Summer in Brittany (Day 5)

Hédé – St-Grégoire

Wednesday, 30.07.2014
16 Locks 34 km

On another hot morning we cross the summit and see the first moving boat outside Dinan.


They start evasion maneuvers as soon as they see us and we can observe the fear in their eyes… Self esteem rises.

Meanwhile the outboard has developed some problems. Once taken out of gear it just revs up and cant be switched into gear without fearing for the gearbox. Investigation shows that the automatic choke doesn’t close as it should. By the looks of it Yamaha has anticipated exactly that and fitted a little leaver to the choke/carburetor assembly that allows to clamp the choke in either the open or closed position. After closing the choke manually and fiddling with the carburetors idle speed screw the engine works just fine again. Also that means that in order to start the engine from cold in the morning we have to take the engine cover off, set the choke, start the engine, wait a few minutes, reset the choke and close the cover.

After depleting our alcoholic supplies the evening before, we buy a few bottles of homemade cidre from the lady look keeper at écluse 20 Villemorin. Here begins the gentle descent from the summit down to the river Ille and finally down to Rennes and the Villaine.

We stop for lunch at Montreuil-sur-Ille. The Crêperie in the lock cottage looks very inviting but is closed for lunch (at lunch time). I begin to despair at the logic of opening times in this part of the world. I bike into the village to get fresh bread and get one of the spare fuel cans refilled.

In the afternoon we get to St-Germain-sur-Ille. Here resides the navigation authority and also runs its lock gate workshop.


Here we also meet this friendly sailor who warps his little engine-less boat from sea to sea.


We move on through nice country side and begin to realize the down sides of cruising the waterways in Brittany. Other then on English or Irish canal there are practically no possibilities to moor up. All the banks are fortified with sharp granite rocks waiting to pierce the hull and overgrown with nettles and bramble waiting to pierce your skin. So you are left with pontoon moorings which are far and few between and often occupied by big barges that don’t look like they will move soon. The other alternative are the lock landings. So that really is where we will spend most nights on this trip. And its nothing to worry, as there won’t be any boats after closing time, as well as hardly any boats moving at all. Moving boat count so far: 2.




Summer in Brittany (Day 4)

Trévérien – Hédé

Tuesday, 29.07.2014
20 Locks 21 km

I got the folding bike out that I had bought with this holiday in mind and cycled into Trévéren to get a baguette and some pain au chocolat. The hardcore customers were already having something alcoholic and a Gitane in the bar next door. Nine o’clock, dead on time, the lock gates ahead are opening and we start our days cruising.


The three hours till lunch time pass by quickly and we are left one lock short of Tinténiac which was planned as a stop for refueling and also getting all the stuff I forgot while struggling to survive the CORA giganto market. Even worse we promised Lucas, a seven year old pancake addict, that there will be crêpe. The rather nice play ground at écluse 34 Gromillais provided the necessary distraction. For now. We need to find a Crêperie quick. After lunch we moor up at Tinténiac. The Crêperie is closed. For lunch……

With a not really impressed boy we tread our way to the SuperU at the western outskirts. Et voilà: The SuperU sports a cafe that also does crêpe. So we sit outside in the supermarket’s car park and have cidre and crêpe, while people do weird things with their mobility scooters. Lucas thinks SuperU is the best place on planet after he secures a set of Lego Technik. Just as well…….

After this late lunch it was time to get cracking in order to climb up to the summit of the Canal d’Ille-et-Rance. This means 11 locks in a straight line in a quick succession. And we had no intention to get stuck amidst the flight when the lockies clock off. Although we found that there is a quiet nice mooring half way up with a nice collection of quirky boats.


Its another hot afternoon with temperatures well in the thirties. So the big trees offering some shade were very welcome.




Just after 7 p.m. we cleared écluse 21 Sagerie and moored up at the lock landing. Out came the BBQ and Cidre from the fridge. Just after we finished an English couple turned up who had their narrowboat moored close by. It turned out that they have moved to Normandy many years ago. We spent a very nice evening with them emptying several bottles of red as well as Cidre and Calvados.

Summer in Brittany (Day3)

Dinan – Trévérien

Monday, 28.07.2014
6 Locks 17 km

On Monday morning we find a form from the Port Master on the fore deck. So while I walk to the boulangerie to get fresh bread and pain au chocolat, I stop at the Port Master’s (quiet well hidden in house nr.17) to pay 9,50 € for the night. After breakfast we started filling the water tank. And disaster struck. While still wondering why the tanks takes so long filling I get wet feet inside the boat. The Plastimo water tank had burst……….. The tank consists of two layers. A transparent watertight inner that holds the water and a blue PVC outer that supports the inner tank. The inner tanks are known for problems ever now and then. By the looks of it ours has burst before and been replaced. Whoever did it cut open the blue outer to make it easier to slide in the new inner. Unfortunately he didn’t take into account that the outer tank cant fulfill its purpose any more.

