October, 2013

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October 17. Condrieu

Friday, October 18th, 2013

I left Lyon at 1.30 p.m. It was one of the first sunny days. T-Shirt weather. The Rhone part starts just south of Lyon. The current is much faster than the Saone where I averaged 11 k.m./hour now I am doing 15/16 k.m. per hour. I passed through two deep locks (6 mtr plus). But they are a breeze, floating bollards. I just tie my two lines to the bollard and retire to the cockpit. But the strong current becomes a bit too much in places for my mechanical auto pilot. So, I have to hand steer more often. The scenery has changed. Red tiled roofs and mauve colored exteriors, Cypress, Deodars, Scrub Oak on the hills, vineyards. My favorite country. I had just checked the internet for the time of the moon rise and when I looked outside she was just rising over the eastern hill ridge. I missed that part because I discovered that the sim card was in my laptop. Well I guess I’ll have a couple more moonrises before I retire from my first centennial.

I am back in Condrieu, I stopped here last year on my way up from the Med see:  https://cometosea.us/?p=3274

Two posts further are pictures I then took in Lyon. Interesting to compare those with today’s photos. Thank God that the Rhone then ran a lot slower, going up-hill. That same black pirate boat is sill in the marina. Plus a few others that languish here with deflated dinghies and deflated dreams. Some day, I am going to search the owners out and try compile a story of their reasons to abandon their dreams. You see these boats all up and down the rivers and in places like Neah Bay, San Diego, Auckland, etc.

It is now Friday morning. I took a nice hot shower. It will be a super day, supposed to get in the seventies but it was a cold night, down in the forties.

October 17. Uproaring in Lyon. Obama Bashing

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Yesterday I placed the below message on Face Book. It was with a certain amount of apprehension and soul searching. I do not want to accuse or offend any one. But I just hope that some of my friends will take the alternative to heart. The reactions this morning were 95% positive and many of them.

The sun has come out I’ll be on my way to Avignon.


To my OBAMA BASHING FB friends:  I am concerned about your motives in using Face Book to criticize our president. I am a Republican and have always voted my preferences for free enterprise and individual responsibility. I have voted three times for a Democratic presidential candidate; in Nixon’s second election and the last two presidential elections. A  United States president does not make any laws that you and many disgruntled Americans credit him for.  He has just the same voting privileges you and I have.  I voted for Obama because he impressed me with his eloquence, his effective election campaign and that he is one of the few politicians who abstain from pissing matches with their opponents. On Obama’s inauguration, in January 2009, I happened to be in the British Virgin Islands. The yacht club had set up a television outside and it was a great party, champagne flowed; many of the yachties were Republican Americans, just like my-self. Then when I visited home in the N.W. in early 2011 I was confronted with the first Obama bashing from some of my Republican friends.  Now I see it regularly from my FB friends. Never in the 50 years since I gained U.S. voting rights have I experienced the meanness, ridicule, innuendos, and false accusations towards any other U.S. president. And even his wife becomes your target. Why? If you are unhappy with whatever affected you in his administration then why don’t you direct your energies at your elected lawmakers? President Obama has just a couple more years to make your life miserable. Why don’t you spend your time in getting a good Republican candidate into the White House? What really worry me are your possible motives. Is it racial?  Is the euphoria of January 2009 of having a president who is part black and part white and second generation American still too difficult to embrace for you? Please, look into your hearts and direct your energies to a solution to your ideals rather than bashing a non issue and create divisions instead of building bridges.



