European inland waterway cruising – planning for 2015

Shangri-La in 2013

We have been thinking about what to do and where to go this year in general terms for a while, but the time has come for some serious planning. The original intention had always been to head south to France.

Last year we met another Dutch couple who had done an 11 week trip along the Mittelland Kanaal to Berlin and back.

This sounded a wonderful idea and became our
new plan.

But we would have to do the outbound trip this year, winter Shangri La in the Berlin area and return in 2016. A long project.


European Inland Waterway map

I have been in email contact with the previous owners of Shangri La who are German, so ran this idea by them.

By all accounts, the Mitteland Kanaal is very long
and very boring, not to mention much more commercial than I thought.

It seems daft to take 2 years out just to experience a couple of weeks in the Berlin area. I would rather charter a boat there for three weeks.

So back to plan A, which was originally to head south, through Belgium and into France.

We have heard various conflicting ideas on Belgium, but mostly negative.

Guide to Inland Waterways of Belgium

Nevertheless I purchased the Inland Guide by Jacqueline Jones and did some reading.

My take is that there are some good places to go in Belgium, but there is a lot of commercial traffic on most of the waterways, and a lot of tidal areas.

So we will go through Belgium via the more inland route, and maybe take one or two side excursions if they look good at the time.

We also need to have an end point very definitely in mind as we want to winter the boat ashore and require a marina that can handle a 15 T, 12.6 m steel cruiser.

Still doing rearch on this but the Port de Plaisance at St Jean-de-Losne seems a likely spot.

Inland Waterway map for Belgium

Being very central, and very close to the junction af several waterways, it could be the ideal base for a few years, allowing us to make round trips of different areas of France and Germany from there.

So the plan at the moment is looking something like this:

Leave Zwartsluis and head south through Netherlands via Dordrecht, and enter Belgium via the Schelde-Rijn Kanaal, with Antwerp being the first Belgium port.

Take the inland route, avoiding the very commercial Albert Kanaal, via Liege and Namur.
From here, head directly south, cross into France at Givet, and then along the Canal de la Meuse and Canal des Vosges to St Jean-de-Losne.

The French section will be the longest, with the most locks, but loads of interesting places to stop at on the way.

I now need to source and buy the necessary canal maps, as well as a vignette, or waterway licence, for France.

Thank heavens for the internet – I can do all this on line.

While covering our last trip, I was posting weekly. Now that is done and there is not a lot of boating going on I will only post monthly till we actually start the next trip.

Bon voyage.

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