Anjou and the Loire (Day 16)

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Ecluse 7 le Pas d’Heric (Canal de Nantes à Brest) – Guenrouet

Sunday 09.08.2015

9 Locks   40 km

 

Going through the lock that stopped us last night, we reach the rather shallow summit of this section of the canal. Over its length the Canal Nantes à Brest traverses three summits. Bout-de-Bois, with 182 m  the highest, is no longer navigable, as this stretch is blocked by the Lac de Guerlédan. This artificial lake was build in the 1930s in order to produce electricity. The deal then was, that a diversion for the canal would be build, but this never happened. But even today EDF (biggest French utility company) is legally obliged to reinstate the navigation. But apart from lip service, not much is happening. Just bear that in mind, when they promise you to look after there nuclear waste responsibly.

But not distracted by the realities of life, we are proud to have climbed the first summit of this holiday with a staggering height of 20m. Up here the air is much cleaner and the cows give the bucolic scene an alpine touch.

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Just before lunch time we reach Blain. The main attraction here is the castle (really?). The main building has been converted to a wedding venue and therefore is off limits.
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But the two gate towers are still in a very good nick.
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One of them houses a small, but comprehensive, museum showing the technology of printing through the centuries. As I had my hand in printing in a small way a long time ago, I find  it very interesting, while the IO seems to be a bit bored by my explanations.

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After all this excitement, we reward ourselves with a lunch at “Le Surcouf”, right by the harbour. The place is packed with townies seeking the simple life on a Sunday out. But clearly, when it comes to eating in France, its well worth to follow the crowds. The French really know their food and their Restaurants. So we get a simple, but extremely delicious, three course meal for the princely sum of 11€.

Strengthened, we set of again on our decent towards Redon and the Vilaine. This stretch of the canal must be the busiest bit of inland waterway in Brittany. Hardly meeting a boat in days elsewhere, there is a constant flow of boats around here. But why they have the most incompetent lockkeeper along the busiest stretch eludes me. Enough to say, that yesterdays charade repeats itself  in slight modifications on almost every lock.

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As the afternoon goes on, the weather turns from very hot to extremely mega hot. So no reason to get exited, but just enjoy the lovely scenery gliding past.

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We moor up for the night in the little village of Guenrouet. A nice harbour with all mod-cons, but full to the brim with private and hire boats alike. We manage to squeeze into a corner and spend a pleasant evening watching the world go by.

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Anjou and the Loire (Day 15)

Sucé-sur-Erdre – Nort-sur-Erdre – ecluse 7 le Pas d’Heric (Canal de Nantes à Brest)

Saturday 08.08.2015

6 Locks   31 km

 

Before we can have breakfast we need to motor back to Sucé to visit the boulangerie. On the way we pass this beauty. Here sister is sitting on a trailer in my garden awaiting a revival. I always thought mine is a one-off, as I never could find any information about her. The only hint is a little plague saying “Yachtbau blauwe Wimpel”. So if you have any information about these boats, please drop me a line.

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Yesterdays hustle and bustle is only a far cry on this calm morning.
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While enjoying our fresh baguette we witness a little market being set up right next to the harbour. Raw milk cheeses and some delicious looking precooked Asian food for dinner change possession. Tonight’s take-away secured.

As another weekend, spent mostly far away from anywhere, looms, we need to get some serious food shopping done.  So we head almost due north to Nort (Forgive me). Plenty of wildlife posing for the camera, as the l’Erdre finally narrows down to it proper status as a river.

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S.E.E. MERRE is still a working shipyard, building ferries, workboats and dredgers.

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Nort-sur-Erdre has once been an important industrial port for commodities ranging from coal to timber to poultry.  Some of the warehouse are still standing and are part of a LeBoat hire base.
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We have a long walk to a supermarket the other side of Pont-St-Georges up and down the usual hill in relentless summer sun. Just to find that there is a SuperU just opposite the bridge….

