Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Over the Top, June 16-20

All those locks in those few kilometers turned out to be not that bad. The weather was pleasant and the lock keepers were efficient so the days were short. 

We left Veneray at 9 am Sunday and presented ourselves at the first lock to be greeted by two lock keepers. These locks are all manual; doors have to be opened and shut and the paddles operated all by hand. With only one lock keeper, passing through a lock can be a long process, as long as 15-20 minutes, as they have to walk all the way around the perimeter three times in order to complete the process. We try to help by opening one of the doors on the way out but that’s the most we can do. With two keepers we were able to move through each lock in less than 10 minutes.
We reached our first days objective after completing 10 locks in just 4 k, Poullenay, just before lunch. There’s a small basin with a couple of bollards and when we came around the corner, being Sunday, it was full of fishermen. We had visions of a fight for mooring space but it turned out one of the fishermen was a cousin on one of the keepers and he had been warned of our arrival. They motioned us into a spot and all was well.
After lunch we were joined at the moorings by a French cruiser, Orchideé, also on their way up on a delivery trip from Fontainbleau to Saint Jean de Losne where the boat was to be put up for sale. Their 14 meters and our 16 meters in the lock would be a tight squeeze. Since water levels were so low the VNF was trying to group boats to conserve it but, but since our potential lock mates were French they managed to sweet talk the keepers (not without some difficulty, it’s always non at first) into letting us go separately. We’d go first Monday morning.
Monday was a little more work; 19 locks and 5 1/2 k to Marigny-le-Cahouët. Again we had two keepers and when after the 15th lock we were approaching the lunch hour and inquired about where we would stop they told us they were going non-stop until we reached the moorings. Luckily it didn’t cut into their lunch too much as we were secured by a little after 12:30. There is a small village there so we wandered around town in the afternoon.
They do roses in Burgundy. The flowers are everywhere, wild and cultivated, and they are beautiful. In fact, one of our lock keepers made it a point to present us with a bunch of roses both days he was with us. Marigny’s lanes had some beautiful displays.

As we wandered, we saw a sign for Rue de Chateau. You never know what you might find so we walked down the street and a very little way out of town, voila!, the chateau.

The badge over the gate across the moat said the castle was built in 1613 and was privately owned; no tours. We were able to walk all the way around the walls outside the moat, though.

As the sun went down I snapped a picture from the back deck of the mooring. We had agreed with the crew of Orchideé that since we went first Monday morning, they would go first Tuesday to the next spot and the end of the major chains of locks, Pont Royal.

Since we were second, we entered the first lock at 10 am Tuesday. We traveled a whole 11 k and through 13 lock, this time stopping for lunch, and made it to Pont Royal just after 2 pm.
In one of the many handouts provided by the tourist offices we had seen some information on the church in Saint-Thibault. Since it was just 4 k down the canal we decided to bike over and take a look. 
We found an amazing building originally from the middle ages but restored in the mid 1800’s and again from 2010 to 2012. Unlike other churches that suffered major damage to their statues during the religious wars, the heads and faces chiseled off, The statues around the entrance door were intact, a couple still with some of their original paint remaining.

The carved wooden door was a beautiful work of art.

After Pont Royal, the locks spread out a bit, in fact from the Pont Royal lock to the next is over 10 k. After that it’s 12 locks in 6 k to Pouilly-en-Auxois and the entrance to the 3.3k tunnel that marks the summit of the canal. We were tied up in the Pouilly basin just after 2 pm and discovered another of the wonders of the canal, a big supermarket just a couple of minutes away. We made two trips to stock up as groceries are scarce on the way down to Dijon
We would be following Orchideé through the tunnel so at 9 am we presented ourselves to the tunnel control office and, after checking to see that we had the proper equipment (tunnel light, life jackets, fire extinguishers) we were presented with our “trip ticket.”

The trip turned out to be no problem. Except for the first half k or so the tunnel is well lit. There is no tow path inside so careful steering is a must so as not to damage the new paint on the rock walls. 
We actually entered the tunnel at 9:20 and exited at 10:05. After that is was 8 locks, down this time so sharing space with Orchideé, to Vandenesse-en-Axois, one of our all time favorite moorings.


  1. Lovely! You’re very good with your cycling around. What kind of bikes do you have? I’ve forgotten now.

  2. Nothing unusual and no electrics, although the subject has come up when facing a long uphill climb. I have a mountain bike that came with the boat and Cathy Jo has a "Leclerc special" that we traded a wine refrigerator for.


All of a sudden I'm getting comment spam. I'll have to use Captcha until it gets under control. Sorry...