No there we are. No internet (I don’t want internet on holidays) and only limited French. In despair I rang Ian from Wilderness Boats who promised me that he will call me with a lead once he is back at his workshop in the afternoon. But what to do in the meantime. I walked back to the Port Master to ask for advice. Not only did he speak perfect English, he immediately picked up the phone and started ringing chandlers to find a tank. He found a company near St.Malo that has one on stock. He refused to ring me a taxi to get me back to my Landy and insisted to take me there. Great service.

While Kerstin and Lucas bailed out the boat, I went off to Evasion Marine in Saint-Jouan-des-Guérets. When I arrived they were closed for lunch. That gave me the chance to do our shopping at the CORA supermarket next door. This is by far the biggest supermarket I have seen so far. Looking at the ceiling you could see that it reflects the curvature of the earth. After a few month I managed to find the exit and load the car with my bounty. In the meantime Evasion Marine finished there lunch and I got the tank the Port Master had reserved for me. Back to the boat with the car, unloading, back to Petit Lyvet with the car, back to the boat with the folding bike.

All left to do was fitting the new tank. All I could get was the inner tank and unpacking it I discovered that it wasn’t rectangular but triangular…..
But after the liberal use of MacGuyver tape™ we ended up with this:


It was much smaller than the original tank, but it didn’t leak and it lasted for the whole holiday. So lets count that as a success. Big thanks to everybody who helped solving this problem.

Also Dinan is a pleasant town and deserves more attention we were keen on getting away from people and noise. So we untied around 4 p.m. and swapped this:


for that:


After Léhon Lock the day boats and all other traffic just disappeared and we were on our own. Here we also met our 1st éclusier (lock keeper). There are different arrangements on the various waterways of Brittany. On the Canal d’Ille-et-Rance (which we just entered) most locks seem to have a residential lock keeper. On one hand this saves you all the work involved in locking, on the other hand you cannot do much in terms of locking. All you are left with is opening and closing the offside lock gates, which is not even strictly necessary with a Beaver. Also you are dependent on the lock opening times. They are long enough, but on several occasions we found ourselves one lock short of the next town, as the keeper went for lunch. And lunch is strictly holy.

We skirted the pretty Léhon but didn’t want to stop just after two km.


We move on until closing time and moor up on the lock landing below Lock 41 Les Ilots. A few hundred meters further on is the small village of Trévérien which still has his quaint Epicerie/Depot du Pain/Bar/Tabak. So we will have fresh bread tomorrow morning.


Summer in Brittany (Day2)

Cherbourgh – Dinan

Sunday, 27.07.2014
0 Locks 5 km

We idle the morning away on the ferry until we hit the road just after noon. Its a very hot, hazy day and the plan is to reach Petit Lyvet on the Rance just a few km downstream of Dinan. Although its only 200 km and the roads are good it feels a long trip in the heat.  We leave the dual carriageway N13 in order to refuel at a super market, unfortunately the exit was of the exit only type and we can’t get back on the RN . This forces us to a country lane detour of half an hour.

Eventually we reach the slipway at Petit Lyvet, which was recommended by the Wilderness Owner Club. The slipway is very wide, safe and comfortable.


After the boat was launched, it was time to get the car and trailer securely stored. So I headed of to Taden to meet a lady that runs a little campsite. When I arrived, there was not a living soul around. Madams phone only came up with the voice mail and the neighbor that I finally found didn’t speak any know language. Heading back to Petit Livet I stopped at the campsite near the slipway and asked to owner if I could leave car and trailer with him. 40 Euros changed hands and this problem was solved.

Back to the boat we headed of to Dinan in order to start the holiday proper. Here the waters are still wide and busy with a lot of boats which also venture on the canalized Rance from the Rance Maritime, as well as a lot of “Bateau sans Permis”.


The Guide Fluvial mentions a Port Office but doesn’t tell us where it is. So we just stay at the visitor mooring as it is quiet late by now. Being short of supplies we decide to eat at La Lumachelle, a small Pizzeria on the Rue Petit de Fort, that leades from the Harbor up to Dinan centre ville. After that we retire to the boat and end the day with a bottle of Cidre.

Summer in Brittany (Day 1)

Scarriff – Rosslare

Saturday, 26. August 2014
0 locks a lot of km

Nine o’clock in the morning and after a hectic week we are all geared up and ARGO hooked up to our trusty Landy.


We started from Scarriff in plenty of time to reach the Rosslare-Cherbourgh ferry. With a tow of almost 15 meters and the state of Irish roads it was just as well. Only when we arrived in Rosslare I realized that the ferry wasn’t of the drive in at one end and drive out the other end type. You rather need to turn round inside and reverse to your allocated space. Luckily deck 3 was almost empty when we were waved in and no damage was done.


The ferry left the harbor in time at 4 p.m. Lucas wanted to watch Taming Dragons 2 *yawn* and afterwards we visited the restaurant. There is only a buffet restaurant which seems reasonably priced with 30 Euros for the family, but the food was disgusting. We will need an alternative for the return sailing. After a few drinks at the bar and Lucas having great fun at the kids paradise we retired to the quiet nice cabin.