The engine has been playing up for a while, but now it gets really annoying. It does start no problem and then runs fine for about half an hour. Then it looses power, which it might or might not regain after a while. Sometimes it is even cycling between power and no power every few seconds. Though it never completely stalls, it is a bit unnerving, as we don’t know if or if not it might pack up completely. All the usual fiddling , checking the fuel lines and filter, cleaning the carburettor doesn’t help at all. Very much later, once we are back to Ireland, it transpires that the CDI Unit is the culprit. The CDI is the great-great-grandfather of modern ECU unit in cars. It has already been a bad idea then.

We retrace our steps to the junction of the l’Erdre with the Canal de Nantes à Brest. The signpost certainly leaves no doubt which way to go.
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This way.
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Some (about three) of the 16 locks on the section between the l’Erde and Redon are manual and self service. Therefore we are forced to watch a half an hour video that shall explain the working of locks. “No,No Monsieur, we have done thousands of locks already, really, we promise, please….” But no way to get out. Most of the video is some corporate identity shit from the Department Loire-Atlantique. Even the child, that watches any moving pictures totally oblivious of its content, is bored. Which goes to prove that they have put quiet some effort into making a really crap video.

Eventually we are allowed trough.

Things go smoothly for a while until we reach ecluse 6 Cramezeul. The lockie there is a student on the first day of his holiday job, having not the faintest idea what he is doing. He should have watched that video. He seems to be badly disturbed and doesn’t speak a word. Not even to the French couple that is coming the other way. His problem seems to be one if his fingers, which has got a bit of a blister. So he can’t operate the wheel any more. Sissy. Much worse is the security mechanism on these locks that prevent the paddles from being opened while the gates aren’t fully closed. Our hero has managed somehow to bend the mechanism.  With the help of the lump hammer and a mooring pin an impromptu repair is issued. At least the lockie doesn’t interfere, as he is busy pointing at his finger.

Between the video and the incompetent we lost two hours and are caught out by closing time just below ecluse 7 in the middle of nowhere.  But no bother, we have got our yummy takeaway and plenty of red.
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Anjou and the Loire (Day 14)

Vertou (Sèvre Nantaise) – Nantes – Sucé-sur-Erdre

Friday 07.08.2015

2 Locks  1 Barrage  21 km

As promised, the lockies arrive sharp at 9 o’clock. I had rather spent another day in the little system of the Sèvre and the Maine, but the slightly unapproachable lock keepers in combination with my bad French left not much of an alternative. But then this presents another reason to return to this beautiful corner of the world.
En route to the barrage we pass this interesting collection of craft.

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The barrage is just about to open as we arrive.
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Just after that we are offered a glance down to the docks that were the foundation for Nantes wealth.
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As we have to go around the Île de Beaulieu anti clockwise, being that early, means we have to stem the outgoing tide. And as we turn  into the Bras de Madeleine we hit the incoming tide. Bugger.
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The ecluse St-Félix is just opening as we arrive. The crew of the French boat in front of us took 15 minutes to secure the boat in the lock. Tightly fastened to the lock ladder…
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Soon after that we enter the tunnel de St-Felix.  Finished 1933, wide, with tow-path and lighting it is a great tunnel and quiet unlike Harecastle tunnel.

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We moor up in the Bassin Ceineray with its collection of old steamers. Bit of a rough corner, but we only realized that when we got back to the boat, so maybe no place for an overnight stay.
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Sightseeing is the order of the day.  But somehow the last few days have taken there toll. Between getting up very early, doing a lot of boating and walking, we were only mildly exited of the prospect of a city full of tourists. But then while we are here we have to fulfil our duties. It was the cathedral, the castle and a quiet nice Pizza. Some food shopping in the Galeries Lafayette, how posh.
The building that impressed me most was the tower of the old LU factory. A cookie factory, today this would be a corrugated shed in an industrial estate, many moons ago it was admirable architecture.
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The biggest boon in Nantes is indisputably the harbour masters office on the Île de Versailles. Its unique selling point are its two fuel pumps, one each for petrol and diesel. So for once I don’t have to strap the jerry cans to my folding bike, which then buckles under the combined weight of myself and the (then still empty) cans in order to cross a mountain range with the promise of a possibly working fuel pump on the other side….

