Well, my crossed fingers regarding air con clearly worked! Alex has bought a domestic air con unit which will be fitted during the winter: pity, as the heat is merciless at present.
We stopped briefly at Gergy, which now doesn't have any limitations as to length of boat allowed to moor, but rather stupidly, we decided to forgo the restaurant for lunch and eat on board. We met up with DAISY and Ian and Nicky kindly helped us to moor to difficult cleats.
Our mooring that night at Chalon wasn't the prettiest, being on a high commercial quay, but was quiet - something we wished for a little further down the Saone.
|Louise says "She never could take a good photo"!!|
We love those abandoned quays – they offer a good solid mooring, even if the bollards can be a little far apart sometimes, being more suited to the old Frécinet size barges - bollards at 40m+. Chalon itself is a few kilometres downstream and as we had 'done' the town 9 years ago, we stayed aboard overnight.
We ate lunch on the outside of the former lock at Gigny because the lovely little restaurant with terrace was closed for a private function! The capitaine came round to 'advise' us essentially to be off as mooring on the outside wall was unsafe, despite the fact that there was no sign to say so and we were outside the marked channel. We decided not to argue but just to go.
So on to Tournus. On arrival, this being a Sunday afternoon, we found no room at the inn. Every single space was taken, and not wanting to beg to breast up (no-one was offering) we opted for the old riverboat quay. We knew there was a chance a hotel boat might want to moor there, so to be on the safe side, Alex radioed the two cruise ships we knew were around and checked that they didn't need the quay. So – all well. Yes, until 4.15am when we were woken by blazing searchlights shining into our bedroom. We knew what that meant, AVALON POETRY 2 (135m x 12m) was wanting the quay, so we quickly got dressed, spoke to the captain, and untied ourselves. The captain agreed for us to moor alongside till 8am when they wanted to be off themselves, so at 7am we were up and moving. Regular readers will appreciate that as our normal set-off time is 10am this was some change!
|Moored up against POETRY 2 - 4.30am|
|Moored up against POETRY 2 - 4.30am - see tables set for breakfast!|
|Moored up against POETRY 2 - 4.30am|
|Dawn breaks and it's time to cast off|
|And there she is in all her glory!|
Passengers completely unaware of the night's happenings
And so to Macon. We had few memories of Macon, but reminded ourselves with a cycle tour around town, and the obligatory ride for stocks to the outskirts, near to the Port de Plaisance. We needed a laugh, so called into the port to ask for prices, should we ever want/need to stay. With 400+ boats, it is the biggest inland port in France and Cyrille, the Capitaine, was very proud of that fact. However, at €165 per week, mooring there will have to remain untried!! Incidentally, an annual mooring would have been well over €3,800!! We did however, manage a more than adequate lunch away from the tourist trail.
Macon itself offered a good space on the 84m quay – once the Sapeurs Pompiers had finished trying out their water hoses! And we got in easily enough with a bit of offered help from two barges – GRETIGE HENRIETTE and HELIOX. BUT – Macon mooring is sadly not as good as it looks! We had two nights of loud talk and yelling from youths who placed themselves not 5 metres from the boat and proceeded to do so till 1am the first night and 5am the second night. In despair, we have written to the Mairie outlining the problem and offering some suggestions. But on the plus side, we had seen an army of even younger people, complete with gloves and bin bags, picking up litter for a good 2 kms stretch of the river bank and quayside. Their haul, when they finished close to our mooring, was quite something – including large jars full of cigarette stubs, numerous bags of assorted bottles, cans and litter, and some quite large items – plastic chairs and pallets!!! And we did congratulate the town in our letter for that project.
|Macon - Romantic garden|
|Macon - Romantic Garden - just lovely|
|Macon - Romantic Garden - just lovely|
|Macon - another hotel cruise boat turns|
ZOFIA came onto the pontoon late in the afternoon and we enjoyed aperos with Rudi and Nadia before they went off for a special evening meal. They had apparently seen RICCALL twice before, but ashamed to admit, neither Alex nor Louise could really recall the occasions! After our second impossible night of disturbed sleep, we gave Macon the cold shoulder and set off for a little, calm not-quite-wild mooring we have used before. There is a wall with (we know!) one ring on it and plenty of fencing to tie to.
Once moored up, Alex got the metal detector out and discovered that there was indeed the remains of a ring at 40m distance from the first one! So the detector really does work! We had a pleasant enough evening and night, though got to watch two hotel cruise ships travelling downstream and two travelling upstream. We have been amazed by the number of cruise ships plying this Saone route and the Rhone will probably be just as bad!
We had moored at Belleville -
|Belleville pontoon - empty when we arrived and empty when we left!|
travelling both up and downstream before: the last time, we were the third barge on the pontoon with another small boat, so we were naturally nervous that it would be full this time as well. EMPTY!! We couldn't believe our luck. Further downstream we were amazed to find a number of Haltes Fluvial installed by 'Grand Lyon'.
|Grand Lyon mooring - just look at those flood levels|
Although each pontoon was only 15m long, they were installed between two huge ducs d'Albe which had bollards for our ropes.
