My Travel Blog

Aground But Never Discouraged

We continued on our journey down the Canal Roanne a’ Digoin.  Half the time I was cursing that infernal canal while the rest of the time praising the incredible scenery.  The people running the canal didn’t know how to equalize the flow of water through the locks at night.  Some of the reaches between locks were full while others were down more than a foot.  It was a nightmare if we happen to be on a reach that was low on water especially if we had to cross a boat headed in the opposite direction.  Someone was going aground, and most likely both of us were.  Despite all the complaints the fast flowing Loire River running not fifty yards from the canal was beautiful, and at times enticing, though swimming was no doubt way to dangerous.  If the river wasn’t enough the canal lined with lush vegetation including weeping willows was amazing.

The fast running Loire River.

The beautiful Canal Roanne a’ Digoin.

Weeping willows along the canal.

Some of the locks were over five meters deep or roughly 16.5 feet.  Most of the lock-keepers didn’t know a thing.  On a number of occasions they would take our lines and place them over a bollard that was right next to the boat bollards.  The whole purpose of securing the boat in a lock is to prevent it from moving fore and aft.  Had we not changed bollards as the water went out of the lock the lines would have been perfectly vertical.  A vertical line does nothing.  It certainly won’t stop Rabelo from moving fore and aft.  The lines have to be tight, and at an angle.  Remember there are only inches between the lock gates and the bow and stern.

Inside one of the deep locks on the Canal Roanne a’ Digoin.

Rabelo is about to cross the Loire River.

The beautiful Loire River which unfortunately is not navigable.

We made it back to the Canal du Centre without too many incidents.  We did go aground a couple of times which I’m never happy about, but at least we didn’t have any problems getting off.  After crossing the Loire River on an aqueduct we stopped in Digoin.  There was a small boat tied up in the center of quay, which is something you never do.  You always tie up at the ends of a quay so that there is room for others.  There was a place to tie up on the other side of the canal, but it wasn’t very nice.  It didn’t have power or water.  We moored Rabelo there temporarily, and walked over to speak to the people on the little boat.  No one was home.  No problem.  Alban and I just moved the boat fifty feet forward, and retied it.  Our problem was solved.  We moved Rabelo to our new mooring, and spent three nights there.  We never saw the owners of the little boat.

Alban and I moving a boat so that Rabelo will have a place to moor.

Rabelo moored with water, power and a lawn.

Rabelo on the Canal du Centre.

Rabelo was moored right in front of a bridge with a large sign announcing that the depth of the water under the bridge was 1.2 meters.  I happen to notice a fully laden commercial barge coming from the opposite direction.  It must have drawn 1.65 meters of water.  There was no way it would make it under the bridge.  I watched as the barge slowly approached the bridge, and then began to move to the side. It stopped in front of the bridge off to the side so as not to block the channel.  Eventually the gendarmes came to speak with the owners.  It didn’t seem to matter, as the boat never moved the entire time we were there.  I have no idea how they were planning on solving their problem.  They couldn’t go forward and they couldn’t back up without great difficulty.  I was thinking that the VNF might get a dredge in to dig out the channel.

The barge Hensie draws at least 1.65 meters. The sign on the right side of the pictures says the depth of the water under the bridge is 1.2 meters.

The gendarmes and the owners discussing the problem.

– Tom Miller
Author of “The Wave”  and “When Stones Speak”– 
Chuck Palmer Adventure novels

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About the Author:

Tom Miller graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He is a consummate adventurer with over 1,000 dives as a recreational scuba diver, and an avid sailor who has traveled 65,000 miles throughout the Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands. Miller has also cruised the canals of Europe on his canal barge and given numerous lectures on cruising the canals of Europe, as well as sailing in the South Pacific. Piloting is also an interest of Miller's, and He has completed over 1,000 hours flying everything from small Cessnas to Lear jets.