Log #35i To Toulouse

July 24, 2005 in Log Series 30-39, Logs by Series, Series 35 France, The Logs

Begles Marina, La Garonne River

Bordeaux, France

July 24, 2005

Hi Folks,

We are still here in Bordeaux and will be for probably a week or more while we get our new autopilot installed. Nothing is ever simple! It will not attach to our existing quadrant, and a new one may have to be made and installed. Taking out the guts of our old Benmar Cetek was also a long heavy task. More about this SNAFU in the relevant log. Judy may take off for a few days to catch a train up to Paris to visit her sister, niece, and nephew.

Begles Marina in a suburb south of Bordeaux has no breakwater, only pontoons on very solid pillars allowing the swift tidal currents to flow downstream on the ebb, and upstream on the flood. The water is saturated with sand and soil, messing up the lines and hull, and making the water in our toilet bowl quite unappealing. The soil laden swish of the fast currents (4 or 5 knots) around the pontoons and pillars and the surge of Veleda when the river currents reverse themselves are intimidating. There is still a 5 metre tide here in Bordeaux, twice a day.

We hope we can get off within a week or so, as all of France goes on holidays in August! We don’t want to be stuck here until the end of August.

Enjoy the log, and try the salad recipe I put at the end.

All the best,



Log #35i To Toulouse

Begles Marina, La Garonne River

Bordeaux, France

July 20, 2005

July 4, we shoved off from the mud at Castenaudary (PK 65) at 1145 after an early morning rain to do 8 locks and 6.7 miles by 1600, when we were alongside at Partage des Eaux (PK 52), the parting of the waters. This is the highest point of the canals, (189 metres above the Med in 72 locks , the watershed, after which everything is downhill. However, it is still only 1/3 the distance from the Med to Bordeaux and the Bay of Biscay. We moored alongside the canal bank, on the mud again, but able to get ashore using a plank passerelle. The area is a park with magnificent cedar and plane trees, 200 to 400 years old, containing a huge octagonal settling basin for waters coming from the Black Mountain (Montagne Noire) to the north. There is also an obelisk erected by Riquet’s descendants to commemorate his remarkable achievement in constructing the Canal du Midi. We passed our three ladies in their 28 foot boat at the first downbound lock, Ocean, at PK 52.5 at 0905 next morning.

It is easier going “downhill” in the locks, as the turbulence is far less. We are able to use our old technique whereby we loop a line around a bollard, or a post running down the side of the lock if such is available, secure the (bitter) end aboard at the midships cleat, and fend off fore and aft as necessary. The line is led aft through a midships block so I can ease it out as we descend. David was our shore party, jumping off as we entered the lock and securing the line. That day, July 5, from Partage des Eaux we did 13 locks for a distance of 17.5 miles, to moor aground alongside the bank at PK 18.5 at 1715 in the middle of nowhere, just a place we could get close to the bank before grounding.

This was the worst place for flies and mosquitoes. We haven’t been bothered by these very much and leave the companionway open all day, just throwing a mosquito net over it in the evening before they come out. This is another piece of Judy’s handiwork. She got a rectangle of mosquito netting, sewed a hem with shock cord to attach the forward end just forward of the companionway hatch, and lined the other three sides with sewn-in fishing weights that would drape over the edges of the hatchway and the companionway, the weights on the bottom holding it down sufficiently to screen the opening. When we go out, we just lift one side of the net and exit. It allows better air flow than our rigid hatch screen. During the day we fold it up above the hatchway so it is readily available in the early evening. It allows us to move the hatch back and forth if necessary or if we are putting in hatch boards when we leave and lock the boat.

We were nearing Toulouse, which is the end of the Canal du Midi at PK 00. From there it becomes the Canal Lateral a la Garonne, which stretches 193 kilometres to empty into the tidal La Garonne River at Castets-en-Dorthe. About 25 miles downstream, past Bordeaux, the river becomes the Gironde, a long narrow estuary which empties into the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean at Pointe de Grave, across from the town of Royan.

Miscellaneous Notes

1/ I measure distances traveled in Veleda in nautical miles, as that is what our GPS is set for. One nautical mile is about 2025 yards, or about 1.15 statute miles, or about 1.85 kilometres or 1 minute of Latitude. If all that confuses you; just think that a nautical mile is a bit longer than a land mile or a bit less than 2 kilometres. We measure, with the GPS, Veleda’s speed over the ground in knots, and a knot is the speed of one nautical mile per hour. The Pointe Kilometre (PK) is the measure used on the canals and rivers and the chartlets of these waterways.

