Our Route on the RhoneThe Rhone is a well traveled route so there is little variation to the stopping spots. It depends on your pockets how long you stop in a marina and how interesting the free spots are. We tend to get a feel for the place at the end of the day when we tie up then mount an expedition the following day to see the sights to return to Malua that evening for a quiet drink on board before setting off the next day. If the place deserves a few extra days we stay. The PK refer to the kilometer marks shown on the banks of the canals and in the cruising guide.
Port St Louis Lock PK 323The light goes green about 0620 and you enter the lock and tie up either side to a bollard set above the lock. The water is not going to go up or down so take it easy. The lock man wants to know if you have been through before, if you have a peage Pass from VNF, the name of boat and master and their nationalities. In our case all done in perfect English. We exited with a commercial vessel behind us who soon over took us as we kept close to the starboard bank known as the left bank (as seen from going down river). The trip to Arles is very similar to the one you get while sitting in the bus which is rather dull because the banks have been built up quite a lot above the surrounding county side. Stick to the channel as per the red and green markers and take the bends wide as the silt is deposited on the outside where it flows slowly and the channel is deep as it erodes the inside of the bend. Sounds complicated but once done it comes naturally until your concentration wains and the depth sounder indicates you have 1 meter under the keel.
Arles PK 282The old timers will tell you there use to be a pontoon but it was washed away in the last great flood. In fact there is only one place to stay and that is the restaurant barge. I have seen it three boats abreast but when we arrived we came alongside and tied to his forward cleat and the railing. Later in the day a yacht with two couples and two babies came and tied up along side us. No worries but I feared I would be kept awake by screaming babies all night. Not a chance these less than one year olds are old hand at this boating story. They each have a bath tub and in the evening after a stroll round the sites of Arles have a bath then adjourn to the restaurant for the evening meal and then retire to sleep like contented babies. If you tie up alongside you can get water and electricity. You are expected to eat at the restaurant which we did and had a very pleasant meal with wine for less than E40 - great value.
Arle is Picasso and Roman ruins land. The famous bridge Picasso painted is some way south of the town not a long bike ride but more than a walk. The Museum south of the town is very good and well worth a few hours looking at the history of the area. It is well presented and show how the Romans lived during that period. Purchase a Picasso book about the area and do the walk indicating the locations of his paintings in the area. A bit of imagination is required but if you have seen the originals the image will remain with you for ever. We didnt, but people say it is worth going to a bull fight.
Avignon PK 241Avignon is reached after experiencing your first deep lock at PK 265 at Vallabregues. Waiting area is on the port going upstream, then you go in and before you know it you are 12 meters high than when you started. No problem. Off to Avignon which is up a side stream and under three bridges. You pass the famous bridge which doesnt span the river any more and tie up at the "public" wharf on the starboard side. Choose a place close to an electricity point because they are few and far between. We didnt use either the water or the electricity. At the capitanirre which is across the road down stream we paid for a 11m boat E18 per night (23 for 12m). It has showers a washing machine and dryer. The town is the home of the Popes around 1330 when the factional rivalry got too much in Rome they moved here and built a Palace. Well worth two days to wander round the town but you must make it to the market before 1300 to get fresh produce. Restaurants look good but we did not try one. We did make a large purchase at the Palace wine tasting room just before the exit. It is good value to purchase a glass of wine E2-5 while selecting what you are going to buy. We settled for a range of six bottles from E30 to 5 . They are put in a box with a convenient handle for the short walk back to the boat where the wine will settle and mature in the bilge for another day when friends arrive.
l'Ardoise PK 214At PK219 where you turn up a side stream which has more than enough depth you find a small marina which has place for 30 or so boats. The lady owner is very helpful and runs the restaurant within the marina. We did not eat but a fellow cruiser told us as we where about to leave that he had a very good value meal which was the best they had had in weeks. The town which is a good bike ride away has nothing other than a cross roads, a pub and a store for the bread. There is also an army base on the outskirts but nothing else. Not worth the ride. Back into the canal and onward upstream as you expect to stop at Roguemaute but the moorings are missing.
l'eluse de BollieneNo book on the Rhone canals would not have a picture of this deep lock which was once the deepest on the planet! In fact it is no different from any other large Rhone lock except the sides are higher and it may fill faster but standing on your yacht you just dont notice.
See my Blog, here, on the subject and the youtube video for the rise in water level, here.
PK 178 PylonsWe decided we wanted some quiet not in a marina so pulled alongside two pylons set about 10m apart. The current is quite fast which helps manouvre the boat alongside. We got an aft spring on the stern pylon which kept us from going astern, then a bow line to keep the bow from swing out into the current then set about putting enough fenders and barge boards to keep us off the black pylons. Both smooth so no damage could be done but not something one would like to scrape against all night. A barge came by just after we had settled down to our evening drink and the boat rocked but it had little effect. Less than a large charter motor cruiser coming into an anchorage just before dinner time!
ViviersNice little town with a dock to take vessels. As you enter the larger ones are on the left and the small on the right - the higher numbers. We took 12 right in front of the entrance between the red and green and in front of the 2.0 depth sign. Short pontoon at a different height but lots of securing points. When we where there there was no water only electricity so no charge. A short walk up an avenue of old plain trees you will find the second centre of the town. Good bakery and nice pub - Ginger. We spent a very enjoyable evening listening to a touring Spanish band and wondered if we had made a mistake missing Spain and Portugal in this trip in the Med. We still may make it if the draft beats us. Great bike paths all along the canals and byways, just stay out of the wind if it is blowing in your face as you ride along the canal.
Port de Cruas PK 145We did not make it past the entrance because we ran aground in soft mud but yachts with much less draft than 2.0m should get in. Friends enjoyed there time in this rural setting.
La Voulte PK 129Small town with a place to tie up at a single white bollard. The sides of the canal have a slight slope but the water alongside is deep. We floated our finders horizontally alongside as we tied up to the bollard. The depth sounder went from .2 to 4.5 as the boat rocked. It is OK for a yacht but a straight sided vessel may have to stay a half meter off the waterline if a large barge goes by. The town was hosting a go-card derby which made quite a noise for the locals but went right over the top of our heads behind the canal wall. The walk to the top of the town castle is worth the effort but there is not much more. There is defiantly no water available at the canal side.
Valence PK 112This has the blue flag best marina on a river in France. You could fool me. It is on the starboard side with a fuel dock down river and pontoons running east west. I chose an finger on the downriver side between the first pontoon and the fuel dock. We hit the soft mud just at the end of the pontoon. Luckily some people on the dock indicated that we should try the upstream side of the same pontoon and found .3 m under the keel to tie up to a very short pontoon. We filled the tanks with water and connected to the electricity then headed off to the local large supermarket over the motorway and on the right. A good walk but better with bikes to carry the large quantity of food and grog from this very well supplied store.
The town is also over the motorway but up the same road until you hit the main drag into town. Nice place with many shops with high quality cloths and goods. We stopped for lunch in a small restaurant and had a very good meal of steak, salad, veg and wine for E26. The town has a good feel about it and deserves more than the two day we spent there but the charge of E26 a night did not want us to spend the extra day. Greener fields lay ahead, so we thought!