13th-16th June. Schlogen to Yachthafen Kuchelau (Vienna).

The morning started for Cy with some engine maintenance, specifically, changing fuel filters on the port engine, to the consternation of the other boaters. We had developed problems again with clogging, leading to the engine dropping revs.

Once this was finished, we visited their fuel dock, then disappeared as quickly as possible.

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Leaving harbour at Schlogen

The first section was through a steep gorge and the views were spectacular. The weather was hot and sunny and life felt good.

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Austrian Donau

We reached our first lock of the day at around midday where a Dutch couple in their boat were already waiting. We contacted the lock via VHF and were advised that the wait would be around 30 minutes and given the name of the passenger vessel we would lock through behind. It seemed like a good opportunity for lunch, a spot of bread and cheese and a cup of coffee.

I was just relaxing on the deck with my coffee, when I eventually became aware of a man shouting in English over the VHF radio. It took a moment or two to realise it was the lock keeper and that it was directed at us. I was being told, in no uncertain terms, that we could not go in yet, we must wait, and he would tell us when. I was slightly baffled as I was fully aware that we had to wait, but made an acknowledgement on the radio just to make him stop. What had actually happened was that Cy had stepped ashore to read the sign, which must have been seen on the CCTV and interpreted that we were about to cast off our lines and nip into the lock which was ready for the cruise ship. This had me giggling for the rest of the day (I was just miffed that he thought I could be so stupid… -Cy).

In the early afternoon we passed through the town of Linz. This was busy with both cruise ships and cargo vessels as it has large docks.

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Linz

We turned into the small harbour at the village of Au-an-der-Donau at around 7pm. Once again, we were waved into the boat club and helped to tie up. Cy thought it best to reverse in and had to be reminded (all in German and with a certain sense of urgency) that Doris’ mast overhangs by quite some way and was about to enter their clubhouse through a closed window! Fortunately there were plenty of hands on ropes and a quick squirt from the girls averted a potential diplomatic incident…

It was a lovely little boat club and we went out in the evening for a walk around the village. There wasn’t much there, just a bakery and a couple of hotels, but the bank section along the river was beautiful.

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Cruise ship passing, watched from bank at Au-an-der-Donau

Our plan was to have breakfast at the bakery in the morning, a bit more engine maintenance, as Suzy, the starboard engine, now seemed to be struggling with dropping revs, and head off mid-morning.

Breakfast was lovely, and the changing of fuel filters went OK. A very kind member of the boat club came over to talk to Cy and offered to call a friend who was a boat mechanic. As we were now experiencing the same problem with both engines, it seemed like quite a good opportunity. We were expecting him to arrive within a couple of hours, but in reality it took most of the day. Spending an extra night at the club and leaving the following morning instead was no problem for us, and the club chairman, Christian, was so kind and helpful that we were very happy there.

I walked to the next town for some groceries whilst Cy waited. Eventually, the guy arrived and agreed that we very likely had diesel bug and recommended some treatments. Cy also mentioned that we needed some engine oil and this was arranged – 20 litres for 60 Euros which was much better than if we had bought it in smaller quantities. In view of our delay, the club decided that we did not need to pay a mooring fee for the second night. Once again, we were touched by the kindness and generosity shown towards us.

Once all this was accomplished, we walked around the harbour to a small beach section on the main river. It was late afternoon and was busy with people relaxing and enjoying the shore. The water was lovely and my first swim in the Danube felt pretty special.

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First dip in the Danube

Showers, dinner and an early night completed the evening.

We managed an early start on Thursday 15th, 6:30, which may be a record for us. The day’s journey took us through some fabulous scenery. We passed through two gorge sections and some very attractive villages. We saw a parade along the riverbank at Sarmingstein, June 15th is the religious holiday of Corpus Christi, which we didn’t realise straight away.  There were people in traditional dress and uniforms – our initial thought was that it may be a funeral parade.

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Corpus Christi parade, Sarmingstein

We went through the lock at Melk at lunchtime with a boat of drunken lads. Thankfully, in Austria, it is compulsory to wear lifejackets/buoyancy aids in the locks.

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The party boat!  Melk Abbey can be seen through the opening lock gates

The Wachau valley, which we passed through in the afternoon, is rich with vineyards. The town of Durnstein is notable for being where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned and ransomed.

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Durnstein, Austria

One interesting sight along the course of the Wachau valley was a naked couple in their boat. It was a small, open wooden boat and they were completely starkers. All the more surprising since it is a section quite busy with cruise and day trip boats. Cy would not let me take a photo, so this view will need to be left to the imagination.

We reached our intended overnight stop at Krems at around 4pm and after 105 km. Due to the holiday, the harbourmaster was absent, which made it a bit difficult when we wanted to leave the boat club and head into the town, as no-one seemed to know where to find a spare gate key. Eventually, we escaped for a look around town. We managed to get a bit lost and spent some time circumnavigating the prison, but after a while, stumbled across quite a pleasant bit. It is another place on the tour boat itinerary, so has plenty of bars and cafés. We treated ourselves to an ice cream and returned to Doris for dinner.

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Krems – no idea what the statue is!

