Ferme d’Albeschaux (back up the slide)


We’d moored below the inclined plane on Friday afternoon so we could hopefully go up when we could see no other boats around.  Karen was going to walk up to the top so she could get pictures of the ascent but as it was a cloudy morning, we decided to wait until the sun came out.  With a constant stream of hire boats and the lift trip boat going up and down every hour or so it began to look increasingly unlikely we would go up alone like we were three weeks ago when we descended.

In line with the forecast the sun was out by 11am so we got ready to go and set off to the queueing point after the trip boat next came down.  Unfortunately, a hire boat joined us in the queue, so we weren’t going to be on our own and we were soon on our way.  We’d cocked up the logistics though as Karen couldn’t get out of the caisson to make her way up - we realised too late that she should have stayed off the boat before I set off to join the queue which was in a secure gated area.

Going up

Once at the top it became quite a tiresome journey as we must have seen 40 boats during the day, nearly all of them hire boats.  Many of them were mad, constantly attempting to get past us even overtaking on bends.  Another frustration was that we had two traffic light controlled tunnels to go through and for some reason the speeding boats slowed down to about 1 kph through them.

What with waiting for the sun to come up, choosing when to go up the lift, long waits at and transits through both tunnels and the constant issue of hire boats we stopped before reaching our intended destination for the day.  We pulled up in a basin after emerging from the second tunnel at Niderviller, a place we’d moored at on the way down.

Like the previous day, we’d been listening to the first test against New Zealand and continued through to the close of play.  We also celebrated the jubilee with some lovely home-made scones, the perfect base for a cream tea in the 28ºC of the afternoon.

Moored at Niderviller

On Saturday we cruised eight lock-free km up one inclined plane through two tunnels.


We had what can only be described as a cracking thunderstorm overnight, so we awoke to some rather mournful looking boat flowers in the morning, especially the petunias.  As rain was forecast off and on from 11ish until the end of the day we set off early to avoid it.  Even though we were on our own when we moored up the previous evening at least a dozen hire boats had turned up before the canal closed for the day so the basin we were in was packed.  I know we could have stayed where we were, but we fancied being on our own so that’s why we cruised despite the forecast of rain.

Again, there were plenty of hire boats around including this one that I practically had to stop for as he was so keen to overtake before an aqueduct followed by a tight blind bend.

We know we shouldn’t complain as we need hire boats for their contribution to both the waterway and local economies, but they have rather wound us both up over the last couple of days so let me apologise now for going on about them.  Although saying that, we are looking forward to doing some river cruising in a week or two where it’ll just be commercials we’ll have to worry about.   

We stopped for a cooked breakfast at Xouxange and then carried on to find a mooring we’d seen on the way down at Gondrexange.  Unfortunately, when we arrived, we found it had a sloping bank meaning it wasn’t possible for a straight sided boat like ours to get close enough to moor.   We weren’t that far from the junction with the canal de la Sarre and as it was going to be a new waterway for us, and the threatened rain hadn’t arrived we decided to carry on.  Also, we were listening to the enthralling end of the first test, so we didn’t want to miss any of it by having to faff around with ropes etc.  Lucky Sophie and Yanos had gone up to Lords for the day so were able to experience first-hand the emotions in the ground.   After the cricket finished, we found some piling we could tie to at a place called Diane-Capelle.

The canal de la Sarre was opened in 1867 and was built to transport coal from the mines around Saarbrücken on the French-German border, to the towns in north-eastern France.  Its original name was the canal des houillières de la Sarre because it ran from the coalmines of Saarland. For some reason the VNF website and its email alerts for stoppages and restrictions still use the original name.  The canal is around 75km long from the junction with the canal we just left (the Marne au Rhin Est) down to join the river Saar in Germany.  

The canal de la Sarre – our next waterway

Apparently much of the countryside the canal travels through is heavily forested and there are also many lakes along the route.  The first two pages of our guide certainly support this:

The southern end of the canal de la Sarre

After lunch we walked down to the first lock to acquaint ourselves with how they operate on this new canal and then to see if we could walk around one of the lakes.  We found that there was a télécommande dispensing machine at the lock which meant we would be back to using a remote-control unit rather than pulling on cords to operate the locks as we’ve been doing recently.

Our attempt at walking around the lake wasn’t successful as each track seemed to end at the lake but then not branch off in either direction.  It made us realise that we ought to spend some time researching local walks for the upcoming journey.

Sad collection of fishing or row boats

We should have taken note of the dark clouds over the lake in the picture above and made our way back to the boat immediately.  As it was, we got absolutely soaked on the way back and the rain was so hard that poor Buddy kept trying to shelter under hedges.  Ironically the rain stopped just after we got back, and we had rather a stunning end to the day.

Drying out at Diane-Capelle

On Sunday we cruised for 24 km through no locks.


