single handed thru the french canals

cimo

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edit: relocated from the scuttlebutt section.


Hi folks
first up - A quick note of appreciation to the following members (any others I'm not aware of yet?) for their extremely informative blogs on the french canals.
http://yachtvalhalla.wordpress.com/
http://www.french-waterways.com/
http://www.theyachtmoonshine.com/FrenchCanals.html
http://www.kahawi.co.uk/Baker/
http://www.michaelbriant.com/

i would be interested in hearing from single handers who have or who may be planning to navigate the french system. I am currently contemplating a south (st. Louis) to North (LeHarve) navigation for August, via Lyon and Paris.

I have an LOA of 8.5m with a cruising speed of 5knots. I'm okay for draft at 1.2m. I intend carrying the mast on deck allowing for a max air draft of 3.5m (with a 1meter overhang both forward and aft). I will have crew joining me for parts (plenty of offers anyway!), but normally I tend to plan as a single hander.

Any single handers out there done this, would love to hear of your experiences. For those with crew, how feasible do you feel it would have been single handed? (are the smaller unmanned locks enroute going to be a show stopper?)
thanks & rgds
cimo
 
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Tom Price

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Singlehanding through the French canals.

There are other sources of info:
Grehan's website is invaluable and comprehensive, Lady in Red has done it twice!
PM me for more.
TP
 

Chris_Robb

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There are other sources of info:
Grehan's website is invaluable and comprehensive, Lady in Red has done it twice!
PM me for more.
TP

Lady in Red did it single handed as well. He should be around soon - or PM him.

We did it last year, SWMBO and me, on a 40 footer carrying the mast. Going up was more difficult, but coming down the locks its a cinch, we just used a sternline, or a midship cleat motoring ahead. The big Rhone locks are easy as there is are floating bollards and you just use a single line and motor slowly ahead - there is no rush of water in these massive locks.

You do need to watch for the rush of water in the canal locks, and consequently I think one needs to moor fore and aft going up. Also the bollards are a long way apart so some long lines are needed (25 meters). Some people moored fore and aft to one central point which makes it easier handling the lines, but I am not sure how stable the boat will be in the lock. Remember your mast overhang..... If you are fat aft (not you silly) then there is less chance of your mast hitting the side, so have more overhang over the stern in that case.

You need a pair of scaffold planks to go outside your fenders. Make sure these are mounted slightly forward of the beam, so that the boat noses in a little when along side. The reason for this is that if the planks are angled in, they will act as a guide if you bump the side, whereas they will stop you dead if you have them parallel and they catch at the entrance! yes - tore a stantion out!
We had absolutely no problem with weed in the filters, in fact I only emptied a little bit of straw once. ( this was the Eastern route - The Marne) I gather the other western route can be very weedy.

Mast: Do not under estimate the battering ram forces on the mast in a wash, and especially if you do the open sea bit to Le Havre. What about Honfleur - or apparently there is a new facility at Rouen now which would be the best. Get some good quality cargo straps and have 4 sets fore and aft and 2 to 4 sets across the beam. These can be got from the internet quite cheaply. Just don't use ropes - you will be forever tightening them up.

Once into the canals proper, you will be surprised how little fuel you use. And there are few if any refueling points in the canals. so as long as you fill up on the river Soane before going into the canals you should be OK.
 

LadyInBed

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Documented first circuit here.
Both circuits were only half single handed, first trip Weymouth to Avignon s/h where I was joined by my daughter, second trip daughter decamped at Sète where she bussed back from Montpellier, so I was s/h from there to Weymouth.

If you are coming back up the Rhone at 5 knots, be prepared for a long trip! The Rhone runs at 3 or 4 knots, could be best part of 5 in places!
7 Jul. Tournon - Valence pk 110 1 lock 19 km 2 hrs 50

Got to Valence pk 112 in 2 hrs 10, but there was nowhere suitable to tie up. Turned around and motored back and tied up just down stream of the bridge at pk 110, after having tried a likely looking spot, but there was lots of underwater rocks in the shallows. It took 40 mins to cover 2 km against the current. There are lots of places on the bank that look inviting, but lots of submerged boulders. Nice town accessed via tunnel and across a park.
Note: 2Km is about 1Nm, so I was making 1.5 knots at full power, about 5.5 knots.
Doing the trip from Port St Louis to Lyon is about 300Km or about 150 Nm, I will leave you to do the maths!
 

