September 19, 2010
At this point we have travelled more than 1000kilometers and conquered 160 locks, we have only 16 locks left, but they are the biggest of our trip and will conclude with the largest of them all, the Bollene lock which is a 30 meter and apparently amazing to encounter, more about that when we have done it.
The Port de Plaisance at Chalon offered us respite from the weather which had been pretty awful over the past two days with constant heavy rain, now I know that we are on an adventure of a lifetime and in England having only two days rain would be a blessing, but we should be allowed to depart from what has been a pretty amazing trip so far, to complain about the weather, after all we are British, English and from up north!!!
At just over 10 euro’s a night, this Port du Pleasance has been a pretty nice place to stay, after moving from the waiting pontoon where there are no facilities we moved onto pontoon B125 on Thursday and had access to electricity and water.
The pontoon was on the outside of the marina and we tied up alongside, many of the craft were hire boats so I was a bit apprehensive as some hire boat sailors are clumsy and have little regards for others when approaching and mooring.
However, during our stay we were blessed with some pretty nice neighbours. On Thursday evening a large traditional French hire boat, moved into the berth in front of us. I could see that they were struggling, getting the boat moored and accessing power, so I went to help, during which I ended up explaining the principles of ‘springing’.
It transpired that the occupants were a group of 4 friends with their wives; they had travelled from Denmark to hire the boat for a week, and had saved the ‘astronomical’ hire fee of 2500 Euro’s by saving over the past three years.
They were a jolly bunch and for my trouble they invited me for a drink, I accepted a canny or two and ended up spending the next couple of hours chatting, they were leaving the following day, but they left me feeling good about the social scene of our trip and glad to have met them. We parted saying our goodbyes and I returned to Fandango for dinner.
The following day we were joined by an Ovni 39, the boat called Seren, its owner is from South Wales and the boat masquerades as a 39 footer but is actually 43 feet. Seren’s owners Val and Owen John were also travelling to Port Napoleon, helped for the next week by a couple of friends. Val and Owen’s intention was to winter in Port Napoleon. They had taken the Marne canal route which is allegedly shorter, is deeper and less unfriendly but has 50 more locks.
Saturday morning arrived, I had managed to remove the huge driftwood trunks which had accumulated between Fandango’s hull and the pontoon, the heavy rain had washed debris into the river and we were the point at which it had accumulated.
The morning was warm and the sun had broken through and a blue sky was presented, we filled with water and finally cast off at 0945hrs and set a course through the arches of the Pont …….. for Tornous.
Moving along the broad reaches of the Saone was a bit of a shock, after spending more than 6 weeks in shallow, narrow and often very challenging canals; the Saone River was easy to navigate, its lateral buoys clearly presented and wide open reaches, a strong current was in our favour and meant that we made good time. With only one lock to encounter time was no issue in getting to our destination, in 2 ¼ hrs we had travelled 25 kilometres and with a 12 kilometre speed limit we were turning down the revs so as not to exceed the speed limit. Going downstream the scenery had changed from wooded banks, to open pastures to corn fields and cows grazing on the banks of the river.
As is the French way, fishing is a popular pastime for both men and women, whilst our encounters on the smaller canals had sometimes been jousting contests to see how long they could leave their rods out to frantically reeling in when they realise that we could not deviate to avoid them.
Now the fishing was done from distant banks and became part of the scenery, one method of fishing was particularly interesting, from what seemed like small boats with poles erected from them, they reeled out a frame with canvass it had the appearance of an upturned para -glider sail which was hauled into the water using guys which were pulled through the water.
Reminiscent of the Seine, we had started to encounter large barge shipping, bigger than the Seine they pushed their way through the river but seemed considerate of us and stayed away from us so not to catch us in their wake.
We arrived at Tournos just before lunchtime, it had a typical Mediterranean character with colourfully painted houses and red terracotta roof tiles there was a long riverside pontoons which were available for plaisances, further along a large Hotel barge was busy taking on passengers.
The place seemed busy and we had made such good time that we decided to miss out on Tournos and push on for Macon which was another 30 kilometre’s downstream.
Reports that Macon was a noisy and inhospitable place to moor, concerned us, so we opted to stay away from the Town Quay, and made for the Port Du Pleasance which we had been told was rough with an inhospitable Capatainiere, who declined to render assistance.
Arriving at the Pleasance at 1600hrs. We approached the entrance which is situated between two islands in the centre of the river, initially the mouth of the entrance shallows quickly to 1.6m under the keels, but it soon increased to near 3 meters. As we continued the entrance opened out again into a large basin.
As we approached the Pleasance we could see that there were modern pontoons along one side of the basin, whilst on the other is a river bank and a park. Mooring for visitors is at the top end of the plaisance, but instead of pontoons mooring was stern too, this would be the first timewe had encountered stern too mooring and I have to confess to being a little concerned about expediting it. We motored down the line of moored boats and could see vacant spaces but these appeared to be reserved.
From within a couple of boats appeared the shaven headed, dark clothed and athletic figure of a man, waving to us and indicating to a free berth.
I quietly lined up Fandango with the space selected reverse and slowly moved backwards towards the space, Chris picked up the forward buoy first time and got a line through the hoop at the top of it and we moved backwards into the space with ease, and with a sigh of relief we were safely in place, I realised that all my concerns were unfounded, I felt proud with myself that we had moored stern too for the first time.
