Midi Canal – September 2005 (Day 1)

Day One Aboard Tamaris, Saturday, September 17, 2005
From Port Cassafieres to Villeneuve-les-Beziers – 8 km/1 lock
A very eventful late afternoon characterized by unusual factors and events – so we were told. We arrived at Crown Blue at 4 PM. The weather was nice, except for a strong wind from the northwest (Tramontane) which made leaving the dock stressful and navigating the canal extremely difficult. We left Crown Blue at 5:30 pm, after being checked out on the boat by John, a knowledgeable boating Brit (PK 222). We encountered our first lock with much apprehension at Portiragnes (PK 218), which we easily accomplished to a small gallery of spectators. Let me explain the locking up procedure: boats enter the lock one at a time. At this point the walls of the lock are very high and it is somewhat like entering a cave. Each boat is responsible for having a person on shore at the side of the lock on the quay to take control of the lines; usually there is a drop off point just before the lock where this crew member disembarks and runs ahead to get in position.

Pat and Mike aboard Tamaris at Port Cassafieres – getting ready to get underway.
Normally, the captain is at the helm and controls the direction and speed of the boat – hopefully finessing it into position. The bow line handler throws the line to the shore person who catches the line, wraps it around a bollard, throws the end back to the bow handler to snug up and hold tight. The shore person then secures the stern line in the same fashion, snugging up the line before handing it back to the stern person. Once the boat is in position, the bow line may be taken over by the crew member on the quay – so that the crew member on the bow doesn’t get drenched as the water rushes through the lock gates. As the water level rises, the lines are continually snugged to keep the boat in position and prevent a bumper-car scenario in the lock as the current pushes boats backward and to the center.

Water gushes in through the locks, raising the boats to the next level.
Once the gates open, the boats retrieve their lines push off toward the center and leave the lock one at a time – just as they entered. Shortly after PK 217, we encountered a very narrow old stone bridge barely wide enough for our boat – but Mike, our captain, made it through – in spite of the wind. Lo and behold, just after PK 215, the wind had blown the top out of one of the plane trees and it toppled into the canal – effectively blocking it. We tied off to a tree to go ashore and check out how to continue. Down the bicycle trail came the French Navigation Department of the South West with a front end loader.

The front end loader opens the canal to boat traffic by removing the top of the downed plane tree.
We watched as it grabbed the tree, pulled it ashore, and broke it up. With a final sweep to make sure the channel was clear, the supervisor cleared us to proceed. We were underway again at 7 PM, but missed the next lock – it closed at 7PM. Just west of Villeneuve- les-Beziers, we tied off to two trees for the night to wait for the lock to open at 9 AM in the morning. We wandered the village, looking for dinner. La Cremade, recommended by Ralph and Pixie in Canal Cruising in the South of France, was fully booked with reservations. We pressed on, pickin’s were slim; but we found Pizza-a-emporter La Frangiane near the Caisse Epargne bank, opposite Place de Revolution. In contrast to the abrupt manner of the staff at La Cremade, the proprietress was very accommodating, the pizza great (very thin crust), and there were two tables: inside and out. We ate two pizzas and drank a bottle of wine for 16 euros. Then, back to the barge for a very restful night’s sleep.Note: the PK numbers are the point kilometers of the canal, a method of marking location similar to milemarkers on our interstate highways.

Boats along the canal, taking on potable water, visiting the village, tying up for the night, whatever…..

On to Day 2

Complete Album of Pahotos from Paris to Toulouse


This entry was posted in Beziers, Canal Cruising in the South of France, Midi Canal, Tramontane and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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