Locks with Sloping Sides – Why?

The next morning we set off on our final leg of the Canal de Briare before we venture out onto the Seine. It is a lovely day and we enjoy a gentle voyage, passing through the final lock and handing back our nifty remote in the late afternoon. Sally is keen to stay at  Moret-sur-Loing and we nearly did until Charles saw that the price was 22 euro; we had to breast up against another barge and we can’t reach either the electricity or water points so in typical Yorkshire fashion we cast off and carry on.  It might have seemed a good idea at the time but we turn right off the Canal du Loing and enter the River Seine – if we had carried straight on we would arrive in Paris but we are keeping that delight for another day.  We know we are on a river because it’s about four times as wide as the canal and we find ourselves amongst the huge working boats which give me the jitters.  They are so big and always take priority but fortunately the majority of the captains slow down for us tiddlers. Moorings are few and far between on rivers so we have to carry on until eventually we arrive at a huge lock full of commercial boats all coming our way!

Waiting to go into the lock
Waiting to go into the lock
This guy is in a hurry - pushing a huge bow wave!
This guy is in a hurry – pushing a huge bow wave!

We follow a barge into the lock feeling quite small by comparison and emerge unscathed to moor in Montereau-Fault-Yonne on a lovely sunny evening.

Evening cruise into Montereau-Fault-Yonne
Evening cruise into Montereau-Fault-Yonne
View from the mooring
View from the mooring

We have travelled a lot further than we had initially intended and are now not far from Sens so we decide to stay a couple of days – good decision as the weather takes a turn for the worse. The mooring at Montereau is very good although the approach is a bit difficult as it is on the junction of the River Seine and the River Yonne. We go out to help a Sagar barge, about the same size as Bluegum, moor and watch with some trepidation as it approaches at an angle which puts it on a collision course – and sure enough we have a bit of a bump. No damage is done and the crew are clearly upset about it so Sally pops round later to reassure them that there isn’t a problem and they invite us aboard for a drink. Richard and Elizabeth have been boating in France for quite a few years but have now decided this will be their last and they are putting ‘Larabesque’  up for sale. We spend a lovely evening with them and then share the locks on our way up to Pont-sur-Yonne on the following day. The French are anything but consistent and sure enough we are now confronted by locks which have sloping sides! Why? – we can’t work out. We just know they are a nightmare!

Sloping side - Sally is not happy!
Sloping side – Sally is not happy!

Getting a rope onto the bollards is near impossible although the lock-keepers do help and then the boat bumps, bangs and grinds off the slope as the lock fill. We are not impressed. Things improve considerably after the first three – the rest have a pontoon which you moor against and it then runs up the sloping side on a rail. Much smoother and easier.

Things improve where a pontoon is installed
Things improve where a pontoon is installed

Pont-sur-Yonne is a lovely mooring and the town is interesting so we stay a couple of days. The weather is very hot and humid and we are treated to yet another spectacular thunderstorm.

Mooring at Sens
Mooring at Sens

We arrive in Sens on Friday afternoon which is a lovely town and has moorings with free water and electricity. There are a number of boaters here from the UK, New Zealand, Australia and France and, as seems to be the norm, everyone is very helpful and friendly.  A large steel boat flying a UK flag bears the name ‘Mornington Croissant’  – quite  a clever pun; or bun.


  1. Locks with Sloping Sides – Why?
    In ancient times lock builders believed that sloping walls could better resist to the pressure of the water in the locks. Now we know better, but all the oldest locks in France have still slopping walls. A nightmare for pleasure crafts, but can you imagine what it means to pass such a lock with a loaded 40 meter-barge !

    • Hi Eric and Roos
      Good to hear from you and thanks for the information. Whatever the reason for sloping locks Sally is not impressed and gets quite stressed – although the ones with a pontoon are a doddle! (english for ‘easy’)
      Best wishes and hope you are both well
      Charles and Sally

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s