Stops along the Rhone River have been few and far between, although there are several options. The guide-fluvial or available resources on the internet list all of the telephone numbers associated with the various stops. Very rarely do these stops monitor the VHF (weird!) with the exception of Plaisance Ports. We have not on the Rhone, during April, encountered a time when a reservation was required at any type of stop. Usually, we just pick our wall, pontoon, or slip and inform the authorities afterward. Mind the depths! We’ve even had one successful mooring at a closed Plaisance Port but, since we were already there the following morning, the Port Captain was not too bothered by us. We have since purchased a pay-as-you-go French telephone so that we will be able to contact both stops and locks during our future travels as we’ve been told that telephones are relied upon heavily in the canals.
Here are examples of stops on the Rhone River that we’ve encountered while traveling upstream.
Ecluse Plaisance Pontoons – at each lock there is an upstream and downstream pontoon intended for pleasure vessels waiting to enter the lock. In a pinch, if you ask permission of the lock-keeper, pleasure vessels may stay overnight on these pontoons. These pontoons are well maintained, offer access to shore, and are well fended. The guide-fluvial tells us that lock pontoons have water available; at the Rhone locks we had not located spigots at any of the pontoons while waiting. There is no fee for these pontoons, however they are intended for traveling vessels awaiting their turn through the lock.
Floating Pontoon – typically found off a slanted quay near the center of town, or sometimes near bridges. Many of those listed in the guide-fluvial during our trip were, in fact, non-existent. The conditions of the floating pontoons are often questionable, and they are often not sheltered from the wake of passing vessels. Floating pontoons do not offer services and I am not certain who maintains them or if any fees are ever requested.
Vertical Quay – vertical wall extending up from the riverfront, quays may offer electric and water, just water, or no services. Quays typically are located near the center of a town. To secure to a quay there are bollards or rings. Quays that offer electric and water generally request a small fee; however we have not yet experienced services or fees and while traveling the Rhone quays during the low-season. If a quay is slanted, it cannot be used unless you have very creative fendering to keep you off the slope.
Halte Fluviale – typically a floating pontoon or several small docks managed by a nearby campground. Haltes are generally located within easy access to town and generally provide water, sometimes electric. Some haltes we’ve observed to be full with local boaters; most of whose slips are a bit too small for Detour. Some haltes are fabulous, new pontoons that can occupy 2-4 pleasure boats. The cost of a halte depends on a few factors (at least during low-season); day of arrival, time of arrival, time of departure, who is around during arrival/departure, and proximity of the campground office or sometimes tourism office collecting the fee. Camp grounds are fairly organized and charge a small fee, 5-10 euros/night, including water, electric, bathrooms (not showers) and trash*. We’ve arrived at two different town halte fluviales on Sunday evening, departing Monday morning, at no charge. These had no services other than trash.
Port de Plaisance – an actual harbor, sheltered from the wake of passing vessels and from the river, ports offer many amenities such as electric, water, bathrooms, showers, trash*, laundry, and wifi. We have stopped at three ports de plaisance while traveling upstream on the Rhone and fortunately each time required the port’s protection from weather or rising water. (Also each time required a laundry machine. Cost 3-4 euros/load for wash; 2-euros/load for dry.) Some ports have fuel available on location. Every port has a Capitainerie where the Port Captain is located. The Port Captains have all been extremely helpful and friendly. Ports de plaiance generally prefer payment up-front for the intended stay. If, however as we often do, you have no idea how long you want to stay the Port Captain will require you boat’s papers to hold as ransom. There is no slipping in and out of a port undetected; Port Captains have a great view from their glassed-in office perch atop the amenities and they check docks regularly. For Detour‘s 12.5 meters, our highest nightly rate at the ports de plaisance had been 22-euros; weekly rates are slightly less. A few interesting differences we’ve noticed between French ports de plaisance and US marinas… 1) There is no VHF conversation to confirm your approach or direct your dock selection. 2) The bathrooms/showers are co-ed. That’s right, co-ed! So while you’re fixing your hair under the hand dryer, Mr. Joe Schmo might walk out of the shower stall in his undies (yes, thankfully in his undies) to continue getting dressed. 3) Laundry machines are tiny and there is often only one washer and one dryer. 4) The price, we would not be able to stay at a US marina with all amenities included for $22/night! 5) All of the book swap books are written in French, German, or Dutch. 6) There is no Happy Hour! 7) Decks are washed daily; sometimes even the morning of departure.
* Trash, although difficult to find public trash disposal in the USA, in France there are public trash bins everywhere. I note this because trash disposal is a neusance; we can’t store trash, it’s dirty, it smells, and we don’t pollute. In the USA I was always seeking free and/or unlocked bins to dispose our trash when we made landfall. In the Caribbean, we discarded trash overboard (when appropriate, never plastic), we burned trash, or we paid at times to dispose in “public” bins. In France, trash disposal is no concern. Every town, every dock, every park, everywhere are public bins and they are emptied weekly.