(39) The River Saone and Seille – June 2012.

Wednesday 13th June dawned bright and dry and with the river less angry we decided to continue on our way.

Our first Saone lock wasn’t too deep, but with fixed bollards it took a bit of sorting out. The top bollard was too high to lasso with my rope so I put the eye on one of the lower ones. As we rose in the lock, I had to put another rope onto a higher bollard as I couldn’t risk the lower one slipping off leaving the front of the barge untied. My efforts were in vain as both ropes came off, but fortunately Peter managed to get the bow in and I lassoed the one on the top of the lock. I would have to do better next time.

We were in two minds whether to stop at Neuville–sur-Saone (where we had stopped before) as it wasn’t very far. However, we had discovered the previous evening that we were out of red diesel and while we were ok with having no hot water, we were still reliant on the generator for electrics. The generator runs on red diesel.

After consulting our Saone Navicarte, we decided to head for Villefranche-sur-Saone which had a pontoon and electrics, but unfortunately the latter would not be available for several days. In the light of this we carried on to Belleville-sur-Saone, but alas the pontoons were all full and the passenger quay unsuitable.

We were starting to regret not stopping at Neuville when we’d had the chance. Fortunately, just beyond Drace lock was the Halte Nautique of Thoissey. The pontoon was fine for us and so we moored up.

The view from our mooring at Thoissey.

I walked into town in search of a fuel station or fuel delivery company but found none. Peter managed to rig up a day tank with some siphoned fuel for the generator. This would hopefully last for a few days.

Our evening entertainment was provided by a passenger boat which ran school trips. The skipper had obviously assumed that the mooring we were now on would be free when the time came to drop off his party. He cruised slowly past and then spent a good hour trying various spots just upstream of us as the parents waited anxiously on the bank. Eventually the gang plank was lowered and the children disembarked.

As we left the next morning the river was as smooth as glass and we enjoyed a pleasant cruise to Macon (also familiar to us.) The pontoon was very busy, but after a bit of shuffling around we managed to fit in, only to be asked by the skipper of the previous day’s ‘school bus’ to hang off the end as he had apparently paid and booked a space for the weekend!?! We have come across this several times now – a passenger boat ‘pulling rank’ on a public mooring where there are no reserved signs.


While Peter rested and fished, I went to search for the Esso garage I had found online. The address turned out to be in a pedestrian only zone and the garage was suitably elusive. I did find another fuel station fairly close to the mooring and we later went there to get a couple of gerry cans of white diesel which we could use to top up if necessary (white and red diesel being identical in all but colour….. and price.) I later widened my search for fuel by cycling several kilometres without success, although I did find an Aldi for some provisions.

The quay was very busy and while we were there, four huge hotel ships moored up two abreast just downstream of the pontoon. One was refuelling and we missed the opportunity of getting the telephone number from the lorry.

Two of the 150mtr. passenger boats.

I did ask the driver if we could buy some, he said the entire tanker was for just one of the passenger boats !

Saturday dawned and the quay was buzzing with its weekly market. After buying some fruit and bread, I returned to the barge and we set off.

As we headed under the nearby bridge, we were approached by a rescue boat which informed us that the river was closed to through traffic and we should turn around and use the bypass. Puzzled by the lack of any notices to that effect we queried the instruction and were told that there was a rowing competition taking place. Rather annoyed at the necessity of a ‘demi-tour’ and retracing our steps for a couple of kilometres, we complied and were soon in the bypass. There was in fact a small notice on the post at the junction, but it was not very clear and in any case no good for boats already moored on the quay further up.

We had about twenty-six km to go until we reached the junction with the River Seille which we had decided to explore. The Saone was very high and we were rocked about by an idiot in a cruiser as he sped past far too quickly causing more wash than much larger vessels.

With some relief we entered the relative calm of the Seille (also high) and were soon entering the first lock.

Turning into the Seille from the Saone still in flood.

This was very narrow leaving little margin for error and was operated manually by the lock keeper. The pontoons just above at La Truchere were all taken so we cruised on enjoying the scenery which was very reminiscent of the upper Thames.

Back to tight locks once again…our lawn compares well !

Our  Navicarte guide informed us that the remaining three locks were unmanned, but at the next one a couple of youths offered to work the lock for a little ‘argent de poche’ and as it was very warm, 2 euros was well worth it.

The moorings above the lock at Cuisery were also taken but Peter spotted some yellow posts on a grassy bank a bit further up and we were soon moored in the shade.

Just above the ‘Halte’ at Cuisery some yellow posts make a good mooring spot.

Cuisery is famed for being a ‘Book Village’ and while exploring the next morning we understood why. The main road through the town was almost exclusively filled with book shops. Not a pharmacy or hair salon in sight! An LP/DVD/CD market was in full swing to the sounds of a music group, as we continued our futile search for a fuel station.

A village dedicated to books.

After two nights there we continued on our way to Louhans which marks the limit of the navigable part of the river. We moored on the end of the pontoon reserved for passenger boats, expecting to be turfed off any minute.

I cycled off in search of the ever elusive fuel suppliers and was annoyed to discover that the Carrefour supermarket had ceased deliveries a month before. On my way back to the barge, hot and sweaty from my exertions I spotted an Avia fuel van which had parked up. I had cycled straight past the office half an hour earlier without spotting the sign. The lady inside was very helpful but said they could not deliver for another couple of days. Magnanimously, she found the telephone number of a local chap who might be able to assist.

Back at the barge, Peter had made good use of the hot shower in the port and I soon followed suit. My French had a good test when I telephoned Monsieur Rolande and I was fairly confident that we would receive a red diesel delivery the following morning.

