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Old 06-12-2021, 01:24   #1
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Using the Canal du Midi to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

Hi

I am considering using the Canal du Midi in France to take my sailboat from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. I am planning to start on the Atlantic side mid-September 2022. My boat is a Vertue II, 26 feet long with a draft of 1.37 m. I will have someone with me to help with fenders etc in the locks, but that person has limited time. So I have a couple of questions. I am hoping to get some answers from people that have done this, because there’s nothing better than real life experience of course.

1. How easy (and quickly) is it to have the mast taken off the boat on the Atlantic side, and what are the best options: have the mast transported separately (costs?) or having it placed on the boat (I have no wooden cross-supports so they have to be built). Does anyone know of a marina that can do this efficiently and quickly on the Atlantic size, somewhere in the Garonne perhaps? As I said, this is for around mid-September.

2. How long does it take to get the boat all the way from the Atlantic side to the Med, given we don't want to hurry and stay a day or two in some of the cities in between (any suggestions where it is nice to spend a couple of days)?

3. I do not have a deep keel but are there any issues with a 1.37m draft in September? I have heard that Canal do Midi is one of the shallowest routes in the French canal system. My thinking is that in September the water level might be a bit deeper than in mid-summer because of autumn rainfall, but I am not sure. It is also the end of summer season so less traffic, which might help getting through the locks.

4. On the Mediterranean side, I am thinking about storing the boat immediately on a hard stand in the closest available marina, because although I have a bit more time than the person with me, it is more or less the end of my trip as well. If I can store the boat right where I enter the Mediterranean, I do not have to put the mast back on the boat, but can store the boat and the mast separately on a hard stand. Anyone know of a marina close to where Canal du Midi enters the Mediterranean where I can store a boat on a hard stand?

Thanks very much.

Hugo
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Old 06-12-2021, 01:49   #2
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Re: Using the Canal du Midi to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

I've not used the CdeM but friends have and others have trucked their boat across - that had a 1.4m draft - so I suspect that your 1.37m may be borderline for the canal, especially so in September, that's when the canal's likely to be at its shallowest; confirm you can get through before worrying about the rest - there'll be plenty of options for those.
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Old 06-12-2021, 05:01   #3
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Re: Using the Canal du Midi to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

The design canal depth is 2 m with a minimum of 1.80 m. The draft allowed is 1.50 m, although regular users advise that, even with 1.40 m, boats will occasionally touch the bottom, because of silt deposits in many places.

According to ➥ https://www.french-waterways.com/wat...th/canal-midi/
“... The maximum authorised draught is 1.50m. This is the ‘book’ value and may vary according to conditions. There may be some shallower ‘spots’ at downstream lock entrances, at least until the current 10-year dredging programme is completed. The real depth of the Midi is the subject of seemingly constant debate because it varies according to season, nature and location. Some stretches are highly prone to either silting or to falling leaves forming a ‘soft bed’ that can be ploughed through but which certainly reduces the actual water depth. As on most waterways, the given depth is the middle of the channel; the sides may be noticeably less deep and this may affect coming alongside, especially if one has twin bilge keels or twin propellers. The final factor is that on the ‘down’ side of an écluse the outgoing water scours a depression immediately outside the gate but then deposits that silt a short way beyond as a ‘bar’...”
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Old 06-12-2021, 05:15   #4
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Re: Using the Canal du Midi to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobnlesley View Post
I've not used the CdeM but friends have and others have trucked their boat across - that had a 1.4m draft - so I suspect that your 1.37m may be borderline for the canal, especially so in September, that's when the canal's likely to be at its shallowest; confirm you can get through before worrying about the rest - there'll be plenty of options for those.
^ what he says. I wouldn't do but spring or after heavy rainfall with highest water levels.. Remember not using the trees along the channel as moorings. It spreads some disease killing them..
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Old 06-12-2021, 05:54   #5
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Re: Using the Canal du Midi to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

We chartered for a week on the canal and it is fabulous trip and worthy of taking your time with. Many neat spots along the way. One thing to be aware of is that the lock walls are arched rather than rectangular (it opened in 1680 so what did they know then). The curved walls would make it trickier with a mast on deck. Might want to have the mast loaded off to one side to keep the ends off the wall. Couple of boat hooks to push off both ends before motoring out of the lock. Check with canal authorities for draft restrictions. If you touch bottom a few times not a problem since it will be soft.
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Old 06-12-2021, 13:20   #6
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Re: Using the Canal du Midi to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

Hugo, Ruby Rose reported often the shallow bit were down stream of a lock were the water slowed and dumped the silt.

