Lots of Locks

Day 18 through 35 13-May – 27-May-2017

I feel it is necessary for you to understand locks if you are to understand this journey. Altogether there are 179 locks we will pass through.  On the canals, the locks can be very frequent with less than half a km between them.  Our record for a day was 19 locks (yesterday).  The change in height has been as low as 2 ft and as high as 28.

The canal system, locks, and aqueducts are several hundred years old.  We have passed through 65 locks, 56 of which collectively carried us up 541 feet in elevation, and the last 9 of which dropped us back down to 446 feet elevation in the Loire Valley.  Many locks have been modernized to be automatic, some still have a lock tender to assist you.  How the lock will operate is often a mystery – the availability of places to tie on, whether you will need a lock tender, whether you will need to call the lock tender.  In principal, all the locks accomplish the same thing.

Our current location

We are currently at Châtillon-Sur-Loire, about a third of the way through France’s Inland Waterway.  Châtillon is term used for a facility run by the most proximal municipality.  Châtillon-Sur-Loire means a facility to “park” your boat on the River Loire.  Technically, we are on the Loire Canal, but the river is close by. The cost per night is 9 euros, but many are completely free.  Some have water and power, bathrooms and showers, and one had WIFI.  Sometimes there are restrictions for length of stay or prohibitions against using potable water to wash your boat.  The individual rules are not always apparent.  Sometimes there is a sign, sometimes a policeman comes by your boat to collect a fee and check your papers.  Often, especially when there is just a tie up, no information is available.

At a Châtillon with facilities there are often other boaters from all over the World.  People often stop by to ask where you are from and where you are going and frequently invites are extended to “take a drink” on their or our boat.  George once invited 3 couples to join us and with luck I had humus, cheese, strawberries and olives to share.  We were rewarded with wonderful stories and practical advice on what to do and where to stay on the canals.

Lots about Locks

The locks on the Seine all had a lock tender who you called on a specified VHF frequency (different for each lock).  The following photos and their captions provide a description of how locks work and enabled us to sail up and down the foothills of the Alps en route to the Mediterranean. The first photo is of a large lock system on the Seine with three separate locks. 

On the left is the spillway for the river. There are three separate locks to the right of the spillway, The first 2 locks were undergoing repairs so we will use the third lock (all the way to the right).
The lock on the right is closed as it is occupied by a boat that is headed downstream so we will have to wait. There is a red signal light indicating we should not approach the lock.
The water level has been adjusted and the doors opened so the boat is exiting the lock.
We get the green signal light that the lock is ready for us to enter.
We are entering the lock

The next two photos are taken from the bow looking back towards the stern. 

Once inside the lock, we secure lines from the bow and the stern to one side of the lock. These lines will be adjusted to keep Ice Floe in place as the water level is adjusted. The doors at our stern are closed and water begins to enter the lock. Note the position of Ice Floe on the concrete wall.
The water level has been raised so that it is the same as the water where we will exit the lock.

The next two photos are taken from the bow looking forward.

The lock doors begin to open.
Ice Floe heads out of the lock.

This next photos is of an ancient flight of locks (left in photo) that was replaced centuries later with 6 separate  locks, each only 0.4 km apart.

On the left, you are looking at an ancient “flight of locks. It could only accommodate a single boat. If a boat was moving up this flight of locks, a boat needing to move down the locks would need to wait until the other boat had completed all 6 locks in the continuous series. On the right you see the doors to the first of 6 separate locks that replaced the original lock. Each can accommodate boats heading either up or down.
Closer view of ancient lock system

As the tourist season warms up we have more and more people watching as we move  through locks.  Even for many people for whom the locks are an integral part of their lives, many stop to watch, particularly those with small children who are often bicycling along the path beside the locks with their parents.

I am certain you now know more than you ever thought you needed to know about locks and are wondering what else we have been up to these past several weeks.

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