Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Friday, July 6, 2018

Down (or up) the Vosges, June 3-7

It took from 9 am until about 1:30 pm to do the 18 locks (13 up and 5 down) on the Nancy brach canal; the longest gap between locks was the dividing pound which we were in for all of 20 minutes. Luckily, we were one of the few boats on the canal and the locks, all being automatic and in chains, meant there was very little waiting. Next we entered the Canal des Vosges, formerly known by it’s much more romantic name, the Canal de l’Est, (Branche Sud).

The idea of linking the Saone and Mosell Rivers goes back to Roman times but it wasn’t until the invention of the lock technology that it became feasible. The loss of Lorraine to the Prussians after the 1871 war made the canal more urgent so that French traffic would not have to pass through hostile territory. Construction began in 1874 and was completed in 1882. 
We entered the canal just south of it’s northern end, avoiding the heavily industrialized larger gauge section around the steel mills at Neuves-Maison and made our Sunday night stop at a very pretty rural tie up in the trees near Flavigny-sur-Mosell. The second night was an even more quiet spot.

The view of the canal from behind the wheel.

In Southern California we don’t have many song birds. The occasional mockingbird, doves and pigeons, and of course, crows, are really the only birds that make much noise. In these mixed northern forests, though, there is a symphony of birdsong. It starts when the sun comes up and doesn’t stop until sunset. It really is a wonderful soundscape when cruising through the forests.

Tuesday night was spent in the not very charming village of Charmes. When we were here in 2010 (we didn't stop in 2016) we were able to use a good quay away from the “camping cars” but now that space is taken up with permanently moored boats and the only place is on a sloping bank with not enough mooring points and the rv’ers practically in the wheelhouse. Not recommended.

We did get a look at the stork nests in the tops of the trees on the other side of the canal.

We left Wednesday morning to our next destination about 18 k and 11 locks away, Thaon les Vosges.
There are two mooring spots in Thaon; one in what we guess is a retail park that never quite got off the ground. There is a very nice quay with bollards but just a big unmowed field and beyond it the back of a big grocery store. We made a quick stop for a few supplies and then headed through one lock (#20 named Abbatoir. We went through quickly!) to another set of bankside mooring near a park. 

Along with fishing, one of the favorite past time of the French is the game of petanque, kind of like boules with steel balls. It can be played anywhere there is a relatively flat, fine gravel surface. Tree roots, divots and clumps of grass are part of the challenge. Some towns have big indoor spaces so the game can be played year-round. Like boules, the object is to get your (or your team’s) balls closest to the “jack.” Barring that, it’s good strategy to knock your opponents balls away from it’s target.
Thaon has a very elaborate outdoor petanque space and when we arrived it was humming with activity. We took our set of balls and when off to a quiet corner far away from everybody else to “practice”. Beer was involved.

Everybody’s gone home now. It’s dinner time.
We had front row seats from the boat.

Another interesting feature of town is the Rotunde.
Built by the towns “upper crust” as a place to entertain the workers and their families, it’s now a festival and event space.

It has a great glass art nouveau ceiling.

Thursday morning it was off at the crack of 9 am. We had to climb the “Golbey Staircase”, 15 locks in about 3 k to reach the summit pound of the canal, often leaving one lock and nearly directly into the next. It would be downhill for quite awhile after we reached to top.

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