Leaving Nantes for the countryside we are confronted with the most ugly boat of all times. Its running dinner cruises on the l’Erdre. Just as you are led to the false impression that the French do everything (!) in style.  Maybe its some sort of escapism in order to prevent total perfection. Well done everybody.
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Further north the l’Erdre widens out. More like a lake now. This is certainly the “good” side of town, speckled with Chateaus  in all shapes and sizes. Paid by the money made with the slave trade in the 17th and 18th century.
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We make our way to Sucè-sur-Erdre. Although it is a very nice village, the mooring are either side of the rather busy main road. We spend quiet a while searching for an alternative, having got so much used to the peace and quietness in the last weeks. But the jetty near Chateau de la Baraudière has disappeared without any trace. The idea of a wild mooring at the Île de Mazerolles  is discarded as it was full of fishermen. So we retrace our steps south past Sucé and find a nice little jetty in a little bay near la Gandonnière.  A very nice spot, not shown in the guide but really the only mooring on the l’Erdre outside town.
Later in the evening we get a bit of a surprise as the abomination we met earlier this day returns.

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A Deviation: Navigating the Loire

We didn’t do the Loire justice in rushing down in only two days.  Even more so as these were one of the best two days I had in more than 30 years of boating. A totally unique river, far away from the hustle and bustle and once you get your bearings right not a worry in the world.
The main reason for the rush was, that I was really worried about the trip, as most information you will find on the net or in guides is rather discouraging, outdated or just wrong. At this point again I have to thank Keith Waller from the Wilderness Boats Owner Club for his sound advice and encouragement.

To encourage the reader to travel the Loire, I want to give some advice to the potential Loire boater. Please bear in mind that this can’t be comprehensive as there certainly is much more to this river than I will ever know.

1. Paperwork

– The Loire is managed by the VNF (Voies navigables de France). Thus you need to purchase and display a leisure boat licence. As 2016 for a 7 m boat 3 days will cost you 40.70 € and a 30 day license will set you back 77.90€. They can be purchased online.
– Waterways guide. I prefer the Guide du Breil 10, but sure the Fluviacarte 13 will be equally good.
– A tide table including the opening times of the Ecluse St.Felix in Nantes can be downloaded at the Port du Nantes webpage. Just click “Horaires éclusage St Félix” and you will download the PDF.
– Most useful is the “Bulletin de Navigabilite la Loire”. See a sample here. I cannot find any webpage linking the latest Bulletin directly. Best you can do is to google for “Bulletin de Navigabilite la Loire”. At a low water level there is a new Bulletin published every Friday. Make sure you get the latest one. As the river changes all the time, your waterways guide really only offers the greater context of were you are on the river. The Bulletin highlights all the particularly shallow and fast flowing sections. Keep a good lookout at these sections, as more often then not that’s were the channel changes sides in the riverbed.
– The Bulletin seems only available, once the level at Mountjean drops below a certain mark.
(although I have no idea, what the mark is. Again, if you know, please leave a comment)
The Montjean level can be found on the Vigicrues website. At the time we navigated the Loire the Mountjean level was at -1.82m and the minimum water depth we found was still 0.6 m.

