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Old 14-07-2011, 02:15   #1
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Le Havre (or Dunkerque), France to Mediterranean, Help Needed

Greetings


We left Finland 15th of May heading towards Southern Spain for our one year absence from work. However the weather has been constantly against us and now we are in Dunkerque, France and the weather just keeps on getting worse. We are starting to fall behind schedule to round the Biscay along shoreline, which we need to do due to our dog. Falling behind schedule means, that we are in serious doubt, that we'll reach Southern Spain before winter, or reach Portugal even before winter. Wintering in Northern Spain sounds a bit miserable? A Danish sailor mentioned of getting to the canals. This is something that we didn't study before we left and thus we would appriciate any help and info on the following questions:


  • We have a sailing boat: Length 9 meters, beam 3,1 meters, draft 1,7 to 1,8 meters, air draft about 2 meters without a mast. The boat size should be feasible I think, only the draft is just and just along the limits that Reeds Almanac mentiones.
  • Reeds mentiones using The Saone from Dunkerque France. Is this feasible route, or is it even more shallow than 1,8 meters?
  • How strong are the streams in the rivers? We don't have that powerful engine to push through heavy streams (+5 knots) if there is any?
  • If using Le Havre to enter the canals, the only tidal section is between Le Havre and Rouen?
  • Could anybody recommend a company to transport the mast and also the sails from Le Havre or Dunkerque to the Mediterranean?
  • Also would anybody know a good handyman in Dunkerque and/or Le Havre, who could build us a stand to mount navigation lights, as well as the VHF antenna, which is mandatory to have in the canals.
  • List of needed maps would be nice also and any good place to buy them in Northern France?
  • Also when reaching the Mediterranean in Southern France, any good marina to winter would be nice to know, although Cartagene Spain is not that far away then, from which we've heard a good things.


I have a CEVNI certificate with Inland waterways competence, so that is not a problem. Also we will need to buy a license to enter the French inland waterways, but other than that I guess there isn't any other needed paper work in addition to normal ship papers?


I know this is a huge list of questions, but this route option was not something that we studied before we left. I will start googling now and ask around in the harbor, but if anyone can give real concrete advises and help, it would be most appriciated.
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Old 14-07-2011, 03:53   #2
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Re: Le Havre (or Dunkerque), France to Mediterranean, help needed

Kimmo,

The two websites that I would read are:

From felow forumite Grehan,

French Waterways and Canals of France

and also from Michael:

Canal du Midi Log

Hope this helps and yes the weather has been shocking this year.

Peter
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Old 14-07-2011, 03:59   #3
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Hi I live aboard at gravelines which is only up the road I'm back in France on Monday and should be able to help you with all your needs if you wish.
We could meet up on tuesday if you would like that.
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Old 14-07-2011, 05:56   #4
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Re: Le Havre (or Dunkerque), France to Mediterranean, help needed

Hello again

Been reading the links and went to a nearby chandlery to buy an overview map of the canal routes. Looking at it, we will go into the canals from Dunkerque, using the following route:

- Canal d'Aire - Canal du Nord - Oise and to Paris. From Paris we'll continue along Marne - Canal Lateral a la Marne - Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne and to Basse Saone towards Med.

Keith, if you just have the time to stop by, it would be most appriciated, especially if you speak fluent French

I already discussed at the marina about demasting, but they advised to ask from the nearby Benetau shop, which I will do tomorrow when it's open. Depending how things go there, it might be that no help here is needed.

The stand for the navigation lights and VHF antenna would be nice to build, but if it seems to be too difficult here to arrange we will just use emergency navigation lights attached to the railing. VHF antenna I think I will be able to attach to the outboard stand.

Maps is another problem, as the nearby chandlery didn't have the maps needed for the first part of the canals to Paris. Would need at least those maps and then we can buy additional ones from Paris.

Keith, I will let you know how things go here. In anycase it's too windy currently to start demasting or moving the boat rafts here.
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Old 14-07-2011, 06:54   #5
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To recover lost time you could consider trucking it through France. That size boat wouldn't present difficulties.

Dave
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Old 14-07-2011, 09:06   #6
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I would say that if you truck the boat you will miss so much the inland waterways of France are lovely this time of the year with so much to offer. And I'd take the mast with you on the boat then your not tide to a dead line or place.
It be good to meet up on Tuesday for a beer and a chat. Just say time and where.
I'm sure I'll be able to give you some useful info. My French is not very good but the shipwright I work with is fluent.
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Old 14-07-2011, 10:55   #7
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Re: Le Havre (or Dunkerque), France to Mediterranean, help needed

Hello

We wont truck out the boat. We have decided now to go to the canals. I got the map books ordered already and a general route laid out. Navigation and VHF antenna issues are easy to come by also.

The issue is now the mast. The YCMN marina doesn't allow us to store the mast so that the transport company could pick it up. I'm hoping that the Benetau shop would allow that, which I will know tomorrow. Also the Mast-Transport hasn't come back to us, I'm not sure if anybody is working there in July.

Taking the mast with us is really difficult. We have a tiller steering and supporting the mast to the stern of the boat is very difficult, without hampering the tiller movement or locking storage lockers completely. The mast is stored at the deck every winter back at home and it is very cumbersome and locks the tiller in one position. Also it's an old mast and very heavy. It's about 11 meters long, so it goes past the boat quite a long way.