Have you actually measured the draft with a tape measure. We did this summer and we are 8cm deeper than I thought and according to the specs issued by the manufacturer.

Next you are in fresh water, which is less dense compared to salt water so you will be slightly deeper.

Consider having the mast shipped to save it from being damaged. Put the anchor and chain in the dinghy and tow it. Empty the water tank and drink wine etc but everything to keep the weight down.

Have a good watch of the Ruby Rose You Tube videos of the their trip through the Midi. Sailing Gently, Michael Briant also did a film on the Midi.

It's on our bucket list to do

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Old 07-12-2021, 00:34   #7
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Re: Using the Canal du Midi to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

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Empty the water tank and drink wine etc but everything to keep the weight down.
Ah yes, the French Universal Solution...

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Old 07-12-2021, 17:00   #8
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Re: Using the Canal du Midi to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

Cover the boat in tyres to prevent damage in the locks. There are a number of books written regarding the French canals with accurate information.
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Old 07-12-2021, 19:03   #9
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Re: Using the Canal du Midi to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

My girlfriend and I travelled the Canal du Midi in October 2016 on a luxury barge cruise. Fabulous time but what I wanted to pass along were a few observations from a boater’s perspective:

1. There’s traffic in the canal. Boats are going both directions, so you are often pushed over towards the bank…where it’s going to be shallow. I was shocked at the number of rental boats (“Le Boat”) on the canal, and the complete ignorance of many people running those rentals. I saw one guy run his rental, which was over 35’ in length, right up the embankment trying to avoid an oncoming boat. A classic YouTube blooper if there ever was one.

2. Besides the numerous locks, which were fascinating, there are tunnels to go through, one I recall went right through a hillside. Just wide enough for ONE boat. I didn’t catch the protocol but something to bone up on.

3. One tunnel in particular required our captain to completely remove the steering wheel from the helm. Yes, the clearance was that low. So my advice is to study the spec of every tunnel.

4. Look at the specs of every lock too. Some were run by someone who lived nearby, and the lock master had to be (ahem) “assisted” with a bottle of his favorite drink in order to proceed in a timely fashion.

The scenery is totally wonderful. Take your time and enjoy it! Good luck!
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Old 07-12-2021, 19:45   #10
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Re: Using the Canal du Midi to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

Shipping the mast by truck will help lighten the boat too. Some of the locks look really tight for anything projecting beyond the boat. Carcasonne is a must-see.
This site has detailed charts and diagrams showing things like bridge clearances.
https://www.french-waterways.com/wat...th/canal-midi/
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Old 08-12-2021, 01:52   #11
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Re: Using the Canal du Midi to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

If you’re crossing via the Azores why not avoid Biscay completely and sail directly to the Algarve in southern Portugal? Then across the bay of Cadiz, through the strait of Gibraltar and up the Mediterranean Spanish coast to France. It will not take longer than puttering down the canal; the cruising area is great - and you don’t have the faff of taking down the mast!
If you really want to tick the Canal du Midi off your ‘must do’ list why not try it going north and explore France’s Atlantic coast north of the Gironde and into beautiful Brittany. I live in France.
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Old 08-12-2021, 02:07   #12
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Re: Using the Canal du Midi to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

We did the Canal in a Catamaran with a big mast on deck going hell for leather because we had limited leave time and it took 2 weeks. Wish we had been able to take our time and enjoy it.
We had our mast done at Port St Loui du Rhone and at Bordeaux East side of the river adjacent to the big road bridge. There is also a marina near the mouth of the Girande west side which is probably better.
Keep clear of the hire boats, many do not know what they are doing.
Port St Louis du Rhone was a very reasonable place to leave the boat ashore or afloat then.
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Old 10-12-2021, 21:57   #13
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Re: Using the Canal du Midi to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

Thanks for al the great replies! The main sticking point seems to be the depth of the canal and the fact that apparently in September it is at its shallowest. I thought by then it would be deeper because of rainfall. But the opposite is true. The other problem is the mast, taking it down, and as many suggest, having it transported separately because of damage against the lock walls and the weight. All quite complicated.

So at the moment I am revisiting other options, as Geoff3nebel suggests, like going around Portugal and Spain. Mind you I am not making an Atlantic crossing but coming from the north, from the Baltic sea.
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Old 13-12-2021, 12:59   #14
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Re: Using the Canal du Midi to travel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

hi Hugo,
most sailboats have the mast lying on the boat, you can do it in Royan or in Port Médoc, possibly in Pauillac.
with 1.4m, this will be the limit
3 weeks for crossing should be enough
./.
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