Besancon to The Mighty Rhine

We left Besancon on Saturday 4th July feeling as though we hadn’t slept the night – oh, we hadn’t!  As with these types of trips we didn’t know where we would stop next but quite honestly, the scenery is so breath-taking that you don’t really consider these things until you start to feel a little tired.  Also, there really aren’t that many stopping places and as we approached the lock at Ougney-Les-Champs, in the most beautiful setting, we decided to try our luck at staying on the holding pontoon for the lock.

There seemed to be no problem with this, as although there were VNF vehicles parked nearby, no one came to say we couldn’t stay there so we hoisted the canopy, opened the chairs and got the BBQ underway.  We had a lovely evening and didn’t even mind when car loads of well dressed youngsters turned up for a party at the lock house.  The music they played was ok, not really our taste but never mind.  When it was still booming at 5am we were feeling the effects of two sleepless nights and just hoped that the next stop would be a little more tranquil.

Sunday morning after the obligatory dog walk we continued through the scenic Doubs valley and came to rest on another holding pontoon, in another picturesque spot at Goulisse.  This time there were no nearby houses and we settled down for what was to be a dead silent nights sleep!

20200705 03 Our first peaceful night sleep for ages

Monday 6th we stopped after a couple of locks at L’Isle-Sur-Le-Doubs as there is an Intermarche and fuel station right next to a quay with bollards.  We filled cupboards and tanks then moved on to the beautiful town of Montbeliard.  They have a great harbour with 3 main pontoons holding approximately 10 boats each on 5 meter fingers.  The standard sized boat in there was about 10-12 meters so we were the largest to occupy one of the fingers but with plenty of room to manoeuvre between them it was pretty straight forward (yes, bows in!).

The harbour is nothing too special but as soon as you go ashore you step into a world of landscape with winding pathways through the park to the left and into the town to the right, passing giant plant pots, brightly coloured and filled with all sorts of trees, plants and shrubs.

20200707 03 Montbeliard

As you approach the town you go over the road bridge that has a blooming display of flowers every meter or so on both sides and this goes over the river where they have anchored several large bright yellow chicks floating in and amongst a huge area of real lily pads. The town itself is clean and tidy with a sense of pride amongst its residents.  And why not!

20200707 01 Montbeliard

The Capitanerie is a lovely young lady with perfect English who told us about the town then had the cheek to charge us €23 for a 2 night stay, with water and electric!  I’m joking, of course, in total we have spent just over €50 for berth’s since leaving Auxonne last Sunday.

On Wednesday 8th July, we moved on to the summit of the Canal du Rhone au Rhine found between lock 2 and 3 at Montreux Chateau.  It is a lovely stop, just on the right bank after lock 3 looking at the Vosges in the distance.  It is well kept and we were next to a sitting area that enabled us to get the BBQ and chairs onto shore and we sat in the sun until it slipped behind the hills.

20200708 02 The Summit at Montreau Chateau

If only we’d known what Thursday would bring, we might not have got out of bed!  The descent from the top of the canal to the Rhine is shorter than the ascent from the Saone to the summit but the locks come one after the other after the other. It took us all morning to get to a place called Dannemarie for the lunchtime lock closure, just 10kms along the canal – we could have walked it quicker!

After a snack and a nap we set off again at 1330 with our new lady lock keeper and continued the agonisingly slow descent in the scorching sun – 32oC no less!!  12locks and about 12kms later we stopped along a quay with bollards at Spechbach le Bas.  The spectacular scenery we experienced at the beginning of the canal has gone but I couldn’t tell you where we lost it as I was head down catching bollards and feeding ropes through my hands most of the journey, without time to even make a cuppa!

Friday we made the final dash to Mulhouse with it in mind to have at least a couple of days rest but as we arrived the port captain directed us to a berth ‘Avec ombre’, but which was next to a busy road under trees full of some tiny bug that continuously dropped onto the decks and died leaving blacks smuts everywhere.  A walk into the town did nothing to enamour us to the place and when we got back to the boat a fisherman on the other bank cast his line so close to Thirza that it not only hit her but managed to wind itself round the back handrail of the scooter platform.  To say we were pissed off is an understatement.  I grabbed the scissors and Frank used them to cut the line and then throw hook, line and sinker into the canal.  It was enough to make us decide that anywhere would be better to stay than here.  It doesn’t help that neither of us like big towns, much preferring the smaller villages or the wild countryside.

We set off for lock 41 to take us out of Mulhouse and fortunately the lock keeper was there bringing another boat up towards the town.  We stopped on the bank and Frank went to speak to him and the people on the Swiss boat on its way up overheard Frank saying that we’d had trouble with a fisherman.  They immediately said that they had stayed in that same spot and during the evening kids had thrown stones at their boat and they would never stay there again!  So glad we moved.

The same lock keeper, a few locks back, had asked if we wanted to buy some of his home made honey – yes please!  Off he went and came back with honey, homemade gooseberry and cherry gelee and freshly laid eggs ‘from the young poulet’ he said.  It is great when you get all this lovely fresh stuff along the canal bank.  The lock keeper asked if we wanted to go through the lock at Niffer but it was now about 1630 and we knew it would take us about 2 ½ hours to get there so we said no, we wanted to stay in the harbour before the lock.  Sadly there was no room at the inn and at 1915 we laid alongside the lock wall, well back from the lock itself, and got away with staying there for the night.  Thankfully it was a peaceful night and we woke in the morning feeling refreshed.

Good job as the next day we entered the mighty Rhine!  It is always lovely when you leave the smaller canals and enter the rivers as the air suddenly feels fresher and, providing you’re heading downstream, you speed up.  Our best so far is 13.2kms against our usual 6kms!

20200711 01 Leaving the Canal du Rhone au Rhine via the Kembs-Niffer Lock

When we were in the UK we had a book of the Rhine delivered to us and neither of us had really picked it up to study it (typical of us – always seat of the pants!).  As we headed towards the first lock I picked it up to find out which VHF channel they use – but the book didn’t say.  Thankfully, the internet is a wealth of information and we soon discovered that they use VHF22 and VHF20 alternately.  Being on the French German border the lock keepers speak both languages fluently, as well as English.  I tried to stick to French as best I can but whenever I ask ‘repetez svp’ I am answered in English, which was reassuring.

The thing our book has proved useful for is the harbours and yacht clubs, whether they have visitor berths or not and where they are located along the banks – in either Germany or France.  After the Chute de Vogelgrun there is a return up towards a barrage on the right and there were two harbours located there – we picked the first one as it had a big sign at the entrance saying ‘visitor pontoon’ and in the strengthening wind we landed safely for the night.

20200711 04 The Port de Plaisance downstream of the Chute de Vogelgrun

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