Our Barge, Odysseus

Thursday, June 24, 2010

It Is Done - Saturday June 19

Saturday morning, Bouba and Guy arrived, this time with some lifting equipment. We weren't going to have to muscle the new engine into the boat.

Bouba goes all "McGiver" on it.

After the motor was on the boat, we headed back to drop off the van in Dole. We made the noon return train and, after the 5 minute walk from the train station, came back to find the engine in place and in the process of being hooked up.

Herr Mercedes in his new home.

There were the usual glitches along the way but Bouba was able to deal with them all and by about 4:30, Odysseus' new "Herr Mercedes" as purring away in the engine room.

Odysseus doing what she hadn't done in a while.

We had a light dinner and collapsed. Tomorrow would be a day of clean up and rest. Monday we would be off!

How We've Moved Up In The World

Remember this from 2007 in Holland?

This is what we took to Holland this year!

If This Is Thursday, It Must Be Holland

Meanwhile, the folks at Ranchot had been very accommodating. They gave us a break on the nightly fee for moorage and, when we asked at city hall if there was internet so we could make a reservation for a truck to haul the engine, they let us use their (one!) computer. (The village only has 500 people. The residents were really great and they're will be more postings about that later.)
We made a reservation with Europcar for a small van from their Dole office for Wednesday morning and checked the train schedules. Wednesday we took the 8 am commuter train to Dole, picked up the truck, which was much bigger than we needed but the smallest they had available, and headed back for Ranchot.
About 2:30, Bouba appeared and we set to work, Don being the assistant. By about 4:30, the engine was disconnected and lifted out of it's spot but we awaited the arrival of Boubas weightlifter friend, Guy, who was going to help muscle the engine out of the boat and into the van.

Bouba and his assistant are pleased with their work!

Up the stairs to the van.

A little giddy after a hard afternoon's work. Bouba and Guy.

That done, we headed out for Holland at about 7:30 pm. We had to be to Drinkwaard as early as possible on Thursday so they could transfer parts from the existing engine onto the new one and get us out of there by Friday morning.
It was lucky the van was big. We were able to put some foam bedding from our aft cabin in the back of the van with the engine and, when we stopped for the night (morning!) about 1 am, we could curl up with it for a couple hours sleep; a kind of wake. We pulled into Drinkwaard's shop in Sleidrecht about 9 am, they offloaded the engine and we found a hotel nearby, although our room wouldn't be ready until after noon. We took the bus into the city center of Doordrecht, Holland's oldest chartered city, had a look around and some lunch, came back to the hotel room and collapsed.
We had dinner at the hotel, watched Mexico demolish France in the World Cup (Viva El Tri!), and went off to dreamland.
After breakfast at the hotel, we headed back to Sleidrecht where we waited for the paint to dry on the new engine. Euros were exchanged, the engine was loaded up and by 11 am, we were on the road back to France.

The new Herr Mercedes.

Arco congratulates Don on his recent purchase.
Don grits his teeth.

We pulled into Ranchot about 7:30 pm, sent a text to Emma letting her know we had returned and the return message said Bouba and Guy would arrive about 9 on Saturday morning for the installation.

Waiting … Still Waiting, Friday, Saturday and Sunday

We didn't hear from Alain Friday morning and his cell phone was going directly to voicemail. By afternoon we were pretty tense, so we called Bourgogne Marine, where we knew he was doing the generator installation. Christophe said he had probably turned his phone off so he could eliminate distractions but he might be able to get to us that afternoon. Frustrated at not being able to leave the boat waiting for the call, we just sat around and stewed. Finally, Saturday morning about 9:30 Alain called, saying he would be in Ranchot by about 10. He arrived with his thumb in a big bandage and his father, a retired electrician in tow to be his right hand.
Technical sidebar - when we first stopped I took off the head cover and discovered that one of the valve rocker arms had come completely off the push rod. The #3 cylinder exhaust valve was not working at all. That's why the engine was shaking so much.
Alain took one look at that and yelped "Bizarre!" He had never seen anything like it. After taking the assembly apart and then putting it all back together, he attempted to readjust the valves. Nothing was working as it should; his diagnosis was either the timing chain had broken or there was a problem with the camshaft. Either way, major engine work was going to be required again.
As soon as we heard that, we were on the phone with Drinkwaard Motoren near Rotterdam, Holland. When we first bought Odysseus they had supplied some hard-to-find parts and we knew they sold reconditioned engines. After speaking with Arco van Houlingen, we decided that, rather than pour more money into an engine that we would never trust again, we might as well bite the bullet and buy a replacement. It would be an exact replacement for the existing engine; all that would be necessary would be to disconnect to old one, lift it out, drop in the new one, hook it up and off we would go. Yeh, right!
The major problem was that, if Alain was going to do the job, he said we would have to somehow get back to St. Symphorien, about 40 k and 12 locks. We weren't going to be doing that by hand! Off he went, leaving us to consider how we would get back. We were pretty disappointed he just left us with no help at all.
So it was going to be up to us to find an inflatable with an outboard, or even an outboard itself so we could figure out a way to get back. We made several phone calls but, being late Saturday afternoon, nothing too much was going to get done until Monday.
Just after we got the bad diagnosis, friends from last year, John and Sue on The Aryani showed up and tied up right behind us. They invited us over to drown our sorrows. Right after, a French boat we traveled with over last summer, Brise Nuit, also pulled in. It was old home day.

