Monday the 14th of April we left La Chapelle-Montlinard at 8:58PM with a view of arriving 10:00PM at the first lock – a distance of some 5,5 kilometers (close to 3,5 miles). We made it in time, thus catching the ‘rhythm of the day’ perfectly. At least that’s what we thought, until the duty lock keeper informed us about the pound (‘le bief’) behind the lock being partly drained for unknown reasons. ‘Be prepared to wait longer than you’d hoped for’ he told us. Fortunately he returned after less than 15 minutes to give us the green light. The depth was minimized to 1,65 meters (5,5 feet) in the middle of the channel, which gives us some 50 centimeters (over 1,5 feet) margin. Cruising slowly in the centre is what one does under this sort of conditions. A little story about a confusion of tongues now. The lock keeper said to us about the depth: ‘cent soixante-cinq centimètres’. We wanted to make sure and repeated him. That is to say, after ‘cent’ he interrupted and completed with ‘soixante-cinq’, causing us to think whether the depth was 1,65 or 0,65… After some discussion we solved the problem unanimously. On the way to the next lock we witnessed where the water had gone, as the picture shows. It cannot have been rain-water, because there has not been falling any noticeable rain for a long period of time.
That afternoon we reached Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre after 4 locks, 20 kilometers (12,5 miles) and 4,5 hours. We did not find the energy to visit the wine- and goat-cheese-paradise Sancerre itself. It’s on a high hill, that’s why…
On we went, on the Tuesday April 15. No peculiarities on the way, so with another 5 locks, 27 kilometers (almost 17 miles) and about 6 hours of cruising in our log book we moored up at 2:22PM in Beaulieu-sur-Loire. The steam that is visible in the background comes from the nuclear power plant at Belleville-sur-Loire, here hidden by the trees.
Wednesday we left at 9:30AM for our last leg on Le Canal latéral à la Loire. In the old days, before Le Pont-canal de Briare was built, all boats had to cross the unpredictable and many a time dangerous river Loire before being able to continue their journey by canal. This picture shows the old course of the canal, a lock included, going down to ‘Loire-level’.
The former canal bends towards La Loire. A basin was dug, as sometimes the circumstances forced the boats to wait for better conditions. The lock leading onto the river is situated immediately behind the bridge that is visible in the background.
Le Pont-canal de Briare
We know that we have shown you the crossing of the river Allier last week. And this time, crossing the river Loire, it’s more or less the same. (We think the river Allier was even prettier to look at than the Loire – at least when we crossed both this rivers…) We hope, however, that you’ll appreciate this video as well, as we know for a fact that the aqueduct ‘Pont-canal de Briare’ is a genuine beauty – co-constructed by Gustave Eiffel himself.
The aqueduct, seen from underneath. Until the 918 meters (over 3.000 feet) Kanalbrücke Magdeburg was opened, in 2003, for a period of 107 years (from 1896) the Pont-canal de Briare was the world’s longest aqueduct, 662 meters (2.200 feet).
Inevitably the aqueduct has to be monitored, inspected and maintained on a regular basis, sometimes resulting in a ‘water-less’ period. The width of the aqueduct is 11,5 meters (38 feet), the towpaths on either side included.
After leaving the aqueduct –still a part of Le Canal latéral à la Loire- we entered Le Canal de Briare, the oldest one in France and the first summit level canal to use pound locks. Le Canal de Briare was completed in 1642(!!) and connected the Loire and Seine valleys. The watershed between those two rivers had to be tackled, necessitating the building of locks (no tunnel(s)). From Briare to the summit level 12 locks rise the level 41 meters (135 feet), after that the level descends towards Montargis by 24 locks lowering the level 85 meters (280 feet). For the first time since starting the cruising-season (1 April) we are confronted with ascending locks.
That afternoon we called it a day at 1:46PM, after 4,25 hours of activity, 21 kilometers (13 miles), one aqueduct and two locks included. Not for the first time electricity and water for free. When closing in on Paris this sort of opportunities will become a rarity, if any at all…
The town we arrived at for an overnight stop is revealed by this picture. Ouzouer-sur-Trézée it is, and that name is meticulously carved out at the bank opposite ‘La Halte Fluviale’.
Thursday, April the 17th, we digested a load of locks, 6 ascending and 6 descending, ending up at Rogny-les-Sept-Écluses around 2:00PM, after 4,5 hours. We had to pay over € 20,00 for one night and should have cruised some more to avoid this, err, rip off. The surroundings are too interesting though, as the next picture will show you.
When leaving the summit level to descend again the terrain lowers some 25 meters in a very short distance. The constructor of the canal, Hugues Cosnier (1578-1629), solved this problem by designing and constructing a staircase of 7 locks. This staircase was replaced in 1887 by 6 locks with pounds in between, thus making it possible for boats to pass each other. The staircase nowadays is preserved as an ancient monument and very well visible on this picture. (Cosnier died well before the opening of the canal.)
The pole from where we got our electricity and water was used as a bird’s nest also. From inside our ship it was possible to make a photograph of one of the two birds (tits) when returning to his/her home without the bird noticing us. Cute, innit?
On 18 April, a Friday, we ended up in a place called Montbouy. Over 15 kilometers, 8 locks but less than 4 hours ‘work’, 1 hour waiting for the lock keeper (lunch break) included. We were able to occupy our mooring spot already 19 minutes after 1:00PM. The last lock was, funny enough, a few hundred metres away from the intended mooring place. The lock keeper had made the lock ready for us (bless him!) so we could wait inside the lock itself. One is, however, not allowed to operate the lock without the presence of the lock keeper. So we entered the lock just after noon (too late!), left 1:09PM and moored only minutes later. Lunch break! The water on the right hand side is the locally still unnavigable river Le Loing. That one gave us some trouble in 2013 – week 5. See ‘Rivers are fun!’.
A day later, Saturday the 19th of April, we reached our ‘Easter-mooring’ at Montargis. Almost 18 kilometers, 6 locks, and less than 4 hours of cruising. We arrived already at 12:40PM. Montargis is a pretty, charming, old little town as the following pictures will show. Because of the load of waterways, tiny and not so tiny, natural or man-made, the place is inevitably called ‘Venice of the Gâtinais’. Gâtinais was a former county or, if you like, province in this part of France.
Montargis. Medieval charm in the downtown area.
The Canal de Briare in the centre of Montargis, a lock included. Upstream a part of the river Loing feeds the canal. The surplus of water is drained off in front of the lock, as visible here.
The other side of the lock that was visible on the last picture. The combination of the old canal and the evenly old buildings together make for a nice view.
When it’s all gone –hopefully not!- at least we can say ‘we’ve seen it!’
The Dutch have their ‘knotwilgen’ (pollard willows) – see http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knotwilg. The French have their Plane trees. We suppose the French would call this cut plane trees ‘Platane têtard’. Bye for now.