The River Tarn, running from above Albi for 147kms with 31 locks to its confluence with the River Garonne near Moissac, was from the Middle Ages busy with small wooden barges loaded with flour, coal from the Carmaux mines, barrels of Gaillac wine, and cloth from Castres until it was closed in the 1920’s as a result of competition from the railways. It can now only be navigated for short stretches from Moissac, for 8 kms upstream and 4 kms downstream, and Montauban, for 8 kms upstream, with access at each Port through a double lock.
The Canal de Montech, closed in 1990 but reopened in 2006, runs from Montech (Canal de Garonne PK 43) to Montauban for 10 kms with 9 locks, passing through the Agre forest – the more familiar Garonne canal plane trees giving way to oak and other species. Montech is also the site of the world’s first water slope built in 1974 – as far as I know, only very rarely used if at all – but the engines can be seen sitting idle as one passes through the five locks which it was designed to bypass!
Despite the limited distances for navigation we have managed to spend a surprising amount of time on the River Tarn during our cruising on the Canal de Garonne. Last year we only managed one night at Montauban, as we passed through in July, but went on to spend six nights on the Tarn at Moissac – one night tied to a tree upstream, two nights tied to a tree at the confluence downstream, and three nights on the Town quay with full facilities. We liked it so much that we returned in August for another four nights for a family holiday, enjoying paddle boarding, barbequing, and bird watching.
This year we spent twelve nights in September on the Town quay at Moissac, only venturing out, on a very hot day, for a picnic lunch/swimming expedition 6 kms upstream, within sight of the Chateau de Saint-Paul.
But from Moissac (PK 64) we then continued east the 21 kms and 15 locks along the Garonne Canal to Montech (PK 43). We made overnight stops at Castelsarrasin (PK 56, €13 for the night compared with €7 last year) and at St Porquier (PK 49, free no services) where we arrived at the mooring at the same instant as ‘Jo de Mer’ heading west. Fortunately the quay was empty and so we both fitted on and spent a convivial couple of nights catching up with Jeremy and Sheena on news since the ‘curry night’ at Buzet in June, when we had last seen them.
At Montech we made a left turn onto the Canal de Montech and passing the serviced quay (full with two boats) at Lacourt-St-Pierre (PK 3.5) picked up our ‘telecommande’ (remote control) from the lock keeper at Noalhac opting to spend the night between locks 4 and 5. There are wooden jetties, about 15m lengths, between most of the 9 locks on this canal and they make for very nice overnight moorings.
In Montauban we had a rendez-vous with cousin Paul who spent a night with us in between checking out a church organ course in Toulouse and so we stayed three nights (€14 a night) in Port to be near the station. The mooring in this small port is stern-on with short pontoon spurs, and so not ideal for our length.
On our first night a storm was threatened (this happened when we were here last year too) and the Capitaine moved us onto the trip boat loading quay, only being used at the weekend, which proved ideal.
We made a lunch outing onto the Tarn with Paul and decided to return the next day after his departure to spend as much time as our water tank would allow.
We settled in at Bressols (PK 105, free no services) on the 50m floating pontoon for 5 nights and liked it very much. There is an extensive and well-kept public recreation area all along this bank by the mooring, featuring multiple and well used rugby and football fields, a fitness trail, BBQ area, rowing club, skate-board-park and children’s play area.
It is also a short walk into town – bank (cash machine), butcher (excellent), two bakers (good), newsagent (ok), Vival grocery store (ok for basics) and good chemist – and a regular (every 35 minutes, Mon-Sat) bus service into Montauban which passes (only 8 minutes away) the Retail Park of Albasud with Geant Casino, Grand Frais, Bricomarche, Decathlon, and McDonald’s amongst others. This was much better for us than being in the port at Montauban, which is a long (and rather dreary) walk to the city centre and no closer by bus than Bressols to the out-of-town retail park. We had occasional visitors on the pontoon drifting in from the recreation area along with the odd fisherman, and for two nights only another boat; George aboard ‘Tofino’.
