Cruising the Canal de la Marne au Rhin (Ouest), France
Finally, we were on our way. It was a clear sunny morning and it looked like it would be a fine day in the Canal de la Marne au Rhine.
A change of canal authority. It's a good idea to make a note of the phone number or confirm it with the chartbook.
There are two control rods in each lock, blue to operate the lock and red to stop in case of emergency. (This photo is out of sequence, to show the rods clearly.)
Mary slipped and grabbed the red rod to steady herself, which stopped everything. The locks opened at 0700 but the VNF employees started at 0900. We sat in the lock for 2 hours.
A nice young lady from VNF came and reset the lock for us. She also gave us a new tele-commander for a chain of locks ahead. So we were a couple of hours behind schedule.
PK (kilometer post) 14.2, Left bank. The halte at Bignicourt. Halte is the French term for moorings with limited services.
Just beyond the halte is Lock #66. The green light indicates the the lock is open and ready for us to enter.
The next lock, at PK16.7 lock #65 Etrepy, shows both red and green lights, which means we must wait while the lock is drained and the gates open.
In this section the lock control system is notified of the arrival of a boat by sensors. (Be sure not to moor in front of the sensors, blocking the signal.)
The next halte is at Pargny-sur-Saulx, PK18.7 Left bank. Water and electricity are available.
It's a very pleasant place to stop overnight. We arrived in time for a lunch stop.
The halte is located between locks #64 and 63.
Common sights on the canals of eastern France are church spires and agricultural silos.
The lock has been filled, soon the gates will open. The exit of lock 63 is on a pont-canal, a bridge which carries the canal over a stream or river.
This pont-canal crosses over the river Saulx.
The gates are swinging open but we can't enter until the red light goes out.
Most locks have a bridge at one end, for vehicles and for persons operating the lock.
Another common sight is a pipeline, conveyor or footbridge over the canal, serving a factory.
This rail bridge is one of the height restrictions on the canal, at 3.50 meters clearance.
The clearance was probably less on this day because the spring water level was higher than normal.
The countryside is mainly agricultural, with red-roofed villages along the canal route. This is Contrisson.
Another of the occasional factories, this one is at Contrisson.
Washday at a typical canalside home.
When we got to the first lock that used the tele-commander, #55, there was a sign by the canal indicating the place to press the button.
The halte at PK32 Revigny-sur-Ornain, just east of Lock #52; water only.
Just 6 minutes left until the locks close at 18:00. We were just on the other side of a lock from where we wanted to go when the ship’s clock chimed 1800.
You can just pull over to the bank and drive some stakes into the ground to tie to. Branches overhung the canal, we spent the night tied to the branches.
The next morning we were ready to go but the lock opens at 09:30.
The first liftbridge that we have encountered on this canal is at PK38.3, in the village of Mussey. Again, wait for the green light.
The second liftbridge is at Fains-Veel, PK43.3. There is a halte just before the bridge.
Water and electricity are available. Shops and restaurants are nearby; this is a convenient stop if you want to avoid the city of Bar-le-Duc.
Looking back at the Fains-Veel halte from the lock.
BricoMarché is a French chain of do-it-yourself hardware megastores; this one is 1 km east along the canal from the Fains-Veel halte.
Another pont-canal, over the river Ornain.
Entering the city of Bar-le-Duc. The blue & white sign on the right side marks the regional office of VNF, the French waterway authority.
VNF subdivision office at PK 46.1, left bank.
900 meters east of that office is the port at Bar-le-Duc, with electricity, water, showers and toilets, located in the middle of the city.
Shower/toilet facilities at the port.
It is an old city, a regional center, with some interesting architecture.
In Bar-le-Duc we came to a bridge that our tele-commander would not open. We found a place to tie up, but no obvious cabin for the bridge tender.
Eventually, the bridge tender returned from lunch and found us tied up directly under his window. He opened the bridge.
400 meters later he opened another bridge and operated the lock on the other side. We were soon on our way again.
Occasionally we passed a commercial barge; traffic overall was extremely light.
The halte at Tronville-en-Barrois, at PK58 Right bank.
The VNF lockkeeper serves many locks from his little white car, here he chats with the family next to lock 25 at Velaines.
Approaching the marina at Ligny-en-Barrois, PK62.5 Left bank. We took advantage of the gas station across the street, just 150 meters east, to buy 40 liters of diesel fuel.
There we had a nice berth with water and electricity but no bathrooms or showers. The capitaine would not be by to open the facilities, or collect fees, until June.
The halte at PK70.5 Right bank, near Naix-aux-Forges. No facilities except a picnic table.
