Le Canal du Centre is a very old canal. Construction started in 1784; the canal was opened between 1791 and 1793. Nowadays the number of locks is 61, consisting of 35 ‘Méditerranée’ (MED), eventually ending up just there and 26 ‘Océan’ (OCE), eventually leading towards the Atlantic. Initially the canal was equipped with 81 (smaller) locks. During the thirties of the 19th century the locks were upgraded to the ‘gabarit Becquey’ – meaning 30,40 meters (101 feet) long, 5,20 meters (over 17 feet) wide and 1,60 meters (5,30 feet) deep, combined with an air draft of 3 meters (10 feet). An important innovator has been Charles (Louis de Saulces) de Freycinet (1828-1923), minister of public works from 1877 through 1879 – later on twice President of the Council of Ministers (1879-1880 and 1885-1886). This man reformed the waterways extensively, upgrading the locks to the ‘gabarit Freycinet’ – meaning 39,00 meters (130 feet) long, 5,20 meters (over 17 feet) wide and 1,80/2,20 meters (6,00/7,30 feet) deep. Bridges were supposed to have a clearance of 3,70 meters (over 12 feet). All those measures are still in use today, although the bridges are only ‘guaranteed’ for 3,50 meters (11,50 feet). The boats, used by the professionals, are known as ‘Péniche Freycinet‘. On the former lock keepers houses the old numeration is still visible, see the picture of the house next to lock number 19 on the Mediterranean side, before 1880/1885 lock number 26. Isn’t it wonderful that the old signs are still there? Even the distance to the next lock on either side is mentioned.