Castelnaudry to Ecluse (Lock 36)

Today we set off in the usual fashion with the boys cycling along the tow path and Sara and I moving the boat – however we didn’t move far or fast for the first 30-45mins as we had to wait on a large boat coming up the four locks on the far side of the basin. It was good to get moving once it was through the locks and we could get on our way.
We worked our way through the various locks until lunch time, when we parked up at a lovely spot just before a real pretty lock. Lockkeepers lunch break is from 1230 – 1330…………and so is ours 🙂


and here are the boys ready to set off again


Our planned destination for today was a town called Bram which we reached around 1600 and after parking the boat we went into the cafe/restaurant that is alongside, but in truth it was a bit shabby, so another quick crew meeting was held and the decision was to try and reach Sauzens before the lockkeeepers went off duty at 1900.

We didn’t make it in time so moored up just before the lock, had a lovely meal, and then the boys went out fishing again. It wasn’t long before Prentice landed a decent sized fish. I’ll let you know later if there were any further fish landed……………..



One of the main reasons for going to Castelnaudry was that the town has a large outdoor swimming pool and the boys were almost getting desperate to have a swim. So in the morning Sara headed up the town with the boys and went via the swimming pool, only to learn that no-one is allowed to use the pool if wearing any kind of shorts, Bermuda or otherwise! They have a sign showing the “acceptable swimwear” and this consists of speedo type tight trunks. Strangely enough these are for sale at the shop next to the pool for the bargain price of 60 euros a pair….and yes you did read that correctly.

We would have bought these for the boys, given their need for a swim – but what do you think the chances are of getting teenagers to wear these trunks? Yep absolutely none! So that was swimming out of the equation until we reach another town that might have more relaxed rules and regulations.

Fishing was the next best thing, so we found out where the local fishing tackle shop was and headed off to buy some extra lures, as a few have been lost by getting snagged on the bottom of the canal. The chap in the shop was very helpful and gave the boys a chart of fish that could possibly be caught in the canal, and also suggested a couple of types of lures. The boys spent the next couple of days fishing all around the canal, and also in the main basin where there is a base for charter boats.

While they were away fishing we had a colourful visitor………………anyone ever seen such a brilliant white duck before?


As for the facilities here they are absolutely spotless (best so far on the canal) and there is also a washing machine and dryer, along with an outside space should you wish to hang the washing out to dry. The Capitainere is a very friendly and helpful woman, and (as a bonus for us) she speaks excellent English.

If ever you consider stopping here, I would suggest parking the boat on the side of the canal opposite the Capitainere’s office as there is a fair degree of welcoming shade under the trees in the afternoon. The above photo was taken early morning.


Negra to Le Segala – Castelnaudry

Our intention this morning was for Sara and I to set off before the boys were up and try and make a bit of headway before the heat built up. Once they were up and had their breakfast, we pulled in after a lock and unshipped the bikes and off they went as happy as sand bunnies cycling along the path and stopping at each respective lock to take the lines.

As we worked our way along the canal we again had to tie up as the lockkeepers (who have been at every lock since Toulouse) stop for their lunch from 1230 till 1330; so we parked up and done the same and had a picnic in the shade of some lovely Plane trees.

After lunch we set off again, and with the sun baking down on us we were all looking forward to reaching Le Segal, and hitting the showers, and then supermarket as listed in the book. When we arrived it looked lovely. However the lions share of the available alongside berthing is reserved for barges so there is not a lot of room. We duly tied up in a less than ideal spot, and whilst Sara and the boys set off to find the supermarket and showers, I lifted up the floorboards to access and clean the raw water strainer, which again was pretty packed with vegetation.

Within what seemed like minutes they were back to say that there were no supermarkets, no showers, nor shops of any kind. It looked like part of the town had been demolished and was a bit of a construction site – what a bummer! I think the only good thing that can be said for Le Segala is that it marked for us the last of the “up locks” and every lock from here on will be downhill which is a whole lot easier.

Looking back at the last uphill lock…….yippee


Things being the way they were, we had a crew meeting, the outcome of which was that we decided not to stay here tonight (why would we there is nothing here!!) but push on instead for Castelnaudry.

En route we passed Port Lauragais, and have to say that this complex looks spacious new and has loads of room. In fact we thought about stopping here, but the boys are keen to get to Castelnaudry to find a swimming pool to have a good old splash around……….something that would be a health hazard if done in the canal.

