Log #18c Rouen to Paris – Part I

November 25, 2000 in Log Series 11 - 19, Logs by Series, Series 18 France, The Logs

Log #18c Rouen to Paris – Part I

Written at Pontailler sur Saone
Nov. 25, 2000
Covers the period Oct. 3 to Oct. 8, 2000

After having a snack at McDonalds, we returned to Veleda to construct our cradle for the mast. We had purchased eight 8 foot lengths of 2 by 4 in Jersey for this purpose, and noted that they were actually 2” by 4”, not dressed down to the smaller dimensions they are in Canada. We used the same basic plan we did for the Mississippi. A cross brace at the bow, just aft of the anchor locker, supported the base of the mast about 6 feet above the foredeck. The cross brace was through-bolted to the toe rail. The two cross legs were drilled through half way up each side to accommodate a rope securing the brace from any fore and aft movement. We designed a T-shaped support for the middle of the mast, and a three sided support was constructed on the stern, with the sides projecting above the bimini, and the top plank fastened with lag bolts. This structure was also secured to the toe rail with nuts and bolts, with cross lines to prevent any side to side movement, as well as lines going from the top of each side forward down to the toe rail to prevent any aft movement. These three supports were in place before we motored across the basin to the crane dock. We even had two 8 foot pieces of 2 by 4 left to serve as fender boards for our trip up the canals and locks.

Over at the crane dock was a gigantic cargo crane that could have easily lifted Veleda out of the water. We had loosened all the shrouds and stays so that as soon as the crane had the strop tensioned immediately below the spreaders, we removed all the stays and shrouds, and had the mast lifted clear. We then angled the mast, now dangling above Veleda, using the forestay as a guide, and had it lowered onto the cradle supports with the base of the mast facing forward. It took less than 30 minutes of crane time to get it down, after which we motored back across the basin to our pontoon to complete securing the mast to the cradle, and get everything ready for the next month or so of going through the rivers, canals and locks of the French inland waterways on our way to the Mediterranean. We wanted to be sure the mast was quite secure, as we heard from an acquaintance we met in the Bahamas two years ago that his mast rolled overboard as he was transiting the Erie Barge Canal in New York State when he was swamped by the wash of an inconsiderate power boater. Maybe that’s why Don’s present boat is a power driven catamaran.

With the mast securely strapped on the cradle, the wind generator removed from its tower, and the tower angled aft to protrude a bit above the mast, we measured the maximum height at 14 feet (3.25m) above the waterline. We have to be careful as the clearance of the lowest bridge we expect to encounter is 3.5m. We would be in great difficulty if our mast was too high. (As it is, we are presently {Nov. 25} trapped in a marina that has access from the river under a bridge of 3.5m, but since we entered, the water level has risen almost a meter, and we do not have enough height to exit until the water level goes down.) As our height was OK, we then motored under the first two bridges up to a Port de Plaisance (a pleasure boat marina) on Isle St Croix in central Rouen to do a bit more maintenance, get our canal permit from the VNF (Voies Navigables de France), and await our friend Linda Burman from Toronto, who was going to join us for a few days.

The Port de Plaisance was comfortably situated, with electricity and water on the pontoon, clean free showers, and was located beside a major chandlery, with a laundromat, boulangerie, grocery store, and meat shop nearby, just a few minutes’ walk from the local VNF office, and ten minute walk across a bridge into the old center of Rouen.

Our permit for the canals was based on our area which is 10m by 3m = 30 sq. m. This put us into category III for vessels from 25 to 40 sq. m, and cost 855Ff or about $170.00 Cdn. The next higher category IV covered vessels 40 to 60 sq. m and cost 1330Ff. This permit allows navigation throughout France for a maximum of 30 days sailing time and these do not have to be consecutive. It is a good deal. (We had to pay $88.00 Cdn just to transit the 25 miles of the Welland Canal around Niagara Falls from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie.) Thus we could stay in the system for several months if we wished, as long as we didn’t sail more than 30 days. Throughout most of the system, mooring at “haltes” is free, and there are many other free piers, docks, alongside peniches (river barges) with the owner’s permission, or along the banks by driving in mooring stakes to secure to. There are some Ports de Plaisance for which there are moderate charges, from 30 to 80 Ff ($6.00 to $16.00Cdn) per night for our 10 m boat, but they include more facilities which the “haltes” do not. Even Arsenal Marina in downtown Paris at Place de la Bastille the fee was only 90 Ff per night. But, I get ahead of myself.

Rouen is the ancient capital of Normandy, controlled at various time by the English kings or the Dukes of Normandy (Remember 1066 and all that?) throughout medieval history. There is a square and church marking the place where Jeanne d’ Arc was burned at the stake by the English at Rouen. A beautiful gothic cathedral dominates the central area, with narrow streets of ancient half timbered houses leaning precariously to and fro, proclaiming their longevity and history. The cathedral is impressive, even intimidating, with its flying buttresses proudly supporting the five hundred plus year old monument to the church. The thick, solid, columns, scarred by history, wars and rebellion, carried the eye up to the graceful arches pointing heavenward. But, somehow for me, the effect made man an insignificant creature compared to the grandeur and immensity of this edifice. My impression was it was more a testament to the power of the church than to the glory of God. I have not felt this in other cathedrals I have visited around Europe. The cathedral was damaged during WW II, and contained before and after pictures showing the restoration of the bombed out sections. It had been constructed over several centuries, and contained a variety of Roman, Gothic and Baroque styles.

We picked up a French SIM card for our mobile phone, and we can update it by the purchase of “Mobicartes”, similar to the “Pay as you Talk” Vodaphone cards in the UK. However, nothing is ever simple. After several frustrating attempts, we found out that the phone cannot make international calls, and what is worse, cannot make E-mail calls to local access numbers. Apparently to be able to do so, we have to have a “contract” system on our phone whereby we have to have a local address, and pay a minimum of one year’s service. Oh well, at least it can receive international calls, and call locally anyplace in France. However, we know we can plug into the French land phone system to send E-mail, as we have done so from Jacqui’s, Judy’s sister’s home outside of Paris.

At the local chandlery we got the “Navicartes” for the La Seine amont (Upper Seine), Canaux du Centre, La Saone et La Seille, and Le Rhone. These Navicartes are chart booklets of the canals, with marginal notations and text descriptions in French, German, and English. The marginal notations indicate mooring locations, locks, bridges, haltes, ports de plaisance and their facilities, and other navigational notes. We were lent the first Navicarte, from Le Havre and Honfleur up to Paris, by Don Thompson, the CA local honorary representative in Guernsey. We then purchased the ones indicated above, as our planned route from Paris was to  take the southern route and continue up the Seine, then take the Canal du Loing, the Canal lateral a la Loire, and the Canal du Centre, down the Saone to Lyon, and the Rhone to enter the Med at Port St. Louis near Marseilles.

Our friend Linda had trouble with the train connections, was a day late in joining us, and could only stay for one day. So we took her for a short trip up the Seine, around Isle La Croix and back to our Port de Plaisance, after which she and Judy did the tourist and shopping bit in Rouen, leaving me in glorious isolation on Veleda by myself for the rainy afternoon. Linda had to leave us early the morning of Oct. 8, and we slipped shortly after to resume our voyage up the Seine to Paris.