Log #18e Paris

November 27, 2000 in Log Series 11 - 19, Logs by Series, Series 18 France, The Logs

Log #18e Paris

Written at Pontailler sur Saone, France
Nov. 27, 2000
Covers Oct. 11

We got under way at 0800 from the peniche, unable to thank them, and by 0940 had cleared Ecluse de Suresnes, the last lock before downtown Paris. Since our last refuelling in Alderney, we had put 62 hours on the engine, had motored more than 300 nautical miles, and had emptied the last jerrycan into our tank, which has an unreliable fuel gauge. We had been unable to find a fueling spot that would serve plaisanciers (pleasure boats). I was a bit concerned for our fuel level, as we were heading into currents of two and three knots. The prospect of running out of fuel in the strong currents of the Seine while going under the bridges of Paris before we reached our marina was a bit disconcerting to me. However, we had no choice but to press on.

At each bridge the current would increase as it flowed around the buttresses, dropping our speed from 3.5 knots to less than 2.5, and of course slurping up the diesel. A couple of barges passed us, and I had to follow in their wash. Thus our trip through downtown Paris, past all her great buildings, plazas, and memorials was not a relaxing cruise, but a nervous “Would we make it?” anxiety-ridden escapade on a gray drizzly windy day in October, through the busy turbulent current of the Seine aggravated by the river barges and near-empty tourist boats plying the waters.

However, we were treated to a waterside panorama of France’s greatest city, from the Statue of Liberty, a replica of that given by France to the US, to the Eiffel Tower, Place des Invalides and Hotel des Invalides, Le Grand Palais, Jardin des Tuilleries, the Louvre, Ile de la Cite with Notre Dame Cathedral, and Isle Saint Louis which was the PK 0 point from our start at PK 360 at Honfleur. This was close to our stopping point at Place de la Bastille, but we kept on for a couple more kilometers to a fuel barge on the left bank.

To aggravate a tense coming alongside in a wave driven three knot current just below a bridge abutment, the barge had a low steel freeboard with no fenders overboard, no cleats or bollards to secure to, and no one to assist our approach. After securing, we were informed it was their lunch time! How long? Just a moment. Then a man came out munching a sandwich and indicated we should back down 10 meters closer to the diesel pump. Again no help from him. Finally after a solid crunch or two we were relocated, and he asked how much do we need. I don’t know exactly! We had four jerry cans and a near empty fuel tank, according to my unreliable gauge. Maybe 150 litres. Then he went to a high velocity industrial volume pump and set some figures on it before starting. The nozzle was a long two foot pipe, barely able to fit into my deck cap. He had an assistant start the pump and filled my tank first, overflowing it with several liters of diesel before stopping the pump! Then he started on my Jerry cans. I wanted to put them on his side deck so he could slosh his own deck with the overflows, but he wanted them on Veleda. My decks were awash with diesel! After finishing, he knew nothing about payment and so Judy had to go up to the office on the next barge to pay, only to find out they did not take Visa. Fortunately we had enough French francs to pay in cash, and (illegally) we were sold red diesel which is for industrial barges only, not for yachts and pleasure boats. That at least was a benefit as red diesel is far less than half the price of white road diesel. Just before we left he came out with a bucket and some soap, which I thought he was going to dilute the diesel on my side decks. No! He just did his own and left it at that. AARRGGHHH!

We departed without his help as I wouldn’t trust him with a toy duck in a bathtub! We went back downstream just past the beautiful Pont d‘Austerlitz to the waiting pontoon outside Canal St. Martin and the entrance to Arsenal Marina. I had hoped we could stay there for a half hour or so to clean up our decks before calling in on the call box to get through the entry lock. However, they called us and asked us to stand off for a bit until a Dutch barge with engine problems was towed in, and which we were to follow into the lock. So, in we went and alongside the Captainerie to check in at 1315, after a tension dominated five hours since leaving the side of the peniche near Isle St. Denis only 30 km away.

As we went upstairs to the office, we met Walt from Nefertari, whom we first met in Horta last year, and again at St Katherine’s Dock where they spent the winter in London. He had news of several other boaters we knew who were going to be in this marina too. After completing our checkin we visited a Dutch peniche which was flying a Canadian flag. It was owned by a retired couple who lived in Vancouver a while and who are on an extended canal and river cruise for a few years. After leaving them, we made our way with Veleda to the far end of the marina where we had our last bit of tricky manouevering to turn around in a narrow channel without hitting boats on both sides, and raft alongside a British narrow boat. This would be our home for the next week or so.

Arsenal Marina is very good. The cost was quite economical at only 90.00Ff ($18.00 Cdn) for a berth in downtown Paris at Place de la Bastille, a half mile from Notre Dame Cathedral, and which included electricity, showers, and very congenial bi-lingual staff. I liked particularly Bernard’s co-operative attitude summed up in a slogan he used, “The answer is YES, now what is the question?” We were here at last, feeling great relief.