Canal du Nord : Cruising in Detail

Information about the 95km canal from the Canal de la Sensee (Liaison Dunkerque-Escaut Grand Gabarit) at Arleux to the Canal lateral a l’Oise at Pont l’Eveque. There are two tunnels – Ruyaulcourt (4.4km – passing point in the centre) and Panneterie (1km).

The north-south canal, designed to by-pass heavy congestion on the Canal de St-Quentin) had been planned for some years before worked started in 1908, being three-quarters complete at the outset of WW1. The canal, located in the heart of the battlefields, was substantially destroyed and no attempt was made to reinstate and complete it until the early 1960s. As a newly constructed canal, it features concrete banks and was opened in 1965. Unfortunately, perhaps due to the history of the project, although the canal channel is wide and the locks large they were not made large enough to accommodate Grand Gabarit scale vessels. They could easily have done so (see photo below : nbfalcon). This deficiency became apparent soon after and within ten years another new canal was being mooted – the Seine-Nord Europe route, currently planned but also now (2012) probably to be abandoned.

Whatever its drawbacks the canal does still constitute a link in the north-south commercial waterway. It is a fast direct route, but obviously also one that carries commercial traffic. It might be possible to avoid it (in part) by using the Canal de Saint-Quentin (which has been much quieter since 1965) especially if heading south-east to the Marne.

See also general notes(foot of page).

Basic Information

  • Approximate TE minimum depth 2.20m, TA headroom 3.7m, width 5.7m. Pleasure craft are unlikely to experience dimensional difficulties – the most significant problem relates to the size of passing commercial vessels: the wake and wash that they produce (this is greatest when they are empty and travelling faster) and which affects smaller craft on the water or moored alongside the canal banks. There can also be a significant surge, swell or travelling wave front phenomenon that seems to be associated with the locks, their falls and the consistent distances they are apart – this particularly affects craft moored up and waiting for locks to open. Taking particular care, setting mooring lines sensibly, using fenders and other protective measures are all important. Don’t leave your boat unattended.
  • The nature of the waterway and the relatively small number of locks means that good progress can be made, but anticipate delays at locks, where commerce always takes priority.
  • VNF contact telephone number 03 27 82 25 25 (Cambrai).
  • Using a pilot-guide book is strongly recommended: Breil Guides or Fluviacarte (Navicarte) Guides.

PK8 Marquoin

Quayside mooring.

PK26-PK30 Ruyaulcourt Tunnel – 4.354km

Well-lit and controlled by lights, there is a 1km long passing-place in the centre. Photo by John Smethurst.

PK37 Moislains

Quayside mooring.

PK45 Canal de la Somme – Junction

PK50 Peronne

PdP in a spur off the main canal. Electricity and water. 03 22 84 19 31.

PK70 Canal de la Somme – Junction

The (closed section of the) quiet and peaceful Canal de la Somme branches off eastwards.

PK75 Panneterie Tunnel 1,040km

Controlled by lights, lit.

PK93 Pont l’Eveque- Canal lateral a l’Oise

Halte just inside a spur branch off the Lateral canal , at the junction. Water and electricity 03 44 44 80 20. Numbers of commercial barges also use the spur.

Click here for information about heading south-west (towards Paris) on the Canal lateral a l’Oise and the River Oise.

Click here for information about heading south-east (towards Reims) on the Canal lateral a l’Oise and the Canal de l’Oise a l’Aisne.