South of France

Monday, 20 May 2024

Séte

We have now left the Mediterranean.

But in order, as always.

Back in France again. It was a short journey to the border (5 nautical miles),

past Llanca

and along the sloping foothills of the Pyrenees.

The border is at Cap Cebére, and we’ve just crossed it.

Cebére harbour is the first harbour in France. But we continued on to Saint-Cyprien-Plage. There is already a sandy coast here, the mountains are far inland. At times, we could see the snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees. As predicted, the wind in Saint-Cyprien quickly picked up to over 15 knots from 2 p.m. and the thunderstorms moved towards us from the Pyrenees. We were glad to have made the trip early in the morning and to be well moored in the harbour by 1 pm. The next day, the wind for cased to freshen up at 12 noon. Only we dared to make a stone’s throw to Canet en Roussillon, 5 nautical miles further on. This shortened the distance to Port La Nouvelle.

We rediscovered France in Canet en Roussillon. Behind the row of beaches with the typical concrete blocks, there is still the old town.

Typical French houses

and typical French alleyways

And we managed to photograph the snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees.

After Port La Nouvelle, we set off early again.

Port La Nouvelle is a large industrial harbour, they are currently building an extension to the harbour. Unfortunately, this was not indicated on the plotter map, we had to find our way along the newly built piers into the harbour. But in the end it was no problem, the old entrance is still the same as on the map, except that a huge new harbour basin has been created.

The last trip to Séte then was a very long one, just under 40 nautical miles or in hours, it was 7.5, all under motor. Anyway, now we are here and amica is being prepared for the Canal du Midi.

Farewell to the Mediterranean

Séte

Séte entrance, farewell to the Mediterranean, as always with choppy seas

By rigging down the mast in the shipyard, I like the French expression: coucher le mat = to put the mast to sleep.

Amica without mast, he is now in bed

28 May 2024

Homps in the Canal du Midi

We’ve now travelled some distance along the Canal du Midi, and we’ve decided to abandon our crossing of the south of France. There are several reasons for this. The most important: the Canal de Garonne is closed indefinitely due to a broken bridge. Then we had to learn that the lock work is quite strenuous. It takes more hands; three people would be the minimum, two on the lock and one on board. With two people, the work on the lock chambers, which are up to 7 metres deep, is adventurous and involves a lot of walking. Barbara has to go home on 31 May (from Toulouse) and I’ll definitely be on my own. We don’t want to do the last stretch to Toulouse. So I’m now sitting here in Homps and trying to find a French transport company to transport amica overland from here to Verdon-sur-Mer or Royan, right on the Atlantic.

The entrance to the Canal du Midi.

This is the right place for us.

We spent the first night at Portiragnes lock because there was no room in Casafiéres harbour. From there we travelled on to Bezier at midday, until then everything was still easy. Then came the deep locks with up to 7 meters and the seven-step staircase lock at Fonserannes.

Staircase lock at Fonserannes, the first lock chamber.

Even here, we realized that locks and photography don’t work together. We need all our hands for the lines.

In Capestang, already we could feel the strain in our bones, even though the journey was only 9.8 nautical miles long. From there it was 22 nautical miles to Homps, which took us 7 hours. Three times I had to clear the engine of weed, which always meant switching off the engine, pulling it up, cleaning the propeller and then lowering and starting the engine again. The sun shone relentlessly. Many of the lock chambers were still high, so Barbara always had to get out first and climb up the locks, then quickly put two lines on the bollards. She took the first line from above as the water rose, and I took the other from on board. The water flows into the lock in a swirling motion and is white water, so you have to pull hard on the lines.

After a night in Homps, it was too much for us. We had also learned that the Canal de Garonne was closed indefinitely due to a broken bridge. A transport would have been necessary in any case.

There is a crane at the hire station of Le Boat, a boat rental company on the Canal du Midi. Otherwise, the village of 600 inhabitants does not have much to offer.

Nevertheless, we saw many beautiful corners of the Canal du Midi

Bridges

Malpas tunnel

In the tunnel

Tunnel exit

Locks

View to the Pyrenees

Inhabitants of the Canal du Midi

Beautiful cypress trees

Capestang

I was able to observe a lot during my 3 weeks at Homps. Of course, I particularly noticed the people, mostly Americans, English, and many Germans. Not all of them were renting boats, but were probably here because of the Minervois wine-growing region.

In the harbour-office, where the sanitary facilities are located, we were immediately invited to a wine tasting.

Wine growing around Homps.

There was a lot of traffic on the Canal-du-Midi every weekend. It’s a bit like changing beds on the weekend, only here it’s the hire boats from the Le Boat base.

The mountains framed this otherwise very flat area, but they were still very far away. The denser ones in the north, the upper Languedoc, in the south you could see the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Yes, and then there is the old knights’ tower of the Knights Templar.

And a very large church. All the inhabitants of Homp could probably fit in.

But it’s about time I got away from here, too high temperatures, very dry air, lots of grass pollen and the lack of sound and smell of the sea. I managed to find a carrier for 17 June who was able to deliver the boat in Royan on 18 June. That was an extensive organisation.

The crane at Le Boat

However, it’s about time I got away from here, too high temperatures, very dry air, lots of grass pollen and the lack of sound and smell of the sea. I managed to find a carrier for 17 June who was able to deliver the boat in Royan on 18 June. This was an extensive organization.

Amica on the trailer, very professionally done.

I myself had to take an 8-hour train journey with four changes. However, it worked out well, and I made it to the hotel in Royan by 10 pm.

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