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Tips and Notes > Waterways: Canal Bulletin Boards


French Waterways Words
On Canals Bulletin Boards and Signs

Here are some words and phrases you’ll see on bulletin boards and signs along the French canals.

Scroll down or click on any word below ...

Halte nautique
Voies Navigables de France (VNF)
Point kilométrique (PK)
Avis à la batellerie
VNF notice board

The examples below are organized in three columns, showing the English, French and Pronunciation for each word or phrase.

Notice that certain letters are printed in gray in the French column. These letters are silent in that French word. So don't pronounce the gray letters.

English ... French ... Pronunciation ...
Notice to Inland Mariners l'(m) Avis à la batellerie ah-vee ah lah bah-tehl-ree
pleasure-boaters les plaisanciers pleh-zahnss-yeh


Halte nautiquePronunciation: Ahlt noh-teek
"Halte nautique" sign

An halte nautique or halte fluviale is a place along the waterway where you can tie up for a few hours or a few days – usually for free. They provide a great way to visit the towns along the waterway.

An halte will have some bollards or rings to tie to and sometimes offers water, electricity, trashcans, or bathrooms.

In contrast, a port de plaisance is a marina with more extensive facilities and a charge for dockage.


"Halte nautique"

An halte is generally a rest stop.

• an halte routière is a rest stop along a road or highway.

• an halte nautique is thus a nautical rest stop for boats.

• an halte fluviale is a rest stop along a river or waterway.

simple area where one can tie up along the waterway la halte nautique ahlt noh-teek
la halte fluviale ahlt flêwv-yahl
marina le port de plaisance pohr dûh pleh-zahnss


Voies Navigables de France (VNF)Pronunciation: Vwah Nav-vee-gah-bluh dûh Frahns

VNF bulletin board

Voies Navigables de France (VNF) translates as Waterways of France.

Waterway in French is either voie d’eau (literally way of water) or voie navigable (navigable way), the two phrases are interchangeable.

VNF bulletin boardYou’ll see Voies Navigables de France everywhere on the canals because they are the French governmental agency in charge of the French waterways.

They maintain, administer and promote the 6,700 kilometers of waterways under their jurisdiction. You’ll see the VNF logo on the lockkeepers’ shirts because lockkeepers are employed by the VNF.

VNF maintains the signage along the waterways – the notice board (panneau) posted at each lock alerts you to scheduled closures, lock opening hours, etc.. If you want to take your own boat on the French waterways, you will contact the VNF to obtain your vignette - a permit that allows your boat to travel on inland waterways. The VNF has offices in major ports along the waterways.

Link to VNF website in French Canals Links

French waterways governing body VNF Veh-Ehn-Ehf
les Voies Navigables de France vwah nav-vee-gah-bluh dûh Frahnss
waterway la voie d’eau vhah doh
la voie navigable vwah nav-vee-gah-bluh
permit for French waterways la vignette veen-yeht


Point kilométrique (PK)Pronunciation: Pwehn kee-loh-meh-treek

Le point kilométrique (or more commonly: le PK) is the distance marker on the French waterway, similar to the mile markers on the US Intracoastal Waterway.

"Le point kilométrique" sign
Usually distances along the waterway are measured in kilometers starting at the upstream origin of the waterway, although occasionally another point is chosen for PK 0.
distance marker le point kilométrique pwehn kee-loh-meh-treek
PK Peh-Kah


DégustationPronunciation: Deh-ghêwss-tahss-yohn

Dégustation! – that’s always a welcome sign along the waterway.

When the waterways travel through wine country, signs announcing dégustation dot the canal banks. The word dégustation means tasting and can apply to cheeses and other foods as well as wine.

"Dégustation" (tasting) sign
"Dégustation" (tasting)

But when you see the sign along the waterway, it usually means that you’ve found a spot to taste and buy wine. Generally, the tasting is gratuitefree of charge, and a great excuse for a sampling of the local wines.

wine-tasting la dégustation deh-ghêwss-tahss-yohn
free wine-tasting la dégustation gratuite deh-ghêwss-tahss-yohn grah-tweet


Avis à la batelleriePronunciation: Ah-vee ah lah bah-tehl-ree

The Avis à la batellerie is a regular Notice to Inland Mariners that reports problems and changes along the waterways.

(Such as closures of locks and waterways for maintenance and changes in water level and in operating times for locks.)

"Avis à la batellerie" on a  VNF bulletin board

The Avis à la
erie is
posted on the
bulletin board
(panneau )
at locks
and offices
as well as on
the VNF

Batellerie is a term that is used to refer to the professional users of the waterway – the persons who transport goods or passengers on the inland waterways. These professionals are also referred to as mariniers.

"Plaisanciers" (Pleasure boaters)

Those of us who travel the waterways for fun – either or on our own boat or on a chartered canal boat – are called plaisanciers (pleasure-boaters)

Notice to Inland Mariners l'(m) Avis à la batellerie ah-vee ah lah bah-tehl-ree
notice board, bulletin board le panneau pan-noh
professional inland mariners la batellerie mah-reen-yeh
les mariniers bah-tehl-ree
pleasure-boaters les plaisanciers pleh-zahnss-yeh


ChômagePronunciation: Show-mahzh

Chômage is the closure of locks and sections of waterway for annual maintenance.


The Avis à la Batellerie will list the dates and locations of these closures. Navigation during a chômage may be interrupted or just restricted.

In other contexts, the word chômage is also used to refer to layoffs and unemployment.

closure for maintenance le chômage show-mahzh
... will be closed for scheduled maintenance from January 30 to March 15. ... sera en chômage du 30 janvier au 15 mars ... sûh-rah ahn shoh-mahzh dêw trahnt zhahn-v’yeh oh kehnz mahrss
navigation interrupted navigation interrompue nah-vee-gahss-yohn ehn-teh-rohn-pêw
navigation restricted navigation restreinte nah-vee-gahss-yohn rehss-trehnt


FRENCH WATERWAYS WORDS: Locks, Lockkeepers and "Locking through" ...

French Canals Links ...

THINKING METRIC: English-French Metric Conversions ...

10 "very" French Words and Phrases ...

For more words and phrases related to Locks and Waterways see the Canals and Waterways chapter in FRENCH FOR CRUISERS.

Tips and Notes > Waterways: Boards