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Published: September 26th 2017
After another late breakfast of a croissant, we headed back into Medieval Carcassone to go to the Basilica St-Nazaire. The stained glass windows inside it are supposed to be the best in southern France.
We walked back to our hotel to prepare for checkout, had a light lunch in the bar and then waited for our taxi to arrive to take us to the boat base in Castelnaudary. The driver spoke no English and took us along all the back roads, rather than the motorway so it was a bit of an adventure.
Finally we arrived at the Le Boat base at Castelnaudary to complete the paperwork and have our 1 hour briefing. The base is in a large basin of water, several hundred metres across, with a canal entering it one side and leaving it the other side.
There was a line of boats, backed up against the quay, and our instructor showed us all the instruments and how to moor, etc. I was deemed captain, so I had to motor out into the basin, turn the boat around and then reverse it into a tiny gap between all the other boats beside it.
hadn’t got any supplies yet, straight after the briefing, we locked up and went to do some shopping at a small supermarket about a 15 minute walk away. It is always interesting doing the shopping when you can’t read what the writing on the label says!
By the time we got back it was 6pm and though the locks close at 7pm, you have to be there half an hour beforehand. We were keen to get underway so we could spend the night somewhere quieter, rather than at the base with all the other boats and people around.
So, we set off and the exit canal was under a bridge so that was my first challenge. The second was that the first set of Saint Roch locks (it had to be 5 of them), were right only 50m past that bridge. To get through a lock, you have to get close to it and over against one of the banks where there are bollards to swing your boat ropes around. There is a rope at the front and the back and someone holds the rope to keep you steady and lets it out as the water level goes
down. Luckily for us, most of the locks in France are manned, so we don’t have to get out and turn anything to open or shut the lock. Also, luckily, our boat has bowthrusters so we have a joystick that can move us frontwards, backwards and sidewards.
After a small bump at the first lock, we got through all five and motored along a very scenic stretch of canal, overhung by plane trees on both sides.
About 7pm, we decided to pull up and moor. This entails finding a spot on the bank where you can get off and drive in a couple of big stakes, around which you tie up the boat ropes. You can pull up in most places, other than close to a bend or under a river.
We finished mooring just as it was getting dark so we had a quick drink on the top deck and then moved downstairs for dinner and an early night.
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