Grehan

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Additionally to reassure you, we've come across plenty of chaps (it usually us) single-handing. They're either friendly, self-reliant, really good company :) - or miserable old grumps with personal hygiene problems! :eek:
 

cimo

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Good point on the mast overhang Chris_Robb. I am indeed wide on the stern. Aiming to re-mast at Rouen from a previous thread here. Cargo straps just added to the "to get" list.

Thanks for the link jonic. looking forward to the scenery & wine bit.

Thanks for the link LadyInBed. I expect the Rhone is going to be a bit of a slog for me. Although the 30year old Bukh has a bit of reserve left at 5knts, I imagine the Rhone leg will be a good reliability test nonetheless. On the other hand, I'm not planning a tight schedule and hope to pick my windows here. I read your lock technique tip - you leave the boat for the duration of the rise. Not having any lock experience - from what I previously read, getting from the deck down in the lock to the lock topsides isn't always a straight forward process. This was the uncertain bit for me.

Grehan - can' say for sure what single-hander category I best fit into, but i always take a bottle to the party and shower religiously every saturday evening! Visited your website many times now. sterling stuff. keep up the good work!

thanks all & rgds
 

Tom Price

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[QUOTE=cimo:
"I expect the Rhone is going to be a bit of a slog for me."

Then why not follow Nigel's example and come back via the Canal du Midi and the Brittany canals?

Incidentally, what boat do you have?
 

nimbusgb

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--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
edit: relocated from the scuttlebutt section.


Hi folks
first up - A quick note of appreciation to the following members (any others I'm not aware of yet?) for their extremely informative blogs on the french canals.
http://yachtvalhalla.wordpress.com/
http://www.french-waterways.com/

i would be interested in hearing from single handers who have or who may be planning to navigate the french system. I am currently contemplating a south (st. Louis) to North (LeHarve) navigation for August, via Lyon and Paris.

I have an LOA of 8.5m with a cruising speed of 5knots. I'm okay for draft at 1.2m. I intend carrying the mast on deck allowing for a max air draft of 3.5m (with a 1meter overhang both forward and aft). I will have crew joining me for parts (plenty of offers anyway!), but normally I tend to plan as a single hander.

Any single handers out there done this, would love to hear of your experiences. For those with crew, how feasible do you feel it would have been single handed? (are the smaller unmanned locks enroute going to be a show stopper?)
thanks & rgds
cimo

I'm looking for crew to do the canals ( South to North, summer ) on our Beneteau Oceanis. If you know of anyone looking to spend time on the Canals I'd appreciate it if you pass on their details. The crew I had arranged has organised to go and sail in the Carribbean for a season. No explaining some people :)
 

Sea Devil

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I've done it three times single handed for various reasons in addition to lots of times with crew or 'friends'...

Frankly it's not too difficult and in locks the lock keeper will take your lines for you and in the un-manned locks if you lock in with other boats they will often give a hand. I did it once alone from Sete to Le Havre in 10 days.. a bit tiring..

Certainly a million times easier than single handing across Biscay.

You need to have both (P&S) fwd lines rigged though a block on the bows and led aft to the cockpit so you can adjust from there and a way to lock them off so you can adjust fwd and stern lines from the dock - so you need 4 mooring lines permanently set up. Other than that it's just common sense.

Michael
 

cimo

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I'm looking for crew to do the canals ( South to North, summer ) on our Beneteau Oceanis. If you know of anyone looking to spend time on the Canals I'd appreciate it if you pass on their details. The crew I had arranged has organised to go and sail in the Carribbean for a season. No explaining some people :)

Yes - very strange some people. Will do. I've had loads of solid offers to crew a week here, 10 days there since I causually mentioned my trip last year - you want them? looks like 8.5 out of 10 are in the "well maybe - let's see" grouping now. I think it's inevitiable you take the single hander attitude in the end. Maybe bump:) into you in August!
 

cimo

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cimo: "I expect the Rhone is going to be a bit of a slog for me." Then why not follow Nigel's example and come back via the Canal du Midi and the Brittany canals? Incidentally said:
Hi Tom
Can't see the midi and brittany getting me anywhere near to my planned ports of call. i'm sailing a 79 atlanta viking 8.5. Although she would be well able for either route, its the skipper whos the weakest link at present. looking forward to getting back into shape.
 

cimo

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thanks for the re-assurance Michael and the mooring line tip.
I do re-call visiting your website way back. Surprised I didn't bookmark it at the time as there is loads of info here.

Bookmarked now & I also edited my OP to include a URL link.

rgds
cimo
 

Seajet

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French Canals

I was 'matelot / engineer' on a 38m Hotel peniche in Burgundy for a season.

