St-Louis (duck locking lessons)


As expected, Monday dawned with clear blue skies and after Karen had an early run, we continued our journey back to Strasbourg.  We stopped after half an hour or so at a supermarket alongside the canal and Karen went off to start the shopping while I secured the boat.  It wasn't a recognised mooring so I had to use pins.  As it was only a temporary stop I was half inclined to be lazy and only knock them in a little way but didn’t give in to the temptation which was just as well as about 10 minutes later I could see a commercial heading towards us.  It turned out to be one of the boats we saw most days when we’d been moored at Strasbourg.  To be honest, commercials usually travel very slowly on the canals compared with on the rivers and tend not to cause too much wake.  It’s the hire boats we have to look out for as they are generally driven really fast, far faster than we can go and consequently more likely to pull our pins out.

A couple of hours after leaving the supermarket we were arriving back in Strasbourg.  We were looking for a couple of bollards in the Bassin d’Austerlitz that we’d noticed on the way up and thought it would be a great place to stop as it was the closest mooring we'd seen to the centre of town.  As we approached the basin we could see the mooring, which was just before a footbridge, was free so were in luck.

About to pull up in the Bassin d’Austerlitz

We were just one km from the tourist office by the cathedral therefore a lot closer than the 2.5 km it was from the port or the three km from our previous mooring by the European parliament building.

A different mooring back in Strasbourg

Later on, we went for a walk starting by following the disused canal de la Bruche to the west of the city.  The canal was built in the 17th century to transport building stone into the city but is no longer navigable other than by the little tourist day boats due to the low height of the modern road bridges that now cross it.  The canal was designed by Vauban, the famous French military engineer.  We’ve come across his works a few times in France, the most recent being in Strasbourg.  You may remember the Vauban dam we saw at the western end of Petite France last week.  The dam was built as a series of 13 arcades that could be closed with gates to flood the southern side of the town when additional fortification was needed.  Our return walk took us through Petite France, this time passing the Vauban dam from the opposite direction.

Upstream side of the Vauban dam

Reflecting on our trip up the canal du Rhône au Rhin branche nord and back we concluded that, as well as being in the fortunate position of being able to do these things, it had been an interesting few days.  If asked, we would certainly recommend the journey along a very rural canal whose straightness adds to its charm rather than detracts from it.  We also decided that we’d probably leave Strasbourg during Tuesday morning as there was nothing else we were desperate to see and after all, a few nights in a town or city is enough for us.

We lost the sun behind the trees quite early and had some welcome shade.  The sun was shining until late into the evening on the apartments and promenades on the other side of the basin and at one point it looked like everybody sitting on the steps opposite us was on their phone.  

Our late evening view 

On Monday we cruised 10 km down four locks and through one lift bridge.


Early morning at our latest Strasbourg mooring

We went for a short walk in the morning before leaving the city behind.  We would be retracing our steps for a good few days until we hit the junction with the canal de la Sarre where we will turn off north through the Saarland into Germany.  Karen has had a good go at planning our lunchtime and overnight stops so that we avoid places we’ve been before unless we really want to visit them again.  After a couple of kilometres, we were passing the port and it was still packed with boats.  We recognised one couple sitting on their boat whom we’d met in Châlons-en-Champagne last year and exchanged pleasantries.

Three views of the packed port  

Just after the port was the quay reserved for the Rhine river cruisers and the two we’d seen last week had obviously picked up their passengers and had been replaced by three more.  On the run up to the European parliament building we had the same issue as last week in that we had to avoid rowers and what seemed like a never ending stream of kayakers spread out across the cut.  The rowing coach sped ahead in his outboard shouting angrily at the kayakers to move over to the side as a bateau was coming.

We knew we’d left late enough to avoid getting caught behind the two commercials that left Strasbourg at 7.00 am every morning heading in the same direction as us.  It did mean though that we were on the constant lookout for them coming back the other way.  It wasn’t that there would be a problem passing them as the cut was plenty wide enough, it was more to prove our theories of their daily journeys.

