33.3 kilometers, 30 locks.
The reason that this posting is entitled ‘Med to Ocean’ is that the locks are numbered from ‘MÉDITERRANÉE 1’ at the summit of the Canal du Centre, to ‘34b MED’ where the Canal joins the River Saône which flows into the Rhône which in turn flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The first westerly lock after the summit at PK 52 is called ‘OCEAN1’ and the numbering ends at lock ‘Les Bessons 26 OCE’ where the Canal du Centre joins the Canal lateral a la Loire which, eventually, via a number of waterways, ends up in the Atlantic Ocean.
Another important thing to remember about the Canal du Centre is that you have to advise various lock-keepers where you intend stopping for the night and for how long. If you don’t, you might find that your first lock of the day will not work for you.
Friday 21 July 2017: Dennevy to St-Léger-sur-Dheune – 2.5 kilometers, 2 locks, 1 hour.
After the stress of the previous days locking through it was lovely to arrive at our first lock to see the doors wide open in welcome – but no lights working. We had told the lockie at Fragnes that we would be going through to St-Léger not expecting that we would bail out at Dennevy and as such they had not prepared the lock for us. Eventually the doors closed, the lock filled, a boat entered, the lock emptied, the boat left and still the lights would not change in our favour. Fortunately a lockie had accompanied the other boat and she manually reset the lock and eventually we were on our way the short distance to St-Léger-sur-Dheune (the Dheune by the way is the name of the river which the canal replaced as a working waterway).
Shortly after arrival at the Locaboat port the captain arrived to advise us to move up a bit as our stern was protruding over the red ‘no mooring’ line – a bit petty I thought until he explained that the red line demarcated the one extreme of the turning circle of the hotel boats but if we didn’t want to move it was fine by him as we were unlikely to win a duel against one of them. I moved with alacrity!
|They only just fit under the bridge|
|The wheelhouse aft retracts into the boat to clear the bridge - clever!|
There is not much to St-Léger and for some reason we did not walk to the church with its oddly steepled roof but we did stumble into the Au p’tit Kir restaurant where we had a fabulous meal!
|Too good to mention!|
That evening there was a ‘marche’, a local produce kind of market followed by live music, the strains of which we enjoyed from our saloon as the weather had once again turned miserable. We did however procure two bottles of sweet Cremant bubbly made from Muscat grape –delicious as an after dinner palate cleanser somewhere, sometime.
|After the storm.|
Saturday 22 July 2017: St-Léger-sur-Dheune to Écuisses – 13 kilometers, 13 locks, 3 hours 30 minutes.
Having read about the Canal Museum at Écuisses we were at our first lock right on time to find it open but with no visible lights despite our having arranged a nine o’clock rendezvous; a call to a (misunderstood) wrong number somehow elicited a response from the gorgeous, young eclusier and we were eventually on our way again,
|Yet another small 'uphill' lock...|
|Da First Mate.|
In no time we were tied off waiting in anticipation for the museum to open – only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 14h30 to 18h00 we had read somewhere – for once we had gotten it spot on! Two thirty came and went so we took a stroll to the Villa Perrusson , home to the benevolent capitalist Industrial Revolutionary owners of the tile and brick factory.
|Amazing detail on the factory facade.|
|The entrance to the old factory.|
|The mansion also displaying the roofing wares produced in the factory.|
|'Seconds' - used to build a wall.|
where there is a reception office and where we were informed that the canal museum had closed down permanently. What a disappointment!
But that evening we were treated to a magnificent thunderstorm with torrential rain.
|The first signs of autumn?|
Sunday 23 July 2017: Écuisses to Blanzy – 14.6 kilometers, 12 locks, 3 hours 30 minutes.
Blanzy has a sixty or so meter long quay for visiting boats (under 15m) with free electricity and water (read: Hogged long term by certain cruising species) so we were hoping to time it perfectly to arrive in the ‘window’ so that we might secure a spot. Once again we were at the first lock at 09h00 which was ready and waiting with a young lockie looking out for us; had we known what a pretty little village Écuisses was we would definitely have taken the bikes off and cycled the kilometre or so from the museum quay mooring and at least had a glass of wine at one of the few brasseries.
|The workers co-op.|
|And one of the row of workers houses|
resplendent in the manufacturers tileware.
|Our lockie explaining that he thinks that the machinery is "from part of an engine".|
Five locks later and with lock-keeper assistance through the three 5m plus locks we ‘summited’ and then, with no more gushing turbulence knocking us every which way, it was all gentle downhill;
|Pretty 19thC canal work|
|No idea what this was.|
|This one was possibly draft-challenged and did not move over|
despite us having right of way. So we had stones against our hull again.
at ‘Ocean 1’ we were enjoined by the lock-keeper who inquired as to our destination. Explaining that it was difficult to say as it depended on whether there was space at Blanzy, he promptly called someone and reported that there was a space for us so that was that – as far as he was concerned Blanzy was where we would overnight despite it being nine kilometres and six locks ahead during which time any boat coming upstream could have taken the spot. But we duly arrived and there was a single berth available – luckily we have a fifty meter electricity cable as the bourne is right at the downstream end of the ‘port'.
|...and look upstream. We are last in line with the two long stayers,|
the owners of which we did not see in two and a half days, on our bow.
|One of them.|
Again, Blanzy is a small town with not much to offer except, from what I have read, a fascinating coal mining museum which was subconsciously avoided. Underground tunnels with the memory of late nineteenth and early to mid-twentieth century mining deaths is enough to raise the hairs on ones arms.
But it was close to the shopping area of Montceau-les-Mines where we bought, inter alia, 10mm2 dual core flex with which to, hopefully and finally, fix the Waeco fridge current supply issue; “It can be reach to 30 - 40 A (ca 500 W) on startup. It is only the first second. Then he needs only 4 A to 7 A to run” replies the super efficient German service center (still waiting for the English one to reply) – why don’t they put pertinent facts like that in the user manual?
An interesting shopping fact about Blanzy is that a ten minute ride down the cycle path is a single boat mooring outside a huge eLeclerq shopping complex which is ideal for a short-stop to re-provision. Unless of course an Antwerp registered boat arrives at three in the afternoon and is still there when you pass, TV dish attached to the quay supports, a day later (note to self – get over selfish boaters habits).
Tuesday 25 July 2017: Blanzy to Montceau-les-Mines.
Again, a nine o’clock booking almost worked (well, if you understand that 09h00 Blanzy time is 09h15 any other time) and an hour later we arrived at Montceau, luckily finding an outside mooring on a longer finger than the uncomfortable seven meter ones, to find a full-on market where, despite Madame stating emphatically that we were not doing any shopping, we arrived back aboard with a ‘robe’, three cheapo golf shirts and a whole lot of delicious goodies from the stalls. And mooring fees at about €8 per day, all inclusive, is a gift!