(43) To Strasbourg via The Rhine – Late September 2012.

Having said goodbye to Colin and Mary in the morning, I took advantage of the electrics and water in the port to catch up on the washing. The ‘capitaine’ was happy for us to leave our car in the port until such time as we could collect it, so we set off.

The best laid plans can sometimes go wrong, especially when you misread the waterways guide and choose to depart at lunchtime. We did both and Lock 41 came as a bit of a surprise as we were using the wrong page of the guide. The annoying thing was that I had double-checked it that morning and still got it wrong.

With the gates closed and two red lights showing, our prospects were not great. We managed to moor up before the lock and I phoned a couple of numbers to get help. I wasn’t sure if the recipient had understood my problem or was able to do anything about it and I feared we should have contacted the VNF by 3pm the previous day. Fortunately lunch had finished and my saviour (a lock keeper) arrived a few minutes later by moped. We were soon on our way again.

Hombourg, our picnic mooring after leaving Mulhouse and before the Rhine.

The canal widened considerably and passed through some pretty countryside as it flowed towards the Niffer Lock which leads to the Grand Canal D’Alsace- actually the Rhine as I later discovered!

We moored on a picnic pontoon at Hombourg (no hats in sight!) and I took advantage of the smooth cycle path to give my skates an airing.

A lovely dawn prior to heading for the Rhine.

After an ethereal start to the next day with mist on the canal punctuated by the odd swan, we reached the largish Niffer Lock and turned north and downstream towards Strasbourg on the Grand Canal D’Alsace/Rhine.

Leaving the canal behind and exiting Niffer Lock.

This side France, other side Germany.

It was somewhat reminiscent of the River Rhone with huge commercial barges and deep locks. We even ended up in the front of a lock with one of them in behind us when we misunderstood the lock keeper’s instructions. The open gates and green light showing on our approach were apparently not for us; intended instead for a huge commercial which was out of sight. Fortunately no harm was done, although the sight of one of those giants coming in behind you is rather daunting.

Up to the first lock and back to being a ‘small fish’.

We wondered why the lock keeper hadn’t simply kept the lights on red which is far easier to understand than rapidly spoken French over the radio. Infact when a similar situation arose later in the day at another lock, we happily waited and went in behind.

One positive result of our encounter was that we were told it was okay to use the engine against my bow rope as we do in the smaller locks, which makes tying up much easier.

Big ships and big locks……after you !

Going with the current this time and we make good progress.

Very industrial and very busy.

Our day on the Rhine was almost over as we approached Rhinau Lock after which we hoped to enter the northern section of the Canal du Rhone au Rhin. Alas the lock into the canal was closed and after a tricky manoeuvre across the current, we managed to moor up on a pontoon just off the main river, where we spent a disturbed night being bumped around every time a large barge went past.

None of the lovely scenery on this stretch…. unlike the Rhone.

The following day we awaited the opening of the lock in vain. Our guide said it opened at 9am but nothing happened, so by 9.30am I was on the phone sorting it out.  An hour later the lock keeper arrived and we were soon on our way, pleased to be off the Rhine and back on a smaller canal.  We cruised through some lovely countryside and the fields were full of ripening maize. An overnight stop on the VNF mooring at Krafft, left us a day away from Strasbourg and with no moorings booked we wondered if we would be able to stop there.

Back on the canal again and a less imposing lock.

Fortunately, mid afternoon the following day, a few hundred metres before the commercial port, we spotted Brian on ‘Fidutia’, moored on the left bank between two bridges. He had been there free of charge for several months and although there were no utilities we thought it would suit us for a few days. After mooring up and lowering some tyres to protect the hull from a shelf, we invited Brian onboard for aperros and spent a convivial couple of hours exchanging stories.

Our mooring in Strasbourg the morning after aperros.

We stayed in Strasbourg for just under a week and enjoyed exploring the city by day and night. I had been there in another life, as a teenager on a family camping holiday and could remember the cathedral but little else.

Views around the city.

Petite France.

A very scary Knight !!

Whilst moored there we saw two strange weed cutting boats which ploughed up and down our stretch of the canal each day. We were also bumped around by commercial barges and were pleased to have our sunken tyres out to protect the hull from the protruding shelf.

The cutter.

The collector.

We returned by train to Mulhouse with Brian (who fancied a day out away from his barge,) to collect the car and popped into Germany through the Black Forest and Freiburg on the way back.  This was another blast from the past for me; although we could have done without the torrential rain which dampened our desire to explore beyond the hostelries near the cathedral.

The Black Forest on way to Freiburg with Brian, just before the rain.

 Nicci has another photo opposite the Cathedral 40 yrs after the last one.

Taking shelter with an authentic German Hot Dog.

Later that week we had a great trip out to meet up with Paul and Martine who we had last seen on the Canal du Midi when they visited two years ago. Paul was a colleague of Peter’s. We drove through some beautiful scenery to their home in the nearby Vosges Mountains and enjoyed a lovely meal accompanied by superb Alsace wines from Martine’s sister’s vineyard.

Back on board our ever-weakening batteries were holding out well and we were turning the inverter off every night to conserve power.  Alas the same could not be said of our trusty generator and Peter was annoyed to discover a leak in one of its expensive water cooling hoses, which he had replaced only a year or so before. He inserted a piece of metal pipe as a temporary solution and added it to the ever increasing list of winter jobs.

The internet continued to play up… our broadband wasn’t so broad.

With more friends due to arrive in just over a week, I drove out to the town with the unpronounceable name of Souffelweyersheim, left the car and then caught a tram back to the barge.

We left Strasbourg on 29th September and cruised between the European Parliament and Court of Human Rights, annoying a fisherman who was exercising his right to fish in a most awkward and inappropriate spot. Peter just smiled cheerily and waved as we went by to annoy him even more!

European Parliament, evidence of where our taxes were spent !

Through Strasbourg to Souffelweyersheim…normal pronunciation !


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