On this site you can read all about "Muendo", a classic steel cutter, 40 feet long, on her way from the Netherlands to Kenya.
Finally an update again.... We are back in Kenya, and left Muendo for the winter in Civitavecchia on the dry. The reasons for leaving the boat here were that the visum was expired for the Schengen countries and it would not have been easy to extend, as well as the fact that winter in the Med is approaching.
So what's next? Jurjen found some work in Eritrea, which hopefully will start in the next few weeks. Then we'll see what we'll do next year in regards to sailing and we hope to keep you updated!!!!
Finalmente, Italia! The weather in Corsica was such that we had to stay in Calvi for about a week.... But then we crossed eastward to Elba island, had a stop in Giglio island and we are now in Riva di Traiano, a port North of Rome, about one hour by train. We will probably stay here for a while and we will be busy the next few days arranging all sorts of things...., we'll try to keep you posted! There are more stories and photos to come soon, but here is one: a group of dolphins that led the way to Italy
Our crossing to Corsica went smoothly, unfortunately there wasn't much wind to sail so we were on engine most of the time, but the sea was calm and we arrived earlier than expected. We set out at 8 o'clock in the morning, expecting it would take us 24 hours for the 120 nautical miles to Calvi, but we were there already at 4 o'clock in the morning. The night arrival was easy and we moored at the petrol station to get a few hours of much needed sleep.
As soon as we arrived the weather turned nasty again with big winds and thunderstorms, so we will stay a few days in Calvi and do a touristic tour to see the island. What we have seen up to now of Corsica is beautiful...
An old lock-keeper's house
France has many rivers, like the Seine, Rhone, Saone, Marne, Rhine, Loire and an extensive canal system connecting these rivers. A lot of these canals are dating back from mid 1800's and they take you on an amazing journey through France, past historical cities, beautiful nature, through many locks and through areas not so commonly visited.
We took the route starting with the Seine from Le Havre, on the Western coast of France, past cities like Rouen and Paris. The Seine is a tidal river and getting the timing right is crucial to have the current push you up the river up to the first lock in Amfreville, although you can easily stop in Rouen (as we did) as the tidal current is not so strong anymore at this point. In Paris you can either go further East through the Marne, or further South along the Seine and on to other canals.
Muendo in Paris
With our draught (depth of the boat) of 1.80 metres we had no other choice then to go through the river Marne. 1.80 is the maximum depth allowed on this route and because we had met a Canadian couple in Le Havre with the same depth who had just completed the same route we knew it could be done. Although we got stuck a few times, most of the route is perfectly doable if you take care and use the map to avoid shallow places.
The Marne river is shallow in some places, the reason why "canals laterals" have been dug. After the Marne follows the "Canal de la Marne a la Saone", leading on to the Saone. This canal will bring you up to the highest point, where you go through a five kilometre one-way traffic - tunnel. From then on it is downhill again, through the Saone up to Lyon, and then Rhone, untill you reach the Mediterannean in Port St. Louis at the end of the Rhone. This route is around 1350 kilometres and has around 160 locks.
As the height of the land increases you have to pass quite a number of locks first going up untill midway the Marne-Saone canal and then downhill all the way down to the end of the Rhone. Passing upstream locks is a lot more difficult then downstream locks, as the water height differences are big, from 3 to 6 metres, and the locks are filled in just a few minutes, so there is a lot of current, often just like what you would experience while whitewater rafting.
If your boat is not square like many of the French riverboats and does have a keel, and this is of course the case with most sailboats, it can be tough at times to hold on. Of course big 'balloon' fenders will help, and if you moor your boat all the way to the back in the lock you don't get the strongest currents. Every lock is slightly different, the position of the stairs change all the time, so it is often only when entering a lock when you can decide exactly how to pass a lock. Very few locks have a floating pontoon, so that is easy, some have lock-keepers that follow you and open the locks for you by hand and sometimes you will be issued a remote control to operate the locks yourself. We found that for the bigger locks in the rivers with lock-keepers, calling the locks on VHF radio about 20 minutes before is very much appreciated and will save you a lot of time waiting.
There are no charges along the way, exept for (some of the) ports, but you have to buy a vignette from VNF, the French authority in control of the canal system. You can buy e.g. an one-month ticket for the river system, which allows you to do the trip but you might want to spend a slightly longer time exploring the cities and take some rest.
All in all a journey well worth doing!
We are currently in Ile des Embiez, a beautiful island between Marseille and Toulon. We had a great leasurely sail from Marseille, and we spotted our first dolphins!
In the meantime we can give you some tips if you are looking for a passport exit-stamp out of Europe (Schengen): we have tried in three different cities and with many different authorities, these authorities don't seem to have a clue what the other offices are doing. We have tried the customs (douane), there seem to be two different kinds of customs offices, the "recette" and the "brigade", none of which could help us, the brigade seems to be doing only stamps for commerical boats. Then there are many different kind of police offices, after trying quite a few we finally found out that we have to go to the "frontiere police". So finally in Marseille we found some policemen who could help us, they also put an entry stamp in the passports because first they thought we were entering...! Our French is improving a bit, as 90% of the people don't speak a word of another language....! But at least finally we have the stamp, which is buying a few precious days of staying in the Schengen countries.
