Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Our appointment at Chantier Allemand in Le Grau D'Agde, where the Herault river meets the Mediterranean was for June first, but unfortunately my back went out on me upon our arrival in Carcassonne. I went to the doctor and to a physical therapist, Philippe, the same one who had treated me 2 years ago. The doctor prescribed 10 therapy sessions, so we stayed in Carcassonne until the 6 of June, giving ourselves plenty of time to make it to Agde for our appointment.

We took our time going east on the Canal du Midi, staying at Puicheric our first night, just before the bridge at a lovely spot all by ourselves. It was a beautiful evening of special light and we were very glad to be going on our way. From there we cruised for about 8 hours to Le Somail. The canal is so very beautiful at this time of the year with its plain tress on both sides so majestic and so green! Beyond them, the vineyards and wheat fields sway in the wind under the bluest of skies. We were able to get electricity from the Nichols Boat base, so we stayed in this charming little village for 3 nights. It is one of the most picturesque villages on the canal with a low bridge, an old chapel and a round tower used to store ice in the XVIII C. It is very well known because it has an old bookstore with more than 50.000 books, mostly collectors items and lots of first editions. One can spend the whole day in there and find the most amazing books in all languages. While there, we took walks, sat by the edge of the canal on a beautiful terrace to have a drink in the evenings and enjoyed the beauty of this special spot.

From Le Somail, there is a 54 Km run without locks, so the cruising is all pleasure and relaxation. We took about 4 hours to Capestang with an hour lunch break by the side of the canal. We met a Dutch man who has a small sailboat, and who remembered our boat from Moissac last year. An interesting fellow who has lived in India, Greece, the UK and many other places. He lives on his boat all year long and has the most adorable dog called Jimmy. He told us where he had moored his boat beyond the busy port of Capestang, so we did the same. We were away from the "naughty boats" as the British call rentals, but close enough to the town, which by the way has a great Collegiale from the XIII C. that sits on the highest part of town and is quite a view, especially from the canal. Not far from us, there was a barge called St. Antonius, which was a floating theater. They had shows 3 of the 5 nights we were there. They set quite a production with special effects and music, a very romantic thing to see. Unfurtunately, after a few days of felling better, my back went out again and I was in terrible pain all day.

On this day we went as far as Colombiers, only a 2 hour run and tied up after the busy port under the plain trees in a shady spot. Summer is here, as shade is most welcome at this time of the year. Colombiers has a very interesting old "chai" which has been made into a museum and art gallery. They had an exhibit by a German artist who studied calligraphy and Japanese ink drawing. His pieces were quite unique. It was good for my back to move a little even if very slowly. The best thing for me when in pain is eaither to walk or to lie flat on my back; sitting is the worst. At this time I was reading a very good book called A Place to Come to by Robert Penn Warrren, so I spent a lot of time lying on my back reading. I think I read it in 3 days.

After Clolombiers you have to got through an 7 lock "staircase," an original work of engineering from Riquet, who built he Canal du Midi in the 1600's. It is called Fonserannes. This time we were locking down, so the process is a lot easier. The lock keeper tells you where to go, and because the process is long, the put you into the lock with 3 or 4 other boats. The locking down took about an hour to complete. Once you leave the locks, you can see in the distance the imposing Cathedral of Beziers, and soon after you go on the Pont Canal over the River Orb. After here, there are 2 or 3 locks that are not round, like all of the locks on the Canal d Midi. We passed Villeneuve les Beziers, where we wanted to stay, but the port was full, continued on past Portiragnes and then a long straight run to Vias. Here the canal changes its appearance. Trees are scarce, and the topography is more like the Camargue; marshy and flat. In Vias there was supposed to be electricity, since the had all new facitities, but there were no connections. We stayed one night and the next day continued to Agde, a run of only 4 kms. We tied the boat up against the quai just before the round lock behing Omega, a 1917 wooden boat that had wintered in Carcassone the last two years. We left the boat there for the day and drove to Carcassonne. Bill had taken the train the night before to pick up the car, which was parked at the port. I had an appointment with Philippe for another therapy treatment. We had lunch with Michel and Claudine, did some shopping and returned to the boat for the night.

The next day, we asked at the Nautic Boat Base if we could stay and get electricity and water, and they let us stay for 4 nights. It was great because we were able to see Agde, the old Greek port, and interesting city built in dark volcanic stone, and on the river Herault with its jousting tradition and Mediterranean feeling. One day we took a 3 hour walk to Le Grau D'Agde to talk to the people at Chantier Allemand and ask if we could bring the boat in on Sunday. The told us we could tie the boat up at any slip we saw empty. Saturday afternoon we went through the round lock and moor the boat just past it. Sunday it was a very windy day, but we decided to take the risk and make it to the Chantier. It was a fabulous 2 hours on the river, wide and blue, and as you approach the Mediterranean, you can see the 2 light houses at both sides of the inlet, the banks of the river lined with fishing boats of every size, a totally Mediterranean scene. As we approached the Chandlers, we spotted an open slip, and despite the wind, pushing us away from it, Bill negotiated a very tight u-turn and got in beautifully. We tied the boat, had lunch and went for a walk to the beach. The tourist season has started, so the restaurants and little shops are bustling with people and activity. We were finally ready to take Biesbosch out of the water after 5 years.

The Port of Carcassonne

Leaving Carcassone. Locking down with Stephanie, The Port Captain

A low bridge on the Canal du Midi

Beautiful stormy skies from the canal

On horseback along the tow path

Le Somail

Capestang in the distance

Theater Barge

Going over the river Orb . Beziers Cathedral in background

Outing in artistic Pezenas

A Cat balcony in Pezenas

The Herault river in Agde

Agde, ancient Greek Port

Jousting boats in Agde

Arriving in Le Grau D'Agde's shipyard

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