Sunday, 27 July 2014

Mulhouse to Dannemarie/Dannemarie to Montreaux-Chateau/Montreaux-Chateau to Montbéliard

We are now retracing our steps back along the Canal du Rhône au Rhin (River Doubs) so I will keep our blog short and sweet. 

We have been keeping an eye on this route because of the rain we had while in Mulhouse.  I found a website showing flood warnings and it has shown the Doubs to be on yellow alert, its back down to green at the moment but we will have to keep an eye on it.  The website is

We’ve seen that The Rhine has been on yellow alert since we’ve come off it.  We heard from our friends on Le Koala that it had risen over a foot overnight and they told us they were stuck in the marina at Briesach.  Their trip to Breisach on The Rhine had been really slow; on the stretches in the current they had only managed 1.9kph. They are waiting there until The Rhine calms down.

Thursday 24th July
Mulhouse to Dannemarie
22 locks 2 lift bridges and 22km 8 hours including 1hour lunch stop

We had a good trip back up the hill to Dannemarie, the locks are so gentle to fill, it would be great if all the locks we come across in France are this easy.  We had eclusiers to man the automatic locks for us and they helped us with our ropes, so it made it extremely easy.

Friday 25th July
Dannemarie to Montreaux-Chateau
15 locks 10 km 3 hours

We had a lovely day today and all because we had two really friendly young, female lock keepers called Amanda and Debra looking after us, they were a delight.

Montreaux-Chateaux is at the summit and is a lovely place to stop, the mooring is very reasonable only 5 euros per night including electric and water.  There is a Peniche (Barge) Restaurant there, we didn’t go as we had plenty of food onboard but it was busy which is a good sign.

One lock after another to get us up to Montreaux-Chateau

Amanda and Debra our friendly Eclusiers

Montreaux-Chateaux to Montbéliard
11 locks, 20km 5 hours

It was a bit wet today but it cleared up just as we arrived at Montbéliard.  We were lucky enough to moor back where we were last time, on a pontoon hammerhead.  We intend to stay here for a few days.  We are hoping some friends can come to stay with us for a couple of nights as long as were aren’t too far out of their way home from a holiday in the Dordogne.

We cycled to a Cheese shop this morning and bought a load of lovely French cheese.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Boofzheim to Breisach/Breisach to Niffer (Grand Canal d'Alsace again! But the 'wrong'way!)

Saturday 19th July
Boofzheim to Breisach
Grand Canal d’Alsace- Day 1
Day 1
3 locks, 37km 7 hours

We set off from Boofzheim at 7.50am to go along the last section of the Canal du Rhône au Rhin (Nord) to get to the lock (Ecluse du Rhin) that would take us back onto the Rhine.  We were there early, before 9am, so we moored up and went to have a look at the Rhine, to see what the river flow was like. It looked like there was a stronger current compared to when we came down the Rhine two weeks ago, but it didn’t look too bad, so we decided we would go that day.  We knew going upstream  it would take us longer so we’d have to do it over two days.  We just hoped we’d get a mooring at Breisach, our half waypoint.

This mooring is just at the lock for the Rhin off the Canal du Rhone au Rhin (Nord)
We could have moored here the night before but we weren't sure it would be available

The first big lock on The Rhine for us was just near to where we joined the river, but we had to wait 1 hour floating around before the light was green.  A big commercial eventually came out of the lock, and another commercial arrived behind us. Lock control luckily spoke to us in English.  He said we would be going in the smaller lock, and entering after the commercial that was just arriving.  Even though this commercial looked huge there was still plenty of space for us to fit in behind.

The current was quite strong and instead of achieving 12-14kph going downstream 2 weeks ago, we were only managing 5-8kph.  We saw a lot of big commercial traffic and one huge hotel boat, we were overtaken by quite a few commercials which although they didn’t cause us a problem, it was quite scary.  You can see them behind you in the distance, slowly catching you up, it feels just like you are being hunted down.

Harvey and Sandra on Hoop Doet Leven couldn’t start from Boofzheim until after 9am, as they had to get through the lock there, but they weren’t too far behind us and we kept in constant contact via text message and phone calls.

We arrived at Breisach with everything crossed that we’d get a mooring at the marina, and we were hoping that, there would be space for two barges.  We arrived there at 3.10pm, and yes there was a perfect space for us.  We quickly moored up, Kev leapt off the boat to speak to the Captianaire to make sure where we had moored was ok and to check there was a spot for Hoot Doet Leven….hurray!!! yes there was and they arrived 20 minutes later.  It was such a huge relief to be off The Rhine and moored safely in a marina.  We had a lovely evening with Harvey and Sandra, sharing our experiences of the day.  The weather had been perfect, sunshine all day.  After too much wine, we went to bed with feelings of trepidation, knowing that the weather forecast for Sunday was for rain later in the day.

