Cruisers Forum
 


Join CruisersForum Today

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Rate Thread Display Modes
Old 25-06-2019, 13:22   #1
Registered User

Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Irish Sea
Posts: 1,235
Images: 6
UK to Med: French canals vs Biscay

I am thinking on moving the boat (33' Westerly) to the Med for a few seasons and looking for advice which route to take, canals or the Biscay.

My draft is 1.4m, bilge keels: learned that the shortest, Canal du Midi is a no go because of the V-shaped depth profile. The other inland alternative trough Paris (Seine, Rhone) is rather long, especially because I am coming from Lands End.

So far I collected:
plus for canals:
- mostly weather-independent
- easy stop every evening, probably doable single-handed
- no wear and tear on the sails and rigging
- I can get to the canal system easy by public transport within half a day: even if the route takes long, I can make use of the weekends.

minus:
- have to step the mast and carry it all the way
- have to cross around 200 locks
- have to get a CEVNI license (I don't have any)
__________________

__________________
Useful as a fireproof bottom paint...
GTom is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 25-06-2019, 13:52   #2
Registered User

Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: Portland Oregon
Posts: 48
Re: UK to Med: French canals vs Biscay

It has been a long time since I transited the French canals but I remember the Seine route is great. Bilge keels may mean you might have to always find a dock to tie to as all the canals are rather "V" shaped. The Canal du Central has a controlling depth of 1.8 meters for commercial barges. Bridge clearance is 3.5 meters so you will have room with mast down.

Check in with the Cruising Assn and they have the latest information. The French always accepted my US boating license as our boat is US flagged. You are part of the EU but your local license may suffice as you are in transit. Again, check with the Cruising Assn. They used to have a small booklet "Notes on French Inland Waterways" Check in with the VNF as there is a toll to use the canal system.

I would recommend planning a maximum of "30" a day, combination of locks and Kilometers. If you do 10 locks you can do 20 KM for example on canals. It is great fun as long as you take your time.
__________________

Lemsteraak is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 25-06-2019, 22:26   #3
Registered User

Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 559
Re: UK to Med: French canals vs Biscay

Hi Gtom.
Agreed that the "canal du midi" is a bit problematic for a bilge keeler and it's also hard work with repetitive lockings.
Here are some other points to ponder. You need a "Vignette" to use the canals and they issue a daily , monthly or yearly vignette at VNF online. I get a monthly one for €110. You apparently only need one while you are actually traveling on the system so if you stop in a port it's not required. You need a helluva lot of fenders, you will need them in the locks and to protect your boat from the reckless hordes of hire boats.
I think it's a good idea to get a CEVNI license even if you have a U.K. Qualification because there are a lot of rules and signage that are unique to the canals ..... also to comply with your insurance in the event of an incident, the hire boats are often driven in an unskilled manner.
It's not always easy to find a good harbour/place to leave your boat and again , lots of fenders both sides because your neighbors will change frequently.
After you leave the peaceful lovely canals and enter the Saone and then the Rhône you're on a one way express trip to PortSt Louis du Rhône and the Med. The river runs very fast and can be a real challenge after the calm canals and if the Mistral blows, you will need to find a safe harbour. The flow rates are published by the VNF twice daily and if they exceed 1800 cubic metres/sec the trip back UP the Rhône is daunting.... days of 1 knot SOG. I just came down the Rhône to Port St Louis at ten knots so that indicates a current of 4 knots but it varies a lot with the depth of the river and is sometimes un navigable.
There is an excellent marina with dry berth parking called "Port Napoleon" at the very end of the Rhône where I hauled out yesterday before returning to work.
The trip you are considering should be on everyone's "must do" list and I hope this info is useful to you.
Pete.
skipperpete is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 25-06-2019, 23:17   #4
Registered User

Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Irish Sea
Posts: 1,235
Images: 6
Re: UK to Med: French canals vs Biscay

Thanks for both of you! Indeed, the canal route seems interesting, yet challenging.

An interesting thing: I am unaware that any delivery skippers use the canals vs the Sea route. If it was much easier, cheaper and faster, they would use the canal system...
__________________
Useful as a fireproof bottom paint...
GTom is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26-06-2019, 00:19   #5
Registered User

Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 371
Re: UK to Med: French canals vs Biscay

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTom View Post
Thanks for both of you! Indeed, the canal route seems interesting, yet challenging.

An interesting thing: I am unaware that any delivery skippers use the canals vs the Sea route. If it was much easier, cheaper and faster, they would use the canal system...
It's likely most boats using a delivery skipper are too big for canaux and for smaller ones the cheapest option is a truck.
did-g is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26-06-2019, 00:20   #6
Registered User

Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 559
Re: UK to Med: French canals vs Biscay

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTom View Post
Thanks for both of you! Indeed, the canal route seems interesting, yet challenging.

An interesting thing: I am unaware that any delivery skippers use the canals vs the Sea route. If it was much easier, cheaper and faster, they would use the canal system...


