Last time I wrote we were in the pretty town of Saarburg on the Saar river in Southern Germany. It made a lasting impression and we probably should have stayed longer than 1 night. Next time!
We were up and on the water by 7.45 the next morning (August 6th) and ready to face some big locks. 14.5m, 11m and 8m in depth in 7 hours within 50kms kept us busy all day. What we like about the German locks is you call them on the radio and they actually (usually) reply, the locks, while deep, fill from the bottom and with inserted bollards you move your ropes from bollard to bollard as you rise (or fall). No huge gush of water (usually) and everything runs very smoothly.
We arrived in Saarlouis to find the small 2 boat quay free although the other space was quickly taken by a British couple who live on their boat full time.
We had a swim in the river followed by a beer in the nearby biergarten. Very refreshing after a long day.
The next day the temperatures soared to 37° as we continued south to Saarbrücken (can you guess we are on the Saar river with every place name starting with Saar…). We had a wee mishap in one of the locks, losing our ropes as a sudden surge dragged the boat away from the side. It was a strange set up whereby, although a long lock we had to go up to the front and a door half way back closed the front off. But we got the boat under control without loss of life or limb. Or any scratches of the paint work so that’s a win. We tied up in the Osthafen marina, just out of town. That night a storm blew through causing thunder lightening and, at 4am, gale force winds which found us out on the deck in our undies trying to tie down the Bimini to save it blowing away. The temperature was still warm though. We succeeded and went back to bed. The storm blew itself out and the. Next day was 29°, a mild temperature compared to the day before.
We left Germany that day and cruised into France, tying up in Sarreguemines, a mooring in front of the old Casino and bandstand both beautifully restored. We wandered around town in the evening. The next day another storm hit, this time torrential rain catching us while we were exploring the ruined castle on the hill. We sprinted down the hill and through town, stopping to shelter under storefronts and in the bandstand, finally making it back to the boat soaking wet but enjoying the break in the drought. It rained on and off all day but not enough to help with the water reserves in some of the canals. There will be closures before the season ends again this year. Global warming etc.
From there we stopped at Sarralbe, a free mooring and a nice village with a working water wheel and then Mittersheim where we biked up to the lake with a beach and a busy camping ground. It was a beautiful evening and we celebrated the mild evening temperatures with takeaway pizza, Chianti and listened to blues on the deck. Very pleasant.
We have seen quite a few of these pillboxes, a type of blockhouse guardpost, as we are in the area of the Maginot Line, here on the Saar river.
The next day we finally finished the Saar river and canal and headed east onto the Canal Marne au Rhin (east). Suddenly we started seeing hoards of rental boats, a shock after not seeing any for weeks. They were everywhere, far out numbering any other boats and causing some mayhem in the locks and on the canal. We had tied up for the night on the side of a bank when 4 boats passed by going way too fast causing our mooring pegs to be pulled out and we lost one of them into the water. Very annoyed we decided to move on to a nearby marina and pulled into Niderville, shoe horning ourselves into the last little space on the visitors quay, much to the concern of the Germans in their boat behind us. We now only had one mooring stake so the next day Alan asked at the boat base if they would sell us a new one and the lovely guy came back with 3 old stakes and gave them to us, free. Isn’t that nice!
A couple of days later we headed through 2 tunnels (2.3km and 475m) and then came to the amazing Plan de Arzviller, the boat lift, a highly anticipated event!
The boat lift is pretty incredible. It was built from 1964 to 1968 with the first boats going through in 1969.. You cruise in and tie up in the caisson, essentially a basin of water just like a lock. But instead of the water filling or emptying like it usually does the whole basin is cranked up or down (depending on your direction of travel). It does this with counterweights that move to create the power to lift or lower. This replaces 17 old locks and instead of taking a day it takes 25 mins and most of that time is taken up with squeezing as many boats in as possible, in our case three.
The vertical height is 44.55m. Filled with water the basin weighs 850 tons! 2 years ago something jammed and the whole thing was shut for a couple of years all up. Luckily for us there were no problems and there’s actually almost a festive mood as tourists line the top and bottom to watch the spectacle. There is a tourist boat that goes up and down and lots of hire boats. A fun experience!
After we came out we tied up and hooked onto the one free power plug and went for a walk back up to the top.
Later we cruised on to Lutzelbourg, another four locks away. Two of those locks weren’t working but we sorted it out and tied up after a long but exciting day. There are three areas to moor in Lutzelbourg and the village is lovely with lots of happy friendly people and an epiciere and patisserie/boulangerie.
We grabbed a very acceptable baguette (I have high standards when it comes to baguettes!) the next morning and headed on to Saverne, following a German cruiser who knew what they were doing, a relief after the dramas with hire boats in the last few days!
We will stay in Saverne for a few days as it’s a lovely town with lots to see and do.
Stats so far this year:
Saarburg to Saarlouis
Engine hours: 6.9
Saarlouis to Saarbruken
Engine hours: 4.2
Saarbruken to Sarreguemines:
Engine hours: 3.1
Sarreguemines to Sarralbe
Engine hours: 4.1
Sarralbe to Mittersheim
Engine hours: 3.9
Mittersheim to Niderville
Engine hours: 7.5
Niderville to Lutzelbourg
Engine hours: 2.9
Boat Lift: 1
Lutzelbourg to Saverne
Engine hours: 2.6
Total Year to Date;
Engine hours: 127.3
Lifting/swing bridges: 4
Boat Lift: 1