Peter Cumberlidge explores the French inland waterways from Paris to Auxerre as part of a delivery trip for a new Linssen Grand Sturdy 40.9
Up to Montereau
A dozen kilometres above Saint-Mammès is another key junction, between the Seine and the Yonne.
We hung a right on to the Yonne and pulled alongside a snug pontoon opposite the charming town of Montereau (pictured below). Our berth looked across to the old city walls and a commanding church.
Ahead of us lay a homely looking barge yacht, flying a red ensign and bright with cheerful geraniums.
Soon we met Tony and Nicola, who let their house in England and spend much of their time exploring France afloat. Their 49ft barge Archangel (pictured below) is a tough little ship furnished with all home comforts.
Tony offered to help us through the next three locks, the most difficult to negotiate between Paris and Auxerre. Many Yonne locks have rough sloping sides but only these next three don’t have pontoons which ride up and down the harsh walls as the locks fill and empty.
Because Tony and Nicola’s heavy barge would not be greatly troubled by sloping walls, they invited us to moor alongside Archangel in these fiendish locks.
The delectable Yonne
While not so wide or imposing as the Seine, the Yonne is a sizeable river, which can flood dramatically in winter.
In spring and summer it is one of the most enchanting waterways in France and we loved every minute of our 108 kilometres between Montereau and Auxerre. We saw many enviable waterside houses and some cosy houseboats in secret backwaters.
Spring was well sprung and the clamorous birdsong was uplifting. Together with Archangel, we spent our first Yonne night out in the wilds alongside a Belgian barge, whose genial skipper had taken our warps in several locks.
He was bound for Sens to load a cargo of malting barley for beer brewing and his straight-sided ship made an idyllic rural berth below a tumbling weir.