Samois-sur-Seine - Montargis

It was only on Tuesday the 9th of September that we left the charming little town of Samois-sur-Seine. Following La Seine upstream for the last 11,5 kilometers (over 7 miles) negotiating one lock on the way, we turned to the right onto Le Loing. After just another 2 kilometers (1,25 miles) we reached Moret-sur-Loing. We moored up at 11:20AM after a journey of no more than 2 hours and 15 minutes. Our mooring spot during the winter 2012-13 is visible in the right-background. The short navigable part of Le Loing ends right here and Le Canal du Loing starts/ends with the lock that is visible in the left-background.

The next day, Wednesday the 10th, we said goodbye to Moret-sur-Loing with the idea to cruise into Nemours. On the way up, last April, we were unable to find a decent overnight spot at Nemours on the canal and were forced to stay one night on the short river-section. Things had not changed, however, the entire canal-quay was still occupied by seemingly permanently moored boats. No sightseeing Nemours for us! Just 4,5 kilometers (less than 3 miles) we spotted a few bollards at Bagneaux-sur-Loing. We grabbed this opportunity and moored 4:01PM – after almost 5,5 hours of cruising, 9 locks ascending included. We’re indeed on a canal again – plenty of locks.

On we went, on Thursday, leaving Bagneaux-sur-Loing at 9:08AM. We hoped for an easy day and to be able to moor at Souppes-sur-Loing after some 6 kilometers (3,75 miles) and only 2 locks. Again all spaces were occupied… The locks on Le Canal du Loing are automated now – further down this blog more about it. In spite of being automated the system is switched off between noon and 1:00PM. ‘Why?’ we thought, as the system is automated, but we quickly realized that a VNF-employee has to act in case of a problem and the lunch-break in France is something untouchable. So we were forced to moor in front of the lock Brise Barre. In a lovely surrounding as this picture shows, with Le Loing visible next to the canal.

Since we had to wait for almost an hour the opportunity was taken to make some photographs of Le Loing. Here’s the first one.

And number two. The weather was gorgeous that day. And the days before. It still is up to today (Sunday the 14th).

We love this one the best. Strong sunlight, coming from the front, normally causes a problem taking a photo. In this case the leaves filter the light beautifully, giving even a non-professional a fair chance.

Sometimes one feels privileged to witness mother nature at its most glorious. This was one of these days.

After being able to continue our journey we had a vague plan to stop at a restaurant, called ‘Le Martin Pêcheur’ (The Kingfisher), as we had been on the way for over 5 hours, almost 20 kilometers (12,5 miles) including 7 locks. Although our ‘Fluviacarte’ (20) suggests a mooring possibility in front of the restaurant we could not even discover a trace of one. What we did see was the flag of Scotland, aka Saint Andrew’s Cross or The Saltire, flying from the building. Does a Scotch(wo)man live there? Or an English(wo)man who wants the Scots to know that he/she wants the Scots to remain within the UK?

Again a bit later than anticipated we decided to stay at Cepoy, just before leaving Le Canal du Loing and entering Le Canal de Briare. All in all we traveled nearly 6,5 hours and ascended 9 locks. We’re moored up next to a former commercial boat. Such a boat is over twice our length (and wider too), so we decided to picture the commercial boat only partly, thus avoiding the ‘Calimero complex’ (see under ‘Impact in popular culture’.)

Friday the 12th we started cruising at 10:00AM. One (the last) automated lock on Le Canal du Loing, followed by two locks with the help of a lock keeper made all too clear that we had entered Le Canal de Briare. As from now on we have to deal with lock keepers again. After having waited for an hour in the ‘Port de Montargis’ because of the lunch break we entered the city itself around 1:00PM. It’s a pity we had forgotten how nice an entrance Montargis offers the boating community. We’d have videotaped it. Too late! All we can offer you is a picture of some houses on the quay-side. As you can see the weather is still excellent.

Two locks more, the last one 4,80 meters (16 feet) deep, and we arrived at Montargis’s port, named Port Saint-Roch. We found just enough room at the end of the quay without completely blocking the slipway for the smaller boats. After some juggling we managed to moor up around 1:45PM, Not all that far from the start that day, just 7,5 kilometers (over 4,5 miles), and only 5 locks in total. We negotiated over the price for mooring and the facilities because we occupy only 2/3 of the space we need. Successfully. One never gets something unless asked for… See the beautiful plane-trees next to the opposite bank. Compare them to the same trees in April, pictured by the last photo of this blog-page:

Same spot by night. Enchanting, isn’t it?

This picture depicts what we both do during the Sunday: writing letters and emails and constructing the blog page. It’s a day’s work for both of us. We like to do it. The present weather even permits us to do it outside.

With the 3rd picture we already mentioned that all locks of Le Canal du Loing are automated now. We passed the canal downstream last April and the works were already visible at some locks. Now the job is almost done. ‘The job’ means automating 18 locks out of 19 – the 19th (Moret-sur-Loing) is manned by a lock keeper who distributes the remote control. The latter is collected back by the first lock keeper on Le Canal de Briare. (Do we have to explain that the procedure works the other way around when cruising in the opposite direction?) As the picture shows the renovation of this particular lock took € 835.000,00. We did not once notice an amount under € 800.000,00; we think we remember one well over € 1.000.000,00. So it’s safe to say that the entire operation needed at least € 15.000.000,00, if not € 20.000.000,00.

Every lock, no-one excepted, is now equipped with a little building like this one. Unpainted metal – it’s to be seen more and more, like bank protection in Belgium (Diksmuide), works of art, buildings etc. Is this just ‘en vogue’ or is it based upon environmental arguments? The orange alarm-box has a push-button in case of emergency. We used it between noon and 1:00PM (again see picture 3) and heard pretty horrible music, alternated with a charming female voice, telling that VNF is trying to make the waiting period as short as possible. For a now well-known reason we did not get any response at all… These little buildings contain all the expensive electronic equipment, needed for making the lock work automatically. Hopefully this construction, the glass in particular, is vandal-proof.

The lock-edges are made smooth on any of the locks, graveled paving stones and a nice chained fence are installed. It does really look good – and even better with the flowers on the bridge and the trees starting to show their autumn-colours.

Here’s the shallowest one, being Égreville 48 centimeters (1,6 feet). All the locks have new gates as well. That’s 72 gates in total. It must have been a lot of dragging.

Most of the described changes, apart from the small equipment-buildings, are clearly visible here. Smooth edges, new bollards (unpainted as well), new paving stones, new fences, new gates. It’s amazing that all locks are (almost) finished during only 4 to 5 months. It’s even more amazing that, first having said that Le Canal du Loing is still in use by commercial boats, we only met two (2!) commercial boats during the 4 days that we have cruised this lovely canal upstream. Of course we love what has been done, as it gives us the opportunity to continue enjoying our boating life. However when we consider the lack of use of the canal, equally commercially and leisurely, it’s beyond us where the profit is to be found. À bientôt.