2. Equipment

– A boat. Obviously we did this with our Beaver, which turned out ideal for two reasons.  First it has a very shallow draft of only 50 cm (which is the tip of the outboard) and secondly its a  trail boat. Although I would assume that with a bit more water it can be done with almost any boat. But be aware that the river is very fast flowing in places. If your boat can’t do at least 15km/h through water it will be pretty much a one way trip between Bouchmaine and Ancenis. Between Ancenis and Nantes speed doesn’t matter so much as you can just go with the tide.
– The most important thing to have is a good anchor with chain and warp. We have got an 8kg Danforth with 15 meters of chain and 20 meters of warp stored in the forward well and ready to be deployed. The riverbed is sand almost anywhere. So any good sand anchor should be fine. But please let me drive the message home: Cruising the Loire without a proper anchor and gear is a very bad idea. If your engine fails near a bridge and you cannot stop the boat you better make sure you are a good swimmer. And its very pleasant to beach the boat and secure it with an anchor. Enjoy the solitude or go for a swim.
– Which gets us to the other most important equipment: Life jackets. Proper ones. For everybody. No excuses. No questions asked. It’s a river. It’s fast flowing. Wear that jacket.
– A good pair of binoculars. Maybe not strictly necessary, but it makes navigation so much easier and safer. And then there is so much wildlife that you totally miss out if you have not got a bino.
– A GPS unit. Not strictly necessary, but very helpful to judge your speed over ground and to determine your location in the river.
– We have got a 2.5 hp auxiliary outboard, which I bought many moons ago for another boat. It lives on a lifting transom on ARGOs stern and drives the boat at a steady 8km/h (5mph). Certainly not a must have, but peace of mind.
– A hose extension. There is water to be had at almost all the marked jetties, but the tap is usually high up and far away, well beyond the flood line. So if you need a refill…………….

 

3. Navigating

Please bear in mind, that we only have first hand experience of the navigation at a low summer water level. The common lore seems to be that speed of the current increases with an lower water level. In other words, at higher level the river might a bit more benign.

As mentioned above, there are two wholly different parts of the navigable Loire. The free flowing river between Bouchmaine and Ancenis and the tidal section downstream of Ancenis to Nantes. Below Nantes (just past the ecluse St-Felix) you will enter the commercial port of Nantes and the Loire maritime. Although the port doesn’t seem to be very busy any more, as business has moved downstream to St-Nazaire, you should be aware that you are playing with the big boys now. You need at least a VHF radio with a licence held and your insurance might not cover you here as well.

Bouchmaine – Ancenis (50 km): Absolutely thrilling boating, huge fun, a wee bit frightening for the first few minutes. The Loire is the longest French river and the good people of France have tried for many centuries to make it reliably navigable. And regularly failed on all accounts.  Its not there fault, its rather down to the structure of the river, which behaves rather like a mountain stream over all its length. The flow rate at Mountjean can fluctuate form 85m³/s to 5200m³/s. And these are flow rates at which the river is considered save for navigation. To maintain some sort of control over the navigation channels and depth, many hundred of spur dykes have been build either side of the river.  The heads of the dykes are all marked with buoys. These buoys are redundant at low water levels, but you better make sure to observe them religiously once the dykes are submerged.
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But more likely you will meet much lower water levels during the summer. You then need to stick to the channel that has been marked out by the VNF with there summer buoys. As you can see in the next picture, this poses the real challenge of the navigation, as the channel might switch sides for no obvious reasons. So please keep a good lookout. To aid with that, I transferred the notes from the bulletin onto the map in the Guide du Breil. Together with the kilometre markings on the map and my handheld GPS I could track progress and was always aware when the next situation would come up.
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Ancenis to Nantes (36km): The tidal part of the river. Your strategy will depend on your boats speed, the time  of the high tide in Nantes and the speed of the tidal flow.
The speed of the flow depends on the coefficient (which is shown at the above mentioned “Horaires éclusage St Félix”). We did our trip at a coefficient of 79 at a very low flow rate. And just about made it.

As you want to be in Nantes roughly around high water for either the ecluse St-Felix (open 3 hrs before and 4 hours past HW, daylight only) or the barrage into the Sevre Nantaise (open 1,5 hrs either side of HW) there are basically three approaches. I could find no reference about tide times further up the river. It would be very useful, to have the tide times for Ancenis. So please, if you have any information leave a comment.

a) Going down in one go in order to arrive at HW. That’s what we did as it fitted our schedule. Plus there was the allowance for an extra day if the plan hadn’t worked out. We stayed over night in Ancenis (large well kept floating jetty with water and electricity), got up early and made the trip in exactly five hours. The first 90 minutes we went with the outgoing tide and covered the 19 km to Mauves-sur-Loire. The last 17 km were not too bad as we always managed to stem the tide which came in at around 4-5 km/h. With ARGO doing 10km/h there was still a healthy 5km/h over ground left. The only deal breaker could well have been the bridges which act like a damn and your boat actually has to go up the rapids. We just about made it past the bridges but might have well failed at an higher coefficient. So please judge that with the speed your boat can do.

