Chapter Seventy   October, 2012

Part A:  The Voyage

When we last wrote, we were trying to navigate down the River Doubs.  We did finally make it without further ado; a hard rain added more than 2 feet (80 cm) to the river level, and we rode the flood all the way down.  We were very happy to be rid of the Doubs!  Marseilles, here we come.

The Doubs empties into the Sâone which empties into the Rhone.  And the Rhone in its turn empties into the sea.  So that was the route.  We had traveled the Sâone and Rhone last summer, so they were familiar to us.  We tried to skip those places where we stopped last time unless something special lured us back.

Verdun-sur-Doubs and Chalons-sur-Saone got our attention this trip.  Verdun is a sleepy little town with medieval character but Chalons is much larger and more interesting.  Chalons-sur-Saone is the home of Nicéphore Niépce, the inventor of photography.  There is a splendid museum of photography there; the special exhibit featured fashion photography from the USA done in the 1950s.

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(Click on the photo for a larger view; use Back to return to text) 

Where the Sâone joins the Rhone sits the city of Lyon.  And what a city it is!  Our friend, Daniel, was away so we missed seeing him, but we saw something else.  Sunday afternoon was the major procession for the International Dance Festival.  More of a party than a competition, the Festival featured large dance troupes (many had more than 100 dancers), loud music and colorful costumes.  We stood in the sunshine and took it all in.  What a kick.

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Along the way we met some interesting people, as we always do.  One favorite couple had just bought an old boat and were making their first summer cruise.  David and Linda had some sailing experience, but the rivers and locks were pretty new to them.  Their boat is so new to them that the name has yet to be painted on the side, so they have a paper taped to the window.

The boat is a 95-year old workboat converted to cruising.  It has a great shape, but the old engine does smoke a bit.  In one lock they lost steering just as they were tying up.  They were delayed for over an hour while David repaired the broken chain with some steel wire.  Not only were David and Linda delayed, but that whole part of the Rhone stopped moving while they were trapped in the lock.

Linda admired our homemade passerelle.  Since we were leaving the rivers we had no further use of it, we transferred ownership and the passerelle is getting a second lease on life aboard Bolleke.  We lost track of them as they broke off to head for the Canal du Midi for the winter.


Part B:  The Help

One of our featured stops last year and this was Avignon.  The old city wall still circles the city and the Papal Palace is just as spectacular as it was last year.  The big difference this time was that The Help arrived!


We hadn’t had big-time help in ages, not since Bernard helped us cross the Atlantic.  But here came Tom and Robyn.  They said they came to work, and work they did. 

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Tom and Robyn cruised the last bit of the Rhone with us to the marina where we had left the masts, spars and sails in June 2011.  What a difference they made!  We completed all the necessary jobs, and even got to some we thought we’d have to pass up.  The stainless steel fittings gleamed as they haven’t in years after Robyn had her way with them.  Almost single-handed Tom tuned the standing rigging and assured us the masts would stay up.  It took a solid week to get it all done, with four of us working all day. 

This photo from the top of the mast was taken by Sharon.  It was supposed to be done by Tom, but after blowing the electric windlass circuit breaker twice with him at the end of the rope, Sharon had to step in.

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Fortunately we had good friends to kick back with in the evenings, so the work wasn’t so tedious.  When the work was done, and Seraphim looking more like a much-loved sailboat then she had in a year, we shared the last sail of the season and moved on to our winter home in Marseilles.  This brings us to


Part C:  The Tour

It wasn’t over yet.  Tom and Robyn rented an apartment in Provence and invited us to join them for a week’s tour of part of this lovely corner of the world.  What a treat!  Each day we chose a different town or village to visit and then deviated from that plan whenever the spirit moved us.  Throughout the area, the last of the grapes were just being harvested, but a few were left behind.

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The “perched towns” and villages are pretty and interesting.  We visited one that had belonged to the princes of Monaco in the past, another with the house Picasso left to his mistress and one that was the “ochre capital of the world” (red pigment).  There are markets and brocantes that take your breath away.  And narrow streets so steep that they do the same.  It is a magical place.

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The trip to Provence capped a late-summer that started on the Rhine near the Swiss border and finished on the Mediterranean Sea.  We suffered some angst, especially on the Doubs, but mostly we took in the beauty of the countryside and the towns.  We met interesting people and spent time with good friends.  It wasn’t what we’d planned for this summer, but Hey!  It’s an adventure, isn’t it?

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We’re just beginning to explore Marseille.  What we know so far is that it’s noisy.  That might have something to do with slapping sails and halyards.  We’ll adjust.  We always do.  More on Marseilles to follow!

À bientôt.

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