Saarburg to Saverne. Back into French waters.

Last time I wrote we were in the pretty town of Saarburg on the Saar river in Southern Germany. It made a lasting impression and we probably should have stayed longer than 1 night. Next time!

We were up and on the water by 7.45 the next morning (August 6th) and ready to face some big locks. 14.5m, 11m and 8m in depth in 7 hours within 50kms kept us busy all day. What we like about the German locks is you call them on the radio and they actually (usually) reply, the locks, while deep, fill from the bottom and with inserted bollards you move your ropes from bollard to bollard as you rise (or fall). No huge gush of water (usually) and everything runs very smoothly. 

We arrived in Saarlouis to find the small 2 boat quay free although the other space was quickly taken by a British couple who live on their boat full time. 

We had a swim in the river followed by a beer in the nearby biergarten. Very refreshing after a long day.

The next day the temperatures soared to 37° as we continued south to Saarbrücken (can you guess we are on the Saar river with every place name starting with Saar…). We had a wee mishap in one of the locks, losing our ropes as a sudden surge dragged the boat away from the side. It was a strange set up whereby, although a long lock we had to go up to the front and a door half way back closed the front off.  But we got the boat under control without loss of life or limb. Or any scratches of the paint work so that’s a win. We tied up in the Osthafen marina, just out of town. That night a storm blew through causing thunder lightening and, at 4am, gale force winds which found us out on the deck in our undies trying to tie down the Bimini to save it blowing away. The temperature was still warm though. We succeeded and went back to bed. The storm blew itself out and the. Next day was 29°, a mild temperature compared to the day before. 

We left Germany that day and cruised into France, tying up in Sarreguemines, a mooring in front of the old Casino and bandstand both beautifully restored. We wandered around town in the evening. 0CEBEC6E-AB73-4EDA-B530-392858C8894BThe next day another storm hit, this time torrential rain catching us while we were exploring the ruined castle on the hill. We sprinted down the hill and through town, stopping to shelter under storefronts and in the bandstand, finally making it back to the boat soaking wet but enjoying the break in the drought. It rained on and off all day but not enough to help with the water reserves in some of the canals. There will be closures before the season ends again this year. Global warming etc.


Pottery kilns seen throughout this area. This one was built  in 1860, one of 30. The firing lasted 60 to 70 hours and used 9 tons of coal.


Imagine the pollution 30 of these kilns caused.

From there we stopped at Sarralbe, a free mooring and a nice village with a working water wheel and then Mittersheim where we biked up to the lake with a beach and a busy camping ground. It was a beautiful evening and we celebrated the mild evening temperatures with takeaway pizza, Chianti and listened to blues on the deck. Very pleasant.


We biked to this nearby lake.


Pizza, red wine, blues music. Tick.

We have seen quite a few of these pillboxes, a type of blockhouse guardpost, as we are in the area of the Maginot Line, here on the Saar river.


The next day we finally finished the Saar river and canal and headed east onto the Canal Marne au Rhin (east). Suddenly we started seeing hoards of rental boats, a shock after not seeing any for weeks. They were everywhere, far out numbering any other boats and causing some mayhem in the locks and on the canal. We had tied up for the night on the side of a bank when 4 boats passed by going way too fast causing our mooring pegs to be pulled out and we lost one of them into the water. Very annoyed we decided to move on to a nearby marina and pulled into Niderville, shoe horning ourselves into the last little space on the visitors quay, much to the concern of the Germans in their boat behind us. We now only had one mooring stake so the next day Alan asked at the boat base if they would sell us a new one and the lovely guy came back with 3 old stakes and gave them to us, free. Isn’t that nice!


Canal de la Marne au Rhin

A couple of days later we headed through 2 tunnels (2.3km and 475m) and then came to the amazing Plan de Arzviller, the boat lift, a highly anticipated event!

The boat lift is pretty incredible. It was built from 1964 to 1968 with the first boats going through in 1969.. You cruise in and tie up in the caisson, essentially a basin of water just like a lock. But instead of the water filling or emptying like it usually does the whole basin is cranked up or down (depending on your direction of travel). It does this with counterweights that move to create the power to lift or lower. This replaces 17 old locks and instead of taking a day it takes 25 mins and most of that time is taken up with squeezing as many boats in as possible, in our case three. 

The vertical height is 44.55m. Filled with water the basin weighs 850 tons! 2 years ago something jammed and the whole thing was shut for a couple of years all up. Luckily for us there were no problems and there’s actually almost a festive mood as tourists line the top and bottom to watch the spectacle. There is a tourist boat that goes up and down and lots of hire boats. A fun experience!


Approach to the boat lift caisson.


Tying up inside the caisson


View from the top before our descent.


These are the two counter weights moving up as the basin moves down


Floating bath tub. (Not us)


Exiting at the bottom.

After we came out we tied up and hooked onto the one free power plug and went for a walk back up to the top. 

Later we cruised on to Lutzelbourg, another four locks away. Two of those locks weren’t working but we sorted it out and tied up after a long but exciting day. There are three areas to moor in Lutzelbourg and the village is lovely with lots of happy friendly people and an epiciere and patisserie/boulangerie.


Chateau ruins near Lutzelbourg.

We grabbed a very acceptable baguette (I have high standards when it comes to baguettes!) the next morning and headed on to Saverne, following a German cruiser who knew what they were doing, a relief after the dramas with hire boats in the last few days!

We will stay in Saverne for a few days as it’s a lovely town with lots to see and do.


Saverne marina.

Stats so far this year:

Saarburg to Saarlouis

Engine hours: 6.9

Kms: 49.8

Locks: 3

Saarlouis to Saarbruken

Engine hours: 4.2

Kms: 29.3

Locks: 2

Saarbruken to Sarreguemines:

Engine hours: 3.1

Kms: 17

Locks: 3

Sarreguemines to Sarralbe

Engine hours: 4.1

Kms: 24

Locks: 7

Sarralbe to Mittersheim

Engine hours: 3.9

Kms: 19


Mittersheim to Niderville

Engine hours: 7.5

Kms: 39

Locks: 13

Niderville to Lutzelbourg

Engine hours: 2.9

Kms: 13

Locks: 5

Tunnels: 2

Boat Lift: 1

Lutzelbourg to Saverne

Engine hours: 2.6

Kms: 10

Locks: 9

Total Year to Date;

Engine hours: 127.3

Kms: 720

Locks: 184

Tunnels: 4

Lifting/swing bridges: 4

Boat Lift: 1





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 Canal boat, Canal boating in Germany, Canal Marne au Rhin, French Canal boating, Holiday 2018, Saar River and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Saarburg to Saverne. Back into French waters.

  1. Brett Lewis says:

    We spent two nights in Niderville in June, a very nice village. We had problems with sp ending hire boats to. I am enjoying your travels.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Allan Parsons says:

    Loved the photo of Captain Hodges enjoying his wine and pizza. Very envious. Looking forward to catching up when you get back. Smooth sailing guys.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lindsay says:

    Wow I really like the last two blogs. Similar but different to France. Looks really nice, and of course good food and wine. The canal bath is very different but keeps one on there journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nikki says:

    Wow that boat lift thing is unreal! Always an adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Really interesting and lovely pics Karen. Particularly enjoyed the info and pics of the boat lift. Amazing. There’s the Anderson boat lift in Cheshire which is 19th century I think, but I’d not come across one from the 20th century before! There’s also the incline plane at Foxton Locks near Market Harborough that I’ve seen that was used to move boats from the canal to the river. Love all that stuff. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s