July 2008 - Cruising the River Lot

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Sunrise Hot air balloon ride over port Serignac on the Canal de Garonne

Serignac port

We visited the Mayor's office in Serignac to enquire about property for sale in this Bastide village. We were given a list of building plots for sale with relevant telephone numbers.

No long term moorings are allowed here? (not spoken to the Mayor). The nearest port to moor long term, should we did buy a house here, would be Agen, less than 10 kilometres away. My motto if it is meant it will happen!

We enjoyed watching this huge strawberry balloon start it's journey from this port.

Cruising from Serignac to Buzet marina with Ivor, Andy & Barbara our new crew aboard.

Cruising from Serignac to Buzet marina

John drove to Buzet to pick up Andy, Barbara & Ivor. We enjoyed coffee in Serignac then cruised 17 kilometres to Buzet. The weather was hot, trying to find shelter for our lunch was not easy. We managed to moor near a small tree well spotted by Andy. Our tree was just big enough for our table and chairs on the tow path, much to the delight of passing cyclists, bon appetite.

The automated double locks at Larderet / Baise were not working, due to a mechanical failure. I telephoned the VNF for assistance, within 10 minutes we had assistance. The problem was solved.

 

Canal de Garonne onto the River Baise, then 5km on River Garonne was a good experience.

Buzet lock
Buzet lock

The heat of the day increased and we were in need of ice cream/beer at the bar on our arrival in Buzet port. A warm welcome from Natalie and David who were running the restaurant and port while Kevin & daughter Sara were away.

Much rainfall our first night here, this delayed our trip on the River Lot. We took this opportunity to explore the locks on the river Lot by car for a few days until the river settled down again.

Andy & Barbara took this photo of us when following us through the first two locks, a few days later. Unfortunately they missed the river Garonne crossing, they were on their way to the airport to drop off Ivor sadly his holiday was over.

Entrance onto the river Garonne. Passenger boat followed us with passengers from the hire boat.

Garonne tug boat

We left Buzet Port with Pat & Kevin traveling on "Arwyn" we decided to travel together. Both feeling a little nervous. Was another storm on the way especially crossing the River Garonne. The crossing went very well indeed.

Our navigation on the Garonne was without problems. Though turning into the first lock on the river Lot we experienced a very strong current indeed to contend with.

The hire boat from Buzet traveling with us was taken in hand by a river pilot and the passengers traveled in the passenger boat. Private boats can go in alone but it is not recommended. We paid the 16 euros fee each crossing with pleasure, this river can be so unpredictable and change very quickly indeed as we experienced on our return journey.

Navigable Lower River Lot from Nicole to Saint-Vite, July 2008 - Upper River Lot map

Navigable Lower River Lot map

End of the Canlet & entrance into Aiguillon lock... River Lot... YES... At last we made it.

Buzet to Lot map

 

Aiguillon lock

Spectacular Natural Beauty is how I would describe cruising both ends of the river Lot, this river has no commercial traffic and very few boats cruising.

Our first night was spent with Pat & Kevin on Alwyn, and a French couple also moored up. We were all excited, our first night on the Lot. We moored just after the lock at Aiguillon which was free of charge including electric and water. We enjoyed a walk into the town to take in all the views and enjoyed a cold beer.

Beaver boat
Keith & Pat leading the way on "Arwyn"
7 metre Beaver boat by Wilderness Boats

I wanted to break out the Champagne, we waited a long time to cruise this river. We opened a special bottle of wine and shared this with Keith & Pat most enjoyable evening.

We enjoyed cruising & sharing locks & stories with Pat & Keith. Their boat "Arwyn" could moor anywhere. It was a delight to see this boat beavering in and out of places we could not go they cruised with much ease both of them having a lot of experience.

Keith & Pat are trying to fit as much exploring into their trip as possible. Starting in Beaucaire, (Lower Rhone valley). They have taken three months off work to explore the South of France. We moored together in Castelmoron-sur-Lot opposite a beach with inviting waters, shared a great evening BQ here.

Mooring in the lovely town of Castelmoron-sur-Lot.

Castelmoron-sur-Lot
cooling swimming beach opposit us

The cost of restoration to re-open this river for navigation must be astronomical and the restoration continues each year. Little by little another section opens each year. Between Gascogne and Périgord, the Lot is a calm and a very majestic river, the seventh longest river in France 491 kilometres in total.

Our moorings were either free on this river, electric and water included or 10 euros a night. We paid 35 euros per week in Penne-d'Agenais.

Electricity generation is big business on the Lot. Each weir has a least one turbine. But the exhaust water from these "green" activities can some times create hazards to navigation. Unexpected cross currents rocks and sand banks approaching locks from downstream, we noticed a marked difference on our returning journey.

Leaving lock & dam at Villeneuve-sur-Lot as we venture further up stream.

