France 2018, Brittany (Day 24)

La Roche-Bernard – Arzal – Rieux

Saturday, 11.08.2018

40 km, 0 locks

Well, well, well. It must have been the hangover form last night that got me up so early, that I can still see the morning mist.

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Fresh Baguette and Pain au chocolat for breakfast. Then Martin and myself go on a shopping foray to prepare for the looming weekend.

Down the Vilaine. The valley is just magnificent.
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Guess I could live here.
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The Vilaine soon reaches the Arzal Barrage. This was finished in 1972, after several huge floods have played havoc with the valley of the Vilaine as far upstream as well beyond Redon.
With the Vilaine no longer tidal above the barrage, it attracted several huge marinas as a safe haven for seagoing boats.

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We moor up to the visitor jetty, although Martin is a bit pale around the nose, with no reverse and millions worth of glass fibre one could potentially hit hard. But all goes well, and the harbour master allows us unlimited stay for the rest of the day. Also he hands me a copy of Marinarzal’s catalogue.  Its the local chandler, and with the potential customership right at the doorstep in the thousands, there is very little they do not have on offer. So the shop is an attraction in its own right and we pay it a visit. Needless to say, that we spend some bucks on stuff we didn’t even knew, how badly we needed it, only hours ago.

Then on to the barrage itself.
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The barrage sports a massive lock.
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Alas the water on the other side is just taking a break.
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After a yummy Moules-Frites lunch its back onto the river, in a general upstream direction.
Some serious markers:
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La Roche-Bernard from an other perspective.

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And an amazing selection of the most wonderful boats.
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Another bit further upstream we meet our friends from Sucé. We are on a bit of a rush, only mildly. But there is enough time for a chat.
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And just before we moor up at Rieux, we are treated to a free air show.
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Really a great day on the water with loads of action. What a difference to the Sarthe, were we haven’t seen other boats in days.
Another nice evening ensued in the park by the moorings in Rieux. Really one of my favourite places.

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France 2018, Brittany (Day 23)

Rieux – la Roche-Bernard

Friday, 10.08.2018

25 km, 0 locks

We have been told by various sources, that we absolutely have to go down the Vilaine to la Roche-Bernard.  So Bernard’s Rock it shall be.
First obstacle is the swing bridge at Cran. We can just about squeeze through the 5.8m opening.

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Past the bridge, one is immediately in sailing country.
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We happen to run into our NI friends we have first met in Rieux three years ago. We stop for a beer or two and a little chat.

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La Roche gets into sight. And what a sight it is. The Vilaine has cut her riverbed between high rocks on either side. All enhanced by two huge bridges.
First the Pont du Morbihan.
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And then the older but much more elegant Pont Neuf.
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While we were boozing on board of another boat, Martin has sussed out a mooring for us. The visitor mooring costs us 14€/night. But has a great view of the river and is rather exposed to the strong southerly wind we have just got.

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It is time to explore the place. And a very nice place it is indeed. Alas mobbed with tourists. And with a galore of the most beautiful boats.
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The town itself is very nice. Of the classical Breton granite style. But all in all it really is the location.
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In the evening it is fine dining. The name of the game is the Auberge des Deux Magots. Brilliant place. Excellent food and good service. Even the lads don’t complain.
But the best was yet to come. On the square a swing band  has set up there equipment. And good music it is.
The lads have a ball.
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France 2018, Brittany (Day 22)

Pont de Melneuf – Redon – Rieux

Thursday, 9.08.2018

38 km, 1 lock

Time to get off the canal and onto some river again. Thus I had announced an early start last night. But then the night was long and an early start does not really happen…
A check of Martins outboard reveals, that it is obviously burning oil, bad rings maybe. Being well equipped, and rather smug, we fill it up with four stroke oil and force it into life.

At least the canal at this end flows in the bed of the little river Isac. It widens out and is rather pretty.

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Only past Bellion lock it narrows again.
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And eventually the massive railway embankment offers some architectural interest.
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We stop at the huge E.Leclerc at Redon and avail from its filling station, that is only 50 meters from the canal. Very handy.
Then it is down the last lock and we are finally out on the beautiful Vilaine.

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Eventually we arrive at Rieux with his beautiful mooring below the castle ruins. But no time for sightseeing. Martin’s engine refuses to switch into reverse. A lot of pocking reveals the problem. A rather complicated contraption that controls the gearbox. We fiddle around for two hours and get it kind of working, alas not reliably. But who needs a reverse? A couple a years ago we went all the way from Middlewich to Llangollen and back in a full length hire boat without any reverse gear. And that worked just fine. Mostly.
A fine BBQ in the park ended the day in good spirits. Less hustle tomorrow is promised.

France 2018, Brittany (Day 21)

Bout-de-Bois – Pont de Melneuf

Wednesday, 8.08.2018

28 km, 8 locks

Today is another very busy day. Almost unholiday like. But good fun.

After a communal breakfast Martin and myself get into his red van and tow his boat to Blain, the nearest slipway. None of us has ever slipped this boat, but all goes well. Until a hire cruiser comes hammering through the bridge hole (The slip is right next to the bridge, almost an integral part of it. There is a blow your horn sign. And a 5 km/h sign). But never mind.

All is good and eventually we get the elderly Honda started. And while Martin attends to the trailer I take the boat to the mooring jetties. Or would do, if the Telefex cable would not break immediately and leave the gearbox stuck in reverses. But after a bit toing and froing, actually froing only, the boat eventually gets safely moored up.  The Teleflex cable is not really a problem, as I have got two spares, alas on ARGO.

