell about Coulanges, apart from the fact that the mooring facilities are in the process of being upgraded. So, fellow boaters, it will be a comfortable spot for an overnight stop in the near future.

We left Coulanges the next day. This picture really is the undisputable proof that a boater’s life is far from one-hundred-percent glorious. There’s work to do indeed! We, of course, look at the bright side of it; we think some exercise keeps us young(er). By the way, the green metal post is not used as a support. We can assure you that that’s an optical illusion.

That day, Tuesday, we descended 9 locks, navigated for 37 kilometers (23 miles) and reached Gannay-sur-Loire/Vanneaux after 8¾ long hours. One day catched up on our schedule. Yes, we are on a schedule – though not too strict. It has to do with visiting family in a few weeks and the towns where we want to pick them up – being Clamecy and Auxerre.

Sunrise around seven o’clock in the morning, Gannay-sur-Loire/Vanneaux. It’s a bit early for us, we have to admit but inevitable when there’s a deal with the lock keeper to be at the lock nine o’clock sharp. Small jobs to do before leaving: take care of the multi fuel stove, vacuum clean (a stove is dusty), remove the telly cable and replace the disk, lower the mast, check water and oil, shower, shave (only one of us), fiddling with cosmetics (the other one), have breakfast, brush teeth, go to the ‘restroom’ (we have American readers) and remove/stow away the electricity cable. Maybe this little list is incomplete - it certainly is slightly male-oriented (apart from the cosmetics). Anyway, we both think it’s perfectly fair to have two hours available between getting out of the bed and setting of cruising.

As stated with the fifth picture we started on Wednesday the 22th by entering the lock at 09:08AM. On the way that day we spotted some 6 of 7 of the same animals either in the water or out of it. When approaching they disappeared by diving and we could not determine what sort of animals they were. Rats? Otters? Eventually we were able to make a photograph of one of them while making his/her way from the canal towards the safe undergrowth. We showed the picture to the keeper of the next lock and he assured us that we have seen a family of beavers (beaver = castor in French). He told us that beavers are normal in this area – being the Val de Loire.

There was more that day. A man was walking at a leisurely pace alongside the canal. It did not take a lot of time before discovering he was tending a little flock of goats. (We have no idea of the equivalent of the word shepherd in case of goats.) It was a pity that the man was some hundred yards ahead of his little flock. It would have been nice to have a picture of keeper and flock together. Question: do you see the goose and do you have any idea of its task – if there is one??

The 6th lock of the day is named ‘Decise 16ter’, leading from the port between Le canal latéral à la Loire onto the river La Loire itself. The latter must be crossed in order to enter Le canal du Nivernais. A pipe is fixed inside the lock’s wall, making it easy to descend. Simply wrap the rope around the pipe and be at ease!

At 2:36PM we moored on Le canal du Nivernais at Saint-Léger-des-Vignes. So we cruised for five hours, an hour lunch break included, descending six locks and ascending one on the way. It is, admittedly, not the most exciting overnight spot, but… Lidl, Carrefour and E. Leclerc are all on walking distance which is ab-so-lu-te-ly convenient.

Next morning, Thursday the 23th, we left 9:00AM (again). A bit excited, as Le canal du Nivernais is completely new to us. In case you haven’t noticed: it’s spring. Therefore this composition of bright blue, yellow and green.

Surprise, disbelief and admiration (although there are probably no birds with a fear of heights) is what we felt when discovering a stork’s nest on top of a power pylon. How on earth was the couple able to build this without losing material or, even worse, their lives? Well, they seem to thrive, emphasized by both being present and looking relaxed.

It’s not a totally new composition, we know, but isn’t this a nice view from inside the lock? It is lock number 32, named ‘Roche’ and we arrived there not later than 10:40AM. When arriving this 3,07 meters deep lock was prepared for an oncoming boat and therefore completely filled with water (some 600.000 liters of it). The lock keeper explained by gesturing that a descending boat was just about to arrive. So far, so good. Just when the lock keeper, after a long period of futile waiting, decided to empty the lock –involuntarily spilling a lock-fill- the other boat appeared. He lifted his arms in disbelief. When the oncoming boat passed us the skipper grinned sheepishly. Eventually we entered the lock at 11:26AM – so after at least ¾ of an hour waiting-time.

Another animal this time, being a young deer – swimming. We followed him/her slowly for a few hundred meters…

Saved from drowning

…and expected the animal to be capable of climbing out of the canal. He/she was indeed and it was that quick that we were able to film only 8 seconds of climbing out, looking around and then run into the woods next to the canal. After that it was, in amazement, forgotten to release the ‘on’-button of our camera.

We moored at Cercy-la-Tour already after 4 hours of activity (could have been less!), only four locks climbed on the way. We’re at the same level here as the river L’Aron, who’s course is followed by the canal for over 60 kilometers (37,5 miles).

A better view, now from the south-west, of the combined canal/river. On Saturday the 25th we’ll use the lock that is visible in the distance (left), lifting us 2,47 meters (8 feet) above river-level. The river joins the canal from under the bridge, visible on the extreme right. Each waterway starts following its own course again where the picture was taken; the canal left, the river in the foreground.

It’s clearly visible here: the empty lock and the river are of the same level. Upstream of the lock the canal is almost 2,5 meters (over 8 feet) higher.

‘When going downstream keep to the left of the red buoys and to the right of the green buoys.’ This hire boat did not pay enough attention and subsequently ran aground. What to do? Throwing a rope to the bank failed: distance too far. Full power in reverse: nothing. Just when we decided to offer them a tow…

…a man got undressed –for the record, except for his underpants- and picked up a rope that was thrown towards him from the boat. The hero managed to bring the rope ashore and a team of several strong men managed to pull the boat from its awkward position. Problem solved. For the second time this day we witnessed sheepish grinning – this time a lot more than earlier at lock ‘Roche’. Bye for now.