Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Canal Lateral a la Loire: La Beaume – Pierrefitte-sur-Loing – Diou – Garnat-sur-Loire – Decize.

21 September to 2 October 2018. 73,6 kilometers, 18 locks.

Friday 21 September – La Beaume to Pierrefitte-sur-Loire. 20,6 kilometers, 5 locks, 4 hours.

The day started beautifully with hardly a breath of wind and puffy white clouds dotting the bright, blue sky. Through the last three locks of the Canal de Roanne a Digoin without incidence

and in no time we were doing the left-hand turn back onto the autumn leaf garnished Canal Lateral a la Loire,

past Coulanges (one of our possible stopping places) as the authorities have closed down the power and water point,

and through the two locks before Pierrefitte where the lockie kept the lock open well into his lunch hour so that we could get through without delay.

Part of the Bar allure.

The weather had changed by the time we reached the mooring with strong ‘offshore’ gusts making life a bit tricky and no sooner had we ducked back inside after securing our lines than a truck accompanied by a front end loader and a steam-roller arrived, dumped a pile of asphalt on the small road right next to us, and the team proceeded to resurface the road, their equipment making a real racket. So we upped lines and towed Elle to the first mooring space in the halte where it was evident that no resurfacing would be taking place.

And then the rain came lashing down, our noisy team packed it in, and Elle was covered in cherry tree leaves. When the rain eventually stopped, we towed Elle back to our original spot as we will need sun on the solar panels.

Unfortunately there is another barge in port and as they are busy painting we cannot take a chance and do some sanding even if the wind is blowing away from them – one swirling gust could end up with their wet paint being covered in filler and primer dust!

As quaint as it is, there is not much to Pierrefitte – a small Proximarche, a delightful café/general dealer/bar/pain depot, an old (locked) church, and a couple of people.

The very pretty little bistro/general dealer/pain depot/coffee shop.

Adjacent to the mooring is a big lake with an artificial beach on the far side – it must have been packed during the August holiday heatwave.

Lynn helped this guy to land his carp.

Later that evening we were joined by two other barges, one most beautifully turned out but possibly not fitted with a steering wheel as the lady driver really abused the bow thruster to make her mooring.

And then ran her generator for from six until eight in the evening while she did her laundry.

Sunday 23 September – Pierrefitte-sur-Loire to Diou. 10 kilometers, 2 locks, 2 hours 20 minites.

Fresh breeze!

With wind on her windward beam, she bow-thrusted out of her mooring
until she hit the opposite bank!

Definitely a change in the weather – at first light it was 9C and the forecast was for wind gusting to nearly sixty kilometres an hour. At the second lock we were delayed as our previous night’s neighbours aboard bow thruster steered Festina Tardê, who had left an hour earlier than us, had just entered the lock three and a half kilometres from Pierrefitte, and then we had to wait for an upcoming boat; we ended up moving to the side and getting stuck in the mud so had to do some serious bow thrusting ourselves to extricate Elle.

Arriving at Diou the forty meter quay was full – two small, deserted long-stayers, an English wide beam canal boat and a narrow boat. Bow in and bum out we looked a bit silly but it was far too shallow to moor normally against the steel shuttering.

Diou is another almost deserted, small French town, straggled along the road between Digoin and Decize but it also had a small Proxymarche and a scattering of other small shops.

Nearby Dompierre-sur-Besbre was to be our next destination but we were a bit concerned about water levels with our guide giving a draught of 1.2 meters on the Besbre Embranchment off the main canal. So we jumped on the bikes and took the main road shortcut to the town, touched in at the Locaboat base who confirmed that because of the lack of rain the depth had dropped to 1.1 meters in places making it impossible for our 1.15 draught to navigate to the town.
But we stocked up on hardware at the Weldon and food and wine at the Atac and thoroughly enjoyed the pretty, flower bedecked town.

The six kilometre ride back along the cycle path was much more enjoyable barring the fact that just short of arriving back at Elle I didn’t see a sharp, steel barrier-stopper and ended up with a punctured front tire.

Talking of the weather, the first light temperature on our first morning was 18C and on the second morning it was 8C!

Tuesday 25 September – Diou to Garnat-sur-Loire. 15 kilometers,  4 locks, 4 hours 40 minutes.

