Thursday, October 3rd. St. Quentin

Written by Jack van Ommen on 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.

 

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