We were managing to get a good run through the locks and indeed in the space of one hour we worked our way through some eight locks, with the boys taking the lines and then casting them off we were rocking along and only had to wait at one lock for boats to exit. This was a long day (10hrs+) and the boys, we calculated, must have cycled in excess of 20 miles and worked the ropes for us in all the locks.

When we arrived in Castelnaudry we tied up at the public port, and Sara and the boys headed off to the supermarket as the ships stores were getting pretty low, and everyone was looking forward to a good wholesome meal. Once duly fed the boys were off again with their fishing rods, and as I type this I cannot say whether they have been successful or not……………..

Just along from the boat I noticed, what I believe are Coypu alongside the wall so I crept along and managed to get a couple of good shots.



Toulouse to Negra

Last night we picked the boys up at Toulouse airport and by the time we got back to the boat and had a catch up it was pretty late. Late this morning after the boys had a long lie, and then showered etc, we set off towards Negra.

It’s difficult getting anyone to pose for a photo, and despite the fact I told them this was for their Mum to see; we still got the silly faces!! (sorry Debbie we did try)


With the boys coming direct from Scotland the heat was pretty hard for them to deal with, as it was somewhere in the 30’s. Once we got further along the tow/cycle path we parked up to get the bikes off the boat and let them cycle along to get some breeze, and whilst it was still pretty hot for them, it was a bit better than being on the boat.


Once we arrived at Negra, we were disappointed to find out that despite what the book says there are no showers etc at this stop. There is however electricity and water, and with our crew being adaptable they found a somewhat unique way to cool themselves down.



After they were duly refreshed I had to set up the fishing rods and off they went for an hour or so……………………..but they never came back with any fish!

Port de l’embouchure to Port St Sauveur

Today was only going to be three locks, a couple of low bridges to look out for and 6km. Leaving Port l’embouchure there are three bridges. The one on the left being the one we came through last night (and turned right) The one of the right being Canal de Brienne, and the middle one being the one we needed.

As we approached the first lock there was no pole to turn, but the locks were activated as it turns out by the lockkeeper who has this area covered by cameras. The first lock was 2.6m and straightforward. The second lock was 4.5m and straightforward. The third one was 6.2m and, as it turns out not so straightforward, at least for me.

Approaching this lock under a bridge there is a strange sense of foreboding ( a bit of an exaggeration but it makes the point) I dropped Sara off at the stairs and entered the lock. I could only see one pole, but then saw a a bollard recessed into the wall which looked like it rose and fell so I put a slip line around this and then tried to get the bow line around the recessed pole, as per previous locks. Problem was the stern line was just a touch too short and I couldn’t reach to get the bow line round the pole. This meant changing the stern line for a longer one so that I could reach. Now all the time I’m looking at these not unsubstantial lock gates in front of me hoping that no one pressed the button, the consequences of which would have certainly spoiled my day. Sara went around to stand by the red button, which stops the process should anything go amiss.

When safely tied on, the locks activated (again via cameras) and thank goodness it was a gentle rise to the top of the lock, where guess what…….yep more folks down on their luck lining the lock. Sara came back on board and said the staircase where I dropped her off was stinking and full of old syringes etc!!! When exiting the lock there were more of these people “sleeping” on the grassy banks and others with their special brew. I’m sure this is not the image the city council would wish to portray – but it’s staring visitors in the face all the way from the outskirts of the city……………………………..the other reality is that with hindsight there was no need for Sara to get off the boat, and we would both recommend trusting the personnel monitoring and controlling the lock remotely.

Once through the lock we arrived at one of the low bridges, but made it through fine, and duly arrived at Port St Sauveur, where I tied up at the fuel pontoon. This port is run by “Sylvienne” whose reputation as a bit of a stickler is known all the way down the Canal Lateral, and she does not like boats turning up without previously making a reservation. Thus we had made our reservation, once we had sorted out the boys flights and knew we would be picking them up from Toulouse Airport.

She may be a stickler, but I tell you what the place is spotless and colourful with loads of plants and flowers, and seems like an oasis in a sea of misery. She could not have been nicer to us, and I guess her reputation is borne out of people not understanding the way she likes things done.