Turqouise commercial leaving the lock
and Stromtid the black and red commercial just arriving for the lock

Going up this time
I look happy and relaxed......I'm not!

Our first lock companion 'Stromtid',
we have a commercial with us in each lock on both days

As we exit the lock we are stunned at how many commercials are waiting to go down
Thank goodness we had our lock companion 'Stromtid' to follow, he just went through the middle
The yellow commercial on the right started to head for the lock, we had to put our foot down to get out of the way

We are being overtaken by Panamera, and another commercial was heading up stream,
it looks like they are on a collision course!

Kevs view of Panamera as she overtakes us

We share the next lock with Panamera

'Vision' over taking us, impressive bow wave
All the commercials give us a friendly wave

Hoop Doet Leven arriving at Breisach marina
(Vision was moored up behind)

Hoop Doet Leven's spot for the night

Our welcome home for the night on the french side of the Rhine
The town Briesach on the German side of The Rhine, looked like a nice place to visit but it was too far for us to walk
We plan to go there sometime in the car,  train, bike...anything but by boat!

Sunday 20th July
Breisach to Niffer
Grand Canal d’Alsace Day 2
4 locks, 45km 9 hours

We woke up early, before the alarm, nerves woke us up. As we were just getting out of bed there was a heavy downpour of rain and flashes of lightning, and big rolls of thunder. It wasn’t looking good.  We had planned to leave together with Hoop Doet Leven after 7am, but by 6.40am the weather looked a little better, the thunderstorm had passed over, so we thought we should get going.  So we phoned Harvey and Sandra and said we thought we should go now, so we all set off, luckily our first lock was just around the corner. We had three to more locks to do on the Grand Canal d'Alsace.

We had a more stressful time today.  When we started the engine, it didn’t want to start, that’s never happened before, it did start after a few tries but if made us feel unsettled all day; the weather wasn’t at all good, lots of heavy downpours, it was breezy, and the river current was strong.  We started to push the boat a little harder, with higher revs but we found we had a vibration so we had to ease off back to around 1700 rpm. 

We travelled all the way with Hoop Doet Leven.  They have a bigger engine so were ahead most of the day but we caught up at the locks, which we shared along with commercials.  All the lock controls speak German, but we seemed to manage ok.  When we came downstream we never had to share any lock, coming up stream we shared every lock with a commercial.

It was such a relief to get though the last lock of the day, Niffer Lock, which took us off The Rhine and onto the Canal de Huningue, the Niffer/Mulhouse canal.   The person we spoke to on the VHF at Niffer lock was a lady and she was French speaking, it is so nice to be speaking French again.  We were told to go into the big lock, which was perfect as it had floating bollards, the small lock at Niffer doesn’t.  It was amazing to be back on a canal again, no flow, so we were bombing along.

There are two possible moorings on this section of canal before we get to Mulhouse, (we felt we just needed to stop), the first mooring had a boat moored on it, they said they were leaving in around 2 hours, so we carried on for another few km to the next pontoon.  It was around a corner, and it seemed like an eternity before it was in view and we could see that it was empty. We moored alongside Hoop Doet Leven and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

We cracked open a bottle of fizz as soon as we arrived, we were so happy to have made it, safe and sound and with no dealings with the river police.

We had a delicious chicken BBQ dinner beautifully cooked by Sandra.  We had quite a few huge commercials go past on their way to Mulhouse port, some in the dark, so it’s not a canal where you could use pins.  We had another big thunderstorm, and this one was more enjoyable to watch now we were off The Rhine.

A busy lock, one commercial,  one small cruiser,  and two dutch barges
weather looking ominous

Gloomy looking skies

Hoop Doet Leven followed by Roma coming up to Fressenheim Lock,
in front is the Fessenheim Hydro Electric Plant, we turn left off out of the strong current to the Fessenheim lock

We had a visitor as we were travelling along

leaving another lock behind Hoop Doet Leven

A photo of Rangali being overtaken by a commercial taken on Sandra's iphone

Monday 20th July
1 lock 10km

Kev and I had a little bit of a lie in this morning, and then we all left for the Mulhouse Port du Plaisance.  We rang ahead and they had space for both boats.  We will stay here now for at least 3 days, and we are going to take a very slow return trip along the Canal du Rhône au Rhin/The Doubs.  I think it will take us quite a few days to get over the trip up The Rhine, nothing went wrong but the stress of it was immense, and it’s definitely not something we will be repeating.  I am afraid in the future we will now only ever visit Strasbourg by car or train, never again by boat!!!  We did love Strasbourg though; it is now one of our top favourite cities.

