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).