2009: through the channels of France, days: 1..5
From April 21 to May 28, 2009 (38 days on the way). Traveled: 805 miles (average 21 miles per day).21 АПРЕЛЯ 2009, ВТОРНИК
We woke up early in the morning, at 7 o'clock. It was sunny. I was delighted, but while we were having breakfast, clouds came running from somewhere and the whole sky was covered with them. I even thought: not to postpone the exit until tomorrow? I checked the weather forecast on the Internet on these sites:
All forecasts promised a sunny day and a fair wind. Well then, let's go out. For tomorrow, the wind was generally expected to be headwind. I went to the marina's office and said we were leaving. The manager checked the papers, said I didn't owe them anything and wished me a safe trip. I got back on the boat and we got ready for another half an hour. Finally, at 9:15 the engine was started, and I called the marina's office on channel 80. To get out of the dock where we stood, we need to open a drawbridge. The bridge was opened for us, and we went to the exit from the port. When exiting, you needcall Port Control on channel 74. I told them: “I am sailboat Infora. I have intention to exit. Still, how pleasant it is to communicate with the bourgeoisie! They answered me in a friendly way, greeted me, told me where the wind was blowing, wished me a pleasant walk and said that a letter was waiting for me in the office of the marina. I had to turn around and return to the marina. I moored near the office, the manager went downstairs and handed me a letter. The letter turned out to be important - it contained documents from the seller from whom I bought my outboard motor.
Finally, all coastal affairs are completed and we went to sea. We passed the breakwaters and found ourselves in open water. And immediately, waves appeared from somewhere, which began to seriously shake us. As my Darling admitted later, she thought with anguish: “Well, it has begun again!”. Fortunately, this didn't last long. Apparently, near the coast, where the breakwaters break up the waves, a crowd is formed. But as soon as we went to a deeper place, the wave became smoother and in general life got better.
We raised the mainsail and staysail, and went through the strait. The clouds cleared, the sun was shining, the wind was gulfwind, the boat was moving at a speed of 4 knots. I turned on the AIS and the chartplotter. AIS turned out to be a very useful thing. I saw other ships on the chartplotter screen and knew where they were going and at what speed. This allowed them to decide in advance - either to avoid them or not to worry and go their own course. In general, this time crossing the English Channel turned out to be much easier for us than last year. Last time I was very nervous because of the big courts, but now I'm the only oneZ got a little worried when one ferry began to catch up with us from behind and it was not clear when he would finally turn off.
My Darling was driving all the way, because I suddenly got seasick. Actually, I rarely get motion sickness, but, probably, I didn’t have a good breakfast before going out, or I didn’t get enough sleep. I began to gnaw sweets, drink tea - it helped, but not for long. And so it went all the way. It was probably also due to the fact that I had to peer at the chartplotter screen, and looking at small details is a direct path to nausea.
When we were in the middle of the strait, the radio station suddenly beeped, receiving the signal "Distress". Before that, I had never heard it. Some sailboat sent a distress signal. I did not understand what had happened to them, because the Coastguard immediately entered the conversation and began to talk animatedly about something with this sailboat. Apparently, they were quickly helped, because no more messages were received on Channel 16.
In general, for the whole day we met only 3 sailboats and 2 boats. But the big ships were seen, probably, a dozen or two. Once again I want to say: AIS is a wonderful thing. It makes it very easy to diverge from large ships. When we came to the French coast, we had to go along it to the east. We turned and the wind turned against us. I had to start the engine and go under it. The speed through the water was 4.5 knots, but the real speed was 2.2 knots - the rest was stolen by the current.
The temperature was 12-15 degrees. It was cold despite the sunny day. I was cold all the way. My Darling was also chilly, but did not complain. We entered Calais, passed through the harbor and stood on a barrel, near the entrance to the marina. The entrance to the marina was blocked by a bridge on which cars were moving. I had to wait an hour and a half before the bridge opened. We entered the marina at dusk. The marina's office was already closed, we moored, connected to electricity, but we couldn't get into the toilet - there was a combination lock. We already stood in this marina last year, and in my shipThe access code for the toilet was recorded in the journal (here it is: “square C6250 triangle”), but I thought that it had already been changed in six months (in Dover Marina, for example, access codes were changed every 2 months). To clear my conscience, I decided to try it and - oh happiness! - it worked.
Everyone, we are in France.22 АПРЕЛЯ 2009, СРЕДА
In the morning I went to the marina's office to pay for the night and ask where I could mast here. They charged me 18 euros for parking, and about the mast they told me to go to the sailboat shop, next to the marina. I went there and spoke to the salesperson. He said that the mast could only be taken down at low tide, otherwise the crane would not be high enough. We agreed that we would do it at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. By the way, the time in France is ahead of time in England by 1 hour. I forgot about it and because of this I was late. Fortunately, it didn't really matter.
