Living on the Canal du Midi

Moving your boat through the locks is an important part of boating on the Canal du Midi. Fortunately, we are navigating downstream so the water level is at the top of the lock when we enter. It takes three people to control the boat in the locks: the pilot, and a person in the bow and stern to hold ropes to keep the boat from drifting. One person, usually the person on the bow, steps ashore and loops the free end of their line around a post on the side of the lock. That person then runs to the stern, loops the rear line around another post, runs back to the front of the boat and hops back on. Skilled rope handlers can throw the rope and lasso the post, but I am not in that category. The two people then use the lines to hold the boat close to the side of the lock as the water level drops. When the water level reaches bottom and it is time for your boat to move, the rope handlers simply pull the lines back on board and off you go.   If we were traveling upstream, we would have to throw our rope to someone at the top of the lock to loop it for us. There is a lock master to cram as many boats as possible into the lock and operate the gates. On smaller canals, the boaters have to operate the lock gates.Lavonne is an experienced sailor so she was the leader in the locks and usually went ashore to get the lines looped.It may look like I am just standing there relaxing, but note how snug the stern of the boat is to the side of the lock.  That was my job!  This picture was taken at the top of a section of five locks together.  These locks are the number three tourist attraction in the area.  You can see spectators in the background.  That put pressure on not to do anything stupid!Daryll was our captain and Susan was our advisor.  Susan went ashore at the set of five locks to loop the lines for us.  At the bottom of the fifth lock, the wind started to move the bow of the ship away from the side of the lock while Susan was still ashore.  Lavonne was at her usual spot on the bow of the ship opposite Susan, who yelled to her “I can’t make it”.  Lavonne just said “Yes you can!” while grabbing her arm as Susan made a mighty jump.  Nice work!Life on the boat is pretty relaxing. On a typical day we navigate for about three hours. There are numerous small villages along the canal to explore. This requires mooring the boat to stakes provided along the banks of the canal.  This operation is similar to that of going through the locks.  Above is our cabin.  While it was cozy, it was well thought out.  We moored along the banks of the canal most nights, so we had to conserve water and batttey power.Our living room/dining room. Our kitchen was equipped with a refrigerator, cook top, and oven.  We ate all our breakfasts and several lunches and dinners on the boats.  We took advantage of a weekly market in one of the towns to get much of our provisions.

We spent most of the time on the top deck.  We had an umbrella for shade, but we had to take it down for the numerous low bridges.  We tried many strategies for handling the umbrella under the bridge, and this was by far the easiest.

By law in France, all boats must be equipped with holding tanks for waste.  Unfortunately, no pump out facilities are available along the canal, so all waste is pulverized and discharged directly into the canal.  Yuck!  I was shocked by this since I always think of Europe as being ahead of us environmentally.  Needless to say, we didn’t swim in the canal.  I also opted not to bring my line handling gloves home.

There were a number of aquaducts where the canal would pass over a stream or other obstacle.  This one at Beziers over a river is by far the longest.  If you look closely, you can see a long boat in the canal over the third arch from the left.
We are now in the Brussels airport bound for Vienna and what should be reliable wifi, so we will try to get caught up on the blog.  Accuweather has a yellow warning for heat in Vienna, so we will either be in a lot of museums or writing a lot of blogs in the afternoons.

One thought on “Living on the Canal du Midi”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *