Canal de Garonne and the Canal de Montech
Just after 9 am, after the locks opened, we left our private canal side mooring near the Forêt d’Agre and headed northwest on the Canal de Garonne. Five kilometers and one lock later we reached the intersection between the Canal de Montech and the Garonne’s canal.
The Garonne and Montech canals connect at the top of a water slope. The improbable Montech Water Slope is a locomotive driven device that lifts large barges past five locks on the Garonne’s canal. At the waterway intersection we turned right onto the Canal de Montech. Passing through an arched red brick bridge we were on our way to Montauban.
Built in the same era as the Canal de Garonne, the Canal de Montech covers 7 miles with 9 locks to link Montauban’s lower town to through channel of the Garonne canal. The style of the Canal de Montech is similar to the Canal de Garonne. There is one noticeable difference. The lock cycles on the Canal de Montech are triggered by a remote control rather than by a pole suspended on a wire over the channel.
Looking somewhat like a garage door opener, a wireless remote is provided by a technician at the first lock. Locking down, you simply cruise within range of the lock and push the correct button on the remote. No maneuvers are needed to get under a suspended pole or to get a crewmember to shore. Once the button is pushed the lock cycles appropriately, the gate opens, and you sail your barge into the lock. For boaters Canal de Montech’s lock activation system is an improvement. Short of a fulltime lockkeeper, it is the best way triggering locks that we saw on our cruise.
It didn’t take long before we reached Montauban’s canal port tucked in near the railroad tracks. After we tied up, apparently in the wrong spot we learned later, we headed on foot to the old town. It was too hot and humid to linger on a stationary boat in the stagnant air at the docks. Up a hill from the port, across the tracks and the Tarn River, is Montauban’s historic district. Reaching central Montauban took longer than we imagined particularly on a warm day.
When we finally reached Montauban’s center it was clear that we weren’t going to make a second trip up the hill this day. It was too hot and our boat was too far away. Making the most of our single visit we wandered the town, found a few Invaders and enjoyed the coolness inside Montauban’s red brick arcaded central square, the Place Nationale. Perhaps we were influenced by the heat of the day but we decided that the quiet Place Nationale is our favorite plaza anywhere. Under the square’s arcades we ate both lunch and dinner.
The conclusion was slow in coming but we ultimately decided that we actually like Montauban. An afterthought in many guidebooks, its location overlooking the Tarn and its red brick buildings give the town a distinctive feel. Still we don’t like Montauban well enough to want to hike up the hill from the canal port on a hot day. I’m not sure we like any place well enough to do that.
It seems that Gigi liked the port better than we did. She took advantage of an off leash moment at the end of the day to run laps around the grass area near the docks. The assembled navy was unimpressed by her extensive obedience training. It served as reminder. Gigi needs more work on her retrieves. And if you speak English in a foreign country, like crews on the boats in the port, don’t assume that those around you can’t understand what you are saying!
Travel time*: 3.9 hours
Cruising time**: 3.7 hours
Distance traveled: 16 kilometers
Lock chambers transited: 10
Weather: Cool and still in the morning, warm in the afternoon
At the end of the day, our trip across France was 51% complete based on cruising time and 48% complete based on distance covered. We had passed through 130 of the 246 locks (53%) of the locks that we would cross.
* The time between the start of the day and the end of the day.
**As measured by the hour meter on our boat. When the motor is running we were either moving or standing by to move (like in a lock).