Help us out, we want out of the locks!

Help us out, we want out of the locks!

Posted on Jul 15, 2015

47° 27′ 41.8392” N
5° 22′ 19.6932” E

July 15, 2015

We are starting to get tired of the locks. We cannot bear any more of them. We have done more than a hundred locks since we started the holiday one and a half weeks ago. Now enough is enough.

The only sure cure for this is to sail out of the channel, and we still have 28 locks in front of us before we are done with Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne and can sail into the river Saone. So we carry on with the locks again today.

The locks are close to one another at this side of the mountain. In turn, the weather has been a challenge. More than 30 degree celsius already at the end of the morning, we are confident. We therefor start early. Before eight o’clock. It gives us some cool hours, where everything works. But then we come to sail behind a peniche. And we are in a series of locks under remote control.

We call again and again to VNF. “Parles vour anglais?” We ask hopefully. “Pas du tout” is the response almost every time. And then we have the trouble. Per embarks on his through the winter updated French: “Ici batoux plaisance RonjaAvalant (declining). Nous sommes a ecluse numero 32. The shit does not work. The lock is red, and not a damn thing is happening, when we use our remote control. ”

Amazing what you learn at evening-classes at FOF in Odense (running french-lessons) even without excessive diligence with homework.

VNF come and fix the error within 20 minutes. Only a very few times we have to make an additional call.

A place to moor for the night we find a kilometre after lock 35, Beaumont. We put Ronja under a grain silo. Only ship at the spot. No other boats have ventured to sail as far forward in the lock system this day.

Let’s get out of the locks. Tomorrow we have nine locks back, then there will be free passage down the Saone River, where we expect the city Auxonne to be the first stop for more than just one night. From there the rest of the tour will be 14 days with only 16 locks between us and the Mediterranean. Great.

Log book: Today’s distance: 33 km. Sailed time 7:45 to 18:00 = 10 ¼ hour. Locks: 20 !!! Weather: Sun all day. Possibly 35 degrees. We have no thermometer. But clearly one of the hottest days at all. We rig a large umbrella to create shade for the helmsman. Comfortable on the straights. A hassle during the lock operations.

The lock system and almighty VNF sets the speed. Not you…

The lock system and almighty VNF sets the speed. Not you…

Posted on Jul 13, 2015

48° 18′ 1.7748” N 5° 8′ 48.9516” E

July 13, 2015

We say goodbye to Lasse, Tianling and Nellie. They want to go to Alsace, Germany and Denmark to find the wildest playground for Nellie. Instead of making departing into something sad, Lasse told Nellie that they now will start a hunt for a wild playground, and this project she is very pleased about. In today’s first lock they stand and wait and surprise us with an extra goodbye.

It requires patience to sail the French channels. The channel is in control. The lock system and the almighty VNF decide. Not you. Others set the pace.

You may be very much accustomed to the ways things are done back home on the job. You make things happen. Putting things off. Monitor progress. Intervene and speed up if a project loses momentum. On the canal is different.

The locks are based on a centuries-old system, which in recent years has been partially automated, but which are nevertheless based on the same routines and procedures. First notify your lock – via VHF radio, via a mechanical turn on a hanging rod or via a remote control – that you want to get through the gate. Then the lock reports back, that it has received your message, and it will start working on it. After some time – it can feel like a very long time – closes the farthest gate, and the emptying or filling of water begins. It takes time.

Remotecontrol locks River Marne

Remote control for operating the modernised locks. All is in french. But anyway the system is simple

From your position you can see the water gushing out, or – if you are on the decline – pouring into the lock chamber. When the water in the lock chamber has reached the same height as your part of the channel, which takes quite a while, a beep will sound and a flashing light shows, that now starts next stage in the process. The lock opens the lock chamber. It goes slowly. Very slowly. With high probability is this slowness carefully thought of some engineering minds, who wanted to avoid accidental rapid movements. Slowly, slowly, the front gate goes up. You can go in and find your place in the chamber.