ARGO meanwhile carries her amended crew along the canal. Somewhere. The IO has been given very strict instructions, which way to go. The lad has been given equally strict instructions to make sure that she remembers these..
Thus the IO, Regina and the two lads should have little problem to negotiate the four locks and the few km to catch up.

Martin and myself secure camping mort for his rig at the local campsite. Then we take the van to the local Leclerc, fuel cans and all. Always nice if there is a car and you don’t have to manhandle all that stuff.

Eventually ARGO turns up stuff gets shifted, boats loaded and the Teleflex cable replaced. We are ready for the off!

Martin is massively exited, Regina less so, more worried may be? and the lads couldn’t care less.

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We keep the crew arrangement as it is for the day. While I will get Martin up to speed the IO will do the same with Regina.

The going is very slow, as there is  some traffic.

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And also dredging going on at Bougard lock.
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But the weather is good and the scenery very scenic.

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The IO gets slightly cranky, as this is the first time she carries responsibility for navigating the boat. Once the nagging gets severe I call it a day and we moor up downstream the Pont du Nozay. A very nice location indeed.
Also note the matching colour scheme.s
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Getting ready for the BBQ.
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What a great day.

France 2018, Brittany (Day 20)

Sucé–sur-Erdre – Bout-de-Bois

Tuesday, 7.08.2018

23 km, 6 locks

Today we have some sort of a set program. We have to meet up with Martin, Regina and Drew. I wrote about them previously in this blog. We have met them on various occasions in France, or mostly on the ferry from Ireland to France. Since Martin has set his eyes in a Wilderness Beaver, he really fell to the idea of getting a habitable trail boat.

Thus he rang me a few weeks ago and told me that he had found a 19ft Dawncraft Dandy online. So I offered him to have a look at the boat together with him. On a sunny Sunday we met up with the friendly owner on his nice farm and had a good poke around the boat. The boat, although in the range of 40 years old is in surprisingly good nick, the trailer is brand new, only the outboard is extremely dodgy. But after some haggling the price is right and Martin is the very proud owner of his first boat.

And today is the day we will meet up for our first communal trip. There aren’t too many slipways along the Canal da Nantes à Brest. Therefore the plan is to meet up at Blain. A nice slipway with a campsite for parking nearby.

Before we set off, we need to do some serious shopping, as food and drink are running low. We are lucky and the weekly market is in full swing. Fresh veg, nice cuts of meat for a Barby and a few bottles.

Then it’s time to wave farewell to Sucé and our new friends.

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There is a 15km/h speed limit. But never mind.

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But the best laid plans and all that. This end of The Nates-Brest really is a pain in the back side. The locks are incredibly slow. And closed for two hours at lunch. Previously boaters could operate them during lunch hours, but now they get chained up.
And although we press on hard, it is obvious, that we will not be able to make it to Blain today.

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A plan B is developed: We will meet at Bout-de-Bois. An okish place to moor up and plenty of space for Martin to park up and use the Dandy in camping mode. And not the worst plan it is. We both arrive almost simultaneously. A big hello. A nice BBQ and a long evening.
The lads are delighted.

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France 2018, Loire (Day 19)

Ancenis – Nantes – Sucé–sur-Erdre

Monday, 6.08.2018

48 km, 1 lock

From our last experience we have learned that stemming the tide on the Loire is no fun in a slow boat. And we also have to convey some touristic duties in Nantes.  Stillwater in Nantes should be around 8.30. That means an early start to catch the outgoing tide.

Some amazing early morning atmosphere.
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Past Champtoceaux…
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… the sun is rising.
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Nice location for a dry dock.
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We almost make it right in time and have to stem the tide only for the last 2 kms. The ecluse St-Felix will be closed for another 90 minutes. Thus we moor up at the the floating jetty outside the lock, drop the anchor, just in case, and get of to Les Machines de l’île.  They are placed in the old dockyard of Nantes and are famous for there huge machine elephant.
30 minutes walk and another 30 minutes queuing for tickets, we finally are in.
The famous elephant:
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Not least impressive all them smaller machines built along the themes of Jules Verne.
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The old dockyards themselves are also worth to visit. Together with the whole Île de Beaulieu they get heavily gentrified and hipsterised.

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Finally it is time for our ride on the elephant.
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By now the temperatures have reached a new record high. And we still have to walk back to the boat.
Back on the water, it looks like the lockie has fallen asleep as there is no sign of action.
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Thus the IO gets disembarked again to wake him up.  Which gets us a nice picture of ARGO in a lock.
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Once through the lock and the tunnel, it is a quick stop at the harbour master’s with his convenient waterside petrol station. And then finally out onto the l’Erdre for much needed refreshment.

After a long day we moor up at Sucé. Here we meet a German couple that uses their McGregor26 as a canal boat. Just for a change. Great idea. We enjoy some good conversation and some red, while Lucas and their kids mess about in the Dinghy.

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France 2018, Loire (Day 18)

Loire pk 592 – Ancenis

Sunday, 5.08.2018

18 km, 0 locks, various rapids

We have one of the most quiet nights of the whole holiday. No rush today, as it is only 18 km to Ancenis, where we will wait out the right tide tonight.

First we pass the bridge at Ingrandes-sur-Loire.

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Then Ingrandes itself. No obvious safe place to moor up, so no fresh bread today.

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Project boat, genuine reason for sale.

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Not much later we moor up at the Île Meslet.
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A whole island to ourselves.
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Plenty of messing about in the water.
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Out with the anchor in the afternoon. The narrows upstream of St-Florent-le-Vieil are certainly the most “interesting” part of the non-tidal Loire. A very fast flow and teeth of rock either side don’t leave a great margin for error.

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And then we reach Ancenis, with its magnificent bridge…

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… its interesting locals…
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… and its marvellous sunset.
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