Brittany trip, spring 2002
Moored at la Gacilly
A one-week trip from the Crown Blue base at Messac, along the river
Vilaine to Redon, and the canal du Nantes à Brest and river Oust as far
as Josselin, returning the same way except for a side trip on the river
Aff to la Gacilly. Total 233km and 36 locks.
The scenery is pretty but not spectacular, the food and drink excellent.
The rivers are very wide in places, with channels marked by buoys or posts,
but not difficult to navigate. The locks all have keepers and are nearly all
mechanised and operated by a small remote control box. Good moorings were
generally available, except at Josselin.
Locking is so easy that a boater brought up on English canals feels
deprived of work. As you approach, if there's no sign of the lock being
worked for you, you just sound your horn and wait. Once in, you have only
to hand up your ropes, and even then it's easy, the keepers don't expect
you to be able to throw, they lower a hook with which they pull up a loop of
rope. Then you just sail out and wave.
There are gererally no lock cuts, or if there are they're short. Mostly
the locks are in the stream at one side of the river with a long unguarded
weir across the remainder of the width. The current's slow enough that
this isn't a problem unless you have to hang around outside the lock,
but we had an interesting experience at one of these. Our steering failed.
There was a leak in the hydraulics, and it left us above one of these
locks unable to steer. Fortunately our steerer got the boat into the side
using forward and reverse only.
La Gacilly is worth the detour. It's a pretty little town with lots
of craft workshops, and the river approach is also fun. The entrace to the
Aff is a sort of nondescript creek over marshy ground branching out from a
very wide dead-end section of the main river, marked only by red and green
poles, but it soon turns into a sleepy little river meandering up to the
- Fri 2002-04-26
- Rain nearly all day. In two cars via tunnel to Coquelles. Found the
hotel easily (Kyriad). It's fairly basic as intended but has a reasonable
restaurant and some sort of bar.
- Sat 2002-04-27
- Reasonable breakfast, nearly all English in hotel, including several
groups on a classic car rally (an old Porsche, an MGB V8 and an Austin
Healey in the car park). Total tolls 20E80 per car (inc 5E for the Pont de
Normandie). Away about 08h50. Sunny a bit to start, then dull, windy and
sometimes wet. Lunch a snack at a service area just before Caen. Lots of
new motorway inc the Pont de Normandie. Stop at a Carrefour outside Avranches
for food, and arrive at boatyard 16h15. Hand over about 300E on the plastic
for security waiver (75E), bike (27E), guide (20E), car parking (25Ex2) and
hours deposit (140E). Not fuel, this boat charges by the hour on the engine
meter. Condor #1, a big boat (12m8 * 3m6) with inside and on-top steering.
Instruction including accompanying to the first lock; our request as so
windy and unsure of procedure. Boat is not much narrower than the locks.
Both locks worked by women with remote control box slung from shoulder.
Down the two locks, then find somewhere to moor. It's dull and blowing a
gale, so cold too. Start 17h15 and moor at Port de Roche at 19h. Turn and
moor upstream neatly, but we didn't get the stern rope off in time so spun
round in the wind and ended up pointing downstream. Short walk, then eat on
boat. Boat has engine right inboard, accessed through a hatch in the rear
cabin, diesel hot-air heating, engine hot water. Today 1+3/4h, 2l, 15.5km.
- Sun 2002-04-28
- Rain overnight and in the morning, but little during the day; some
sunshine, and quite pleasant when there was no wind, which was not often.
Start 09h45. Looking for water all day; lots of moorings marked as having
water in the guide but we found none. Put a bit in with buckets and trying
to hold the hose onto a drinking water tap at the eve moor. Rear loo flush
water has stopped working. Upper station battery warning light came on, but
not the lower station one and V>14V. Into Redon, round to the harbour,
no moorings and the usual lock is closed for maintenance, so back round to
the old lock which is being used pro tem. Fortunately it's open through
lunch. Moor just beyond ("no mooring" signs but l'éclusier said OK) at
13h. Short walk in the town, then eat at a crêperie just by the
mooring. On again 14h40 through the canal section of the Nantes à
Brest onto the River Oust part, one lock then moor at Peillac at 17h. Eat
on boat. Today 49km, 5h35m, 2l.
- Mon 2002-04-29
- Today 31.5km, 8l, 5.5h. Mostly warm and sunny apart from the wind,
which did drop now and again, esp after lunch. All locks are manned and
automated so far (except for the old one at Redon), and most worked by
remote control, which around here is a small, pocketable thing. Few lock
cuts, mostly locks are just on short by-passes to weirs. The keepers either
see you coming or respond to a blast of the horn; there are generally no
mooring places at locks. Despite boatyard assertion, you couldn't really
moor anywhere except on landing stages or pontoons. Lunch stop at St-Laurent,
12h..14h. An 800m walk into the village; lunch at a bar/tabac/shop/restaurant;
fixed menu at 9E including wine; bread; sausage and gherkin; cous-cous
with egg; stuffed something with chips; tart or commercial desert; cheese;
coffee. Also bought some beer. Moor at very scenic spot at Montertelot,
just above the lock, looking back at the church, the lock and the weir.
Walk back to the château de Crévy. By then sunny and still,
with the air
still cool. Moor at 17h. Eve eat on boat. Water 40 mins at le Gueslin
included in the travel time; the tank was clearly nowhere
near full when we started. The aft bog is now not flushing at all, but can
use the shower head instead. It all goes over the side anyway.
