15 June, 2011

No marina for Malua

The Rhone is not a yacht friendly place with only a few designated places to stop.  Consequently one has to plan your journey so that you arrive before the night curfew starts, not that we are up that late but planning is essential.
Avignon dock
We left Arles having spent two nights alongside the floating restaurant and set our sights on arriving at Avignon only 40km (no more nautical miles in a river)in the early afternoon.  That stop was no problem.  We enjoyed the town and stocked up on wine and provision for the trip north.  I took stock of the water and judged that we did not require topping up the tanks.
Set off for Roquemaure and a town quay but found nothing just a stone wall.  On we go to the next designated spot which in this case is up a tributary of the Rhone at l’Ardoise.  Here the channel is deep and we come alongside a very lovely secluded spot with about 20 long stay boats.  Unfortunately the town is a few kilometres away but had no attractions at all, just a crossroads and a small shop.  Next day we set off up stream for the riverside quay of St Etienne des Sort.  Again on arrival the floating pontoons that should be there in the summer are missing.  How these town think they are going to attract the big spending yachties without a wharf I don’t know.  On we go through the very deep Bollene lock.  After that experience and having to wait two hour we needed a spot to stay.  The only marina on the chart is now Viviers 50 km from our last port of call. Too far today we need a stop.
At the PK178 “milestone” the guide notes two pylons on the bank of the river.  We decide to give it a go and see if we can tie up.  At this point the river is flowing about 4 or 5 km/h so I slowly move Malua forward, Denny has a strong spring from the amidships cleat ready and we come alongside the downriver pylon.  Malua comes to a halt but the bow swings in to the upriver pylon.  Rush forward with the fenders and we are safely secured but not enough fenders to protect us from the wash of a passing barge.  Two barge boards on the outside of two sets of vertical fenders between a horizontal fender and we are a good distance off these steel pylons and with enough room to roll with the wash of a passing barge.  In fact it is rather pleasant sitting alongside the banks in the middle of nowhere.  Not a spot to linger so next day we off to Viviers in a tributary.
Generous fenders
We arrived before lunch but the sign states 2.0 depth.  We inch in and tie bow to the dock and the shallow water alarm goes off. No more depth.  Didn’t matter because we had made it.  Now for the water.  Sorry no water at the dock but you can stay free and use the electricity.  The hotel boats with their hundreds of passengers are alongside the outside arm of the quay filling their tanks with fire hoses but for us small craft, no water.
The water situation is getting low.  We are now using the drinking water to wash the dishes and flush the loo.  Cruas is the next stop.  Sundancer has stopped there and recommends the place.  We arrive and turn off the main channel into the marina with the full knowledge that it is dredged to 2.0 meters so it will be tight.  We didn’t make it into the marina entrance before we ran aground.  Soft mud but no forward movement.  Put the engine in astern and wash our way out back into the channel.  We later found out Sundancer with less draft than Malua had also hit the mud.
Where next?  The designated marina is too far off so we have to find a place to stop.  The guide suggest La Voulte-sur-Rhone is right beside the town centre but the slight slope on the stone quay require the use of generous fenders.  We have those which we float on the water along side Malua as we pull in and secure to a large bollard.  The depth finder one moment indicates 0.0 then the next 4.2m below the keel.  The round bilge of a yacht does have some advantages.  All looks fine and we set off on a great bike ride through the fruit growing area of the Rhone returning for a shower but no water!  This is now a serious problem.  There is not a tap in sight.
La Voulte
Next day we are off to the blue star marina on the Rhone at Valence Eperviere suitable for 420 boats.  The entrance is off the river with a fuel dock down stream and the marina itself up stream.  The obvious place was between the fuel and the first pontoon but as we approached we are stoped short stuck in the mud.  Thankfully some people on the pontoons directed us to a deeper channel and we came alongside and secured Malua with 0.0 below the keel.  Now for some water to fill the tanks, increase the draft and sink deeper into the mud.  Will we get out into the stream again?  That’s a problem for another day.

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