A few minor tips in no particular order apart from the first.

I was taught to be wary of floating bollards in locks; they can stick as the water level rises, then suddenly come up like a Trident missile, a person on another barge was killed by having their head in the way.

Very rare and unfortunate, but worth bearing in mind.

Less dramatic, I'd say the majority of the Hotel barges are mainly British crewed, if one gets chatting over a beer it's often made worthwhile in large donations from the barge's ice-maker and possibly wine / beer hold.

It is however well worth keeping one's boat clear at night if possible, the electrical demands with aircon in the ( American ) guests cabins etc places such demands that unless a village has a good electrical supply, it's often necessary to run an air cooled generator all night...

One trick our skipper had developed was to stay in full locks while they are closed for lunch, easier to secure the thing than at the bank side and gives the guests ( who incidentally I found to be great people, sad to say Brit' millionaires would be a nightmare ) a good view over lunch.

This is against the rules but a bottle of half decent wine works wonders.

Most barges also carry a moped and know the local engineers, which may be worth knowing if faced with problems; very few have much engineering knowledge on board though.
 
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Saint Louis

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French Canals

Bonjour. As the owner / operator / pilot of a hotel barge on the Canal de Garonne, it is my experience that some of SeaJet's comments do not apply - at least not down here! Do not assume that all hotel barge guests are American millionaires - we generally have over 60% of our guests from Australia, and some are probably not millionaires. I have yet to come across an air cooled generator for the air conditioning on a hotel barge. And if we did not have fairly advanced mechanical skills on board we would not stay in business long! My aim is always to ensure that my guests have the most relaxing holiday possible while at the same time I am demonstrating professionalism to all other users (some of whom, it must be said, do not seem quite at home in handling their various craft!)
 

Saint Louis

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To bear in mind - do not expect anyone on the Midi route to take your lines! On the Canal du Midi the lock-keepers would never dream of such helpful action, and on the Canal Garonne (between Toulouse and the Atlantic) almost all the locks are automatic, therefore no lock-keepers! That said, as the pilot of a hotel barge working these waters all the time, my advise would be "get plenty of fenders, check all your certificates including your CEVNI documents, and take it easy - don't be in a hurry. I personally would far rather take the soldier's wind option of northbound in Biscay than try to stem the current of the Rhone.
 

vyv_cox

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Frankly it's not too difficult and in locks the lock keeper will take your lines for you

Before we did the Midi in 2005 we read that lock-keepers would not take lines due to liability concerns. I do not recall a single time when they did take lines, plus of course many are unmanned. I have no idea whether this still applies, or ever did on the central canals. I would have found it very taxing to do the Midi/Garonne singlehanded as it is not possible to get a warp over bollards or through rings on the uphill sections.
 

Grehan

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Some of the travelling lock-keepers can be friendly and obliging and - informally - help if one is in obvious difficulties - i.e floating around loose at the bottom of a 3-4m lock, 3-4 attempts in to trying get that b** rope up to the lock-side or over a bollard. Fixed lock-keepers are less helpful, but if one is friendly and chats them up as one is coming in, then some are amenable. What none will do, is just take ropes by 'instruction' or 'expectation' - it's basically against the rules. Lock-keepers on the Midi are fairly happy to yell at daft hire boats making a complete c*-up, or to shrug and look heavenwards, or in the absolute last resort, to take a line put it round a bollard and give to the nervous, clueless, crew-member deputed to stand 'up top'. :D
[edit]
If things get problematic (a) take your time (b) tie up to the ladder (c) climb up the ladder with the rope between your teeth (d) bollard and maybe press the 'go' button (e) descend just in time as the bells ring, the back gate closes and the water cascades in. (a) is important, it's quite easy to slip.
 
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binch

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air draught

Max air draught (clearance height under bridges) is 3m 40 for the intermediate canal sections. Allow for plus or minus 10 cm due to water level fluctuations. These can be caused by traffic density, rainfall, drought, or a large, fast laden barge pushing a wall of water ahead of her.
Also if you high point is right forward or right aft, you change the height significantly in a small boat by walking from end to end.
Anyone able to quote off hand their boat's "Moment to Change trim one inch"?
 

Seajet

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Anyone able to quote off hand their boat's "Moment to Change trim

Certainly. When a rather rotund girlfriend ( she was too wealthy to be fat, so had a type of Bulimia which involved scoffing huge meals and not being ill ) when sitting to windward in the cockpit could allow carrying full sail in a solid F6, I decided it was 'moment to change' girlfriend !
 
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