Lyon itself was another matter. Although the town quay was available for us, we decided to get fuel in the afternoon, as the next day, Sunday, the fuel barge would be closed, and on our return up-river changed our mooring to the right bank, under trees and shade. This may have been a bad idea as, since our last visit, the trip boat, dining and event boat and hire power boat scene has completely transformed Lyon as a mooring destination, for the worse. We won't be mooring in Lyon again and we are currently hoping for a quiet overnight mooring sometime soon!!
|Hooked up to the wall - another ring to tie too at the stern|
|Possibly the worst boat on the whole river|
|Lyon likes to make it's mark!|
Views on the Rhone
|All kitted up for the big locks - gilet de sauvetage obligatoire!|
|Robert suggested a drug deal gone wrong!!|
|First sight of the terrace vineyards in this area - Cotes du Rhone|
|Former bridge support|
Onward to an ex-sand quay – our favourite type of mooring – deep water, high quay, good bollards. This particular one is directly opposite the little Ampuis mooring. The Breil guide gives info about the Ampuis mooring, saying that during holidays etc, when a jousting match is planned, no mooring would be possible. And so it was, on the last Sunday of the summer holidays. So while we got our 'wild mooring' we were well within earshot of the tannoy announcing and commenting on the action. It was just great! Each time the two teams faced up to each other, the band began to play rumbustious tunes designed to get everyone going! And it went on, and on, and on until we left the back deck and went below and they were still at it, not the jousting now, but the general bonhomie no doubt fuelled by a glass of good old Cotes du Rhone.
Another day, another sand quay, this time near St Vallier. And by now we were really getting into a region with a different style of domestic architecture – more Mediterranean in colour and feel. The Rhone here was a good 60m wide and the depth under the boat at times 13m: without doubt The Mighty Rhone.
Another stop downstream of Beauchastel Lock. Louise could remember going into the town in 2012 and finding it deeply decrepit! But in our Rhone guide 'Beauchastel with its picturesque streets is very popular with artists and photographers'. Well clearly something was missed on our last visit so we decided to give the town another try, and on a little half-hidden sign were the words 'vieille ville'. So we followed the sign and found to our great delight the much beloved picturesque streets climbing upwards towards the ruin of a 13th century tower.
|Don't you just love the Stannah stairlift?!!|
We've seen quite a few of these mostly ruined towers along the last fifty or so kilometres of the Rhone: presumably they were watchtowers as all have been much too small to live in!
General Rhone scenes follow
|Tarascon - no moorings here|
We'd had no problem in mooring up at locks for lunch or overnight so far on the Rhone. It had always been after 3.30pm and the lock keepers have been universally happy for us to stop. Mind you, we are virtually the ONLY plaisance on the river at present, so there's unlikely to be any battle for space on the 25m pontoons above and below each lock. In any case the lock keepers know precisely where all the boats are as there is a computer system in place on the Rhone for just that purpose.
On approach to Logis-Neuf Ecluse, we were just congratulating ourselves on the seamless journey in and out of locks so far: we'd never had any delay and in most of them we had had the lock to ourselves. On this occasion however, although the green and red light didn't change immediately, we did very soon get a green and were in! However, after about half of the expected descent, the floating bollards stopped and the lock was at an eerie standstill. Questioning lock keepers in French is not our strong point (and in any case they had more important things on their mind than us) so we just went about our business and waited. Eventually, after about half an hour, the lock began to lower again, but VERY slowly, almost as if the lock keepers were manning the windlasses personally!!! We wanted to moor up for lunch and asked to do so: the reply was long and complicated, possibly explaining what had been wrong but we did understand that YES, it was OK to moor up for lunch. And so it was for overnight at the next lock – a long complicated reply but Yes it was OK.
Moorings from this point south are going to be very few and far between. We are not welcome in many of the few ports which do exist – being too long, too heavy, too deep: most ports restrict space to boats under 15m. So it's lock moorings or nothing! One exception to this is Port 2, Ardoise. Regular readers may remember that it was here that Alex discovered he had an inflamed appendix and was unceremoniously carted off to Bagnol hospital. The port captain Ariane, was very helpful during that difficult period, and we think she's still at Port 2. So that's where we're headed, but before that, we moored up downstream of Bollene Lock (the deepest in Europe at 23m) for lunch and while there the forecast wind wound itself up to 45kph (gusts of 80kph) so in the interests of safety we decided to stay put, well moored on the plaisance pontoon.
Normally these pontoons are for waiting for lockage, sometimes for overnight mooring with permission from the lock-keeper but in winds such as this, it would be unsafe to be told to vacate – so there we stayed. The high wind turned into the feared MISTRAL and caused us some consternation, but after a restless night as RICCALL was bumped into the pontoon, and a very early awakening, the captain decided that we'd 'make a dash for it' and get as far down the Rhone as possible: we wouldn't make it to the Petit Rhone in one hit (90kms) but to Vallabregues Ecluse might be possible at just 75kms!! followers of this blog will know that this is WAY outside our comfort zone, but then so is white cap waves and winds of 35kmp+ with gusts of 58kph+.
Alex had earlier described the locks further upstream and before the Mistral, as sounding like an orchestra tuning up as we entered: the bassoon first, then the oboe, the flute then the piccolo as the floating pontoons were gently nudged by the water, but this time, when we entered they now sounded like bongo drums as they were bashed around inside their outer casings!
The weather continued to be fine – no rain forecast for the foreseeable weeks, but strong winds for at least a week, so we made our plan to get onto the Petit Rhone and into safe waters as soon as possible.
We achieved this after four days on board – no hope of getting ashore because of the incredibly high winds and no reason to want to go ashore anyway, as there is nowhere to go!!! Two of our flags were destroyed in the Mistral and we lost our doormat! which blew overboard at some point!! In addition, from Louise's point of view, there was an element of anxiety too.
So then onto the Petit Rhone, with calmer winds and an altogether different feel to our voyage. The last few days (week) have been a challenge which had to be overcome, but overcome it we have, and now we shall move on with an eye to the weather, yes, but not the concern
|Our ensign shows evidence of a very hard few days!!!|