Sail Around, Transport or Take Through the French Waterways?

Anyone contemplating heading for the Mediterranean from the UK (or vice versa) will have considered the above three options.

Here are a few comments on them –

Sail Around ••••••••••••

  • Mediterranean Routes through French canals mapThe longest from a distance and time point of view. No depth restrictions, so suitable for boats with a – fresh water – draft deeper than 1.8m (the absolute maximum canal depth available in north-central France). No need to unstep or re-step masts. Sailing considerations include season, weather conditions, crossing Biscay, Cape St Vincent and the Straits of Gibraltar. However, there are some marvellous places to visit along the way including Brittany, the Spanish rias, the Douro, southern Portugal and eastern Spain.
    Taking 3 months to do the voyage from (say) Portsmouth to (say) Port St Louis would involve some fairly concentrated passage-making and it would be easy to take 6 months or more.
    Costs? Liz Buxton wrote an excellent article in Yachting Monthly with budget conclusions in the region of 1,200€ per month – so say 3,600€

Transport ••••••••••••

  • The quickest method to get a boat to the Med. It would be preferable to take the boat to a French port – for example Calais, Le Havre or Rouen – and arrange for it to be lifted out and onto the lorry there, including unstepping the mast if appropriate. Overall time to Port St Louis (or another port with lifting/re-stepping facilities) could be a week or so including lifting out/in etc., possibly less.
    Drawback: this necessarily means missing out on the delights of the inland waterways (‘take through’ option below)
    Costs? Anticipate a budget of 5,000€

Take Through ••••••••••••

  • See here for full details of the canal and river through route options and timescales.
    Enjoy the delights of the inland waterways, not least the fascinating towns and cities passed through, including Paris.
    By our reckoning, a direct passage through would take in the region of 30 days, although it’s also feasible to cut maybe a week out of this by going relatively non-stop. Conversely, taking in the sights and taking time to enjoy would add a week or more.
    Costs? Anticipate a budget of 2,500€ (fuel, moorings and provisions)

All budget costs given above are necessarily approximate and will vary according to circumstances.


Cutty Sark crew reunion - 1938
Cutty Sark crew reunion – 1938


Not everyone has the time to take a boat through but perhaps they would still like to use that route and be able to sample some of the most attractive places and sections.

If time does not permit you to bring your boat through (you’ll miss a fabulous trip, but not everyone can find the time) then it can be done for you, completely or partially by our colleagues Paul and Caroline Weldon.

They are also possibly available if what you need is ‘competent crew’ to accompany you for all or parts of the journey, who know the ‘inland ropes’, the routes and the moorings.

Costs? They charge a reasonable daily rate dependent on what would be required, plus  expenses including travel to and from the boat.

Make contact to discuss how Paul and Caroline Weldon could assist