We stayed put on Monday having a couple of walks locally.  In the morning we had a look around the local village of Diane-Capelle (pop. 220) which consisted of one long, wide main street with very little traffic.  At first sight we thought the houses were fairly modern and then realised that most would have been agricultural dwellings when first built.  We found out later that the villagers used to grow hemp in their small fields behind their houses and that other villagers were weavers using the spun hemp fibres.

Rue Principal

The church was relatively modern having been built in 1741 and there was nothing dating the mairie which still had posters from the presidential elections.

The mairie

As seems to be quite a common practice in French villages, colourful bicycles were placed around the place and being used as flower boxes.  Some but not all of the villages that display bikes, do so as a sign that the Tour de France route passed through at some time.  The bicycles in Diane-Capelle were particularly pleasant as the blooms matched the colours of their bikes but I don’t know if le Tour has ever been through, and Karen believes they are marking the cycle route that runs through the village.  She is probably correct as the cycle route is one of the popular European routes, this one being the 390 km EuroVelo5 which runs between Saarbrücken and Basel, mainly along canal and riverbanks.  

Colourful blooms and bikes

Our afternoon walk took us around part of a large lake opposite our mooring.  We didn’t really fancy the 23 km walk around the outside as much of it was away from the water.  Instead, we found our own way, passing many holiday/second homes on the lakeside, the vast majority with German plated cars.  When passing someone we found it quite weird trying to work out whether they were French or German and therefore whether to say bonjour or hallo. On our walk we found that fishermen were French and quite happily exchanged bonjours.  Other people, like walkers and cyclists seemed to be German and they either said hallo or blanked us, such is the difference in the cultures.


The best part of the day was meant to be in morning so, as we’d found a lake that had a marked path around the complete perimeter, we thought we’d do the walk before cruising to our next mooring spot.  The lake was a little way after the first lock which had a water point below it so we popped down there first so we could have breakfast while we filled up with water and got the washing done.  We set the lock by using a pully rope hanging over the water but once in the lock we had to retrieve a télécommande to operate the remaining 29 locks on the canal.  Karen heard it drop out of its slot in the dispenser as soon as the lock registered us entering.

Newly dispensed télécommande for the canal de la Sarre

At first, we thought the remote-control unit worked in the same way as similar ones we’d come across but realised something was different as when Karen used the blue rod to start the gates closing, nothing happened.  There is sometimes a delay of 45-60 seconds from the boat entering until the rod is activated but we’d been in the lock a few minutes, so we knew it wasn’t that.  I pressed ‘avalant’ (downstream) on the remote and when Karen pulled the rod again it triggered the gates immediately.  At least we’d learnt what the process would be for the following locks.

Before getting back on the boat we saw a poster in the lock control room window with instructions on explaining the link between the télécommande and the rod.  It also explained that when in the final lock the gates wouldn’t open until the requisite number of units for the number of boats in the lock had been inserted back into the dispenser. 

The lock cottage was a good size and we wondered if all the lock cottages on this new canal would be the same.   

Cottage at lock number 1

Coming out of the lock we stopped at the water point and had a cooked breakfast while waiting for the washing to finish.  We then moved on 50 metres or so to where we’d noticed four concrete commercial bollards and the middle two were just 20 metres apart.  I’ve included a picture of the mooring in case you’re researching stopping places on this canal. 

Handy mooring while walking around Étang des Dames

We had a pleasant and varied 10 km walk around the lake.  The path went through thick woodland alternating with open beach sections until it reached an area of log cabins and more permanent holiday homes at the far side.  As we approached the inhabited area, we went past an old building that looked derelict but did have what I believed was a garderobe on one side.

After the log cabin area, we were back into alternating woodland and beach sections until we finally went along an open ride that brought us back out to the canal.  Back at the boat we had a short cruise to the next mooring spot Karen had picked out.  

Kilometre stones still exist on this canal, but they have been joined by large modern metal signs that Karen believes were erected to pander to people like me who like collecting things.

Metallic and stone distance markers 
Passing one of the lakes

There were no more locks to go down and after an hour we were mooring up at Ferme d’Albeschaux in time for a late lunch. It started raining during lunch and off and on for a couple more hours but turned out nice and sunny later in the afternoon.

Catching the last of the sun at Ferme d’Albeschaux

It seemed a popular spot as there were three boats already there that looked like long term moorers and a couple of hire boats had joined us by the end of the day making it feel quite busy.  We had a quick walk up to the farm of Ferme d’Albeschaux which had a small chapel attached. 

Chapelle Sainte-Anne built in 1276

On Tuesday we cruised eight km down one lock.

1 comment:

Ian said...

Just to thank you again for all the detail Neil and Karen. We’re struggling to keep up with all the blogs we want to read while painting and socialising in Simon’s yard - but yours is always a highlight. I&L