Log #35h Carcassonne and Onwards

July 19, 2005 in Log Series 30-39, Logs by Series, Series 35 France, The Logs

Castets-en-Dorthe, France

(at the junction of the Garonne River and Canal Lateral a la Garonne)

July 19, 2005

Hi Folks,

We are now at the end of the canal, waiting to go through the last two locks before entering the Garonne River tomorrow. In addition to experiencing a river current we have to take into consideration the tides, as the river is tidal. 25 miles downstream past Bordeaux the river becomes the Gironde, a long narrow estuary from the Bay of Biscay.

Today is also my birthday, and it is nice to be alongside here in Castets-en-Dorthe for the day. Judy got me a few gifts; some practical and useful ones such as a water and shock-proof flashlight (torch to you Brits), spare corks for the wines I decant from our 5 litre boxes, a new, good, Cassio waterproof and shockproof watch; and a decadent luxurious Grande Cuvee bottle of Mandarine Napoleon liqueur. She got most of these in Carcassonne, and successfully hid them until today.

However she was tempted to give me one of them earlier. I have a problem with watches. Their buttons get corroded, or I forget how to change their functions, or the pins holding the bracelets break off or get lost. One watch had its alarm turned on when the buttons no longer worked, and it sounded every morning at 0300. It was OK for me, as I could not hear the high pitched sound, but it drove Judy nuts. When I returned from Canada this time, my watch band was off at one end, and Judy inserted a fine wire to hold it. Then a few days later the other end came off, and she wired that one too. She was getting to the point that if anything else went wrong with it she would break her silence and give me the new watch earlier. Thanks for your patience Judy.

We are off into the river tomorrow, and I will probably not be able to send this for a day or two until we get to Bordeaux. We will put the mast up and do other maintenance and repairs in Paulliac, 28 miles beyond Bordeaux, and become a sailboat once more, ready to go out into the Bay of Biscay and down the Atlantic coasts of France, Spain, and Portugal in a week or two.

Enjoy this Log #35h, and I will try to catch up on my logs of the canal before we set off to sea.

All the best,



Log #35h Carcassonne and Onwards

Le Mas-d’Agenais PK 155.5

Canal Lateral a la Garonne, France

July 17, 2005

In Carcassonne we were only a couple of hundred yards from the train station and the main part of town. A water tap was a hose length away, and we could start the engine for an hour or so every other day to keep the batteries charged. (Incidentally, we are still using the four 6 volt Trojan golf cart batteries we installed in the spring of 1998 before we left. They are still working well after 7 years of continuous use.) It was a convenient location, and the price (free) was certainly right for a three-week stay, although we were on the mud. We also found a good laundromat, and internet café. We learned that the internet café has Wi-Fi, and so I picked up a Wi-Fi card when I was back in Canada.

Before I left for Toronto, we went together through the medieval walled Cité, a UN heritage site completely surrounded by an inner wall 1.1 km around and an outer wall 1.5 km in length, both scattered with fairytale witch’s-capped turrets (26 of them). The narrow cobblestone streets were lined with medieval buildings, now housing restaurants, boutiques, museums and art galleries. The 12th century church was festooned with gargoyles, menacingly protruding to frighten off evil spirits.

The flight back to Toronto was fine, and Doug picked me up at the airport. It was good to see him and Judy’s dad, Henry. A day later I flew out to Winnipeg for my granddaughter’s wedding. I have not been able to see her very much as Winnipeg is a long way from Toronto and the Mediterranean. She looked beautiful and the wedding went off quite smoothly. It was the first time to see some of her family for 20 years or more. Back in Toronto I was out almost every night visiting friends and relatives. I also had a shopping list of things to get for the boat at Holland Marine, including a new 16×14 RH three blade propeller to replace the one we lost in Romania last year, and a Raymarine ST6000 self steering system, as well as smaller items such as a mast boot, fender boots, a new hex wrench set with a fancy handle, and a stern light with extra bulbs. It was a very busy 10 days.

Meanwhile Judy did a lot of work on Veleda, cleaning the overhead and oiling the woodwork, making chart weights, installing a new clinometer, working the through-hull seacocks, and many other tasks.  She also had company for a week when Linda, a friend from Toronto, joined her. I returned with David Mulholland, an old navy buddy and the Anglican minister from the Mission for Seafarers in Toronto, who was going to help us through the canals. Things went smoothly for the flight over; I even had a good window seat to see the Alps and the Mediterranean coast around Marseilles. We had a few hours to kill in Marseilles before our 1505 train to Carcassonne, so David and I went to the port area for a short train tour of the old town and lunch.

When we arrived in Carcassonne Judy was there to meet us, with our folding dolly to transport David’s very heavy bag. My bag was on wheels and I had no trouble with it. David was cursing himself for taking so much. To make things worse, when we got off at Carcassonne he was missing his backpack, which contained all his money and his passport. Frantically he looked through the train car before it pulled away, without finding the bag. He felt sure it had been stolen! We contacted the station personnel and told them of the situation. We knew the train number, but were unsure which car we had been in, as we had not had reserved seats. The station attendant phoned the loss in and said he would call us on our mobile phone when he had more information. Wow! David was distraught! What a way to start a holiday, losing all your money, credit cards and passport!

Next morning I slept in as I was still jet lagged. When I awoke at 0930 I found a note from Judy saying the train station had phoned, the bag was at the Lost and Found in Bordeaux, and she and David were off to Bordeaux to get it. That killed the first day, but they were back by suppertime and David’s bag was intact with all his money, credit cards and passport. Whew!