October 16 in the Lyon’s Den

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

I got a late start on Tuesday, catching up on my messages and the blog, with the one week internet blackout. But I managed to cover a little over 80 km and made to just north of Macon. It was getting dark and dropped the anchor in the river close to shore away from the channel. This is the best way to get a good night sleep. No bumping against the dock. Nice and quiet. The boat lays perfectly to the current. Then it was just another 86 km to Lyon where I arrived by 5 p.m. Yesterday it rained practically the entire afternoon, sometimes hard. Thank you Ernie de Boer for donating the one piece foul weather suit. It keeps me perfectly dry. The only drawback is that an old man frequently takes a piss and then I have to strip down to the waist.  Yesterday I had one lock, today two. And with the much wider waterways I get a chance to relax with the autopilot on and be able to get out of the pocket into the cabin for a snack or whatever. The sun did not get out today but it is mild. I went on a one hour goose chase and caught crow. I had left my wireless antenna in a coffee shop in Chalons. This cuts back my potential free reception by 400%. Right now I had to get out of the boat and into a shopping center, where last year I could easily get the signal on the boat in the same spot. But the store did not have it. The other item was a keyboard for the new tablet but they only have French key boards. Then I could not remember the model of the Samsung for a cover for it. But I saw a part of Lyon I had not seen before. Reminded me of Paris’ Left Bank. It is a fabulous city.  The marina is not attended out of season, so I have free moorage. I plan to be in Avignon by Saturday and expect to meet my cousin Adri and her husband who are there with their camper.

Monday October 14. Going downhill on the Saone.

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Since the last blog, a week ago, from Chalons sur Marne, I have not been anywhere close to an internet connection. This morning I did the last 4 or 5 locks on the canal entre Champagne et la Bourgogne  at KM 255 and made it into Verdun (sur le Doubs) at KM 167 on the Saone. So, I am going at a much faster rate than the last two weeks slugging up to the 1250 feet summit. That is 88 k.m. just in about 8 hours. There were only three locks and I have probably about two knots of current with me. Compare that with my 30 or so k.m’s for the day and 31 locks on Friday. I am copying below what I had already written for the previous days. I took a nice long shower here at the city’s marina on the river Doubs. This not the Verdun of the 1st WW battles. That is Verdun sur le Meuse.

I should be in Lyon on Wednesday evening.

Yesterday, Sunday, I did not try to find which of the 10 odd villages/hamlets near me would have the privilege of the visiting priest. I spent about 45 minutes at one lock because the radar did not pick me up to start the automated lock. I was told that swinging a frying pan at the radar post should do the trick I went back three times but the lock stayed locked. Then fortunately a small Dutch power boat from Hillegom, was recognized by the radar and I then traveled all day with them. The owner of the boat was a 26 year old Frenchman, Charles, who had bought the boat in Holland and his two friends Thomas and Max helped him bring it to Macon further down on the Saone, in Burgundy. Delightful young men. Last night we had a sundowner on their boat. Max is a photographer and works in the French ski resorts in the winter. Thomas has a degree in physical education and also spends his winters as a ski instructor. Charles has designed software for digital charts of the European waterways. I am back in milder temperatures now, mid sixties F after a couple cold nights at the higher altitudes.

The landscape through the higher hills in Champagne and the Cote d’Or is gorgeous. Small villages, and freshly plowed fields made ready for the next crops. Everywhere the peculiar smell of the wood fired stoves, reminding me of my first winter visits to the Bavarian Alps when I was a teenager.


Wednesday, October 9. On the canal Between Champagne and Burgundy.

Today I made very little progress. 37 KM. One could have walked this distance in less than 12 hours. Yesterday at around 4 p.m. I was told in one of the locks that there was a small problem up ahead. Navigation was blocked from lock # 63 onward for an undetermined time because there were some exercises/tests with nuclear armament going on at the air force base near St. Dizier, along the canal. It was suggested that I stay the night at lock # 66 and discouraged from going on to lock # 63 because of the “Gens du Voyage”. I first understood it to be “agence de voyage” (travel agency) but it turned out to be a polite form for Gypsies. Well, I had never met a bad gypsy yet. So I decided to go on to lock 63 because I wanted to keep going till dusk. I was told that someone from the “V.N.F.” , the public agency that maintains the waterways, would come and tell me when the travel ban would be lifted.  I had understood there to be a quay to moor to at lock 63, next to the Gypsy encampment. But there was nothing, so, I dropped my anchor and settled in. Around 8 p.m. a couple of the Gypsy urchins threw a rock against the boat and at 10.45 p.m. another one. I loaded my flare gun with a charge and lay in wait to get me a gypsy rascal. But no one showed.  This morning no one came from the V.N.F. but another French boat informed that the passage was clear. Then it turned out that the little Gypsy bastards had broken the red and green lenses of the lock signals and all that was left was one white light. Now, let me be clear: I am not trying to stereo-type the little Gypsy bastards.  When I was their age I did worse. This stretch is all uphill, from before Reims. I have another 50 uphill locks to go through and then it will be all downhill to the Med. It takes about 15 minutes for each lock whereas in the earlier downhill locks I timed myself at 4 minutes. Twice, today I had to wait for a roving V.N.F. attendant to come and reset the automatic lock systems. The first took a one hour wait the second about an extra 45 minutes. Frustrating. On the first delay I crossed the lock to pull the alarm and I slid on really slimy ground and fell flat on my ass. I could have slid into the lock. The water actually rises to over the lock surface, leaving a cover of slime. The fenders float up on the surface. The unseasonal high temperatures we had for the last two weeks are history, as of tomorrow, the “Meteo” has promised. It started raining in the last two hours today.

