Log #18l Canal de la Marne a la Saone

January 8, 2001 in Log Series 11 - 19, Logs by Series, Series 18 France, The Logs

Log #18l Canal de la Marne a la Saone

Written at Barcelona
Jan. 8, 2001
Covers the period Nov. 17 to Nov. 21, 2000

This stretch of canal from Vitry-le-François is called the Canal de la Marne a la Saone, and is the final stretch of the Marne route, crossing the watershed over to the Saone River. The Marne goes westward, emptying into the Seine which in turn flows northward emptying into the English Channel. The Saone flows south from the Vosges Mountains into the Rhone River and down to the Mediterranean near Marseilles. On this canal the distances are measured in kilometers from Vitry-le-François, even though I talk about nautical miles traveled. On the “Navicarte” the PK’s (Pointe Kilometrique)  indicate the locations, and so Joinville where we stayed last night is at PK 63, (ie. 63 kilometers from Vitry).

We started off from Joinville at 0830 for another day of motoring and going through locks every two or three kilometers. We didn’t go very far as we were calculating where to spend the Sunday, a closed day for the canal locks, and today was Friday. We went to the pleasant small town of Froncles, at PK 84.4 a distance of 11.7 nautical miles and 9 locks from Joinville. We arrived at 1245, mooring just past the bridge, and in time to walk over town to the local chateau, now a restaurant, for a traditional, delicious, set, three course lunch, no questions asked, no alternatives, and economically priced at 50 Ff. We had a pleasant walk around the town, enjoying the narrow old streets, a sprawling lumber company, a new subdivision on the outskirts, all stores closed for the two hours from 1230 to 1430, and a pleasant canal-side park meandering between the canal and the narrowing and faster flowing Marne River.

Weather was still cool, grey and drizzly as we left at 0830 next day heading for the Port de Plaisance at Chaumont (48 07.1N, 005 09.7E), an ancient walled town, in order to spend a quiet Sunday alongside. It was another heavy day from PK 84.4 to PK 110, a distance of 13.4 nautical miles through 12 locks. The Port de Plaisance was closed, so there was no power, no water, no washrooms, – just us. It was a bit of a downer as the town was a long 2 to 4 kilometer walk, uphill, that neither of us had the ambition to make. So we stayed on board for the Saturday and Sunday catching up on odd jobs.

I had a log ready to go, and we found a very accommodating Bridge club just getting ready for an afternoon’s game of bridge. The director showed us the telephone and we logged on and sent out E-mail. However, by the time we were about to get on line, the club had settled down to some serious silent bridge. Then my laptop loudly says, “Welcome to AOL Canada”, and we get some dirty looks, while I Gaullically shrug helplessly. Then a minute later the laptop declares, “You have mail!” More looks and a sappy helpless grimace on my face. However, we got our mail and sent off several, and of course the laptop had to get the last word in with a cheery, “Goodby” as I signed off. The director refused to accept any money for the 5 minutes we were on, so we thanked him profusely and apologized for any disturbance.

Monday was cold (6 C.), and grey as we left at 0720, before sunrise which was at 0753. It was another heavy day in which we traveled 20.6 nautical miles, going through a record 25 locks, and not stopping until we got to Langres, PK 149 (47 52.9N, 005 20.4E) at 1630. We were able to take on water at Lock #20. The eclusiers on this stretch were not always ready for us, even though we were the only vessel transiting the system, as we met no other vessels all day. One lock, #11, did not open, so after 5 minutes, I landed Judy below the lock. She then emptied it and opened the gates for me to manouever Veleda in, and as she began closing the gates, the eclusier showed up. In lock #10 we were accompanied by a muskrat swimming around inside the lock. As we were out of bread, we stopped at Relamport at 1330 for supplies. No luck. It was lunchtime and nothing would be open until 1500. So on we pressed.

At Langres was another nice looking Port de Plaisance, but closed for the season. At least we were able to hook up to shore power. Judy made some bread and we took a loaf over to Caramba, a large British yacht astern of us. It had just come up the Saone River and went through the long tunnel that marks the summit of the canal. They made two points that caused us some concern. One was that the Saone might be closed to navigation because of high water levels and fast currents. The other was the narrowness of the tunnel, as the channel did not go down the center of the tunnel, but off to one side, as there was a concrete walkway along one side. However they were a much bigger boat than we, so we were not concerned too much about the tunnel, but did not want a delay because of the river being closed to navigation. Langres is a town on a plateau overlooking the river, similar to Chaumont, and still protected by 3 kilometers of ancient ramparts, enclosing a Gallo-Roman fortress, and a cathedral and several mediaeval churches. We could see the ramparts from the canal side, but were too tired to hike the two or three kilometers uphill to the town. With time, and in season this would be a most pleasant stop.

The next morning we didn’t leave until 0900, as we were waiting for the Boulangerie truck to come, as announced on the notice board. I really didn’t think it would come out of season, but it did. So with Judy’s bread and fresh croissants and baguettes, we set off in another grey cold (3 C.) drizzly day. This was the day we crossed the watersheds and went through the 5 km  Balesmes tunnel into the Saone system.

After two locks , we were in the long concrete walled approach to the tunnel. The black arch was side lighted on the right hand side, and the lights stretched into the darkness like an illuminated wand. As we passed through the entrance, we were aware we had to keep to the left of center , for the concrete walk was on the right. We couldn’t go too far to the left side as the roof arched down, and we could easily have scrapped to mast or the wind generator tower on the sides of the tunnel. Then my glasses fogged up!

More later.