Log #18g Marne River

December 7, 2000 in Log Series 11 - 19, Logs by Series, Series 18 France, The Logs

Log #18g Marne River

Tournus, France
On the Saone River
Written Dec. 7, 2000
Covers the period Oct. 21 to

Stuck alongside a stinking gravel barge on the Marne River, 100 yards out of the Tunnel of St. Maur, with major engine problems, was not a auspicious start of our journey from Paris to the Med. But, on the other hand, neither was the force 8 gale when we started up the Seine from Honfleur. Oh well, we have to cope with what the fates give us.

We couldn’t find the problem as to why we were not pumping water. Judy tried blowing through the water strainer intake hose. It seemed OK. We checked out the water strainer lead to the engine water pump. It seemed OK. We took off the water pump and checked the impeller. It seemed OK. We replaced the shattered water strainer lid. The new one sealed OK. Still we were not able to pump water!

I thought it might be the one way valve we put just below the water strainer, but the hose permitted water to flow freely towards the engine water pump. Why won’t it pump water through the engine? We called Bernard at the Arsenal Marina in Paris to get the number of a Yanmar dealer. When we called it, of course it was closed, as it was late on a Saturday afternoon, and nobody would be there until Monday morning! What to do?

I suggested that perhaps there was still a blockage in the water intake through-hull to the strainer. Perhaps we should blow through it again, but with additional force which could be provided by the bellows pump for the inflatable dinghy. Oh no, says Judy, she already blew through the intake line. Yes, but perhaps it needs more force to clear it from the leaves and crud from the lock and river. No, it wouldn’t work says Judy. I was getting near the end of my tether, facing staying alongside this stinking barge for two more days before we could contact a Yanmar service person to come to look at it.

I lost my patience and swore that damn it, we would at least try it!!! We did. It worked! The extra pressure expelled whatever was partially blocking the intake and the water flowed properly when we started up the engine. Whew, we were operational!

We left shortly after 0900 the next day for a pleasant but slow 4 knots upstream to Ecluse de Neuilly for a rise of 4.83m and then to Ecluse da Vaires for a small 0.24m “adjustment”. By 1300 we were alongside the “Halte Fluviale” at Lagny, a comfortable pontoon with no water or electricity, but located right downtown, with a small carnival in progress on the local town parking lot adjacent. But they were only open from about 1600 to 2000, and no bother.

We had a pleasant stroll into the town and enjoyed the rehearsal of an orchestra in the lovely ancient church for a major presentation that evening. The acoustics of the church were fantastic. However, rather than going to the paid presentation later that evening, I elected to take in the local cinema.

When we were in Paris we found out that the theatres would feature American and foreign movies in “Voice Original” (VO), and subtitle the dialogue for the French speaking patrons. OK, that meant we could go to Hollywood movies and hear them in English. We went to a couple of them in Paris. However, when I got into the movie in Langny, the first one was not in English, but dubbed into French! So I exited and snuck into the next one which I knew was a Hollywood film. No luck, it too was dubbed into French! I was too embarrassed to try to go to the box office for a refund, so I just went into an action flick for the martial arts scenes. From now on, if I don’t see VO on the marquee or advertisements outside, I will inquire, “Est ce que ce filme est en Voix Originale?” I have subsequently found out that only the largest cities use VO such as Paris and Lyon. Even Dijon did not use VO movies. I wonder if their rental videos are in VO? Hmmm!

Anyways, we left the next day just before noon hour, after a pleasant sleep in and a walk over town for bread and baguettes. Within the hour we passed a scenic park that had a wide range of statutes that appeared to be on an African or South American theme, and decided to go alongside the barge dolphins (large mooring posts) for lunch. However, we were not able to climb safely onto the catwalk on the dolphins and thus did not have a chance to walk through the park and examine them more closely. We left at 1315 for Ecluse de Chalifert, a kilometer upstream, to find no one was monitoring the VHF for our approach. Normally we would call ahead and report “ Ici le yacht VELEDA montant (upstream), nous arrivons a l’ecluse en environs cinq minutes. Merci.” However, there was no acknowledgement of our call. So we called on our mobile. When they answered, we were informed the lock was closed until Oct. 30! Oh darn it! (or words to that effect!)

Back we went to Lagny. No option but to wait. We could have tried going back to the Seine and past Paris into the Oise River and around the northern route, unsure as to whether it had enough depth and if it was open. So we stayed in Lagny from Oct. 24 to Nov. 7, as we wanted to go to London November 1 to 6 for a friend’s 50th birthday party and a medical check to confirm our NHS status. We checked with a local peniche that took tourist and educational trips up the Marne about the possibility of leaving Veleda for a few days in the area. The skipper had a friend on a houseboat who did not mind us rafting alongside him while we were in London.

I checked with the local carnival to see if I could plug into their electrical hookup. No problem. They helped me wire up an adaptor to the French system (as they were not on marina sockets), and we extended it out to Veleda on the pontoon, free of charge. We enjoyed a few days layover in Lagny before heading off to London.

It was during this time that we rented a car to travel over to the Black Forest of Germany, where I lived for three years teaching school at a Canadian NATO base in Lahr, West Germany, in the late 1970’s. It was a most enjoyable three day trip back to an intense exhilarating period of my life, living and teaching in Germany, and enjoying summer holidays in central Europe. I wrote a short article for a news bulletin for former DND teachers about it. The Canadians pulled out of Lahr several years ago, and the base is mostly abandoned now. If any of you would like a copy of that reminiscence article, let me know and I’ll send a copy.

On our return we stopped off for a sobering visit to Verdun the notorious WW I battlefield and memorial. The loss of life was horrifying! Over a half million killed. The ossuary/memorial contained the bones, which we could see through the ground floor windows, of over 130,000 unidentified dead. The hummocks were still evident from the horrendous shelling that took place, totally destroying several small towns in the area, and churning up the soil so that only now, 85 years after the horror, are small trees starting to reforest the area. The seeds of WW II defeat for France were sown in this conflagration through two men, General Petain, and another young officer by the name of Maginot.

The Germans were held up by the forts at Verdun, which before WW I were disarmed by the French, but rearmed as Verdun was threatened. So much blood was lost by both sides in the defence, taking and retaking of these few fortifications, ultimately saving Verdun from conquest. That experience influenced Maginot, when he later became the equivalent of Minister of Supply and Defence for France in the mid 30’s, and consequently he established the Maginot Line which the Germans promptly walked around into France in WW II. The French learned that strongly fortified positions could hold out for prolonged periods. The Germans learned to avoid being pinned down. Petain was so sickened by the horrible bloodshed of the French at Verdun that he was prepared to surrender too readily to the Germans in WW II, and established the collaborative Vichy regime to save Frenchmen and France, only to ultimately lose the support of both. One of the books we read, “The Price of Glory”, raised the question of the waste of life in opposing overwhelming forces, and suggested that to avoid such loss, it became a dilemma of a Verdun or a Dachau!

My next log will be on a more upbeat tone, but this is what we are experiencing as we tour through these areas of world history.