Sunday Island has been cruising down the French Canals for the past Month with the Hewson family onboard. As we pass through the vineyards, old towns, and locks our little ships compliment continues to grow. We are canaling in company with Emilie’s father and a friend on their boat Harfie.
Crossing over a water bridge
Since we departed Maron we have passed through one hundred locks and have found the Lock keepers house beside each lock either un occupied or have new custodians as presumably lock keepers live else where with locks now becoming all automated. The automated lock system probably makes financial sense to the bean keepers however it presents new problems. A couple Emilie spoke to told us they were stuck in a lock going up and down all day because a stick got caught in the lock doors and there was nobody there to fix it!
The view we mostly had was tree lines canals, fields in the distance, the occasional village, vineyards, and a Chateau’s. Unlike the canals and n Holland and central France, Not many villages are on the Canals but they are in walking distance. If we had time to spare we could tie up on a bank, get out the bikes and cycle to a village. Bikes and walking paths mostly follow the canal path.
The canals are narrow in some areas and if on the helm concentration is required for getting around bends, passing other traffic, stopping to wait for a lock
Some cottages are in disrepair but others are well kept. Lock keepers are now often in charge of a few locks and on a few occasions we would see the lock keeper leave in his vehicle and meet us at the next lock .
Issy and Phillippe “Pegging in” to hold us to the bank.
On the 14th May after 6 months since departing Hinderlopen and over two months of passaging through canals we dropped over 300m in a series of large locks and exited the canal system onto the Saone river.
We arrived in Chalon France on the14th May and stopped in a nice marina on an island. Our berth was under a walking bridge that connects the island to the mainland. Shortly after docking we heard a You-Hooo from above, looked up and saw my cousin Eddie Hollender waving from above. Edwina is living in Paris and had caught the train down to Chalon for a few days on the boat.
View of Sunday Island from bridge in Chalon
In Chalon we refueled. With the price of fuel at the moment I was sweating the cost of refueling 500L however had a nice surprise when I went to pay and was only charged €1.70 per L. And only required 300L. The station attendant told me they purchased the fuel last November so charged 2021 rates. I think it will be the last time I buy fuel under €2L!
We continued down the Saone River. We had a full ship with not only our family of four, but Mum, Sister Amanda and Cousin Edwina from Paris. Ed is the an instant hit with the kids playing games and singing songs. We now have three live aboard Nannies – the life of the rich and famous!
On 16th May we arrived in the vibrant city of Lyon. We tied up to a Marina and for the first time in months had a chat to some other Yachties heading south for the summer. It was nice to be around other yachts with rigs on deck and talk about the highs and lows of traveling through the canals by boat. I was glad we had a lifting keel as one yacht with a draft of 1.7m told us they would need to haul out in Marseille to repair damage to their keel.
Mum on the helm with a castle in the background
In Lyon we went ashore to eat pizza and enjoy Eddie’s last night with us. In the morning Eddie departed back to Paris and Amanda also got off to spent a night ashore as she had an important business call the next day and was on call for her work as a yacht medic with MOS.
The next day was Amanda’s birthday and she joined us 40km down stream in St Vallier. We were all slightly jealous of Amanda’s stories about large hotel baths! Issy made Amanda a lovely pavlova raspberry cake.
There is a beautiful village where n the hill of St Vallier but children were a bit tired to travel up the steep hill to the beautiful village so we celebrated Amanda’s birthday at the local Caribbean style bar. Celebrations went long into the morning and I think I remember seeing glimpses of the sun as we went to bed!
Some of the big locks dropped us 40m to the sea.
We were out of narrow Canals and in to a wider Rhone with larger barges and cruise boats
We got to Le Port La Guinguette near town of St Michael. A beautiful old city built on a hill above the port.
The next day we had the Med Sea in sight !! 3 locks 95.4 km and 300m to drop to sea level. We continued down stream to Vallabregues then left at 6am the next morning as Amanda needed to leave from Marseilles in afternoon.
It was a misty morning, with lovely reflections. Mum was on helm most of way. We passed a number of old castles and fourts and a smelly factory, both old and new reminders that we were approaching the sea. The old fourts were probably built in the days of the Vikings to stop them rowing up stream to Paris!
Boat kids life on the riverbank. Max found a fishing pole and we spent the morning “fishing” and skimming rocks
With the sea in view we had one large lock then last lock in to Port Marseille. The last one opening in to the Mediterranean and the city of Marseille!
The Marina in Marseille was a tight fit and for the first time since Lalystad I had wind, tide and current to contend with. As the keel had been up for the past 6 months I forgot how responsive Sunday Island is in “Sea mode” and the keel down. She now turned on a dime, and I could steer her while going astern. We got in to the marina stern to With our mast over handing astern 10ft much to the displeasure of other Marina patrons.
Amanda had a taxi booked to the so was straight off To the airport in to a cheuffeur driven black limo !!!!
The canals have been an unforgettable experience. We have passed through hundreds of locks, over mountains, through tunnels, over water bridges, three countries and now Sunday Island and the Hewson’s have returned to the Mediterranean.