The River Seine + Rouen : Cruising in Detail

Information about the 315km section of the River Seine from the end of the tidal estuary, at Tancarville (upstream from Honfleur) to the outskirts of Paris, including Rouen.

100km of this, the section to Rouen, constitutes one of France’s major commercial shipping routes. It has significant tides and strong currents – the change between ebb and flood tides is dramatic. In former times the seasonal flood Seine bore (“mascaret”) was violent (Victor Hugo lost his newly married daughter and son-in-law to one), but has been significantly tamed since the 1960s. There is much for the cruising plaisancier to keep a weather eye open for, but if the lower reaches are not exactly comfortable they are interesting nonetheless. The upper reaches also feature commercial traffic, but are much ‘softer’.

  • Using a pilot-guide book is strongly recommended: Breil Guides or Fluviacarte (Navicarte) Guides.
  • See our page about Weather, Wind and Waterflow for relevant information.
  • See also general notes (foot of page).
  • Fuel was reported to be unavailable from the various ‘normal sources’ in late July 2012. It would appear that this was due to a combination of circumstances, now resolved. But it does highlight the importance of ‘being prepared’ for the unexpected – carrying spare fuel, filling up wherever possible, etc. – even on major waterways like the Seine.

The Tidal Seine to Rouen

In general terms this section is best travelled in one leg. There are key times for modestly powered craft to depart for both upstream and downstream journeys – and avoid the hours of darkness when pleasure traffic is prohibited.

Travelling upstream, this means ‘catching’ the flood tide as it travels up the river, which can provide a 12+hr ‘window’ . If LW Le Havre or Honfleur is at 08:00, HW Rouen is at 19:00, with the turn of the tide/current being relatively slow. Similar considerations apply travelling down to the sea; the ‘window’ is shorter but any adverse tide of lesser intensity – until one gets to the lower reaches.

The estuary is well known for severe mists and fogs. When under way, your craft will be rocked, possibly significantly, by the wash from passing ships – this has important implications if you are carrying your mast (update: you can now de/re-mast at Rouen and avoid this problem); it must be well supported and lashed fore and aft and side to side. The Seine mid-stream is no place to be dealing with a collapsed mast emergency!

Keep a VHF radio watch on Ch73 – that’s the frequency the commercial traffic uses – so you can listen in and get prior notice of big things ahead or behind and catching you up.

Tidal data calculations – River Seine
The Vigicrue website has an excellent tidal resource for the Seine – the pattern of the last three days tides, times and heights can easily be seen. For example, see here the Caudebec diagram (other places along the river are selectable). frBateaux provides tidal predications for Le Havre (Standard Port) and Honfleur.

Tidal Time Differences – Standard Port Le Havre [LH]
HW
LH [0000, 1200] – Honfleur -0135 – T’ville -0105 – Caudebec +0020 – Duclair +0225 – Rouen +0440
HW
LH [0500, 1700] – Honfleur -0135 – T’ville -0100 – Caudebec -0015 – Duclair +0150 – Rouen +0415
LW
LH [0000, 1200] – Honfleur +0015 – T’ville +0105 – Caudebec +0230 – Duclair +0355 – Rouen +0525
LW
LH [0700, 1900] – Honfleur +0040 – T’ville +0140 – Caudebec +0300 – Duclair +0410 – Rouen +0525

Approximate Passage Planning – Upstream
The trip to Rouen is 124km from Le Havre, 109km from Honfleur or 94km from Tancarville. Leaving either of those places at local LW+1 (assuming there is by then enough depth to exit the locks at Honfleur or Tancarville, which may not be the case) there is then a 11-13hr upstream current to HW Rouen. In an 11m yacht, 35HP engine, mast-down, on this timing it took us 10 hours. Private yachts cannot travel after dark and this may affect autumn/winter passage options.

