The Pouilly Tunnel and Vandanesse-en-Auxois

The Pouilly Tunnel. Constructed between 1822 and 1832 it is 3.34kms long and goes straight through the hill between Pouilly-en-Auxois and Escommes. It has been in the back of our minds since we started on the Canal de Bourgogne weeks ago that we would have to pass through this tunnel at the summit of the canal and that there was very little headroom (so it was not for the claustrophobic). We read there is a maximum height restriction above the water level of 3.1 meters although the lockeeper told me 3.4 metres. Maybe it changes depending on the water levels (lower water level equals more headroom one would think). The night before we prepared the boat by taking down the windscreen and bimini and stowing the flowers on the deck to make our height profile as low as possible.

Preparing the boat for the tunnel

Preparing the boat for the tunnel

And so on Saturday at 9am we duly presented ourselves, as requested, at the VNF office at lock 1 in Pouilly-en-Auxois with our paperwork and were given a permit for the tunnel passage and a radio with a special channel to use if we got into any trouble. I noticed they had a tourist boat scheduled to depart half an hour after us so they expect you to stick to your allotted time. A bit like air traffic control but closer to the ground. And wetter.

Anyway off we went, our spotlight on, wearing our life jackets and headed into the abyss. Ok, not the abyss. Just a very narrow hole in the hillside.

Entering the abyss

Entering the abyss

It’s a little bit spooky but reasonably well lit. We only touched the sides once in the nearly three and a half kms which is awesome going by our captain. There’s a very strange optical illusion in the tunnel with its barrel arch shape reflected in the water making it seem we were motoring through a circle. Rather surreal yet quite pretty in a strange way.

Strange optical allusion

Strange optical illusion

Not much headroom

Not much headroom


There were even stalactites!

There were even stalactites!

There are ventilation shafts every so often and cameras to keep an eye on us. Not that we needed it. Keeping a reasonable speed up to allow decent steering control seemed to work best. Alan said he used the reflection on the water of the lights down the middle to steer by.

The light at the end of the tunnel wasn't a boat coming the other way. Yay.

The light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t a boat coming the other way. Yay.

Finally we exited the tunnel after 45 mins, back into beautiful lush green daylight. Hurray. What an awesome experience! Much better than we thought it would be.

Afterwards we descended eight locks (finally we are now going down which is so much easier) and made our way to Vandenesse-en-Auxois, a lovely little mooring within biking distance of the famous Chateauneuf, the 14th century village and chateau high up on the hills overlooking the Ouche valley.
Vandanesse-en-Auxois was so nice and quiet we decided to stay a few days. I’ve hurt my elbow (now know the French for tennis elbow) and generally feeling a bit sore all over so a little R&R in V-e-A!

Vandanesse with Chateauneuf on the hilltop beyond

Vandanesse with Chateauneuf on the hilltop beyond

Pouilly-en-Aixois to Vandanesse-en-Auxois –
8kms (including 3.4km tunnel), 8 locks, 3 hours

About khodges2013

Alan and I divide our time between our apartment in Christchurch, New Zealand, and our 11.5m Dutch Cruiser, Silver Fern, on the canals in France. We started out hiring and eventually bought our boat in 2014. The two summers lifestyle is wonderful and we feel very lucky!
This entry was posted in Burgundy, Canal de Bourgogne, French Canal boating, Holiday 2016, Vandanesse-en-Auxois and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Pouilly Tunnel and Vandanesse-en-Auxois

  1. Sarah W says:

    Nice work team! Love the tunnel pics. Very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lee Gossett says:

    Amazing tunnel. I wonder how many million bricks it took to line the tunnel? Quite an engineering marvel back during that time. Keep the adventure alive for the rest of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lauren says:

    So not for me! Sleeping pills and a nice bed and pillow for 45 mins would have got me through that tunnel!!! so can’t do tight spaces especially where water is involved………at least it wasn’t dark, dark would have been the end of me!! Well done 🙂 I admire your spirit!


  4. Allan says:

    Amazing, what an incredible experience. Alan’s long flying career flying instrument approaches obviously came in handy with the navigation of the tunnel. Keep up the wonderful posts. I am really enjoying them and learning heaps. Take care. Polly


  5. Good you weren’t claustrophobic – I enjoyed the pics and wondering if I’d have coped ! What an amazing experience.


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