Now that we have left the Meuse/Maas river it is interesting to look back on how far we have come and what has changed. According to our GPS we have travelled over 522 km since leaving Roermond in August. I don’t know how many locks that has been but I think we climbed over 650 feet before we left the Meuse and came downhill into the Moselle valley. Coming into Toul we went through 11 locks in 2 hours. In contrast, our first trip in May from Sloten to Roermond was about 550km and we probably went through 5 locks in total for a net gain of maybe 50 feet.
The locks have been in all shapes and sizes, from the giant ones on the Meuse that were 14 x 146m to the “Freycinet” standard in France of 38.5 x 5m and level changes from 6 inches to 50 feet in one lock. The big ones, while daunting being in there with the very big boats, are are often the smoothest as the little boats (us) are in the back and don’t get the wash. The smaller French locks can be the roughest as the water can come in quite quickly and move the boat around a bit. Then there are the bollards. Having a firm place to tie to is important and when going up it is not always easy to obtain. Sometimes there are bollards set into the walls of the deeper locks and in some of the big ones bollards that float up with you. In others the lock keeper will drop a hook over the side and take your ropes up - better make sure they are long enough - while many involve scrambling up a ladder, rope in hand to drop around a bollard up high. Most of the time the it has been possible to loop them on from the boat. The trouble is that just when you think you have it figured out and you think you know where the bollards will be they change it on you – got to keep on your toes. Going down is a lot easier than going up as you just motor in and drop your ropes over the bollards but … you have to make sure the ropes are long enough and they don’t get caught, otherwise you have have your boat hanging on its side in the lock as the water goes down and it doesn’t.
Armida’s engine is cooled from river water that comes in under the hull through a filter and a heat exchanger that takes the heat out of the closed cooling system that goes through the engine. The water from the heat exchanger then get’s mixed with the exhaust gases and goes out through the pipe in an arrangement called a “wet exhaust”. This helps keep the fumes down and means that you can tell if the cooling system in clear by looking over the stern at the exhaust. In Holland I would check the water filter once a week when I checked the oil and coolant and would occasionally find a small stick or a leaf. Since entering France with the smaller canals and locks there is a lot more debris and I have been removing the equivalent of a nice house plant every day. One more thing to do.