It is possible to enter/leave the waterways using the Mediterranean coast harbour of Grau du Roi and the canal that connects to the Canal Rhone a Sete at Aigues Mortes.
Grau du Roi is one of France’s chief fishing ports. Besides the harbour entrance there are three things of note (see aerial photo above) – a lift bridge (pont levant) “L”, a turn bridge (pont tournant) “T” and an overhead power line (air-draft 16m). The channel to Grau du Roi varies to a degree according to atmospheric pressure and wind direction. The variation is plus or minus half a metre around a charted 1.6m depth. Local knowledge is therefore important for marginal measurements. (Information thanks to Bill Cooper)
If you’re travelling on from Aigues-Mortes/Grau du Roi, then Jim Baerselman’s Mediterranean Cruising Guide is the marine equivalent of french-waterways.com, with fully detailed information about places, passages and practicalities.
[above right] View looking from the Vidourle river at its junction with the canal (between “L” and “T” on the page heading aerial view). Besides the pontoon that can be seen, when we visited in 2008 work was in progress on more pontoons just behind the photograph viewpoint. The Vidourle beyond that point opens into a small lagoon and is restricted both as to depth (1.1m) and air-draft at the first bridge upstream (2.8m). There are a number of fishing industry boatyards, particularly around the fishing harbour basin itself.
Grau du Roi’s harbour entrance itself is a very short (0.5nm) sea trip from one of Europe’s biggest marina complexes, Port Camargue, where many marine services are available. It is entirely possible to un-mast or re-mast at the marina and – providing conditions are reasonably flat and the mast safely secured – make the short voyage to/from Grau du Roi, mast down.
Port Camargue is a possible over-wintering marina – we know of several positive reports, including from liveaboards.
Louis IX (Saint Louis) rebuilt the fortifed town of Aigues-Mortes (“still or lifeless waters”) in the 13th century; it was France’s only Mediterranean port at that time.
It was the embarkation point of the Seventh Crusade (1248) and the Eighth Crusade (1270). The 1,650 metres of city walls were built in two phases: the first during the reign of Philippe III the Bold and the second during the reign of Philippe IV the Fair, who had the enclosure completed between 1289 and 1300. The Constance Tower, completed in 1248, is all that remains of the castle built in Louis IX’s reign. It was designed to be impregnable with its six-metre-thick walls.
In 1893 a conflict erupted between the French and the Italians who worked in the enormous salt evaporation ponds adjacent to Aigues-Mortes that killed at least ten and injured many more, all on the Italian side. The incident, itself founded on rumour, prejudice and xenophobia was an ingredient in the creation of Italian fascism.
The push-tow salt barges – also enormous – squeeze past the pleasure craft moorings very frequently. To moor anywhere other than the designated places, with the appropriate permission of the Capitainerie, is to risk damage. In 2008 the charge for an 11m boat was 17.50€ per day basic, 29.50€ per day with water and electricity. In our book, that’s expensive but Aigues-Mortes is a unique place to stay. You can also stay at John Smethurst’s peniche B+B “Saul Nomad”.