Friday  October 11. Wednesday it rained off and on all night. The temperature dropped in the fifties. It threatened to rain all day with heavy dark clouds but I was spared the worst. Thursday was again a slow progress day. The routine at the locks is to click the remote control, then wait for the lock to empty and rise about 8 feet. This all takes about 15 minutes, so in a 10 hour day with 18 locks you spend 4 ½ hours of it in the locks. Thursday I made it to lock 29 at K.M. 101.  Today, Friday, I stopped at  Riolamportlock 9 k.m. 139. Twenty locks and 38 k.m., another short distance day. It was early enough to walk in to the town and do some provisioning. I tried to find an internet connection, but faiIed.

Oct 12. Saturday Evening Post:  I am at lock 22, k.m. 182, a 43 k.m. day.  I left from lock 9 (before the hump) at 9 a.m. At the 1250 foot summit I went though my last tunnel, 3,8 km. This means that I went through at least 31 locks today; that might be a record. Today my VNF (Voies Navigables de France) companion was Rudi. Yesterday it was Emanuel. On this stretch many of the locks are manually operated, and also some of the draw/bascule bridges.  So, my companion rushes from lock to lock in his V.N.F. compact p.u. truck. If this were Holland he’d be using his bicycle and get an allowance for his flat tire repairs. It is common courtesy to give these men a tip. They were essential in giving me advice as to where to find a good spot to spend the night, etc. It was in the low forties this morning.  My hands were purple cold handling the wet muddy lines in the locks. But it warmed up later in the day and I am at last descending to lower and warmer levels.


Monday 7 October Chalons en Champagne

Monday, October 7th, 2013

I had to do some retakes of the pictures I had taken in the Cathedral. And the sun had comer out to give more light on the stained glass. By the time I was done with the blog it was mid afternoon.  I explored more of the city of Reims. It turned out to be a delightful stop. I stayed the Sunday night in Reims and took off early this morning. It was very foggy and It was difficult to make out the red/green lights on the locks. But after the fog burnt off at around 11 a.m. it was once again sunny and warm. Beautiful countryside.

I stopped in Chalons en Champagne/sur le Marne at 4.30 p.m. there is not much beyond here in the way of a spot to spend the night. I traveled through 18 locks, a 2.8 k.m. tunnel and did 51 k.m. This is also a fair sized town and quite attractive with large parks and also an old Gothic church.

Sunday October 6th., Reims

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

I left off from yesterday’s report that I traveled through another tunnel, yesterday, 2 1/2 k.m. long. It was a very weird sensation because the round tunnel roof reflected down through the water and you could not make out the water’s surface so it seemed like I was floating, suspended in air, through the middle of a long tube. I wished I could have made a picture but i could not leave my attention from steering for a split second without bouncing against the walls. There was about a foot of space on both sides.  One way traffic. These canals are built for the freight barges of Napoleon’s time. Practically all the commercial barges (“Spitsen” in Dutch) are all the same dimensions and fit snug in the locks. A few of the locks I went through on the canal I am on, here in Reims, have not been maintained since Napoleon was banned to Elba. Usually the ladders that I have to climb on to get to the lock controls have railings like in a swimming pool but these have only a few crude steel bars in the steep stone walls and then I have to get on my knees first to get upright on the top of the landing and reverse the process to get back on the boat. An U.S. liability lawyer would have found a place to hang his shingle. This is the Champagne region but you will not see a single vineyard here. Champagne is just a special fermenting process done here with grapes from the more southern area.

