Friday, 21 September 2018

Canal du Centre to the Canal Lateral a la Loire to the Canal de Roanne a Digoin and (almost) back to the Canal Lateral a la Loire: Paray-le-Monial - La Beaume – Briennon – Roanne – Melay-sur-Loire – La Beaume.

9 September to 21 September 2018.  118 kilometers, 21 locks.

Sunday 9 September – Paray-la-Monial to La Beaume. 20 kilometers, 7 locks. 4 hours 50 minutes.

After having visited the not-so-great ‘vide grenier’ we set off shortly before one o’clock so as to be at the lock at the agreed hour. The lockie arrived spot on time but it took ages to set the lock and we only exited half an hour later.
The weather was sublime as we coasted along the pretty waterway to the sound of Lynn sanding down the filler on the bow,

Look closely to the right of the mast and you will see...


passing through the drab surrounds of Digoin

and across the stunning aqueduct which crosses the Loire River. A short wait while a tourist boat finished its ascent and exited, then into the lock to begin the extremely slow, nearly four meter, decent.

A kilometre later we turn south (downwards) onto the Canal de Roanne a Digoin with its ‘hanging rope’ activated first lock. With the mechanism duly activated, we wait for the eddies in front of the lock to subside then engage gear and enter at our normal speed - but the clever Dicks who constructed this lock and the next one have placed the weir outlet right at the entrance to the lock resulting in us hitting the stone entrance hard and jamming there until Lynn was able to force us away. Our first paint loss this trip (not counting the incident in May in Melun which was none of our own doing)! Dexterous use of a fender by Lynn prevented a similar situation at the next lock and our last one of the day, with its six meter rise, had the weir outlet well before the lock gate so entry was a doddle. A hook slithers down the wall as the lockkeeper takes our lines, doors close, the lock fills, doors open and a couple of kilometres later we tie up at an empty La Beaume port to be joined a little later by a hirer who deposits jetons into the water and electricity point, consults maps and, half an hour later, departs leaving us with free water and electricity!

La Beaume with the hireboat which left shortly afterwards.

One task which we have never gotten around to is finishing off the varnish work on our deck boxes so that is what was accomplished the next day, covering everything in sawdust; next time we do a big sanding job it will be on the quayside if possible.

'Before' and 'Sanded'.

The finished product.

Another first was roasting a whole Burgundy chicken in the Weber


Tuesday 11 September – La Beaume to Briennon. 33 kilometers, 4 locks, 6 hours 5 minutes.

Having arranged for lock service at nine in the morning without realising that the lock was twelve kilometres upstream, an early start to Tuesday was necessary. With morning mist promising another beautiful day, we cruised slowly downstream arriving on time at another seven meter rise lock where we are joined by a group of Germans on a Locaboat. At the next lock there is already a boat waiting meaning that the Germans would unfortunately have to wait a full lock cycle while we gaily carried on, past our original planned stopover at Artaix, past the second planned stop at Melay-sur-Loire until we reached a stunning, shady and unplanned stop just outside the town of Briennon

Long stayer?

Old hooks in the lock used by the barges.

Bliss outside Briennon.

Apart from a surprisingly large port (unfortunately the barge museum was closed in preparation for an Autumn Day exhibition) and a stunningly interiored little church, there is not much to Briennon

Closed in preparation for Saturday's fete.

but Pouilly-sous-Charlieu, the town across the river, really bustles and more time could be spent there.

Crossing the Loire to Pouilly.

Thursday 13 September – Briennon to Roanne. 16 kilometres, 3 locks, 3 hours 50 minutes.

The cruise up to Roanne was pretty and uneventful with three very gentle locks, the last being a rise of just half a meter which empties one into the huge port lined with barges and cruisers of every description – there must be close on a hundred boats moored here. The efficient but officious capitain showed us to the reception pontoon, told us to report to his office, issued us with a plethora of useful information, and sent us on our way to our far end, opposite bank, mooring.

A skinny barge.

Locking into the Port of Roanne.

Ours is the white line. Our neighbour obviously did not want his breaking!

During the day the road alongside is busy and noisy but all quietens down at night; seeing so many boats chained to their moorings is disturbing although the Irish couple on our stern who were readying their boat for its fourth year in Roanne said that they had never had a problem. But the lass who worked at the boat repair business said that they had had a lot of ‘trouble’, especially in summer, with gypsies stealing bikes and kids undoing mooring lines and she advised that bikes be locked aboard and the boat be chained to the shore cleat.

The old pedestrianised center of Roanne is guarded from the port by an encirclement of squat apartment buildings

The road going past the port.

A port-side technikon.

and riding through we thougt that we were in a town in Malaysia, so many be-gowned and be-shawled womenfolk there were; in fact the one outdoor clothing market resembled a souk!

The fresh produce market.

The 'souk'.

Once you are past the outskirt ring, the inner town is quite pretty with a sprinkling of ancient wooden fronted houses, three large churches, a fabulous Mairie and lots of little boutiques, boulangeries, restaurants and the like.

The cathedral of Roanne.

