Log #18b River Seine – Honfleur to Rouen

November 22, 2000 in Log Series 11 - 19, Logs by Series, Series 18 France, The Logs

Log #18b River Seine, Honfleur to Rouen

Lock #29, St.‑Seine‑sur‑Vingeanne
Marne a la Saone Canal
47 31.8 N, 005 24.9 E
Nov. 22, 2000

Hi Folks,

We are over the hump now, having gone uphill on the Marne side to the 1000 foot level, and are now going down the Saone side of the canal to the Saone River by tomorrow and into the Rhone River in a few days. I sent Log #18a from a Boulangerie in a small village of Piepape (poulation 250, not counting cows). I do not know where we will be when we can send this one, but I wanted it ready to go. Today was another windy, cold, rainy day in which we did only 14 miles (about 27 Km) but 17 locks from 0800 to 1500. Fortunately they are downhill, an easier locking routine, especially as most of them so far have been automatic, or had two eclusiers helping. We have a hand warming routine in which we have rocks placed on top of our coal stove, and put them in little bags that Judy made, so we can hold them in our gloved hands, keeping them warm. We are keeping our stove going 24 hours a day now to avoid getting get ting overly chilled in the rainy 5 to 10 degree Celcius weather. Needless to say we are looking forward to the Med. However, with the continuing rain, there is a risk of the Saone River being closed to navigation. I hope not, but we may find ourselves waiting a few days or more at some rural bankside in the middle of nowhere. However, it may give me a chance to catch up on my logs, even if I can’t send them.

Enjoy this log of our trip up the Seine to Rouen.

All the best,


Log #18b River Seine – Honfleur to Rouen

Written at Chaumont, France
Written Nov. 19, 2000
Covers the trip on Oct. 2

On leaving the sheltered lock at Honfleur at sunrise, 0800, we entered a raging sea with gale force winds of 35 to 40 knots blowing up river, against the end of the ebb tide and outflowing current. When one encounters a wind against a current, the wind whips the waves up higher and steeper than usual, and so we were encountering steep six to eight foot waves in the river for the first ten kilometers or so, until we got more inland, well above Pont du Normandie (Pont is French for bridge), and up to the junction of the Tancarville Canal from Le Havre. Beyond this point, things settled down for a straight motor upstream with a little assist from the now flooding tide.

We left as early as we did in order to catch the tide at slack low water just before the start of the flood, in order to give us a bit of an advantage motoring upstream the 63 nautical miles to Rouen, in one day  and one tide, before dark. Under motor power in flat calm water, our average speed is only 5 knots. Thus 60 plus nautical miles would take us over 12 hours to complete, and we did not have 12 hours of daylight. So catching the tide right was crucial. At constant revs, we started out doing only 3.0 knots, but as the flood tide caught up with us, we were making 8.0 knots upstream by noon hour, and dropped down to about 5 knots as we got closer to Rouen near slack water at that location.

Calculating the advance of the tide up river was an interesting exercise, as we had almanac tide tables for tides at Le Havre, with corrections for heights and currents in our Navicarte (chart booklet) for periodic locations upriver to Rouen based on the major port of Le Havre. So, if we were going upstream at 3.0 knots for three hours and 5.5 knots for three hours, and the maximum flood would not start at Honfleur until 0930, what would be the state of the tide 15 nautical miles upstream whenever we got there? Would we be ahead or behind the flood tide if we left Honfleur one hour before slack low water? Lots of fun!

However, I think we did a good job of anticipating the flood tide, as we covered the 63 nautical miles to Rouen in 10 hours and fifteen minutes, arriving at 1815 with over an hour of daylight left. That gave us an average speed of 6 knots upstream, so we must have been carrying the flood tide with us most of the way. The tide is still evident above Rouen up to the first lock at Amfreville, 22 nautical miles beyond.

The actual trip up was uneventful after we got beyond the gale force winds and waves. We were only passed by a couple of ships upbound and a few more downbound later in the day. The ships also have to calculate the tides carefully not only to take advantage of the currents, but also for the depths they may pass over. There were major ocean going ships in ports all the way up to Rouen, as there was plenty of water for them, but beyond Rouen are low bridges that only barges can negotiate, and yachts with their masts down. We were quite impressed by the range of ocean going vessels moored along the Seine in this stretch, representing a variety of industries from sand and gravel to lumber, petrochemical, and large Ro-Ro container ships. The river was wide enough that we did not have any trouble avoiding the few vessels we encountered under way.

As it was a gray rainy day, we were not impressed by the scenery. There were no dramatic cliffs, just some rolling country and the occasional chateau, and trees starting to change to drab fall colours. The banks are not lined with walls or levees as was the Mississippi, and as a result we had a good view of the downtown shorelines of the villages and towns we passed. Our plan was to go to Darse des Docks on the outskirts of Rouen to take our mast down, as we had heard that it was more economical than the Captainerie in Rouen. However, when we reported in to the Captainerie on approaching Rouen, as required, and indicated our intention, we were informed that that dock was too shallow now, and the company was out of business. We then went to the Captainerie pontoon just before the first bridge to report in by person. We had made it to Rouen in the one day, arriving at 1815 after a ten and a quarter hour motor upstream of 63 nautical miles traveled, for a straight line distance of only 34 miles. It was still cloudy and gray, but at least the rain had stopped.

We had a bit of trouble finding the office, as it is across a multiple lane riverside thoroughfare, with considerable construction going on to confuse things. The gentleman spoke some English, and informed us of a safer pontoon mooring around the harbour in Basin St. Gervais, where we could have a crane take down our mast next day. The fee for mast lifting would be 800.00 Ff (about $160.00 Cdn), which would include an hour of crane time and three assistants. OK, considering in Chicago we contributed only $75.00 Cdn to the Columbia Yacht Club for a similar service. No, they did not take VISA, so we would have to find a bank machine. No, they did not provide the Waterways Permit, that was another office on Isle St. Croix two bridges up river. So, back to Veleda and around to the pontoon in Basin St. Gervais for the night.

Next morning we wandered through the forlorn industrial dock area of Rouen looking for a bank machine, which we finally found after only an hour’s walk. We had enough French francs now.  At the Captainerie, we paid and were informed the crew would be down at 1300, and any time over an hour would be an additional charge. OK.

Believe it or not, on our way back to Veleda, Judy, of all people, suggested we get a lunch at MACDONALD’S! Our second meal ashore in France was at MACDONALD’S. However, the rationale was that we have a quick lunch on our way back to Basin St. Gervais, to give us time to complete assembling the cradle for the mast on Veleda, in order to be ready for the crane crew at 1300. More about unstepping our mast and starting our mast-down trip up the Seine to Paris in my next log.