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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
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    Default MED TO UK VIA FRENCH CANALS

    I am thinking of going back to the UK via the french canals and would like to hear about anybody elses experience or advice, especially with mooring overnight in both the rivers and canal or marinas. the boat is 36ft, longkeel with a cutaway forefoot with a draft of 1.5m.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
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    Default Re: MED TO UK VIA FRENCH CANALS

    Have a quick look at the canals section on my web site - quite a lot of info.
    Michael
    Gentle Sailing Route to the Med
    http://www.michaelbriant.com

  3. #3
    Talbot's Avatar
    Talbot is offline Registered User
    Location : Stavanger, Norway
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    Aug 2003
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    Default Re: MED TO UK VIA FRENCH CANALS

    Had my boat brought back through the canals (couldnt get the time off at that time) and was supposed to come through Canal du Midi, but there was a problem with not enough water in the canal.
    "Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors - and miss."
    Robert A Heinlein

  4. #4
    Guest

    Default Re: MED TO UK VIA FRENCH CANALS

    The worst month of our life. Could not berth. Spent most nights with our aft end in the middle and our bows tied to trees. 50% of Peniche drivers are psychopaths. One 30' yacht was "bounced" and skewered their bow sprit into the bank breaking it off. Another boat hit both ends of their mast into the same wall of a lock. We suffered serious damage while still tied up in a lock when the aptly named "Tsunami" blasted us into the wall with his massive prop wash. My crew was thrown against the guard wires which left a line of bruises across both legs. Another Peniche ignored a warning and while passing us in a narrow section angled his rudder so that his monster prop wash put us in a bush!

    Most of the canals have silted up and the solution is to raise the water level above the normal height. So some of the locks edges are actually 6" under water. It is nearly impossible to hold a heavy yacht in position if it is windy and there is nothing to fender against!

    Some of the gates have their upper sluices permanently partially open. These are to transfer the water down the canal system as the side sluices are unusable. So entering a lock everything looks normal. Then when the water has fallen there is a stream of up to 2 knots rotating in the lock. If you have a keel (especially a long one) then the boat just wants to rotate.

    Most of the time you only have 1 ladder or 1 floating bollard to hold onto. Any currents on a long keel produce huge forces that are beyond human strength.

    If you are a motor boat, a narrow cat or a drop keel then it probably would be fun. If you have a long keel and you like your boat then sail it up or truck it.

    Take care of the crane operators at both ends. The first one would not listen to instructions and the one at the end left me with the mizzen upright and no rigging on it when he dropped the hook! You pay for 2 masts but they only want to give you the same time as a single masted boat.

    As for the tunnels it takes great concentration to keep a boat going at the required speed for 4km in a tunnel full of fog and dimly lit that is so narrow that 2 yachts could not pass.

    As for the time it takes we had 1 day off in a month due to the amount of broken gates and bridges.

    We were advised by the group coming south not to do it, but the reports on the net were so good we carried on. I wish I had listened to them.

  5. #5
    Anchorite is offline Registered User
    Location : FRANCE nr. Lyons
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    Oct 2002
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    Default Re: MED TO UK VIA FRENCH CANALS

    What route were you using and what month was it?
    The route up the Rhone/Saone/Moselle/Meuse to Belgium has always seemed preferable to the uncertainties of the Canal du Midi. You have to check out the closures for "chomage" (repair work), usually in summer, but there is plenty of info on the websites.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
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    Default Re: MED TO UK VIA FRENCH CANALS

    The only problem is the trip up the Portuguese coast is all to windward and a hell of a slog... Not sure sometimes which is worse?
    Michael
    Gentle Sailing Route to the Med
    http://www.michaelbriant.com

  7. #7
    Guest

    Default Re: MED TO UK VIA FRENCH CANALS

    The only route open to us was via canal Marne a la Saone. The bit just south of Paris for the more westerly canals had too little water. We went to see the manager at Chalon sur Soane and he was very helpful with advice.

    I forgot to add one incident as we went down the Seine. 5 UK registered stink pots travelling in a close line above the speed limit caused so much wake that neither of us could stand up. The masts were thankfully held on well. The second Peniche that put us in the bush was Dutch and I have no idea about the nationality of "Tsunami" but they work on the lower part of the Rhone every day.

  8. #8

    Default Re: MED TO UK VIA FRENCH CANALS

    OOOh dear!!! having read all the other posts, I cannot quite recognise the Canal du Midi, from their descriptions.
    I have lived down here on my boat for 3 years. fFrstly in a catamaran, and now a motorboat.
    Firstly your depth - 1.50 is very tight - despite what the canal info will tell you, 1.40 is about the top limit. Having said that ,I am sitting in Toulouse at the moment and there is a yacht with a 1.50m depth sign displayed! You will have problems, but you can ask a lock keeper to lift the water level for you, if you are really stuck. The other option is to enter France from the top - i,e, Calais or le Havre and cruise down via the Saone and the Rhone - the water levels there are not so critical. Locks - plenty of fenders and long lines - and the trick is not to sit at the front of a lock on an 'up' lock - stay at the back - you get a better ride. If I can do it solo - so can you! Best of luck!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
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    54

    Default Re: MED TO UK VIA FRENCH CANALS

    Many thanks for all the replies, michaelE your website is excellent, lots of useful info and also interesting reading, fair winds to all.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
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    149

    Default Re: MED TO UK VIA FRENCH CANALS

    As an alternative to the canals, think of using a French trucking company, from any port in Northern France. Three good ones are: Augizeau, Morlin and Morizeau. They do it all the time. Get a quote from each and then compare costs, potential damage and bother. However, if you really want the bucolic experience you will obviously take the canal route.

    FYI I used this overland route to get my 30 footer to the Med 8 years ago - it cost GBP750. Just for interest I checked recently what it would cost to bring it back to Northern France - GBP 1100, which is still a good deal in my mind. Sail across the Channel, get the mast down, shepherd it onto the truck and 2 or 3 days later you can pick it up from the French Med port of your choice.

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