And then we accidentally got into a conversation with an Englishman and learned from him that from tomorrow the lock through which you can get into the canals is closed for a week for repairs. We got excited. I sent my Darling to the locksmith to check this information, and I myself began to prepare the mast for removal. Sweetheart confirmed the information about the upcoming repairs, and said that the gateway will work until 22-30 today. And the bridge blocking the entrance to the harbor in which we stood, according to the schedule, will be pulled out at 21-47 (and not earlier). Thus, we have the only chance to succeed.to enter the channels today.
We took down the mast and I hung one end of it under my U-shaped structure that I built over the cockpit and put the other end on the bow pulpit. The mast sticks out about half a meter in front, and one and a half meters in the back. During the week we spent in France, the design proved to be reliable and comfortable. The only thing that had to be done was to cut off the extra ends from the wooden beam, because in the airlocks they clung to the walls. I paid the crane operator 35 euros for the removal of the mast.
Then I fiddled with the mast for another 3 hours, removed the spreaders and part of the standing rigging from it (and left the rest on the mast, tying it to it with ropes). Then he went to take a shower and we sat down to dinner in the cockpit. There was a bridge in front of us, blocking the entrance to the harbor, and we looked at it, as if in a theater, waiting for the actors to come out. In our case, we waited for the red and yellow lights on the bridge to turn on - this is a signal that in 10 minutes the bridge will open. I was afraid that the schedule was wrong and the bridge would not open.
But the bridge was open. We got out and turned right into Bassein Carrot. It was already dark, we turned on the running lights. There is a drawbridge at the entrance to this pool. Out of habit, I called on the radio to open this bridge for me. I completely forgot that I no longer have a mast and it is not necessary for me to draw a bridge. No one answered my calls, but a lock operator appeared on the shore and waved his hand under the bridge - come in, they say. And then with gestures (he did not speak English at all) he explained to us that he would go to the airlock and meet us there.
We crossed the bridge and ended up in a large harbor, at the end of which there was the same lock, which from tomorrow was closed for repairs. We slowly walked towards it, in complete darkness, guided only by the echo sounder and the light of the lighthouse that flashed nearby. The shores of the harbor were vaguely visible and, in general, it was difficult to understand where to go. But then I accidentally looked at the chartplotter and was surprised to see that it was showing me a map of the place where we were going. Nothing surprising, in general: after all, I bought a cartridge of St. Mar with the inland waterways of France. But I neverI haven't used a chartplotter yet (I've just installed it) and I was now pleasantly surprised: just in time.
We finally came to the gateway. It was small, 5 meters wide. We circled in front of him for quite some time. It was seen how our familiar locksmith walks along the shore near his booth - he will come in, then he will leave. Finally, the gate opened and we went inside. We moored to an iron ladder (there was nothing else) and the locksmith asked me something in French. I could not understand what he was saying, but I guessed that he was asking about the "vignette". A "vignette" is a license to navigate the canals of France. You can buy it here: https://www.vnf.fr/vignettesVNF/welcome.do It's good that we managed to buy it in the afternoon! We paid for an hour of the Internet, went to the site and bought a “vignette” there for a month. Moreover, we were lucky in that before that, six months ago, I registered on this site. And then on that day they had a failure on the server and registration did not work for us. Then I remembered that I had already registered there and managed to remember the password. A 1-month vignette costs 63 euros. After payment, we were given a pdf file that we had to print and show this document to the gateway operators. We give him the name of our boat and period action of the document.
The locksmith took this piece of paper from us and took it somewhere. 5 minutes later he returned and said that everything was OK. Then he closed the gate and the airlock began to empty. We went down about 3 meters, then the second gate opened, we left the gateway and ended up in some kind of pool. It was already dark, and it was not allowed to walk along the canals at night, and we still had unfinished business in Calais, so we moored to some piers, noticing poles with electricity and water on them. But, unfortunately, all this equipment did not work - there was neither electricity nor water. And whoit was impossible to get out of these berths into the city - there was a door locked with a padlock. Therefore, after looking at the electronic map, I decided to moor to some kind of “floating pontoon”, which was nearby. I hoped that there would be electricity, but alas. But at least there was no fence and you could safely go out into the city.