Approximate Passage Planning – Downstream
The same distances apply, but the reverse side of the upstream coin is that a flood tide will always be met somewhere. HW and LW times vary inconsistently along the route and timing is tricky. Leaving Rouen at HW-3 (the upstream current should be manageable at that time), Duclair should be reached in about 4+hours at local HW+1, Caudebec in a further 4 hours at local LW+1.5 (i.e after the tide has turned to flood), Tancarville in 4hrs at local HW, thence Honfleur in 2hrs (total 14hrs) at local HW+1.5 and Le Havre in a further 2hrs (total 16hrs) at local HW+2.
All this is very approximate and timings will vary significantly between Springs and Neaps and depending on how far downstream one meets the incoming flood tide. Make your own calculations and act accordingly.

Stopping

Apart from the following there are no places to stop easily, safely or comfortably. Nearly all sections of bankside are sloping concrete, or rocks, or both. Even the following are subject to discomfort from large ships and barges passing fast close-by. They may be suitable for a brief foray to get provisions, or a halt to accommodate tides or tidal timetables. I would be loathe to leave a boat unattended.

PK346 – la Risle creek. Anchorage. Channel with approx. 1.9m depth at LW
PK310 – Caudebec. Large floating steel pontoon. Village with shops and supermarket.
PK278 – Duclair. Tethered barge. Village with shops and supermarket.
PK260 – la Bouille. Small pontoon. Small village, unknown facilities.

The Non-tidal Seine to Paris

There are plentiful places to stop; the contrast either side of the first ecluse at Poses is impressive. One immediately enters a ‘middle earth’ of leafy side channels and islands. There are multiple options of channels to choose and explore (but be alert to depths). There are a number of places that can be busy with dinghies, rowing and sculling, and canoeing. Large barges and small ships continue to use the main channels.

PK346 la Risle

” . . The Risle is a small river that opens onto the south bank of the Seine about halfway between Honfleur and Tancarville. Just after you enter, a small stream enters from the right. Just after this, a small stony reef appears near low water and runs half way across from the left bank to about the mid of the river. [This can be seen in the bottom left photo - looking back out towards the Seine] This constrains the channel to the right half (looking up stream). It doesn’t look dangerous but it does take about 0.5m off the depth of the main channel.

We anchored with 25m of chain and a spade anchor. We initially anchored before the steam as the channel began to shallow quickly. Later as the tide dropped we realised that the main channel was towards the right bank and we could see the disturbed water upstream which later became the reef. We re-anchored about 50m above the upstream bank of the little stream and all was well. At low water (springs) we had about 1.9m water. The bottom was mud – excellent holding and we came across no obstructions. The current ran out strongly and at 1.5Kt and continued to do so as the rate of drop slowed and stagnated. Suddenly, as if someone had turned on a tap, it reversed still at 1.5Kt – with no discernable slack water. From then on it rose very rapidly. This occurred 3 hour after low water at Honfleur. Our spade anchor absorbed both changes of direction without a whimper. If your anchor is liable to capsize, you will need to be vigilant.

We left a couple of hours before low water and had a hard run up the Seine to Tancarville – hugging the bank to get a current less than 3 knots against us. The up-going tide caught us up Tancarville and we reached Rouen in only a further 8 hours at 5.8Knots water speed. . . ” Taken (with permission) from Rosa’s Blog, May 2008

[PK339 Tancarville Canal]

Information about the Tancarville Canal and Harfleur

PK310 Caudebec

Caudebec, River Seine
Caudebec, River Seine

An historic village, known to the Vikings and famed (formerly) as a place to watch the ferocious Mascaret. There are two mooring pontoons; one may be in use by a river cruise ship, the inside (slightly more protected) side of the one pictured above is private. No services, free (we think). There are also some mooring buoys, same side, slightly downstream.

PK278 Duclair

Duclair, River Seine

The mooring barge is located by the ferry crossing. Don’t moor on the inside side, it gets very shallow at LW.

PK260 la Bouille

A small floating pontoon between two piles, on the village (southern) side. A possible brief halt or under duress. The last place to moor bankside until Rouen (15km) – from here onwards it is prohibited. The approach to Rouen (one of France’s most important ports) becomes increasingly industrial.

