La Chapelle-Montlinard - Decize

Monday the 29th of September 2014 we left La Chapelle-Montlinard at 9:15AM. We ascended 5 locks, all of them before the hour lunch break which starts at noon. After only 3,5 hours of cruising a lovely mooring spot at Cours-les-Barres came in sight where not only the sun, the air and the view ( Loire valley) are for free, but water and electricity too! When we arrived no other boat was to be seen. That changed considerably during the following days.

Sunrise at Cours-les-Barres. The grass still full of dew and the trees only slightly visible because of the fog. During the day it is still summer at the end of September.

Another picture taken early in the morning. Spiders' (they’re everywhere) activity combined with foggy nights creates photogenic pictures.

At long last, after 4 nights, we left Cours-les-Barres on Friday the 3rd of October at 9:58AM. Reluctantly, to be honest, but we had to move because we’re planning to be back for the winter in Roanne on Saturday the 11th. At least, that’s the plan, one never knows what can happen on the way! It took us less than 2 kilometers (somewhat over a mile) of cruising when we reached the entrance –a first lock, named ‘Crille’- of L’Embranchement de Givry, a short canal (2,427 kilometers - 1,5 miles) leading from the Canal latéral à la Loire onto La Loire itself and constructed between 1841 and 1846, costing Ffr 777.718. Fluviacarte 20 informs us as follows: ‘navigation with risks’. We did not at all feel tempted to enter l’embranchement.

Two days earlier we had biked into Fourchambault, a larger town about 2,5 kilometers (1,5 miles) from Cours-les-Barres. It’s on the right bank of La Loire. On the opposite (left) bank the village of Givry, name giver of the canal-branch, is to be found. L’Embranchement de Givry is equipped with two locks, lowering the level between canal and river by (2,20 + 2,96) 5,16 meters (17 feet) in total. This picture shows (partly) the canal and the nowadays disused second lock, named ‘Givry’.

The disused fairly deep lock again with the river Loire in the background. All this is overlooked by a deep-blue sky and impressive cumulus-clouds.

Again the second lock, this time seen from the other side. Note the extra gates on top of the ‘normal’ ones, to use in case the river level increases severely. At present the river is a sleeping giant…

…as is shown here. The river is very calm and slow and a lot of sandbanks are visible. As the lock entrance is heavily silted up it’s no longer possible to cruise from canal onto river and vice versa.

That same Friday we approached the double-lock, leading to the aqueduct ‘Le pont-canal du Guétin’, just before noon. As you’ll understand we had to wait until 1:00PM before being able to enter the first one of the pair.

Before continuing with both locks and the aqueduct here’s a picture of an information board, as seen at Givry. Not only information about Le pont-canal du Guétin is given, together with a nice picture from underneath, but also information can be read about Le Loire à Vélo. The wonderful thing is that the distance in French is ‘près de 600 kilomètres’ (‘kilométres’, oops) and in English ‘nearly 600 miles’. If we ever decide to do this we’ll opt for the French version.

After entering the first lock of the double-lock this is what it looks like inside. One could say that the division in the middle, a sum of both sill and gates, is a bit intimidating.

Rising up in the second one of the lock-pair the aqueduct becomes visible between the beams of the upper gates. Almost there! The procedure from entering the first of the pair until leaving the second one took us, together with another boat, exactly 30 minutes. The difference in level is 9 meters and 23 centimeters, nearing 31 feet.

Pictures taken from the aqueduct ‘Le pont-canal du Guétin’ are all postcards, we think. Here’s just one, a fine combination of the still blue sky, trees starting to show their autumn-colours and the beautiful untamed river Allier.

Us (in the foreground, in case one wonders) and our ‘lock-partner’, leaving the aqueduct. It was, as always, an interesting and exciting experience.

Going upstream the first lock after the aqueduct is at a distance of almost even 21 kilometers (13 miles). We cruised 17 (over 10 miles) of them, then called it a day. The mooring spot for that night, after only 3 locks (for the record: de double one counting for two) was Chevenon. Our engine ceased running at 4:07PM, so it took us over 6 hours, 1 hour waiting included. The setting sun illuminates the scene beautifully. A scoop to end with. The name of the boat behind us is ‘La Béa’Bab’. They are on their way towards Roanne for overwintering – as we are. New (Swiss?) neighbours, so to speak. Spread the word!

The next morning, Saturday the 4th of Octover 2014, we left Chevenon at 9:44AM. Not before have phoned VNF, to announce our arrival at the first lock, ‘Jaugenay’ ascending 0,59 meters, less than 2 feet (the wet part of the wall suggests more than that). Phoning was unnecessary was the answer (‘il est là’). We believed the answer, considered it even logical as this lock is the first one, going upstream, after having left the aqueduct and at a far distance from it. Bad luck though, no lock keeper was in sight when we arrived. Fortunately the lock was empty with open gates. A notice on the lock keeper’s shelter informed us about the lock keeper taking care of several locks, spread widely apart, and his telephone number. We called him and he informed us about his situation and the fact that he would arrive within some 10 minutes. We closed the gates behind us and waited – as one is not allowed to do the locking procedure one self. The waiting time amply exceeded the 10 minutes he suggested before. But, hey, we’re in France! As in the majority of cases, this one also was as friendly and helpful as one could wish for.

Here is a picture everyone who’s boating in France is absolutely familiar with, being an arriving lock keeper. In this case at ‘Jaugenay 20’, part of Le Canal latéral à la Loire, but it could be any place where the system is not automated yet – or the automatic system refuses to obey. As said several times before, we appreciate them greatly.

On the way from Chevenon to where we are for the weekend, Decize, this yellow field came in sight. Is it rape-seed? Is it spring? It really baffled us to see it. Are there readers able to tell us if it is really rape-seed? In October? It was an unexpected and rare, at the same time beautiful, sight. Furthermore the still shining sun makes making a nice picture an effortless job.

Our destination for the day, Decize, was reached at 4:00PM, that is to say: the lock giving access to the basin where we wanted to be during the week-end. This lock does not need a lock keeper, nor a remote control (‘telecommande’). The process of ascending/descending is triggered by, well, triggering a rope. This rope hangs down from a gallows-like structure like pictured here, preventing jokers (on the bank) to misuse it. It’s clearly visible that it was still summer on Saturday the 4th of October 2014. The last day, we’re told, rain on Sunday… (Sunny again on Tuesday. Mmmmm, that’s pretty far away. We’ll see.)

This is where we are since Saturday. We moored at 4:10PM, after having done 6 locks and almost 6,5 hours of cruising, waiting time because of the lunch-break included. We’ve booked –and paid- for three nights, so we’ll leave coming Tuesday – when the summer has returned(??). This morning one of us, which one is anyone’s guess, had to go to the bakery in pouring rain. It had been a long time ago, in distant August, that the weather was slightly unpleasant. Until next week!