Many routes to the Mediterranean exist, each with their pros and cons. Shortest by far is to enter at Bordeaux and use the Canal du Midi or Le Havre and up the fast flowing Seine to Paris, both dismissed for various reasons, not least of which non motorised craft are not allowed through Paris.
That therefore leaves St Valery (near Dieppe) or Calais. Unfortunately VNF (National authority for inland waterways) has put a total prohibition on my rowing through their tunnels so that became an early consideration. Some however are unavoidable so I must either hope to find a friendly motor boat to tow me through or convey it one way or another overland and make up the distance in open water.
The distance for the two is not much different and eventually end together, so comparing the maritime traffic movements of Calais with the contra current of the River Somme I finally chose the latter. Much as I would have loved to have rowed from the English coast, that again would have involved so much expense and complication as to make it impractical. So, it will be a drive to Newhaven with Oggi folded in our VW on the 13th June, drive the 35 or so miles to St Valery and prepare to leave on the 15th June, having rowed and tested equipment on the 14th.
Ever since we retired we avowed that destinations would always take precedence over ETA's, so although on paper it may be possible to complete the route in 7 or 8 weeks, we have no intention to do so. As with all our many previous adventures it is to be enjoyed, savouring not only the satisfaction of achievement, but equally the people, places, wildlife, etc. one meets along the way.
Many other factors will also affect progress. If the River Somme is in spate I might have to tow Oggi from the tow path, a Mistral wind blowing us down the River Rhone would considerably speed the passage, but a southerly Marin would seriously hinder us. Some of the lock controlling authorities are very helpful, others less so. Rhone and Saone locks are barred to us altogether so a tow through by a friendly craft could save us half a day over hauling out and portaging often long distances to rejoin the river and so on.
By fact of circumstance the actual route may well be variable. The following list which gives measurement by the shortest way possible according to the charts will certainly turn out to be longer but is issued as guidance. My rowing speed measured in still water over long distance without wind is approximately 6/7 km/h however locks, tunnels, and many other bits and pieces will take up a lot of the time. We will attempt to update progress as we go along.
- River Somme to Clery-sur-Somme (118km with 18 locks)
- Canal du Nord to Pont i'Eveque (50km with 7 locks and 1 tunnel)
- Le Canal Lateral a l'Oise ( 18km with 2 locks)
- Le Canal de l'Oise a l'Aisne (47km with 13 locks and 1 tunnel)
- Le Canal Lateral a l'Aisne (21km with 2 locks)
- Le Canal Aisne a la Marne (58km with 24 locks and 1 tunnel)
- Le Canal Lateral a la Marne (48km with 11 locks)
- Le Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne ( 224 kms with 11 locks and 1 tunnel)
- La Petite Saone (33kms with 3 locks)
- La Grande Saone (220 km with 5 locks)
- le Rhone (280km with 12 locks)
- le Petit Rhone (18km)