How time flies by – we are in October already with the mindset to get the boat ready for winter. We have about 170 kilometers to travel before we arrive in Roanne and are still enjoying good weather.
After spending a couple of days in Fragny on The Canal du Centre we head off on Sunday the 1st October to travel 15 kilometers with 11 locks to Chagny. The port has changed a bit since our last visit and now has a secure quay with mooring for about 6 + boats and there is electricity and water. Not sure if our reputation has gone before us but the two boats moored up move off as we arrive so we have the quay to ourselves.
The Canal du Centre is 114.20 kilometers in length with 61 locks and links the Loire Valley to the Saone via the Charolais mountains. The first project to construct this canal started in the 16th Century and is attributed to famous engineers such as Adam de Craponne who to be honest I’ve never heard of and Leonardo da Vinci who I have heard of!!! Completion of the canal was achieved around 1793 by Emiland Gauthey who was averse to straight lines and so the canal follows the beautiful hills of the Charolais region and is very windy. Coal, stone, tiles and other industrial products were loaded onto barges and it was a very busy in its time.
Neither Charles nor I have a clear memory of the canal but every now and then one of us recalls some event or activity with a ‘oh I remember this now’. We virtually have the canal to ourselves and see the odd boat occasionally. We have one night at St Leger-sur-Dheune and a night at St Julien-sur-Dheune which although doesn’t have any services is a very nice mooring and then we arrive into Montceau-les-Mines on Wednesday 4th October.
Montceau is a large town with a large supermarket and a good range of shops so we stay for a few days and enjoy some walks and runs. The market on Saturday is excellent with stalls laden with colourful fruit and veg.
We spend a couple of nights at Genelard which surprisingly provides free water and electricity. It is here where the demarcation line between occupied France an ‘Free’ France ran through the middle of the town. Quiet at this time of year – just us, a couple of boats and the ubiquitous fisherman.
We move on and spend two nights in Paray-le-Monial. Some friends moored here a while ago and had a folding bicycle stolen but fortunately it was recovered by the Police so we ensure everything is locked and secured but happy that nothing untoward occurs during our stay.
Paray is a pretty town and is a very popular destination for pilgrims with its striking Romanesque basilica dating back to the 11th and 12th century, chapel of the visitation where the sacred heart was revealed to the young Marguerite Alacoque in the 17th century and other chapels demonstrating the importance of this town to the Christian faith. Gillian B a Piper Barge arrives into the port and as I go to help out with mooring I recognise David and Gillian Piper who are taking the boat to Paris for its owners. We last saw them in Lyon when they were helping Cindy with her barge Emily travel down the Rhone.
I have to say the locks on the Centre are rather frustrating and took me a while to get my head around their workings. Lock keepers have to be informed of when we are travelling to set the locks in motion and once we enter the locks we have to pull a blue cord – but not too early as we have to wait anything from 40 seconds to a couple of minutes before they decide to work.
Ascending the locks, the blue cords are wet, slippery and require me to lean precariously over the bow to grab hold – descending is a lot easy. On Thursday the 12th we take a leisurely cruise along the last part of the Canal du Centre stopping in Digoin for lunch and a visit to the supermarket before we turn left and join the Canal de Roanne a Digoin our first time on this canal where we see a signpost welcoming us to ‘Le Canal tranquille’.
This canal is 55.60 kilometers in length with 10 locks and was put into service in 1838 when it had 13 locks however at the end of the 19th century the canal was modified to conform to the new Freycinet dimensions with three locks removed and some of the remaining ones made deeper with the Bourg-le-Compte lock being 7.20 meters deep – making it one of the deepest locks on the whole of the French network. It may be a relatively short canal but it is very pretty with some lovely moorings.
We travel for three days mooring one night each at Pont de la Croix, Chambilly and Briennon . We arrive in Chambilly at lunch time and decide to cycle up to Marcigny.
It’s a lovely warm afternoon and we spend a couple of hours exploring the town which has some ancient wooden buildings and a old fortified mill.
We end our tour with a huge dish of ice cream in the town square before heading back to the boat.
The lock is booked for early next morning and we enjoy a lovely quiet sunny cruise along the canal to arrive in Briennon for lunch time.
It was clearly once a very busy port but now filled with private boats moored for the winter. Not much here except a boulangerie, a couple of restaurants and a small supermarket which is closed for the weekend!
Thankfully, the boulangerie opens early and we indulge in our Sunday treat of croissants, pain au chocolat and baguette before heading off on the final leg of our journey. We arrive into the Port de Roanne on Saturday afternoon receiving a warm welcome from other boaters.
We moor up against ‘Rangali’ and are looking forward to seeing Debbie and Kevin in a few weeks when they return to the port. As we settle in and familiarise ourselves with our new surroundings we quickly learn from everyone saying hello that an important date not to be missed is the Thursday evening drinks at L’Authentique which is conveniently situated a few metres away from us.
This month we have travelled 169 kilometers and worked 71 locks
This year we have travelled a total 1,602.5 kilometres and worked 337 locks!