I took a bath in the galley sink. Went to church clean as a whistle.

Mass was a treat. The service and language was very familiar to me having gone to French services for four years in the sixties when I lived in Belgium. The sermon was from Luke 17 verse 5-10, when Jesus was asked by his disciples how they could increase their Faith and how Jesus explained how a large tree grows from a tiny mustard seed. It gives one to think when this enormous cathedral was filled with worshippers when it was built in the 13th century, when Reims probably was not larger than a tenth of its current population and much lower in resources. The service was held in the part behind the main altar and less than a hundred faithful attended, average age in the sixties. I find it hard to understand how one can trade the gift of the love of God, the promise of eternal life, and the opportunity to share his presence at Sunday services with my brothers and sisters, for something more important. I could have skipped it and be 20 k.m. further down to the Mediterranean, I guess. When I stand for hours tending the helm on these narrow waters I get a chance to reflect. I might bore a few of you with my personal thoughts. Faith is not just for saints. I am a sinner. I try, just like you, to do what is right. All I hope for is that I will always be recognized like the song: “They will know we are Christians by our Love”. And I assure you that I love you all.

Just to be sure all know this: double click on the images to enlarge them for more detail. It looks like I solved my focus problems.




Saturday Oct 5th. Reims, France

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

For the second time in the last ten years I have spent money at a Mac Donald’s. The French eateries/pubs are not wired-less. I arrived in Reims at 4.30 p.m., sooner than I had expected. From where I started off this morning it was about 50 k.m.’s and that is difficult to achieve with all the locks. I left at 7.45 a.m. and it was still not full daylight. I was moored last night at Pargny-Fillain I managed to squeeze through the last lock at 1 minute before the 7 p.m. closing time. On the current canal/river the locks close at 6 p.m. Thursday was the last of the long spell of warm sunny weather. Yesterday and today was still un-seasonally warm but cloudy. I had to get in and out of my foulweather gear a few times but besides a short drizzle it stayed dry but Thursday and Friday night it rained steady. I could not have asked for better travel conditions. Often I have the waterways entirely to my self. But I have not found a moorage facility yet still open with a shower. And the one marina here in town was far to shallow. At least, outside of the one night in Ghent and the three in Oudenaarde I have not had to pay for my night moorages. Thursday night I made it to Jussy on the canal de St. Quentin.

I visited the world famous cathedral of Reims to check the mass schedule for tomorrow. 9.30 a.m. And in the next 20 minutes there was a free choral concert in the church given by the Chorale Heinrich-Schuetz from Kiel, Germany. I had expected that Inge and Wolf my Kieler culture-vulture crusing friends, I traveled with in Bulgaria and Turkey in 2011, would be in the choir. Outstanding choir and director, they were introduced by the French hosts as semi-professional, but then there are a few small details they could have learned from my last choir director, Herman Paardekooper. Their pièce de résistance was the Latin mass from Louis Vierne. I liked in particular “Warum ist das Licht gegeben dem Mühseligen?” from Johannes Brahms and the contemporary “Lux aurumque” from Eric Whitacre.

I hope that I get my camera problems fixed for tomorrow’s mass at the Cathedral. It has some of the finest stain glass windows and the large rosette above the entrance of any European Gothic cathedrals. This is the church where Charlemagne was crowned. The focus problem is apparently not in the lens but in the camera mechanics. I have to dig for my spare. Or be forced to figure out how to take pictures with my brand new tablet.

Oct 2nd Early in Escaudoevre



Thursday, October 3rd. St. Quentin

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

No, not the infamous U.S. prison, but the city in Northern France, not far from Reims.