We spent a couple more days in Carcassonne, touring La Cite with David and taking an interesting bus trip to the four Chateaux de Lastours, mountaintop castles built in the 11th century. As well we saw the beautiful cave system Le Gouffre Geant de Cabrespine, a gigantic magnificently illuminated cavern with crystal clear pools, ochre red and crystalline white rippled stalactites and stalagmites enhanced by delicate classical music wafting through the chasm.

Carcassonne was also where we first tried one of the local specialties, Cassoulet. I quite liked this bean dish with its sausage and duck leg; Judy has never cared for beans, and did not change her opinion. We of course are enjoying the local wines, buying economical but good 5 litre boxes of reds and whites. Linda liked the red wines and bequeathed us several excellent bottles to add to our pantry now stocked with over two dozen good bottles of mostly red wines from Italy (including Elba, Sardinia, and Corsica), Portugal, Spain, and France. We’ll just have to eat more steak to consume them, as I like whites with chicken, fish, salads and cheeses. We eat out more when we have friends visiting, as this is an easy way for them to show their appreciation for being aboard. Normally our budget does not permit much restaurant food, and we can cook better than most moderately priced restaurants anyways. So we enjoy being pampered by guests who take us out and who do dishes on board.

The WiFi card I got in Canada worked well in the internet café. It was quite luxurious to sit in the café with a cappuccino as the only expense and to be able to access the internet with our own laptop and send E-mail via our Outlook Express program. I hope we come across more locations set up with WiFi. Even our yacht club, the THSC, back in Toronto is now set up with WiFi so boaters can access the internet from their boats or the club house with their laptops. Judy reported that the train station in Bordeaux was set up that way, and this log may be sent through that system when we get there.

We made several friends, from a New Zealand sailboat, Rehara; a British barge, Limin’ Time; some Americans on board a charter houseboat; and a couple of Australian ladies who were on holidays. On board the charter boat was Kathy Parsons, whom we saw a couple of years ago at a Seven Seas Cruising Association rendezvous in Melbourne Florida. Kathy is the author of Spanish for Cruisers, and French for Cruisers and presented a seminar on language acquisition to help cruisers in foreign countries at the rendezvous. Mike and Barbara Bailey on Limin’ Times invited us to use their shower and had us over for drinks. We have met several other cruisers and charterers while going through locks and alongside in ports, confirming the camaraderie of sailors.

At 1325 on July 2nd, we left our mooring at Carcassonne with great difficulty, as Veleda was solidly on the mud. We tried pushing off with boat hooks and with friends on shore assisting. No go! We tried rocking the boat by shifting out weight from side to side. No go! If we had had our mast up, we would have tried someone sitting on the boom swung out to port, or taking out a kedge anchor to a masthead halyard to heel Veleda over and kick her keel off the bottom. But our mast was on deck. Finally I had Judy and Pete from Rehara go across the canal and I heaved a line across for them to haul in. I then had them secure the line and used our anchor windlass with David tailing the line to haul our bow off; then transferred the line to a cockpit winch to haul our stern out. The line across the canal finally worked, and we were off!

Then more problems! No water! The water intake was plugged with all the silt churned up by our departure, and no water was cooling the engine. We had to shut down while drifting under the bridge before the Carcassonne lock. We drifted over to and tied off beside a barge in the pool just before the lock. After taking off the cap of the water strainer and cleaning the filter basket, we got the dinghy pump out of Sprite and used it to blow the blockage out through the water intake. Five minutes later we were OK and entered the lock, clearing it at 1430 to complete the first half a kilometre in 65 minutes. Well, at least we were now on our way.

We stopped at PK 81.5 at Port de Bram (Carcassonne was PK 106) by 1940 having done 12 nautical miles and 7 locks in 6 hours. Slow going, but who is in a hurry on these beautiful canals?

We didn’t bother walking into the town, but had a pleasant meal on board and an early bedtime. Next day, July 3, was our 7th anniversary since setting sail from Toronto in 1998. I won’t bore with statistics now, other than to say Veleda has traveled 27,735 nautical miles in over 30 countries since then. That day we shoved off and traveled only 8.4 nautical miles in 6 hours, going through 18 locks for a climb of 66 metres or 218 feet; a lot of work on our anniversary. We stopped at the halte in the large pond in Castelnaudary, a couple of feet from the wall, as we were aground again. Oh well, we secured our lines and put a plank out to the shore to get back and forth. David treated us to drinks and a lovely meal over town. There were a few restaurants open, but the rest of the town was deserted and everything else closed up as it was a Sunday. Most stores, especially in small towns, are also closed on Mondays.

Coming back to Veleda we met a British sailboat we met in Carcassonne with three English ladies on board. They seemed quite cramped, as it was smaller than Veleda, only about 28 feet in length. They were a jolly bunch though. On our return to Veleda, while boarding, I slipped on the passerelle plank and would have fallen into the water had I not grabbed the wire lifeline, hitting my hip on the toe rail and clinging on with one leg. I had a bad cut on the palm of my hand and a bruised hip, but other than being shaken up, I was OK. I am glad I didn’t let myself fall into the water, as I was carrying our digital camera on my belt. These don’t take well to water, as I found out in Turkey when I ruined our first one falling out of Sprite. This fall could have been much worse, and it is small accidents such as this that we have to guard against lest we seriously injure ourselves. As it was, the cuts on my hand limited severely my ability to haul on the lines when going through locks for several days.