Saturday, 27 October 2018

Canal Lateral a la Loire: Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre – Léré – Beaulieu-sur-Loire – Châtillon-sur-Loire – Briare. The final days cruising.

20 October to 28 October 2018. 56,5 kilometers, 11 locks.

Saturday 20 October - Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre to Léré. 18 kilometers, 3 locks, 3 hours 5 minutes.

On a very grey and cool morning (read ‘freezing’) it was off on one of our longer legs in this the last stage of our cruising season, past the tacky port at St Thibault,

The banner reflects the pride they have in their port.

past the one pony town of Bannay

Another 'half-a-church'?

Bannay 'halte'.

and, with the mist lifting and the huge cooling towers of the nuclear power station at Belleville-sur-Loire hoveing into sight,

we tied up at the small but very pleasant port of Léré with its free facilities including a spotless ablution block with a shower, toilets and a hand-basin.

A short walk finds us shopping at the tiny Proximarche for a baguette, some tomatoes and a bottle of milk.

Very old and for sale.
Note the date on the door.

Turning up a tree-lined lane our footsteps take us to the ‘main’ road,

A lovely wash-house.

past the huge church into which we did not peek into as the sounds of hymns indicated that the Sunday morning service was in full voice.

Past the bar/tabac, the florist and the boulangerie and then up another road to the hotel with its favourably reviewed restaurant La GaietéLéréenne, an about turn and we were soon back at Elle. On our first evening the port was packed with hirers (and three long-stayers) but in the morning all went on their way and, with the wind blowing from the north and away from the other boats, we sanded and filled and sanded and sewed hatch covers.

A pleasant little stopover is Léré.

The opposite bank.

Monday 22 October – Léré to Beaulieu-sur-Loire. 9 kilometers, 2 locks, 2 hours 10 minutes.

A late start saw us at the first lock at the designated ten thirty but no lockie to be seen but after a phone call he arrived

and by eleven we were able to slide into the perfectly still space and get on our way. The same lockie followed us to the next lock at Mainbray and, on inquiring who we should call for lock service after our stay ay Beaulieu, he said that there were no more locks between Beaulieu and Briare – what I thought were locks are check locks, the doors of which stay open unless there is flooding.

Another little rural mooring with free services,

a small town on top of a low hill, a closed Mairie which meant that we could not obtain the key to the rather magnificent church, and some bits and bobs shops, mostly closed.

Unusual building for a town hall.

The pretty pedestrian business area.

We shared the mooring each night with one small Locaboat, each of which moored at the very downstream end of the quay and as far away from us as they could get which enabled us to do a last bit of sanding and to apply a patchwork of mismatched paint colour to all the filled spots. It can stay like that until next year – the problem has been that the mist often only lifts at midday and then, being so cool, it takes ages for the decks to be dry enough to sand, And then its evening and the dew-point cycle starts once again.

We had one major concern – we had forgotten that we had run out of biocide, the additive that gets added to our diesel tank to avoid the dreaded diesel bug. Lynn called the Port of Briare (David, the new co-capitaine, does not speak a word of English), the Locaboat and le Boat bases but to no avail. Eventually the internet took me to Wynns French head office website and a super-efficient person directed me to their on-line shop, assuring me that if an order was placed before two o’clock, the package would be delivered the day after we arrived in Briare. Order promptly completed, by the following morning I had received four emails showing the progress of the consignment! Service par excellence!

Wednesday 24 October – Beaulieu-sur-Loire to Châtillon-sur-Loire. 8 kilometers, 2 locks, 1 hour 50 minutes.

While the early morning seemed to promise clear skies earlier rather than later, despite the 5C temperature, it was with some disappointment that we set off after ten with grey, misty skies but the late departure gave us time to do some preparatory pre-winterising; packing away paint tins, sorting out the forepeak, doing a final pack of the suitcases and making lists of what still had to be done.

After just over an hours cruising

We never found out what this structure was - part of the original bridge perhaps?

She's out late in the season - apart from hirers, I thought we had the canals to ourselves.
Turns out that they are based in Chatillon for winter and were doin a test run.

The old Chatillon embranchment, now closed.

we were tied up at a lovely long pontoon outside the le Boat base at Châtillon-sur-Loire,

Murals in the port...

Lynn having cleaned some off our anti-fouling smeared fenders on the way. A fifteen minute walk saw us come away from the pretty village

...and in the village. This one on the wall of the La Poste.

Girl in yellow dress and RL Stevenson.

The Mairie.

with a piece of faux fillet, a sweet potato and a bottle of milk. A bit more winterizing work

Scrubbing bimini's.

and the Weber came out for the last time this year – once again this gift from Ian and Sian has served us more than well!

Thursday 25 October – Châtillon-sur-Loire to Briare. 10,5 kilometers, 3 locks, 2 hours 15 minutes.

Our final day’s cruise of 2018 was perhaps the most tense of the whole season.

All started off well enough: Grey, leaden skies but calm and cold.

Wood stoves are being lit.

Up until the Briare embranchment the Fluviale guide is very good

The famous Briare aqueduct.

662 meters long and 11,5 meters wide.

Karoo skaap browsing in the Loire valley below us.

Briare in the distance.

but the stretch up to the double-back at the highway overpass is useless, missing a couple of bridges and leaving one in doubt as to whether the turnoff to the Port de Plaisance has been missed or not. Chugging along past boats moored haphazardly beyond the Canalous base, it seemed an eternity before we reached the sharp left hand turn but we eventually did despite a close encounter with a hotel boat heading upstream.

And as you turn back toward Briare there is a lock – luckily for us there was a lockkeeper in attendance, a large chappie with a SwampMan beard, possibly born and bred in the UK but speaking French with an English accent – very odd.

I’m digressing. We enter the lock and SwampMan hits the activation button but as I mention that we have seen a sign on the lock wall stating that the maximum draft on this piece of canal is 1,2 meters, very close for comfort for our draft of 1,15 meters, he hits the red ‘deactivate’ button. “Non! You are not going to make it – after the second lock you will damage your boat. How long are you going to Briare for – one night? “No, for the whole winter…so we have to try to get through”. “Okay but the responsibility is yours – just keep to the middle of the canal and if you hit ground you cannot turn there so you will have to reverse unless you are stuck”. A heart-warming discussion for the last two kilometres of our six months cruise!

Lock empties, chugalug to the next lock with all taps running to drain our water tanks which are situated on the stern, lock empties and we drive/drift, Lynn perched like a figurehead on the bow to raise the stern even a little, the longest one kilometre of our entire cruising lives.

Not scraping once, we arrive at the final lock of the season,

right outside the Capitainerie who the lockie had called to say that we were on our way but might have problems. Thanks Fella – we owe you one.

Tied up to our ‘slot’ it was the frustrating task of finishing winterizing (thank goodness our ‘diesel bug’ additive arrived), finalising the myriad travel arrangements we seem to have to sort out, a cycle around the town

The nougat stall...

These guys jokingly said "No photographs - we are supposed to be working!"

Briare's other dominant feature.

Doggies dressed for winter.

and that is the end of our 2018 cruise.

We're in there somewhere about half way down.

Some stats: 177 days aboard, 1,655 kilometers, 346 locks, 22 assorted tunnels and moving bridges, 272 engine hours, 1,049 liters diesel used, approximately 12,000 liters of water.

À l'année prochaine!