Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Saone to the Canal du Nivernais, June 25 to July 4

Voyage number 6 on the River Saone between St. Jean and the Canal du Centre meant we weren’t going to let any grass grow under our feet (or moss on the boat bottom, as it were). We only planned one stop, on the river at the pontoon in Gergy. When we arrived, Chris and Hazel, a British couple we had met in St. Jean were already there. We were just in time as three small boats coming up from the south were minutes away. Some repositioning was necessary but everybody ended up with a spot.

A big commercial barge loading grain on the river just south of St. Jean.

Tuesday morning we were off a little before our usual 9 am. We planned on going the whole way to Santenay on the Centre and that would make for a long day, 39 k and 12 locks. There’s lots of room to moor on the bank above the village so we thought that, even getting there after 4, we would be able to find a spot and, since we were planning on spending a couple of days, one of the good locations would open up the next day. Much to our surprise, when we arrived the primo spot was still available. We must be living right!

The view toward Santenay from “The Spot”, 2009. The trees are a little bigger now.

Wednesday morning we made a bike/hike trip we hadn’t before, to the restored moulin in the hills above the village. We parked the bikes in the vineyards below the steepest part of the hill and walked the rest of the way up.

We also made a short ride to the village of Marange. Phillipe had introduced us to their wines when we attended Michelle’s birthday party in Burgundy in 2015. It’s another picturesque Burgundian village surrounded by vines.

The hillside of the Cote d’Or (Golden Hill) are actually pretty green in the early summer.

We stopped in at the local coop wine merchant in Santenay to put a little class in our wine locker and had lunch at La Terrior, our favorite restaurant in town. We’d only need salad for dinner.

We set off on Thursday morning hoping to make some significant progress toward the Canal Lateral a la Loire only to be slowed by a couple of large former commercial barges, now empty, that were making their way slowly up the canal. They were taking a long time in each lock, making us wait at each one. Along with that, it was very windy, which made the waiting much more challenging and the charging circuit for our bow thruster had blown a fuse and, having no replacement, maneuvering was much more difficult. We gave up for the day just after noon in Saint Berain sur Dheune, hoping the barges would get far enough along that we could proceed Friday without too much delay. 
It worked out just that way and we made it to the top of the canal in Montchanin, 14 k and 17 locks by about 2 pm. It had warmed up quite a bit and there’s an area just outside of town with good shade we were able to take advantage of.

Saturday was on to Montceau le Mines and their newly rebuilt marina. Sadly, we were just a little too late for the outdoor market so had to do our shopping at the giant supermarket just a little way up the canal. Sunday was also the day France beat Argentina in the first knockout round match of the World Cup, resulting in a massive celebration. Cars with honking horns, giant flags, flares and people hanging out every window circulated through town for a couple of hours.
Sunday morning we made it through the three opening bridges out of town and stopped in Genelard, about 17 k along the canal a little before 1 pm.
Thursday we reached the end of the Centre and started on the Canal Lateral a la Loire after passing through Digoin. These probably don’t make it to the US but we know where the toilets are made in France.

There’s a very wide spot just after crossing the pont canal over the Loire that has great spots for staking to the bank in the trees and shade.
Tuesday night we spent in a small basin off the canal near the village of Beaulon. Us, a few other boats and a thousand camping cars. Well, maybe about 20 but it’s a very popular spot with the wheeled travelers.
By the 4th of July we were tied up on the bank outside of Decize at the beginning of the Canal du Nivernais. There’s a good grocery store a very short bike ride away and we needed to restock. It had been a busy month with over 500 k traveled and not many lay days but the Nivernais had been a major goal of ours this year so it was time for some serious slowing down.

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