The Saone is wide and gentle. It originates in the north east of France and runs south into the Rhone at Lyon a total length of 480kms. I was only using 60kms this trip.
On entering the canal I initially headed south for 3km to Chalon-sur-Saone for a 3 night stop. On my way I was confronted with a rowing club regatta. A safety boat came over and after a brief chat I decided to wait then pass between races so as not to disrupt the racers.
The port at Chalon is behind a small island, very well equipped with floating pontoons. The harbour staff were on hand to advise where they wanted me to moor and explain the facilities. I’m glad I arrived early as this is a very popular port with hire boaters many of whom arriving in the evening had to find alternative moorings with the port full. The port is very close to a modern out of town shopping complex allowing me to stock up. The old town is quite large with a good selection of bars, cafes and restaurants. On the day I arrived, Sunday there was a market and the town was packed. It’s also a popular stop for the very large river boat cruisers although I didn’t see many passengers on them. Whilst at Chalon friends Clive and Vicky stopped locally for the night on their long drive to Spain and a chance to catch up and have the odd drink.
Rested I moved north to Verdun-sur-le-Doubs. A trip of only 20kms and at 12km/h a short journey. The port at Verdun is at the end of river Doubs where it flows into the Saone. To moor you have to back up to a pontoon. With no finger pontoons you have to leave the boat at the back. Not ideal for a Piper with a high wide back. A quaint, historical town not a huge amount open on my arrival although there was a bustling market the following morning, if you’re into that sort of thing! The harbour master was very helpful pointing out a great dog walk on an adjacent island.
From Verdun to my final destination of Saint-Jean-de-Losne (SJDL) was another 40km and 2 large locks. a couple of very winding river patches have been replaced by straight canal cuts to ease travel. Not the most exciting of scenery, lots of agricultural land, fields of cows. Passing Seurre I could see it looked like Chalon, another popular hotel boat stop. It did look like a better place for mooring and certainly a place I’d consider next time.
The town of SJDL is on a junction with the Saone and the Southern end of the Canal de Bourgogne another north-south route. The port’s in a large marina in the centre of town. A very popular boating point boats large and small craft are moored not just in the marina but river and canal side. The initial part of the canal is full of commercial boat businesses repairing, maintaining and storing craft boats. The town has a couple of good supermarkets, DIY shop, restaurants and cafes, there’s a lot of British people here.
I’m temporarily moored along side an old barge for a few days as they’re having an open weekend selling boats. After the weekend several boats will be removed from the water and I’ll move to a better mooring although this one’s fine for now.
On my arrival whilst connecting my electric cable I was startled by a very large explosion and saw the cabin of a cruiser boat blown into the air. My first thought was a gas explosion. It didn’t immediately catch fire and amazingly I saw a man helped out of the wreckage by an adjacent boat. Within minutes the boat caught fire which quickly became out of control damaging adjacent boats that were not able to be moved. It took the fire brigade an hour to extinguish. A very shocking and sad sight.
The owner had been working on his fuel petrol tank, most boats are run on diesel fuel. He’d emptied the fuel into containers on the boat. Then began drilling a hole in the base of the tank to drain water that had collected. The fumes within the tank ignited from a spark. At time of writing the he’s stable in hospital with burns and is expected to make a full recovery. The same cannot be said for his boat.
An unfortunate explosive end to an amazing 4 months cruising and almost exactly 2 years since the launch of my beautiful boat Angela Dawn. No two days since arriving in France have been the same. Each day has bought a new view, experience and people to meet. I’ve seen and experienced so much it seems like such a long time since my Channel crossing. My French has improved very slightly and I do mean slightly.
Before leaving Britain I was uncertain how I’d cope with a floating life abroad, would the waterways and locks be too difficult alone. Would I be lonely, would there be places to walk the dog, buy food near moorings, fill the water tank? The list of uncertainties was long. Quickly it became apparent that everything could be made to work with patience and the odd glass of wine.
With Jo, occasional friends visiting and the ease of communicating with people in the UK I rarely feel lonely. But then of course I do have Nutty who has always has been my loving companion, rarely moaning and a great introduction to meeting people.
Through the winter I’ll return periodically to check on the boat. She’s in a secure area but I know as soon as I leave I’ll want to be back aboard. I cannot imagine ever living permanently on land.
If the conditions are good through the winter we’ll go for short cruise.
The last 4 months has been fabulous but mentally exhausting, next year I could be here for twice the time so will plan breaks back to Britain, if nothing else but for some decent real ale.
Figures since arriving in France;
Cruised 1146 kms, 264 locks, The engine’s run 215 hours.
Cost comparison France / UK
River licence for non tidal Thames – £1234
Licence for all French waterways – £458
12 months unserviced mooring Windsor £3150 plus local mooring fees whilst cruising.
6 months winter full serviced mooring Saint-Jean-de-Losne £1078 plus local mooring fees whilst cruising which are similar to the Thames.