Canal routes to the Mediterranean

Routes to the Med – Options, Deliveries and Crewing

Sail Around, Transport or Take Through?

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 RoutesThe 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.

We have years of experience of using the French rivers and canals – and a unique knowledge of them. 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 we can do it for you, completely or partially.

We have also sailed for well over ten years, three of them full-time in the Western Mediterranean, and we have RYA credentials including Yachtmaster, ICC and CEVNI. We also have practical experience of stepping and un-stepping masts, of carrying the mast on the passage, and also of boat transportation.

We are also 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? We charge a reasonable daily rate dependent on what would be required, plus our expenses including travel to and from the boat.

Contact us to discuss how we could assist