It is necessary to protect the hull of the boat from damage by lock walls and even other boats.

The use of tyres is only permitted if they have an inflated inner tube so that they float if they fall into the water, and they must be tied by two diametrically opposed ropes fixed onto two different parts of the boat. Except for this they are forbidden and the penalty for ignoring this is a fine.

Use the biggest fenders you can get and tie them horizontally at the lowest point possible as locks are often filled to the top of the parapet. A long plank outboard of the fenders is useful and will hold the fenders down; although in practice the edge of this plank may catch on any protrusions, e.g. the handrail of the open lock gates, and either damage the gates or snap the plank. Some type of ‘skirt’ can be used inside or outside of the fenders to protect the hull - an old set of dodgers, or a plastic advertising banner for example.

Many of the canal banks have been reinforced with corrugated steel piling and fenders may slip between the corrugations. This can also happen in the big locks with floating bollards. This is when a plank would come in useful.


There are a few marinas on the French waterways, and many Portes de Plaisance but most mooring is on town quays or designated mooring places (Halte Fluviale). Many towns and villages provide moorings with water and electric at a small fee, 2 - 8 euros and many are free for limited stop-over which will be indicated on a sign. The marinas are more expensive and you usually pay according to your size. You could pay anything from 15 euros, to 55 euros for example in Paris.

The number of mooring places is increasing gradually and all are noted in the Carte Guides. I am now editing a Cruising Guide to the Inland Waterways of France and Belgium, on behalf of the Cruising Association. Every year members provide information about changes, particularly to moorings, and this book would be worth having (see "My Writing"). There are more moorings along the canals than the rivers, and at the present time the Rhône is particularly short of mooring places, although it is possible to anchor out of the navigation channel avoiding the groynes.

It is permitted to moor alongside a bank providing there is sufficient depth and width.

The marinas usually have toilets and showers, and some have laundry facilities. The larger ones will have chandlery and repair facilities, fuel and maybe a restaurant too.

The Mast

It is essential to remove the mast for traversing the French waterways. Most yachts opt to transport this on board, constructing 'crutches' from sturdy pieces of timber and protecting the overhang with a strong plastic bucket, and foam rubber etc. If the mast greatly overhangs the hull there may be some anxious moments in locks and when mooring. Taking the mast with you will save you money.

It is possible to have the mast transported by road, if so choose a specialist carrier rather than a general haulier. You will find facilities at all major ports and harbours for stepping and un-stepping your mast.

Advice given by the manager of the chandlery at Port Napoleon marina, Port St. Louis is to ‘label the mast well, tape up your bottle screws (or remove them) and notify the people at your destination as to when it is likely to arrive, and keep a check on its arrival’. Masts do go missing. Costs are upwards of £400.

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