We visited the nearby Patisserie for breakfast food, followed by some food shopping, and then went into the city. Now as most folks know I’m not really a city person, but I have to say that it was beautiful in places and spotlessly clean. What a difference from our initial experience!! We have also spotted the VNF office which is open between 1000 – 1200 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and we will visit them tomorrow to buy our canal licence. This might seem strange as we have been in the canal since Castets-en-Dorthe, but this is the first opportunity for anyone travelling this way to purchase the licence……….

Anyhow here we are parked up with the boat all fuelled, provisioned, and ready and waiting to receive the “additional crew” who arrive on Saturday evening. If the boys are up to it we will be heading off into the lovely countryside on Sunday.

Here is photo of Port St Sauveur, and if you are ever travelling this way by boat, it is a well run, safe, secure and spotlessly clean port in the centre of Toulouse and recommended.


Montech to Toulouse

With the flights booked for Reyce and Prentice we thought it prudent to make a move in the direction of Toulouse. According to the books the only real stopping point between Montech and Toulouse was at Grisolles.

When we arrived at the first lock – heigh ho – double red lights, (which means lock out of service) so we had to park the boat and Sara went up to the lock. With there being no lockkeeper she had to press the VNF call button which is on the same control panel as the green and red buttons. Then in her best French she explained that “Ecluse Dix il ne fait pas, monsieur” and was taken aback when an English voice said, “OK I see, lock ten is out of service – I’ll call the lockkeeper”. Just as Sara arrived back at the boat the VNF van was coming along the tow path and within minutes the problem was resolved. Excellent service and response time, and full credit to VNF.

When we arrived at Grisolles it all looked a bit Spartan (see photo below) so we decided that the day would be a long one, and we would work the locks all the way to Toulouse.


When we arrived at Toulouse we went through the last lock on the Canal Lateral. As we were a bit tired we looked for a place to tie up, but this area seemed to have a number of people who were down on their luck. We then noticed a new concrete jetty with bollards and the perimeter was surrounded by security fencing. I thought to myself that will do nicely and we tip toed in towards this jetty. When we were about three feet away Sara shouted to back up, and as it turned out there were big rocks lurking just under the surface. We headed off again, and decided we would park up for the night at the Port de l’embouchure as there was not enough time left to get through the remaining locks to Port St Sauveur where we had booked four nights berthing.

On the way to Port de l’embouchure the canal banks had more and more folks down on their luck, and when we arrived at the Port there was a small group of New Age travellers parked up with their vans in the car park with their Alsatian dogs. Not exactly a nice “Welcome to Toulouse” experience. But to be fair to everyone, there was no hassle or noise during the night. This port marks the change from Canal Lateral to Canal du Midi, with the Midi starting once we pass the elaborate marble bas relief on the wall

Bas Relief Port de l'embouchure.

Moissac to Montech

We had a bit of a day in front of us today as it was baking hot and we were going to work through some 14 locks. After the first three locks we were once again experiencing a trip over a river on a viaduct.


In this photo you can see the trees etc piled up on the left hand side of the river bank and after heavy rain these will float off down the rivers, and any of these meeting ones boat would certainly spoil ones day. This is why I was keen to get up the Giroronde before any heavy rainfall.


Most of the locks today were automatic, but we then hit a chain of about four in a row that had lock keepers. Now these guys don’t take your lines, are mainly surly in the extreme – which seems strange because if no boats used the canal they wouldn’t have a job – and they could learn a lot from the British Waterways guys on the Forth & Clyde, Crinan and Caledonian canals that we have gone through in previous years.

We manoeuvred the boat into the lock, Sara nipped up the ladder, I threw up the stern line and then the bow line so that we have both lines ashore. Now before we have even secured one rope, the lock keeper is closing the lock gate, we barely had both lines tied before they pressed the button to open the sluice gates. Some of these were again opened far too quickly. The following photo doesn’t capture the extent of the water flow, but will at least give you an idea.


Question I have is; As all the lock keeper did was press a button (something we have been doing all along) why are they there?……in truth it’s much easier without them……and safer. I could see the point in being so quick if the canal was busy but we were the only boat going in our direction! As our American cousins would say…….. “go figure”

The day was sweltering as the temperature hit 35 degrees, and I was pleased when we left the last lock and got tied up in Montech, and hit the showers for a long cold revitalising and refreshing shower.


