Champagne, please – we have reached the Mediterranean
43° 23′ 16.2492” N 4° 48′ 11.61” E
July 27, 2015
Port Saint-Louis-du-Rhone: Champagne cork pops when, after having sailed 83 kilometres we slip into a berth in the city of Port Saint-Louis-du-Rhone – 80 km west of Marseille – after just passing the absolute last gate.
The last lock was merely symbolic. We have to be lowered – according to the map – between zero and one meter. We wait an hour to get into the lock, and when the gate finally goes up, it turns out to be the most difficult lock to moor in. The wind has increased to 12 meters per second, and at the same time the power from the Rhone River gives us one last push. And this particular day the lock is neutral. As the gate on the Mediterranean opens, we have been lowered exactly zero meters.
It’s great that we finally are here. After four summers boating – together we have been under our way for 13 weeks – we have reached the Mediterranean, a milestone of our adventure.
Many kilometres before Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhone, we could sense the sea. The smell of salt and seaweed announced – together with an ever stronger light – that we approached a large river outlet into the sea.
Rhone has been an exciting but also difficult acquaintance. It is one of many stretches of beautiful rivers with views of mountains and vineyards, and on other parts a rather hideous river influenced by the French tradition of placing nuclear and chemical industries along the river. It is also a pleasure to use the river’s 12 huge locks. Especially when we are on the decline. Here the difference of water depth is not only three metres. No, here it is 12, 18 and even 23 metres in each gate. You feel like you are at the bottom of a cathedral in such a lock.
We had already been waiting to get a half knots of current flow in the river, but there was so much equicurrent we noticed first on the very last day when we had logged up to 9.3 knots. It is probably the many weeks without rain, which has reduced the flow.
The river is deceptive in the case of mooring for the night. The ports are few, and when the water level is low like this year, a big part of them are unsuitable for keelboats like ours. If we are on the Rhône another time, we will probably research a little wider and seek advice about anchorages especially on some of the river’s tributaries. On today’s trip we would have made a stop in Arles, but a storm surge flooded it a few years ago and the city pontoon flooded away, and it has not been restored.
Maybe the small amount of mooring-possibilities can explain, that we arrived at Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, at the exact same time as the other crews, that we have been sailing with on the canals and on the two rivers. In any case, we meet in the lock and on the quays with several of the Swedish and British crews, that we have been seeing earlier in the trip.
After the champagne we walk in the heat and search for the company, Navy Service. We yearn to see our mast. The office is closed, so we scan the even field, the big halls and the huge open areas, where 1,200 ships stand in racks waiting for their owners to put them into their element. But it is not this day that we will find the mast.
Log book: Today’s distance: 83 km, sailed time 8:00 to 16:00 = 8 hours, locks: 2. Weather: Continued hot. The wind increases and makes the temperature barely bearable.