Canal de Bourgogne: Entering Dijon

Wanderlust pauses for lunch inside a lock on the way to Dijon.

As we neared the port in Dijon we moved Wanderlust into one of the last locks of the day. Looking up we noticed a “slight” problem just ahead: There was no water in the pound below the lock. Without water, Wanderlust was not going to continue wandering.

As one moves along the canals in France it is easy to believe that the water forms a continuous band from the start to finish. But is doesn’t have to be that way. Manmade canals can be drained by accident or on purpose. In this case, the VNF said that there was a leaking gate on the lock below the empty pound ahead. With minimal boat traffic on the canal, the leaky lock went unnoticed. By the time Wanderlust arrived the water in the reach had emptied completely leaving behind an unattractive and un-navigable mudflat.

The VNF is rapidly adding water to the empty pound ahead of us.

On this stretch of the Canal de Bourgogne, lock keepers follow each boat and operate the locks manually. The empty pound was spotted and the keepers quickly opened the lock’s sluice gates to let water through to fill the pound. It took a surprisingly short period of time, 20 to 25 minutes, for the reach to refill. True, the pound was short, only about 300 meters long, and thus the amount of water needed was less than it would often be. Nevertheless it is impressive just how fast the pound filled. By my calculations the pound holds roughly 6,000,000 liters of water. That’s equivalent to 1,000,000 flushes of a water efficient toilet or a lifetime of residential water use by an average San Franciscan. (San Francisco’s residents are very good at conserving water.) For those keeping score, the pound was filled at the rate of approximately 1,000 flushes per second.

We wait for the water.

The pound is filled enough for us to travel.

But there’s not a lot of water beneath Wanderlust’s keel and the canal bottom. (The depth reading is about 200 mm offset from the actual water depth.)

Once the water was added the gates opened and we were on our way again. Even after the sudden deluge of water the pound looked more or less typical, just slightly muddier than normal. Not surprisingly, the water was still on the low side. There was just 400 mm of water under Wanderlust’s skeg as we moved to the next lock. But the low water didn’t present a navigational problem. After two more locks we were soon tied up in the shade at Dijon’s attractive port.


This post is from Wanderlust’s 2016 cruising season.

In 2016 this section of canal was weedy, despite the VNF’s attempts to remove the water plants. It was better in 2017.

2 thoughts on “Canal de Bourgogne: Entering Dijon

  1. Glad to have you back on the ‘airwaves’. We have followed your travels over the past few years (even before Wanderlust) and have missed your commentary on life on the water ways of France (and associated boat matters).

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