Villeneave lock
Villeneuve lock

Cruising the navigable part on the lower River Lot in France from Nicole lock to Saint-Vite lock with good moorings in the ports along the river. The navigable part is about 75 kilometres.

We used 6 of the 7 locks ranging in depth from 1.00 metre (Lustrac) to 13 metre (Villeneuve Lock). The two largest locks (10 & 13) both had very friendly lock keepers and floating bollards and posed no problems. The four other locks were all self controlled and we used an electronic card, which was given to us at the start of our journey in Buzet.

The lock that caught us out was at Clairac, we under estimated the flow from the weir coming out of the lock up stream. We had to reverse back into the lock and come out with a bit more speed, that did the trick. Thankfully Arwyn was around to make sure all went well. We enjoyed this town and the moorings very much.

The wonderful reflections of the building in the river brought pencil, paint & my brushes out.

Cruising River Lot

Our first few days on our own were spent cruising up and down the river taking in all the views and wild life, rather like a photographs safari on water. I was hunting wild life getting some good photographs with the perfect light. The weather was just perfect for us.

We cruised slowly along looking for that "magic property", hoping one would shout "I am here buy me" this did not happen. We have Chateau idea's (well I do) but fisherman's hut money!

We were surprised when we were called over to one house when cruising past the prune museum. "hi Moet we are friends of Carol & Neil " Comfry" whom you know. We know who you are through them! Unfortunately the pontoon near their lovely house did not look too safe so we were unable to stop. We called again on our return cruise to say hi. (Did you get my e-mail's Carole & Neil)?

Sporting events on the river Lot as we cruised, Sundays are busy on this river so we stayed put.

   

We saw many different water sports and air sports when moored or cruising, we had a busy few days with a fishing competition using some high powered speed fishing boats. We enjoyed watching all the fun on this river. The river was choppy at times during these activities so we choose moorings carefully after this.

Port Penne-d'Agenais
The quay at Port Penne-d'Agenais with Notre-Dame de Peyragude illuminated on the top of the hill

Port Penne-d'Agenais one side of the river & Port Saint-Sylvestre-sur-Lot (half way across this bridge is the start end to each village). We enjoyed fireworks on two evenings during our two week stay here. I think both villages competing with each other, we had to move the boat to suit the nights several fetes during our stay.

The restored village of Penne-d'Agenais.

Artists delight in this village and much work on show here.

We walked up a fairly steep hill from the port. We climbed many steps always worth the effort even in the July heat. The Medieval village of Penne-d'Agenais recently restored. The look out plateau, was a good viewing point with far reaching views of three valleys: the Lot, the Boudouyssou, the Tancane.

A good view of Saint-Sylvestre-sur-Lot village & port below (see Moet in the photo below). Good moorings on both sides of this river with a great Capitainerie called Richard. This was the only port we had to pay for moorings during our trip. Water and electric were supplied in all the ports we visited free of charge for a longer stay you just visited the Mayor's office if no office.

In 1152 Eleanor d'Aquitaine married Henri Plantagenêt, king of England. Their son, Richard the Lion Heart, built a fortified town and a chateau. Notre-Dame of Peyragude was built on the fortress of Richard the Lion heart. So much history to seek in this village. We enjoyed a drink and a flaming grand-mariner crepe with ice cream after one of our long walks.

Port Saint-Sylvestre-sur-Lot on the opposite side of the river

Port Saint-Sylvestre
good shopping & diesel point on this side

Cruising the river Lot has to be one of our most memorable and relaxing cruise location's.

I think this is one of France’s most un spoilt rivers. (Not yet done them all).

Sheer bliss for us, so few boats were on the Lot when we arrived. (Best kept secret). Only one hire company in this port renting on the lower Lot at present.

Port Penne-d'Agenais was a safe haven for our boat when we went cycling or touring in the car.

We explored a great deal of the River Lot during June, July.

14th July. France's national day we enjoyed Villeneuve-sur-Lot, largest town in the Lot valley

 

We enjoyed meeting up with Pat & Keith for an enjoyable evening together in Villeneuve-sur-Lot. This town has kept much of it's ancient character, by preservation or by renovation. Huge organic market here on Wednesdays. This town still has it's north & south gates, fascinating walk through the old town with it's many half timbered houses.

We enjoyed live music and a spectacular fire work display to the music of Edith Piaf. Magical evening with live bands playing before and after the fireworks using both bridges each end of this port.

Penne-d'Agenais, Notre-Dame of Peyragude

"Queen of the World, get us peace and serenity of the soul" proclaims the invocation around the dome.

 

We enjoyed taking the route to the Bastide (total of 42 not seen all as yet) villages. We took a wine route - visiting the Chateau's & vines of the Cahors grape growers which mostly are at the lower end of the river Lot. John has massed over 3,000. kilometres on his cycle, between cruising on boats, driving & cycling we have found many hidden treasures. A good book is "Great walks & motor tours in France" by the AA - this book was a thank full gift from my brother.

