France – Rhône

The mighty Rhône was the last stretch of inland water of our journey down to the Mediterranean. The amount of water that flows through this river is truly impressive. At some point while doing 5.5 kts through the water our speed over ground was 9 kts (16.2 km/h). The locks on the Rhône operate from 5:00 to 21:00 and are all mechanized. The difference in water levels for most of the locks was around 11 m but the largest one had a water difference level of 23 m! (and of course this particular lock didn’t work well when we were inside so we went up and down a couple of times while hearing spooky noises). Entering these locks felt a bit like entering a concrete cathedral. The first two days after leaving Lyon we had a moderate to strong southern wind which slowed our progress. We stopped in Chavanay and then Valence. The wind then shifted and we had mistral instead, increasing our speed over ground quite a bit. At some point we started to fear for our temporary wooden mast support construction and opted for a shorter day so we went to seek shelter in Viviers. There we met Steve and Sue, an English couple who after sailing for more than 10 years in Greece decided to go back to the UK and who kindly gave us their up-to-date Italian waters pilot. We also met Carl and Pia, a Danish couple on their way to the Mediterranean like us. They invited us onboard their sailing yacht Heron where we had a nice apéritif. We left the next day and stopped in Avignon, still motoring with the mistral in our back. The harbor in Avignon was full when we arrived but Carl and Pia who also were on their way to Avignon and faster than us were already there so we could moor next to Heron. We saw the famous “pont d’Avignon” from our boat but disappointedly no one was dancing on the bridge. While Carl and Pia decided to stay for a few days in Avignon, we left the following morning with the aim to reach the Med. While the wind was quiet in the morning, it shifted in the afternoon and the mistral started to pick up to reach a good Beaufort 7. We stayed as close as possible to the shore so we were sheltered by the trees but our hearts skipped a beat a few times when the wind blew sideways instead of from the North. We could hear the wooden mast support creak a little with every gust of wind. The last 4 km before the last lock and our destination felt like the longest last kilometers ever. The waves also started to pick up and we had the impression of being at sea rather than on a river. After waiting over an hour (on our keel again) for the lock of Saint-Louis to open, we finally entered Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône and took one of the two remaining spots in the marina. After 1516 km, 241 locks, a few scratches on the freeboard and way too many pasta dinners, we made it to the Med in less than a month. Hip hip hooray! Thanks again to Hinco, Lianne and Ton for the help with the mast support: even if it was clearly not designed for a Beaufort 7 and wavy conditions, Halcyon Days arrived safe and sound (with the mast still on the deck) in salty water.


The Rhône – some numbers:

  • Distance covered: 323 km
  • Number of locks: 14
  • Number of drawbridges: 0
  • Number of tunnels: 0



2 Replies to “France – Rhône”

  1. Hi Sarah & Thijs,

    Great post. Honored to be mentioned in it .

    Carl & Pia

    1. Thanks! It’s an honor for us to be mentioned in your blog!

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