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We have spent a fair bit of time cruising in the South Pacific aboard our 33 years young 11.1metre yacht, Pastime of Sydney. We are now cruising through the canals and rivers of France on our old barge, "Anja", which was built in the North of the Netherlands in 1903. Anja was 110 years old in May 2013 and we celebrated with good French Champagne- but the boat did not get any! In 2014, for Anja's 111th, we took her back to where she was built in the North of the Netherlands.
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The Sarre and the Saar

The River known in France as the Sarre and in Germany as the Saar rises in the Vosges mountains in France and flows into the Mosel in Germany, near Trier. The navigable length is 150 kilometres and not heavily locked.

 IMG 3189The beautiful Saar Valley

In France the river has been canalised since the end of the 19th Century to give access to coalfields which no longer operate. For some time there was a break in navigation between the end of the Sarre Canal and the navigable Saar in Germany, but in recent years the link has been completed so that large commercial barges can travel from the Mosel to the French/ German border, with smaller Freycinet size barges able to continue to the end of the Canal where it joins the Eastern branch of the Canal from the Rhine to the Marne.

IMG 3186Saarburg from the River
As soon as we were "released" from the shipyard in Trier, sliding down the rails sideways and straight into the water, we headed off to get through the Trier lock. We noted that it had taken us almost exactly 5 days to get through this particular lock. In answer to our prayers there was no hanging about this time. We went straight in and straight out again. Soon we were turning left onto the Saar and by nightfall we had tied up at a long pontoon in Saarburg. We greatly appreciated this trouble-free mooring because along the German part of the Mosel there were very few places to stop. There were marinas for the common motor boats but we could not fit there. Only in Cochem and Zell were there  long pontoons like this where a number of boats our size could tie up. Some towns had small pontoons but as there were so few places available they were usually full.

 IMG 3178Saarburg (waterfull in the town)!

Our time in the Saar was very enjoyable. Summer has arrived and the days have been warm and dry. The River itself is very beautiful and interesting, with varied scenery. At first there are the vines we have become used to along the Mosel, followed by heavily forested countryside. In places the land rises steeply on both sides to give the effect of a gorge. Towards the French border there are power stations and industries including steel works. Apart from Saarburg which is small and picturesque,  the Saar towns we stopped at are quite large and businesslike.

 

There were many good mooring places along the river and less commercial traffic. The peniches are smaller than on the Mosel. There are generally two locks side by side, the smaller to allow Freycinet sized barges, the other for the really large commercials up to 135 metres. The last lock was unique in our experience: there was a single lock with an intermediate set of gates. If the boats are small they are directed to the front of the lock, and the intermediate gates are closed so that far less water is needed. Instead of moving 30 Olympic sized swimming pools full of water, only 10 were needed for this smaller lock.

 

 

Our final stop before the French border was very different for us. At Volklingen Hutte we found a well- made secure steel pontoon with free mooring. Water and electricity were available for a fee. Notices on the gates showed the number to call to get the security code which would open the gates from the shore side. Luckily there was another couple at the pontoon and after they had rung for the code they shared it with us so we didn't have to try out our German on the phone.

IMG 3194Volklingen Hutte Heritage Steel Works

 From the water we could see huge pieces of machinery dominating the skyline which we discovered was a UNESCO World Heritage site,  the Saarstahl works. The company is still operating close by but the blast furnaces and their associated equipment were closed down after about 150 years of operation and preserved for posterity. This area of the Saar with its coalfields and steel industry, was a political football after the First World War and during the Second, so in finding out about the exhibition we learned a bit more War history.

 

Next day we arrrived back in France. The river ran along the border for some eight kilometres then it was France on both sides. We did not see any notices to tell us we were in a different country. This time we were not expecting any border formalities.

 

The Canal on the Sarre River travels through flatter country. Historically this has been noted for industry and power production.  A large pottery works at the border town, Sarreguemines is now closed but there is a very  informative museum where one of the old kilns, operated from 1860 until the 1940s, has been left intact. First wood- fired it was converted to coal firing and needed 9 tons of coal for each 70 hour firing. We enjoyed walking around inside the 25 metre- high building and were reminded of David's mother, Jo, a very keen and talented potter, who had a kiln on a much smaller scale.

 IMG 3200The "Casino"- former recreation centre for workers IMG 3221Inside the big kiln 
IMG 3223One of the giant kilns  IMG 3206Beautiful Faience work in the museum 

Further along, the Sarre becomes very rural, heavily forested and generally flat with some rolling hills in the distance. At some stages we saw evidence of the bunkers of the "aquatic" part of the Maginot line built after the First World War to protect the French boundaries. Towards the end of the Canal are several extensive lakes, making for a most attractive and relaxing trip. There were many places to stop and tie up along the whole of this route so it did not seem very crowded even though there were quite few boats, including rental boats, travelling this way.

 

Best Regards,

 

Penny and Dave

 

IMG 3224Now, this is a VERY large Plate!

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Comments 1

Guest - Annette Cunliffe on Wednesday, 29 August 2012 12:39

Lovely country. Love to you both. Excellent detials for others to follow.

Lovely country. Love to you both. Excellent detials for others to follow.
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