18th & 19th May

We went to the local market, and whilst I won’t bore you with all the details, amongst the purchases were absolutely scrumptious Cherries which I believe were called Napoleon, along with some equally delicious Black Cherries…………….suffered later for my greed though exactly as Sara predicted!!

Sara spent most of today trying to sort out flights for my grandsons, Reyce and Prentice. Now we thought this would be straightforward but o’ no…

Airlines will not let youngster under 16 fly unaccompanied, so we thought OK lets go with British Airways to Toulouse and have an accompanied flight which BA’s web site calls Sky Flyer Solo. However their web site said this could be booked through them or through an agent – but it could not be done online.

We had two travel agent working on this as we couldn’t get an answer when calling BA, one of them being Thompson and the other being Ramsey Travel. Thompson said they couldn’t book these kind of flights unless they went through a subsidiary or a subsidiary of BA waffle waffle waffle…………We are still waiting on a call back from Ramsey Travel which was absolutely promised before close of business – and this after the third call we made to them.

On Monday morning Sara got through to BA and a really helpful chap sorted everything out – so the boys will arrive at Toulouse on Saturday….yippee can’t wait to see them. Can you guess which travel agents we will NOT be using for future holidays?

While all this was going on, the fresh water pump that had started to leak required my attention. When I stripped it down I found the diaphragm was torn. I then checked on Jabsco’s website to see if they still offered spares for this old pump, and was pleased to find out they actually had these in stock. Therefore I thought it would be an idea to work up a full list of parts and give the pump a complete overhaul. The cost of these parts and having them delivered by UPS was going to be around £100.

Now the Capitianerie’s office at Moissac is run by a smashing English Couple Iain and Kaz. Who according to their web site also service boats etc. Therefore I went to speak to Iain to find out if he could source the parts quickly in France. Turns out he had a new modern pump in stock, and available for sale – a wee bit of bartering and I came out with a new pump. I’ll repair the old one when we get back home. I needed to do the deal there and then as he wouldn’t be back till 1700.

Now us guys know that there is no such thing as a simple job on a boat. Because this was a different pump, the hoses didn’t fit. Now I was sure I had some braided nylon tubing on the boat, so it was turned upside down until I found enough to make new inlet and outlet hoses…..brilliant.

The fitting on the new pump needed larger “O” rings and I found those too…..brilliant
I installed the whole thing, switched on the pump and found water was leaking badly from the smallest length of the new hose and sods law it was in the most awkward position. No matter how much I tightened the hose clips I could not get this hose to seal…….not brilliant.

I worked my way along all the Brit boats trying to scrounge a couple of the right size (smaller than the ones I carried) of hose clips – everyone had the same size I was using and no one had the smaller size. There was blue language aboard Sun Dog this afternoon I can tell you!

I even tried using a ratchet and socket on the hose clips but no this wee bloody hose would not seal onto the copper pipe no matter what I tried…………………eventually it reached 1700 and Iain came back so I went to mooch a couple of the right size of clips. He was amazed I couldn’t get this to seal, but didn’t have smaller hose clips. He reckoned that it would have to be either the copper pipe having a leak, or the new piece of braided nylon I used.

Here comes your turn to laugh at me…………I checked this new piece of hose and found it had a hole on the underside, and this was where the water was coming out, and not through lack of proper hose clips. I was in the same breath totally exasperated at having spent hours trying to seal this sucker, whilst pleased I could cut a new piece (without holes) and get the job finished. This was all done within five minutes, with the new pump working perfectly and much quieter than the old one. Have you stopped laughing yet?? Well I’ll make you laugh a wee bit more – I actually started this job at 1130!!

After getting everything tidied away I saw this catamaran working it’s way down the canal – I wouldn’t have believed it would fit through some of the bridges as they have tow paths inside which restricts the width quite a bit.


Valance-d’ Age to Moissac

Today was only going to be trip of a few hours to Moissac. The trip itself was fairly straightforward until, in one of the locks, a Frenchwoman pressed the button to activate the locks before we had our lines secured. Nimble work by Sara on shore saved the day. It was an honest mistake with no harm done, and apologies were quickly offered and accepted with a smile.

The approach into Moissac is rather neat as you can see by the following photograph


A short trip along this part of the canal, one arrived at the swing bridge where after toot on the horn (as per the book) the VNF chap activates the opening of the bridge.