In preparation of not getting the transportation arranged I already tried to find out any timber yards at Dunkerque, but harbormaster didn't know any. Perhaps it's time to go to the shore to collect drift wood...
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Old 14-07-2011, 11:11   #8
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Timber and all fittings you will need you should be able to get from
Le roy merlins which is about 1 to 2km away from you. I'd be willing to drive you there to pick up any supplies
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Old 15-07-2011, 16:02   #9
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Re: Le Havre (or Dunkerque), France to Mediterranean, Help Needed

Just wondering why you think it will take until the winter to get to the Med'?

I currently have my own boat doing that route from the UK and although, yes, the weather has caused problems, total delivery to Southern Spain still should take no more than three/four weeks in total.

It left Poole in the UK last Friday (8th July) and is due here (Baiona, Northern Spain) where i'll be joining it, tomorrow (Sat 16th). From then on the delivery skipper (our own Boatman61) estimates we'll take a week to 10 days to get round to the start of the Med'.

The boat is no racer either, the Catalac catamarans are not known for their speed! So, granted we're trying to do it as fast as possible as it's a delivery not a cruise but allowing for more stops, etc. I still can't see why you shouldn't make it before the end of August, certainly well before the winter.

On a side note, if you do go the French canal route, bear in mind that to get to Southern Spain you'll then have to go accross the Gulf of Lyon once you're back in the Med'. This has a worse reputation than Biscay for making it's own weather up and towards the end of the year can get quite bad.

Personally therefore, i'd say carry on with your original plans and put the money it'll cost you to get the mast removed/refitted and transported into the fuel budget.
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Old 16-07-2011, 00:29   #10
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Re: Le Havre (or Dunkerque), France to Mediterranean, Help Needed

Simonmd, thank you for your response. You are correct, that most likely we should be getting in time to Southern Spain. However this is our one year off from work, which we have been planning for years and when we have a next opportunity to take a year off, I don't know.

Thus we would like to see places, people, culture etc, etc. Not just sail as fast as we can to reach a destination, that we really don't have. But we would like to reach somewhat warmer climate, so that we do not freeze during the winter. I just don't want to risk our desire to be somewhere a bit warmer place during the winter, when I've seen what the weather has been like since we left home.

Don't know if the above made any sense, but the second reason is, that we are frankly speaking quite fed up of battling the headwinds. Since we left home 2 months and nearly 1500 miles ago, there hasn't been any day, when it would have not been a headwind for us. This is just enough for us.

The more I think about the canal option, the better it sounds and should have taken the option from Baltic Sea already, rather than to fight against constant southwesterlys. I know after Brest we could be expecting other than SW winds, but Brest is about 550 miles away and my will to fight against headwinds has diminished along the miles that we've done already.

Driving the boat those 550 miles along the canals, we are already quite close to Med and hopefully in a bit more cheerful mood
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Old 19-07-2011, 13:07   #11
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Re: Le Havre (or Dunkerque), France to Mediterranean, Help Needed

Hi - not done the canals (we did it the outside route! but really sympathise with being fed up with this foul weather. There are plenty of people who would transport your mast to somewhere like Port St Louis de Rhone, the standard port at the end of the canal system, and ou can pick it up there, If you can carry it though it gives yu the flexibility to decide to winter for a period in the canals themselves. After al, eg Avignon is much nicer than Port St Louis and I suspect much cheaper and easier to access than Marseilles.

It is a long way from the Rhone to Cartagena (which is lovely), so you might want to also review southern France.
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Old 19-07-2011, 14:21   #12
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Re: Le Havre (or Dunkerque), France to Mediterranean, Help Needed

Kimmo,
I've done two short trips on the French Canals (Canal du Nivernais and Canal du Midi) on a charter self-drive barge (Locaboat). I highly recommend the experience.
In 2005 I had planned to use the Canal du Marne or the Canal du Bourgoune to transit from Paris to the Med and was really looking forward to the trip. Then I started getting updates on the control depths on those canals. I think France and most of Europe was having a severe drought then and the depths dropped from 1.8M to 1.5M while I was waiting to depart from the USA. My boat draught is 1.6M so I changed my plans went to the Med via Portugal.
At 1.8M draught I think you are right at the normal control depth for the Marne and Bourgoune. If you have not already done so, I recommend you check with the French Canal Agency and get their input. You don't want to get half way to the Med and then have to turn around and go all the way back to the channel.
I also agree with your approach of shipping the masts if you can do it. I'm sure it will make boat handling much easier. Also, IIRC, the Marne has several long tunnels with not a lot of air draught, so the mast would have to be stored right on top of the coach roof.

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Old 20-07-2011, 23:55   #13
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Re: Le Havre (or Dunkerque), France to Mediterranean, Help Needed

Hello and thank you all for your help and comments. We decided to take the mast with us and got it lowered yesterday to the stand that we built. Hopefully rest of the maps arrive today and we can finally get moving again.

When we get to Southern France, I'll let you know how things went. Looking at the pictures from the canals has at least got us excited to start venturing into the canals.

I found the VNF canal work list and that looks good, there shouldn't be any lock or canal closures during July and August on our route.

What I couldn't locate was any information about water level.
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Old 21-07-2011, 01:09   #14
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Re: Le Havre (or Dunkerque), France to Mediterranean, Help Needed

Hey Kimmo.
With all the rain that has been comming down, there has to be filled up nicely.
Have a nice trip down.
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Old 21-07-2011, 07:03   #15
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Re: Le Havre (or Dunkerque), France to Mediterranean, Help Needed

Kimmo,
When I was planning my trip in 2005 I used the Cruising Association website. Lots of Brits living in France and cruising the waterways. I just checked their website (myCA) and it appears you have to be a member to get access to that information now. I joined for a year back then just to support the Association, but most of the latest information on water depths and closure was freely available. Now it appears you have to be a member.

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