France: Sailing up to Bordeaux Sept 2015

A useful report on the birthing options available on the Gironde Estuary and at Bordeaux.

Published 8 years ago, updated 5 years ago

In the Garonne river, the currents run 4-5 knots in places.  Be careful of wind-over-current conditions.  Even moderate winds against these currents can raise 2-meter “seas”.  Beware of tree trunks and branches, especially after periods of rain or in high tidal coefficients.  The turbulence was so bad that our depth sounder stopped working after Pauillac.


This is a nice port with good visitor’s facilities, but with a very shallow entrance (<1m at low tide).  There are 2 small white waiting buoys near the entrance to the port.  Keep between these buoys and the jetty wall for maximum depth.


The Bacalan port of Bordeaux has a waiting pontoon just south of the lock entrance below the Chaban-Delmas bridge.  Beware of strong currents.  The lock is operated around high tide on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  You must call ahead to get exact times (+33 (0)5 56 90 59 34 or 05 56 90 59 52).  Once through the lock, you motor slowly through basin number 1 to the lifting bridge.  The lock operator has to get in his car and drive to the bridge to open it for you, so take your time.  Once inside basin number 2, visitors are largely left to their own devices to find space.  There are 2 main docks where boats tie up stern-to-quay with a mooring buoy for the bow.

There is no electricity or water for visiting boats, and the post office was closed in September.  The surrounding area is very industrial but is being renovated.  The city tram is a 15-minute walk away and takes you into the heart of Bordeaux in less than 5 minutes.  The Bacalan port is supposed to be enlarged and renovated in 2017 – 2020.

An alternative to Bacalan, is the small floating pontoon at Lormont (Halte Nautique de Lormont), just down the river under the Aquitaine Bridge.  Space is very limited and you should call ahead (+33 (0)6 76 23 86 02 French only). The Bordeaux boat taxi docks here and takes you into downtown Bordeaux in 15 minutes.  The downside is that you are exposed to the current and tree trunks on the Lormont dock.

While we enjoyed the surroundings of Lormont, we were happy to leave after 2 days and all those “bumps” in the night. Across the river from Lormont is the Halte Nautique du Point du Jour.  When we called, they informed us that they stopped accepting visitors over 15 years ago but somehow still show up in guidebooks as a good place to stop over.

Report from maria Hood

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