Port Cassafieres to Béziers
|6.44 m||elevation gain|
We checked out of the Hotel Champs de Mars and got a ride
to the boat rental company's base at
The canal boat base was just about 15 minutes' drive from our hotel. It's 13 kilometers east along the canal.
The company was still Crown Blue at the time, since then they were purchased by Le Boat.
Portiragnes is a commune with about 3,100 permanent residents, but up to 20,000 people come here to stay in cabins and campgrounds during the summer.
Wetlands around Portiragnes are a breeding ground for a wide variety of birds — flamingos, herons, ducks, ibis, and more.
We stored our bags and walked about a kilometer and a half through the wetlands to the Mediterranean.
The 7th Wave had tables under a canopy across the lane and right on the beach.
Seafood salad by the sea. The mussels very likely came from the Étang de Thau, the large lagoon at the canal's eastern end.
We came back by a different route, past fields filled with red poppies.
My parents, Bill and Betty:
Their friends, Larry and Shirley:
Picking up the Boat
Our boat was ready when we returned. One of the staff is walking me around.
Then it was out onto the canal for what turned out to be a short test cruise. Helm and throttle, basic maneuvering. This was the second canal boat trip, so no surprises and before very long we returned to the base and dropped off the staff member.
This was a slightly older model, very similar to what we had on two other trips. This one, what Le Boat called an Orion, did not have a bow thruster. With a bow thruster, you can do a 180° turn in place. Without it, you gently bring the bow into the bank, turn the rudder as far as it goes, and bring up the throttle up to a low setting to pivot about the bow.
Then we were underway!
Cyclists, horse riders, joggers, and walkers use the path along the canal.
The boating base is at kilometer 222.5 from Toulouse. At kilometer 218.262 we reached our first lock.
You need someone up on the side of the lock to help those on board with the lines. That was always me. There will be somewhere near the lock where you can jump ashore. Maybe a proper small pier, but more likely just a smooth landing area above a steep bank where the boat can get close enough for you to jump.
On the Canal Latéral à la Loire the lock chambers have straight walls with ladders recessed into the walls. You can ride the boat into the lock and then climb a ladder.
There will be at a footbridge across one end of the lock chamber. Several of the pictures in this series will be taken from that bridge. We were going upstream, gaining elevation at each lock, so often the footbridge was high above the approaching boat. On the way out of the upper end of the lock, the water level is usually near the top of the lock walls and it's easy to just step back on board.
I'm on the bridge over the lock entrance. My dad is piloting the boat into the lock, Larry is making sure the forward line is securely tied with a cleat hitch.
Underway on the Canal du Midi
Someone on board took this picture. I'm on the bridge over the lock entrance. The lower gate is open, ready for our boat to enter. Most of the locks on Canal du Midi, like this one, lift you two to three and a half meters.
Larry has a forward line on a cleat; he threw the end to me, I ran it around the bollard and threw it back. My dad is about to throw me an aft line. They will keep light tension on the lines to hold the boat in place as the water quickly flows into the lock chamber.
The lock keepers on the Canal du Midi are more aggressive about water flow than those on the Canal Latéral à la Loire. This canal has much more traffic, so they want to cycle the locks more quickly. Also, the oval shape of these locks usually puts your boat at least partially parallel to another. So, it's important to use your lines to stay in place as the lock cycles.
Then we continued on a straight section of the canal, parallel to the road between the port and Béziers.
There are many bridges over the canal, most with openings little larger than a lock gate.
We're close to the city of Béziers, but there are vineyards here as well.
This boat, formerly a commercial freight barge, is now moored here as a bed and breakfast. With the small mast taken down, and the shelter disassembled, it could fit under bridges. It would be close, but the limiting gauge for the canal is well known. Commercial barges may clear openings with just a few centimeters to spare.
Here comes a series of rented cruisers. Several commercial barges are tied up along the bank.
We're coming to another lock. I jumped ashore well below the lock to make my way around a garden lining the canal.
Going up, those on board take in their lines to hold the boat in place.
Going down, of course they have to let out line as the water level drops.
The lock keepers keep an eye on things. Imagine a boat moving down with the lines tight and tied off. It would tear the cleats out of the deck.
The lock keepers operate the valves and gates from an electrical panel.
The lock keepers' houses along the Canal du Midi are built to a common style. Each has a placard naming the lock and showing the distance to the next lock in each direction.
The long-handled rake can retrieve objects and trash from the canal.
This small lift bridge carries a rail line across the canal, joining two industrial properties.
Life on Board
We're in the central cabin in the boat, looking forward. An L-shaped bench provides seating around a table. You could replace the table legs with shorter ones stored beneath the bench, add a small mattress, and convert the table and seat into an additional bed.
There is a helm position inside, but we didn't use it at all.
Two steps up lead out a sliding hatch to a very narrow strip of deck, just wide enough for your feet.
The boat has a 4.220 HE Nanni diesel engine providing 36.8 kW of power. There's a 300 liter diesel fuel tank, well more than what's needed for a one week trip covering 160 kilometers.
There are four batteries. One is reserved for starting the engine. The other three are for domestic power. That is, just 12 volt DC power mostly for lights. Auxilliary electrical power is provided through sockets like those found in cars, the design dating from when cars had electrical cigarette lighters.
We will top off the 1000 liter water tank every evening that we tie up at a place with the opportunity to do so. That will be every evening but one on this trip. Communities provide nice places to tie up a boat overnight, as that brings business to their restaurants, grocery stores, and bakeries.
Betty and Shirley are preparing something in the galley.
There is a small propane gas tank for a four-burner stove top, a small oven, and a small refrigerator. The refrigerator is important, for the wine, cheese, and fruit, but otherwise we didn't do much with the galley.
Larry is still at the table as Bill starts up the ladder to the rear deck.
Two steps down between the two of them lead to two narrow hatchways leading into the aft cabins.
There are 230 volt AC outlets, which can be powered by plugging into shore power. However, not every village has shore power, and you would have to find the right person to pay to use it.
One aft cabin has the two narrow beds pushed together.
In the other aft cabin they're split apart.
Two steps down between the interior helm and galley moving forward, and through a narrow hatchway, leads you into the triangular forward cabin.
Two small people could sleep in here, with their feet or heads banging together. Or one large person sleeping in an L shape across the V. That was me.
There's an 80 liter hot water tank, warmed by the engine. So, you can have a warm shower during the day or in the evening, but by morning a shower will be quite cool. You refill the water tanks when you can. Towns along the canals make sure to have nice places to tie up and get water, then you'll do some business there. Replenish your wine and cheese and fresh bread supply, maybe get a meal in a restaurant.
The black button on the front of the counter is a rubber-covered push button that turns on a pump to remove water from the compartment.
You step down as you enter the head compartment, which is a shower.
On this older model, the foot pedal on the toilet only opens a flapper valve into the waste tank. The shower head on its long flexible hose flushes and washes down the toilet.
On our first day we tied up near the center of Béziers. We walked up toward the center and got dinner that evening. Then we returned to our boat, our floating hotel and transportation. In the morning we would move on.