France Canal Cruise: Day 3 The Longest Drop Underway to Saverne

France Canal Cruise Saverne

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Two charter boats explore France in a week-long cruise along the Canal du Marne au Rhin in Alsace, France. >See full FRANCE CANAL CRUISE SERIES

In September, Chesapeake Flotillas took clients cruising on the Canal du Marne au Rhin in Alsace, France. Twenty people on two boats were in for a totally new experience.

Our first day underway was all about getting used to how the canal boats handled. We also experienced two of most prominent features of this canal: the tunnels at Niderville and the Arzvilley boat lift.

Now it is time to move on to a larger town farther downstream.

Day 3 Underway to Saverne

flotilla canal cruiseAnother beautiful day dawned over us Monday morning. Today we were heading to Saverne.

Before we could shove off, we had to get Karen back aboard our boat from the other boat in the flotilla and Greer, who spent the night on our boat, was going to get aboard the other boat for the cruise to Saverne. They came along side and we made the transfers seamlessly. They were able to get through the lock and out of town quickly because the queue of the remaining 5 boats had not formed up yet.

Once we were all ready to get underway (trash and recycling were left in the bins in Lutzelbourg), we took our place in line. We were number 5…and that was okay. This was the kind of trip where haste really had no particular part to play.

lock 22 canal cruiseWe left our overnight spot along the canal and pulled up to the waiting area before the lock. Given the wait ahead, we tied up to the wall and waited. It was about 20 minutes or so before we were nosing into lock 22.

More of the crew took the opportunity to drive our 48-foot boat today. We were getting to be old hands at working the locks. We were moving smartly into place, stopping before the downstream gates, and holding position with a combination of lines and engine.

As much as the locks were similar, they were also different. One had low bridge overhead on the downstream side. Some had different aquatic plants in the pounds to the approach to the locks. Sometimes there were ducks or swans swimming in front of the lock appearing to almost dare us to hit them.

On this segment of the canal, the lock controls were all the same: radar sensing approaching boats and controls in the lock to start the cycle or signal and emergency stop.

The sun filtered through the trees onto the canal and as it rode higher into the sky, it left sparking gems to wink at us from the water’s surface. I have rarely had a more peaceful boat ride anywhere.

canal glistening sun

The Deepest, Longest Lock

As we approached the final lock to Saverne, I could see through my binoculars several boats secured alongside. The canal bent to the left so that we did not have a view of the lock. Assuming these boats were waiting their turns through the lock, we pulled alongside the canal and tied off staking our own place in the sequence.

saverneIt was a warm…no, a HOT afternoon as we waited in the sun to move up. I was feeling parched but I was too busy tending the boat and keeping tabs on traffic through the lock to grab a drink. As each pair of boats moved into the lock, we moved up. Greer was texting us constantly from the other side asking for ETA updates. It seems she was holding a place in the marina for us and had been waving other boats off!

It was finally our turn. This lock was arguably more scenic than any other. There was an open air restaurant situated along the length of the lock on the northern side. Before us lay all of Saverne. Behind us and to the right up on the hill were the ruins of an old castle now called the Eye of Alsace because of the view it offers of the entire Alsacian plain. The street lamps nearby were adorned with baskets of flowers.

deepest canal lockFinally…this was the deepest lock in which we had been. We would be descending about 20 feet in this lock. The sound of all the water rushing out was more pronounced here…and even more so as we sank deeper into the draining lock.

Finally the doors opened and we slowly motored out into Saverne proper. It reminded me of the door of Dorothy’s house opening onto Munchkin Land.

Less than half a kilometer ahead and a 90 degree turn to the right put us in front of the marina. It was called Port de Plaisance. A little bit of wheel and throttle work and we were backed up against the bulkhead like all the canal boats here. There was a carnival-like midway in the park behind us. It gave a festive air to the area. It appeared to be a permanent thing as opposed to a temporary event.

canal flotillaWhile some of my crew headed to the market to replace some consumables, others went on a hike up to the Eye of Alsace. I took the time to socialize with the folks on our sister-boat. In France, everyone feels social around open bottles of wine and some cheese. Despite the strong afternoon sun, it was a good time and good conversation.

Dinner plans were made. By the time the shoppers returned, everyone present was ready to find dinner. Ultimately, those in my crew who had not gone up the hill were seated at the restaurant by the lock. I had a lovely, flavorful beef dish with a local Mercury beer. I was satisfied.

Now I began to feel the length of the day on me. I was going to be ready for bed after a quick shower aboard. Tomorrow we head to the heart of the Brumath Forest.

Capt. Rob Chichester offers domestic and offshore sailing vacations and crewed yacht charters through Chesapeake Flotillas, LLC. Training and yacht relocation services are also available. For more information on any of this, visit

Two charter boats explore France in a week-long cruise along the Canal du Marne au Rhin in Alsace, France. >See full FRANCE CANAL CRUISE SERIES

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Capt. Rob Chichester

View posts by Capt. Rob Chichester
Capt. Rob is an engineer and owner & operator of Chesapeake Flotillas offering charters, instruction, and vessel relocation. A USCG Licensed Master, Capt. Rob has planned and executed flotilla cruises all over the Chesapeake Bay, Europe, and the Caribbean. Rob holds a 200-Ton Master's license with Auxiliary Sail and Assistance Towing endorsements. He also is certified by the American Sailing Association to teach Basic Keelboat Sailing, Basic Coastal Cruising, and Bareboat Chartering. A self-proclaimed sailor & poet, he operates a 41-foot sloop Bay Poet based out of Rock Hall, MD. Rob has also trained and served as captain of tall ships including the state tall ship of New Jersey, the Schooner A.J. Meerwald.
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