Log #35d Entry into the Canal du Midi

July 7, 2005 in Log Series 30-39, Logs by Series, Series 35 France, The Logs

NOTE: This is a second log I wrote by mistake about the same topic, and thus did not send it out. Some of the material I have copied and will include in other logs.

Toulouse, Canal du Midi, France

July 7, 2005

Hi Folks,

This is the first chance to send E-mail since leaving Carcassonne on July 2nd. We have had an interesting time going through the Canal du Midi, which ends here at Toulouse. From Toulouse we go on to Bordeaux via the Canal Lateral de la Garonne for 193 kilometres. At least now we are going downhill, an easier trip through the locks than when ascending. More about the canals and the interesting villages en route in my next logs.

All the best,

Aubrey


 

Log #35d Entry into the Canal du Midi
Carcassonne, Canal du Midi, Languedoc

France

July 2, 2005

We actually left Carcassonne this morning and are now aground alongside the canal bank at PK 83 just before Port de Bram. PK refers to Pointe de Kilometre as measured from Toulouse in the Canal du Midi. Where we were in Carcassonne was at PK 107, where we spent 2 ½ weeks while I went back to Canada for my granddaughter’s wedding in Winnipeg, to see friends and family in the Toronto area, and to reunite with my daughter Kathy. Judy stayed with Veleda as we were not in a marina but alongside the canal bank close to the train station in Carcassonne.

In my last log #35c we got out of the delightful Sts. Maries on May 27 after some last minute shopping and headed to Port Camargue, the largest marina in the French Med, to take down our mast in preparation for going up the Canal du Midi to the Biscay coast past Bordeaux and near La Rochelle. After motoring our last 20 miles in the Med we arrived at Port Camargue in the Rhone Delta. We were told they would not be able to take our mast down for four more days as it was a Friday, they did not work Saturday, and Monday was booked. However the receptionist was quite co-operative, and found that we could have the mast taken down next day at 0800 in Grau du Roi, at the entrance to the canal. Good; we confirmed the time and location and said we would be there. We then went alongside their Quai O (43˚ 31.18’N, 004˚ 07.65’E), where we had water and shore power, to assemble our cradles for the mast. It was a very busy night assembling and erecting the two goal post cradles from wood purchased and cut in Sts. Maries, taking off the boom (sail and battens still attached), and loosening the stays and shrouds supporting the mast in preparation for an expeditious hauling of the mast next day, ready to secure it to the cradles for our two month journey through the Canal du Midi to the Atlantic Ocean on the Bay of Biscay.

Next day we motored the 1.6 miles across the outer bay into the canal at Grau du Roi, finally leaving the Mediterranean after 4½ years (when we initially thought to spend one or, at most, two years) awaiting the opening of the 0800 bridge. Off to port was the boat yard, Chantier Spano, where we went alongside beneath the crane, and awaited the dockyard mateys. Hah! Twenty minutes later a casual portly worker came down and told us to change to a bows-to mooring for the haulout of our mast. OK, a first time for everything. We did a cold shift (no engine) with help from an adjacent boat to which we tied alongside. We were ready!

Since we hauled our mast each year in October for the winter, and replaced it in May at our yacht club in Toronto (the Toronto Hydroplane and Sailing Club), we were comfortable with the process, and had it out and laid across our two goal post cradles within an hour. For the goal post cradles we had made fore and aft brackets to give added stability, but not side to side ones. The boatyard recommended side brackets and gave us four pieces of plywood and nails to tack across the upper plank at the corners. These gave very good anti-sway protection both fore and aft as well as side to side for the cradles. Then came the fun of securing the mast and boom, and lowering the wind generator to provide low enough air draft to get under the bridges. To lower the wind generator we had to reverse the bows-to mooring to a stern-to mooring. Lots of fun! Our mast has an 8 foot overhang, and as we rotated Veleda in another cold move, it scratched another boat on the hard ahead of us. Fortunately the owner was aboard and was helping us and disregarded another scratch on his old boat, on the hard for repairs anyways. Thank heavens it was not a millionaire’s yacht! Now we were stern-to and could access the top of the mast and the wind generator which overhung the jetty.

Judy removed the generator OK, but when we came to lower the tower it separated at the base and came right off! I was not unhappy, as I was thinking of removing it anyways, as the generator does not produce enough power for our usage, especially with refrigeration. Now the decision was made for us. While the top of the mast was over the dock, I looked at our masthead anchor light, which had not worked well for the past couple of years. The bulb was OK, but the lugs which held it in place were corroded away, not giving a firm contact. I replaced the bulb. Hopefully it will work properly when we step the mast at the end of the canal.

July 3, 2005

 

Today is our 7th anniversary. It has been 7 years since we left the Toronto Hydroplane and Sailing Club on Veleda for our retirement cruising. Tonight, David is taking us out for dinner here in Castelnaudary. We have been home several times, but Veleda has not seen Canadian waters since August of 1998.

 

On with the log!

I was anxious about the height of the mast at the bow, as the published air draft for the Canal du Midi is only 3.3 metres, and the depth 1.4 metres. Judy had carefully measured the height of the forward goal post to be sure that the mast on top of it would be below the minimum air draft. She calculated the mast would be 3.1 metres, sufficient for the lowest bridge, but high enough above the foredeck to give us headroom without having to duck under when working the bow lines. However, since the forward goal post was higher than the after one, the mast extending beyond the bowsprit was angled upwards and possibly higher than the minimum air draft! I felt we had to lower the forward goal post to be on the safe side. How and where?!

Depth was another concern as we have a draft of 4 ½ feet or exactly 1.4 metres. We will be plowing furrows along the bottom in several places, I suspect.

The charge for lowering the mast was only 70 Euros (about $110.00 Canadian). We stayed stern-to for the night as there was no other business for the boat yard on the Saturday. In the evening Judy and I took Sprite up the canal a bit to check out the first bridge and to go alongside in Grau du Roi to wander around this touristy town. It was … a touristy town.

Next morning, June 29th, we were off up the Chenal Maritime (Channel to the Sea), 3 miles to Aigues Morte. In retrospect, when we came down the Rhone to the Med 4 ½ years ago, I wish we had exited the Petite Rhone here rather than at Sete, where we were stuck between the bridges for Christmas in 2000. This would be a good exit for any boats coming down the Rhone heading west to the Balearics or Barcelona, with mast cranes at Aigues Mortes, Grau du Roi and Port Camargue.

At Aigues Morte, a medieval walled town, we went alongside the town halte, a Port de Plaisance for which we would have to pay a marina fee. Rather than stay there to meet our friends, Tony and Annie Cook from Toronto in a few days, we decided to head up the Canal du Rhône à Sète to the town of St. Gilles. We found a free wooden mooring dock a kilometre below the town where we stayed overnight. It was idyllic, with lowlands and marshes on both sides, no civilization around, other than two boats upstream of us; a Belgian husband and wife and a Dutch single-hander. Next morning we took Sprite up into town for some supplies and to tour the 12th century church and abbey of St Gilles, who was an 8th century hermit who took refuge here.

After our second night below St. Gilles, we made our way back to Aigues Morte to tour the medieval walled town and await Tony and Annie before setting off up the Canal du Rhone à Sete for the Canal du Midi.