The harbourmaster was back on duty bright and early the next day, so we couldn’t sneak off without paying. I was given the wifi password which was very helpful as we were preparing to leave!

Our destination for the day – Vienna. This is a place I have always wanted to visit. Our original plan was to spend a night a way outside the city at the boat club connected to the one in Bamberg. Unfortunately, when we contacted them, they thought Doris was a bit too wide to fit. Our revised plan was to stay at a marina close to Vienna, but not the main city one, as it was reported to be very expensive. I had phoned and emailed ahead, as we needed some engine spares and had ordered online to be delivered to the marina.

On arrival things were a tad shambolic. It was a bit tricky to find where we were supposed to tie up as it was in a different harbour to the one detailed in our guide and the were no signs. When we eventually found a place to temporarily tie up and went to reception they seemed surprised we had arrived by boat!!? The berth they found us had no water or electricity supply, so a bit of towing and shuffling around of other boats and another space was made for us. There was one electrical point for us and another boat, so Cy had to utilise some of the spare cables and adapters we had onboard. There was a water pipe alongside, but no tap attached. All in all, it was a bit less than ideal. However, after a couple of phone calls to DHL in Vienna, we did manage to get the parcel delivered on its second attempt.

As usual, there was some engine maintenance to do, servicing water pumps, and it seemed a good place to be doing noisy jobs. We decided to stay the night and move to the city marina the next day if possible.

 

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9th-12th June. Kelheim to Schlogen.

After a peaceful night at the lock at Kelheim, we were ready to go by about 08:30. As we needed to get through the lock, we had to wait for some traffic. This soon arrived, in the form of ‘Isabell’, a 110m barge. We crept in behind her and down we went. We reached the end of the Main-Donau-Kanal, which effectively ends in a T-junction with the Danube, at 09:45. The kilometre mark at the point where we joined the Danube is 2411km, which will count down as we cross Europe and reach 0km at the Black Sea.

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Our first glimpse of the Danube – the buoy marks the junction of the MDK with the Danube.

There is a marina very close to here and our water supply was running low, so we thought we’d pop in and top up if possible. Marina Saal is possibly the largest marina we’ve seen since being inland and looked quite smart.

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Marina Saal

We duly found a guest spot and I headed up to the office to broker a deal. I was greeted by a very friendly young man, who said it was fine to fill our tanks, didn’t charge us and gave me two bottles of cold beer to boot! We were feeling pretty good as we left the marina and headed back onto the river.

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Free beer!

Our ground speed was significantly higher on the Donau than it had been on the canal section due to the downstream flow, so we made good progress. We had to get through the first two locks on the Donau which didn’t cause us any great problems, despite some confusion at Schleuse Regensberg where we were told we had to wait for a passenger ship only to be sent in alone with the passenger ship łeft waiting at the dock. No idea what was going on there.

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Walhalla – we passed in the afternoon

The locks on the Main and MDK where we have moored before had a tiny lock for small leisure craft with the approach being separated from the main one by a pier section. This made a good mooring place as you were completely around the corner from the main approach and protected from swell from large vessels. The Donau locks are different. A couple have a waiting place for small boats just cut out from the main approach where its OK to stay overnight, but for most there is no option for overnight mooring. Schleuse Giesling had a ‘waiting place’ which we arrived at shortly before 5pm and made secure for the night. The river is much wider than we had been used to previously and a squally wind made for some fairly uncomfortable waves for a couple of hours. Thankfully, this did settle down and we were OK for the night.

We were up early again the next morning and through the lock before 08:30.

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Intercom at the lock – we have VHF radio, but I thought it would be fun to use this instead!

Despite the wind and rain the previous evening, it was warm and sunny again. By mid-afternoon, we reached the town of Deggendorf which has a reasonably sized harbour with guest moorings and a town close-by. We had a few errands which meant being close to a town would be useful, so stopped here. The boat club was pleasant and we were waved in and helped with lines as we arrived. There is a slightly odd arrangement with leaving the club to get into town. You have to climb a ladder over the harbour wall and cross a railway line. This is also necessary to access the shower building which appears to be at the bottom of someones garden, although it was pristine.

We managed to get a few groceries and sort out a problem with Cy’s sim card, but there isn’t masses at Deggensdorf so we planned to head out reasonably promptly the next morning.

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Deggensdorf yacht harbour at sunset

The early morning fuel run was given an added element of fun by having to lower the jerry cans down from the harbour wall on a rope and once this was accomplished, we were off.

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Church at Deggensdorf

We had hoped to spend the night at the mooring quay of a restaurant/inn which welcomes boaters, but being a sunny Sunday afternoon and us passing at lunchtime, there was no space. We thought it might be nice to wait around just in case, and as the river was wide enough, we anchored for a while outside of the main channel.

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A glass of Rotwein whilst at anchor -it tasted better once I could breath out again…

We chilled out for a while until I discovered that one of our water tanks was empty. As we had very recently filled it, this suggested a problem. End of chill out. On investigation, it was not too serious. We have flexible water tanks and they seemed to have a lot of air inside. Not a major issue, but good to be aware of as availability of water will reduce as we travel further downstream as there are less amenities, so we need to be filling to maximum capacity when we can.

