2021 Reflections and 10th Birthday

It is 10 years since Le Sega was launched on 23rd June 2011

Here are some pictures from the fitout, thanks to all who helped, John, Richard, Roger and many more!

Then our first trips locally

So far we have not been able to go to the boat in 2021 but in 2020 we were able to do some painting with Greg’s help

From the Sambre to Home via the inclined plane and lift

We traveled rapidly up the Brussels to Charleroi canal and reached the Ronquiers inclined plane and went straight in with the trip boat.

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We stopped in the extensive well lit moorings at the bottom and went to the local restaurant and explored the old canal which the plane replaced it’s many locks now derelict apart from the entrance lock as the first section is used as moorings.


Next day (Monday 10th September) we watched some commercials use the lift then took our turn.


We then went round the corner and ready to descend the Strepy Thieu lift. This  73m lift capable of taking 1350 ton barges was opened in 2002 and replaced the smaller lifts which we had traveled up in our outbound journey. Only one lift is currently working but we did not have to queue and went straight in with  a barge enjoying a very smooth descent.

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last image courtesey Wikipedia –  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Str%C3%A9py-Thieu_boat_lift

We then journeyed home via the canal Nimy Blaton Peronnes stopping at Wiers, where there is a small wharf and little else, the bar was shut.

Our next stop was Peronnes where we had the pontoon to ourselves (water and electric payable) we watched the commercials thread their way through the narrow one way section with it’s interesting lift bridge and narrow medieval bridge. Works are proposed and this mooring may not be available next year it is also said to be very busy in July and August so we thought ourselves lucky to be here.

Next stop was intended to be Harelbeke but they are rebuilding the lock and the moorings had all been removed. It is a mammoth job, there is a temporary lock alongside the old lock which is being rebuilt, we were nearly caught out by the very strong current in the narrow channel when the lock fills. We proceeded to Waregem where we moored on an old wharf where flats are now being built. The firemen came to practice and entertain. There are 2 nice small towns either side of the river but we only had time to explore the East side. There used to be moorings below the old redundant lock but these have been taken over by the local boat club.

Mooring in Waregem

New lock and old lock at Waregem and old lock mooring now used by boat club

Town centre


Our journey continued via Deinze where we found the moorings booked for a boat club trip and felt a little unwelcome, then Bruges where we were lucky to pass through just before a one day lockkeepers strike. After we moored on the far side of Bruges a large barge came up to the bridge by the mooring and after waiting for half an hour learnt of the strike and had to reverse back to the commercial moorings which are not often used, he was joined by 2 others before we left the next day.


We stopped at the excellent mooring with gazebo and nearby home made ice cream shop at Stahile then via Oudenbourg to Diksmuide where the town centre is nice with all the works of the last few years almost complete.

A few days exploring the Sambre before return journey

Firstly an apology for the extreme delay in updating the blog, however here goes with our trip up and down the wonderful River Sambre, the 2 Belgian wonders, the Ronquières inclined plane and Strêpy Thieu lift, finally returning to Diksmuide.

Firstly a map of the voyage, outbound shown in orange and return  in yellow highlighter.


After Thuin and Lobbes the river continues some 19km until the French border. The locks are in excellent condition and all manually operated  by keepers (you are allowed to assist in opening the gates if you want).

We left Thuin on Friday 31st August after a quick visit to the fine but expensive market. The railway line follows the river here with stops in all the villages, as a result there are many commuters to Charleroi and beyond and the area is generally rather upmarket. Cocoon had just moved off leaving a large gap on the pontoon where we moved to fill with water.

Our only other stop above Thuin on  the Belgian Sambre was at Fontaine Valmont where there is a fuel depot with small quay, we were just in time to catch the owner before he went to lunch and bought a replacement bottle of Belgian gas (not available in France)

There appear to be nice moorings at Merbes on a low quay but we did not have time to stop. Nor did we stop at Erquellines, a rather larger ex industrial town, there is a boat club in the basin and a wharf  which did not look inviting.