As this was a reconnaissance visit we did not dally; provisioning up from the nearby Achun supermarket and the (expensive) delicatessan filled ‘Halles Diderot’ was followed by a long ride out to the commercial area (actually in the neighbouring town) to a massive Castorama hardware shop where epoxy paint for the shower floor, Sikaflex for the window seals, and Le Tonkinois varnish were procured.

We didn’t do justice to Roanne from a sightseeing point of view but in any event it is not a town we would rush back to other than to perhaps over-winter Elle.

Saturday 15 September – Roanne to Melay-sur-Loire. 26 kilometres, 3 locks, 4 hours 40 minutes.

Gliding into the lock at the entrance/exit to Roanne it felt so good to be going downhill again. Bimini down for the single bridge with inconvenient, protruding supports, just outside the town, and then back up again for the rest of the trip, our journey proceeded uneventfully apart from a slight delay at one lock where the lockie had to clear a weed covered log from the gates,

Passing the working chateau again.

The offending log.

and then being stuck for two hours behind the restaurant barge which plies its trade between Briennon and Melay.


By early afternoon we were tied up at the quay at Melay,

a town where I had thought they were having an Autumn Fair the next day. As it turned out, the ‘fair’ was that day but it was a very small affair hardly worth the effort.

He makes a very good Biere Ambre.

Melay main street.

Biking back to boat.

We also knew that there was to be a car boot sale in Briennon on Sunday as well as the barge museum being opened for the tuileries (clay tile manufacture, once an important industry in Roanne and surrounds) expo, so we hopped on the eBikes and pedalled the eleven kilometres back upstream, meandered through the expo, visited the barge museum (unfortunately much of which had been cordoned off to the public for the tile show) and browsed the large and very genuine (i.e. no professional traders) car boot sale.

Clay products.

The peniche interior.

A lovely peniche model - too big for Elle though.

After coffee at the port restaurant we departed back to Melay but now carrying a blue camp plug male to two-pin female adapter (€2) and a nearly new 12 volt Johnson WP2.9 boat shower pump (€10, retails for €83). A successful and enjoyable day but the backsides were relieved to see the bikes back on deck.

There is a pack-donkey hire place near the canal.

This couple came past the port and about fours later went back the other way.
I wonder why they took a mule with them.

Monday 17 September – Melay-sur-Loire to La Beaume. 23 kilometres, 4 locks, 4 hours 45 minutes.

Our intention of going back to La Beaume, virtually deserted last week, was to get some sanding, priming and painting done to our topsides.

The cruise back down was seamless

Passing the halte at Artaix.

One of the deeper locks.

and in no time we were tied up (despite the best efforts of an extremely rude and regulation breaking barge which muscled to the downstream [our end] of the quay, claiming “I was committed”), stern once again poking out into the gentle current so as to avoid being grounded. The place was crowded with camper vans and shortly after we arrived another cruiser, Koraal, pulled in with a lovely Canadian couple, Bruce and Janine, aboard – that evening we met in the shade of the quayside gazebo for sundowners. And now we have met someone who actually follows our blog!

And the next morning we had a downpour of note!

By midday we were once again the only boat in port but we were now surrounded by campervans.

Lynn felt it to be rude to be sanding filler in among the campers so it was upper deck steering wheel restoration for me and cooking and cleaning for Lynn for the rest of the day.

Getting there.

Filler still has to be sanded so the next morning we took ourselves downstream a while, turned around and cruised upstream past the port and then turned around again and cruised back to the exact same spot we had left from half an hour before. But the filler is now flat and painted over with primer. We just need some cooler weather so that we can paint the topcoat.

And on our final day on the Canal de Roanne a Digoin we decided that a restaurant luncheon was deserved; Google Streetview showed a ‘Restaurant, Bar, Pizzeria’ in the hamlet of Chassenard called Le Petit Galet and Google Earth showed a restaurant called La Table de Jeanne – two restaurants in a tiny village? Bikes off and we cycled the kilometre long bridge over the canal (not really a kilometre long but the signpost on the one side of the bridge says ‘Chassenard 4km’ and the signpost at the other side says ‘Chassenard 3km’ thus surely making the bridge one kilometre long?) into the village.


Beautiful Mairie.

Eglise St George.

12thC Roman portal.

Chassenard has a glut of tomatoes!

No Le Petit Galet but in its place is La Table de Jeanne where we had delicious fare – a restaurant deserving of high praise a well worth the effort to get there.

From left to right and top to bottom:
The entrance to the restaurant which is also a hotel.
Aperitif La Table de Jeanne - Cremant with Kir and berries.
Bean amuse bouche
Poached egg with mushrooms and lardons in a rich jus (Oeufs meurette)
Grilled piglet.
Duck Magret.
Our table with the two main courses.
Oops! The Fromage Blanc de creme missed the picture.
Poached peach with strawberry sorbet, and profiteroles with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce..

We waddled out like two stuffed piglets!

Three locks and six and a half kilometers to go and we will be back on the Canal Lateral a la Loire, hopefully in about four hours’ time.

Our home grown mosquito/fly screen as seen from our cabin.