Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Slowing Down, July 6-8

What became the Canal du Nivernais was first planned in the early 18 century, although logs from the Morvan forests had been floated down the rivers in the area to Paris for over a hundred years before that. The waterway, linking the Loire and Yonne Rivers, was finally opened along it’s length in 1842 after about 60 years of construction. Never a very successful freight route because of it’s many twists, turns and locks and the shallow depth of the Yonne, it came close to abandonment in the 1950’s. However, Pierre-Paul Zivry, who had navigated barges on the waterways of England, convinced the authorities to improve maintenance on the canal and opened France’s first hire boat base at the summit level at Baye in 1964. An industry was born.
It’s a beautiful canal that we first traveled from north to south in 2009. 174 k long with 116 locks with three tunnels and three big lakes at the summit level, it travels through forests and fields. There are no large cities between Decize at it’s southern end and Auxerre at the north, just a collection of typical small French villages. At the southern end it follows the valley of the Aron River. North of Clamecy it ducks in and out of the Yonne River until it’s end. This year we would follow the canal’s path from south to north and we were going to do it very slowly.

After a day spent restocking the shelves and wine rack, we set off from the mooring outside of Decize at the usual 9 am. After clearing the first lock we made our way through the Decize marina and through a second lock out into the bed of the Loire River. Two years ago when we were here the river was in flood and prevented access to the Nivernais but now it was very placid with minimal current and the trip to the first actual Nivernais lock was uneventful. By about 10 we were on the canal proper.
Our first planned stop was a rural mooring just 10 k up the canal and we got there at 1215 to find some bollards in a nice park near the village of Verneuil.

After lunch we rode the bikes into the village, making the obligatory stop at the 15th century church.

Inside, one wall still displayed it’s old frescos.

We also got a chance to check out the ruins of the 12th century chateau but we couldn’t get very close and they are ruins, after all.

Saturday morning we made a quick stop at the moorings in Cercy la Tour as we wanted to fill the water tank. While filling up we had a chat with John and Jo (anne), New Zeelanders on a cruiser. We would share moorings with them several times in the next few days. 
The locks on the Nivernais are all staffed so, this being France, they close from noon to 1 pm. We made our lunch stop in the Isenay lock and had a good view of the nearby chateau, not in ruins.

A typical view from the canal.

After a little over 19 k about 3 pm we were secure in the Pannecot “marina”, a quay at the small campground. We stayed here in 2009 and there’s still not much there but they did build a small restaurant/snack bar that was going to feature entertainment that night. Sometimes you get lucky and the entertainment is good. Sometimes you get unlucky. These two guys must have assumed that volume equals excellence because they were real loud. We think they must have gotten free drinks, too, because they got worse as the night progressed. And what is it with French rock bands and “Knock, Knock, Knocking on Heaven’s Door?” One more time and we’ll scream!
Sunday morning we were headed for our next stop, Fleury, just 8 k away.

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