Travelling up the Rhône

These are some brief notes from our journey from Gallician to Mâcon.  We needed to move the boat north to our winter mooring at St Jean de Losne, so this journey was more of necessity than a pleasurable trip in its own right.  We had previously taken the boat down the Rhône so had already stopped at some of the places.

Canal du Rhône à Sète

 We left Gallician at 08:40 and arrived at first lock in one hour.  We forgot to call ahead on VHF 18, otherwise the lock would have been ready for us.  The Petit Rhône was fairly easy, but with a steady current.  We did not push too hard and continued at about 6-7 kph, reaching the Rhône junction at 13:45.


Arles to Tarascan and Aramon

This is definitely the hardest bit.  The current varies a lot.  We normally travel on the canal between 1200 rpm and 1500 rpm,  and make between 7kph and 8kph depending on conditions, going more slowly if this creates wash.  At that rpm we slowed to 4-6 kph.  Pushing up the engine speed did not make a lot of difference, so we decided to stick to a comfortable rpm and take what speed that gave us.  The hardest part is the bridge at Beaucaire / Tarascan, with a fair bit of rough water, but we did not really slow down there.  Apparently you can call the lock keeper to ask if boats are coming down, and if they are not can sort of ‘blue board’ to the left.  This could add 3 kph.  In any case, the hard part does not last too long and above the bridge we speeded up for no apparent reason.

Aramon to Écluse de Caderousse

We visited the village and stocked up with food (from the poorly stocked mini supermarket), so did not leave until midday.  We also took a short detour to Avignon for fuel, but the capitainerie is closed from 12:00 to 16:00, so we did not wish to wait that long and continued.   We could not see anywhere to stop that did not have a ‘passenger boats only’ sign, so decided to test out the idea of stopping at a lock.  At a respectable time we asked the lock at Caderousse if we could spend the night on the plaisancier pontoon above the lock and stopped there at 18:40.  It was peaceful and there were no problems with boats coming through at night.

Conditions on the river were much as before.  We noticed that in the lock cut sections we’d slow to about 6-7 kph, but in the natural river sections we could vary between 7 and 9 kph.  Again, we settled on a comfortable engine speed and took what came.  Using AIS I noticed that commercials were going between 11 kph and 15 kph, so would always catch up fast.  If you have AIS it is quite useful to plot a catching boat as a target because it will tell you at what time it will overtake you and will give its length.  That way, as you approach a lock, you will know whether you will fit in together and whether it is worth hurrying a bit to avoid a lock delay.  Of course, the lock keepers control what is happening, but you can generally guess what might happen and be prepared.