In the stronghold of indland waterway sailors

Posted on Jul 17, 2015

47° 6′ 3.1968” N
5° 15′ 52.2792” E

July 17, 2016

We shop and break up. The air is sultry. The weather forecast promises 38 degrees, perhaps with thunder. It turns out to be a fine decision to drop the extra day in Auxonne, for out on the river there is wind and relative coolness. We sail to St-Jean-de-Losne – inland waterway sailors stronghold. Here, the multiple channels run together. Here, most sailors pass, whether south or northbound.

In a large inner harbour are 250 large riverboats. At the start of the Canal de Bourgogne is a further hundred, and out on the Saone River is the major, rebuilt boats and people like us, who with a draft of 1.75 cannot enter the inner harbour without going aground. The official Fluvia chart says otherwise, that there is room for a draft of 1.80, but several have warned us, that it has no basis in reality. There is a maximum of 1.40 meters.

After getting diesel from something as rare as a river located diesel station, we place ourselves beside a warm Dutch couple, who have moored in the river and signal us, that we are welcome outside their boat. Shortly after we get an extra bout at our side – our friends, the Swedish boat Sofia, who like us are heading towards the Mediterranean in a maxi-yacht. The boat is sailed by a couple, who are on leave until the end of October and wants to sail around Greece, where the man originally come from. He moved to Sweden in 1987.

We have been sailing with them – more or less – since Chalon-sur-Champagne, where they witnessed our fatal motor collapse on the day, that we since have tried to forget.

We explore the city. It is more charming than Auxonne, less poor, less worn, and a little more accommodating. At the same time, however it is a tiny town with its main profile from the riverboats lying all year round for the repair, winter storage, conversion. We move around in slow motion from shadow to shadow to not be affected by the heatwave, which, , according to the Norwegian weather service YR thankfully is over tomorrow, then instead we get rain showers and only 27 degrees. Hallelujah! It will be a celebration.

We are happy with YR, probably because they often promise better weather than other weather services. But let’s see.

The worst thing about heat waves are the nights. The many hours where you are bathed in sweat trying to rest. We remind ourselves, that if you want to explore the hot countries, you have to accept the heat, that comes with them. But we actually discuss these days, that conclusion on our “Ronja Around the World trip” may be, that the very best sailing ground in the world is Denmark. Well, right now we cross our fingers, that YR gets the weather right.

Log book: Today’s distance: 18 km. Sailed time from 10.00 to 12.00 = 2 hours. Locks: 1. Weather: Unbearable in port. The sun beats all day long.

Let us get away from these small locks

Let us get away from these small locks

Posted on Jul 16, 2015

47° 11′ 52.854” N
5° 23′ 13.7112” E

July 16, 2015

We want to get out of locks. Now. Basta. Therefore: Up early. In good time for the first lock to open.

Sigh. It does not respond. The light is not green, when we beam the remote at it, and it does not give us a red light even as a starting point. It is completely dead. Straight on the phone. “Parlez vous anglais?”. “No“. Just listen to this: “Ecluse numero 36, avalant, ne functionne pas …”. They will send a man. He asks why on earth we will further south, when it is already so hot here in the north. Well. Good question.

canal sailing bridge VNF

Shortly after it is a small bridge, that will not rise. We grab the phone: “Parlez vous anglais?

After the very last locks of the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne we sail into the Saone river and we observe an instant switch from the narrow channels. Here is traffic. Here is life. Other boats. Many rental boats with children. Extra water under the keel, longer between banks, more anglers along the coast.

Great! We are sailing faster and calling Auxonne, which to our surprise turns out to have a marina with 150 berths. So great a port, we have not seen for years. Strangely, to see a full port without a single mast. But thats the way it is in these parts of Europe.

We need to get ashore and move. We walk around in the city. It is characterized by a large military barracks, a huge church and some really old houses. The barracks are for infantry and artillerymen. Napoleon served here in a period of his career.

We are looking for cafe with Wi-fi – several café owners tell us, that they would never dream of having a thing like Wi-fi – and when we finally find one, we celebrate the change between channels and river with a glass of champagne. We eat at the best restaurant in town, Hotel Corbeau, which stands out clearly – the other consists mostly of kebab and pizza places. Corbeau’s food is excellent. The best so far on the trip.

We are talking with several Danes, who have rented boats on the Saone. We also meet Moodi and Carsten in their sailboat, Nicoya, from Rødbyhavn. They are on their way home over after three years in the Mediterranean, and are chock full of good advice on long-distance cruising. We invite them aboard, and while we contribute a few observations about where they should beware of low tide and extra seagrass in Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne, they are giving their experience of good harbours in the Saone and Rhone, interesting ports in southern France and the best places in Greece, where they stayed for a few years.

We hear about cockroaches, cockroach traps, about the importance of washing fruit and vegetables piece by piece, before we take them on board, the professionalism of Navy Services in Port St. Louis (that’s where we hope they continue to keep our mast and boom). We hear about the terrible port prices all along the coast of Italy, bad everywhere but worst from Rome and northwards, where the price for a night port adds up to 70 euros or even more, without even having special facilities. One of their tips is, that if we want to enter and see Rome, we shall sail up parts of xxx river and moor at one of the shipyards. There we can moor free and take the metro into Rome.

Carsten and Moodi, respectively 61 and 59 years old, have been on long voyages twice. The first time in two years. Later in three years. He has been taking early retirement. She did not yet.

Moodis and Carstens boat

They would have sailed home from Greece to the south of Sicily and via Menorca, Malorca and Corsika, but because of the current refugee situation they did not dare do it. They had experienced episodes of refugees in large rubber boats in Greece, and the thought of having to pass Lampedusa made them choose the Messina Strait instead.

It is no longer just the Somali coast, that sailors should take heed of, but also the Mediterranean where Carsten and Moodi knew of stories of gunfights between police and human traffickers, and where they frankly would not ever know what they should do if a few hundred refugees from Africa would board their small sailboat from Rodby.

Log book: Today’s distance: 39 km. Sailed time 7:00 to 15:00 = 8 hours. Locks: 10. Weather: 38 degrees. The heat wave is back.

Auxonne harbour on Saone river

Auxonne in Saone river turns out to have a marina with 150 berths. So great a port, we have not seen for years.