Richardménil - Lutzelbourg

On Monday the 10th of June we left Richardménil at 9:25AM. Next destination Nancy, where we’d wait for a dear family member to be with us for a few days, hoping to travel to Strasbourg in her company. We negotiated l’Embranchement de Nancy (15 locks) and a little part of Le Canal de la Marne au Rhin (1 lock) towards the centre of Nancy in 5,5 hours. Industrious people, that’s what we are! We found a mooring space in Port Saint George – see the picture. Only EUR 24.00 a day, electricity and water not included. Who cares, you can’t take your money with you when you die, can you?

Nancy is a really beautiful and interesting city. But…. (1) we have to keep something in stock when we do Le Canal de la Marne au Rhin in the opposite direction later on and (2) the sky was overcast most of the time, so we were unable to make first class pictures, hence this gloomyish picture. Having said that Le Place Stanislas is without a trace of a doubt magnificent and not to be missed. The square is named after Stanislas Leszczynski (born in Poland Stanisław Bogusław Leszczyński) king of Poland and duke of Lorraine and Bar. More about this intriguing man on a later occasion.

Unlike the UK (The Netherlands?), there are not a lot of fuel pumps situated directly on the river- and canal banks. It is not unusual to buy fuel by (re)filling a few jerry cans –or something similar- at a road fuel pump. We refuse to do that, as it is inefficient, dirty, dangerous, there is no room to store the jerry cans and our only means of transport is the unsurpassed folding bike. There are places however, like Nancy, where one can arrange for delivery by a lorry. Through the Tourist Office even, we are told! The owner/exploiter of the fuel lorry only accepts orders with a minimum of 300 liters. Together with a neighbour we were able to meet his requirements – it turned out that his tank was empty after ours easily had gobbled up 223 liters.

Thursday afternoon our guest arrived. We left Nancy at 9:20AM the next morning (Friday) after having spent there four nights. Ambitiously we had planned to negotiate 11 locks, to reach a spot called Hénaménil. Sometimes, we discovered, planning just does not work out the way one expects. We did ‘only’ 9 locks and needed over 8 hours for that. Not our average achievement per day, one might say. On the way there was the pictured class with its teacher, meticulously explaining to his pupils how exactly a lock functions – and why.

Three locks out of nine were out-of-order (‘en panne’) that Friday, causing lengthy delays. Strange at it may sound, waiting is considerable tiring. When we finally reached Einville-au-Jard we felt dilapidated, so to speak, and decided to postpone Hénaménil. Besides, this canal closes at 6:00PM, a fact that is to be found in the ‘Fluviacarte’ number 17 we discovered later on. We assumed all times and rules etc apply to all canals but no… An appropriate qualification for this mooring spot, see the picture, would be ‘adequate’.

Saturday the 15th we thought ourselves to be clever and departed 8:10AM, thus trying to be ahead of the lazy bunch still between their sweaty sheets. We failed to read the entire text in the already described ‘Fluviacarte’, so were unaware of the fact that this canal comes back into life not earlier than 09:00AM. Clever as we are we now know that this canal can only be cruised between 09:00Am and 06:00PM. To avoid the obvious remark: of course we know that water doesn’t stop you – but automated/electric locks… they very effectively do when switched off! Nonetheless we eventually reached uphill lock number 2 ‘Ecluse Réchicourt’ at 3:40PM. This is the last lock going uphill and replaces the former locks number 1 and 3 through 6. Therefore this one is a mere 15,385 meters (over 50 feet) deep. A sign informed us about a maximum waiting time of 60 minutes. It turned out to be an acceptable 8 minutes more.

The facts and figures of the lock are explained on this notice board. We hope our maths are spot on when we say that the lock uses an astonishing 3,600,000 liters of water every single cycle. This time for just one boat, ours!

It’s inevitable to publicize this photograph. The thoughtful French even informed us in our native language. Bless them! In reality it took 5 minutes less than predicted. Balance: only 3 minutes. Well done, Voies Navigables de France!

Wow! This is really really deep – a new record after ‘only’ somewhat over 13 meters in the north of France, last September. Its deepness becomes all the more emphasized by its length of only 38,50 meters (close to 130 feet) and width of 5,10 meters (17 feet). It looks like a huge lift shaft.

Another long day. We moored at Xouaxange, having done 12 locks, after 9 hours of cruising. As the picture shows there was no proper mooring space, so we used a system of protecting beams in front of a constriction of the canal. We were just exhausted and not prepared to look for another, perhaps better, possibility. Besides we were well stocked up so just one crewmember –which one is anyone’s guess- had to brave the walk to the shore.

This picture gives it away. It’s beyond obviousness that the only male member of the crew had to be ‘the victim of circumstances’. A lady of an adjacent boat fell into the canal the day before, thus entertaining several onlookers witnessing the splash. However, fate smiled upon our crew member.

On Sunday the 16th of June we cruised on the summit level for another 12 kilometers, before reaching two tunnels. The first, Sousterrain de Niderviller, is 475 meters (around 1,600 feet) long – to get used to the idea. The second, Sousterrain d’Arzviller, is a more daunting one of 2,306 meters (close to 7,700 feet). We skip them both this time and show you a picture of the sensational ‘Plan incliné de Saint-Louis-Arzviller’ instead, an inclined plane of 44,656 meters (150 feet) high on a 41% slope. This is the incredible, and very pretty, panorama from the top.

A ladder of 17(!) locks is replaced by the inclined plane, saving no less than between 6 and 8 hours compared with the old route. The huge ‘bath tub’ is capable of accommodating two boats of our size, 18,31 meters (60 feet), pretty much similar to the usual lock size.

When going down the counter weights that balance the ‘bath tub’ become visible. The tub and the counter weights are connected by 48 steel cables – if memory does not fail us.

A look from underneath this miracle of engineering, now almost 50 years old and still going strong. We look forward to enjoy it a second time when returning from Strasbourg, our destination.

We only started after 10AM and stopped just a few minutes later than 3PM. Two tunnels, one inclined plane –all mentioned before- and only three locks. This last picture depicts our present mooring spot in a place with the typical French name of Lutzelbourg. The scene and the village are overlooked by the ruins of a 12th century chateau standing on a sandstone outcrop 320 meters (over a 1,000 feet) high. That must be above sea level we think. Names, houses, gardens, it’s manifest that this area is highly influenced by Germany during the course of time. Everything looks well kept and very pretty. And it’s summer at last! A la semaine prochaine!!