Sunday, 29 June 2014

PK57 to Besançon/Besançon to Deluz/Deluz to Baume-les-Dames/Baume to I'Isle sur le Doubs

Thursday 26th June
PK57 to Besançon
6 locks, 1 tunnel, 17km
4 3/4 hrs (1 hour waiting at the double lock)

We woke up early again this morning and thought, well, we might as well set off seeing as we are awake.  It was a beautiful morning again, but less wind today.  As we set off we looked behind us to see a small cruiser coming along the canal, they must have set off early from where ever they moored last night.

We went through the first lock and the Thoraise tunnel, with no problems but when we arrived at the Rancenay double lock the lights were on red and when we activated the control box have it gave us a message to say they were aware of a fault and that the VNF had been advised.  The small cruiser that was behind us arrived and then quite a bit later the boat that was moored with us at the weir last night arrived too.  We waited for about an hour before the lock was operational.  We shared the double lock with the small cruiser.  They continued on in front of us and we didn’t see them again.

The river sections were even more stunning, but they need concentration to make sure you keep the recommended distance from the side, and many sections had red and green markers in the river showing us the channel to follow.

We arrived at Besançon by 12.15pm.  The approach to the city by boat with the Citadel overlooking the river is fabulous, and very imposing.  We moored up after lock 51 and before the lock and tunnel that goes under the Citadel. There are two smart looking floating pontoons, totally empty, perfect for us.  One small cruiser arrived late in the afternoon. 

We went for a walk around the city to get our bearings.  Its very surreal, one night moored up in the middle of nowhere, with nature and very black starlit night skies, the next night moored up in a city.  This spot is pretty quiet though, but we’ve had quite a few tour boats come past today.  The tunnel cuts under the Citadel cuts out a large loop of the river, but also gives the two tour boats a circular route for their tours.

Later in the afternoon we climbed up to the Citadel, it was still quite hot, we were glad we didn’t try to walk up there any earlier. After a quick look around before it closed at 6pm, we went for another walk around the town, and we then came back to the boat to freshen up.  Early evening we had a fabulous pizza at an Italian restaurant called Al Sirocco, where they have a traditional pizza oven to cook in.  We then went for another walk around the town, more by the river this time.  We walked through a park by the river where lots of young students in groups of various sizes were enjoying evening picnics, it all looked very idyllic.

Markers showing the channel to follow

Coming out of Thoraise Tunnel
There should have been a curtain of water falling each end of the tunnel, which stops as you activate
the control box, and a light show in the tunnel but it wasn't working when we went through

Traffic jam at a lock that was malfunctioning, waiting for the VNF to arrive

Arriving at Besançon with the Citadel looking down at us


Our mooring at Besançon
The tunnel entrance is just to the left

Friday 27th June
Besançon to Deluz
5 locks, 1 tunnel and 19km
3¾ hours

We were up reasonably early this morning and we went off the find the market they have on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.  It is situated in the Place de la Révolution.  We stocked up on fresh fruit and veg and a cooked chicken.

We informed the lock keeper at the tunnel lock that we wished to leave and he said we could after the next tour boat that was due to come through in 10 minutes.  The tunnel is wide and high, so it caused us no problems. 

We had a peaceful trip to Déluz, where we are moored up on the old town quay.  There are some very nice pontoons in the newish marina they have built, but the floating pontoon fingers are not long enough to take us.  Our mooring spot is just after the bridge in the village, sadly the electric point is no longer working.

We had mostly river to navigate today, with hardly any canal sections. Our last lock was the double lock and it says in our guide that it is manned but we found it to be automatic.  The first chamber had a slidey pole which makes things easier, but the second chamber didn’t have a slidey pole, or any midway bollards in the wall, which a lot of other the deep locks have had on this canal.  I managed to throw my rope over the bollard first time, but I had to stand on the roof to reach.

We had a walk around the village, and found the Boulangerie that is now no longer in business and a bar that also acts as the Post Office, Bread Depot, and Fishing Permit point.  We had a beer, it would have been rude not to!