I have not been able to hook up to an internet connection since last Sunday in Oudenaarde. I am now sitting in a, of all, McDonald’s, for a wi-fi hookup. I arrived too late last night to make it into the city and I am now moored in the municipal marina on the canal de St. Quentin. I plan to take off after I find a ATM machine and some provisions and continue on direction Reims.

The weather continues to be outstanding, cool mornings and warm afternoons. Everything is going well. I did have problems in two or three locks with not being able to keep the boat reined in against the incredible fast and rough filling of the lock. My hard work on the rub rails will need some repairs at the end of the trail. As of this morning I am going down hill, at least for a while, and that is much easier on the arms and boat.

Here is what I prepared earlier in the week:

Wednesday October 2nd.

I have not been able to hook up to a wi-fi connection since Sunday evening. It is 6.45 a.m. and I am waiting for the 7 o’clock lock opening in a suburb of Cambrai, Escaudoeuvre. Just across the Belgian French border. But I will have to wait till closer to 7.30 to have enough daylight. From Cambrai onward I will be on the Canal du St.Quentin. I expect to make the 5 p.m. convoy to be towed through a 5 k.m. long tunnel. Otherwise it will be tomorrow morning at 9.30 a.m.  The weather has been gorgeous. Ever since I left last week Tuesday from Amsterdam it has been sunny. Cool mornings and warm T-shirt conditions in the afternoon. The landscape on the Scheldt river was similar to places on the Rhone, willow, alder, cottonwood trees lining the banks. Lots of ducks, cormorants, terns. And industrial sections, enormous grain elevators. This is the flax growing region of Northern France.  The last part of the Scheldt is supposed to be min. 2m20 deep but I got stuck a couple of times. My draft is supposed to be around 1 m 80 (six feet). But I am probably 4 to 6 inches deeper now with all the bottles of wine on board given to me by fare-well wishers.  In one spot I had a hard time getting free. A local small power boat then guided me along the opposite bank of the river to deeper water. Monday late afternoon I stopped for fuel in Peronnes, just south of Tournai, and turned into a recommended moorage inlet with a sign showing the depth at 2m20 and I got stuck firmly in the mud. It took me forever to get off. Further up the river I found a delightful anchoring spot. See below picture. It is still the preferred way to spend a restful night near the traffic because being moored along a canal with the passing traffic wake can be rough and unsettling.  Right now I am tied up before the lock because I arrived just after 7 p.m. but then there is no traffic till the next morning. The Scheldt does not have k.m. signs along the way, like most of the European canals/rivers, so I do not know my distance made for the day. Monday was slow because I had to wait a long time for a Dutch barge to come out of a lock while his paperwork was being handled  Then there was a long line-up at one of the locks. In one of the last Belgian locks I had to come up to register and then the questions come of how I could have crossed the Atlantic in a 30 foot boat. Then I discovered that I had left my handheld VHF with the impressionable lock lady. And at the next lock I was told that the lady had forgotten to give me my boat registration paper back. Apparently my offer to her for joining me to Cartagena totally threw her off her routine. So, I had to wait an hour for another barge to bring the paper up to me.Yesterday I had to purchase my Vignette for the French rivers at the third French lock. $140….for a 30 day pass. I noticed for the first time that I have to handsteer through the bridges and steel canal bulkheads. It throws my magnetic compass off on the automatic pilot. Also when I pass the large steel barges.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I had to pass through a 5 k.m. long tunnel/aquaduct. An electric driven tug tows a string of boats by pulling itself on a chain laid on the tunnel floor. It took an hour and a half. Standing up listening to the clunk/clunk of the tug. There was just the one barge ahead of me. Then a littler further there was the “petit sous-terrain” a tunnel where we went under our own power. I only did 45 k.m. for the entire 11 hours. It was getting dark when I emerged from the tunnel at 6.30 p.m. and the smaller tunnel 7.30 p.m. But I managed to find another decent moorage along the deserted canal. This is a true cruise gastronomique with all the good stuff I was given at the farewell party. My favorite the digestive after dinner, Poire Williams from the Sued Tirol given me by Richard Niewenhuizen together with dark Verkade chocolates… I justb have to have another farewell party before I puch off from the Canaries. You are all invited again.