PK245-242 Rouen

Rouen, River Seine, port de plaisance

Rouen, the city of Jeanne d’Arc and the cathedral of Monet, is worth an extended stay. The upper left photo shows the magnificent new lift bridge; close by (1km downstream) is the excellent new marina, (100 places – tel 02 35 08 30 59 – plaisance@nullagglo-rouennaise.fr) sheltered in the Bassin St-Gervais, and an easy and pleasant walk along the river quayside into the centre. This part of Rouen, formerly commercial-industrial uses and docks is the subject of one of Europe’s sustainable ‘Future Cities‘ projects.

The Rouen port de plaisance expanded and renewed its facilities in 2013.

The old PdP (photo bottom right) is slightly closer to the centre but, being pontoons in the river itself, is subject to strong passing currents and everything (logs and branches) that floats down. It is next to a boatyard/chandlery, Villetard. The local VNF office is also nearby, or get your vignette (licence to use the waterways) online at www.vnf.fr

Since 2010 there has also been a de-masting/re-masting facility at Rouen, with excellent reports. Yachtspeople need to be ready to prepare – connect or disconnect – their mast, stays, shrouds and equipment (including electronics connections) themselves.
The facility is operated by the Rouen-Dieppe Port Company – telephone : 02 35 71 98 31 fax : 02 35 70 52 37 email: activiteplaisance@nulllamanage-rouen.fr. Christophe is the man to contact (in advance if at all possible) and he also speaks good English. There is a lift-out jetty (subject to some wash from passing river traffic) and crane / travel hoist. Cost (2012) 85€ for the hour it normally takes, 45€ per hour beyond that.
For supporting timbers, there is a big BricoDepot about half-way towards Rouen centre. For mast transport – Mastransport.de – or carry on board.

There is a good fuel barge just upstream from Rouen at PK239 – also used by commercial traffic, so you may have to wait your turn.

PK229.5 Oissel – Pontoon (new)

PK218 St-Aubin-les-Elbeuf

A small quiet PdP on the north side, up a side channel (an old ecluse).Tél. 02 35 78 42 78 02 35 78 42 78Access 2hrs each side of local HW.

PK200 Amfreville – Poses – le Mesnil

Two side by side chambers available for the large Amfreville ecluse – call up on VHF Ch18 and watch the traffic lights. Potentially (dependent on tides) a deep lock, use the (widely spaced) edge bollards and those set vertically and horizontally into the sheet piling sides. Above the lock, very pleasant moorings at Poses/le Mesnil but limited village facilities.

PK183 Muids

Muids, River Seine

Two possible moorings. One in a large flooded quarry, Les Greves Du Lac, south side PK184 (02 32 54 68 60). The other, north side, by the village itself on a small pontoon. Very pleasant village with a small shop and a superb little cafe-bar next door. Recommended.

PK176 les Andelys – PK171 Tosny

Tosny, River Seine

PK176 – A memorable location, with a beautiful ruined castle set on an overlooking crag of rock. It was built by Richard the Lionheart, as Duke of Normandy, to defend Normandy against the French.
Do not attempt to enter the former PdP at les Andelys itself, it is far too silted and shallow for any but the smallest boats. Instead, use the Nautikhome basin downstream at PK176 (see left photo) – a number of very favourable reports.

PK171 – The plaisancier ‘quay’ at Tosny is in ruins, but we moored overnight to a short section of (‘private’) concrete jetty. Lovely small hamlet.

PK150 Vernonnet (and Monet’s Garden)

Vernon, River Seine

At PK161, the large multiple chamber ecluse of la Garenne. VHF Ch22 and watch for commercial traffic.

At PK150, the small village of Vernonnet, with the small town of Vernon across the bridge. A popular and attractive place to moor, but there are shallows off so attention must be given to the (small) buoys and marks. Deeper draft craft may not get in. 3km distant, a pleasant bike ride, Monet’s house and truly beautiful flower and water gardens at Giverny. May not be so great in a crowded high season.

