It feels a
little bizarre to be sitting on our sailing boat 100m above sea level and
approximately 50M inland!
We eventually came
through the various swinging and lifting bridges in Sete on Easter Sun evening
as they were all closed in the morning for a swimming competition. Having
spent the night at anchor on the peaceful Etang de Thau we set off
properly on Monday morning, crossing the 9 km Etang to the entrance of the
Canal du Midi.
Initially we passed
between tamarisk and yellow flag iris lined dykes protecting the canal from
the surrounding low land and etangs but soon the characteristic plane trees
began to make their appearance. These were extensively planted along the
original canal to limit evaporation, hold the banks together and to protect the
bargees from the sun. They are most welcome in the hot weather as well as being
During the first two
days we met quite a few locks and a huge staircase of 6 chambers. It was all
rather nerve-wracking as we found that we couldn't reliably get our lines ashore
and around the bollards as the lock walls are so high. We managed to avert
any disasters with the boat and the masts, which overhang a bit both bow and
stern, by utilising the watching holiday makers. Initially the locks were also
very crowded with 4 -5 boats being lifted at the same time, (Easter Holidays),
and most being hire craft, piloted by novices who maybe hadn't handled a boat
before. The locks here are oval shaped so with the huge rush of water into the
lock it is very chaotic. In the last two days we have seen far fewer hire craft,
have developed a much more reliable lock technique and found ourselves alone or
with only one other boat for company - phew!
We have visited
several towns such as Agde and Beziers, as well as very sleepy small villages
from which we have purchased our daily bread and the occasional croissants (well
you just have to don't you?). Beziers boasted a splendid aqueduct over the R
Orb, the large flight of locks and a lofty height upon which the cathedral and
old town sit.
View from Beziers
As well as locks
there are, of course, bridges.We had carefully measured everything to make sure
that we could pass under the bridge at Capestrang. We had read that, if a
boat can pass under here, it will pass under everything on the mainland Europe
canal system. After the beginning of day 3 we felt that we could relax under the
bridges because we made Capestrang with a bit of room to
Will we make
We tied up at
Carcassonne to explore the old city as there was a public holiday so
all the locks were closed. As it happened there was also a strike of lock
keepers on the Monday so luckily we were struck at a very interesting
The old Citie of
Carcassonne is set on a hill overlooking the river and is magnificent as you can
see from the picture.
We were pleased to be able to get going again when the locks reopened. We
made good progress, stopping of at Castelnaudray for the compulsary Cassoulet.
Shortly after this we reached the top lock, "Le Mediterranean" and cruised along
the 8km plateau before mooring for the night just before the first downward
lock, "L'Ocean". Here was a very pretty area where the feeder canal from the
Montagnes Noir, 20M away comes in to supply the Midi. A huge feat of engineering
in the 1600s.It is now downhill all the way which is alot easier
than going up - no turbulence!
As we neared the last
three locks on the Midi, we were told that they had just been automated. I think
that we were the guinea pigs. The first was fine as the keeper showed us what to
do. Press the "down" button and once in the lock and ready, press the green
button, relax then cruise out of the open gate at the bottom. Lock no 2 behaved
until it came to open the gates and they didn't open. We managed to phone the
lock control centre and were duly rescued. Lock no 3 was entered at
1810 and at 1850 we were still there, slowly going down the 5 meter drop then
stopping halfway. After 6 phone calls and messages in our best Franglais, and
just before lock closing time at 1900, we were rescued. We had visions of
staying the night in the bottom of a 5m chamber!
Dressed overall for
We had intended to stop for one night in Toulouse but in the end stayed for two.
Katie flew in for two days and one night! The reason that we did not move
on was that, despite the proximity of the Canal Lateral de Garonne and the
number of stations along our intended route, no trains and no buses supplied the
villages on a Saturday! On enquiring about the cost of a taxi to take Katie back
to the airport and it was 80 Euros!
We are now on the Canal lateral de Garonne which takes over from the Midi at
Toulouse. Initially it was very straight with few villages but it has become
prettier and prettier and is definitely rivaling the Midi now that we have
reached the pretty and historic town, Moissac.
After a busy day of
Our subscription for
mailasail runs out tomorrow and is very expensive to renew for only a few
weeks so there will be no more blogs.