Here begins the next phase. You give the lock a message via a mechanical lift on a blue rod or with the borrowed remote. You want to have the lock emptied or filled with water. It thinks a little about this. Often you may provide an additional signal. Again, the system is put together, so it makes quiet movements, time for reflection, time to get out of the way, no panic, in french: “lentement, lentement…”

There are those, who will argue, that it is healthy for the average busy person. Well there are even those who would argue, that this enforced tardiness is the very idea of a sailing holiday. Here you will be subjected to nature and other forces greater than yourself. Here you must adapt your thinking and your pace to others. Down to speed. Accept that others set the pace.

We are not angels. But perhaps it is still part of what we call the holiday, to be forced into a very slow pace.

Log book: Today’s distance: 29 km. Sailed time 9:30 to 16:00 = 6 ½ hours. Locks: 15 pcs. Weather: Perhaps the best sailing weather we had. Slightly overcast skies. Warm without being oppressive.

Lock engineering River Marne

Locks forces you to go down in speed. Everything takes place in slowmotion. Probably good for something. Stress, maybe?

Worst distance till now: Ronja hit concrete-bottom

Worst distance till now: Ronja hit concrete-bottom

Posted on Jul 12, 2015

48° 26′ 36.5136” N 5° 8′ 15.6768” E

July 12, 2015

Today Kirsten is the one, who runs the family car. She takes it to Chaumont and will wait for Ronja to arrive mid-afternoon. It is the last day with a this car, it is returning to Denmark, and Kirsten fills the car with new 48 litres of spring water and a lot of other necessities. Later after bunkering we also go for 40 litres of diesel from a gas station three kilometres away. So nice to have a car.

river-sailing river Marne

Haircutting at sea

In terms of sailing this is the worst trip so far. The day starts in fine style. Lasse and Tian Ling organize a hair salon on the aft deck. Lasses hair is cut in the breaks between locks, and Nellie tests our camera. We let her do it, although we can see, that she is pressing all the buttons and putting fingerprints on the lens. She experiments. And that makes some funny pictures.

Today’s nightmare starts immediately after lock 26, Condes, which leads us into a 308 metre long tunnel. As we approach the end of the tunnel, we see a group of boys shouting and gesturing to a buddy, who apparently is standing on top of the tunnel, ready to jump into the water. In itself wrong. The bridge over the tunnel is five or six metres above the river, and the river is only 1.80 metres deep. We can see, that the boys have a hard time convincing their buddy, that there is actually a ship coming out of the tunnel, and that he must not jump, and we also begin to roar loudly from the tunnel that here we come. “Get out of our way, please”.

He is not jumping. Obviously it is his first leap, and he is not as brave as his friends.

Then follows the three most terrible of kilometres, we have ever experienced with Ronja. She scrapes along the bottom. On long stretches of three even four hundred metres we hear and feel, how we scratch across the bottom of the canal. Heavy. Speed disparaging and horrifying. Can the boat can stick to this? Sometimes we hit an irregularity in the bottom, which gets Ronja to evert in an eerie bump, while she works over the obstacle.

We keep the engine to 2300 revolutions. We go on. We find it difficult to see an alternative. If we slow down, we will become hopelessly stuck, and then we will certainly not make it through. It will be three long kilometres. Our relief is great, when gate 27 turns up. Here the sea level is not flashy, but deep enough to once again flow with all of Ronjas beautiful body in the water.

Most of this summers stretch the bottom has consisted of mud, and that is not so bad. It takes some speed, when Ronjas keel plods through the mud bottom. On this particular stretch, however, is a rough and uneven concrete bottom. The channel is cast the entire stretch between locks 26 and 27. And the water level is significantly below the promised 1.80 meters. We later find that it is missing 40 centimetres relative to mean sea level, due to lack of rain, and because VNF has not levelled out the differences. VNF has lakes higher up, which they can use to send extra water down the system, when it is missing.

The sailors at the next port are all angry, that this has not happened.

Logbog: Today’s distance: 25 km. Sailed time 9:30 to 15:30 = 6 hours. Locks: 11. Weather: Sun all day. 27-28 degrees