It was still looking like no room at the inn, so we carried on to the next mooring, which was a boat club outside of Passau. We managed to squeeze into a space in the entrance to the harbour. It wasn’t ideal as it was only 1.3 metres deep and the movement of water from large passing vessels threw us about a fair bit, however, it was a friendly welcome and the price was reasonable. After a bit of tidying up and maintenance, we headed out to stretch our legs. The small village of Heining has a supermarket and a bakery, which I sized up for a visit the following morning. We also found a great looking Mexican restaurant. We hadn’t intended to eat out, but the place looked so inviting and it was our last night in Germany…

After dinner, we joined a bunch of regulars at the boat club for a beer and a natter. Once again, we were able to glean some useful advice for the next stage of our trip.

Another early start for us the next day. I’ve never been a morning person, but have surprised myself (and Cy) by being unusually chipper after an early alarm. Groceries, filling water tanks and a visit to the boat yard were all accomplished in time for us to depart before 10am. To be fair, we didnt get far, just across the river to the lock waiting pontoon, where we had breakfast whilst waiting. We then passed through the town of Passau, which is a busy one on the river cruise itinery. Unsurprising, as it looked beautiful.

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Passau, Germany

Not far after the lock, the border between Austria and Germany follows the river, which led to a bit of confusion regarding courtesy flag etiquette. We decided to leave the German one up until the next lock, which is on the German side. After that, the border with Germany heads north, away from the river, so at this point the Austrian one went up. If anyone has any useful advice on courtesy flags and river boundaries, it would be very gratefully received!

Austria made an impression almost immediately. The natural beauty of the Danube here is breathtaking in places. We were blessed with sunshine and blue skies which always helps, but the sparkling waters and wooded hills really were splendid. We stopped for the day at Schlogen, which is essentially just a harbour and a campsite, but it is located on a S shaped loop of the river which is spectacular when viewed from above.

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Schlogen, Austria

I did this climb by myself, as poor Cy was a bit stuck with engine maintenance and internet ordering of further spares. However, it was a beautiful location, even at water level and watching the barges essentially handbrake turning around the bend was fascinating.

During the course of a chat with a fellow boater, I asked if they knew of any free moorings further along the river. Maybe some suitable anchorages, or at any of the locks? I was met with a pretty horrified ‘no’. Perhaps Austria is not going to be the cheapest section of our journey…..

 

 

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5th-8th June. Bamberg to Kelheim

As I’m writing this (publishing will be in arrears as usual due to lack of wifi!), we are enjoying our last evening tied up at a lock on the Main-Donau-Kanal. Tomorrow will bring the Danube. After so much preparation and planning over the last couple of years, it seems incredible that we are finally here, and in seemingly such a short space of time.

Anyhow, where did I get to? Ah, Bamberg. So we left at 8:30 on Monday 5th June. Eric came and waved us off, after making sure that Cy had the location of the club in Vienna (their sister club). Uwe, Gaby and their daughter also waved us off. We had enjoyed our days here so much, we were sorry to leave.

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Saying goodbye to Eric

After half an hour we reached the end of the River Main and the start of the Main-Donau-Kanal (MDK). The Main is a looping, meandering river covering 384 kilometres with 34 locks. The MDK is a man made canal, and it certainly felt like it, at least for the first section. It is 171 km long, with 16 locks – some of these are almost 25 metres high, and runs from Bamberg to Kelheim, where it joins with the Danube, or Donau, as it is called here.

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End of the Main, beginning of MDK

We had a significant wait at the first lock of the day, but drove straight in to the next three. Our luck ran out at the last one, Erlangen. It took two hours from arriving at the lock to leaving the other side. These delays are part and parcel of travelling on the rivers and canals. The lock-keepers are very good, however, priority is always given to commercial traffic. Depending on the timing, a vessel may have just entered the other side. The lock cycles can easily take half an hour with large vessels manoeuvring in and out again. You may then need to wait for the next barge to arrive for them to operate the lock again. Our radio communications are probably a huge source of amusement to the barges and lock-keepers alike. To quote Rick Munden, who’s blog has been our bible, ‘you are the foreigner, you are the entertainment’. We certainly feel we have been the entertainment on quite a few occasions. It is fair to say that Doris looks a bit different to most of the boats that pass through here, so we get lots of waves and stares. Occasionally, a large audience gathers to watch us bickering as we ascend a lock. It’s always the ones where we have a spot of bother that people seem to be watching.

With all the delays experienced, we were always aware that this was just the process of managing the traffic.

Anyway, by the time we escaped from Schleusen Erlangen and the pretty scary 18 metre rise, it was getting on a bit. Light was fading and it was raining (sounds familiar). We edged into the first available harbour. This was Sportsboothafen Suss. There were no other boats there, but there was a large dead fish floating around. Someone soon appeared for the mooring fee and to show us the facilities. It was a little strange, with a small domestic kitchen and a fridge with some beer and a bathroom decorated like one in someones house. Still, it was a good mooring place, wifi was available, and as the rain cleared, a mist rolled up off the water that looked really eerie.

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We settled in for the evening. Unfortunately, we developed a computer problem, resulting in our AIS and GPS systems going kaput. Cy stayed up til the early hours trying to get it all up and running, but to no avail.

