49° 2′ 39.6348” N 3° 58′ 1.56” E
July 5, 2015
We have agreed with Monsieur Bernard, that we will sail at 9:00: He and his girlfriend are ready to wave good-bye at the quayside. He says tut-tut like a ferry, that departs from land, playing for Nellie and letting us know, that we have been some very special guests. Sure. In a port with a total of three boats, who winter there, we probably paid the lion’s share of his salary for a year, thinks a cynical man from Scandinavia.
It is a great trip. Damn it, it’s a relief to wave goodbye to Epernay, which has “bound us” for almost a year. Finally, we are back on track. Towards new adventures. Every day something new. The family spins. The motor hums pleasant. It was worth the wait. The new parts seem to be worth the money.
Log book: Today’s distance: 40 km. Sailed time: 10:10 a.m. to 17:00 = 7 hours. Locks: 8 pcs. Weather: Heat wave. Today, only up to 34 degrees to 36 degrees on Friday and Saturday.
49° 2′ 39.6348” N 3° 58′ 1.56” E
July 4, 2015
The day is spent cleaning Ronja, soapy water and algae remover, water tanks and a gigantic shopping in Carrefour and – for Lasse, Tian Ling and Nellie – an excursion to the deep cellars under the champagne producer Mercier, who has so many kilometers of underground passages with fermenting bottles, that they have invested in an underground train to get around.
In the evening we barbecue dinner on the quayside. The sun grilling us from above. The heat wave.
July 3, 2015
After a late lunch in the town of Bouillon on the border between Belgium and France, we arrive in the late afternoon to Epernay. Great reception.
Port captain, Monsieur Bernard, explains with grand gestures, how he has been fighting against nature’s unpredictable attacks on Ronja through the winter. Five times, the sea level has risen in the Marne River. Way up there, he says, pointing high up the slope over Ronja. Five times he has been out and reinforce the sloped path to keep Ronja clear of the quay.
There has been some progress in the fight, though we must understand, that it has been a struggle against powerful forces. Madame Bernard kisses his cheek and consents: Monsieur Bernard fought and won.
It is more than 11 months ago, we left Ronja in Epernay with engine problems. She seems fine now. Dusty, dirty. But overall in a better state than, when we revisited her last year after an entire winter in a port north of Paris.
We pick Kirsten up at Epernay train station at 9 o’clock p.m. She has had a meeting at the school Friday morning, and therefore she travelled to Epernay by plane and train. We ate a late dinner in the heavy heat wave. Even at midnight it feels like well over 30 degrees.
July 2, 2015
It is early afternoon, when Per meet Lasse, Tianling and Nellie at Fredericia train station in Denmark. Per had been to a few meetings in the media-company in Vejle, and the others came by train from Copenhagen.
They all enter Per’s car, which will with the air conditioning on full speed allow us to survive the current heatwave and bring us to the good ship Ronja, which are waiting in the Marne river in the champagne capital, Epernay, France.
Fine trip. Good mood. Nellie, who is 3 ½ years old, falls into the rhythm. She sleeps a lot, plays with Tianling. We rest along the way at Moevenpick Hotel in Munster. Excellent dinner, excellent rooms, excellent breakfast. And then off again.
49° 2′ 39.6348” N 3° 58′ 1.56” E
July 11. – 2014
We start the day by attending a start of Tour de France. The whole Epernay is on the other end. Lots of audience along the route. Advertising cars in the hundreds. School children with flags. Tents with entertainment. Yellow leader-shirts and polka dot-shirts for sale and at one point: whousshh !, and all the riders has passed. That was that.
At 11 o’clock we pull into a quiet side street, because we are expecting a call about the engine. We have brought forward the best competences in french, that we possibly can. Anders and Kirsten have left Epernay to travel for Paris. They did not get much of sailing in the french rivers this year. Bad luck.
