Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Down the Centre, May 21-27

 Saturday the weather had moderated so we set off down the Canal du Centre. It never felt all that warm as there was a pretty good breeze off the lake. Too cool for swimming.

We planned our next stop for Saint Berain sur Dheune. Our notes from past trips said it was a pretty good mooring in a park but with a noisy road nearby. We bypassed St. Julien sur Dheune (sur Dheune means these towns are on the Dheune River. The Centre parallels the river) which looked very nice but we wanted to get a little closer to Sundays destination, Santenay.

After 14 kilometers and 17 locks (thankfully all down now) we pulled up to the mooring to find it nearly full of boats and a family of fishers “colonizing” the last bollard. They helpfully moved some of their equipment without too much grumbling and after some rearranging of the other boats in the mooring we were able to get a spot. Jaap and Jenny on De Jonge Eva showed up about a hour later and rafted up alongside.

Our mooring notes said noisy and we were surely right. It was Saturday afternoon and the road on the other side of the canal begins a long straight stretch that was perfect for the motorcycles and fancy cars to really hit the accelerator. Loud! Luckily it quieted down in the evening but we won’t be stopping there again.

As we were leaving we thought the fishing madame had hooked a big one.

It turned out to be just salad.

Sunday morning it was off to maybe our favorite mooring in France, Santenay. We’ve stopped here 5 or 6 times over the past 10 years. It’s in one of the premier wine regions of France, the Côte d’Or, famous for its pinot noir. We’d also made arrangements for our friends from Ventura, Bill and Nancy Vaniotas to join us there. They had spent a couple of weeks in England and a couple days in Paris and would be spending a few days with us.

As luck would have it, we showed up just around noon to find the hireboat that occupied the premier spot moving on after their midday meal and we were able to once again get the best mooring on the bank.

Views from the mooring.

The canal in front of us.

Bill and Nancy wouldn’t be arriving until Wednesday so we had plenty of time to reacquaint ourselves with the beautiful countryside.

This house in town had a most beautiful display.

Wednesday we got a text from Bill and Nancy saying they were in the nearby town of Chagny and would be arriving in the Santenay station in around a half hour. It was just a ten minute walk from the boat to the station so we headed out to meet them. Unfortunately when changing trains in Chagny, they got on the one headed in the opposite direction but realized it very quickly and got off. It was just a 15 minute taxi ride from Mersault (another name the wine experts among us will recognize) to Santenay.

This is the train Bill and Nancy should have been on.

Since it was later in the afternoon, we decided to stay Thursday so we could do a little more walking around the countryside and head out further down the canal on Friday.

Ready for the evening meal.

I think Bill was just starting to say “cheese!”

The original plan had been to take two easy days to get from Santenay to Chalon sur Saone where Bill and Nancy would leave us but Thursday was a holiday (Ascension Day) and the French had decided to make it a four day weekend. When Nancy tried to book train tickets to Basel, their next stop, for Sunday, she found no seats available. That meant they would have to travel on Saturday and we’d have to make the 25 k to Chalon on Friday.

It wasn’t really a problem as the first lock wasn’t for 4 k so we could leave at 8:30 am and arrive at that lock a little after it opened at 9 am. 11 locks later we arrived at the last lock on the Canal du Centre, the giant Crissey ecluse, at 10.76 meters deep, one of the deepest locks in France.

We came from up there!

The door begins to open out onto the end of the Canal du Centre

By 3:45 we were tied up on the nice new mooring pontoon on the Saone in Chalone sur Saone.

Monday, May 23, 2022

To the Top of the Centre May 9-19

 Back in 2018 while on the Canal du Nivernais in Clamecy, we met Carmen and her son Louis on their newly purchased Locaboat ex-hireboat, Beauregard. Carmen’s husband, Roger, was supposed to be with them but he was tied up in Australia finishing up some business. We ended up meeting them (and Carmen by herself after Louis left) several times along the canal, including at the infamous Fete du Saint Cochon at Lucy sur Yonne. We did finally meet the mystery man Roger at the end of the summer when we had a car and they were on a stopover in Gannay sur Loire. We’ve kept in touch since then, although, being from Australia, they hadn’t been able to visit their boat in over two years. We both also had our first grandchildren during the pandemic.

They kept Beauregard in the Port of Roanne and were planning on making toward Paris so our paths would cross. They had some mechanical problems before leaving but we made plans to get together at the village of Diou at it’s small halte. Right above the elementary school, we had stopped here before. Unfortunately, some of the trees that made the moorings picturesque had been cut down but the kids were still there making their joyful noise.

It’s only 12 k and 3 locks from Beaulon to Diou so we were settled in well before lunch. By evening Beauregard had showed up and the party could begin.

Roger mugging it up for the selfy

Thursday we all cycled up the bike path to the nearby village of Saint Auban sur Loire. 

Our first stop was up the hill to the village chateau. Unfortunately it’s not open so we could only view the expansive grounds from outside the gates.

Next obligatory stop was the village church. The outside of the church is pretty unremarkable but the interior has some 14th century frescos that have been restored.

The church was originally just a chapel built in the 12th century but portions of that construction are still part of the existing churches nave. Extensive work was carried out in the early 1800’s and then it was fully restored throughout the 1900’s.

The ride also gave Cathy Jo and I a chance to try out our new bicycle shorts. 

Nice to have a padded butt for a 15 k ride.

Friday was another cycle day (Carmen is Dutch, after all) and we rode to Dompierre sur Besbre and it’s beautiful riverside park. That evening we all enjoyed a mini Duckapalooza (our friends in Ventura will get the reference), with Cathy Jo displaying her excellent galley skills.

Saturday morning we parted ways, Beauregard to the west and us off to Digoin and the end of the Lateral Canal and onto the Canal du Centre. There is a grocery store reasonably close to the canal and the wine supply had been severly depleted by our stop in Diou.