Casting off in time to catch our nine o’clock lock-through, we are passed by the narrow boat which had been moored upstream of us and so we have a lock-through partner, something the skipper did not look too happy about.

But first, on attempting to turn into the canal center I discover that the steering has jammed – has a log stuck between our rudders? Nothing will get the wheel to turn; cabin contents are sent flying as the lockers to the steering mechanisms are opened and the mechanisms are checked. All seems in order and then Lynn suggests that we try the downstairs steering position to see if that is working. Ping! Looking down at the alternative steering lever which allows control to change from the bridge to the saloon I see that it has been knocked down during our post-sanding clean-up, effectively locking the upper steering wheel. A simple flick and we are on our way again – relief!

On arrival at the lock we tie up behind the narrow boat as there is no lockkeeper.

Fifteen minutes later we call the lockie from the previous lock who had said he would call this keeper and let him know our timing – he says that he will attend to it and ten minutes later the VNF van arrives and fifty minutes after our arrival we leave the gates behind us. The narrow boat sticks rigidly to the maximum six kilometres an hour, the speed limit on this canal but more often than not hovering around five, safe in the knowledge that he will make his next port of Beaulon well before lock lunch hour; but we have and extra lock to do after Beaulon and with the initial delay we will be cutting it fine. At the Beaulon lock, with half an hour and two kilometres to go we think we have plenty of time to make the next lock at least ten minutes before before twelve but the lockkeeper says that he will not operate the lock until after lunchtime. So we sit in the lock for an hour sanding filler!

On arrival at Garnet there is a small Locaboat filling up with water on the sloping stone quay but he soon departs as we tie up in glorious solitude on the rather incongruous pontoon.

The view from our stern.

Down the one side of the port.

I don’t bother going into the tiny town but Lynn takes the walk returning with a baguette and the news that apart from the boulangerie and a small church there is nothing else of interest – “Maybe there is a shop  at the filling station further down the main through-road but that’s at least another kilometre away and I didn’t feel like walking to it”.

Thursday 27 September – Garnat-sur-Loire to Decize. 28 kilometers, 7 locks, 5 hours 15 minutes.

Bundled up against the single digit morning temperature, another early start enabled us to catch the nine o’clock lock opening just over four kilometres downstream.

And then it was on our languid way with all locks being prepared for us in advance thus minimizing delays, passing familiar boats moored up for winter in the Entente Marine port


Hoop Doet Leven

A part of the Entente marina.

until the penultimate lock before the turn into the Decize port, where we spent lockie lunchtime on yet more maintenance.

Sadly, abandoned.

The lockkeeper's house at the last lock before the Decize turnoff.
This part of our trip will be remembered for grinding out old filler, applying new epoxy filler, grinding that smooth, applying primer, sanding that smooth, sanding woodwork – dust and more dust! And then painting and varnishing.

Our visit to Decize disappeared in a bit of a blur of shopping at the nearby Intermarche, the not so nearby Carrefour and Leclerc and any other outlet where we might have been lucky enough to source some epoxy filler, varnishing the saloon table and, our biggest painting challenge to date, painting the lower coachroof and upper window surrounds; ‘roll and tip’ is not an easy process but we think we did quite a credible job – of the first coat.

Painter Lynn sporting her much-hated 'short back and sides'.

The day of the SA vs Ozzie rugby game - the hireboat on our bow was packed with Australians...

Lots more to do over the next three weeks.

Sadly, unlike last year, we did no sightseeing of this lovely town – but we did have semi-Saffers, Bill and Vicky from barge Eugenie, over for sundowners.

We also had to discard our Belgian Antargaz (manufacturers name) gas bottle as the Antargaz cylinders in France are a different colour and no-one will exchange them. Same fittings, same size, same everything but “Non, ne pas la meme”.

This morning we will fill up with fuel at the port where the price apparently has stayed the same at €1.54 for the past few years – very expensive when Brent was at $30 a barrel but now comparing most favourably with the Intermarche price of €1.49 a litre. And then it’s on to uncharted waters as we by-pass last year’s Nivernais canal turnoff and head in a northerly direction for a few more weeks.


  1. Shaun congratulations for your birthday on the 15th October hope you have good one.

  2. I’m very impressed with your discipline - sanding and painting during lunch in a lock. We need a full day free before we venture into maintenance!

    1. At the moment and with time running out fast, any opportunity for maintenance will do.