The other end of the tunnel as we exited

The sign showing the distance (15m) from the bank we had to keep to,
the other side of the sign would say 20m for the downstream traffic

Our mooring at Déluz after the bridge
 Sunday 28th June

Déluz to Baume-les-Dames
6 locks 18km
4 ¼ hrs (1 hour waiting at the first lock)

We set off early again today leaving at 7.50am, but when we got to our first lock at 8am, there were no lights showing.  We were on a river section in a narrow navigable channel and there was nowhere to moor up to enable us to go and get help.  We knew the lock keepers don’t go on duty until 8.30am so we waited, and we waited, but nothing happened at 8.30am.  We managed to get the attention of a passing cyclist and asked him if he could go and use the intercom at the lock to ask for assistance for us.  Annoyingly the lock keepers little office wasn’t by the lock where the intercom is, it was across the road so the cyclist, Jürgen from Berlin, (we found out his name later) couldn’t find it and he was too far away for us to tell him where to look.  At 9am the VNF engineer arrived, the VNF system had told him that the lock didn’t have any power.

The rest of our trip went well and we arrived at Baume-les-Dames at 12.15pm.  There is lots of mooring space but not much available to passing boats, as it’s mostly taken up with smallish cruisers that look like they’ve been here for yonks.  It has been raining on and off today so you feel grubby working the ropes, so after a quick shower and freshen up we had a very nice lunch at the busy restaurant that is just next to our mooring.

The rain stopped, the sun came out, it was extremely humid so we went for a just a quick walk, and we found a large supermarket and fuel station.  Kev went back to get 40 litres of fuel with his trolley, I got some washing on and did some cleaning.  It’s amazing how dirty the boat gets inside and out when you are travelling.

We have had a thunderstorm and its been raining quite hard, we need the rain so we don’t mind.  The whole French canal system seems to be struggling with low water reserves, and we heard yesterday about a barge going aground and getting stuck in a guard lock (56b), at PK60.5 near the Thoraise Tunnel, (where we were on Thursday).  The lock keeper who helped us today told us it could take a little while to raise the water level enough to get it free.  We don’t have a deep draught, only 0.9m so that’s a good thing; but the VNF have said on their website that they want boats to share locks when they can and boats may be asked to wait up to an hour for another boat to join them. 

Our first lock of the day, no lights, not working, no mooring pontoon
Jûrgen our cyclist rescuer looking for the intercom.....
"It's behind you!"

Thank you Jürgen and Mr VNF man for helping us

Beautiful scenery

Or mooring at Baume les Dames

Sunday 29th June
Baume-les-Dames to I’Isle-sur-le-Doubs
30km 13 locks 6½ hours

It rained quite a bit during the night and it was raining at 8am when we were thinking of leaving, 10 minutes later it stopped and after checking the river conditions on the internet and there were no warnings, we decided to go.  It was going to be a long trip today as there are no suitable moorings for 30km.  The mooring at Clerval is no longer permitted, even though they have some very nice floating pontoons.  They were supposedly tricky moorings, near a sandbank, so maybe the town decided it was best not to allow the pontoon to be used.  It rained quite a bit early on this morning, mainly just when we were going into a lock, but it wasn’t too bad.

We helped a fisherman rescue his inflatable boat, which was drifting downstream while he was standing helpless on the bank.  We slowed down and I managed to catch it with the boat hook and we guided it back to him, being careful not to run aground ourselves.  I am not sure what he would have done if we hadn’t appeared because we’ve not seen a boat all day.

We arrived at our mooring at I’Isle-sur-le-Doubs at 3.15pm, it is right opposite a supermarket and fuel station, which is very handy.

We were tired after our trip, but the sun has come out so we will now go off and explore the town, even though as it’s a Sunday everything will be closed.

We have left the river Doubs and will now be on the canal.  