For a change of scene we moved on a further 3 kms to Corbarieu (PK 101, free at the limit of navigation) where on a similar sized pontoon I discovered that the electricity (but not the water) still worked if the Mairie was requested to switch the supply on and within half an hour of my phone call there were two municipal employees on the pontoon checking that it was switched on. Our water supply held out for another 5 nights.
The mooring was occupied by a lonesome duck who proved to be our only company and keen to come aboard and socialise even when not invited. We were subjected to regular inspections through all the quayside windows, being conveniently at ‘duck height’, and were followed up and down the pontoon when going about our legitimate business. Infrequent visitors to the pontoon, some with children, were not entirely convinced that the duck wasn’t with us – and made a great show of his intelligence.
Talking to the duck was about as much fun as we had in Corbarieu. A walk into town to visit the butcher, baker, grocery store, and café/presse yielded very little of interest. Even a visit to the Mairie to thank them for being so helpful on the phone and to ask if I owed them for the electric and if I could stay for several nights was met with indifference – not even meriting getting up and walking over to the reception counter! A walk through the surrounding apple orchards, following a sign to the ‘Auberge du Trinquet’, was nice but this, the only nearby restaurant, proved to be closed and now sold.
With a nearly empty water tank – 10 days does seem to be our limit and we guess that the full tank is about 1300 litres – we booked the Montauban lock for 2.15 pm, stopping off at Bressols to catch the bus to stock up at Geant on provisions and have lunch, and then put into port for a couple of hours to refill with water (€4). Although there was a BBQ party that night in port we did not stay (the only quay now being occupied by Hotel Boat ‘Rosa’) and after chatting to the new owners of ‘Rose of Tralee’ (like us a Colecraft-built widebeam) we continued on up the canal to moor in peace and quiet between locks 5 and 6.
We had a bit of time on our hands and had been planning to stay for a few days at Lacourt-St-Pierre but the quay was full, again. As we didn’t actually need any services we moored up on pins (quite a rarity for us here!) at PK 3, just before the A62 Motorway, and stayed the night before moving on all of 2 kms to moor (on pins again) on the right bank just past the bridge at PK1. From here it is a short walk to a Super Intermarche, Lidl, Gamme Vert, Bio store, Mystic Pizza and restaurant. We also benefitted from great TV (terrestrial) TNT (freeview) reception and 4G phone signal so were able to get on with some admin/ housekeeping.
It is a nice spot, despite the wasps in the bank at our stern, but next day we decided to move on the 1km to Montech to explore the town and its Tuesday market. Visitor mooring in Montech Port is stern-in, as at Montauban, and we have only ever managed to stop once before on the quay towards the lock which has a ‘no parking’ sign. We did the same again, this time finding ourselves next to ‘Tsarine’ (Daniel and Brigitte).
We were interested to note that the Port contains a number of ‘Incredible Edible’ planter boxes – something Lili is involved with where the movement was founded in Todmorden, Yorks – but disappointed that they were poorly looked after with only marigolds to harvest.
After a quick trip into town, with nothing interesting to report about either the town or the market, and finding Brigitte down with a ‘rhume’, we carried on, now back on the Garonne Canal, for 2 kms and 1 lock to moor at Lavache on a 25m wooden jetty (PK 40.5, no services). We like this mooring a lot, and have stopped off here on three previous occasions – but only on this one did we discover how close it is to cycle back, without having to go on a road, to the Super Intermarche et al! With TV still good, although internet connection weak, rain forecast and with thoughts of winter evenings we were persuaded to stay here for several nights – and do that dirty annual job of cleaning the flue and stove and resealing the joints.
Rain finally came on Thursday night and on Friday, after three days of barely a boat passing, we had a succession of English boats go by – obviously enjoying the English cruising conditions! We are booked into Toulouse for Sunday so, with 57 kms and 11 locks (10 hours cruising) left to go on the Garonne, we can afford to wait for the sunshine forecast for tomorrow.