Instead we pressed on into France, there are no locks between Erquelinnes and the border and  we were soon in Jeumont.  The river runs a further 50km to Landrecies where it joins the Sambre à L’Oise canal which used to form a through route to Paris and beyond. Unhappily the canal has been closed for some 10 years due to a failed aqueduct. Happily though agreement has been reached between the vnf and the local authorities to fund repairs and currently the canal is expected to reopen in 2021.

In the meantime however the Sambre is very very quiet, particularly as the Belgian boaters  are not keen to pay for a licence to stray onto the French end. There is no commercial traffic and the quays marked for trip and hotel boats are empty. We saw just 3 boats on this part of the River,  Aurora being sailed single handed by a Dane and who accompanied us for part of the way as he spoke little French, Cocoon a large self built boat we had met in Thuin and a small day hire boat.

Jeumont is a pleasant enough little town. There are moorings on the right bank which is convenient for  Lidl which is right on the river, but there are no facilities and the bollards are widely spaced. On the left bank however there is a little park. It is run down with the chateau that used to be a tourist office shut and the mooring pontoon roped off as unsafe. However there is a length of quay by the chateau with free water and electric so that is where we stayed both on our way up river and upon our return. The town had pleasant parks a nice and open church and we were well pleased. We swapped tales with Niel off Aurora that first evening and he came with us to the first lock next day.




Marpent is the first lock and the French Sambre locks difers from the Belgian locks in that they are automatic. The procedure is convuluted, tie up to the dredger which is helpfully moored on the lock landing stage. Call the number on the lock keepers hut. Confirm you have a vnf licence. The lock then opens to let you in. Following which you collect a remote control to operate the other locks from a dispenser on the side of the building.

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We had to reverse sharply back from Maubege lock, which had looked as if it was preparing itself but actually there was a boat in there lock and  Cocoon then emerged after a short delay involving a rope  which had caught and freed itself with a bang.

We went past Hautmont where there is now a fine marina and boat storage sheds being built. As a consequence the free moorings on the pontoon outside the port have been removed. Hopefully not the shape of things to come.


Also we passed through Boussiers where Aurora stopped, the mooring on the green below the bridge  being occupied by a fisher person Aurora moored to the passenger boat pier above the bridge.

Our stop for the day was Pont Sur Sambre, another delightful village. There is a small quay, also a pontoon previously used by day hire boats but now redundant (and a little rotten looking. The moorings are in a little park with small supermarket  (plus butcher) nearby and a very good baker. One of the restaurants appears to have closed though. We visited the church and were lucky to find it open.

Next day we stopped at Bras Mort de Leval which is a nature reserve for lunch

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and thence to the end of navigation for now after Landrecies lock where we found a long pontoon with free electricity and water. We visited this pleasant small town and enjoyed a vintage car show. We walked round the town and shopped at the supermarket before leaving next day (Monday 3rd) and were rather delayed when we picked up a bag on the propeller and had to stop to remove it.



On the return we stopped at Berlaiment which has an extensive mooring on a low quay in the weirstream above the lock. Unfortunately the quay has become silted and only the first 30-40m is usable. The electric and water facility also was not functioning. Rather disappointing but a nice stop nevertheless! At least the church was open and there was a bar and baker, also a good ironmongers where we bought rope next day.

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We left after lunch and moved down to Boussiers where we were lucky to find that there was no fisherman on the mooring in the little park. We were pleased by this as the other mooring is rather high and a gathering point for the youth. Another pretty village and like other villages apparently better off than the towns around. There are no cafe shops or church (contrary to the map) but a town hall and school and more street lamps than the whole of Hertford. We did find a cottage where they sold free range eggs though. And the park is very nice with a little fountain where we have heard you can drink the water – though we rather doubt this.





