|The first of 190 locks||St. Mames|
After a week of playing non stop Gypsy Jaz at the Django Reinhardt Festival, we left the Seine and the river current behind to enter the French canal system which would take us across France to the Mediterranean.
The French Canals, June to September, 2013
In July, 2013 we entered the Canal du Loing which took us through Briare and the famous bridge canal designed by Eiffel. The canals were narrow and quiet, much in contrast to the Seine.
|Eiffel’s Pont Canal||One way traffic||France, the quiet way||Chatteau Busiere|
Unlike the Seine, we could stop and tie up wherever we pleased. There was far less traffic and life was easy. The scenery was simple but spectacular. The restaurants were few as we were really in the countryside of France.
|Stop anywhere||The long road||Solitude|
We were joined for two weeks by John and Paula from Mr. John VI. They left Mr. John on the hard in Malaysia for the cyclone season and made a trip to Spain for a “vacation” in thier home overlooking the Mediterranean. There are 190 locks between Paris and the Mediterranean. Some we had to work ourselves while others were automatic. Entering and leaving the locks many times tested our boat handling skills to the limit and it was nice to have crew to help operate the locks.
|The Crew||Roadside lunch||New friends||Ibis|
The canals certainly had their element of excitement. 190 locks. From time to time the automatic locks malfunctioned and got out of control and oh boy! Things could become very exciting indeed!
|Up-Locking excitement||Down-locking||7 lock staircase|
Entr’acte made her way across the European continent and eventually entered the river Soane and finally the “mighty Rhone.” Again we were back on a river but this time we were going DOWN CURRENT. The Rhone was spectacular and in itself worth the trip. There are only five locks on the Rhone but they are absolutely massive with a 22M(75ft)drop. For some reason they were more awe-inspiring than the locks of the Panama Canal.
|Medievil churches||Castle on the Rhone||Rhone Lock||Massive!|
Arriving in Sete on the Med we quickly turned Entr’acte into a sail boat again and flew across the Gulf du Lyon in a full Mistral wind leaving France and entering Spain to take time to visit John and Paula at their villa in Alicante while waiting for the West wind to drop and switch to the East.
|A sailboat again!||Into the Med||Strait of Gibraltar||Sevilla here we come!|
The wind eventually shifted back into the East and made for perfect conditions to make their final jump to Gibraltar. It was September and the Mediterranean winter was upon us. We were also “smelling home” and were on the final push for Sevilla. We departed Almerimar, 150 miles from Gibraltar, on September 15 with a plan to arrive at the Strait just after sunrise to connect with the West flowing current. The plan unfolded smoothly. After a beautiful overnight sail we arrived at Gibraltar exactly on time. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday morning as we entered the Strait with 10 knots of wind astern. Fabulous sailing! We had transited the Strait many times over the years and knew what to expect. Usually, whatever wind you have upon entering the Strait is doubled by the time you exit (10 knots becomes 20). This is due to a venturi effect that is created between Europe and Africa funneling through the narrow(16 mile) strait. As the wind increased, we shortened sail. It continued to increase and again we reduced sail. Within 20 minutes, our pleasant ten knot breeze had become a whopping FORCE 9 and reaching 68 knots, just under hurricane force. This was a full Levanter, completely unforecast, which is not at all unusual for the Mediterranean (the unforecast part). Entr’acte was screaming along at 8.5 knots under bare pole—no sail at all! We were safe enough but we were flying! To ease the strain on the rudder we unrolled an extremely small amount of jib and Entr’acte shot ahead rocketing out of the strait into the Atlantic at an astounding 10 knots! Welcome Home!
We had no desire to round Cape Trafalgar in this wind and so abandoned the rest of our plan to make directly for Chipiona at the mouth of the Guadalquivir. We made for Peurto Barbate 10 miles away and waited comfortably for two days until the winds returned to a reasonable strength. What a ride!
While waiting for the wind to calm down we received some disturbing news from our friends in Sevilla. The opening times of the lock and the draw bridge had been changed to times that were not at all convenient for pleasure craft and thus would take some serious re-planning.
Our run from Barbate to Chipiona was easy and without incident but the weather forecast was for serious rain in a few days and as much as we wanted to enjoy this delightful little town for a few days, we had to press on to Sevilla the next day.
We usually take two days on the river to reach Sevilla but this time we departed Chipiona at ” 0 dark hundred” and pushed hard all day to arrive at the lock by the opening time of 21:00hrs connecting with the bridge at 22:00 and finally, like two thieves in the night Entr’acte arrived at Club Nautico de Sevilla.
What a saga! From New Caledonai to Le Havre by ship and then crossing the entire continent of Europe and across to the Mediterranean in seven months! It was a Herculean effort with it’s share of challenges but we made it. What a voyage!
We are home!