Taking on some red diesel in Louhans.

The capitainerie opened in the evening and 10 euros secured us the mooring, electrics and water for the night.

Louhans is famous for its poultry market which we had missed by just a few hours, but we enjoyed a walk around the quaint old quarter which boasts over 150 arcades and a church with a nicely patterned tiled roof.

Suitably refuelled and provisioned we left Louhans in rather duller weather than on our arrival. The pattern of continuing unsettled summer weather seemed to be set. We stopped overnight on a pontoon by a campsite where it rained again and spent the next morning heading back to the Saone.

We had enjoyed our few days respite on the Seille which is a pretty, tranquil river and well worth the effort.

Very pretty and simliar to the Thames above Oxford.

Back out onto the now much calmer Saone on way to Tournus.

Tournus beckoned and after a few kilometres we were moored upon the Quai du Nord – another familiar spot for us.

We spent over a week there and experienced a variety of weather conditions, from intense heat to thunder storms with 1/2” hailstones. We learned that only a week before the quay had been submerged and were pleased at our good timing.

Unusually empty moorings on the quay at Tournus.

For the first few days the level continued to drop as the temperatures soared to the mid 30s. We enjoyed a cheap bus trip to Chalon-sur-Saone, about 30km north of Tournus. We knew that mooring there would be difficult for us and wanted to have a look around. A walk along the river to the port followed by lunch in the old town square was very pleasant.

With a two hour wait for the return bus we decided to splash out on the train and were soon back on the barge.

Peter caught several more barbel during the week and one of them twice ! Well they say fish have short memories.

One of several fine barbel.

I enjoyed walking around the town, which has a lovely abbey and some interesting squares, plus the quay of course.  Whilst I was looking around  the abbey, some nuns and priests were also sight seeing and on entering the crypt I was treated to and impromptu chorus by them.

We were surprised that the quay was practically empty for several days and somewhat annoyed to be asked to move by another passenger barge which turned up – once again using the excuse that they had paid for the space and it was the only place deep enough for them. We went outside them initially, but decided to moor a bit further back along the quay the following day.

The temperature soared and I decided to have a quick dip in the river to cool off. While I was in I checked out the bowthruster which hadn’t been working properly for several days. The current was quite strong, but by hanging onto the anchor I was able to investigate. The starboard side was clear of debris, but the port one had a large piece of synthetic sacking caught in the protective mesh. After attacking the sacking several times with scissors, I was able to remove it.


A cooling dip and a good job done.

The fine spell didn’t last long and after torrential rain the river level began to rise again. We watched closely as the water began to lap over the edge of the quay and several boats left to find better moorings.

Peter helped some people on a hire boat to adjust their mooring lines and put a plank down the side of their hull to accommodate the change in levels. As it was their first boating experience they were very grateful, and gave him a bottle of red wine as a thank you.

The quay – about a foot underwater. The level rose about a metre in all.

After putting a plank down to keep our bow off, we went to bed.  Peter was up three times during the night checking the situation and in the morning the quay was under 12” of water and still rising. We had experienced a similar occurrence at Abingdon, after heavy rain on the Thames while Swan Upping several years before, but had been able to use a small punt to get to and from the steps.

Fortunately we had done our shopping earlier the previous day and decided to leave Tournus and continue north.

We cast off at midday and had a pleasant cruise through some beautiful countryside. Deciding against stopping on the quay at Chalon–sur-Saone we headed instead for Gergy. The flow wasn’t as fast as we had thought and we averaged 8km/hr.

We reached the pontoon at Gergy after 6pm and as anticipated it was full. Fortunately we had been looking out for suitable alternatives and turned downstream to moor on a commercial sand quay which was vacant. We had come 47km.

The next morning we were rudely awakened by a loud squealing noise coming from the machinery above. On looking out of the stern window we saw a huge ‘mummy bear’ of a double commercial barge complete with pusher, bearing down on us.

It was a suitably ‘Goldilocks’ moment and in a jiffy we were up, dressed, casting off and on our way with a cheery wave from the skipper. It was 7.30am.

Sleeping contentedly when this guy arrived to fill up !

We enjoyed a lovely peaceful cruise on the smooth, mirror-like river and hoped to stop on the quay at Seurre. It was marked in our navicarte as ‘quay good mooring’, but as we approached, a passenger boat popped out of nowhere and moored up there. In any case it was strewn with unwelcoming ‘No mooring’ signs.

With no other obvious mooring places we forged onto St Jean de Losne and as we approached the pontoon by ‘Le Camping’, were relieved that there was a space. It had been just over two years to the day that we had left this spot.

We spent a few days on the pontoon and were pleased to meet up again with Ann and John (‘Petite Princess’), spending a convivial couple of hours together in a local bar at the edge of the town quay.

Although we were a few days early, we decided to contact Christophe at Bourgogne Marine who said we could arrive at any time. We cast off and cruised slowly up the Saone to the junction with the Canal du Rhone au Rhin. We were greeted  by Franc his ‘deputy’ and soon settled in with electrics, water and a TV signal. Here we watched the historic Wimbledon Men’s Semi finals as Andy Murray went through to the finals- first Brit in 74 years.

Entering the Canal du Rhone au Rhin and into Bourgogne Marine.

Bourgogne Marine, a local fisherman helps me net a nice catfish – plenty of carp here too.

We spent several days preparing  for our return to England where Peter is working at the Olympic Games.

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1 Response to (39) The River Saone and Seille – June 2012.

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s great to ‘travel’ with you and remember places we’ve seen landside and see them from the different perspective of the waterside! Hope to catch up while you’re in the UK. love, Gwenda and Alistair

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