Another day upstream in the Rhone River; eight-hours of motoring brought us through three locks for a total of 41 nautical miles. The day was overcast, cool, with a 5-10 knot south breeze mid-day which created a bit of chop on the river against the downstream current. It was smooth sailing. Ecluse de Chateauneuf began our day, just around the bend from Viviers. We had a preview of this lock just the day before when we biked over the top to cross the Rhone on the bike path.
The artwork on the smoke stack of the Cruas-Meysse power station was quite interesting. We admired the smoke stack and proceeded to wash the deck, which I'd been doing for the previous hour or so with Brian's intermittent help in-between his adjusting of the autopilot. I've noticed at our few stops (Port Napoleon, Port St Louis Municipal Marina, Avignon Quay) that people seemed to be constantly washing down their decks. It didn't matter the type of boat; motor yachts, fishing boats, sailing yachts, river barges were all washing their decks. Commercial vessels were washing decks en-route. It didn't matter the weather; sunny, overcast, or actually raining didn't seem to influence the washing. New arrivals would wash their decks, practically after just securing the dock lines. One sailboat in particular was washing the deck and hadn't yet properly put away the main sail. The horror! I won't neglect a dirty deck, but it does fall quite low in the priority list of ship-shape tasks. When I come into a port the last thing I want to be doing is sloshing down the deck! During this section of the day's route, I was less interested in the power station scenery and more interested in washing down the deck; it was a bit overdue and now was strewn with pollen, dampened dust, and a few footprints from (just a few times) wearing the wrong shoes atop the white surfaces. This was a great task with which to occupy my time and arrive at Valence with a clean deck. I went to work with dish soap, brush, and bucketed river water for sloshing.
I was nearly finished, and had moved to the stern port side. Brian was helping to dunk the bucket and slosh water for me. I was scrubbing a lot of black from the faux teak walkway; we think this is sun damaged, black sealant that has dried out and now needs to be scrubbed away. Incidentally, the decking also leaves black stripes along Brian's khaki shorts (the ones that are incredibly difficult to keep clean just encountering "normal" life experiences ). Brian threw water against the arch, which swished down the port side across the walkway. And we heard an alarming, "PSHSHOOOO!" We both froze. Brian looked at the steering wheel and I looked upstream for a ship. Instinct. Then we both turned to look beneath the dodger where one of our life jackets, kept handy for locks, was completely puffed! Inflated! The little, red, automatic inflatable life jacket was bursting yellow. Literally bursting at the seams yellow as it had been set off by a splash of bucketed water that found its way beneath the dodger and was completely, solidly, filled with air! It was an expensive deck washing. (20-euros to replace the activated CO2 cartridge for the life jacket.) Brian wore the now deflated life jacket for the Ecluse de Logis-Neuf and I warned him not to fall into the water, for if he did he would have to self-inflate the life jacket with a little blow tube and I wasn't sure he could actually do that prior to sinking.
The town of Pouzin; potential mooring along the town quay.
At Ecluse de Beauchastel we waited our turn at the plaisance pontoon. There was not room for us inside the lock with the 120 meter tanker, which traveling upstream had priority, and slowly squeezed itself into the lock. I had ongoing VHF communication with the lock keeper. He was helpful, and his words were clear through the VHF transmission. He spoke mostly in French and I attempted the few French words I knew to clarify. But when not understood, his directions would come through in clear English. When it was our turn, the commercial vessel which we were accompanying waved us forward from the pontoon and I hailed the lock keeper for confirmation, "Yes, come into the lock."
Ecluse de Beauchastel was a smooth locking. However, this was the closest behind a commercial vessel we had been during a lock. This would be our first real lesson about the wash of a larger vessel's prop. The AIS had dutifully reported to us the lengths of the vessels and we imagined what the previous tanker would have looked like filling the lock's available space. When the lock ended, we remained secured to the bollard until this commercial vessel moved farther forward. The wash from this 110 meter vessel was definitely noticeable! We actually should have remained secured a bit longer because once we proceeded forward the wash caught Detour
and spun the stern toward the wall. No harm done, just a quick test of reflexes.
A few more sights along the way as the day neared an end. The town of Voulte; questionable mooring along a slanted quay. It looked like a charming stop, and the Tourism Office was beside the quay. We noticed several cyclists passing through the quay and crossing the bridge above the Rhone.
Sheep and goats grazed along the riverside. As we neared the entrance channel for Port l'Eperviere at Valence, our route was criss-crossed by several wind surfers and kite boarders.
I hailed Port l'Eperviere on the VHF upon entering the channel and received a response from the Capitinaire. He directed us to the very last pontoon, where we secured Detour
(a teeny bit too wide to occupy just one slip), then proceeded to the Capitinaire's office as requested. The forecast for the next three days was not pleasant, a day filled with rain followed by a mistral. So when the Capitinaire asked how long we would stay we didn't know, a common response from the Rode Trippers. He provided us the daily and weekly fee schedule and in exchange for us not paying him he retained our ship's papers (copies, I'm just as attached to the copies so as to not run off without paying). We settled into Port l'Eperviere
; the first and still largest marina on the Rhone River. The wifi was superb!