We stopped for lunch at the great sounding place called Souffelweyersheim and knew that soon after restarting we would be expecting to meet Vogel Gryff.  This was the brown boat that leaves Strasbourg first thing laden with roadstone, travels up to La Fôret where it unloads and then returns to Strasbourg 12 hours later.  It must be a really long day for the guy and girl on board as they then have to be reloaded before setting off again in another 12 hours.  Sure enough, as we passed the quay at La Fôret the boat was there and had just begun powering backwards to get ready to spin around ready for its home journey.  At the same time a lorry was turning up to take a load of the roadstone.

The couple came out on deck in the middle of their manoeuvring waving madly, there wasn’t time to explain that our waves were farewells and probably forever unless they move to a different route.  The basin where they’d unloaded was obviously 40 metres wide as they just managed to turn and were soon on their way back to the city to refill.  When loaded they emit a quarter of the COthat would be emitted by the lorries that would be needed to carry the same load by road making water a greener form of transport than road.     

The grab was already loading the lorry as Vogel Gryff turned

At our final lock of the day a female mallard joined us with nine ducklings for a lesson on how to use locks.  For some reason she took them down to the far end and they were all drenched with the water coming through the sluices.  The mother flew to the top of one of the gates and the ducklings all turned around to come down to the end of our boat where the water was calmer.

When the water had nearly filled the lock the mother walked along the side, calling out to her brood and then jumped in with them.

About to be back together

As soon as the alarm sounded that the doors were opening, she seemed to recognise it and led her babies straight for the gap as the doors started to part.  The fact that there were still nine young was amazing but then one of them got confused in its bedraggled state, turned around and paddled to the other end of the lock.  As we left, we could see the mother corralling her family on dry land and Karen ran back with a net to see if she could save the straggler.  

There were four men fishing just above the lock and I thought it was rather brave of Karen to march down there with a fishing net as goodness knows what the fishermen thought let alone how she would explain herself if questioned.  Sadly, she couldn’t find the duckling and we noticed later in the evening that when they came to our side hatch that it was still missing.

We'd moored just above the lock in at a place called Moulin de Moine on the map but apart from the lock cottage there didn’t appear to be any other houses.

Moored at Moulin de Moine

The other commercial we were expecting to see on its way back from Hochfelden didn’t come past until about six o’clock so he was obviously running late as he wouldn’t have time to make it back to Strasbourg by the time the locks closed in an hour, but no doubt knew where the commercial bollards were for an overnight stop.  We knew he was coming because he was calling out to us as he approached!

On Tuesday we cruised 24 km up six locks through one swing bridge.


As Karen had been for an early run before it was too hot, we were ready to leave quite early on Wednesday morning.  Earlier, at about 6.30am, I’d popped my head out and there was already a fisherman set up behind us concentrating on his rods.  A little later both Karen and I started laughing as we heard a cuckoo calling.  I know we hear cuckoos most mornings at this time of year but the reason for laughing is that this one sounded like it had a stammer! 

Wednesday morning at 6.30am

The fisherman came over to have a chat when we were getting ready to leave and it turned out he keeps a boat on the Med down at Perpignan but was interested on the inland boating we do in France.  It was one of those stress-free conversations where he, knowing no English, made allowance for my poor French and spoke slowly and searched hard for alternative phrases when I didn’t understand a question. 

We were soon passing Hochfelden where we’d moored on the way down.  We didn’t stop as Karen was under the challenge of finding new places to stay.  You may remember our visit to Hochfelden and our mention of the Meteor brewery but without any pictures.  Even though it had been in existence since 1640 there was hardly anything left of the early structures and the current building was rather austere and could easily be mistaken for a prison especially with what looks like a watch tower perched on top.

Hochfelden with the Meteor brewery left of centre

Around midday we stopped at Ingenheim where there was a mooring shared with a picnic spot for cyclists and walkers. We had intended to have lunch there and then continue for a little longer in the afternoon, but it was such a pleasant stop that we decided to stay for the rest of the day.

Moored at Ingenheim

Later on, we cut away from the canal across some fields and made a circular walk of it by turning back towards the canal once we’d had enough.  At one point we walked past the end of a long line of black poplars and found a wooden cross rather hidden in the undergrowth. We’re used to seeing stone crosses in the countryside, either as waymarkers or for a religious bent but this was the first wooden one we’d come across.