The shaven headed man introduced himself as the Capatainiere; he spoke a little English and is most helpful. He confounding the reports of an unhelpful Capatainierre, the plaisance was neat and tidy and appeared well run.
Whilst a bit pricy at 18.60euro’s the Plaisance has modern clean showers and toilets, fuel, water and electricity, winter storage and a Crain/hoist.
The Macon Port Du Pleasance is owned and managed by the Macon authorities and is about 3 kilometres from Macon, but the walk into town is by way of the river bank, and is an easy and pleasant walk along a promenade of trees and dog fouling areas and bins.
There are plans afoot to extend this plaisance from its current 150 moorings to 450 pontoon type berths, so I’m pleased that I have had the opportunity to practice my stern to mooring before it is changed to pontoons.
The Capitainierie is very particular about security, the site is surrounded on the pontoon side by a wire fence and locking gates, electric cables are locked into the bollard so I think there have been occasions where boaters have done a runner and not paid bills.
We decided to extend our stay to 3 days and spent the time exploring Macon and relaxing.
At 945hrs on Monday 13th. September on a cool, damp, morning, we slipped the mooring and departed Macon, our destination was to be Lyon, however we realised that in order to get to Lyon we would have to do 80 kilometres, so we decided to split the trip over 2 days and look for a suitable mooring which was equidistant.
The afternoon turned into a warm and sunny one as we approached the Halte at Trevoux, as we approached a large hotel barge was just leaving. The pontoon was equipped with water and electricity and a notice requested that we pay the 5 euro fee to the nearby camping site, which was situated at the top of the gangway on the other side of the path which runs alongside the canal.
At an extra cost of 1.5e each showers were available on the campsite and Bread could be ordered for delivery the following morning.
As we walked into the town the Mediterranean theme continued with narrow streets of old houses and dirt paths, the town centre was neat and tidy and the usual array of clothes shops, wine merchants and Tabacs were available.
We made our way back to the halte, stopping in a bar for coffee and a demi of beer and spent the rest of the evening enjoying the spectacular scenery and golden sunset.
The following morning having taken our shower and collected the bread, we reluctantly departed Trevaux and headed downstream towards Lyon and one more 10 meter lock.
As we progressed along the river the scenery was again changing, more industrial than we had seen before, but with the wide, fast flowing river pushing us along we soon made the mileage and just after lunch arrived in Lyon.
Mindful of advice given in the reference books, navicartes and from fellow boaters regarding security we were wary of stopping in Lyon and discounted a number of alongside mooring points as we passed through the city. The one recommended mooring is located at PK 4.5 and is identified by its willow trees which are planted at the site. Here there is a cobbled walkway which runs alongside the river, frequented previously by drug takers and down and outs, they have been driven away and now students and lovers frequent the area sitting on the stone forms which are placed on the walkway.
We arrived and saw that there was one other boat moored along the walkway, a Dutch built steel cruiser its British owner was from Sheffield and had been there for the past week. Encouraged by his confirmation that the area was safe we decided to stay for a day to see the sites of Lyon.
Chris went off to explore the area whilst I relaxed on Fandango, I later joined her and we walked around the centre of the city visiting the Car fours shop for provisions.
The following day (Thursday) we took the funicular railway to the top of the Fourviere area, at the top is the Basilique de Notre-Dame de Fourviere a twin level Marble church which is adjourned with the most exquisite stone carving and 4 domed roofs which are reminiscent of Islamic buildings. The building dominates the skyline and is floodlight at night, a beautiful building it is also a church which is still in use.
Behind the church is a walled plaza from which the whole of Lyon can be viewed, its elevated position means that the whole city and its landmarks can be seen.
A short distance away are the ruins of a Roman Amphitheatre, described as the largest existing Roman ruins in the whole of Gaul and named Theatres Gallo- Romains, they have been restored and are used for public and private performances of theatre and music. The day we visited there was to be a private party and technicians were busy setting up light and sound systems.
Returning to the city we ate in the old sector, it was a busy and noisy place with students parading around the streets in fancy dress and shouting slogans loudly, apparently it is a Lyonnais tradition for students at the start of their academic year to parade the streets to proclaim their commitment to a chosen issue such as anti abortion or low cost housing.
For the first time during our trip we encountered rude restaurant staff, a young female waitress in the restaurant Amphigin found Chris’s request for a cafe crème prior to the start of her meal unacceptable and shouted loudly “you want cafe Creme now” She was suitably rebuked.
We departed Lyon early on Thursday to make for Le Roaches du Condrieu and our visit to The Hotel Beau Rivage to celebrate Christine’s coming of age !!!!
Our passage down the Rhone was accompanied by some sunshine
The Halte de Plaisance at Le Roaches is well appointed, its position inside an inlet off the Rhone, this facilitates a more restful sleep for us and keeps Fandango away from the wake of passing large shipping.
Chris celebrates her birthday on the 17th. September so we have booked into the Beau Rivage Hotel in Condrieu on Sat 18th. September, it is a very nice hotel with an expensive but excellent menu of classical French Cuisine. We are looking forward to a great experience.
My next blog will describe our experience.
With only 260 kilometres left of our journey to Port Napoleon our adventure is coming to an end for this year, we hope to be there by the end of the coming week, then we get our mast back and we have just 3 days sailing to our winter destination in Gruissan.