After that we were at our next stop in time for lunch. We settled in just after the lock at the village of Volsevres. Nothing there, really, just a nice quiet spot. On the way we passed through the pilgrimage town of Paray le Monial. Much to our surprise, there were no boats in any of the moorings there.

Next was Genelard, where we have stayed several times. There is free water and electricity available and there are many more posts with services in the port than there used to be. There used to be just a couple and boats would be stringing electric cord for what seemed like miles.

After a day doing laundry, on Wednesday we headed for Monteceau les Mines. It was pretty warm  and we had noted some shade in our earlier trips, unlike the town marina, which bakes. The stop is close to a busy road and right underneath the cooling tower of the local power plant but the traffic dies down after dark and the plant wasn’t working. I think it’s an old coal plant that’s been shut down.

This image of the mooring from Google Earth was taken in the winter.

Lucky for us, those trees were in full leaf.

Thursday it was 15 k and 9 locks to reach the top of the Canal du Centre just past the town of Montchanin. We stayed here several times before on the canal side in the shade with a lake nearby. It was supposed to be over 30C on Friday so we decided to stay put. We also reconnected with Jaap and Jenny on the tjalk De Jonge Eva that we met in Decize.

 By the lake in the trees

Also, we celebrated the top. From now until we reach the end of the Rhone we’ll be traveling downstream.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Up the Lateral a la Loire - May 6-10

 We’ve been up a down this section of canal 4 times, twice just last year, so we weren’t interested in dawdling. We’ve visited the small villages and stayed in many of the haltes along the way so we decided to just make some kilometers, although there was one stop we wanted to make. 

Last year we moored in the basin below the double lock at Guetin to make a return trip to the village of Apremont sur Allier and its chateau and garden. This year we stopped so we could spend the afternoon cycling over to the Beck d’Allier, where the Allier meets the Loire, and then on to the village of Cuffy. 

Along the way we saw a water tower that had been “repurposed.”

Stop me if you’ve heard this before but Cuffy is very old, originating in Gallo-Roman times with the usual 12th century church and old homes. While cycling through the village we say a sign for “medieval ruins” and followed it up the hill.

A track through the forest took off to the right.

Following it we came upon the ruins of the 14th century moat and fortifications, located on the highest point of ground around.

A message board showed what the fortification, surrounded by a moat, looked like in the 1400’s. Much of it is still there although in an advanced state of disrepair.

What started out as a beautiful day quickly turned stormy and we beat it back to the boat, only getting slightly wet in the process.

Friday was a long day; 42 kilometers and about 7 1/2 hours underway to get to a mooring we have used every time we’ve been by, just outside the Decize marina on the canal bank. There is a grocery store just a few minutes away and the wine and fresh vegetable stock was getting perilously low.

We pulled in just in front of a beautiful Dutch sailing tjalk, De Jonge Eva, and met the owners Jaap and Jennie. Shortly after, another, bigger tjalk pulled in. Three Dutch barges in a row! It turned out that Jaap and Jennie had sailed with the owners of Gerrigje 40 years ago and hadn’t seen them since.

Sunday morning the two tjalks left but we decided to stay another day and do some laundry and reconnect with Phillippe and Pierette on Dream’s Rivers. We met them in the H2O boatyard in 2015 while we were slaving away on Oldtimer’s underwater parts and they were completing work on their boat. We had seen them in passing last year but weren’t able to connect. Some wine was consumed and we practiced our French. Phillippe speaks pretty good English and Pierette understands most of it.

Monday morning we were off to our next stop, Beaulon; a nice basin 31 k away that we shared with several other boats and camping cars. We were also in constant communication with Roger and Carmen Dowling, Aussies on Beauregard who we haven’t seen since 2019 and were headed our way from Roanne. I think there’s another party in our future!

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Underway, April 28-May 5

 Saturday was laundry day and Sunday, May Day, was a big vide grenier, when everybody gathers in the market square to sell their stuff, socialize, eat sausage with baguette and frites and drink beer and wine. The whole square was filled with sellers, buyers and lookers.

Monday morning at the crack of 9:30 we were off into our first lock of the year. Peter helpfully provided this picture of me doing my usual lock thing.

Our first stop was Bellville, just a little further than our usual Beaulieu stop. When we stopped there for the lunch closure last year we found a good boulangerie just steps from the mooring. Unfortunately it has closed and been replaced by one of those bread machines. We did not indulge.

Next stop was the goat farm, La Bête Noire, that we stopped at last year on the way back to Briare. A really nice quiet mooring and we get to stock up on the delicious crottins de chavinol. The have a very nice exhibit that describes the entire cheese making process from goat to store.

Part of the farm viewed from the mooring.

Not in the picture are the rabbits, chickens

and donkeys that live behind the fences.

Oldtimer on the mooring.

Milking goats

The good stuff in the drying room.

Right before we left, Cathy Jo hitched a ride with Peter and Sarah for the last grocery shopping. When she returned she remarked how the cooking oil isle was empty. The next day we read about the cooking oil shortage being caused by the war in Ukraine. Meanwhile in this area of France, vast fields of beautiful yellow flowers are on the French equivalent of canola, called colza. The seeds will be harvested and pressed for the oil.

Next stop was the very pretty mooring in the village of Cours les Barres. There is a good boulangerie just a few steps from the mooring. A young couple seem to be the bakers, always a good sign.

Thursday morning it was just a couple of hours and one lock to our next stop, the basin below the Guetin staircase locks. We got there early so we could do a little bike riding over to the Bec d’ Allier where the Allier meets the Loire and the beginning of the bike trail that leads from here to the sea.

Oh, and I realized I never posted a picture of Oldtimer’s newest addition.