Saturday, 31 May 2014

Incline Plane Ronquieres To Charleroi

1 incline plane, 3 locks, 20 miles,  5¾ hours

This map shows where we’ve been today and where we heading next week Namur. Then on to France, the green bit!

I woke unusually early this morning so got up and emptied the dogs.  Deb got up and made coffee and I sat outside to take in the glorious sun. 

I noticed the left caisson coming down so went to MR to see if they were up for a dash as there was no one waiting to go up.

The problem with being in a queue is the commercial boats get priority and given that it can mostly only take one at a time of the big ones and that a full up/down cycle can take well over an hour and that there seemed to be only 1 caisson working this seemed too good an opportunity to miss.

Hurriedly we both cast off and got a green light to enter almost immediately. Having tied up the caisson driver told us we’d have to wait for a group of 8 other boats from a cruising club to join us.  About 20 minutes later they started to arrive and within 40 minutes of us arriving they were all in and we were on our way.


The weather made for some better photos going up.


Meeting the 5000 ton counter balance weight half way

At the top

The winch gear

Views from the top

We stopped at the top again to empty the dogs again as this quick get away took 2 hours in all. Once underway we retraced our steps from yesterday for and hour and a half past our previous nights mooring.



then we were in new and very picturesque territory.



Odd things happen as you cruise along.  This one was a racing pigeon hitching a ride while it took a rest.  Just before he boarded us he swooped low and scooped up some water. Something I’ve never seen a pigeon ever do.


Our first lock of the day was another first.  This one had sliding doors as did the following 2.  Seems locks here come in sets.






All 3 locks were about 7m deep all had floating bollards.  The 3 locks were in order 3 Viesville, 2 Gosselies, 1 Marchienne-au-Pont.  Once though the last lock the landscape changed once again. 

This area was once famous for coal extraction and steel production.  There are many slag hills as reminders of the coal industry and as we travelled on the through and joined the Sambre river it became what I can only describe as a ghost town.  This is post industrial area is magnificent in its scale and decay.  Again the pictures don’t do it justice.

Scrap glass

Scrap steel













The wall art here is very very good, Hopefully on the way out I will get some more photos.

After a long day we reached some moorings just on a bit from the post industrial zone.


I’m not overly impressed with them, the area is decidedly dodgy and there’s already been a fight just above the mooring between about 10 local kids.

Charleroi does not read well on any search, accept that is its own website which is mostly missing lots of useful information. It seems all this post industrial decay is now its claim to fame and is their pride and joy.  We have already seen a trip boat giving a tour and there are urban safari trips you can go on, and photography tours.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Plan Incline de Ronquieres

1 Incline Plane 7½ miles, 1½ hours

A nice early start again this morning.  We were all underway by 10.15am and heading off to play on the incline plane at Ronquieres.

I forgot to [ost a map of yesterdays little jaunt so tonight's one will show yesterdays as well.


This wasn’t really on our trip to anywhere this was the destination.  Why? because its there.  Its one of the biggest in the world.

It was built in 1968 to replace 14 locks and can lift canal lifts boats of up to 1350 tonnes through 67.73 metres. Boats enter a water filled caisson and the caissons are moved up or down the Plane by cables pulled by a stationary engine.

Canal locks are common. Canal boat lifts are rare  Inclined Planes are very rare. Ronquieres is the largest of its type in Europe and may be the largest in the world.

It is an impressive structure. The Plane is 1,432 metres [0.89 miles] long and has two tracks. Each track has a caisson almost 300 feet long. The photograph below was taken from the upper station and shows a caisson moving up the left track.

Here are a couple of photos lifted from the net from the top of the tower which has absolutely no part in the function of the machine.

Here are my photos.







After about an hour wait we are finally on it


Here we are at the bottom

We are moored below tonight ready for the return tomorrow

View from the lower canal near our mooring

Was it worth it?  Hell yes.  This evening we found a local bar.  In true British style we were the last to leave as the staff were putting up the chairs. Jill and I stuck firmly to alcohol, Deb and Graham were seduced by Crepes with rum and raisin ice cream, + their booze.

It’s difficult to get use to the light at night.  Here its the equivalent of BST+1 or double summertime, so its still light at 10.30pm.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Ascenseur de Strepy-Thieu

1 lock, 1 lift bridge, 2 Ascensurs

The day started well.  We both woke to find we’d been savaged by a mossy overnight.  So we were up and at it early with dogs emptied, motorhome parked properly and winded ready to set off by 10.15am.  A swift start for all.

The plan was to drop down to the local marina for water then head of towards Charleroi and do the big boat lift along the way.

The trip to the old ascensure was pleasant as this time the sun was out.  The only lift bridge today was raised for us and soon after we arrived at the old lift No.4.  A bit of a wait while they set it for us and soon we were on our way down.

The marina to the left




When we arrived at the marina we were met by a man speaking in French only and after a lot of can we have water yes or no? we eventually found out a €3 token was needed and we could have water.  This took over an hour in which time Graham loaded water on to their and our boats while Deb, Jill and I walked the dogs.

It was the onwards to the self serve lock.  Deb pushed the green pole firmly up and we got the green to go.  The lock took a few minute to set its self up and we were in.

Lock instructions

All the instructions we duly followed in order, including No.5 by MR who’s rope got snagged up requiring an emergency stop and a sharp knife.  A call on the intercom eventually brought the assistance of a roving lockie who reset the lock and down we went again.

Blue to start Red to stop

Once out of the Ecluse de Thieu it was a sharp right turn towards the big lift.


As we arrived the right hand caisson signalled with a green arrow and disgorged it recently arrived load.

First in was St. Louis with its cargo of scrap aluminium.


It’s getting bigger

And bigger

Soon we are in and moored up



Each of these cables is 85mm diameter


The exit gate at the top

The exit door

The view from the top

Its big!

MR exiting

The only thing that spoilt the ride up for me is the bitch official that hauled me into a booth for the whole of the lift to discuss in her best French she wanted to see my papers.  I showed her my papers which were issued in Flanders and was told these were no good.  Same country different region.  In the end I walked out as I was getting angry it was going nowhere, only to find we had arrived and I’d missed it. It would seem that in crossing the border I should have given or at least had taken Avalon’s details. At one lock this happened to MR but not us. You can imagine I was not best pleased.

Once out of the lift the next marvel was the aqueduct. 


This is 500m long and 200ft high bridging a valley on the new canal route.

To safeguard the lift, at night this flood gate is lowered. It’s also there to stop the canal if there is a breach down stream to the lift.


Tonight we are moored at the top of a disused canal near Seneffe.  This is a private mooring but the home vessel is out and we were given permission by the owner to use it for the night.