PK121 l’Ilon

l'Ilon, Mericourt, , River Seine Just above the ecluse at Mericourt is the entrance to Port L’Ilon, a good marina (+33 130 92 23 23) – with fuel – set in an extensive quiet and leafy flooded quarry. Cost approx. 22€ per night. Anchoring would also be possible. It includes lift out and hardstanding facilities, but in autumn 2008 they appeared to have closed (possibly temporarily?). Small chandlery, friendly and helpful. A possible over-wintering location. Nearest village, shop and boulangerie at Guernes, 4km.

PK109 Limay

Limay, River Seine

Accessed by easily navigable pretty side-channel, Limay has a ruined ancient bridge and a small village pontoon. Just downstream from the bridge and pontoon, a small PdP and boatyard. Across the Isle de Limay bridge lies the town of Mantes ‘la Jolie’ (the pretty), painted by Corot and where William the Conquerer (Guillaume le Bâtard) suffered a fatal accident falling from his horse.

At PK105, the gigantic electricity generating installation of Porcheville.

PK93 Meulan – PK91 les Mureaux

Meulan, River Seine

Along another pretty side-channel lies the town of Meulan, with excellent shops, markets and local produce. It is advisable to use the bras St-Come and not the bras de Meulan, entering from upstream (we are not sure about getting through that central bridge arch!).

At PK91 (approx), south bank, there is a potential temporary stopping-place (right photo).

PK89-87 Vaux – PK85 Triel

At PK89 a PdP “Val de Seine” in a basin off the river.

At PK87, north bank, a boatyard with a 47 tonne capacity haul-out trailer. West Marina Telephone  01 30 99 01 01

At PK85, around Triel, west bank, there are a number of sailing club moorings and also “Mallard” (033 139 65 60 73), a small boatyard.

PK81 Port St-Louis – PK79 Poissy – PK74-PK70 Conflans

Port Saint-Louis PK81 is a large PdP off the main river, also workshops (so we understand). It’s a bit run-down but if you can accept that,  reports (thanks to ‘Cardo’) are otherwise positive. Fuel is available – reasonable price.

PK79 Poissy, a small town with a ancient ruined bridge, a Peugeot factory and a visitor pontoon by the modern bridge.

At PK71, junction with the River Oise (north to the Canal du Nord and to English Channel ports – St-Valery-sur-Somme, Calais, Gravelines and Dunkerque). Along the cul-de-sac bras d’Andresy at PK73 there is a small PdP (not visited, reports welcomed).

PK70 Conflans Sainte-Honorine

Conflans is one of France’s biggest peniche towns; lots of barges and at PK74, downstream through the Andresy ecluse, a large commercial boatyard “d’Acheres” with facilities and travelifts to match. There is a long established engine mechanic – Diesel Marine (Arnaud Lefauvre), 24 Quai Gaillion (where all the peniches are moored up), Tel: 09 77 80 12 75.

New for 2013 is a plaisance Halte, with pontoons for 12 boats with water and electricity.

PK69 – If you can get in (the entrance looks fairly constricted, depth 1.6m) there is a small boat boatyard-port with services. Boat Paradise 01 39 72 63 65

PK66 (approx.) Gaillon

A small village pontoon.Position approximate – forgot to mark it exactly on the Navicarte . . .

PK51 Le Pecq (Saint-Germain-en-Laye)


Quayside near supermarket (fuel). Railway station (into Paris, etc.) close-by.

PK48 Bougival

Bougival, River Seine

bras de Marly (Marly channel) – With Bougival ecluse (three side-by-side chambers) one definitively leaves or enters the Paris area. By the bridge just upstream of the ecluse is a PdP (photo right) that has always looked quite busy when we’ve gone past. A little upstream from that (PK47.5?, south bank, by a white crane) there is a small (private?) pontoon that might make a quiet overnight mooring.

PK45 Rueil-Malmaison

Rueil-Malmaison, River Seine

An easy day’s trip from the centre of Paris, this is a good pontoon (no services) adjoining a modern development. Lots of trees, shrubs and landscaping, walks along the river; and with shops and other facilities (petrol station) a fairly easy walk away, across the bridge in Chatou. Don’t use the pontoon opposite (by the bridge, on the island) where fishermen and others congregate.