Strasbourg to Souffleweyersheim/Souffleweyershiem to Boofzheim

Wednesday 16th July
Koejac Marina Strasbourg to Souffleweyersheim

We have decided to move onto to Souffleweyersheim to moor there for a couple of nights, so an hour and a half after leaving the Koejac marina we were moored up at a very busy Souffleweyersheim port du pleasance.  Our short journey took us through the European district where we went past the European Parliament, it is a truly impressive building.

Leaving Koejac Marina
Sunny weather has returned at last

I think we were lucky to get our mooring at Souffleweyersheim, it was busy with private, French and German owned cruisers, hire boats and a lovely old 21m 1926 dutch barge called Hoop Doet Leven.  We were lucky enough to make the acquaintance of Harvey and Sandra who are the owners of Hoop Doet Leven and within 4 days of meeting each other they were to become our partners in crime!  More about that later!

We found out a little more about the St Louis Arzillier Incline Plane situation and the unlikelihood of it being repaired any time soon.  So we knew we had no choice but turn back and face the ordeal of going UP the Grand Canal d’Alsace, back to Niffer/ Mulhouse.  

Harvey and Sandra from Hoop Doet Leven had been told they needed a Rhine exemption certificate for their barge, so we thought we’d better go and get one too.  We cycled into Strasbourg from Souffleweyersheim, in the searing heat, and using excellent directions from Harvey,we found the office that issues them, not that far from Koejac marina, where we were moored this morning!  The man we wanted to see, Monsieur Christian Herman was off that day so we left photocopies of our paperwork for the boat, our VHF license, CEVNI, insurance etc.

The Skipper/pilot we had found while we were at the Koejac Marina told us he was going away on holiday for 3 weeks, so we needed to find someone else.  So after dropping off our paper work, we went back to the VNF offices in Strasbourg to see if they could help us find a skipper.  We had a very helpful VNF man who rang someone and he managed to give our details and they would give us a call later.  Later came and we didn’t get a call so we called instead.  We had a very short conversation just to say what we required; we were asked our engine size (105BHP).  The comment that came back was that the Rhine current was very strong at the moment, but he would talk to his colleague and get back to us later……..we never heard from him again!

Harvey and Sandra from Hoop Doet Leven came for drinks in the evening.  They had come to Strasbourg via the Arzillier Incline Plane and were planning to go back that way.  They never intended to set foot onto the Rhine.  They had a few telephone numbers for Rhine skippers but no one had got back to them either.  Were we all uming and ahhing, should we or shouldn’t we go without a pilot?  A decision is yet to be made.

The European Parliament

Another view of the European Parliament

Our mooring at Souffleweyersheim

Thursday 17th July

It was a very, very hot day.  We cycled to the centre of Souffleweyersheim to a lovely small market, selling all very high quality food, and later on we cycled to a supermarket to stock up on food staples and cold drinks.  During the day our plan gradually came together.  We decided not to continue along the Canal de la Marne au Rhin to have a look at the Arzillier Incline Plane, but that we would get ourselves back to as close to the Grand Canal d’Alsace by the end of the day Friday, to then travel Saturday and Sunday back up the Rhine to NIiffer/Mulhouse.  We checked the Internet to see the Rhine river flow and it was now back to green, the few days of hot weather and no rain has helped.  We could see bad weather was forecast the next week so we thought we should get the Rhine trip over and done with, sooner rather than later.

Friday 18th July
Souffleweyersheim to Boofzheim
12 locks, 37km 9 hours

We had a really long, slow journey, with really high temperatures, with a lot of bad luck.  We got stuck behind a hotel barge, which really slowed us down, and two locks malfunctioned so we had to wait for the VNF to come and fix them.  We left at 8am and arrived at Boofzheim by 5pm. Harvey and Sandra left at 11am, after picking up their Rhine exemption certificate from Strasbourg, they had a great trip with no hold ups, and it only took them 5¾ hrs.  The only unlucky thing was that they arrived at the last lock after 5.30pm and it was closed for business.  The locks from the Rhine to Kraft work from 9am to 5.30pm in the summer.  

Souffleweyersheim port

The canal du Rhone au Rhin Nord is very straight but a very attractive route  to the Rhine

Canal du Rhone au Rhin Nord