The canals are definitely not an easier, cheaper or faster way for a delivery crew to get to the Med. The mast has to come down and a frame made so that's a negative. The canal du Midi is surprisingly shallow and in times of low rainfall, keelboats have had to be craned out and trucked to the sea. A fast trip is probably more than 7 and possibly up to 14 days if the locks are crowded. No night time travel till after Séte.
The depths are better on the Paris route but still as you point out, 150 or more locks and of course the temptation to stop at every beautiful village and winery along the way and finally the planning of the trip down the Rhône to the sea. Delivery crews work on the "get er done"
basis so they can move on to the next job.
skipperpete is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26-06-2019, 00:38   #7
Senior Cruiser
 
atoll's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: gettin naughty on the beach in cornwall
Boat: 63 custom alloy sloop,macwester26,prout snowgoose 37 elite catamaran!
Posts: 10,280
Images: 75
Re: UK to Med: French canals vs Biscay

if you are in penzance it is only a 3 day sail to northern spain,you can then do the trip to the med in short overnight hops,i can't really see the point of doing the canals unless you really want to.
during the summer the biscay can be like a millpool if you time your departure between a departing low and approaching high pressure weather window.
biggest problem is fog if you have no radar
atoll is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26-06-2019, 01:28   #8
Moderator
 
Pete7's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Solent, England
Boat: Moody 31
Posts: 13,493
Images: 14
Re: UK to Med: French canals vs Biscay

Quote:
Originally Posted by skipperpete View Post
Hi Gtom.
Agreed that the "canal du midi" is a bit problematic for a bilge keeler and it's also hard work with repetitive lockings. Pete.
Oh that's a shame because we draw 3'8" with bilge keels and I fancied doing the Midi. Might still take the gamble with a plank to reach the banks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by atoll View Post
during the summer the biscay can be like a millpool if you time your departure between a departing low and approaching high pressure weather window. biggest problem is fog if you have no radar
I and the rest of the scurvy crew were ordered overboard by the skipper in the middle of Biscay. We had been drifting around for a few days with the spinnaker hanging limply and now needed a bath. Just about to jump in when I asked the skipper how deep it was. He replied was 4000 Suddenly I grabbed the shroud and hung on for dear life whilst contemplating what to do, but eventually the flat calm and deep blue water won over and in I and the rest of the crew went.

Pete
Pete7 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26-06-2019, 04:00   #9
Registered User

Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Irish Sea
Posts: 1,235
Images: 6
Re: UK to Med: French canals vs Biscay

Quote:
Originally Posted by did-g View Post
It's likely most boats using a delivery skipper are too big for canaux and for smaller ones the cheapest option is a truck.
Received a recent quote for the possibly shortest Bordeaux to Med truck route: 4000EUR plus lifting, 33' boat. I don't know how much delivery crews ask for, but I don't think it would be much more e.g. from the Solent to Gibraltar.

Quote:
Originally Posted by skipperpete View Post
The canals are definitely not an easier, cheaper or faster way for a delivery crew to get to the Med.
Indeed, and given the beauties along the sea route (especially the Rias) I am rather inclined to follow their example.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete7 View Post
Oh that's a shame because we draw 3'8" with bilge keels and I fancied doing the Midi. Might still take the gamble with a plank to reach the banks.
I am almost a foot deeper - which is still considered shallow. After I've seen some pictures, I am almost certain that I'd end up hunting for crane and a truck, eventually paying the same as a regular Channel to Med truck service.

Quote:
Originally Posted by atoll View Post
if you are in penzance it is only a 3 day sail to northern spain,you can then do the trip to the med in short overnight hops,i can't really see the point of doing the canals unless you really want to.
Have to discuss with Mrs and junior crew, but I think they'd also prefer a timely arrival to warm seas vs working our way down trough 200 locks.
__________________
Useful as a fireproof bottom paint...
GTom is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26-06-2019, 04:22   #10
Registered User

Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: UK/France
Boat: Gib'Sea 402
Posts: 389
Re: UK to Med: French canals vs Biscay

We went through the Seine/Canal de Bourgogne/Rhone and found depths way less than specified but the bottom was mud so we could plough through. On the other hand the Canal du Midi in many places has a solid rock bottom that makes any depth limits absolute.

