Barging over The Briare Aqueduct

The Briare Aqueduct is one of France’s greatest landmarks and I was hoping to skipper a 56 Mtr barge across it. The barge in question belongs to Mark & Annie and they weren’t actually aware of my plan up to this point.

The weather is still very mild during the day time. At night it can get a bit nippy to say the least. We have finished insulating the boat. In the end we used a lot of bubble wrap, we especially used it over the windows on the inside. This we found cut out the condensation almost completely.

We used the more of the expensive foil backed bubble wrap behind panels on walls and ceilings. The internet access is pitifully bad here, uploading pictures or video is only possible through a pc in the library or on a wifi connection in the likes of McDonald’s, of which there are not too many round these parts. But please bear with me and I will endeavour to do updated the blog as often as I can.

So far we have never been bored, in fact there never seems to be enough hours in the day. We make new friends all the time, both locals as well as boaters. We are enjoying life like never before. France is a very cheap place to live if you are a bit careful. It’s a wonderful culture and the people are very
helpful and friendly.

This week Mar and myself were lucky enough to get a spin on a 27 Mtr barge owned by Mark & Annie. We headed out across the Briare aqueduct and Mark uttered those words that I had been urging him to utter with all the clairvoyant ability that I could muster “Would you like to take the controls for a while, Harry.” “Oh yes yes yes”

Briare aqueduct
Mark & Annie’s barge and a tight squeeze going into the aqueduct.

27 Mtrs is a lot of barge and there were times when there seemed to be more barge than there was canal. When we got to Chatillon-sur-Loire about 5 miles up the canal it was time to swing it about. I had secretly being calling upon all my new found psychic powers and focusing them towards Mark. Then with all the powers of Merlin the Magician I launched the line

“So who’s going to swing the barge?” Mark was powerless to resist my telepathic abilities. This was it, god I’d better not screw this up. Thankfully Merlin was on my side and I didn’t do any damage to the canal. The barge came off without a scrape too. My heart was still pounding as we approached the aqueduct an hour later. Now this barge is 5.08Mtrs wide.

The entrance to the aqueduct is 5.10Mtrs wide. That gives you a beamy 2cm clearance and guess who is still behind the wheel. You can’t help but make some crunching noises under such circumstances. The trick is to make them slowly. We inched into the aqueduct slower than Mar eating a bowl of tripe. Mark was on the camera, probably for insurance purposes, but he got some good pics anyway and I’ll post them asap.

Once we were across the famous Briare aqueduct Mark took over, and he got us safely moored up in the port just across the aqueduct in his own unique way. Mark and Annie are new to this liveaboard life like ourselves, albeit that their barge is the same size as Wembley Stadium only with a dance floor. But he did sail it across the channel which must have been a challenge not just for shipping in the area.

Not many people will put that kind of trust in you to allow you drive their barge and when that barge is also their home it’s even more complementary.

Briare aqueduct
Myself and Marion in the wheelhouse.

Harry & Marion


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