Valance og Gruas – dangerous waters

Posted on Jul 23, 2015
Valance og Gruas – dangerous waters

44° 40′ 28.6536” N
4° 47′ 12.012” E

July 23, 2015

When sailing, you should regularly remind yourself that you can plan as much as you want. But in the end it is still often the weather, boat, locks, port conditions and the waters you are sailing in, that determines your sailing progress.

We planned to sail to Valence, one nice long day sailing 70 kilometres with three of the Rhone rivers giant locks along the way.

Rhone locks are very deep

Rhone has very few locks – but those few are really huge. We get liftet or lowered sometimes 20 meters

As we reach Valence, we see a sign, that warns of a water level in the harbour-opening of just 1.5 meters, but we think it is a mistake, because the card says, it is two meters deep. That is “plenty” to our draft of 1.75 meters.

It is not an error. Right in the port-hole we get stuck. We cannot go either forward nor back. Ronja succeeds, however, under her own power to wrench us free, and we are seeking out again into the river, while Hanne calls the harbour master and asks for advice for a port with better depth.

He recommends us to sail to Cruaz, which is 33 km and two more giant locks further down the river. And when we reach Cruaz our problems begin again. We find it hard to read the signs on the site and it results in a few groundings. We hit something hard, that the card is called Epis and causes the boat to heel suddenly and violently. We have no idea what an epis is but understand very well that it must be some kind of underwater piles of wood or steel (it turns out on the notice boards on the web, that it is some power-absorbing structures of poles).

Worse still: When we finally understand the signs correctly and reach the harbour entrance, we are totally stuck in sand and mud. We are only 20 meters from the first pontoon in the harbour, we can see that there are large ships there. But we cannot get through. And actually we cannot get back.

We are struggling. We let the engine run us forward. We let the motor run in reverse. We turn the steering wheel to move us clear of the ground. Hanne and Kirsten promptly hang out on one side of the boat and weigh it down as best they can. And finally. After several nerve-racking minutes we break free.

We sail back to the last gate and ask the gate attendant for permission to use their small pier for the night. It has enough space for two boats, which is fortunate as shortly after returning the the British boat “Freedom Found” came back to the lock. It extends only 1:40 and could not make it through the port hole in Cruaz. No wonder we could not either.

It is almost nine o’clock in the evening, and we are still waiting for Jørgen to come and meet with us. He left the boat by mid-afternoon to cycle back after the car in Condrieu.

Log book: Today’s distance: 103 km. Sailed time 8:00 to 21:00 = 13 hours. Locks: 5. Weather: Roasting hot. The helmsman has only an umbrella to provide some shade. During the afternoon there will be wind, and that makes the situation more bearable.

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