Decize - Artaix

Decize was left on Tuesday the 7th of October 2014. We had carefully planned to save Intermarché from bankrupcy in de morning and to depart at 1:00PM because of the Canal latéral à la Loire’s operating hours. Before departing we needed to return a coded key to La Capitainerie against repayment of a € 10,00 deposit. La Capitainerie was closed… reopening time 2:00PM. We should have known, we’re in France. So we left at 2:15PM, slightly worked up we have to admit, causing one of us (yes, that one) initiating the locking-procedure despite out of the corner of the eye seeing a hire boat approaching in the distance. It, the hire boat, did not use the hooter on the one hand and on the other there’s a hire-base next to Decize’s Port de Plaisance in the same basin. The sinner comforted himself by concluding that the hire-base must have been for sure the boat’s destination. Later on we negotiated 5 locks, several of them charmingly kept like the one (Saulx? Motte?) pictured.

Five locks and three-and-a-halve hours after our belated departure we hoped for a space just upstream of the lock Vanneaux – close to Gannay-sur-Loire. While ascending the lock it did not look good from that position. The lock keeper, however, invited us to have a look at a possible space. We fitted in, just, and although another boat -with whom we had been in the locks all day- was in front of us the lock keeper decided we should moor first and the other boat, being shorter, breasted up to ours. Bless him, we were able to avoid a possible discussion. The neighbours for a night were a very friendly and cooperating (Australian?) couple, by the way. In the morning one of us went for Gannay’s bakery by bike. (Mind you, one kilometre!) Some attractive breads were visible on the shelve. Bingo! the bread-lover thought but no, they were all three there on order – just tantalizing a poor boater, who had to settle for a baguette – once more.

On we went the next day, Wednesday the 8th, leaving 10:02AM. Before reaching the first lock we saw something swimming. When approaching closer it appeared to be a young deer. Feverishly we tried to think of something to help the animal with but we were unable to come up with something sensible, apart from the fact that the animal did not give the impression to fancy the idea of being approached by a human being – on the contrary. Our last-night-neighbours were behind us and, like us, reduced their speed before, again like us, concluding that they were powerless. Of course we reported this event to the lock keeper. He answered that he knew and had seen even two of them swimming in the canal that morning, leaving aside whether action would be taken. This season we’ve seen only one drowned roe/deer, so we hope they’re usually capable of rescuing themselves.

At Beaulon we found a nice mooring space at 1:47PM after having done just three locks and less than four hours of cruising. This area is popular with boats and campervans alike. In the past the number of sockets was limited, sometimes causing a form of ‘discussion’ between the two breeds of travelers because the sockets were/are only, repeat: only, meant for use by boats. Nowadays the campervans have their own sockets. Problem solved. Another story is, of course, fishing. A part of the campervan-guys like to fish. So far, so good. Sometimes they do their fishing unfortunately at a space, especially created for mooring boats. We always wonder why, there’s plenty of space for fishing, unsuitable for boats – what on earth is the difficulty in grasping that?? Anyway, we’re told that a Frenchman refused to move when a boat with a fluently French-speaking Belgian wanted to moor. It is said that the Belgian, after having had a fruitless ‘discussion’ with the Frenchman, threw the latter in the canal and kicked his equipment around. True or false, it was a nice story.

We stayed for two nights at Beaulon but, as we are planning to be back ‘in time’ (dentist!) in Roanne, were forced to move again on Friday the 10th. We cruised for 4,5 hours, starting at 9:00AM sharp, ascended 5 locks and moored at Pierrefitte-sur-Loire after a not-all-that-eventful day.

Saturday the 11th of October, our last day –for this year, that is- on the Canal latéral à la Loire. A bit over 7 kilometers (4 1⁄3 miles) from Pierrefitte, going upstream, La Loire hugs the canal for a few hundred meters. The view from the canal towards the river, when bending away again, and its valley is just lovely.

Around 11:20AM we entered the Canal de Roanne à Digoin, ‘our home-canal’ so to speak. Only around 56 kilometers (35 miles) and 10 locks separate us from our winter-mooring at the Port de Roanne. Around 2:15PM we moored, not for the first time, at the ‘Halte de la Croix Rouge’, close to the hamlet La Beaume - so tiny it’s not even to be found by using the French version of Wikipedia. Whichever tiny, this is where it is.

Sunday the 12th of October. Dawn at La Croix Rouge/La Beaume. Most of ‘les caneaux du centre’, the Canal de Roanne à Digoin included, are manually operated. This means one has to inform one of the lock keepers about the time of arrival at the first lock the next day. This time we had agreed to arrive at 10:30AM at the first lock, situated at a distance of 12,5 kilometers (7,8 miles) from our overnight mooring spot, meaning a departure time of 8:26AM. The alarm-clock was set at 7:15AM. Still dark, offering the opportunity to make a picture like this one.

Sunrise promised to be followed by an attractive day and at least the morning and the later afternoon were gorgeous. Only around noon it rained for a few hours – no more than that. When the sun is still low and has not touched the lower fields yet it looks like this. The higher fields already sunny and drying, the lower fields still in the shade and covered by dew. Sometimes covered by gossamer – even more spectacular. Beautiful!

The Canal de Roanne à Digoin really is a picturesque one. Although we cruised it now for the fifth time (3 times upstream, so… yes, indeed) it’s always different and surprising again. Here’s a picture of a bridge and surroundings somewhere near Avrilly. It seems that the people, living in the house next to the bridge, are lucky ones. What a setting, isn’t it?

Well, this is the house that is visible on the last picture, together with an annexe. It seems beyond repair. Once this must have been a distinguished building; it even had a walled garden. Times have changed…

The deepest lock of the canal, Bourg le Comte, 7,19 meters (24 feet). Do not approach the upper gates too closely, as there is a treacherous little hole in the upper part of the gate at the right hand side. Apart, by the way, of the other severe leakages. Because the absence of a sill it makes the impression that the canal on the other sides of the gates is over 7 meters deep. We are told that is not the case. Ah well, it must be a French way of constructing a (deep) lock, leaving us puzzled about what it looks like on the upstream side when the pond is drained.

We moored at Artaix at 1:13PM, so after 4¾ hours on the way and 4 locks – one hour waiting (unnecessary – a sloppy lock keeper, an exception) in front of Chambilly-lock included. We had never been here, the spot is great! There’s even electricity, contributing to our decision to stay for two nights. Or even longer?

The view towards the south, Roanne, as seen from the place we are now. See you soon, Roanne! À bientôt, faithful reader!