I rolled out of bed on a dreary, cool morning and quickly dressed to avoid the chill. I’d started a pot of coffee, then added the day’s date to Detour‘s log book to begin a new trip. Brian had meandered out of the v-berth, dressed in layers with his winter cap, he headed toward the aft closet to check the level of the engine’s oil. This routine was familiar to us; it was the get-up-and-make-tracks routine we’d become accustomed to while traveling in the Intracoastal Waterway on the eastern coast of the United States. Twice, we had utilized that inland waterway to make time, to keep to a schedule when the forecast wouldn’t enable us to sail. But now on the French waterways there is not exactly a schedule; only the upcoming May thaw when mountain snow from the Alps will trickle its way into the Rhone to increase the river’s flow. There is much to see and several hundred more nautical miles of Rhone. Within minutes of wiping sleep from our eyes, Brian and I were in the cockpit casting off dock lines to depart Vallabruges. Today’s trip would be short, approximately three-hours of motoring with no locks. This early start would have us landed well before noon with ample time for exploration once settled at the next destination, Avignon France. The morning passed swiftly and the river’s landscape continued to awe.
There is a divide in the river on the approach to Avignon. Rather than continue in the Rhone, we turned into the Bras D’Avignon in order to visit the city. The navigational marks are very clear to pass beneath the bridges. At the railway bridge just at the divide, a passenger vessel departing Avignon made a sharp turn to starboard to re-enter the Rhone.Beyond the railway bridge, our first glimpse of the Palace of the Popes.River barges lined the right bank of the river; passenger vessels lined the left bank where cruise-goers had immediate access to the city. We had a fabulous view of the Pont St Benezet as we continued upstream. Built during the 12th century, this was the first bridge built across the Rhone River. The bridge was the vision of Saint Benezet. As a shepherd boy, Saint Benezet saw a vision to build a bridge across the Rhone. He believed angels would protect his flock while he constructed the bridge. Saint Benezet, according to Christian tradition, laid the first stone for the foundation of the bridge. Then, a series of eighteen miracles took place, thus winning support for Benezet including that of wealthy sponsors. Supporters created the Bridge Brotherhood and funded the bridge’s completion. It was often damaged by flood waters and after having been damaged once again, during the 17th century repairs ceased. The Pont St Benezet is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The backside of the immense, Palace of the Popes, sprawls along the riverside ’round the corner behind the Pont St Benezet. Practically in the Popes’ backyard, our parking spot emerged. Talk about great access to the city! There is a public quay (pronounced “key”) for pleasure vessels; a vertical wall along the river with various bollards. Here at the Quai de la Ligne, we found plenty of space for Detour and were able to secure ourselves to the bollards without difficulty. There are water and electric hook-ups available. However, the electric was not working during our stay; it was being repaired but I think overall we had approximately 6-hours of power over the course of four days. There is a Capitinaire at the quay, but we had arrived on a Sunday and we did not check in with him until the following morning. There is also a small fee at the quay, but the Capitinaire did not show us the fee schedule and when we tried to pay upon departure we were told that the office would, “mail to you the bill.’ What? Mail to me? My look of bewilderment must have been very obvious in the Capitinaire’s office because the lady assisting us then said, “a mail on the computer.” Ah! An email! But couldn’t we just pay right now? No, that was not possible. So I have no idea what four nights at the public quay costs, with non-functioning electric, because we have yet to receive an invoice. The efficiency of France has not been one of the country’s highlights. I won’t fuss if I never receive this invoice. The skies were clearing and we’d settled ourselves at the quay. Time for exploring! But first we needed a bit of freshening-up. This was a great opportunity to try, for the very first time, our shower. The engine had heated plenty of water during our trip. It was mid-morning on a Sunday so even if we’d raced into town it was highly unlikely anything would be open. No need to rush. No more crouching in the cockpit, this interior shower was fabulous! (Although, there was still a bit of crouching as I wasn’t quite ready to wet down the entire head.) Hot, pressurized water made showering easy and enjoyable. Ahhhh, life’s simple pleasures! Squeaky clean, clean clothes, woah! It was going to be a great afternoon in a new city! Brian took a peek in the bilge while I made a snack for lunch before our explorations. There was water in the bilge and there hadn’t been prior to our showers. Hmmm, maybe the shower sump-pump overflowed? It had done this way back when we tested the water systems on the hard. All clean and dressed, Brian got down onto the floor with a sponge to soak up the remaining water that the bilge pump didn’t quite pump. Dry bilge, pumps turned off (well the bilge pump is automatic but the shower sump-pump was turned off) we headed outside…and just after crossing the street, the skies opened and it poured rain! Sooo glad we took those showers!
Later that afternoon, when we’d returned to Detour we once again checked the bilge. Water. But, not shower water. Where was it coming from? Water in the bilge is never a good sign! We dried the bilge again and then focused on the shower sump-pump to ensure it was working correctly. Floor boards came up, closet panels came out, pumps and valves were exposed. We learned that the thru-hull for the shower water is mounted beneath the water line and the hose for the shower water does not have an anti-siphon. Brian blew air into the hose, pushing out all remaining water, to confirm that the shower had actually created a siphon and had slowly been pulling water back into the shower sump-pump from outside. And so, our refreshing showers actually created a slow leak that could actually, if left unchecked, sink our boat. The short term solution is to open and close the shower valve each time we use the shower. The correct solution will be to purchase an anti-siphon to affix to the hose.