We've enjoyed the spectacular scenery of the river, with the steep, heavily  wooded hills, we seen lots of kingfishers, herons, plenty large fish.  The cows we saw yesterday and today were brown and cream, rather than the more common Charolaise white.   One or two cows in the herd were wearing cowbells, making a clanging noise which seems very Swiss, understandable as we are less than an hours drive from Switzerland.

Oh dear, its now raining very heavily, bouncing off the water, its like being in a car wash, great for washing down the boat!  I am glad we are now off the river, thats pretty good timing.  Not sure if we will go and explore the town now, its too wet.

A happy fisherman after we rescued his inflatable

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Dole to Ranchot/Ranchot to PK57 Osselle

Tuesday 24th June
Dole to Ranchot
6 locks 21km
4 hours

On Tuesday we were woken early by a barge leaving the port at 7am, in the direction we would be heading.  We thought maybe the other barges that moored at Dole yesterday would also be moving off soon.  We know that moorings are scarce on the canal du Rhône au Rhin, so we got up and left by 7.45am.  We needn’t have worried, as we didn’t see another barge all day, even when we were moored up at Ranchot.

We had a lovely trip to Ranchot, alternating between canal sections and river sections.  There was a barge already moored at Ranchot, a couple from New Zealand, Craig and Michelle onboard Avonteur (Apologies Craig and Michelle if I have got the name wrong of your barge).  They were busy doing tarting up jobs on an already very smart barge. 

There is a good boulangerie at Ranchot, and although we didn’t eat there, there was also a nice looking restaurant, plus a bar/pizzeria at the campsite.  We had electric and water, 8 euros for our size boat, it’s a very nice mooring.

Leaving Dole early morning.  The automatic locks open at 7am, we got it at 7.45am

Just after the lock leaving Dole there are beautiful Plane trees

Our mooring at Ranchot

Very clear water with some very big fish

Wednesday 25th June

Ranchot to PK56.5 (stonewall of a weir)
5 locks, 17km
3 ½ hours

We were going to make it a long day today and go straight to Besançon, but we instead decided to head for a rural mooring recommended in our guide, a weir wall, only 17km from Ranchot. 

Yesterday Kev had chatted to Craig and Craig had tales of people not following the recommended channel on the river sections of this canal and damaging their props on rocks, so today, Kev was even more vigilant in keeping to the advised distance from shore.  The guidebooks give the distance from shore guidelines.  We didn’t see any signs actually by the side of the river until we got to this mooring where it does have a physical sign, so a good canal guidebook is essential.

The river is beautiful but you have to concentrate, and the canal sections can be quite narrow in sections.  The water is exceptionally clear in the canal and you can see fish and the shallows on either side of the canal.  We didn’t see any other boat on the canal until after we had moored up at 12 noon. 

Today we’ve observed far more cyclists than boats, I would estimate we’ve seen over 100 cyclists today going along the canal cycle way, it’s obviously a very popular route.  It’s mostly men dressed up in Tour de France gear, but we did see one man dressed in skimpy swimming trunks, and nothing else, and when we looked back at him as he went past us, he had his trunks pulled down to show most of his buttocks!  He’s either an exhibitionist or he didn’t want to get any white bits, or both!

The mooring by the weir is lovely, we do have a railway line opposite but its not intrusive, and we quite like trains. 

Leaving Ranchot

Stunning river

One of the stretches of river that has markers to show the channel

A very picturesque mooring at PK57

Concrete blocks to moor to on the weir wall.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Canal du Rhône au Rhin - St Jean de Losne to Choisey/Choisey to Dole

Saturday 21st June
Canal du Rhône au Rhin
St Jean de Losne to Choisey
8 locks and 19km

We went to the Post Office in St Jean again to see if the package had arrived, it hadn’t.  Yesterday we had managed to purchase the same part at the chandlery at St Jean so we decided not to stay and wait for the parcel to arrive.  It was supposed to be a 48hr delivery by Parcel Force, we believe it will be sent back to the sender if not picked up within 15 days.  We didn’t want to wait any longer at St Jean, there is not much there and it can get expensive wandering around the two very good chandleries!

