Going Down

  Friday, July 3, 2015 / Stephanie / Sailing  

We'd just begun our day on the Vosges Canal, having departed from the Bouzey Reservoir pontoon, this would be our first time since departing Port St Louis du Rhone that we would lower Detour down, rather than lift her up, within the locks. A series of 14 locks, the Void of Girancourt, would take us down the Vosges Mountains.  Once the initial lock is activated, each readies the next to enable the boat to continue onward.  The entire process is automated and there are no receiver boxes between locks in this series.  Each lock has a small reservoir above to provide water to keep the process moving.  But before we had our chance to begin, the clicker line cutter took our spot!We'd come around a bend and spotted a peniche motoring in front of us; we'd actually recognized it having seen the Australian flagged vessel moored along the shoreline a few days prior.  Anticipating the upcoming series of locks, we thought maybe we'd slow down to let the peniche transit first.  Then on second thought, if both boats actually fit inside the locks we could lock through together.  So we maintained our speed to just see what would happen.  I'd spotted a receiver box, and readied the clicker.  Just ahead, the peniche stopped.  It began backing up!  In the meantime, I'd just clicked the clicker and a flashing yellow light on the receiver box indicated that my signal was received.  The peniche stopped again and the woman driving yelled back to me, "DID YOU SEE THE TELECOMMUNICATE!?"  I responded by showing a thumbs-up signal, "YES, CLICKED IT!"  The peniche continued forward.  The peniche continued all the way into the now readied lock, and stopped in the center of the lock.  Now, had they made any attempt to allow us to join them I believe both boats may have fit nicely.  But, they didn't!  They used my clicker click and took the entire lock!  UGH!!  I'm new to lock etiquette but that's just not nice!  Our next option was turning detour around in the canal to go back and click the receiver box once again, but another downstream motor yacht was coming towards us presumably having clicked the receiver box.  The peniche was taking forever to secure to the bollards, making no additional room for either of the two boats now waiting in line to go down.  And so, we staked out on the shoreline and waited.  We told the boat behind us that they could go ahead and we walked down the bike path to check out the locks. We chatted briefly with the couple aboard the peniche, still fiddling with their lines.  The woman informed us that neither of them had spotted the receiver box during the approach to the lock.  This happens, as we'd later learn, receiver boxes get missed and unfortunately you have to do a K-turn mid-canal to get back to the box and click the clicker at it before being able to proceed.  We walked quite a ways down the bike path along the lock series.  The second motor yacht in line had begun it's transit as we were returning to Detour.  And then, we saw the vertical red over red lock traffic signals.  The motor yacht crew saw it also, and with shrugs of their shoulders and shakes of their heads, they moved their vessel aside to the shoreline in the reservoir awaiting their next lock in series.  The Australian peniche was one lock ahead, the one with the vertical red over red.  What on earth had they done!  A vertical red over red means that the lock is out of order.  The series had been interrupted and everyone had to await a lock keeper to get the ball rolling again.  When we finally began our transit, it went rather smoothly.  We could see from one lock to the next.  A crosswind made it difficult at times to maneuver Detour into the locks; but we managed with body for boat style fending.  A few boats transiting upward passed us in the reservoirs as each boat would exit simultaneously from their respective locks and move on to the next.  Then, at lock 8 we spotted the dreaded vertical red over red traffic signal ahead.  You guessed it!  The Aussies were in lock 9 and the motor yacht ahead of us was already moored to the quayside between the two locks.  Sheesh!  We moored along with the motor yacht thinking this pause would result in a lunch break.  But once the Aussie peniche exited, lock 9 had to be prepared by a lock keeper who would then restart the series.  The motor yacht motioned to us to join them in the lock, and we didn't want to miss our opportunity while the lock keeper was actually present!  Lunch was put on hold and back down, down, down, we went!It had become another of those very long, very short days!