We installed the watermaker some days ago and it's working great, giving us clean fresh water made from seawater, whereever we are.
We are currently waiting for the weather to improve to make the hop to Corsica.
Muendo in Marseille:
At the police station:
We are in Avignon at the moment, moored next to the famous pont d'Avignon (the bridge of the famous song, real name is pont Saint Benezet, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pont_Saint-Bénezet ). The Mistral, a strong Northern wind is blowing at the moment and we decided to stay a day longer in Avignon, there is so much to see here!
We had one scary moment when we were in the process of mooring next to a Swedish boat, with which we went through the locks together. Suddenly a rope came loose of the Swedish boat and the two boats, still tied together, were swinging into some other boats, being pushed by the strong current. Quickly putting the engine on and a quick untying of ropes made sure that no damage was done at all. It turned out that it was the harbourmaster that had fastened the rope that came loose...
We made an appointment to get the mast back up in Port St. Louis at the end of the Rhone (only 2 locks to go for Muendo!), but the first opportunity is on Tuesday next week, so we'll be sailing in the Mediterranean a bit later than we thought we would.
Finally, a big city, Lyon and lots of internet cafes; finally time to update our site and catch up with family and friends on email. We have done the Seine, the Marne, the Saone river and now there is only the Rhone to go. Hopefully we'll be in the Med in less than a week.
Muendo in one of the tunnels and one of the over 200 locks
Rouen, a city on the river Seine
Muendo in Paris
Visiting the famous Louvre museum in Paris
Our relationship with the French fishermen in the canals could be better; we have had quite a few nasty looks, some nasty words and even a finger or two.... To try to improve this we decided to take the scientific approach: we tried a wide variety of possible passes ranging from a speed of 2 to 6 knots and we passed them at the far end, in the middle and very close to them, but all this didn't seem to make any difference. From their side they are doing all they can to hide from boats: they sit behind bushes, they wear green clothes, hide in green tents and use rods which are not visible at all. They also like to sit opposite each other on different sides of the canals, so there is no space to pass for boats. At some point we heard alarm bells ringing on a fishing rod, somebody had caught a big fish we thought, but it turned out that the line was caught on our boat! Somebody had their lines all across the canal! And then it happened again the next day, another time! So in the end we sort of gave up, because to try and improve a relationship, both sides have to cooperate. We are not sure what the reason for this is, is it the French, is it true that fishermen are escaping a bad marriage, are they frustrated of not catching any fish, or maybe they don't like foreigners? suggestions are welcome!
Visiting Paris with your boat is quite an experience! There is a harbour in the middle of Paris and the Notre Dame, Eiffel tower and Louvre are all walking distance away... In the meantime we have done the biggest part of the Seine river, with about 7 locks, tomorrow we will leave again, taking the Marne, with our first self-service lock and a tunnel.
Unfortunately we have not been able to update the site as frequently as we wanted..., let's hope for improvement!
In the meantime we are in le Havre, France. We have tried out our fishing gear for half an hour and we caught six fish (mackerel), we had five in one go!
Unfortunately the dieselfilters clogged up, probably bacteria in the diesel, so we had to empty and clean the tank, treat it and for now everything is going allright.
We decided for several reasons to go through the French canals instead of the outside route. This means we had to take the mast down and tie everything, which we did this morning. We will be following the Seine, the Marne, the Marne - Saone canal, then the Saone, and the Rhone, and around Marseille we will be in the Meditteranean... We will have over 200 locks to go through and a few tunnels....!
The crossing to Oostende in Belgium went well, still Southwesterly winds however, not the best.... We were boarded this morning by the customs officials in Vlissingen when we were leaving the Netherlands, very friendly chaps, luckily they didn't want to search the whole boat (not that we have something to hide!). This afternoon we went for a quick walk around town, and had a coffee on a terrace. Tonight fresh fish for dinner!
We are currently in Vlissingen in the province of Zeeland, the Netherlands, our last port of call before 'going abroad' to Belgium. We will stay here a few days to do some repairs, collect the dinghy, visiting friends and install some electronics. We had some great days in Willemstad, visiting the nice old town and visiting family...! The South-westerly winds keep blowing strongly, not the best winds for us, but hopefully we will see some changes in the next days. Muendo is doing great and we are slowly getting comfortable in living in a boat. As we had some computer problems we have not been able to update the website as often as we wanted.After a great 'honeymoon' party we took off.... We are very grateful to everybody who turned up and we want to thank everybody for the great presents. It was great to see everybody again.
Our theme of the trip is 'pole pole ndyio muendo'... A kiswahili saying for 'slow but sure', whereby 'muendo' is the mothership and 'pole pole' will be our dinghy. We are taking it easy and are visiting some great places in Amsterdam at the moment. Hopefully Amsterdam will let us go on Monday, then we will pass inside through Holland and go to Zeeland.