4 September to 16 September 2016
120.7 kilometres, 25 locks, 13 days.
Sunday 4 September: Bassin d'Albeschaux to Xouaxange - 18.5 kilometers, 1 lock.
Having spent a most pleasant night we departed lazily the next morning, passing a few hire-boats which had probably intended to make it to Bassin d’Albeschaux last night but in failing to do so had moored in all manner of ways along the canal bank. Coming up to the first lock we saw a hire boat ahead of us and decided to let them lock through alone and just as well as they made a bit of a hash of it, bouncing off both sides of the lock before finally managing to secure their lines. And to make our wait even longer there were two similar boats coming downstream and they took equally long to set the lock into operation. By now another hirer had come up behind us but they refused to lock through with us – much to our relief!
A couple of kilometres later with and our echo sounder having packed up,
we turned eastwards on the Canal de la Marne au Rhin Est once again and then on to the delightful quay at Xouaxange where luckily there was a space for us to squeeze into between hirers, all of whom were most genial. The mooring is advertised as having water and electricity but even if you have the space closest to the tap, a seventy meter hosepipe would be needed and even a longer extension cord but despite this it is a great place to overnight.
Monday 5 September: Xouaxange to Niderviller and a visit to Sarrebourg - 9.5 kilometres, no locks.
After a quick walk around the village the next morning
|The view up river from the bridge.|
we were on our way again, headed for the La Boat base at Hesse where we had been told there was a diesel mechanic with whom we could discuss our pump issues. When we arrived however we saw from our Fluviacarte canal guide that the draft was only one meter and, in any event, the docking options were awful
|Le Boat base|
so we pressed on to Niderviller where we ran aground at the very first space on their visitors quay – so much for the advertised 1.8 metre draft – but a couple of meters forward and we were fine.
The Kuhnle Tours marina, while looking as if it is well managed, is expensive at €1.30 per meter per night plus extra for water, extra for electricity and extra for showers. But at least the use of the toilets was included in the mooring fee.
was followed by a quick nap and then it was onto the bikes for a ride around the nearby village (which somehow failed to impress) and then off to Sarrebourg some five kilometres away where we visited the very impressive museum
and the Chapelle des Cordeliers which is now a gallery to Marc Chagall.
|The enormous Marc Chagall stained glass window|
But what fascinated me most was the number of lovely nude statues scattered around the city – Sarrebourgians obviously have a penchant for the naked female form.
After grabbing a couple of bottles Moselle wine from the nearby ‘Sommellerie de France’ cave we made our way into the city for a cup of coffee and a spot of people watching before heading back to Elle via the shorter towpath route – note to self: It might be shorter but next time take a mountain bike. Although a bit on the scruffy side, Sarrebourg is well worth a visit as its architecture and layout is endearing in some or other way.
Tuesday 6 September: Niderviller to Heming to Xouaxange - 15 kilometres, no locks.
Having realized that we had not left enough time to get to Strasbourg and to have the time to really appreciate the city a decision is made to come to Strasbourg next year as our first priority, so we turn around and head west again, destination Heming and then Port Sainte-Marie where we would do some scraping, sanding and painting before putting Elle to bed for the winter. So back past the Le Boat base we go, over aquaducts, past wild-mooring barges,
and at the bridge just before Heming we are greeted by hazard tape stretched across the waterway and are politely informed that the canal is closed until the morrow due to maintenance taking place on the bridge so it’s an about turn and back to the Xouaxange mooring which is deserted, but not for long…
Lunch is taken at the nearby restaurant ‘Auberge du Mesnil – Cuisine Du Terroir Lorrain & Exotique de Madascar’
but we opt for the plat of the day which was okay but nothing to write home about.
On our return to Elle the quay is full with hire boats moored to the opposite bank and one even in a positioned in the middle of a wall clearly marked for the use of hotel boats only. Two rafts of boats passed us with some doing an about turn on discovering that there was no space left for them to moor – as all these groups were accompanied by at least one commercial we presumed that they were being let through the bridge in batches but only when a commercial had joined the wait. And in time the luxury barge Princess arrives and good naturedly gets the smaller boat to move astern so that they can get into their reserved mooring; that evening we are treated to a raucous game of petanque played by Princess’ guests in true Southerner spirit.
Another lovely sunset bids another day adieu.
Wednesday 7 September: Xouaxange to Port Sainte-Marie - 20 kilometres, 4 locks.
An 08h15 departure means that we are the first boat out on the water that morning
|Leaving Princess behind|
|We hate seeing boats in this state.|
After a bit of a delay at the Rechicourt lock
where we are joined by a hire boat expertly manned by a group of young Germans, we are finally through and arrive at Port Sainte-Marie on the dot of noon.
Our position at the eastern end of the marina is also used by hire boats and one or two pulled in but all were very well skippered so our fears of being collided with went unfounded. Patrice, the co-owner of NavigFrance and the person in charge of this port was away in leave so we decided to get on with some maintenance work but soon realised that the sanding and grinding we wanted to do would affect the downwind boats so we shelved the idea until we were under way again, unloaded the bicycles and took another ‘short cut’ to the village of Bataville, once the home of the world famous Bata shoes. The workers village was quite revolutionary for the time but although the houses are inhabited, the factory is for a large part derelict and, apart from a few sub-tenants, the huge site was almost ghostly.
Back at the boat it is war with the flies – Port Sainte-Marie is in a very rural area surrounded by cattle farms which are a breeding ground for the devils and the boat was full of them until Madame produced the swatter and decimated their ranks - but only for a while until reinforcements arrived so we decide that tomorrow we should move on.
|Princess passing us at Port Sainte-Marie|
Thursday 8 September: Port Sainte-Marie to Einville-au-Jard - 25 kilometres, 8 locks.
