Our inland journey through France pt.1

The preparation

Unfortunately there is not much to be found about the route we took and given the problems with water levels in summer on various canals, I hope we can make someone happy with our findings. Note that we sailed in France in autumn/winter 2022-2023.

Good sources to get prepared

1. The websites that give the most information are VNF (Voies Navigables de France – www.vnf.fr) and French Waterways (www.french-waterways.com). The VNF website also has a handy route planner that takes into account the draught, length and width of your boat. You can also see here when annual lock maintenance work is scheduled. 

2. Get a good map. Our map, which shows all the canals including depth, length, number of locks, etc., is from Fluvia.

3. We bought several cruising guides for the regions we wanted to travel through. The cruising guides give a step-by-step overview of the route you are going to take and even go much further. Bridges, locks, facilities, tourist information … everything is well documented in these books. If you follow our route along the Scheldt you will need these guides: 20. PICARDIE + 19. MARNE + 18. RHONE. For sale at www.carte-fluviale.com (éditions du Briel).

The guides and map that were the main source to prepare our trip through France.

4. The NAVI application, where you can see in real time which locks are in operation, but the application also shows various warnings about certain navigation stops, planned maintenance work on certain locks, where you are not allowed to moor, etc. You can also consult a map where you can see all this information and follow other boats that have AIS.

5. A limited number of free digital ENC charts are also available online.

Our planned route through France

Note that the depth I am referring to is the one mentioned on the Fluvia map.

1. Escaut canalisé (depth 3.50 meters up to the junction of Hordain, thereafter the depth is 2.20 meters)

2. Canal de Saint-Quentin (depth 2.30 meters)

3. Canal de l’Oise à l’Aisne (depth 2 meters)

4. Canal latéral à l’Aisne (depth 1.80 meters – 2 meters)

5. Canal de l’Aisne à la Marne (depth 1.80 meters)

6. Canal latéral à la Marne (depth 1.80 meters)

7. Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne (depth 1.80 metres)

8. Petite Saône (depth 1.80 meters)

9. Saône (depth 3.50 meters)

10. Rhône (depth 3 meters).

Final destination: Mediterranean Sea

We entered France on December 03th, 2022 and left the Rhône on February 09th, 2023 so we traveled a total of 69 days inland through France.

Our boat specifications

We successfully made it to the south with our draft. The canals and rivers were even deeper than indicated on the Fluvia map (at least in autumn/winter). Sometimes we had problems that we couldn’t enter a certain port or mooring.

* Length 10 meters (the length of the locks on the canals is max. 40 meters)

* Width 3.40 meters (the width of the locks on the canals is max. 5.20 meters)

* Depth 1.60 meters (the depth on the canals varies)

* Height – the maximum clearance for the bridges in France is 3.40 meters. Be sure to keep this in mind.

Good to know

* Indispensable on this trip are having AIS and a VHF radio.

* It is also important to note that you will need a canal toll sticker to cross France (Péage Plaisance – you can buy this on the VNF website, at a VNF shop or at the first lock).

* You will pass through 230 locks and 6 tunnels. Quite an adventure at times 🙂 The Riqueval tunnel must be requested 48 hours in advance as you will be towed through the tunnel. Apparently you get a bill for the towing service afterwards (we haven’t seen ours yet). Note that in 2023 they are going to work on the tunnel – more info here.

* Sometimes the locks don’t work, but VNF is just a phone call away.

* Take into consideration that you might get frozen in on the canals in winter when it gets really cold.

* For the Rhône, we also used consulted the websites Vigicrues and InfoRhone to check on the water flow level, any mistral warning etc.

* Check our POI map to find out where we moored, did some grocery shopping etc.

* On our Instagram page you can see several pictures of our adventure through France.

Et voila, have a safe trip through France, it sure is beautiful and one of a kind!

* To find out how we experienced this trip, read part 2.
* More insights on traveling through France by boat in part 3.


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