A giant fool makes our mast fall over in Rouen

Posted on Jul 19, 2013
A giant fool makes our mast fall over in Rouen

49° 28′ 56.6724” N 0° 52′ 31.9008” E

July 19. – 2013

The trip continues along a morning-quiet river. We meet one French riverboat coming from Le Havre. Otherwise nothing. Beautiful nature. Dramatic with fine and occasionally pompous country houses. A single jogger. Otherwise everything is hushed.

As we approach Rouen, there is more life. By the many wharves in the giant industrial area up to Rouen the day’s work is in progress. Here are our “friends” from yesterday – river boats and cargo ships – that overtook us. Total 10 to 12 known ships are being loaded or unloaded.

We find the marina in Rouen. Completely new. But quite small. A dozen local boats and next – a great guest harbour, where we are free to choose any spot, because we are the only guests.

Harbour master Jean Marie is very French, gesticulating, and polite, shakes hands and does not know all the good things, he will do for us. He is, however, more and more confused as the day progresses. He did well, as long as we were the only guests. But when later a French boat docked in the guest harbour after six weeks of travel from the Mediterranean, and a little later also a British motor boat, that had just been to Paris, then it was too much for Jean Marie. He stressed, mixed boats together, thought at one point that now, there were two “Malø’s” in his harbour (we had at the time demasted Ronja, and stuff like that can be very confusing, so late in the day). At eight thirty in the evening he resigned. He should have been finished work at 19. But there “had not been a spare moment.”

After arrival to Rouen Per immediately sought the Rouen office of COOP Lamanage, which was located next to the marina. Our German carrier, Wolfgang Graf, has recommended that we use this company to get the mast off, and then he would come within the next weeks to pick up the mast and boom and drive it to Navy Services in Port St. Louis at the Mediterranean.

Not one of the people at Lamanage understand English. Yes, one does, Christoph, but he was on vacation.

“Eh, j’ai une bateau. Et je eh … ” That really went sluggish. But gradually they understood. I would have help to get the mast, and I wanted a quick deal. Ideally today, Friday. They checked the tide tables. It had to be low tide, when the operation was carried out, otherwise the crane wouldn’t be high enough for the task.

15.00 o’clock?

Oui! Perfectement. Merci beaucoup!

Four hours to take down the sails. Pack them together. Down with flag lines. Down with lazy jacks. Removing a few turnbuckles of the starboard and port sides. Away with the boom and kickingstrap.

At 14:30 we were ready and sailed over to Lamanage, slightly ahead of schedule.

And then it all got wrong. Per was keen to achieve as much as possible within the time, we have rented a crane operator and a handy man, so he went ahead with loosening more turnbuckles in anticipation, that right there the people from Lamanage would be ready to play their part, and as we always have done with Jesper, when we took off the mast of our old Albin Ballad, “Lazzaron”. But at that boat the mast was pierced down through the cabin top. Not so on Ronja.

Suddenly Kirsten screams: “The mast is falling.”

Slowly and majestically the mast falls to the starboard railing and stops when it hits the crane and settles at an angle of 75 degrees.

Now a throng of people show up at the quayside, all looking down at the fools who had capsized their own mast. “Fou,” they say, among several other things. It did not sound like something good.

Once again the french are showing, that they are french. They gesture. They discuss. Everyone has good advice. The crane operator interrupts with a plan. Per was prompted to re-establish an additional turnbuckle on the port side, and with a thick rope in the mast four Frenchmen from a nearby berth pulled in the rope and got the mast back to a vertical position and the crane got a firm grip on the mast.

Per continues to dismantle turnbuckles, while the French discuss further up on the bridge. “Is there not one of you who can give my husband a hand?” asks Kirsten. That they do not understand one bit of. The crane operator is a crane operator, and he will not move from his place by crane console. The extra henchman slowly realises, that if there is one, who should help these tourists with practical work, it might be him. He loosens the forestay and backstay and advises on what leads up through the mast to be screwed off, when the mast is lifted. The mast rises towards the sky. They may perhaps be lazy, but they are extremely professional with such a crane.

The mast and boom are driven into a warehouse, where we have an agreement that, tomorrow, Saturday, we will come in and dismantle the VHF antenna, shrouds, lanterns and in general make the mast ready for transport to the Mediterranean. We pay the bill, 159 Euro, for the removal of the mast and storage of the mast and boom for up to two weeks. Per gave them 30 Euro extra for having saved us out of our stupid situation, when he had loosened the last turnbuckles prematurely.

This is the kind you learn from. That kind of errors we will hardly make again. “Learning by doing”.

Back at the now castrated sailboat, we meet a French couple who had just arrived after sailing for six weeks from the Mediterranean to Rouen. They look cool. Fenders around the entire ship. Fender boards. Suntanned. “Do not take the same route as us,” they say. “We stick only one metre deep, and we still had problems with our draft”. They draw upon their experience and explain where the good ports are. They give us a special-version of the fluvia-carte with descriptions of ports along the way.

The French have chosen the same helpers as us. They have established business with a German company to transport their two masts and two booms from Port St. Louis to Rouen. It turns out to be Wolfgang Graf. Price: 1100 Euro for two masts and two booms. We have agreed a price of 55 Euro per meter for the mast and 50 Euro extra for the boom, it sounds very reasonable and is certainly much cheaper than the two French companies, that we also had a quote from.

In the evening we rent electric bikes and ride into Rouen to eat. Rubbish meal. A poor salad and a sad burger. International cuisine – a little Irish, a little French, a little Italian – indifference at a very low level.

But hey! It is great fun to cycle on electric bicycles. You get a tremendous kick in the rear when pedalling. It is half the effort and twice the pleasure. We get to see the inner harbour and part of the surrounding city.

Log-book: Sailed distance: 15 miles. Time: Afgang from Duclair 7.30. Arrival in Rouen 9.30. Weather: Calm and warm in the morning.

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