Now Kirsten’s older brother Jørgen and his wife Hanne is on their way to embark Ronja. Hanne is excellent in french, but her friend, Vivi, is possibly better, so we have Vivi call the mechanic at 11 o’clock to get clear information on the progress of our repair. When is it expected to be completed? Can it be speeded up at additional cost for the weekend? In there any way whatsoever that the repair can be accelerated?
The answer is no good.
Neither the warehouse in Holland or the manufacturer in Germany are able to deliver a new sparepart, so now the part has to be sent from Malö shipyard in Sweden. It cannot be done until next week because of Bastille Day on July 14. The mechanic will come Friday morning and photograph the shaft and measure the dimensions, so that he can order the sparepart – in the harbour known as “la piece“.
The new part will be mounted on Wednesday and installation will last one and a half hours. As the mechanic do not show up as agreed Friday morning, we probably should already have suspected mischief.
Sigh. We go to Bernards office and pay for the one night, we owe him, and for five additional nights. Overall, eight nights in Epernay. That is a long time for a boat on its way round the world. Perhaps we shall acquire some potted plants to the foredeck of Ronja like the other river boats, of which many are permanently moored.
49° 2′ 39.6348” N 3° 58′ 1.56” E
July 10. – 2014
Two mechanics come at 10.30 and remove the defect cardan-joint. They are polite but have previously written off any communication with these non-French speaking tourists. “Call the boss,” they say.
We give the port captain, monsieur Bernard, two bottles of Burgundy wine as a thank you for his efforts to obtain a mechanic. He is pleased. “Tres gentile“, “Tres gentile“.
Epernay is the champagne capital. Shoulder to shoulder you find one champagne company after another along the city’s exclusive main street, Avenue de Champagne, – Moet et Chandon, De Castellane, Perrier-Jouët and Mercier. It is all bursting with prosperity. The companies are housed in old and new palaces, with sumptuous towering, newly renovated facades. Many offers tours or tastings.
We visit Mercier, for here, Anders and Kirsten had a fine experience on a previous visit. It is truly impressive. Alone this company, Mercier, has dug 30 meters deep into the limestone and has a total of 18 kilometre long hallways and basements for the storage of champagne. We drive around the corridors in an electric train and hear, how champagne is made. How long it ferments, how often the bottles are rotated, how waste substances are separated, and how the bottles are filled again. Along the way artists have decorated the walls with pictures. It is bursting with prosperity.
On the way back along the Avenue de Champagne, we pass Pol Roger, which was Winston Churchill’s favourite brand. “In victory you deserve it, in defeat I need it,” he said. Churchill is also quoted for saying: “Avenue de Champagne number 44 in Epernay is the world’s most drinkable address.” And he also needs to have said: “An hour without champagne is an hour wasted.”
An advertising agency could not wish for more.
At dinner on Ronja Anders recalled yet another of Churchill’s immortal quotes. Winston Churchill at a dinner had an English lady as a dinner partner. She exclaimed indignantly: “But you are drunk!” “Yes,” replied Churchill. “And you are ugly. But tomorrow I’m sober. ”
At Mercier we met Göran, Arvedahl and his two friends. He mentions to us that one of the crew, Ingelill, can speak some French, and she offers to call the mechanic, and ask the questions we want answered. It does not, however, bring much new. Only that the effort now is focused on obtaining a new sparepart from Holland or Germany. We can get a detailed message, when talking to the mechanic tomorrow, Friday, at 11 o’clock.
In the evening we are invited to coffee and strawberry tart on “Evanna III” Göran Arvedahl hosts. His two friends are respectively retired as a teacher and trumpeter. He himself is retired as CEO of a Swedish company that distributes TV signals for nordic broadcasters. Hi is a trained engineer. We all ready guessed that.
It was an interesting evening, where the talk is about the goal of life, dreams, ambitions and occasional setbacks.
Göran read Göran Schildts “Wish journey” many years ago, and it has stored in his mind, as something he would like to accomplish one day. A few years ago he lost his wife, an indescribable grief, he retired and thought that now his ambition to follow Göran Schildt might never be realised. But something in him insisted.
