Chaume, France. October 20, 2013. Rivers are often too swift, drop through hills too quickly, shift sandbars, hurl logs, and are too liable to drought and flood to encourage reliable commerce. Canals changed all that. Here on the Loire Lateral Canal we skirt the Loire River sometimes close, sometimes several kilometers away. We navigate along level waterways for 3, 4 or 5 kilometers until the next lock, and even then the drop is moderate.

Near Agen, France, Late October 2012. Alone on our canal boat, we plied the waterways of the Garonne Lateral Canal and the Baise River from Agen on the Garonne to Nerac on the Baise in late October of 2012 and it was a wonderful time to do so. Both are often surrounded with crowds of heavy growths of trees, small forests of oak, chestnut, ash and other shouldering in, fighting the wild roses, the ivy, the ferns for a favored spot. Of course there were the towns along…