Next day (Weds 5th) we headed for Maubeuge. The moorings which should be so good, right in the town centre with water electric and pump out! were an extreme disappointment. Neither water electric or pump out worked and there were not enough mooring cleats. Later the tourist office told us that the town had decided not to carry out repairs following vandalism. We decided to stay for the afternoon to shop and explore and then head for somewhere more salubrious for the night. The town centre is very much a 1950s construction reminiscent of Harlow, then on the outskirts there is an incongruous medieval town wall. The church of St Peter and Paul was of interest, built in the 50s an enormous concrete block with a clock tower looking like a fireman’s practice tower. Apparently the flat roof leaked almost from new, then in the 60s it was converted into a community centre, more recently it has been restored as a church with quite a pleasant entrance and interior. We noted good bakers but were not impressed with the butchers or selection of restaurants.





VNF were carrying out repair in the lock, we left when they finished  at 3.50pm Weds 5th September and journeyed onto Bousois which was simply delightful, a nice length of mooring by a little park full of apple trees. The apples were a little sharp when picked but after a couple of weeks were sweet and excellent. The church and museum were unfortunately shut but there was a little supermarket and an outlet store where some out of date English real ale was bought. Oh and free water and electric.


Next day we proceeded on our return handing in the remote control at the last lock and stopping in Jeumont for the night, once again the only boat. On Friday the 7th we continued into Belgium.


We stopped at Lobbes on the way back. It is just outside Thuin. There are water and electric points but all were locked apart from one tap by the (locked) toilets. Allegedly you can obtain a key for the water and electric (and maybe the toilet and showers too?) from the nearby Mairie but we could not find anyone .


We had a look round there is a bar near the river the rest of the town being up a steep hill where there is another bar and some small shops. A really nice church however with a herb garden. The visitor moorings are downstream of the bridge on both banks but water and electric on only the left bank.There is an old tram line on which on summer Sundays the tram museum in Thuin send vintage trams, unfortunately we were not there at the right day.

We got back to Thuin which was again crowded but space for us on the end  and after repairing our old electric lead and connecting it to the new one had electric. We were too far away from the water but filled up at the lock the next day. We went to Thudin en Ville again to eat and then went to the town fair watch the jousting. What is that you ask. Well in the words of wikipedia.


Water jousting is a sport practised principally in France and also Switzerland and Germany. It is a form of jousting where the adversaries, carrying a lance and protected only by a shield, stand on a platform on the stern of a boat. The boat is propelled by oarsmen or, in some cases, a motor may be used. The aim of the sport is to send the adversary into the water whilst maintaining one’s own balance on the platform.

The jousters stand on a wooden platform on their boats. As the two competing boats draw level with each other, each jouster, protected by their shield, uses their lance to push their opponent off the platform and into the water. The exact rules of the contest vary from region to region and country to country.

The lock keeper was there and explained all to us and that the course would be clear next day when we set off. On the Saturday morning  the fair continued and whilst Ginette visited Notre Dame d’el Vaux John went to the boat museum which was free entry for the fair (normally very expensive as they normally just take groups.)


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The last lock on this part of the Sambre is deep and had been fierce going up, the lockkeeper lowered us by ourselves very gently and unhooked our now unreachable ropes for us, we thanked him with a bottle. We stopped again in the now familiar Marchienne au pont where Ginette went to church and John had a haircut which was very good and 8 euros excellent value. The other nice thing about Marchienne is that shops open on Sunday.



Our next page will take us to the lift and inclined plane before return home.

Namur to Thuin on the Sambre 25 to 27 August

We left Namur late Saturday, the lower Sambre is very narrow and we would meet fewer commercials then as they do not work here on Sunday and would already be starting to moor up for their weekend.

We stopped at Auvelais, where we saw a wedding and an African festival. A nice peaceful countryside mooring but few bollards! we were next to ac ommercial tied up for the weekend car unloaded and off to visit friends and relatives.