An early start the next morning took me into the nearby town of Alterlangen , while Cy worked on the computer systems. Thankfully, we were both succesful. Breakfast pastries and full navigation capabilities were online before 10am. We stopped mid-afternoon at Nurnberg Motoboot Club. Ideally, we would have carried on a bit longer, but our guides were showing no further mooring for quite a long way so we decided that it would be sensible to stop. It was raining heavily again, and the poor chap from the club that rushed out to meet us got completely soaked. We were OK as we had our full waterproofs on! We were really lucky to arrive here on the same day as a couple who had recently made the trip up the Danube from the Black Sea. We spent a couple of hours on their boat and they went through lots of useful information with us, including a full list of all their stopping places. A trip to the supermarket followed by dinner filled the rest of the evening.

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Nurnberg Motoboot Club – Doris is at the far end

Cy was up early the next day and had greased his stern glands before I was even awake (not a euphemism, honest!). We were out of the boat club promptly and managed to follow the same barge all day, through 6 locks. The last three locks on the ascent were probably the highest we have done on the entire trip at 24.67 metres.

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Ready to go up.  The floating bollards make life easier, although they are unusual.  Usually there is a vertical series in the wall and you have to keep moving ropes as you go.

At approximately 2pm, we passed the European Continental Divide monument. This is effectively the summit between the rivers Rhine and Danube, and at this point, the water drains north to the North Sea and south to the Black Sea, hence it is known as the divide. We will be travelling downhill from here all the way to the Black Sea. According to our extensive internet research, it is the highest navigable point that can be reached by a boat from the sea. It was a significant moment, if not a significant monument, although perhaps striking in its simplicity.

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Summit monument

We passed through one more lock for the day, the first downhill in a while, and stopped for the night at the town of Berching. We opted for a place on the town quay, rather than the boat club. It isn’t really designed for small boats to tie up as there are few bollards and they are very widely spaced. However, we managed to rig a few lines and with some creative fendering Doris was secure enough.

We had to clamber over the railings to get out, but there was a kiosk selling various beverages nearby. In the interest of public relations, we (Sarah) felt compelled to buy beer when we checked if it was OK to stay there for the night. We received a cheerful, yes its okay, and were given a map of the town. The weather was good and we headed off for a wander.

First port of call was to check out if there was a petrol station close enough to be of use. We located one easily enough, and it was close to a section of the old Ludwigskanal with an old lock and barge on display. The Ludwigskanal and the development of the MDK have quite an interesting history and well worth a Google if you’re into that sort of thing. We then walked into Berching proper which is an old walled town, much of which is fully intact, complete with town gates and within them a lovely cobbled streets and quaint buildings.

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Section of town wall, Berching.

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One of the gates

This morning (8th), was very misty, so were a bit later leaving than intended, but still before 9, so not too shabby. We played ‘follow that barge’ which got us through the locks without having to wait. We decided to stop a bit earlier in the day at a suitable (which means free) mooring at the Kelheim lock, rather than continue on to a marina berth. The evening has been warm and still and the scenery has changed to become steeper and more craggy. Cy has managed to get an oil change done on Pat.

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Peaceful evening at Schleuse Kelheim

We are now just a few kilometres and one lock away from the junction with the Danube.

We are pretty amazed that we got this far. The journey from Wales to here has certainly had its ups and downs, with many more to come. From the point that we join the Danube tomorrow to the Black Sea is 2400 km. Our journey on the inland waterways (from Calais) has so far covered 1535 km and through more than 300 locks. It feels to us that a new chapter of our adventure begins tomorrow…

 

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31st May – 4th June. Lohr to Bamberg.

We took full advantage of being at the boat club at Lohr prior to leaving and showered, emptied rubbish and recycling and filled with water before departing at around 09:30. We passed through four locks during the course of the day, all with the same barge. If you can keep up with a barge, it is a good way of minimising lock delays. Usually, our speed isn’t enough, but today we followed ‘Cyrano’ for the duration. We stopped for the night at an old loading quay, conveniently located next to a supermarket. Not the prettiest mooring spot, but functional and free! We were passed several times by a police boat having a good look, but they didn’t stop. Two men arrived by car in the evening and were looking around and measuring until well after dark. They told Cy that the site would be developed as a marina at some point.

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Bit of an uninspiring mooring place….

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But we were treated to a fabulous sunset

Diesel and groceries were the first order of the day on Thursday morning and we headed off about 09:30. The first lock of the day was Wurzberg and it was in the middle of the town, just under a bridge with some rather imposing statues. We hadn’t called on the VHF however the lock was being held, with a cruise boat in it, for us! The lock keeper sounded very friendly.

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Inside Schleuse Wurzberg

The rest of the day went fairly smoothly, although there was some confused radio instructions with one of the locks. A very helpful officer on a passenger ship called us up to translate the information. Lots of information we have read describes crews of passenger ships as being potentially difficult and unhelpful, but this has not been our experience at all. Whenever we have shared locks or passed on the canal, they have so far, always been considerate. We caught up with this particular vessel, Serenade 2, later on in the day when we moored at the town quay in Kitzingen.

