43° 23′ 16.2492” N 4° 48′ 11.61” E
July 28, 2015
Port Saint-Louis-du-Rhone: It is the day of reunification. After having sent Ronjas mast and boom from Rouen in northern France to the Mediterranean with a german lorry in 2013, today will show whether the mast will be found – or whether, in the two years has been lost or sold to a scrapyard.
It’s there! It is in the forefront of all masts, it has the port’s absolute lowest registration-number, and Florence at the port office looks a second time, when she sees, that it has been here for more than two years.
Navy Service turns out to be a super acquaintance. The company specializes in taking boats out and in the water, and taking masts of or putting them on again. Also, if you want help with inspections and repairs, then the site contains a number of smaller companies that offer their assistance.
We get at time for picking Ronja out of the water at four o’clock. Ronja are ready on time at Navy Service, and at 16:30 she is solid in a winter stand monitored by video cameras right beside the harbour office. Perfect.
We are contacting three companies and ask them to meet us at Ronja next morning between 8 and 9. One company we want to repair the bow thruster and give the engine an overhaul. The second company we want to sew a new spray hood and modify the cockpit tent, so that it works better in warm climates. The third company, we want to make an offer for fiberglass repair, cleaning, antifouling and polishing of the freeboard.
Ronja has marks of her trip through close to 200 locks. Enough marks that we will have to have something done about it. The freeboard has got a few scratches, which hopefully can be polished out. The keel is a more damaged. It has got some damage to the fibreglass at the front of the bottom- certainly from the part of the journey, where we scraped over the channel’s concrete base, because the water level was 40 centimetres below the normal water level.
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.