The port in Pont Royal is pleasant. Indeed we might have stayed another day if the restaurant was open. But it was August in France and the restaurateur was “en vacances,” as they say. If we wanted to stay longer we’d need to break out the emergency rations. Though we like the cassoulet we had stocked in the pantry well enough it is hard to want to subsist on canned food for days on end.
Thus we lifted Wanderlust’s ropes at the port de plaisance in Pont Royal and continued up the canal. The destination for the day was Pouilly-en-Auxois.
Near Pouilly’s port de plaisance is a supermarche. When we first started cruising in France we had learned the hard way that we needed to stock up when we could. Supermarkets near the waterways that are easily reachable are valuable opportunities to do bulk shopping. We rarely pass a convenient supermarche without refilling our storage compartments with everyday consumables. It was especially important to shop while we could on this section of the Bourgogne. Though the restaurants are reasonably frequent, the grocery stores, butcher shops, and bakeries are less reliable, particularly in August. It is best to shop when the opportunity presents itself.
Just ahead on our route was the biggest navigational challenge of the Canal de Bourgogne, the Pouilly-en-Auxois tunnel. The entrance to tunnel is in its namesake commune. Indeed, the first portion of the 3333-meter long tunnel goes under the village.
Navigating Pouilly tunnel causes concern for many boaters. Inside the tunnel the channel is 5.8 meters wide at the waterline, narrow but not atypical for a tunnel on a Freycinet canal. With a 20-meter long boat and a 4.2-meter beam, it is very easy to stray to the sides and rub against the walls. Normally rubbing the sidewalls of a tunnel isn’t a serious cause for concern. Though it does not feel good to bang off the walls, the fenders strung off the sides of the boat prevent serious damage. There’s no Russian judge watching who’s going to mark the score down for the form breaks. At worst we might pop a balloon fender, snap a fender’s lanyard, or scrub some paint off of the rubbing strake. Barging is a contact sport; a few bruises are expected.
Complicating the transit of the Pouilly-en-Auxois tunnel is the profile of the tunnel’s arched ceiling. For most canal tunnels the ceiling is shaped in a way that makes it hard for any part of Wanderlust’s superstructure to make contact. In the case of Souterrain de Pouilly-en-Auxois the roof’s curvature is more pronounced and the airspace is restricted. The VNF does what they can to minimize the problem; they typically keep the water level low through the tunnel. Nevertheless the ceiling can still come into contact with the unprotected superstructures of many boats. Careful planning is needed before using the tunnel.
Like many barge owners, before we decided to transit the Canal de Bourgogne we looked carefully at Wanderlust’s external dimensions and the profile of the Pouilly tunnel. Even if the VNF did not drop the water level, it looked like Wanderlust’s wheelhouse and fixed superstructure would make it through the tunnel without issue. Indeed, from the profiles it seemed that we could not get the wheelhouse to collide with the sides of the tunnel even if we wanted to. That was good news. The wheelhouse could stay up.
The bad news was the rear deck cover. From our profile sketch of Wanderlust’s superstructure, the bimini looked like it would hit the curved portion of the tunnel’s ceiling before the fenders would reach the sidewall. Normally when we go through low bridges and tunnels dropping the rear cover a notch provides enough room to go through cleanly. But in the case of the Pouilly tunnel it looked like we would need to do more than drop the bimini a notch.
Thus once we finished our shopping in Pouilly-en-Auxois, we removed the bolts that held Wanderlust’s rear deck cover on. Lifting the bimini up, we rotated it, and lowered it onto the back deck. It was an easy enough operation that only took a few minutes to execute. With the bimini down and strapped in place in case of a rogue windstorm, Wanderlust was ready to go. The next morning we would find out whether our calculations were correct and we could go through the tunnel without dropping Wanderlust’s wheelhouse.
On August 6 2016 Wanderlust moved 18 kilometers with 13 locks from Pont Royal to Pouilly-en-Auxois. Her engine ran 4.8 hours.
For a map of the route from Pont Royal to Pouilly-en-Auxois click here.