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Town quay, Kitzingen

Kitzingen is another lovely town in Bavaria. The evening stayed warm and we enjoyed supper on deck. Some of the crew and passengers from the cruise ship called by to say hello. It is a UK based tour operator so the British passengers recognised our Welsh country flag we have on the front of the boat, as well as the ensign on the back. Actually, the ensign is a bit unusual on inland waterways and several people have asked about it as it is different from the normal Union Jack.

In the morning, the Dutch captain of Serenade 2, Hank, called by for a chat. He was a lot of fun but also really interesting to talk to about his career and experiences on the rivers and time working at sea. It was a great start to our day. It was busy on the river with lots of commercial traffic about. We left at around 09:30 and Serenade 2 was due to leave at 2pm, we had joked with Hank that they would overtake us later in the day, and sure enough they did.

We arrived in the town of Schweinfurt at around 19:30 after a long, hot day and tied up on the town quay. I had heard reports of a mooring charge of 10 Euros here, which is unusual for this type of berth as there are no facilities, just a quay and some bollards. In order to try and avoid this, we headed out for a bevvie and didn’t return until after 10pm. I hoped that if we headed off bright and early the following morning, we might get away with it. Alas not. Shortly after 11, there was a knock from a stern lady wanting the 10 Euros. The upside of this was that the noisy youths in the park disappeared when she arrived.

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Mooring up in Schweinfurt

Our intended destination the next day was Bamberg. The day passed relatively smoothly, a few waits for locks, but nothing too bad.

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It’s not just barges that use the locks..

We entered our last lock of the day (Viereth) just before 5pm. It was not only the last one of the day, but the last one on the River Main before the start of the Main-Donau-Kanal. As soon as our lines were secure, the heavens opened. It had a been a nice day until this point but going up in a lock during the mother of all storms is not the most fun I’ve ever had. We chugged out dejectedly, and started looking for a mooring. There were a couple of boat clubs in the next few kilometres, but nothing with enough space for us.

In the rain and with failing light we were getting a bit fed up and decided to turn around and head back to the lock for the night. This turned out to be an absolutely superb decision. The Motorboot und Wasserski Club Bamberg, located directly next to the lock, proved to be one of our favourite stops of the entire trip so far. We were waved in and helped to tie up by Eric, the club chairman. When we asked about fees, he said we would talk later, after beer, and we should join them as there would be a crowd watching the football (Champions League final, I think). By this time the rain had finally stopped and life was looking better. We were just in the process of having a tidy up and starting to think about dinner, when someone called over and explained that they were ordering pizzas if we wanted one. Beer and pizza sounded like a great idea.

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The best club so far!

 

It ended up being a great night. Eric gave us a club flag, and in exchange, Cy gave him one of our Welsh courtesy flags. We also met Uwe and his wife Gaby who had brought their boat on a trailer from Aschaffenberg and were making the return trip along the river over the next couple of weeks. The company was great and although we had intended to leave the next morning, we were persuaded to stay a day longer to join in a boat launch party the next day. As this involved sausages and beer, Cy was hardly likely to decline. We staggered off to bed (no idea who won the football) feeling jolly happy and looking forward to the next day.

It was raining fairly heavily on Sunday morning, and it was quite nice to know we weren’t heading off so it didn’t matter. The skies did clear by 11 o’clock, which was the time everything was due to start. A crowd assembled by the new boat, champagne was poured, speeches were made and the new boat received a thorough dedication. We then moved to the clubhouse where a fabulous meal of Weisswurst (Bavarian white sausage with sweet mustard) and white beer were served. There was plenty of freshly cooked bread rolls and cheeses, so I was well catered for too. The ‘breakfast’ went on until well into the afternoon. Homemade cakes were served with coffee afterwards. Schnapps was produced and Cy rushed off to get some whiskey to offer up into the mix. It was at this point when Fritz, who is 90, uttered the wise words ‘alles kaput’.

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‘Breakfast’

A bit of a post-breakfast nap was had by all, and then beer around a fire pit as the sun set. What a brilliant day.

We will remain forever grateful for the warm welcome and generous hospitality we received at the club, and especially to Eric. It turns out they have a partner club outside Vienna, so we shall aim to call in there too.

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26th-30th May. Mainz to Lohr.

Friday 26th was another early start. Stocking up on groceries and diesel fell to me, while Cy took advantage of the fact that we had internet at the boat club to look up information regarding water levels and flow on the rivers. The Main is much less affected than the Danube, but we need to be able to interpret and understand the available information. Apparently, water levels can change overnight on the Danube by as much as 1 metre. There are lots of information sources available – online, phone apps and pegels. Pegels are basically digital information boards at the side of the river which display water height. Although at this point, we were aware of all this in theory, a bit of a refresher seemed like a good idea.

Once ready, we left Mainz Yacht Club, crossed the Rhine and entered the Main. It wasn’t far to the first lock and we timed it well and arrived at the right time to follow in a barge and a passenger ship. This was to be the first of four locks that we went through today. We were lucky and didn’t experience any major delays at any of them. In fact, we were sent through alone at two of them, rather than have to wait for other vessels.  There is a fair bit of industry on this section of the Main and I have not yet stopped being amazed at the huge inland docks.