2/ I am aware there are accents on many of the French names I use, but I seldom key in such as the characters come out differently on other computers.

3/ Below is a summary of our transit through the canals from the Mediterranean at Grau du Roi May 28th, to our arrival in Toulouse July 6th and the end of Canal du Midi:

From / To                                            Distance          Locks  Comments

1/ Grau du Roi to Etang de Thau                     133 km/72 m   0          Departing the Med

2/ Etang du Thau to Partage des Eaux  189 km/102 m   72      Canal du Midi to its height

3/ Ecluse Ocean to Toulouse               51 km/28 m     18        End of Canal du Midi

Total distance = 373 km/202 miles through 90 locks, and beneath 194 bridges to the end of the Canal du Midi at Toulouse.

(I hope the above information comes out OK on your computers. It looks good on mine.)

Next day, June 6th, we left at 0915 as the locks do not open until 0900. They close for an hour between 1230 and 1330, and for the night at 1930. (Actually, there are slightly different hours for different times of the year, and in different canals.) Even the automated locks close for the lunch break! We were stuck in one at 1230, and the cycle did not complete itself until after 1330! The last 7 miles were uneventful as we motored through the eastern suburbs of Toulouse to arrive at 1200, only to find out there was no room at the Port de Plaisance. We topped up a jerrycan with diesel at the port, and went across to secure on the canal wall opposite the marina. It was beside a parking lot and a busy canal-side road. The city noise really bothers me after the quieter rural and pastoral settings of most of the canal. The following day the kindly lady at the port hailed us over, as a space had become available. We were right beside the British barge, Limin’ Times, whom we met in Carcassonne, and across from that other small sailboat with the three ladies on board. A couple of days later the New Zealand sailboat Rehara whom we also met in Carcassonne came in. There were at least a half dozen other British sailboats and barges in the Port de Plaisance.

The lady Port Captain was very friendly and helpful. The office had information on Toulouse including street and transit maps. She gave an excellent recommendation for a restaurant which we enjoyed immensely, and I would rate as the best we have eaten at in France. It is Bistro de l’Etoile, a small corner bistro in the old part of Toulouse, a ten minute walk away from the port, run by a couple of gentlemen and an excellent chef. It had gourmet reviews posted outside giving well deserved high praise for the cuisine. One of the dishes we enjoyed was Salad aux Gesiers. We have subsequently eaten it several times on board Veleda. I have put our version of the recipe at the end of this log for those of you who enjoy trying new ideas. The cost at the bistro was moderate, about 20 Euro for a variety of set menus du jour, one of which included this salad.

More about our exploration of Toulouse in my next log. Enjoy the salad.


Salad aux Gesiers (Salad with Gizzards) for 2


Vinaigrette Dressing

(This is more than needed for this recipe, but is very good as a general salad dressing)

– 1 tsp (5 ml) Dijon mustard

– Juice of 1 lemon

– ½ cup (120 ml) red wine vinegar

– ¾ cup (180 ml) olive oil

– 1 tsp (5 ml) dried tarragon

– ½ tsp (2 ml) salt

– ½ tsp (2 ml) pepper

Mix, add up to ¼ cup (60 ml) water if too sharp tasting.

– 3 cups (700 ml) lettuce, torn into shreds

– 1 spring onion, thinly sliced

– ½ red pepper, in 1 cm x 2 cm pieces

– 1 tomato, cut into small pieces

– 1 small cucumber, thinly sliced

– 200 g of cooked poultry (chicken, turkey, goose, or duck) gizzards. (If you cannot find pre-cooked gizzards, purchase raw ones. Wash them, slice them into 1 cm thick slices, and simmer in salted water to cover for 1 hour. Drain.)

– 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil

Combine the salad greens. Place on two plates or flat bowls.

Saute the sliced gizzards in the oil for about five minutes, till just hot. Distribute over the greens. (You can be artistic with the presentation by distributing the thin slices of cucumber on top of the salad greens in a circular fashion and radiating outwards the sautéed gizzards.)

Dress with vinaigrette to taste. The warm gizzards provide an interesting contrast in temperature, texture, and taste to the green salad.