Log #18d Rouen to Paris Part 2

November 28, 2000 in Log Series 11 - 19, Logs by Series, Series 18 France, The Logs

Log #18d   Rouen to Paris Part 2

Covers the period  October 8,  to October 11, 2000
It was 0615 when the taxi picked up Linda, our friend from Toronto, after  which we set off at 0800, sunrise, of a cool rainy day. We judged it to be  low slack water and we made 4.9 knots upstream the 22 miles to Amfreville Lock, at PK 202 (Pointe Kilometrique, in this case from Paris), the first set of locks on the Seine. Beyond these locks were no more tides, but we had the current of the river to contend with. This first set of locks was big, allowing two large barges to be put through together. It had a lift of about 20 feet, the actual height of lift varying depending on the state of the tide at the downstream end. It took only 20 minutes from entry to exit, an efficient operation.

Beyond Amfreville the Seine continued to meander up through the chalk cliffs that border the river on the right bank. The right and left banks are determined from the upstream side looking downstream, so that the right bank was on our left side. Got that? The chalk cliffs frequently were tunneled out to reveal storage areas, and in some cases, stores and repair shops. This geological layer of chalk extends from the English Channel (the white cliffs of Dover), up the Seine catchement area to at
least the Champagne district of France. There are miles of wine caves, tunneled into the chalk for storage of wine at constant temperatures, all over France.

Towards dark, we moored alongside a passenger boat pontoon at Les Andelys, PK 174, as the Port de Plaisance there was too shallow for us to enter. It was a convenient location to the local stores and town square, and with a dramatic view of Chateau Galliard, a castle ruin of Richard I (Richard Lionheart) dominating the cliff above town. I took a hike up to the castle after supper for a spectacular view up and down the Seine. It was constructed in the 12th century, not against attackers coming up the cliff from the river, but against attackers coming from the plateau overland. This bend on the Seine, additionally narrowed by an island in the river, provided a strategic choke point in the river controlling access from Paris to the Normandy capital of Rouen, preventing fleets going up or downstream. However during the reign of King John, after Richard’s death, the castle was besieged, and tunneling beneath its  fortifications, and a surprise attack through an entrance into the chapel area, led to its ultimate defeat, but not until several months had passed. A sad aspect of the siege was the incident of the local peasants who sought refuge in the castle; as the siege continued into the winter, they  were forced out, as there were not enough rations to feed even the fighting troops. They were thrust out into the dry moat outside of the ramparts, the attacking force did not take them in, and thus they died in that ditch in no man’s land of disease, exposure, and starvation.

While up there I watched a large fuel-laden barge slow down as it came abreast of Veleda. I thought we might have been in its mooring location. I couldn’t see Judy on deck, and wondered if she was aware of its presence. However, it moored directly ahead of our location with its stern only 15 feet ahead of our bow. No problem. In the morning Judy went over town for fresh croissants before we resumed our travels up the Seine at 0800. In sailing the Seine, keeping to the right is the usual rule, except at certain locations where the traffic switches sides because of narrows, bends, lock entrances or exits, or other requirements of safe navigation.  Such locations are marked on our Navicarte and with daymarks on shore.

When switching sides, a blue flag is to be flown on starboard so that oncoming traffic knows you know enough to be on the opposite side on purpose. The barges had a blue rectangular plate that they would have horizontal, and so not showing, when not needed, and would put vertical when on the “wrong” side. There was considerable barge traffic in both directions; we found ourselves passing ten to twelve barges downbound each day and being overtaken by two or three. There was no communication via VHF with the bargees as there was on the Mississippi, as the blue flag  system positioned the traffic optimally for any passing situations. Late in the morning we passed our only other upbound yacht, a US boat Lizabeth, with Joe and Floe aboard, people whom we met at St. Katherine’s Dock in London last winter. They were bound for Paris for this winter. After passing Ecluse de Notre Dame de la Garenne in the morning, we passed  a second lock that afternoon, Ecluse de Mericourt, both easy efficient operations. We would hook onto a bollard bow and stern, and as the water rose, reattach to the next bollard located two meters above the first. In one situation, there was a metal pole vertically attached to the lock wall
around which we just looped our lines and lifted them up as we rose. The heights of these were 4 and 5 meters respectively.
The day became cooler and rain started in the late afternoon. We were passing through narrower stretches of the river, nearing Paris, and passing by more “summer” homes, cottages, and amusement parks, all closed up for the winter. Judy wanted to stop at a Port de Plaisance, and so we went on to Port St Louis at PK 81, entering a narrow channel which opened into a wide marina basin, in the pouring rain at sunset. It was a disaster! The dock was deserted, and covered with seagull droppings. We didn’t even want to get our shoes dirty on that slimy dock by going into see if they had power or showers, However a young man came out to collect a marina fee of 80.00Ff. Had it not been so late and raining, I would have said no thanks and gone back out into the river to moor alongside a peniche or deserted park mooring. As it was, we paid and stayed (on board) the rainy windy (force 7 to 8) night, and left at dawn the next day with winds still at force 7 levels.

That day we had to wait for up 20 minutes at each of two locks, as they were busy with barge traffic first. As we approached the outskirts of Paris, we had to slow down and reverse our direction in order to avoid a barge being relocated along a string of others near Port Sisley, a barge repair depot. We saw a barge which seemed to be moving, lying across half of the channel. We didn’t want to take any chances, and so slowed down and circled around, giving it plenty of room. As we circled, a small (60 foot) family pleasure peniche stopped behind us, and so we continued clear astern of it. Then a large industrial barge also came up the channel, and did not seem to be slowing down for the obstruction. We gave it plenty of room as it passed us, then passed the family peniche , and kept going! I thought for sure we would see a collision as it (Pardon the pun.) barged through the narrow gap between the shore and the one being relocated. I suspect there was some contact between the barges, and even with the  shore, as this large vessel played bumper cars to bull its way through. It was no place for a “tupperware” boat such as Veleda with those big guys.

There was supposed to be a halte for transient traffic just past this stretch, but all the docks and shoreline were taken up by liveaboard barges and houseboats. Not knowing where the next available stop would be, we circled around and came alongside a liveaboard peniche, and after asking permission, secured there for the evening. This was near Isle St.Denis, in the suburbs of Paris. We didn’t cross over the peniche to the  shore, but stayed on board for the night, leaving at 0800 the next morning for the final stretch into Paris.  It was interesting to see the numbers of barges converted to liveaboard vessels, with a wide variety of styles, luxuries or lack thereof, and  stages of completion. Properly renovated, these barges would have considerable floor space (20 feet by 50 to 90 feet) and good height (10 to 15 feet) below deck. Some of them had the entire upper deck remodeled into  large patios, gazebos, gardens, storage sheds and picnic areas complete with barbeques, picnic tables, trellises, potted trees, and sun decks covered by awnings or completely glassed in with sliding doors. The sides of these vessels had windows created in them varying from round porthole  style to large picture windows coming right down to the waterline. These barges were generally larger than those we saw in the Netherlands, but  some of them were converted scows, old yachts, houseboats, and shacks on pontoons.

I assume that all socioeconomic levels live on them, from the back-to-earth post-hippy dropout, to the mechanically inclined do-it-yourselfer, to the artistic isolate, the middle class business couple, the retired, and the rich, the individual, the living-together couples and, as the case with the peniche we were beside, parents and young children. I also suspect few of them ever travel any distance, and that they are used as permanent dwellings. I often wonder what are the arrangements they must have to make with the waterway or civic officials for the privilege of staying on the shoreline for water, electricity, waste, and taxes? I could easily find such an interesting way of living.

The next day we finally reached our destination in Paris.