b) Breaking up the trip in two parts. Sounds like a good plan and the floating jetties at Oudon, le Cellier/Clermont and la Pierre-Percè all look like a good bet. At Pierre-Percèe there is a bar in the entrance that will stop you getting in or out at low water.

c) Go down with the outgoing tide. Probably the easiest option. But you have to wait for the tide to rise to get into the Sèvre or the l’Erdre. There are three pontoons to wait. Going into the Sèvre Nantaise there is a floating jetty  just outside the barrage (slightly hidden by the big tree in the picture). But there is no access to the shore, so you will be sitting there for several hours.
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Another jetty is opposite the Conseil General on the Ile de Beaulieu. It has a huge security gate across the walk way and you might well be locked in there. The best and most comfortable bet might well be the Jetty just downstream the entrance to the ecluse St-Félix.  It is well within walking distance to the city centre and the main sights.

4.Mooring

The Guide du Breil seems to be all a bit too pessimistic. At least I am under the impression, that when ever the refer to small boats only, they mean anything below 20 meters in length. With a trail boat it is unlikely you are having trouble to find a place to tie up. Basically all the jetties between Bouchmaine and Ancenis are of the floating type and well fit for the job. Some seem to be used as long-term boat storage and you may need to park in second line. Most have water, but only the one in Ancenis has power. The other alternative is to drop anchor or beach the boat in one of the many little bays formed between two spur dykes.
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The Loire is bit more work than the Thames or the Shannon. But absolutely unique and stunningly beautiful. Go for it.

Anjou and the Loire (Day 13)

Ancenis – Nantes – Vertou (Sevre Nantaise)

Thursday 06.08.2015

1 Lock  1 Barrage  50 km

 

Today’s plan is to tackle the tidal part of the Loire towards Nantes. But instead of locking up into the l’Erdre and the wider Breton system of canals and rivers, we are doing a little detour up the Sevre Nantaise, a little tributary joining the Loire on the left-hand side of the Loire in Nantes. The Sevre is only accessible one and a half hour either side of high-water. Near the confluence there is an automatic barrage that closes outside those times to maintain a navigable level on the Sevre, which therefore is a non-tidal navigation.

Todays high tide is at 10.33. Therefore we cannot afford to reach the barrage after 12 o’clock. Todays coefficient is only 79, so we expect the tide being not too strong, but then we have no 1st hand experience at all. So we decide to allow for 5 hours plus half an hour margin. This means getting up at 6.00 am. Please give a big hand to the first and only holiday picture of a sunrise you will ever get from me. I can assure you that there is not much difference to a sunset, apart from considering the comfort of your bed from a different perspective.

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And another one for good measure. The graceful Ancenis suspension bridge.

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We are not the only early birds.
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We catch the tail end of the outgoing tide and do the 19 km to Mauves-sur-Loire in under 90 minutes. Past Oudon there is this castellated railway tunnel. Or is it a castle with its own underground railway station?
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Now the incoming tide is hitting us and the speed quickly drops to 5 km/h running flat out. This would be no problem as we have plenty of time but the Pont de Thouare at PK 44,5 almost turns out to be the piece de resistance. The pillars act like a damn to the incoming water and we have to climb up the rapids. It takes us 10 minutes to finally find a spot were ARGO can manage.

