After a night of heavy rain and a drizzly breakfast-time we leave Dompierre, hoping that Meteo France is correct – that it should all clear up by 11:00 – and it does. The view is still limited by the flatness of the landscape – the Loire meanders by very close now – but it is still beautifully green and peaceful with good, piled bank-sides and mown verges for lunch stops and dog walks. We head north by west through Beaulon and Ganney-sur-Loire, for Decize.
The last few lock cottages are lived in and cared for, with neat and tidy gardens, and dogs for Zoe (our dog) to bark at.
All the locks are still manually operated. I make sure to phone Florent, the base manager, to make sure it’s OK to stop by at the Le Boat port ahead. It’s the most southerly of their bases on the Burgundy-Loire loop and we arrive at PK68 ready to take the right-hand turn through the (automatic) lock.
It opens into a large basin, the Le Boat base immediately on the left, the ‘council’ moorings further on. Steep banksides on the right form the flood defences from the Loire, protecting the smart hospital nearby as well as the basin restaurant, holiday cottages and canal.
In 1987 Crown Blue Line began operating one way cruises from here to Briare and then Connoisseur began cruises from Ganney to Chatillon. But following their incorporation into Le Boat in 2008 the one way route was re-scheduled from Decize to Chatillon (or the return trip) and also Decize to Tannay.
Florent manages all 3 bases and 47 boats with a total staff of 21 spread between the bases. Previously a chef (cuisine), he learned his impeccable English whilst working in the UK. Then, back in St Jean de Losne, he jumped ship (forgive the pun) and began working with Crown Blue Line on their boats. He was promoted to Decize some years later having impressed his employers with his skill at the customer interface. It’s a measure of the care and attention to the boats and customers that he and his team have achieved over 900 successful cruises on these routes so far this year.
At the next lock, we pass through to the Loire itself, a short downstream leg past the town of Decize for a sharp right hand turn on to the Nivernais. The Loire here is calm with large sand banks to the right, a yellow beach, and green buoys warn of the shallows almost half way across. It’s either too little or too much water, as the height of the lock gates tells of past inundations.