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We explored a burnt out modern ruin


We then continued to Marchienne au Pont on the Sunday. Marchienne is as we said before run down but has lots of shops and supermarkets open on a Sunday unlike the rest of Belgium and France. Finally on the Monday we went to Thuin.

We went through the last large lock on the Sambre – Monceau, a bit of a devil this one, normally the large lock are filled through tunnels in the floor and are very gentle but this has unshielded paddles in the doors and is every bit as rough as Stanstead our local bad lock on the Lea and several times the size. Furthermore as we were the only boat the middle gate was used and we went through the front half of the lock and could not sit near the back where it is gentler. However the lock keeper took our lines and we made fast and were secure.

After Monceau the locks were all the old size 38m x 5m, all manual and all had their own keeper. This is so rare now in France and Belgium where the locks are nearly all mechanised, most operated by the boater being given a remote control, or sometimes by a team of travelling lock keepers who have responsibility for more than  one lock, here all had their own keeper. They phone each other up to say a boat is en route and each lock was ready or almost ready as we arrived, they filled quickly too.

The Sambre continues into France and ends at Landrecies. Here it joins the canal Sambre a L’Oise which would give the option of various circular routes or continuing onwards to Paris and beyond. But unfortunately that canal is currently shut due to an aquaduct failure 10 years ago. Agreement on funding for repair has now been reached  and it should reopen in 2020 when the River will get much busier. In the meantime we will enjoy this small nearly deserted waterway to the maximum.

We stopped at Thuin, a delightful medieval town. there is free water and power here but we were a little to far away from the sockets, we will move when there is a gap. Oscar went to the vet to have a pill needed if he is to be allowed back into England! and we explored the town.DSC_0526 (Small)DSC_0552_zpsbz9rrt8hDSC_0549_zpswjvmhlo7

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Thuin is famous for its lovely but step narrow alleyways and the hanging gardens, including vines planted by the local distillery.

Liege and back to Namur

Ginette met her cousin and godson Henri and we went out for a celebration meal

Greg joined us in Liege and we visited the tram museum, the famous steps railway station and other sights and dined again with Henri and his mother.

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We then returned via Huy (Statt boatclub moorings) where we enjoyed a meal in the cafe and took in the sights again.



The first lock is really rather large, there are 2 locks and we were sent to the larger one which is new and had floating bollards, it is where the old small lock used to be which causes some confusion! Only the front half of the lock was used (there is an extra gate in the middle but it is still enormous.) The scenery down river is a mix of cliffs and countryside and heavy industrial.


Thence onto Namur this time we moored on the council moorings. 9 euros a night, electric and water by tokens  – ineveitably we purchased too many. We moored on the wharf by the casino which is nice because it is alongside rather than fingers and has electric and water but no access to showers toilets etc which are in the marina proper on the other bank (17 euros/night!) Both had been full the week before but there are lots of gaps now as the season winds down (21 August)


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Namur to Liege

We stopped at Sclayn, nice wharf and small shop but lots of wash Huy, nice marina lots to see and Flemalle small and free marina, nice boulangerie, but cuurent caused by nearby tug running engine continually and underwater obstacle made leaving interesting.




Huy, it is a long climb to the citadel with it’s museum of the second world war and amazing views, there used to be a telefeique (cable car) but it is shut (continuing theme and interesting story to be related later) The fair is in town and we go to a Johny Halliday lookalike concert.


Flemalle where we met some Mauritians and explored the village, and just escaped;




And thence to Liege not the most visually appealing city but many museums, small but nice old town, marina and moorings in the park very central, we arrive on 14 August and assumption is being celebrated in Outre Meuse district, much drink, bands and entertainment including openning and closing fireworks and church service with the famous black madonna on the next day.


Strepy to Namur

We spent the next day moored near the top of the lifts and cycled to explore the canal.


The church  at Strepy by the canal which should e open every day was shut but Ginette found a nunnery after local enquiry and prayed in their chapel.