Then a few hundred yards after the swing bridge we arrived at Port Plaisance where the Capitainere office is run by an English couple, who I have to say were very pleasant and helpful. They have a washing machine and dryer available and we took full use of these facilities. Whilst waiting on the washing etc some of the locals were fed by Sara…………….anyone any idea what kind of bird the big one is?


Here we are tied alongside at Moissac, and if I end up carrying much more on the top of the boat, we will be looking more and more like something out of the Beverley Hillbillies, and folks will no doubt, start calling me Jed Clampett!!


A fair chunk of the afternoon was spent on engine/boat maintenance, and it’s always a good feeling when this kind of work is completed. One thing I meant to say on previous entries is that the raw water filter (to cool the engine the sea water/canal water is drawn into the boat through a mesh filter before going through the heat exchanger) really does need to be checked and emptied fairly regularly. On Sun Dog I know when the filter is starting to get blocked with weeds/grass etc because the exhaust note changes, and a careful eye is kept on the engine temperature gauge until we either arrive at our destination, or alternatively go alongside somewhere to clean out the mesh filter.

Buzet-Sur-Baise to Valance-d’-Age

We set off this morning in agreement that we would simply continue along the canal until we found somewhere that looked like a nice place to stop. We both thought that Agen would probably work out best. En route the scenery was lovely and the sun was baking hot today so drinking copious amounts of water was required, and regularly consumed.

We reached the outskirts of Agen where the canal turns sharp left – there is serious danger if one was to continue straight on. Strange thing is we saw no “No Entry” or “Stop you fool you are about to go over a Weir” signs.

There are then four reasonable deep locks in a row, we were entering the second one and just getting our lines sorted out when an English voice said “do you want me to press the green button?” (that starts the locking process) I replied no, no thanks – not until we have the boat sorted out. within seconds he was asking the same question and I was getting hacked off with him. Then Sara, being on the shore side was sorting out the stern line when 10 seconds later, matey boy said to her; “do you want me to press the green button?” The emphatic NOoooooo! from Sara that boomed around the lock left him in absolutely no doubt that we didn’t want the bloody green button pressed by him. It was quite funny, …….but there again perhaps you needed to be there!!

Immediately after these locks is the Agen Viaduct which goes over the Garonne River. It is a unique experience taking a boat high up in the air, and over another piece of water. The length of this aquaduct is 580 metres ……really neat.



We duly arrived in Agen but it was all a bit too busy for us so we decided to keep going, and decided that if we didn’t find anywhere nicer along the way, we would ultimately stop at Valance D’ Agen – a further 26km.

We eventually arrived at the last lock just before Valance D’Agen, only to find that the pole which hangs from a wire to activate the automatic locks was missing!! Unless we could activate the switch which is strung across the canal on a wire, we would be stuck this side of the lock until it was reported and repaired. Sara reckoned that if we got Sun Dog stopped right underneath the box attached to the wire, she could then reach it by standing on the wheelhouse roof. This was too much to ask and I decided that I should do this as I am a bit taller. This was duly done with me hoping, whilst about to touch this metal box, that I wasn’t going to turn into a bit of a live wire myself! I’m pleased to say I survived, and thankfully this did activate the lock, and in we went.

We set up as normal, however this turned out to be a really strong bitch of a lock and even though I was on the bow, I nearly lost the front end of the boat due to the pressure of water – this might be the difference/downside – between automated locks versus lockkeepers. Rhetorical question is – Who actually sets the flow rate and time cycle for these locks? In my humble opinion, there is no way that a lockkeeper would have let water in so fast.

A couple of kilometres further on, we pulled into the stop all hot and sticky after 8hrs in the baking sun. Watching anyone getting onto these pontoon to get the lines secured would be hilarious on Candid Camera, as the shakes that are induced are pretty much uncontrollable…………….I do hope no one had their video on me today as they could make money selling it to Jeremy Beadle ?

One thing we were really thankful for today was Sun Dog’s wheelhouse, as opposed to an open cockpit where one would have fried unless they had a bimini (canvas cover over the cockpit to act as a shade) as the only natural shade available is when going through an avenue of Plane Trees.


You can also see how much pressure the helm is under whilst transiting the canal, duly swathed to impress the locals in this years “must have” nautical gear….