We left just after 10am, we went back through the St Jean lock down onto the river Saône and travelled 5km up the river to the entrance to the Canal du Rhône au Rhin.  The red light on the lock was showing and there was a boat already going up in the lock so we had to wait our turn floating in the river.  The river was very gentle, not much flow at the moment so it was easy to hold our position and pretty easy to get onto the lock, but we imagine it would be a bit of a challenge if there was a flow on the river.  

There was a lock keeper there to take our ropes, and he gave us a control box with full instructions to work all the automatic locks.  The lock system seems to be very good, and it is truly automatic, so you don’t need to let the lock keepers know of your next stop, or when you are moving on, which makes a makes a nice change. 

It has been busy on this canal. Not too busy, but busier than any of the other canals we’ve been on so far this year, there is a Nichols boat hire centre at Dole, so we have seen a lot of their boats around.

We stopped at a place called Choisey, an attractive old village.  It has a smart floating pontoon, picnic area and a drinking water tap in the car park to fill up bottles. 

We cycled the 0.75km up a hill to a big supermarket and bought some fresh fish thinking we’d eat it that night.  Our plans changed because after taking our shopping back to the boat, we then cycled the 3km along the canal cycle route to Dole.  It is a national music Festival this weekend and the town was full of musicians and bands setting up to play all around the town, so we stayed for the evening and drank beer in a bar and got a chicken burger takeaway that we were allowed to eat while drinking our beer.  The chicken burger was delicious, and exceeded our expectations; we never thought we’d say that!  (I have to admit we drank quite a bit of beer so maybe that influenced us!)  We had an easy cycle back to Choisey, just as it was getting dark, being bombarded with insects, but managing not to swallow any.  We were pleased we didn’t moor in Dole as it would have been really noisy in the port.

5km up the Saône we came to the lock entrance to the Canal Rhone au Rhin

The lock getting ready for us to enter as we float around on the River Saône

The control unit we were given to operate the locks

A band setting up to play in the evening at Dole

Beautiful windows in the Church

The pub is called Northwich, Dole is twinned with Northwich UK
Sunday 22nd June

We decided to stay another day at Choisey, it’s a lovely spot, with water lilies lining the canal, frogs croaking, (they do make a bit of a racket at night), constant bird song, and there is a church clock that rings on the hour, and then repeats 5 minutes after the hour, day and night.

We walked back up to the supermarket with our jerry cans and trolley, and we bought 40 litres of fuel. The fuel station is open 24/7, but the huge supermarket was closed; it is so nice to see that Sunday is really a day of rest in France.


Our mooring at Choisey, more boats arrived later

Another view of our mooring at Choisey
Monday 23rd June
Choisey to Dole
2 locks and 4.5km

We got up fairly early and left Choisey at 8.30am to arrive at Dole an hour later.
There was plenty of space to moor for us along the sloping quay, but as the day has progressed more and more boats have arrived.  As it is Monday most of the shops are closed, as well as most of the restaurants, but we found a one open that is in an old chapel, with a beautiful vaulted ceiling and we had a very nice lunch.  We had another good walk around the town, it was much quieter today without all the musicians and bands playing.

Early evening a barge called Beauregard arrived, there was no space for them so we offered for them to moor alongside.  They stay a few minutes and we chatted introducing ourselves, and then a space behind us became available so we helped them move their boat back.  We later invited Gary and Robin, (from Australia) onboard for a few glasses of wine and we had fun talking about boats, Roanne and people we knew in common from Roanne, as they winter their boat in Roanne.

We are now sitting on the back deck with quite heavy rain falling, we are not unhappy about the rain as it will cool the air, and we have heard that some of the canals are low on water so we need some rain or we might not make it up the canal de Bourgogne at the end of the summer to our proposed winter mooring at Migennes


After a  short section on the River Doubs, and a left turn to go into the lock

Beautiful flowers in Dole

Dole is the birthplace of Louis Pasteur

Our mooring at Dole

Our extra long gang plank has come in handy