Wednesday, 21 August 2013

to Lyon

Aug 13

We passed through St Gilles ecluse onto the Petite Rhone at about 7am on 1 Aug - a cheerful eclusier (same as 2011) which started the day well. The rudder indicator had been playing up since we changed the rudder top bearing and it packed up (winter job) as did the 'speedo' due to mud or weed, so on full visual rather than instruments we did a fairly easy run up the Petite Rhone doing about 7 km/hr against the current (using an old fashioned watch to time it)..

Petite Rhone entrance (from Rhone)
Once we hit the Rhone we slowed right down - 'don't panic' the Helmsman cried - and we upped the revs to 1500 revsEc/hr (which is 100 over our 'fast' canal speed). Avignon was looking fairly distant at this point and we weren't sure whether an overnight anchor mooring was going to be needed.

We were pushed around a bit at the dreaded Tarrascon bridges but no real problem.

Tarrascon Bridges
Beaucaire from the Rhone.
At our first Rhone ecluse we got shut out on a 'green' at the last moment by a double commercial which didn't amuse us - but that was the last time - the next 11 ecluses we went through on the green without delays which must be a record. At least Kes got a dog break though it took a climb up 5 levels of a dolphin 'tower' to get to shore.

Road hog but we weren't arguing
We arrived in Avignon at 6pm so a 13 hour day - luckily plenty of mooring space to our surprise (and the price had increased a bit from 2011 (surprise, surprise)).  We had done all our sight seeing coming south so early to bed and early away.

Avignon from the south
Pont d'Avignon (or more correctly Pont de Benezet)
Villeneuve sur Avignon north of Avignon
We had decided on a slack day, so pottered off for 6 hrs to L'Ardoise which is 3 km up an old arm of the Rhone and new to us.  A nice little marina, very friendly and we utilised the bar/restaurant to give Angie a break from cooking - pleasant but the beer and food were a bit pricey (especially as we were fighting dehydration).

L'Ardoise marina
Herons everywhere
Another early start, so Peter had to bake bread again - having a nice warm engine room to prove the dough makes life easy. Early starts meant no wind and the Rhone was on its best behaviour.

Rhone at 8am
Donzere Gorge
We shared Bollene ecluse with a tiddler - what a waste of water.

Bollene Ecluse
We struggled with the current south of Viviers where we had planned to moor, but Viviers marina seems to have turned into a small boat port so onwards and upwards through the Chateauneuf ecluse and (as it was too early for an ecluse stop) went onto Ecluse Logis Neuf, where we moored on the plaisancier pontoon on the top sharing with a Belgian cruiser. A 14 hour day - poor Kes.

Viviers looking south
The next day was a mild 5 hours into the Port de Plaisance at Valence.  We fueled up on principle (very surprised at the low consumption) and walked for 10 mins to find a supermarket - past an attractive female looking for custom - hope she wasn't as hot as we were. Alicia pulled in (Steven Sagar's old barge) with its new Aus/Polish crew who were doing their shake down cruise from St Jean to Avignon and back (makes us look like wimps).

PdP Valence
Must be a big bateau to fit that on
The last Rhine steam (chain) tug
The next morning all ready for an early start and the starter motor failed - Merde Alors or words to that effect. Found a little french mechanic (bit worried he as was driving a newish Mercedes 4 x 4) who spent 3 hours stripping it, fitting a new solenoid and getting a new 90A battery for the grand total of €220. Rather than argue about the low price, Peter gave him a bottle of NZ sauvignon Blanc and by lunchtime we were back on the water - right into a major thunderstorm. It was meant to be going south but followed us north all day. Cowering somewhat (with Kes behind the sofa) we pushed on towards Vienne. However, after 9 hours we were still well short due to the late start so we moored at the bottom of Ecluse Sablons Very pretty watching the hotel boats going through in the dark.The next morning we locked through with a small commercial - about 150m - first Maltese registry we have seen on a peniche.

It only took us 6 hours into Vienne, in grotty weather but the screen wiper did its job just. Boat lights on for probably only the second or third time in 4 years. Onto a 25m pontoon south of the Passerelle - the commercials bounced us about a bit but we were happy to have stopped.

Quite big those floating bollards
Now for the final push. The 14kms up the Lyon 'chute' had us down to 4 km/hr and talk about boring, nothing to look at except an occasional road bridge.  We were passed with consummate ease by a hotel boat luckily it had gone by the time we got to the last ecluse.

Six hours after leaving Vienne we were in Lyon About a km up the River Saone we found the new Lyon marina (still unfinished) told Le Capitaine we had shrunk to 16m and settled in on a wall for a few days. Fuel consumption from Palavas on the Rhone au Sete to Lyon was only 150 litres - hard to believe. Lucky with the ecluses, not a lot of wind and few commercials (or plaisanciers) made for a good run.

La Confluence marina
The new Marina has a big up market shopping mall with a large Carrefour and a boulangerie within staggering distance - but despite lots of restaurants it is a a bit modern and soulless at the moment.  The drunks jumping into the Bassin on Friday night cut down the sleep but were no trouble. We did some sightseeing in central Lyon (on the way south in 2011 we did the Roman bits and museum). 

We rehydrated - extracted more money from Credit Agricole and after three days - you guessed it - pushed on.

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