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Container dock on the Main

In the afternoon, we passed through the city of Frankfurt. The skyline was fantastic, particularly in the sunshine.

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Frankfurt

There was a large rowing competition going on so there was loads of activity along the banks as well.

Being on a large river is very different from the French canal experience, and overnight stops are not quite as easy. We have a comprehensive list of boat clubs and marinas for the whole route, however these are usually designed with smaller vessels in mind. Also, having to pay for a mooring every night is not feasible for us. For this reason, our first night stop on the Main was at a lock. It is not permitted for us to moor in the lock approach itself, however, there is usually an area at the side where a very small lock is situated for little ‘sportsboots’ to use.  Some of the locks have a waiting quay area here. At around 5pm, we tied up for the night on the upstream side of Schleusen Offenbach. The wall was suitable and bollards were available. The evening was warm and sunny and we were not disturbed at all.

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Moored at a lock – cheers!

After a quiet night, we were back on the road before 8:30. The countryside was beginning to change and becoming more green. Some sections were really beautiful.SONY DSC

We went through four locks during the course of the day, with significant waits at some. We stopped at around 7pm on the downstream side of Schelusen Wallstadt. Swifts were flying around the boat and there were plenty of ducks, geese and herons to keep us company. The river Main is 384 km long and has 36 locks. We had covered 100km and 8 locks, not bad.

The next morning, we left around 9am and followed a barge into the first lock. We were now well into Bavaria. We stopped mid-afternoon in the town of Miltenberg. The town has a boat club on one side and a short town quay on the opposite bank for small boats, separate to the larger area for cruise boats. We didn’t fancy our chances getting through the boat club entrance, but there was room for us on the quay. This had the advantage of being free, and also closer to a petrol station and the town itself. The big disadvantage was that being in the river rather than in a harbour, there was a lot more wash from passing boats. Again, the smaller powerboats much more so than the large barges which glide through! Still, we were well fendered, so it was a nuisance rather than a problem, and would not continue into the night.

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Town quay mooring in Miltenberg

It was hot again so once we were securely moored, we headed off in search of a local hostelry. Our search was successful. Miltenberg is beautiful, it is a busy stop on the cruise ship itinerary, so has lots of bars, restaurants and ice cream parlours.

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Bier bitte

We really enjoyed our afternoon here, although we were starting to get a bit low on water, so needed to think about this. We crossed the bridge and went over to have a look at the boat club. We reckoned we could just about squeeze in the entrance, although none of the moorings were suitable. We chatted with the harbour master and arranged that we could tie up in the entrance the following morning to take on water.

It stayed hot well into the afternoon and evening, so following the example of a local teenager, I had a swim in the river. I’m used to swimming in quiet lakes and rivers, so being in the middle of a town with passing boats was a bit different for me, but really enjoyable.

We also located a supermarket, but being a Sunday, we would have to wait until the following morning to avail ourselves.

This we did, bright and early on Monday morning, followed by our water stop and we were on the way again just after 10. It was another scorching day and we trundled on, taking it in turns to drive. I’m reasonably happy at the wheel now, but not so hot at manoeuvring, so I leave that to the expert. Fully stocked with water and provisions meant that another night at a lock would do us fine and we stopped upstream of Schleusen Eichel in the late afternoon.

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Another night at a lock!

The night brought a series of spectacular storms. The thunder and lightning went on for hours. Being in a boat in an otherwise quiet spot, we really felt the full force. The thunder sent vibrations through and combined with the ferocity of the rain made for an interesting night. The window in our cabin also developed a leak directly over the bed (Cy’s side).

Despite all the rain in the night, the next day hotted up. We only went through 2 locks and stopped at Lohr. It was a bit of a squeeze but we got into their harbour entrance, helpfully directed by the harbour master.

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Boat club at Lohr

I had discovered a problem with my camera a couple of days ago and we headed off to find a camera shop. It transpired that a repair is possible, but the camera would need to be sent to the manufacturer which wasn’t really an option for us. In terms of buying another one, they had some, but nothing of similar specs – either too low or too high. I have another camera, so not the end of the world, but I particularly like the one I had been using. We managed to do some other bits and pieces of shopping in the town before returning to Doris to cook dinner. Unfortunately, the stove fuel ran out. This cannot be refilled until it cools down so we abandoned dinner and went to a bar instead. Beer, wine, chips and wifi!

As we arrived back at the boat club, we met a great couple – Werner and Iris and their son Fabio. They were both lawyers and are in the processing of renovating their boat, which is an old river patrol boat. We spent a while chatting, and were sorry we hadn’t met them earlier in the evening as it would have been good to spend more time in their company.  Part of the fun of travelling definitely seems to be engaging with people, whether it be getting a wave from a fisherman or an in-depth discussion about politics!

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23rd-25th May. Strasbourg to Mainz

Rhine day! We headed off from the marina in Strasbourg at 9am and motored up to the Ecluse du Nord. This is a relatively large lock and takes you out of Strasbourg into a dock section and then straight onto the Rhine. We actually ended up waiting at the lock for quite a while as there is a lifting rail bridge directly in front and a huge freight train chose the same time as us for passing through. About an hour after throwing off our ropes in Strasbourg, we were on the Rhine. To say it was a bit different from what we had become accustomed to is an understatement!