A very nice-looking ex-hireboat, previously a Locaboat penichette.
The sign means that this halte is reserved for pleasure boaters.
Nice landscaping at PK75.3 lock 11 Treveray. It is the home of another small VNF office.
The canal twists through a 15km series of S-curves between the hills from Naix to Demange.
The countryside is very beautiful in this section.
The halte at Demange-aux-Eaux PK84.9 right bank, before lock #1. There is an interesting old washhouse at the entrance to the village, 350 meters west.
The floating pontoon makes mooring easy. No facilities.
The water on the other side of lock #1 was completely covered with algae
Orca cut a path through it and surprisingly, her water intake was not clogged.
Just after that we saw our first sign indicating the direction to the Rhin.
We made the left turn toward the Mauvages tunnel.
We found a quiet place near the entrance to the tunnel to tie up for the night. We walked into the nearest town, Demange-aux-Eaux.
The town had the feeling of having been deserted since 1919. There was scarcely a soul about. Nothing was open.
It was a hot evening and we walked back to our boat.
The view the next morning was eerily beautiful. Mist was rising up from the warm waters into the cool morning air.
Since we were the only boat making the morning passage, it would be easier for us to follow under our own power than to be towed.
We met the tug that was going to pretend to tow us at 0830. As soon as we approached he started into the tunnel. We followed.
The tunnel is 4,877 meters long, just over 3 miles.
The tug travels at about 4.5 km/h. Our minimum speed at idle is about 6.5 km/h. That meant jogging the transmission into neutral to let the tug get ahead.
The transit took a little over an hour.
The tug pulls itself along a chain at the bottom of the canal.
There is a 3km summit section through the forest, then 12 locks in 10km to Void, our next destination.
All the locks were downhill. Going downhill is always easier than going uphill.
An hour after leaving the tunnel we passed a powerboat going the opposite direction. It was the first American boat we had seen in a year.
Sauvoy is a small mountain village halfway to Void.
The halte at Sauvoy, PK98.2 Right bank (now we are going downhill, the right bank is on the right side.) No facilities.
Looking back at lock 8, PK99.
The fun backyard of a busy woodcutter.
Approaching the halte at Void, PK104, Right bank.
We looked things over and found some space available between the motorboat and barge.
We tied up in front of the VNF office and their fleet of service vehicles. It was early so we decided to look at the town.
At first Void looked like just another sleepy French village. With a name like Void, our expectations were low. The town turned out to be quite interesting.
There was a grocery store that was open later in the day. A pretty creek ran through the village.
And there was a medieval church facing the square, we had this view of it the next morning.
Pont-canal de Troussey crosses the Meuse river.
It is 160m long, and narrow, one boat at a time. With little traffic, no problem.
The river Meuse is not navigable here but it becomes so further north, where it flows on through Belgium and Holland to the North Sea.
The junction with Canal de la Meuse; we turn right, east to Toul.
Canal de la Meuse (previously Canal de l'Est branche nord) leads to the well-known WWI town of Verdun and on to the Belgium border at Givet.
We saw this sign shortly after the junction.
The halte at Pagny-sur-Meuse PK116.1 Right bank. Water only, but near to shops and restaurants, fuel 1km east.
Easy mooring at a well-made pontoon.
Approaching the halte at PK119.8 Left bank, at Lay St Remi.
Mooring is along a quay.
Approaching the short tunnel at Foug.
A tunnel is a souterrain. Traffic is "Sens Unique", one boat at a time each way. Passage is now under your own power despite "Arret du Moteurs Obligitaire".
There is a narrow approach channel.
The Foug tunnel is 866 meters long, constructed in 1839.
After the tunnel there is a small island in the center of the canal; you can tie up here for a rest stop.
Lock 14 has two basins, side-by-side; watch for the lights.
It is not a regular user-controlled lock and there was no lockkeeper present. The Fluviacarte gave a phone number and we had a mobile, we called VNF.
A VNF lockkeeper was on-site in 15 or 20 minutes and we were on our way in about half an hour. The lock has an impressive 6.1 meter drop.
From that point, there were 11 more locks, spaced every 700 meters, into Toul.
Lock #25 in Toul; the marina Port de France is just ahead at right.
Port de France offers water, electricity, showers and toilets. It is in a quiet location but close to both the historic center of Toul and to shopping.
The old town is surrounded by fortifications, some of which are alongside the canal.
The stone footbridge La Canonnière crosses the canal near the northern tip of the ramparts.
Port de Mansuy, between Lock #27 & 27b, often requires rafting outside other vessels but offers boatyard services and is located close to the river Moselle.
The last lock, Lock #27b, at the junction with the Moselle river.
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