- Tue 2002-04-30
- Dull, windy and later wet. Start 09h10. Through most of the locks with
a French crew on another Crown Blue Line boat, handing out religious tracts
and unwanted advice. The locks along this stretch are all manual and
assisted with the gates at some. Moor at Josselin, breasted up to a trip
boat, as most of the moorings are taken by unlet hire boats. Walk in town;
lunch at le Hôtel de France (9E fixed menu) and stock up provisions
After a day's use and 3 hair-washings water took less than 5 mins. Taps under
green plastic covers set into the moorings. Shops not open till 15h, and then
wet and windy, so decided to stay here for the night. Enormous weir right
by the lock. Today 13.5km, 6l, 3h. About 20h, after eat on boat. The sun
came out for a bit and it stopped raining. A few pix then.
- Wed 2002-05-01
- Bank holiday in France. Dawn clear and bright, but cold. Walk in town;
some photos in morning light. Off - but there's no steering. A lock ready
and we can't get into it. Steerer trying to control the boat right next to
a bloody great weir and no steering. Using the engine, got it back into the
side, apologised to the lock keeper, who had come out in her nightdress and
a coat, and rang the boatyard. That's about 09h10. The man comes to repair
it at 10h20, and it took him until 12h30. The hydraulic pump behind the
lower steering had a failed seal, and his spare had to be adapted to fit.
Meanwhile the sun's gone and time for the locks is disappearing. Lunch in
town (galettes and omelettes with cider), then off at last 14h, and the
sun's back for a while. Most of these locks have unguarded weirs really
amazingly close to the locks. At Guillac for example maybe only 3 or 4m
from the lock entrance. As this is bank holiday, most locks are being
worked by two or more people, presumably the family at home for the day.
Downstream max-throttle is about 10.3km/h; we were doing 8 or 9 upstream,
so quite a slow river. Finish at Malestroit, after lock and before bridge,
at 17h45. Today 25km, 10 locks (plus 1 stop lock). Eat on boat, then a walk
around the town; Malestroit has really pretty narrow streets with ancient
- Thu 2002-05-02
- A little rain, but mostly warm and sunny, esp aft. Into the town for
bread, croisssants and supermarket supplies, then to the market, with lots
of fresh sea-food, crabs and prawns still moving. Start 09h30. Water
11h20..11h40 at la Gueslin, then on to moor at Peillac again, 12h25..13h25,
lunch on board. Warm enough for a beer on the top deck before lunch. Then
aft through the last Oust lock and onto the Aff, a completely different river.
It starts in a wide channel with path buoyed, then turns into a narrow snake
through a marsh - if it weren't for the 6km/h speed limit sign and the red
and green marker posts we'd not have believed this the way. It soon leaves
the marsh and turns into a pretty little rural river for 9km to la Gacilly.
Arr 15h40 and moor back-on to a rack of pontoons, mostly empty. Passed one
boat leaving as we arr, and another Crown Blue boat has arrived since us.
The navigable Aff ends here in a weir. A complete contrast to the wide
Oust and wider Vilaine. Today 35.8km, 5l, 5h10m. Walk in the town, which
is pretty, touristy, with lots of craft shops. Beer in the sun at a bar
terrace. Eve to a Vietnamese restaurant in town. Chinese-like; meal served
in a shallow bowl with a thick stem, on a plate, with rice in a separate bowl.
Wooden chopsticks of the sort you have to split apart. Possibly the busiest
place in the whole town, all of us plus three couples.
- Fri 2002-05-03
- A clear, cold night and a cloudless morning. Usual walk to town for
bread and croisssants, then away 08h45. Getting quite warm at times. Through
Redon, sharing the lock with a broken-down hire boat; a tug was waiting
below the lock to take it away. Onto the Vilaine, and stop for lunch at
Painfaut, sharing a pontoon with another Crown Blue boat, with a French crew.
There seem to be quite a lot of natives on this river, unlike the Canal de
Bourgogne and the Belgian canals. Lunch 12h20..13h15 on board. Then towards
home on the wide Vilaine, mostly dry, some sunshine, but one torrential
downpour when I was left outside steering and the others all hid inside.
Moor for eve at Guipry port, just below the lock, by then warm and sunny.
Moor at 16h45. Today 62km, 2l, 7h5m. Eve to a pizza restaurant. As last
night, this seems the busiest restaurant in this smallish town, esp
families with young children.
- Sat 2002-05-04
- Another clear morning, not so cold; mist rising over the weir and
swirling over the river. To the local baker for our last fresh croissants.
Final packing and cleaning. L'éclusier obviously knows what to expect,
because just before 08h30 the bottom gates are left open, and we potter in
just after and go up, and into the boatyard. Today 500m, 1l, 15m. Pay
another 8E to make 148E total for the hours charge. Then the long drive
back, getting home about 19h20. The 446MHz walkie-talkies were very useful
between the cars on the journey.
day date h km locks steerer -- Water
Sat 020427 1.75 15.5 2 N
Sun 020428 5.58 49 2 C S Peillac
Mon 020429 5.50 31.5 8 K R le Guislin
Tue 020430 3.00 13.5 6 NC - Josselin
Wed 020501 3.75 25 10 - C -
Thu 020502 5.17 36 5 S K le Guislin
Fri 020503 7.08 62 2 R N -
Sat 020504 0.25 0.5 1 C
Totals 33.08 233 36
Total included water time 60min, so cruising total 32h05m (ave 7.3km/h).
Day Lunch Evening
Sat - Port de Roche, on boat
Sun Redon, crêperie Peillac, on boat
Mon St-Laurent, bar/restaurant Montertelot, on boat
Tue Josselin, Hôtel de France Josselin, on boat
Wed Josselin, restaurant Malestroit, on boat
Thu Peillac, on boat la Gacilly, Vietnamese
Fri Painfaut, on boat Guipry, pizza restaurant
Wed Steering failed at Josselin.
Craft: Condor 1, 12.8m * 3.66m.
Boatyard: Crown Blue Line, Messac, France.