On Saturday 4 August we proceeded down the Charleroi Brussels canal with it’s efficient locks and floating bollards. We stopped at Marchiennes sur Pont. A good landing stage by the park. Very run down area the nearby swimming pool has been shut for some years


and rubbish strewn the streets. The commune was taken over by nearby Charleroi some years ago and we wonder if it has been deliberately neglected. The houses are well looked after though and there were several shops. The old chateau by the mooring houses a large library but it is only open 10 hours a week!


Sunday was our day for “doing” the Sambre. There is little or no commercial traffic on a Sunday in Belgium and we wished to avoid the very large commercials on this narrow twisting river with it’s blind bends. A good run of 7 hours to Floreffe. Where we discovered there was a pop festival, a little noisy but everyone having a great time and no trouble. Though we did have to rescue one Frenchman who had taken a skinny dip.








Next day we tried to visit the Abbey but it was shut. (the theme continues).


We finished the run to Namur and moored above the lock near Carrefour and the laundrette but a long walk into town.


We enjoyed the views from the Citadel and the night time sound and light show commerorating the end of the first and second world wars and coming together of Europe. We found an excellent restaurant Le fenetre dans le cour.





And of course the museums;


temporary exibition flowers

inside the previous “hedge”


pole dancers?

Parliament of Wallony

off loading the car at the lock

Historic Canal du Centre

The Historic canal is famous for it’s 19th century “accenseurs” or boat lifts, designed by the same man as  our Anderton Lift. The Anderton lift was converted to electric operation many years ago and is bestrewn with winding wheels and cables. The Historic’s 4 lifts remain operated soley by hydraulic power. A giant ram supports each lift and by adding water to make the top lift heavier causes this to descend and propel the bottom lift up. The weight is all taken by the rams, the framework just providing guides.

The canal itself is very scenice and has some hand operated lift and swing bridges to add interest.

Since 2002 when an accident closed the last accenseur it has not been possible to make a transit of the entire canal, even after repair there has often been one of these old machines closed for repair, but this year all was working. We found out that we should have pre booked but as a boat was already booked for the next morning we could go with them





a spot of maintenance – greasing the guides as the lift ascends


Whilst waiting for the  lifts the night before we walked to the new Strepy-Thieu lift which can raise boats twice the size of those on the old canal over 50 metres. The visitor centre is closed for rebuilding. (bit of a theme here) It was very hot we were surrounded by camper vans who use the car park for an overnight stop, also campers who cooled off in the canal!



Exiting at the top we plunged back into an industrial environment but found a pleasant mooring by some grass on a sidearm. We walked back to the cafe below the last lift for a drink.


Valenciennes and into Belgium

We spent 4 days in Valenciennes aided by a discount due to our membership of the club.

The marina is new(ish) smart and clean albei in an urban setting. Interestingly it is set in a weir stream, the automatic gates of the weir open from time to time and create a fair current. Careful study of water levels enabled us to time our eventual exit.

The town is interesting, there is an old quarter which has not been disneyfied like some more popular towns, but has sufficient bars and there are some restaurants. We dined out on Sunday but chose badly the Auberge du Bon Fermier, a nice enough but certainly not spectacular meal and service but 30 euros for a bottle of house wine!



There is a magnificent museum des beaux arts but it was shut. They had just had a big exibition and promptly closed for August to go on holiday and recover. We learnt this in the tourist office the museum staff had not even bothered to put a note on the door.

We had some trouble with the trams not accepting our tickets and whilst the ticketmachine offered English text in practice no one had bothered to do the translation, not until you read the French version did anything make sense.

Overall though despite disapointments a likeable town with considerable interest.

The tram lines have been greened!

We continued up the Escaut into Belgium on 31st July, turning into the Nimy Blaton Peronnes canal, the first very deep lock caused a delay whilst we waited for a commercial that was refueling, but was easy with floating bollards. These locks are quite small so we cannot go through with the larger commercials so delays are anticipated.

