Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Monday, May 27, 2019

(We Hate) The Yonne, May 10-14

We started the engine and were just pulling away from the dock about 8:15 on Friday morning when Elle and Nord steamed past. We would be heading up the Yonne together. (horn fanfare!) Trois Plaisanciers are on the move!
After negotiating the one big lock on the Seine, we entered the Yonne about 10:15.
The lower Yonne is a very difficult navigation. There is some commercial traffic and nowhere to stop until Pont sur Yonne about 30 k up from the confluence. The worst part, though, are the sloping sided locks (the first three. After that, there is a small pontoon is the lock for tying up that rises with the filling lock and some have one vertical wall.). It’s impossible to get a line on to the bollards without assistance from the shore and special care must be taken not to bang the hull against the side of the lock as you go up since the rock wall meets the boat underwater, away from the fenders that usually prevent damage with a straight sided lock. When we did this stretch in 2009 we had Tim on board and we were able to put him ashore before each lock to take care of the line handling duties, but this time it was just Cathy Jo and I and we’d have to rely on the lock keepers. Luckily, they were there to help.
We found that by hanging a small tire on the side just under the bow bollards (not strictly allowed because if they get away the sink to the bottom of the lock, causing trouble) and using one rope to the shore, using the engine and rudder very gently we could angle the boat away from the lock wall and balance on the tire. Compounding the problem is that the rockwork on two of the three locks is very rough with big holes that could rip the tire off so the bow thruster has to be used to push the bow slightly away whenever one of those appeared.
Elle and Nord had even bigger problems as they are cruiser type boats with fine pointed bows and really no way to balance the way Oldtimer can. Compounding all of this was a small snafu at the first lock. Commercial boats have first priority at the locks and so we had to mill around for an hour waiting for our turn. When we finally got in, the lock keeper took one line from Nord, the smaller boat, ashore and then instructed Elle, the larger boat, to tie alongside. We went in the back of the lock by ourselves balanced on our tire. Much blue language and boathooks were used to keep the two cruisers under control. 
More merriment took place as we navigated the 6 locks to Pont sur Yonne with all of us finally getting secured on it's pontoons about 5 pm, almost 9 hours after we cast off.
The weather on Saturday was forecast to turn ugly again but we wanted to push on. Since both Elle and Nord only have outside steering, they would be staying put while we headed further up the river in our snug, warm wheelhouse, ignoring the wind and rain outside, except at the locks, of course. We got a little wet but the poor lock keeper got drenched. These are mostly manual locks.
We made good time through the two locks to Sens, our next stop, arriving just before noon.
We had visited here in 2009, spending several days as Tim was leaving, Ines arriving and being in a great place to view the Fete National fireworks. This time there was a big carnival set up very close to the mooring but luckily the noise wasn’t too bad and they shut down around 11 pm.
Sens was one of the major centers of religious life in the middle ages and it’s Cathedral Saint-√Čtienne  is regarded as the first of the grand gothic cathedrals. When we were here before the tower was covered in scaffolding. Not this time.

It is a beautiful building that features some amazing stained glass from the original construction and on this Saturday afternoon, children were practicing for their First Communion ceremony to be held the following day.
At the moorings was another barge, Jazz, and it’s English owners, Ian and Gill. They have owned the boat for 20 years so they had lots of stories. Wine was drunk. Sadly they had decided that age was catching up to them and the boat was going to be put up for sale.
Sunday afternoon we had lunch at the only restaurant we could find open (the town was totally shut down on Sunday), the Restaurant de la Cathedral. Later, Elle and Nord made their appearance at the moorings, planning to hang around for the Monday morning market. We wanted to get underway. We were due in the boatyard in Migennes and it would take a couple of days to get there.
Tuesday we made the 35 kilometers and 7 locks to arrive at a small mooring just before the town of Joigny. We had spotted the place last fall on our way down the Yonne and Cathy Jo had realized it was very close to a big shopping center. Less than a 3 minute bike ride on a paved path took us to a couple of the usual grocery stores (an Intermarche and a Lidl) and a home improvement store where we could stock up on painting supples for the haulout. We made two trips!
You can read about our previous visit to Joigny on Odysseus here.

Joigny from the shopping quay.

Departure was Tuesday morning at a little before 9 am. Two hours and two locks later we were tied up at Evans Marine in Migennes, next to an old neighbor that you may recognize from the “Corcelettes Resort” days of last year. Ian and Lisette won’t be here for another month. Let the boatyard fun begin!


  1. In contrast, we found the locks on the Yonne to be no problem. For the locks without the pontoons, once the éclusiers had taken our bow line, we just rode in the lock under the occassional tweak on the engine as the levels rose not using the line at all. The ones with pontoons were straightforward. We were alone in all the locks. Might be a size thing and I can imagine that if they opened the paddles hard, it could have been tricky.

  2. "Much blue language and boathooks were used to keep the two cruisers under control." Absobloodylutely!
    "Since both Elle and Nord only have outside steering..." - a tiny correction. We both have inside steering which Ian uses in bad weather. Our bikes obstruct our views so we steer from the snug topsides dodger position.
    The Burgandy Canal has been beautiful - enjoy!

  3. Yeh but I've seen you up there all bundled up underway. Will make note for the future.
    Today was 28 and tomorrow forecast for 31. We had dinner tonite on the "terrace" in St. Florentin. First outside evening meal of the season. Finally some summer!
    Boatyard stories to follow.....

  4. Lovely to meet you guys today and swap a few stories. We hope we meet up again over the coming months. Thanks for the hospitality.

    PS. Have added your blog to our list of boat blogs


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