One thing which has irritated us since we purchased Elle was the state of her mast – seemingly made of boxwood and badly stained a dark mahogany it really was in need of attention.
Initially I had thought of replacing it completely but could not find the same sized one anywhere in the Netherlands of Belgium and the thought of having one made in South Africa and bringing it over to the boat was totally impractical - such are the joys of long distance ownership! So on a bright warm day we set off to Einville-au-Jard and take turns sanding the mast by hand until I decide to try out the no-name-brand rotary sander which we had bought at a Hubo in Holland but which was useless as it kept on throwing the OEM sanding discs. I had bought some Bosch discs from home and these worked like a charm so there was obviously a fault with the Velcro backing to the original discs.
By the time we arrived at an almost deserted quay at Einville the sanding had been done and covering a nearby table with a tarpaulin, Lynn set to work with the Epifanes Clear High Gloss Varnish which we had used on the handrail and various other resto jobs – a tad expensive but brilliant stuff.
Now our mast is no longer anything to be ashamed of!
Friday 9 September: Einville-au-Jard to Crevic to Einville-au-Jard - 15 kilometres, 2x2 locks.
On our way up the Canal de la Marne au Rhin we had spotted what looked like a very nice mooring outside a village called Crevic which we had thought might be worth a visit so lines were upped and we toddled the short distance where we found the halte deserted so we did a U-turn and nestled up to the sloping side and made fast, unloaded the bikes and shot into an almost deserted Crevic,
continued on to pretty Somerviller which also seemed deserted apart from a few schoolchildren
|Pretty Sommerviller apartment.|
– the ride was pretty but there was nothing to keep us and, with Elle somewhat precariously moored on a rather narrow part of the canal close to a blind corner, the prospect of being hit by another boat was real so back to Einville we went and where we moored up behind the lovely Luxemotor replica-barge Brunel
partly owned by a really nice couple, Philip and Sue Davies and their dog-which-looks-like-a-lamb Bedlington Terrier, Dolly.
They were hard at work cleaning and painting to get Brunel ready for a handover the next day when they would be going home – a real pity as we would have liked to have gotten to know them better.
Monday 12 September: Einville-au-Jard to Lagarde - 18 kilometres, 5 locks.
Neville and Aynslie, the Kiwis from Oso whom we had last seen in Sillery in the middle of July when they were headed off to Paris and whom we had thought were long gone on their way back to their winter port in Maasbracht, had done a change of plan and, after Paris, had decided to cruise to Saverne from where they took a train to Strasbourg for a visit and were only now heading back to Holland – when we made contact with them they were berthed in Port Sainte-Marie just upstream from us! So we made a plan to meet them at four kilometres upstream from Einville at the lovely port de plaisance at Bauzemont.
After four really relaxing days in Einville we were on the move again. We waited in vain for two hours for Oso at the agreed place but then decided to push on to Lagarde – two locks later who should come out of the lock but Neville and Aynslie but as we had already activated the process we had to lock though; in passing it was agreed that they would moor up and walk up to us at the top of the lock. Books were exchanged, coffee and biscuits consumed and in no time it was time for final farewells. Cheers (again!) Guys and hopefully we will meet up again somewhere next year.
Our two days at Legarde signalled the start of the winterising process but first we arranged for Bill Fraser, the modern languages graduate, previously a teacher and a self-taught mechanic, to have a look at our starboard lift pump which had started leaking again. Squeezing into the cramped space on the dark side of the engine (as always!)
|Bill at work.|
he discovered that the previous repair had not been properly done and the pump had to be refitted – a task not helped by the placement of the pump right behind the exhaust pipe which had to be disassembled before he could get to the securing bolts. Two hours later it was job done and we shared a beer and swopped stories – fascinating chap is Bill.
|These guys were stocking up their hire boat before setting off...|
Wednesday 14 September to Friday 16 September: Lagarde to Port Sainte-Marie - 7 kilometres, 3 locks and then to Charles de Gaulle.
With our Dutch bikes securely locked up in NavigFrance’s storeroom
and arrangements having been made for us to spend our last night in Patrice’s gite and for a taxi to collect us on the 16th, we topped up with diesel and water, bade farewell to Bill and Jacques who have been absolute stars, and, with heavy hearts, move off on our final cruise of 2016 up to Port Sainte-Marie where our inside temperature peaks at 37C!
|Last lock of the season.|
Our first mooring is on the pontoon adjacent to the wall where we had been the previous week but having watched a couple of hirers making a complete hash of getting into their moorings we decided it was not a good idea to leave Elle in such an exposed position while we were not aboard, so a short scoot to another empty place and the engines are finally turned off.
The next two days were spent winterizing, inventorying, cleaning and packing up the e-bikes, having sundowners with Colin and Joy on Fenavera, securing the winter bikini cover over Elle’s rear section
and lugging suitcases up to Patrice’s gite where we have a room on the fourth floor - so needless to say the suitcases are left in the lobby. Dead on time the next morning we are collected in a shiny white Jaguar by Taxi Mika and whisked on our €112 way to the TGV Lorraine where we board a connection to Charles De Gaulle Airport to catch our flight back home later that evening.
And so endeth our Summer of ’16 Cruise but we'll be back!
Time on the waterways: 134 days.
Distance covered: 1,613 kilometres.
Most locks in one day: 27
Tunnels: 5 including St Aignan twice.
Other operations e.g. Lifting bridges: 24
Diesel used: 1,236 litres showing the effect of diesel leakages and many kilometres against (sometimes very strong) currents.