At Peronnes Yacht club they were quite full and we would have been a long way from the services but still had to pay, on taking local advice we decided to proceed, we called the second lock and they had no commercials so we could go straight in. Still a long day though. We eventually moored on the waiting quay at Pommereul. This was a new canal built in the 90s to short cut the route and small locks into France, unfortunately the French failed to keep their end maintained and the canal is a dead end. The Pommereul lock is maintained and can be worked on 48 hours notice but goes nowhere.


1st August  we helped our neighbour turn his boat for painting and set off onto the Canal du Centre mooring at the bottom of the “historic canal du centre” this UN heritage site, the original canal is maintained as it was in the 19th century and we were keen to visit.

Bassin Rond to Valenciennes via Cambrai

We took a detour to Cambrai, this  route is part of the Escaut River but joins the  the canal  de St Quentin and is the same gauge and design of locks so enabled us to visit Cambrai and sample how the St Quentin would be if we ever travel that way.

The St Quentin was one of the main North South routes until it was duplicated by the Canal du Nord in the 60s. It was still used as the Nord was busy and there were queues at the locks. The Nord is still well used but not quite so busy now so the commercials mostly avoid the St Quentin. There are 3 or 4 per day now. The St Quentin is useful as a diversion when maintenance is carried out on the Nord but it’s smaller locks will not take all of the boats now using the Nord.

The locks were duplicated but now only one of each pair is in use. You can see successive waves of modernisation on the disused right hand lock the original hand operated gear has had electric motors added, the control panel in the right side of the lockkeeper’s booth looks very complicated. On the left hand lock the operating gear is more modern and the control panel much smaller. Eventually the operating locks were automated to do away with the keepers, the first version having the control rods on the side of the lock which you push to start the automatic procedure. Subsequently these were superceded by remote controls (you are given one when you enter the canal).

Old gear electrified but not now used on RH lock

Control panels and new style gear LH lock

Whilst thecanal is still used by commercials the locks do work at full speed not the slowed down version often used when plaisance are the only traffic and we proceeded through them very quickly.

We had a lovely shaded mooring in the park at Cambrai just by the marina. The second evening a loaded peniche crewed by a single elderly gent stopped opposite us for the night.

Cambrai was well worth the visit with the cathedral and Eglise St Gery, the latter proudly displaying it’s Rubens. The museum was not open on the days of our visit and partly closed anyway for “renovation.”

We returned at good speed but slowed down when we reached the modern section of the Escaut as we waited to go through the locks by ourselves. These lock have floating bollards for ease of use but if there is a large commercial there first they are out of reach.

At Denain the only mooring option is the mooring provided by the vnf for commercials, it has been renovated with locked gates for security electric and water (prepay key) new roadway landscaping and lighting. It was a very nice mooring. The barge in front was repainting whilst stopped  a major effort on such a big boat and all his familly had been called upon to help. Here the crew is preparing the metal for paint using a needle gun. Did we say how hot it was 43 degs in our wheelhouse one day. He has a head covering and dangles his feet in the water to keep cool!

A barge stopped for the night just above the lock and the minute they stopped a ladder was put over the side and in they went for a cooling swim.

Some barges have air conditioning but not all. Most have the children with them for the holidays and there is ususally a paddling pool The barge in front had no non adult children but they had still arranged a pool to loung in on the back deck. In the town the local council had bought sand and deckchairs in to make an urban beach as many French towns do but in addition had  hired a large pool (about 20m x 15mx 1m deep) which  was cooling down the local children. There was a convenient supermarket but little of great interest in this small industrial town but it had it’s own character and an enterprising council as well as really nice moorings amidst the battallerie.

Our trip to valenciennes was uneventful, 2 locks to ourselves, very quick and then we had booked into the municipal marina for the weekend to enjoy access to water and electric, showers and explore Valenciennes.