Having reached the Saone River, we were keen to finally put some kilometers behind us. The river was much broader than the canal we came from, and the banks covered in trees. The days became more relaxed as there were far fewer locks to go through, and we could prepare dinner during the day, and generally had long days of sailing. The biggest problem was finding places to dock where the water was deep enough. We stayed in Verdun sur le Doubs for a couple of days to get our laundry done and to check oil and change oil filters on the engine. Since Esben usually takes care of this, we had decided that it was my turn to do this. Not the most glamorous job, but good to know how to do these things – even if it would be easier with longer and stronger arms…
We soon made it to Lyon, where the Saone meets the Rhone. The sail into this big city was incredibly beautiful, as we sailed past old convents, beautiful castles and under numerous old bridges. We weren’t sure where it would be possible to dock in Lyon, but after coming past some very public quays we decided to check if the marina existed. It did indeed exist, and we ended up having a nice evening with the crew from the Danish sailboat “Troldand“, who are very experienced cruisers, and who could give us some tips for the trip ahead of us.
As we started down the Rhone the next morning, we soon encountered the first lock, which was much larger than the ones we had been through on the Saone – but very easy to navigate since it had floating bollards inside, meaning we could simply tie up, and then the bollard followed us down. On the Rhone we sailed past vineyards where the famous Cote du Rhone originated, and to Mattis’ delight we came past an endless number of castles. Runa spent whole days sitting at the front of the boat, just observing the landscape as we sailed by. We spent a night in the village of Vivieres, where we took a walk in the old city and visited the church. An incredibly beautiful place.
We had been looking forward to Avignon, but when we arrived we learned that the quay had been swept away by the floods more than 10 years ago, so we moored in an uncomfortable place, right next to a busy road. But Avignon, with the small streets and remarkable pope palace was impressive, and since we were moored right next to the palace, we walked up in the garden every evening (when the temperature became bearable). In the big food marked, the kids got to choose a cheese each, and we came home with probably the best olives we ever tasted.
And then we were finally there, at the end of our trip through the European inland waterways. Judging by our mood as we sailed into Saint-Louis-du-Rhone, one would have though that we had crossed an ocean – but then again, we did actually cross a continent in our boat! The smells had changed and even the sound of the water as it hit the boat. And we were so ready to get our mast back. But first we got our first taste of the Mistral, the strong winds that blow down through the Rhone valley and out in the Golfe du Lion. It kept us in the bat for a day, and then we sailed on to Port Napoleon, just around the corner, where our mast was put back on, and we prepared Chip-Chip for the Mediterranean.