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Getting nearer Nantes we pick the left arm at the Île Beaulieu.
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We make the barrage exactly five hours after leaving Ancenis. But it was definitely more luck than skill, and with a higher coefficient we might have got well stuck along the way.
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The theme changes immediately when entering the the Sèvre. The wide expanses change place with a narrow river hemmed in by trees. Although the map indicates that you cruise through the outskirts of Nantes you hardly notice much of it with all the greenery. The Sèvre Nantaise is navigable for 21 km from Nantes to the village of Monnières. There is the barrage at PK 21 and one lock at Vertou at PK 15.  Good moorings are to be had at Vertou above the lock and at la Haie-Foussiere, where there is water, power and an Elsan disposal. At PK 11 there is the confluence with the river Maine which is navigable for about 5 km just short of the village of Château-Thébaud.
But it wasn’t that easy. When we arrived at the lock in Vertou two small French sailing yachts were already tied to the tiny jetty. They told us that the lock keeper demands 24 hour notice and they have booked a passage for tomorrow morning.  When we showed them the Guide du Breil stating that the lock would be available all day in summer, they rang the lock-keeper again and told him, that there is boat that has come all to way from Ireland in order to see the river. And it would be a disgrace to let them wait. A bit of an overstatement, but it worked. The lockkeeper agreed a passage at 15.00 under the strict understanding that we lock out again at 9 am tomorrow morning.  Having little choice we agree. We share some of our Breton whiskey with those helpful people and wait for the lockie.

Finally through Vertou lock.

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The Sèvre is certainly a nice river but also Nantes local recreation area. So it is teeming with life, with ARGO being the big fish in the pond between canoes, paddle boats and electric bumper boats. We slowly steam upriver, go for a swim, turn round, go for a swim and have generally a lazy afternoon.

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The night is spend at Vertou in order to catch the lock tomorrow morning.

Anjou and the Loire (Day 12)

Bouchemaine – Ancenis

Wednesday 05.08.2015

0 Locks  50 km

 

Today is the day I have been looking forward with great expectations for a long while. The mighty river Loire. Hard to grasp for an inland boater used to the tamed rivers and mellow canals of the British Islands. With over 1100 km long the Loire is the longest French river and essentially a mountain stream at the same time. The fluctuations in the water level can be rather abrupt and quiet massive. The normal winter level at Montjean  is around 3,50 meters, but is –1,82 meters today, so a difference of more than 5 meters.
Only the last 150 km of the Loire are navigable (level permitting), but even here the situation is dodgy. There is no regulation in form of weirs and locks. Only some bars across  the whole width of the river to keep the upstream level up. The summer (low water) channel is hemmed in by hundreds of spur dykes, most of them marked with red and green buoys sitting high up on dry land at low water.
Downstream of Ancenis the river gets tidal and the situation improves, but more about that tomorrow.
There isn’t too many navigation information to be found about the Loire, and the one that can be got is rather daunting. So I want to thank Keith Waller of the lovely Wilderness Boat Owners Club for giving me lots of information and encouragement to do this trip. And again our Beaver ARGO with here low draught and high manoeuvrability proved to be totally ideal for the job. Having said that, this will be a one way trip, as the river is flowing faster in places than ARGOs top speed.

Early morning in Bouchemaine.
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The confluence of the Maine and the Loire (coming from the left)
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The strong current becomes immediately apparent.
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As we are not very confident yet, we run the engine just at tick over. This would usually give us a speed of of 4 km/h in still water, but now the GPS shows  an average of 12km/h. This indicates a flow speed of 8 km/h (5mph). Cool.
There is hardly any wind and we glide down the river almost utterly quiet. Only the “spot the channel” game keeps us on our toes.

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Villages nest high above the water. Although the winter level is more then 5 meters above what we see today,  another 4 or 5 meters could easily be added in serious floods.

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Beautiful bridges add interest and offer fixed points for navigation.

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Also a bit of excitement.

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In places there are rather defined channels, fortified by ways too many rocks for comfort.

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We stop at Montjean-sur-Loire for the Cap Loire museum. Centre of the museum is the 1926 built motor barge “Cap Vert”. Around this, there is a well presented exhibition about freight traffic on the Loire as well as a beautiful garden explaining the typical plants of the area.
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A little climb to to the top of the church hill offers grandstand views across the Loire valley.

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A bit downstream we beach ARGO and drag the anchor on land to secure it. Both banks of the river lock like endless, almost white beaches, with a total lack of tourists. Beautiful. Ideal to go for a swim, or rather a wade, being careful not to get washed downstream. The water is cool and crystal clear.