I had to spend the night without electricity (that is, without heating). We raised the canopy over the cockpit and went to bed in our clothes, under two blankets. Slept, in general, okay. We were not cold, I was even a little hot. Coordinates of this site: N 50-57.213' E 001-51.414'23 АПРЕЛЯ 2009, ЧЕТВЕРГ
We had one important thing left for which we, in fact, remained in Calais - we had to put stamps in our passports on arrival in France. Actually, we should have put them two days ago, but we had no time. I was a little worried about how the French border guards would react to this violation. But they surprised me, as always. They took our passports, checked visas on the computer, asked where we came from and where we were going, and easily slapped stamps. No "interrogations with predilection", as is usual with us, in Russia. In this regard, remembermy crossing of the Ukraine-Russia border on the train. There, a young Russian border guard ran over me because I got up from my seat and went into the vestibule. "This is the border!" - he declared with pathos. And I thought: “What wildness!” :(
We went to the ferry terminal to stamp our passports. There is a large building that says "Departure" and the building has an entrance that says "Arrival". There was a guard sitting there, we approached him, he called someone on the radio, people came and settled all our problems.
Then we bought food and fuel, and cut our hair. I didn't cut my hair in England on purpose, because, in my opinion, the English have a very poor sense of taste. You can’t look at English women without tears - almost all are dressed in some nondescript baggy robes. If you see a well-dressed woman on the street, then this is almost certainly a foreigner. But France is a country where people know how to look good.
So, for business, and flew the whole day.
We stayed one more night at the same place. A barge came from the canal, with the British. They wanted to go to sea, but they found out that the lock was closed. So the next day they made up their minds to walk along the canals to Dunkirk.
We got up at 7 am, had breakfast and went down the canal inland. After 500 meters, we approached the drawbridge and saw next to it our familiar barge with the British. This barge was standing in front of the bridge, waiting for it to open. We waited a little and then moored to the right side of the canal. We waited for 30 minutes, then the bridge builder came and opened the bridge for us. It was at 9 o'clock in the morning.
We followed the barge. In this channel, the maximum allowed speed is 4.3 knots, so we could easily keep up with it. We passed several drawbridges. They were bred for us by the same bridge builder who opened the first bridge for us. He was driving from bridge to bridge in a car marked "VNF". We even joked that we seem to have been assigned a personal locksmith who will accompany us all the way to the Middle-earth and open the locks for us. Then we went into some lock, following the barge, and there we talked with the British. They stopped at the airlock to dialwater, and we followed suit: we took water into the tank and filled four collapsible 15-liter jerry cans. We put the canisters in a tin, lying on the deck of the cabin, covered with a cover.
Then we walked until dark. In one place we almost decided to stop for the night (there was a letter "R"), but ran aground there. Probably, this sign was put up by pirates to rob ships that ran aground. :) But we quickly refloated, so the pirates were left with nothing. Then we tried to moor to the canal wall, but also ran aground. I had to go further and I began to worry: it was getting dark, and we had not yet found a parking place.
Finally, we moored to the concrete railing of the embankment next to the bridge. Not a very good place, since the concrete wall, near which we stood, had an inclination towards the water, and therefore the boat was rubbing against the concrete with rails. But there was no wind, and the water was calm, and ships do not go at night, so I decided that we would just leave the damage here. It's good that I made fender boards! Without them, I would not be able to stand at this wall. It was even possible to hang two fender boards with fenders on top of each other (like a sandwich: fenders - board - fenders - board), but I decidedthat one is enough for now.
We woke up at 6 am from the fact that a large steamer passed nearby and raised waves. I decided that it was impossible to sleep any longer, since the big steamers began to sail.
Woke up my sweetheart. She didn't sleep well and was gloomy. It was cold. Temperature in the cabin: +12 degrees. We had breakfast, then I checked the engine oil and added fuel. And let's go.
Passed 3 gates. The first one was big and silent. We went there as if into the mouth of a monster and for a long time, 15 minutes, stood and did not know what to do. I even tried to call the locksmith on the radio (forgetting that the mast was removed and the antenna was disconnected from the radio). Of course, he did not answer me, but immediately after that the gateway began to close and I decided that it had worked. Most likely it was an accident. It was the largest lock we've had to go through so far.
There was a small accident in the second lock: when the water was rising, the floating eye, to which the bow mooring was attached, got stuck. I had to take immediate action. There was a friendly locksmith at this lock who gave us a schematic map of northern France with canals and locks. Very useful product, I immediately started using it. In general, I regretted that I bought electronic maps of France's GDP, and not paper ones. Still, paper cards are much more convenient.
The third lock: here we were torn off by the pressure of the water from the eyes we were holding on to. We simply did not have the strength to hold the ropes in our hands! Even though we were standing in the middle of the airlock, far from the entrance gate. But we were not at a loss, I immediately moved forward, moved the boat to the next pair of lifting eyes, and my Darling quickly threw mooring lines on them. So everything went well.
Then we passed the city of Arleux and entered the Canal du Nord. We wanted to go further, but the gateway at the beginning of the canal was not working. We stood near it, and then a man who was passing by in a car stopped and, in French with occasional interspersed with English words, explained to us that this channel would be closed until May 4th. And he showed on the map (thanks to that kind locksmith!) how to go around.
We stayed overnight in front of this gateway.