I’m sure if there was a ‘Bargees Rite of Passage’ it would include successfully transversing the incline planes and boat lifts on the European canals. During our hire boat life we had achieved the passage through the Azvilliers Incline Plane and the flight of locks at Beziers. But more challenges awaited!
Heading south from Brussels the Ronquières Incline Plane loomed as our next potential achievement. We had waited the week in Brussels as it was closed, but now our day had come. An early start had us at the base about 6.30pm, but as we approached, we were radioed and told there was an hour wait at the bottom before we could ‘monter’, or ascend. It was with a sigh of relief that we consented to this enforced delay. After an early rise and 7 locks we deserved a rest.
Before long the gate opened and we were in!
One of the 7 deep locks south of Brussels
Well, were we in the basin, with the door shut behind us, only to be told by the eclusier that they were having problems with the water level and a technician was coming to sort it out. The time lapse, well it would be ‘longtemps’. That translates to I don’t know when.
So with nothing else to do…. we had a drink!
Another hours wait and we start moving up, to the plateau at the top, passing on the way the other basin that, (and we found this out later) had not been used for over 2 years.
What goes up necessarily must come down, and how do you sail a boat down 73 meters. How else but via the 2nd biggest boat lift in the world which seamlessly transports boats in 2 basins, the engineering marvel of the 20th century, the Ascenseur de Funiculaire de Strepy Thieu.
Our destination was Mons, where we had arranged to pick up our friend Dori and as luck would have it we pulled into port and encountered 2 Aussie boats, Gordon and Ann on Downunder and Austin and Susie on Freshwater. This meeting, of course resulted in the consumption of quite a few refreshments, but also a helpful exchange of canal banter.
No tourists in Mons, but we invested our tourist dollar and visited an art nouveau house and a museum with an extraordinary collection of clocks made in the Louis XIV style. Most importantly there was a number of super markets, including the biggest Carrafor I think I have ever seen.
With Dori in tow we were now ready for our next adventure, the four old boat lifts of the Canal du Centre that are now a UNESCO world heritage site
We marvelled at the 19th century engineering as we ascended back up to the plateau. These locks are now a tourist attraction so there were no big barges, just us and the lock keepers organising our relatively quick passage through this historical canal. As each of the 4 gates loomed above us, they looked similar in construction to the steel work of the Effie Tower. There are 2 basins, as one rises the other lowers.
Approaching the last lift
We did it! What a great experience. We exited the last lift and turned right, onto the main Canal du Centre, mooring at ADEPS yacht haven for a well deserved rest.