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The wind (I like to believe it is a sea breeze) picks up and affords a bit off cooling on this glorious and hot day.
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The tide can be felt all the way up to la Rabotière, a few km upstream of Ancenis. Therefore Ancenis is the port to wait out the right state of the tide tomorrow morning. The floating jetty at Ancenis is huge, well equipped, free and there is plenty of water at any state of the tide. For once we want to get the dining out right and arrive at “La Table du Pêcheur” sharp at 7 pm.  We just get a table and within five minutes the place is packed. And we can see why, as the food is very reasonable priced and absolutely delicious.
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Anjou and the Loire (Day 11)

Briollay – Bouchmaine

Tuesday 04.08.2015

1 Locks  22 km

 

Its always nice to make new friends. But its even nicer when they are so helpful as the people we met last night. Although living in Germany she has been born and raised in Briollay and has offered to help us with the navigation bulletin. In the morning I turn up at there house and am treated to coffee and cake while she spends one and a half hour on the phone and the internet , to extract the information from the fangs of the VNF (Navigation Authority). It turns out that the VNF does a survey of the Loire between Bouchemaine and Nantes every week, write it all up, put it onto an encrypted USB-stick and then store it in a safe in an unlit basement, guarded by a hungry tiger. Great thanks for finding it for us.

We bid farewell to this friendly place and head downstream towards Anger.

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On the way to Angers this stork circles us for a while. The wetlands seem to be his ideal habitat.

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We pass the confluence of the Mayenne and the Sarthe. Together they form the Maine. A rather short river of only 11 km till its confluence with the Loire.
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Angers modern bridges with the castle in the background nicely lined up.
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Cale de la Savatte, the main harbour is conveniently located right opposite the 13th century castle and the cathedral. The harbour masters office sports all the usual services, but does know nothing about the navigation conditions on the Loire. Good job we are already sorted.
We set out to conquer the city’s sights. The location of the cathedral is spectacular, but the interior is nothing special to the untrained eye.

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The castle is rather more impressing. Although it stayed a proper defensive structure throughout its life (unlike a lot of the chateaus in the area), the yard reflects the style of good living.
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Part of the castle is used to present the 14th century  tapestry of the apocalypse. Certainly being a piece of art it really makes me angry. It pictures all the same lies, pomp and scaremongering religions still use today to make their victims to pay up to the cleric and go out to kill the heathen. So only go to see it, if you want a nice day spoiled.
The real star of the day was the rather quaint “Musèum des sciences naturelles”. It is still a museum in the traditional sense, an overload of exhibits, no touch screens, just deep immersion in natural history. In one hall they have laid out thousands and thousands of artefacts from the beginning of life until today. Evolution lying right in front of you. And skeletons of dinosaurs. And stuffed sharks. The child was in paradise. If you ever are in Anger and only have time for one visit, that’s the place to go.

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Angers and the marina seem to be nice places, but it is all rather noisy, so off we go towards the barrage the Seuil de Maine. This structure was built only in 1992 and resembles a scaled down version of the Thames barrier. In the winter all the rotation valves are opened, but in the summer the barrier maintains a navigable water level in the Maine basin and boats need to use the lock.

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The old tow path along the Maine. Now promoted as a green way for walkers and cyclists.

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There is some serious shipping going on, once the winter water level allows for it. Note the height of the quay.
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Fishermen at la Baumette.

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The Maine is not buoyed out. So the whereabouts of the navigation channel is anybody’s guess. Drawing only 50 cm we still tickle the sandy river bed on a couple of occasions. But untethered we make it to the village of Bouchmaine. Just above the suspension bridge there is a handy floating jetty. There are several enticing restaurants, but a few minutes past seven we are just too late to get a table in any of them. That’s the one lesson we have learned this year: If you are in the non-touristy part of France and want to go out for dinner, you either bock a table or be there at 7.00 pm sharp.  Being only a few minutes late means ridicule and hunger. So we keep the money and have a quiet evening on the boat.

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