The first major thing we noticed was the flow. The Rhine is a huge river with significant current. We were heading downstream – just as well as we would not be have been able to go up with Doris, the girls just don’t have enough power. The combined forces of Pat and Suzy would not outgun the Rhine! The other issue that became immediately apparent was just how busy it is. We didn’t see a lot of leisure traffic initially, just commercial. This includes small barges (80m is small to us now!), cruise ships, tankers and cargo ships. Fortunately the first part of the river we travelled on had a wide channel and was relatively straight so we were able to get used to passing and being overtaken (sometimes simultaneously).

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Rhine traffic

We only had two locks to go through on the Rhine and did both that afternoon.

The size of these schleusen was pretty epic. We went through one with a 190m push-tow, a 125m cargo boat and a 110m tanker, with room to spare. We were so happy to have our communications officer onboard (Helen-Marie) who was able to negotiate, in German, with the locks via VHF. Some of the specific terms were new to her. The lock keepers wanted to know our direction of travel (I thought they would see us on AIS, seemingly not…), travelling upstream or downstream. In German this is Bergfahrt or Talfahrt or when they tried to translate for us, Upstairs or Downstairs but we got there in the end. Watching our communications officer in action was great and it certainly made life easier.

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Leaving a lock – best to give the big boys a head start as their engines create a fair bit of turbulence

The guidebook suggested an anchorage at Lauterbourg as a suitable first night stop. Lauterbourg is still in France, but only just. This seemed like a reasonable option and we slalomed into the entrance at around 5pm. After a bit of cruising around we selected our spot for anchoring. Cy very kindly offered to row Helen-Marie ashore in the inflatable dinghy, where she could walk 2 miles through an industrial wasteland to a small railway station where there may or may not be a train back to Strasbourg. Helen-Marie assured us there was no desperate hurry and that our intended destination for the next day, Speyer, offered plenty of return travel options…

Once safely at anchor, we wined, dined and Cy even made a new friend.

The following morning, we lifted (weighed Sarah, weighed!) anchor before 8am and stuck our nose back out onto the Rhine. When travelling on the inland waterways, you drive on the right and vessels pass each other port-to-port. Except when they don’t. For reasons that I won’t go into here, a commercial vessel can initiate a starboard-to-starboard passing procedure. They indicate this by displaying a blue board.

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‘Blue boarding’

This requires quite a high vigilance level when travelling a busy waterway, oh, and don’t forget the wing dams. These are definitely Cy’s favourite. Wing dams are submerged walls that stick into the river to try and slow the flow. Most (but not all) are charted, but its impossible to be certain how far from the banks they extend underwater. Our fibreglass boat would not do well if we crunched one of these. This makes the option of ‘just nipping out of the channel’ to allow an overtaking vessel to pass a bit less desirable! So, all in all, we needed our wits about us.

We were quite grateful to arrive at Speyer in the early part of the afternoon. There is a large marina but with a rather convoluted admission procedure. You had to tie to a waiting pontoon and call the harbour master on the number shown. Helpfully, this did not include the country code. We delegated this to our interpreter Helen-Marie and after three or four attempts, we got an answer. We were given a berth number and a code for a gate so I could get onto the shore and buy our ticket. This proceeded without incident until I got to the machine to buy the ticket and there was no option to pay with credit card. I couldn’t return to Doris to get cash as the gate code was only for getting out to buy the ticket and you needed said ticket to get back through again. Just as well captain Cy had remained with the boat and I was able to attract his attention!

The weather was dry, but not too hot and we went off to investigate the charms of Speyer. We were all pleasantly surprised. There is a great cathedral, that has some of the old kings of Germany buried there. We were also able to visit an ancient (built around 1100ad) ritual Jewish bath.

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Steps down to ritual bath

We had a great lunch and then it was time to say goodbye to Helen-Marie who was heading home via Koln and Brussels. On the way back to the marina, Cy made some more new friends.P1010346

We were up pretty early the next morning as we were keen to cover some ground. I was in town before 7am for the Bakerei and some groceries. The first Bakerei was closed, despite its advertised opening hours and the supermarket that should have opened at seven was very definitely closed.

It turned out to be a journey of two halves. The first part of the day took us through Mannheim which is an enormous hub of industry with several kilometres of factories and docks along the river. Fascinating, if not beautiful. We were blown away by the scale.

The weather was glorious and as the day progressed, the scenery changed. It became much greener, vineyards covered much of the hillside and although there was still a lot of commercial river traffic, the leisure use of the river increased.P1010367

There were lots of families enjoying a day out at the ‘beach’, paddle boarders, kayakers and loads and loads of powerboats. We got fed up with these pretty quick as the wash they create sends poor old Doris rolling about. It was like being at sea again.

We tried to get into a little marina at Ginsheim at around 3pm, but were waved off pretty quick as there wasn’t any space. We were disappointed, as it looked lovely. A boat owner advised us that there would be more space at Mainz which wasn’t much further. Once there, we turned into the entrance to the harbour and cautiously crept in. Larger boats are a bit more unusual here than in France and we were getting a bit worried we wouldn’t find anywhere. However, a couple of guys from the club greeted us from the pontoon and directed us to a space. It was lovely to be so warmly welcomed. The cost was less than in Speyer, and we loved the vibe.

