September 2nd, 2012

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Labor Day Sep 3 on the Moselle

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

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Sunday Sept 2nd Thaon les Vosges. A new plan.

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

Aug 29 Wednesday morning was the last time that I was able to get to a wireless connection in Fouchécourt. I am writing this on Friday evening the 31st and I am now in Girancourt a village with a church  post office and super market but not a chance to find wireless. If I can make it to Epinal tomorrow then I might get my first chance to post this and empty my mail box.

The Canal de Vosges is a completely new experience. I entered it on Wednesday afternoon. It is much narrower than the Saone and shallower.
Most of the time I have from 1 to 2 feet under the keel but I have got stuck in the muck right in the center of the canal. There is little room to maneuver while waiting for the lock to open. I anchored that night in the canal at KM 133 at Pont du Bois. Because of the narrow water I could not put much scope down. About 30 feet and I backed into the mud, so I could not go anywhere unless a big wind would come up. Then at 10 p.m. a horrendous thunderstorm burst loose, the rain came down in buckets. The weather has been nasty, lots of showers and it is difficult in these narrow canals to go down from the cockpit into the cabin and get into my rain gear. The barometer is still falling, right now it is at 990 millibar. Wednesday evening at my solitary anchorage the sun came out and it was the perfect condition to take that bath I needed, without having to worry about spectators while throwing buckets of water over myself in the cockpit, stark naked. Last night I saw the moon briefly but you will be spared the blue moon picture that I would have taken tonight if I were still below the 40th latitude or lucky.

The locks are small and I had major problems yesterday. I do not have enough fenders and on the Rhone and the Saone I was doing fine. I have all my fenders set up on starboard. But in these small locks there is just one ladder on each side of the lock to go up on to lay the mooring lines and it happens to be right up front where the water comes roaring in to fill the lock when going uphill. And on several occasions the pressure was too much for me to winch the line in against this heavy flow of water. Then the bow hits the opposite side of the lock and the stern pulpit the starboard side. Yesterday, Thursday, I went through the last locks with a Dutch motor yacht, the “Pandora” from Sas van Gent with Jacques and Tilly. I would be up front on the right and they tied up in back on the port side.  We both stayed the night at the town quay in Thunimont at KM 113. I left at 9 a.m. when the locks get into business.  In the second lock this morning  I had a nasty problem. The bow was again pushed against the opposite lock side and this time the bow pulpit got stuck in a deep groove in the lock wall. I tried to push the bow off but it was impossible and the water kept rising. The nose was pushed down and fortunately it was near the end of the cycle and then it popped loose but the pulpit is bent out of shape.  So, I decided that since I was on my own, and have my choice of the spots in the lock, I quickly changed over to port side tie up and did the rest of the locks in the back far away from the rush of water filling the lock. The way these unmanned locks work is that you use a kind of garage door opener that sends a radio signal to a post on the side of the canal, 300 meter before the lock. Then you wait for the green light, I tie a short rope to the ladder to keep the boat in place I climb up the ladder with the shore lines and then I have to go across the bridge of the lock to the other side and start the system to close the doors and fill the lock by pushing up a blue tube. Next to the blue tube is a red one that you pull down in case of an emergency and that stops the process.  So, this morning in the second or third lock there was a gentleman on a walk along the canal in the lock and I asked him if he could push up the blue bar. This saved me from climbing back up the ladder going around the end of the lock crossing the bridge and running back as fast
as I can to be able to get ready for the water to cascade in. Well, this gentleman had to be color blind he pushed the red tube, the alarm. I had to wait for nearly an hour for one of the roving lock tenders to come and reset the system. By now “Pandora” had caught up with me and from then on they were able to push the blue tube up from their boat on the starboard side of the
lock. But we had several hick ups along the way and the roving lock tenders had to come and re-set the program. So, I managed to advance towards Paris by the whopping distance of 16 km…. going through twenty locks. Yesterday I did 20 kms. The locks are so close together that you hardly need to use your engine. You could push off and coast into the next one. The problem is also that
you only have from 9 till 6 pm to use the locks and the places to stay the night are limited, so, yesterday we quit at 4 p.m. and today at 4.30 p.m.  The day before yesterday I filled my tank and
one empty jerry can and that brought me down to 20 euro cash. But then I discovered there are no cash machines in these towns along the canal des Vosges.  Today I got lucky because the
super market accepted debit cards. So, I am well fed.

My mast is in Lelystad.
I had no idea what it was going to cost. I received the bill this week, 715 Euro. That is about $900. Lot of money. But I hate to think of what the mast would have looked like compared to the pulpit’s fate this morning.   I had not checked the Dollar Euro exchange  rate for a while but I was pleasantly surprised that it is down to around $ 1.25 for one Euro. The last two years it was between $ 1.40 and 1.45. That is a big advantage for me.

Saturday Afternoon September 1st.:

I was unable to get into Epinal today. The canal from the canal des Vosges to Epinal was closed. I made reasonably good time through the very last uphill lock and then 19 downhill locks. Epinal would have been a few miles out of the way. So, I am now in the next major town on the canal des Vosges at k.m. 77, Thoan les Vosges. I arrived here at 3 p.m. and the next town to try and reach before 6 p.m. is Charmes but it is more than three hours from here. So, I hope I can find an internet connection here and an ATM machine. If there is a Saturday evening mass here I will do that otherwise I’ll get a later start tomorrow.  So I covered 19 km today.  But going downhill is a breeze compared to the uphill climb. The hump was at around 1000 feet elevation. The landscape has changed in the last few days; Spruce and Beech forests instead of Cottonwood, Ash, Oak, Maple. A lot cooler. I dug out my warm sleeping bag and today I wore a ski hat and my heavy foul weather parka. It is between 15 and 20 degree Centigrade. But the barometer is rising. It is hard to imagine that less than 10 days ago I was in a heat wave and pouring buckets of river water over me to
cool off.  The Moselle River now runs right next to the canal. I still have 72 k.m. to go to get to Toul where I
make a left turn into the Canal du Marne au Rhin. And I will probably not do much better than 30 km for the next two days but then the locks are fewer and I should do more like 50/75 km per day.

Sunday Morning Sept 2nd:

In Dutch they have an expression to live like “God in France”, which means to live the good life. But I think that God only visits France every other Sunday. Because it is the same story in this town. Closed doors on the only RC church. I asked many people last night when the mass was held here. And 9 out of 10 looked at me with an empty expression and did not have a clue. But then I was told 10 a.m. There are no schedules posted on the church or the rectory.

A new plan: After going over it with Jacques and Tilly and tracing my route to Paris and the miserable progress of the last few days I do not see how I can be with the boat in oparis by Sepotember 17th, when Ce Ce arrives. So, I have decided to keep going north and avoid the about 10 day each way trip from Toul to Paris and take the train from Charlesville-Mezieres near the Belgian border to meet Ce Ce and then play American tourists in Paris for a few days.

This morning at 9.30 it had warmed up to a whopping 13 degrees Centigrade (55