Greenwich Boat Show

day 2 underway to Lutzelbourg

Two charter boats explore France in a week-long cruise along the Canal du Marne au Rhin in Alsace, France. >See full FRANCE CANAL CRUISE SERIES

Last month, Chesapeake Flotillas ran a week-long cruise along the Canal du Marne au Rhin in Alsace, France. Twenty people on two boats were in for a totally new experience.
In the last article, we had arrived at the charter base and settled in for the night after a day of provisioning, waiting on staggered arrivals, and getting familiar with our boats.

Now it is time to finally get started on our adventure.

Day 2 Underway to Lutzelbourg

morning canal cruisingThe morning dawned chilly with a layer of mist clinging to the surrounding fields. The same chill that gave us a good night’s sleep was making me wish I had packed my fleece. I left it home in New Jersey when I saw the forecast of upper 80’s along our intended route. I would regret that decision for about 2 hours this morning.

While most of my clients were getting themselves pulled together for the day, I was getting underway by 0700 with the cup of coffee that Chef Theresa handed to me on my way to the upper deck.

I had been concerned about the hydraulic controls on this fleet of (overused?) charter boats. Once I dropped my lines, I had about 100 yards to adapt to them before I took this 48-foot canal boat through the first narrowed passage.

narrow canal passageAs I teach in my boat handling class, I went slow and made small adjustments. A little bump on the left but the boat was completely adorned with fenders down both sides. It looks like the charter company expects a lot worse than the little kiss I just gave the canal wall. I got the hang of the controls and I was ready for the next narrowing.

We left early because we were told it was about 3 hours to reach the Arzviller Boat Lift. We wanted to get there before the crowd of 15 or more boats scheduled to head out of the charter base in Hesse today. Plus, we had to factor in that the tunnels at Niderville are one-way only. (The traffic direction is controlled by traffic lights at each end of the tunnels.)

canal cruiseTunnels at Niderville

Our plan to leave early was so far successful. The only boat ahead of us was the second boat of our two-boat flotilla. We had passed several boats tied alongside the canal whose crews were clearly not ready to move as early as we had.

Before we got to the tunnels, I handed the wheel over to Betty. I am not the kind of captain that insists on always being at the wheel.

The terrain around this part of canal extended vertically suggesting the canal had been dug in small valley of hills and hummocks.

niderville tunnelsAt last we reached the tunnel and the light was fortuitously green for us to continue. Betty cautiously drove us through the narrowed sections and into the tunnel.

As we slid inside the tunnel, a wave of warm musty air flowed over us. All of our glasses and camera lenses fogged up for a time. Some were glad for the temporary increase in ambient temperature.

The inside was intermittently lit with single yellow lights. The inside of the tunnels alternated between hewn rock to bricked surface to coarse concrete skim coat. The second tunnel was longer by almost half.

Video from inside of second tunnel:

arzviller-boat-liftArzviller Boat Lift

Two and a half kilometers beyond the end of the tunnel, we reach the featured piece of infrastructure.

The Arzviller Boat lift was constructed to shorten the time and distance required to move boats between the abrupt change in elevation. It is an amazing piece of engineering to see and experience.

We queued up along the right side of the entrance to the lift. I had only ever seen two boats in the caisson. A third boat pushed and squeezed his way into the back of the basin when it was time for us to load.

It took some maneuvering and jostling to get everyone secure for the 2 minute slide down the ways. All things considered it was an amazingly smooth ride.

Video of Arziller Boat Lift:

From the lift, we encountered our first lock 0.6 km downstream. All of the locks on this portion of the journey would be downstream locks. That is, we were moving from a higher level to a lower level.

The locks that we would encounter on the first two days were radar-triggered automatic locks. We just had to follow the signals, enter the lock when ready, and trigger the process by lifting the control rod.

LutzelbourgFour such locks and we reach the little village of Lutzelbourg, which means little castle in German. It is a pretty, quiet place. The canals and the local roads are distinguished by the lack of traffic.

For now, I take a break while the crew disperses to explore the town. We arrange a wine and cheese party aboard our boat for us and our travelling companions who opted to stay 2 km upstream on the other side of the lock #21. Dinner tonight was at the one restaurant in town that is open on Sunday evening.

Tomorrow it is on to Saverne!

Capt. Rob Chichester offers domestic and offshore sailing vacations and crewed yacht charters through Chesapeake Flotillas, LLC. Training and yacht relocation services are also available. For more information on any of this, visit www.chesapeakeflotillas.com.

Two charter boats explore France in a week-long cruise along the Canal du Marne au Rhin in Alsace, France. >See full FRANCE CANAL CRUISE SERIES

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Capt. Rob is an engineer and owner & operator of Chesapeake Flotillas offering charters, instruction, and vessel relocation. A USCG Licensed Master, Capt. Rob has planned and executed flotilla cruises all over the Chesapeake Bay, Europe, and the Caribbean. Rob holds a 200-Ton Master's license with Auxiliary Sail and Assistance Towing endorsements. He also is certified by the American Sailing Association to teach Basic Keelboat Sailing, Basic Coastal Cruising, and Bareboat Chartering. A self-proclaimed sailor & poet, he operates a 41-foot sloop Bay Poet based out of Rock Hall, MD.

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