It was exciting going down the Rhone with up to 6.5kts of current and lots of floating debris! It is possible to turn off right along the Petit Rhone near Beaucaire to enter the Med at Le Grau du Roi if you're heading for the Western French Med.
hoolie is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26-06-2019, 09:15   #11
Registered User

Join Date: Feb 2015
Posts: 108
Re: UK to Med: French canals vs Biscay

After many days of wind blowing the wrong way, we abandoned our attempt to go to Spain via Biscay and entered the canals and dropped the mast. No big deal with a small crane. We literally covered the hull with old tyres that had been abandoned by yachts coming the other way. Had a few days right in the centre of Paris and saw some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. We had a great time, no rush, and thoroughly enjoyed it as it was a cruise in itself. Met new friends that are still friends yet.
stewie is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26-06-2019, 09:37   #12
Registered User

Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Irish Sea
Posts: 1,235
Images: 6
Re: UK to Med: French canals vs Biscay

Quote:
Originally Posted by stewie View Post
After many days of wind blowing the wrong way, we abandoned our attempt to go to Spain via Biscay and entered the canals and dropped the mast. No big deal with a small crane. We literally covered the hull with old tyres that had been abandoned by yachts coming the other way. Had a few days right in the centre of Paris and saw some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. We had a great time, no rush, and thoroughly enjoyed it as it was a cruise in itself. Met new friends that are still friends yet.
Hiccups do happen in the canal system too...

As I researched the topic, it's just a completely different environment than the sea with different risks and reasons for delay. But the risks and delays are still there

__________________
Useful as a fireproof bottom paint...
GTom is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26-06-2019, 10:31   #13
Registered User

Join Date: Feb 2015
Posts: 108
Re: UK to Med: French canals vs Biscay

Delivery by truck sounds good. No wear and tear for a start and at the end of the day the bill will be much the same. Delivery crews are out to get the job done, which can be hard on the boat. I remember one delivery of a power boat to Spain where the guarantee was null and void on the engine after it was delivered.
stewie is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26-06-2019, 11:08   #14
Registered User

Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Irish Sea
Posts: 1,235
Images: 6
Re: UK to Med: French canals vs Biscay

Quote:
Originally Posted by stewie View Post
Delivery by truck sounds good. No wear and tear for a start and at the end of the day the bill will be much the same. Delivery crews are out to get the job done, which can be hard on the boat. I remember one delivery of a power boat to Spain where the guarantee was null and void on the engine after it was delivered.
I would be the skipper, just need a decent crew. OTOH, If I find an RYA instructor, I would love to do a YM prep course as part of the delivery.
__________________
Useful as a fireproof bottom paint...
GTom is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26-06-2019, 11:10   #15
Registered User

Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Scheveningen, Netherlands
Boat: Wauquiez Centurion 48
Posts: 8
Re: UK to Med: French canals vs Biscay

Returned from the Med to Holland summer 2017. Looked in to the possibilities to go via the Canals but as my boat draws 2.15 it seemed not a feasible option.
Sailed the Bay of Biscay with my children an had great fun.

My opinion is that if you take the time and patience to wait for a good weather window the Bay of Biscay is fun. T It took us 3 days to sail from Coruna to Plymout, but we had a good breeze on our tail. Planning this trip I found a lot of literature going south but less on going north as we did.

I think a lot of the bad reputation of the Bay of Biscay dates from times when the weather predictions for the next 72h were unreliable, Nowadays the predictions for the next 72h are reliable and if you have patience during summer you will find numerous windows to go south.

Our biggest problem was not the Bay but heading north along the Portuguese coast. The dominant wind direction is from the north and there is a constant current of about 0.5kn going south. Of course going in your direction that is favorable. We found the Portuguese very friendly and the restaurants and bars very cheap.

Also the route along the Algarve and the coast of Spain was great fun. In my opinion in both directions. Be sure not to hurry, if the weather is not ok rent a car and explore this coast.

Be aware that the Med is a large sea, much larger than the Northsea or the Channel. Exploring the Western part as we did takes a lot of time and it is a large trip in itself to go through Messina strait to the Eastern part. In the western parts the towns are great-Valencia-Barcelona-Cadaques-Colioure-Marseille-Toulon etc. We stayed away from the riviera because of the costs. Also the islands are an adventure-the Baleares(Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca)-Isles de Hyeres- Corsica must not be missed.
Can't give you more information on the eastern part than the enthusiast stories from other sailors.
And after you are satisfied that you have experienced the Med go back through the canals via Paris. With your boat that cannot present a problem. Don't worry about sailing permits, as long as you are on a foreign boat you will not be troubled. Of course you need the Carnet. Maybe the biggest problem in a few years in going back is the Brexit, you will need to clear in and out and maybe we will raise the Carnet costs of the passage for the British after Boris Johnson insulted the rest of Europe. But who knows, my advise is don't worry en enjoy the Med.
__________________

AndreBruijntjes is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
canal, enc

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
French canals. Le Harve to med Maineiac_sailor Destinations 3 30-07-2013 18:49
French Canals- Le Harve to Med Maineiac_sailor Destinations 0 30-07-2013 06:52
Through French Canals to Med allan63 Europe & Mediterranean 12 14-06-2013 22:34
French Rivers and Canals to the Med dniello Europe & Mediterranean 6 11-07-2011 03:17
Cruising the French and German Canals??? roverhi Europe & Mediterranean 17 02-01-2008 04:40

Advertise Here


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 22:32.


Google+
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Social Knowledge Networks
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

ShowCase vBulletin Plugins by Drive Thru Online, Inc.