Canal de Garonne
After three nights in Moissac we topped the fresh water tank and pulled the ropes back on board. With the Morons leading the way we continued west on the Canal de Garonne. The destination for the day was Agen.
It is about 27 miles from Moissac to Agen. For the most part the canal parallels the Garonne River coming close to the Golfech Nuclear Power Plant. This is not the most scenic section of the Canal des Deux Mers; we were not lured ashore for a long break. Aside from a stop to pick apples from a canal-side tree that the Morons had discovered on the way to Moissac, we made steady progress towards Agen, at least until we reached the long last pound.
Nearing Agen we encountered many crews sculling boats on the canal. Here as in most of the cities it passes, the Canal des Deux Mers functions for the residents more as open space than as a through navigable waterway. We slowed the Herault down as we crept by the frequent crewed boats doing their utmost to set new personal best times on the flat water. This only slightly delayed our entrance into the Locaboat base in Agen’s port.
We stayed in Agen for two nights. Agen is the capitol of the Lot-et-Garonne Department. This work-a-day town with about 34,000 residents is a transportation hub; it is underrated as a tourist stop. Indeed, many guidebooks fail to acknowledge Agen’s existence. For us the top sights in town were its interesting cathedral and the long pont-canal. We’d get our chance to cross the third of a mile long canal bridge when left the city on the Canal de Garonne. In fact we’d cross the Agen Aqueduct four times before our journey was over.
Agen also has many good restaurants. We liked La Part des Anges in the old town enough to go there twice. Also in Agen is a marché couvert. Covered markets, we learned as traveled across France by boat, are often the best option for finding fresh food.
At the Locaboat base we topped up with 14 gallons of diesel and checked in with the base personnel. Chris from Locaboat graciously did not mention the “We’re sinking” episode from a week back. We hoped she had forgotten it but that seemed so unlikely.
Chris provided updates on the navigation in the area. She confirmed what we had learned in Moissac; barges had been grounded on the section of the Garonne River that links the Baise and the Lot Rivers. The barges were causalities of the end of the summer low water. This meant that we would not be able to cruise up the Lot, something we half expected to do.
We also learned from Chris that a lockkeeper’s strike was planned soon. The work stoppage was part of the many protests objecting to the French Government’s increase in the retirement age from 60 to 62. How this would impact us she did not know. In this area of France boaters activate most of the locks themselves. Generally no lockkeepers are present at the automated locks and Chris was unsure whether the boater-controlled écluses would be closed during the protest. To us it seemed quite possible; the automated locks might go on strike as they had in the past. After all, we had found already that some automated locks take lunch breaks. But we couldn’t know for certain what would happen with the locks until the day of the strike. The automated lock’s union does not issue press releases.
Travel time*: 7.2 hours
Cruising time**: 6.4 hours
Distance traveled: 43 kilometers
Lock chambers transited: 7
Weather: Turning cooler with a light rain
At the end of the day, our trip across France was 60% complete based on cruising time and 57% complete based on distance covered. We had passed through 161 of the 246 locks (65%) 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).