Canal de Garonne
A short stretch of the Canal de Garonne links the villages of Castelsarrasin and Moissac. In between the two communes are 8 kilometers of water, 7 locks, and one spectacular canal bridge. This all translated to two hours of cruising in the Herault.
Approaching Moissac on the waterway is memorable. The Canal de Garonne crosses well above the Tarn River on the 1,167-foot long Pont-canal du Cancor. Locks typically follow pont-canals and so it is here. In less than a mile, three écluses come in rapid succession after the aqueduct ends. This arrangement maximizes the level of the bridge channel’s water as it crosses the river. In Moissac the final lock gate opens directly into a sheltered canal port.
Moissac’s port is a popular wintering spot for full-time bargers. We could see why. The village is clean and compact. Good restaurants, a marché couvert, and a super marché are all within easy walking distance of the harbor. Here we would not go hungry. Laundromats, wine stores, and boulangeries are also close to the boats. Without a car it helps to have life’s necessities nearby.
Also close to the port is the Abbaye St. Pierre de Moissac one of the many sites of the UNESCO-designated Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. The abbey’s main church, which is free of charge to enter, features fine Romanesque sculpture particularly on its tympanum. For a small admission fee the cloister with its 116 marble columns can also be visited. Access to the cloister is through the tourist office behind the abbey church.
With some effort the hill at the edge of the town can be climbed allowing a view of the surrounding terrain. The scene from the overlook confirms that Moissac is a small town. (Moissac has less than 13,000 full time residents.) From the top the route of the Canal de Garonne can be traced as leaves Castelsarrasin, crosses the Tarn on the Pont-canal du Cancor, and enters through one last lock into the port. The view from the hill confirmed what we knew; Moissac, with its location along both the Canal de Garonne and the Tarn River and with its Abbey church, is a tourist-worthy destination.
We had chosen Moissac as a place to meet up with our friends who were arriving by boat from the west. They had rented a pénichette in Agen and were cruising on the canal to join us. Our friends had been coy about the name of their rental boat. When they finally arrived in Moissac’s port we understood why. Their pénichette was named Castelmoron. Certainly our first translation of Castelmoron into English as the “Castle of Morons” was inaccurate. In truth we quickly learned that Castelmoron is a commune situated on the nearby Lot River. But it did not matter. For the rest of our trip together we had just license to refer to our friends as the Morons. It is not often that we get that luxury.
There are more pictures of the canal and Moissac on Picasa.
Travel time*: 1.9 hours
Cruising time**: 2.2 hours
Distance traveled: 8 kilometers
Lock chambers transited: 7
Weather: Clear, warm
At the end of the day, our trip across France was 56% complete based on cruising time and 52% complete based on distance covered. We had passed through 154 of the 246 locks (63%) 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).