Our Barge, Odysseus

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Canal de Bourgogne, Part Une - July 16-19

Serious planning for the Canal de Bourgogne, which connects the Yonne/Seine Rivers with the Saone, began in 1676 but work didn't begin on the section between the summit tunnel and the Saone until 1783. The Revolution and other turmoil caused extensive delays and the first through trip Paris/Dijon didn't occur until the end of 1832. Because there are so many locks and a 3.3 km summit tunnel there is no longer any commercial traffic, other than hotel barges, on the canal. But it's well known for it's beauty, especially the valley of the Ouche River (the part we would be navigating) so there is quite a bit of pleasure traffic.
Despite it's beauty further up, the first 25 k is boring; not a single turn as you cross the plain to Dijon, and 22 locks, all of them up on this leg of the trip. The locks are all manual, which means they all have to be operated by canal staff and they work from 9 am to 7 pm with 12-1 off for lunch. If we were going to do this in one day, which was our plan, everything had to work out just right.
We arrived at the first lock, but no one had passed along the word that we would be there so we had a wait for a lock keeper, and then a second wait while another boat joined us. Water levels are very low this year due to France's drought, so the canal staff tries to group boats whenever possible. Usually no problem except this put us in the front of the lock (not a great place to be when going up) in front of a cruiser operated by a couple that didn't seem to quite have a handle on this lock thing.

Going up!

Despite all that, including the stinky weather (occasional rain and very windy), we managed to pull into Dijon with about a half hour to spare.
Sunday the weather continued rainy (get used to this, you're going to hear it alot!) so we just wandered around town and indulged in one of our favorite French customs, Sunday lunch. After a particularly heavy shower we got a good demonstration of the French saying "Apres la pluie, le soleil" (after the rain, sun).

Since we would have to be back in Dijon on the 26th for Tim's train connection, we decided to get on with our journey up the Bourgogne. Our ultimate destination was Vandeness, just a couple of kilometers short of the summit tunnel, with Chateauneuf-en-Auxois nearby.
Monday morning it was up-and-at-em to make that first 9 o'clock lock and who should pull up behind us but the couple that had bedeviled our trip up from Dijon. They had once again cleverly managed to place themselves in the back of the lock.
We traveled about 15 k and cleared 13 locks, stopping for the day a little before 3 in the village of Fleury-sur-Ouche, while our "friends" carried on further. We didn't recognize it at the time because of all the new construction but we had stayed in this village with John and Patti Harman on their Capri during our very first barge trip. More rain ensued.
Tuesday was another 15 k, 13 locks and occasional rain to the village of St. Victor. Luckily we were securely tied up because it proceeded to get really windy in the evening. If we were going to make Vandenesse on Wednesday, it was going to be a little more work.

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