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Yacht Club Mainz

The banks of the Rhine at Mainz were crowded with groups of people enjoying the sun and hanging out. It transpired that it was a public holiday which explained some of the shops opening late and the amount of people out and about on a weekday. We had a beer at the club and got chatting to a few people. One in particular, Marie was lovely and really helpful. They had made the trip from their boat club in Mainz to Vienna a couple of years ago and she went through their logbook with me with the list of different places they had stopped etc. We have some good guidebooks for the trip which we bought and downloaded from Tom Sommers. EuroCanals is the name of the website and the guides are super, but local wisdom and experience is always worth gleaning where you can.

After our beer, we walked into the town centre, which was only a few minutes away and had an enjoyable mooch about.

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Mainz

Mainz was the end of our travels on the Rhine. The junction with the river Main is almost directly opposite the entrance to the harbour and that’s where we would head in the morning. We had covered the 200 or so kilometres on the Rhine in three days, much faster than our previous rate of travel as we were travelling downstream. The next section would be 384 kilometres upstream with 34 locks along the way. Fortunately, the Main has significantly less flow against us, apparently no more than 1.5km/h on average so we should be OK!

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20th-22nd May. Dettwiler to Strasbourg

Our early start was slightly curtailed by a very heavy mist in the morning.

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Going nowhere!

Consequently, I was able to drag Cy into town for the breakfast bakery run as he had missed out seeing it the night before. Once we were back and breakfasted, the fog had lifted enough to get going. We headed straight into a chain of locks all activated by a pull cord by the first lock. Somehow or other, this failed to activate. Maybe my pulling technique was a bit below par? Anyway, as usual, a decent chap from the VNF was on hand to sort us out. We had a lovely chat and it was interesting to hear his take on how the VNF is changing as an organisation with part privatisation and reduced staffing levels.

Cy noticed a problem with our port engine, Pat, during the course of the day. Every now and then, the revs would drop, although it did seem to improve later in the day. We had a mid afternoon provisions stop by a supermarket and petrol station. By now, it was getting later in the day and we were unsure whether to push on for Strasbourg or not. We were only an hour or so away, but I had read several reports of difficulties finding moorings in Strasbourg so didn’t fancy arriving late in the day. We went through the small town of Souffelweyersheim at around 17:30 and noticed a lovely little harbour area, which we thought may be a good place for the evening. We had a bit of a faff and decided to go through the next lock and see how the area looked. This took us into Strasbourg suburbs and mooring options were not looking so pleasant so we turned around and went back through the lock. Secretly I was quite pleased about this as I had realised a day or two earlier that we wouldn’t be going up in any more French locks until our return journey next year, so it was nice to get one last go! On further exploration, the mooring area looked really good, with electricity and water, but they were charging 11 Euros per night. We motored a few hundred metres along the canal and tied up using our mooring stakes instead.

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Not a bad place to stop

We decided to re-invest the money we had saved. Our lack of refrigeration facilities meant we had to consume in one sitting. Shame.P1010306

We didn’t get off too early the following morning due to fuzzy heads, but it wasn’t far to Strasbourg and we arrived at a nice marina berth just before lunchtime. The route in took us directly past the European Parliament building.

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Bonjour (et aussi, aurevoi EU!)

As usual, boat chores come first. For me, this was vacuuming (only possible when we have shore-based electric), cleaning and laundry. I’ve mentioned before, that most of our laundry is done by hand, but the bed linen is definitely a launderette job. I left Cy fettling with the engines – the problem with Pat seemed to still be a live issue. The marina had an onsite boat yard with chandlery supplies but was closed as it was a Sunday. The need to get both engines fully operational before going onto the river Rhine was paramount, and consequently we decided to spend two nights at the marina. Also, our very dear friend, Helen-Marie made a last minute decision to head to Strasbourg to meet us for a few days. Once we were a bit more sorted and up to date on various jobs, we headed into town for a bit of a look. We didn’t really know what to expect, but it is a very visitor-friendly city, with small winding canals, picturesque bridges and beautiful mediaeval buildings. P1010314.JPG

Restaurants abounded, but loads of people were out with their own picnics enjoying the sun and chilling. We were due to meet Helen-Marie at the station at around 10pm, so we had a leisurely beer and a low cost dining option (kebab shop) first.

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Looking erudite whilst waiting for a doner

The three of us then headed through the city and back to Doris for a spot of wine and cheese to round off the evening.

Monday 22nd May – our last day in France! It was another sweltering day. Helen-Marie and I were able to spend some time exploring the city (after we had done a fuel run in the morning), while we left Cy fixing the engine problem.

The chandlery was able to help with a few bits and pieces that were required and by late afternoon, everything was sorted. It transpired that the secondary fuel filter was blocked with a gel-like substance. Apparently, this sometimes happens when using road diesel as the bio-fuel content is higher than that of marine diesel.

So, our journey across France from Calais to Strasbourg had taken us 31 days, through 252 locks and covered a distance of 776 kilometres. Just one lock left out of Strasbourg and then we shall be on the Rhine….

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