Puy-l'Evêque village on river Lot... Bonaguil Castle dates back 1271 great visit here

Puy-l'Eveque   Bonaguil castle

Attractions over 420 - some very impressive sites like the natural grottoes, the hill top towns and all the panoramic views from the villages, sited for maximum defences in dangerous times. Fumel was a lunch time stop - this village had a very helpful tourist information centre. I came out with a carry bag full of information on festival's and places to visit.

Approaching Lustrac restored lock upstream & our over night mooring downstream of this lock.

From Lustrac, a superb setting with its 16th century fortified water mill, to Aiguillon and the 17th century Lunac Castle. We discovered unsuspected panorama - some places I think only accessible to boaters. Last year finished renovating this lock, weir and mill, with moorings downstream and quay upstream of the lock, this work took 18 months at a cost of well over 2 million Euros. Lustrac is a very small hamlet which offers nothing to the boater but tranquility and a wonderful setting to watch nature at it's best.

Lustrac lock upstream   Lustrac lock downstream

Lustrac lock was my favourite place to moor - blissful nights we spent here, many owls, large fish jumping. John lost the basket from our Cobb BBQ spending some time with the magnet trying to fish it out - unable to locate the basket, which he dropped too near the weir. I ordered a new one on the internet and thankfully in the post.

Andy & Barbara arrived in Lustrac, they drove up from Buzet and joined us for a cruise back to Saint-Sylvestre-sur-lot we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the quay and then we all cruised back to Lustrac later in the day. It was so nice to share this part of the Lot.

Invited for champagne in Lustrac.

Champagne at Lustrac

As we were leaving the lock heading up stream - Helena watching us leave the lock decided to try out some northern friendliness by inviting us for a drink in her holiday home - a former lock house at Lustrac. The lock house was inherited from an uncle. Helena & Richard have spent seven years renovating the property and are now enjoying the rewards of their hard work this was a good holiday she later said in an e-mail.

We enjoyed two interesting and enjoyable evenings with Helena & Richard and friends. I think this was one of my favourite moorings for the change of colours & the wild life and the starry nights & walks.

Ondes Lock the last lock of the navigable part of the Lower River Lot

Ondes lock

We ventured on further up stream to the next lock "les Ondes" at PK 71 this is the last lock on the lower part of the Lot to be restored which opened last year. Unfortunately the lock was not in operation when we were here - out of action since the April floods. The weir was damaged during the floods and due to the fast flow of the river, unable to repair. We approached the lock only to be bounced about by the dangerous current. No warning notices given - the emergency phone in the lock was not working. We had no signal on our mobile phones we felt isolated and could not contact anyone. John got the Moet back to the safety of navigable waters again. We stressed to everyone venturing further than Lustrac not to approach this lock.

I e-mailed the Waterways guide "Cruising the Lot 05" they emailed back with full explanation. Warning notices would now be applied after our experience.

House hunting on the River Lot was an enjoyable past time for us, free mooring too.

house hunting

Champagne when we arrived back to Helena house at Lustrac lock a nice welcome awaited - a good evening especially catching a shooting star that night - a telephone call from England to say the house we bought 18 months ago is almost ready for exchange of contracts (YES) so we celebrated double this night - daughter Teresa's birthday too.

"If I had one wish it would be that all 470 kilometres of this river was navigable to continue cruising"

Piperboat Lagom
www.piperboats.com

Andrea & Simon aboard Piperboat Lagom

We met Andrea & Simon on the river Lot and enjoyed each others company especially sharing meals and planning what would be the best boat to build & bring to France. Simon is the person who designed and built the Piper Dutch barge having much knowledge from childhood, since his father was the creator of the famous piper narrow boats which Simon also took over. Much pen & paper came out since he's now working on the next design.

Fast flowing Garonne River

Tug
Tug boat helps Moet move a little faster

We reached a decision not to stay on the river Lot for the summer - we were worried we might not get off this river later on. It has been known for boats to be stranded on the Lot we did not want to join the list.

We have seen this river many times in flood and did not fancy a winter here. We were the last boat to come off the river Lot. The river Garonne is now well below a safe level for boats to cross. Moet was doing very well till we reached the dug out channel.

The river was running far too fast in this channel for our boat. At one stage we were standing still, we alerted the tug boat for his help. Rocks on either side of us in this channel due to the river being low, we felt our heart pound at one point - we dared not look at each other, keeping our fear to ourselves. I threw the tug a line and held on to the tug boat - until we were in calmer waters further up stream, then the tug boat let us go it alone. We were really pleased once we reached the lock and came off the river Garonne and into the River Baise.

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