He began to plan the 14 week in Göran Schildts wake. He sought out a boat on display in Finland, he spoke with Goran Schildts wife number two. He acquired a first edition of “Wish Journey”. As he speaks, it becomes clear to us, that the implementation of the Wish Journey II is largely a therapeutic treatment of his own grief over the loss of his wife. A manual from the crisis, and he deserves respect for that.
He tells us how tired he was, when he reached England after tough sailing over the North Sea. He tells how he has been on the verge of giving up. But now, nine weeks are completed and only five weeks remaining, now he is committed more than ever to the project.
What happens when you reach Marseille? We suppose you’re going on to Italy, Croatia and the Greek Archipelago?
No, Göran thinks he is not. He likes the idea, that all options are open to him. But when he reaches Marseille, it is time to return home.
45° 38′ 57.12” N 4° 47′ 40.5888” E
July 8. – 2014
We get up early. Kirsten and Henrik send Ronja back into the river. We we are heading towards a new goal. We agree that we need to sail 75 kilometres in two days, so Henry and Susanne can disembark in the city of Epernay, where there are trains to Paris every two hours. The stretch we can either split into two days or do it in one day. We end up doing the whole trip in one day.
We have begun to hear a strange murmur from the engine. At irregular intervals, sounding unpleasant, as if the propeller is about to fall off, or something else is wrong. It is a sound quite different from the diesel engine’s otherwise very stable rhythm. We are trying to get rid of the sound by changing the engine speed. We close the door down the toilet. We stabilise all on the boat, that can go into oscillation. We really do know, that it is not that. But it feels good to act. As we open the door to the engine, we can hear that it is not the engine itself, that is the problem. The motor hums stable, as it should.
It must be something external. The propeller? The shaft? We sail cautiously with successive revolutions in order to find a level, which eliminates the new and unpleasant engine sound. We did not manage to do so. In fact, it is difficult to attach the murmur to a particular RPM level. It occurs when we run at 2,600 revolutions per minute, and when we run 1,600 rpm. What’s worse, the sound gets worse and worse every hour that we sail.
Along the way, we stop at a bridge. We let the motor cool down and examine, what might be wrong. We tighten the vibration dampers. We can see that there is a loss of oil at the cardan-joint (transmission shaft) between the horizontal shaft of the motor and the inclined shaft down to the propeller, and we can see that the concertina-membrane enclosing the cardan-joint, has been worn in pieces. Probably the problem is to be found here.
We decide to proceed. Gently. Preferably all the way to Epernay. For Epernay is a relatively large town (27,000 inhabitants). We think that in such a city there will be a marine mechanic or a truck mechanic.
We are approaching the – almost – only port in Epernay – Nautique de Epernay. In our river map it says, that the port can only take vessels with a draft less than 1.60 meters. But we continue anyway. Maybe they have deepened the harbour recently? Perhaps they have not got the real measure? Perhaps there is still room for us?
Yes! There is room. We put ourselves outside of a briton from Norwich. Harbourmaster Bernard accepts us with grand gestures and invites us for a welcome drink in the marina bar.
It is the world’s smallest marina. It has room for ten boats at the highest. Maybe rather eight. Yet, the head of the capitainerie, monsieur Bernard, acts if he is the head of a marina with 800 boats. Very helpsome, he is. We explain to him, that we have an engine problem, and he offers immediate help in finding a mechanic. His first call has no results. The mechanic has plenty of work and have neither the time nor the inclination to take a new job in.
Bernard says that he has asked the mechanic to ask amongst his colleagues, and soon one of them will call back and take on the task.
Log-book: Today’s distance: 75 km. Locks: 6 pcs. Sailing time: 8:00 to 17:00 = 9 hours. Weather: Grey, dry weather as long as we sail. The rain starts exactly when we arrive at Epernay (and continues for 24 hours thereafter).