Taking on the French canals in a trawler yacht: Part two

In the second part of his French canals odyssey, Howard Walker cruises up the lazy River Seine and explores the suburbs of Paris

The lighter side

Last time you left us in London’s St. Katharine Docks getting ready to kick-off a five-month grand adventure, cruising our 56-foot Dutch steel trawler yacht Nomade down to the Med.

As we’d decided against rockin’ and rollin’ around the outside, the plan was to use the rivers and canals to ease us down the middle of France, squeezing through the pinch-tight locks and under the low, low bridges.

Now the adventure begins as the lock gate at St. Katharine Yacht Haven slowly sinks. With a green light on the lock side, we say goodbye to Tower Bridge, and ease out into the slack, muddy waters of the tidal Thames. We’re off.

Group-5--Nomade-St-Katherine-But before we reach the Seine, there’s that little matter of negotiating the shifting sands of the Thames Estuary, easing across the Channel, then following the French coast down to Le Havre.

It’s not easy. There are tide tables to dissect, weather forecasts to follow, charts to plot, fingers to cross. Planning, and a lot of it, is key.

For our first night we persuade the Harbourmaster at Queenborough, where the Medway and Swale meet the Thames, to save us a spot on the famous Queenborough Concrete Lighter.

Here, surely, is a structure worthy of UNESCO World Heritage preservation. And do it quick before the chains holding it to the river bed rust away.

Anchored out in the river, this steel tub with a concrete topping provides a safe haven for around half a dozen boats to tie-up to for the night.

1.-Queensborough-1Need nourishment? The Harbourmaster himself will ferry you to dry land where the gastronomic delights of the Queenborough Kebab and Pizza House await.

The morning tide flushes us back out into the estuary where the sun is beaming and the wind calm.

We cover the 54 miles to Dover by late afternoon, just in time to lock into the cocoon-like safety of Dover Marina’s Granville Dock.

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