Greenwich Boat Show

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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

Chesapeake Flotillas took clients cruising on the Canal du Marne au Rhin in Alsace, France on its annual overseas adventure in September. Eighteen clients thought it sounded like a great idea.
Having spent two nights of our trip in two different towns, it was time to enjoy the serenity found along the canal in the middle of the Brumath Forest.

Day 4 Brumath Forest by way of Hochfelden

This was the day to which I may have been looking forward the most. Here at home, I love anchoring out in lesser visited creeks and coves. The Brumath Forest looked to offer the equivalent experience for a canal boat.

Upon waking, there was a little bit of a chill to the air but not as much as our first day underway. Given the availability of potable water, we were using our tanked supply freely. I wanted to replenish our water supplies before we left town.

bow crew lockCarroll and I dragged the long hose supplied by the marina over to our boat and began filling the water tank. It holds about 200 gallons. I let the hose run for at least 30 minutes but I never noticed any overflow in the vicinity of the water fill fitting on the port side deck. (More on this in a subsequent article.)

Wanting to be underway by 7:30, I shut off the water and returned the hose. We pushed off quickly. It was an easy maneuver since we were docked stern to. Our companion boat had a head start of at least 20 minutes.

Leaving Saverne, there is an immediate right-angle left turn. After squaring up from the turn, I detected a pull cord hanging from overhead. It was about 100 meters downstream. I asked the crew on the bow to grab it and give a tug as I slipped the boat beneath the mechanism. It was easily within Jan’s reach and she gave a definite tug on the cord. It was essentially a rubber hose connected to a pull button suspended from a transverse cable overhead. The hose-cord passed over and through the top deck. I gave another pull for good measure and to see just how much force was required to activate the switch.

Casting a look ahead, we could see the lock preparing for our transit. By 10:00 AM the ladies in the crew were fully running the boat.

downstream gates

We were through lock number 39. I was merely in the role of adviser and quasi-guide to the pastoral scenes slipping quietly past.canal lock

There were groomed farmlands, green pastures, occasional hamlets and villages. In the distance we could see a highway.

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There were also towers which, at this distance, could have been modern silos, water towers, or maybe even cell towers. It really did not matter. Our collective blood pressures were lowered and I do believe everyone wore at least a small smile of pleasure.

downstream canal cruising

Entering HochfeldenWe had planned to stop in Hochfelden to resupply for the next day or two. The canal boats carry two steel stakes and a mallet so you can make your own tie points nearly anywhere along the canal. And so we did.

We were secure alongside the canal by 1100 hours.

Six of us walked into town. The thing that stood out most about Hochfelden is that there were flowers EVERYWHERE. They were on the signposts, bridge railings, homes, rail station, and everywhere! It gave the town a quaint feel.

bridge-in-hochfelden

We mostly picked up bottled water. My sweet tooth got the better of me and I bought some pastries from the bakery department of the super marché (supermarket). I carried my 3 liter bottle like a football. I found that it made the carrying easier. We were back aboard and underway by 1 PM.

canal path bikersThe sun was again strong this day. The canal was taking a gradual curve to the left. The dappled sunlight filtered by the trees on the right bank got my attention. I suggested that we stop in the shade and enjoy a leisurely lunch. Once again the stakes came out and we were secured along the canal.

Lunch was simple but the cool wine and beer that we drank made it seem so much more elegant. After about an hour, the sun began cresting the trees and I thought we should move on before we became easy targets for the heat of afternoon sun.

Another hour or so of lazily heading downstream followed. It was the kind of day where it was easy and perfectly acceptable to lose track of time.

swans-swimming-canal-lock

In time we approached the place where I had wanted to stop for the night but from a distance we could hear gunfire. One’s first instinct is naturally concern but we soon determined there was a firing range very near the canal and adjacent to the mooring basin I had targeted.

As we glided through the highway bridge over the canal, we got our first full look at the basin. Two-thirds of it appeared to be actively under construction. My crew asked if we could continue farther down the canal to find a more pleasant setting. I agreed. A kilometer later, we found a spot where all that we could hear were leaves rustling in the breeze and birds in the trees. We had found our spot for the night.

It was time for more wine. It WAS France after all! The crew relaxed and enjoyed conversations about which trip to plan next. There was talk of other canal venues and sailing in Croatia, Spain, or Greece.

(Chesapeake Flotillas is running a flotilla sailing cruise along the Amalfi Coast in 2017. Plans for 2018 will be announced in January.)

flotila-cruise-dining

chef-teresa-boat-diningAbout 45 minutes after we had stopped, our flotilla partner appeared from behind us! We had never realized that we had passed them in Hochfelden when they stopped to do a tour of the Mercury Brewery which dates back to the year 830AD.

There were reciprocal visits between both boats and then…Chef Theresa and her sous chef Donna were ready to serve dinner.

In great anticipation, my crew rushed to our somewhat crowded salon table and salivated as the platters of food and bottles of wine were set before us. Good food is always fuel for good conversation!

After dinner, we retreated into the darkness on the upper deck. The only light was from a nearly full moon overhead. More wine…more conversation. We discussed the plans for tomorrow and then back to talk of what trips interested whom.

evening-moon-canal-boat

It was going to be a chilly night but that was okay. I love sleeping on a boat in cool weather under a comforter. As my eyes drew close, I realized that we were already halfway through our trip. Tomorrow we arrive in our featured destination: Strasbourg.

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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