Tales of a French canal.

Here’s a boat related post I wrote almost exactly five years ago, when we spent the winter aboard our yacht Fandancer in a canal town in the south of France.

Feb 25th 2011.

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We’ve been in Beaucaire for over three and a half months now.

The weather is definitely getting better; it’s forecast to be 21 or 22 next week. But we have a very big Mistral wind blowing at the moment, often the wind is over 60kph with gusts of 80 or 90 kph,so it’s very strange to have really warm, sunny weather, but a very strong wind blowing! The Mistral always blows from the North, down the Rhone valley, and people say it lasts for multiples of 3 days – either 3, 6, 9 or 12 days. We’re on about day 5 now, and the forecast is suggesting it might be gone by Tuesday. The little canal basin in Beaucaire is extremely well-sheltered; the main town is north of the canal, and then behind that is the castle on the hill. We couldn’t really be in a safer berth.

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However, this morning we were woken just before 7am by one of our boat neighbours, Lennie, a nice Dutch lady who lives permanently on her boat by herself. I heard all this banging and shouting, saying she needed Tim to help her, so I woke Tim up to go and investigate. Tim got to Lennie’s boat first, and found that another smaller motorboat with no one on board, about three boats along from Lennie, had broken free from the stern ropes by which it was moored to the quay, due to the wind continually moving the boat so the rope was worn through. The boat was still moored by its bow line badly tied to a red buoy further out in the middle of the canal, and the wind had blown the boat away from the harbour wall and was trying to blow it almost a full circle (270 degrees to be exact) so the stern of the boat had swung round on a long rope and was now banging into the bow of Lennie’s boat! Do you get the picture so far?
My gallant husband launched Lennie’s dinghy, jumped into it and paddled out to the loose boat to attach a line to it so we could manoeuvre it back into its space. It wasn’t that difficult to do, and just as we were securing the boat onto the mooring rings on the quay, one of the guys from the Capitainerie (harbour master’s office) shows up. Apparently the police had phoned him at home at 0630 and said they had seen this loose boat on one of their surveillance cameras, but by the time he arrived there was nothing for him to do.

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It just shows how important it is to check your mooring lines carefully, and if you leave your boat unattended for a long time, get someone to check it regularly for you. There are quite a number of unattended boats here over the winter, and we are always amazed when we walk round the harbour to see how badly secured some of them are, and how some have been neglected for a very long time. This winter, FOUR empty boats here have sunk!

Now, when I think of a boat sinking I think of it disappearing completely under the water, but it wasn’t actually that dramatic, it just means they have sprung a leak somewhere, and been taking on water. In the worst cases, they fill up with water and the bottom of the boat actually touches the bottom of the canal otherwise they probably would have disappeared. The local pompiers/firemen are called, but there is only so much they can do, especially if there the leak has been going on for some time and the boat is full of water.

Two of the sunken boats seem to have been completely abandoned, in very poor condition, and no-one was looking after them. The other two were saved, pumped out and repaired. We will definitely be getting someone to check on Fandancer regularly for us when we leave her for a couple of weeks when we head back to England later this month.

 

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