Next to the cross was a sweet poem entitled Peuplier Noir (black poplar) with the author’s name on it.  Researching later we found that he was a local man who’d worked on the railways all his life and sounded like a bit of a railway enthusiast with his campaigning to reopen lines and restore steam engines.

Crossing another field that had recently been mown we saw three storks rooting around in the tedded grass, but they didn’t hang around once they’d spotted Buddy.

A bit of a breeze had started during the morning which kept us cool but when it dropped later in the afternoon we were sweltering so we stayed put for the rest of the day.

On Wednesday we cruised 10 km up five locks.


When we’re in or near large towns we’re used to cycling commuters passing early in the morning and returning in the evening.  Being halfway between Strasbourg and the next large town, Saverne, meant we didn’t see them as it was probably a bit too far to do the journey twice every day.  Of course, the lycra clad enthusiasts were out as they are along nearly every French waterway.  They aren’t usually the nuisance for boaters, walkers or ordinary cyclists as they are in the UK as the towpaths tend to be wide enough to cater for all users and most towpaths are actually designated cycleways. 

We left soon after 9.30am hoping to get to Saverne by the end of the day.  We were going to stop for lunch on the way, but it wasn’t even midday when we reached the mooring we’d fancied trying, so we decided to give it a miss and carry on and have a late lunch when we arrived at Saverne.  I must admit that to keep me going I had an extra slice of this week’s cake that Karen had baked while we were on the move. 

There was something we saw on the journey that we couldn’t fathom so would appreciate any thoughts from those of you who have an electrical understanding.  It’s back to our fascination with barge towing locos and the many engine sheds we pass. This particular shed had large polarity signs above each of the entrance doors and is the only one we’ve seen with these signs so if you have any ideas why they’re there, please get in touch.  Bear in mind that there would have been two tracks leading into the shed so there would have been one track for each door.

Large +ve and -ve above each door (warning of reversed polarity?)

Going up the deep lock in the centre of Saverne was a bit like going through Camden locks in London with dozens of tourists looking on.  It was also a bit like multi-national Camden judging by the different languages we could hear being spoken.  Once we cleared the lock, we moored up by the VNF office that we’d stayed at on our way down.  I know we were avoiding places we’d stayed at before but there was a handy fuel station only 350 metres away and also a garden centre. 

After lunch, I made a couple of trips to get diesel while Karen visited the garden centre to pick up a few things.  Amongst other items, she wanted to get some pots as the current pots the herbs were in were too small.  Even though they sold pot bases they didn’t sell pots, but they obviously took pity on Karen trying to explain what she needed that they popped into their nursery area and found a few that they gave to her without charge.

Catching the last of the evening sun in Saverne

On Thursday we cruised 15 km up 10 locks.


With the possibility of thunderstorms later in the afternoon we left straight after breakfast in brilliant sunshine and were almost immediately surrounded by forested hills that got higher the further west we travelled.

Leaving Saverne on Friday morning

We were hoping to get to the bottom of the Arzviller inclined plane by the end of our cruise so we could go up first thing on Saturday morning.  The clouds rolled in as the day progressed on what felt like the busiest day for boats since travelling on the river Seine four summers ago.  It seemed that we had to wait for one or two boats, mainly hire boats, to emerge from every lock during our journey making progress feel quite slow.  It’s not really a fair comparison with the Seine which is a working river and nearly all its traffic being freight, hotel or trip boats.

As with the journey down we found the canal went through some amazing scenery at this, the northern end of the Vosges.  Other than the beauty of the canal and that we must have passed 20 boats the only other thing of note was passing a VNF barge being unloaded below one of the locks.

I almost forgot to mention that as we travelled along Karen dug out our French bunting, which fortunately has the same colours as the Union Jack, and strung it along the boat ready for the jubilee weekend.  We moored at the bottom of the inclined plane and spent the rest afternoon having a look around the site. Hire boats continued to come past at the rate of a couple of boats an hour in each direction until lift closing time at 7.00pm.

Moored in the lower basin for Friday night

The thunderstorms never arrived and neither did any rain and the clouds cleared during the evening making a pleasant end to the day.

On Friday we travelled 12 km up 12 locks.

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