Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Fun on the Baise, May 12-16

 Friday afternoon we were secured in the small marina and hireboat base in the city of Agen.

The capital city of the Lot-et-Garonne Department, for years Agen marked the boundary between lands owned by the French and English kings. Governance of the city changed hands eleven time over time, being ruled by the Count of Toulouse and Richard the Lionheart in addition to the English and French kings.

With Kevin planning to leave the boat for a couple of days at the end of the month to attend some of the French Open tennis tournament in Paris, we will be back to spend more time there. In the meantime we had a very nice dinner in town and set off for a trip up the Baise River, which intersects The Garonne Lateral in the small town of Buzet-sur-Baise.

Five hours and 7 locks later we were tied up outside Au Bord de l’Eau, a small restaurant run by an English couple that also features some moorings. Cathy Jo and I visited in 2020 to check out wintering possibilities but it’s just a little remote with minimal transportation options.

Kevin and I had nother nice dinner and Sunday morning we dropped down the double lock into the Baise River.

The first part of the navigation is a section that doubled back along the Garonne Canal and passes under the pont canal where the river passes under the canal. In a case of perfect timing, a hireboat was crossing the pont canal just as we were going under.

Navigation on the Baise began in the 13th century but flooding in the spring and fall made navigation difficult. Over the years, locks were introduced and navigation conditions improved. In the middle of the 19th century, as many as 90 barges at a time were loading or unloading in Lavardac, the busiest of the ports and 130,000 tons of freight moved up and down the river. However, a huge flood in 1952 destroyed many of the locks and river traffic began to decline and the waterway was almost completely abandoned until a complete restoration of the locks and waterway between 1988 and 1997. 

It’s a beautiful small river with several very picturesque medieval villages. It’s also still prone to some flooding, as we were to find out.

It also features very narrow locks, with only about 4 inches to spare with Oldtimer’s 3.95 meter width. Some very careful barge handling would be required if paint damage was to be kept to a minimum.

The current seemed a little strong (we were heading upstream, at least) as we headed for our first stop in the village of Nérac.

We were tied up about 3 pm underneath the city walls and climbed up a set of stairs to see some sort of costume parade happening.

The participants in their very elaborate costumes were introduced to the stage and then later posed for pictures.

Kind of lonely when the river's in flood.

Monday morning we proceeded to our next mooring below the very small village of Montcrabeau. I noticed that the current seemed to be increasing and there were times when I had to give Oldtimer some extra throttle to keep up a reasonable speed.

Tuesday morning it was off to Condom, a medium sized village that is in the center of the armanac producing region, a perfect place to stop. The last stretch of river into town required quite a bit of power to overcome the current and I was seriously worried about the trip back down as with that much current behind the barge it would be very difficult to control, especially when entering the very narrow locks. 

After mooring in Condom we went to speak with the Capitaine and he was very surprised to see us. “Where did you come from?” Remi asked. “Montcrabeau,” we said. “Didn’t they come to tell you the river is closed?” Nope.

Later, I took a look at Vigicrues, (crue is the French word for flood) a very helpful website that gives river levels for all the various rivers in France.

This was the chart for the river at Nérac. We entered the river on the 14th. That big peak? That’s they day we went from Montcrabeau to Condom. The river was about two feet higher than normal.

So we would be spending a few days in Condom. Luckily there was everything we needed there; a secure mooring, supermarket, nearby wine store with a very helpful owner who spoke good English, the armanac museum (and tasting room!) and a very helpful capitaine who kept us updated on the situation.


  1. Oh goodness, Don. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, or maybe a little less worrying. Thank goodness you’re in a safe place now! Lovely photos by the way. I’m enjoying your cruise vicariously.

    1. And I can rightly claim to be ignorant. I'll know better next time!


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