Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Finding a Winter Mooring

Since we purchased the barge in 2013, we haven’t spent winter in the same place. Our aim is to see as much of the waterways of Europe but mostly France, before we decide to base the barge in one spot. So far the barge has wintered in Uxbridge UK, Cergy Pontoise France, Bruges Belgium, Strasbourg France and Pont de Vaux France. Mostly we have chosen our winter moorings based on either recommendations and, where possible, personal visits. As good winter moorings get booked early or have a high percentage of regulars you need to do your homework and put your name on a waiting list at least 12 months in advance.
Next year we plan to cruise down the Saône and Rhone to the Canal du Midi and associated canals in the south west of France. To that end we drove to the Canal Deux Mers region to check out potential winter moorings for 2018. We had 3 possibilities - Buzet sur Baise, Moissac and Castelsarrazin.
Buzet sur Baise had been recommended by a number of people mostly, though, for the great restaurants in this small town. The marina would be great for a stopover during summer or in winter if you had a smaller boat but for us it really wasn’t suitable. The moorings for barges, unfortunately, didn’t have any facilities. Another private marina also didn’t suit us.
Typical tree lined vista on the canal Lateral a la Garonne - private marina at Buzet
Marina run by tourist bureau in Buzet
Not much space in this marina in Buzet
From Buzet, we headed to Moissac on the Canal Deux Mers. We had visited here before on our quest for a barge. On that day it had been raining so we hadn’t formed a very good impression of Moissac. However, this time the sun was shining and the town, canal and river looked very inviting. A fellow Aussie who was moored in the marina for this winter commented that it was one of the best run marinas he had stayed in. High praise indeed. After speaking with the harbour master we decided to make application to stay here. Unfortunately, placements aren’t allocated till February.
The Tarn River at Moissac and the summer Quay
The summer moorings in Moissac
Autumn colours at the Moissac marina

So as not to be disappointed and maybe find ourselves without a mooring for 2018 we ventured on to the next town on our list,  Castelsarrazin.
Castelsarrazin is only 7km by road from Moissac but a good hour by barge. The main marina (J Y Cousteau) here, also run by the tourist bureau, has finger pontoons, mostly suitable for cruisers and smaller barges. There is, however, a Quay a little further away from the office that caters for larger boats especially those that are permanent, and the quay has water and electricity. Speaking to a local who has lived aboard here for 20 years, we found out that this area was quieter than the main marina but did run the risk of petty theft. Not exactly what we were wanting to hear but we still decided to register here as there are plans for video surveillance and the town itself has a number of services, and supermarkets and commercial zones etc are a short drive away.
Canal at Castelsarrazin

Sculpture at J.Y. Cousteau marina Castelsarrasin

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