The Ranchot "halte fluvial".

The next morning, as they were leaving, Sue and John gave us the number of the mechanic who takes care of their boat, Phillippe Bouchiba, "Bouba," and told us to give him a call. He lives in St. Symphorien, is an independent mechanic, and, as a local, might be able to arrange the tow. We dialled the number on the card listed for English callers and left a message with his English speaking partner, Emma who, along with keeping Bouba in line, acts as a travel agent for French hotel barges. After a couple of calls back and forth, it was decided that Bouba and Emma and his two children would come up (ON SUNDAY AFTERNOON!!!!!), Cathy Jo and Emma would have some wine, the kids would fish, a Bouba would take a look at our problem.
After checking it all out, Bouba said he thought he could make the engine work enough to get us back to St. Symphorien but when I expressed my FEAR of taking off from a good, secure mooring into the river with no guarantee we would make it to another good mooring place, he said he would do the exchange where we were, beginning Wednesday at 2 pm.
After drinking of wine and shaking of hands, Bouba, Emma and the kinds were off and we plotted how we were going to make this happen.

The Adventure Never Stops, Thursday, June 10

We left Dole a little before 9 am with the small village of Ranchot as our destination, about 20k up the canal. Everything seemed to be going well, although the engine seemed to be making a little more noise than usual. After 4 locks, about 11:30, the engine made a bang, spit out a puff of smoke and began to shudder violently; it was only running on three of four cylinders! There was supposedly a tie up in the village of Orchamps just ahead but it was nowhere to be seen. The engine was still running, although just barely, so we figured we might as well continue to Ranchot, where there was a good tie-up. Normally we shut off the engine in the locks; there doesn't seem to be any reason to just sit there idling, breathing in exhaust fumes for 10 minutes, but we had two locks before Ranchot and we were afraid if we shut off the engine we'd never get it started again. Holding our breath we navigated the river sections of the canal against the current (luckily not that strong), and limped into Ranchot about 1:30.
Right after the engine started acting up, Cathy Jo had phoned Alain to let him know we were in trouble. He answered from the hospital! He'd been installing a new generator in a big barge and sliced the tendon in his thumb. He said to call when we got situated and he'd see what he could do. After we got tied up we got back in touch with him and he said if he could, he would see us Friday morning. Luckily the Ranchot halte has electricity and water and is a very secure tie-up for 7 euros a night. We settled it with our stomachs churning, wondering what could possibly be next.

The Next Departure, Tuesday, June 8

Monday morning at the crack of 8, Alain showed up with the repaired head and assorted gaskets. He set to work and by about 3 pm was ready to fire up the engine. It started right up and never sounded so good! We ran it in gear for about an hour, churning up the water in the upper basin to make sure the overheating problem was solved. After the test, everybody was satisfied, Alain made up his "facture," (the bill), euros were exchanged and Odysseus was considered repaired.
While Alain was working, Peter the port captain and (and tow horse) had graciously given Cathy Jo a ride to the grocery store for provisions. We were ready to go.
A little before 9 Tuesday morning we started the engine, gave it 10 minutes to warm up, cast off the lines and headed up the Canal Rhone au Rhine once again.
We originally intended to make Dole our first stop but since we'd been there by bicycle just the week before, we decided to stop just a couple of kilometers before the town in the village of Choisey, where there was a very nice new pontoon. No services on the pontoon but the village is very picturesque and has a sign at the halte advertising "tous commerces" (all shops). We followed the sign, expecting to find maybe a boulangerie and a little grocery store. Instead we found a giant Cora, kind of like an upscale Walmart, along with a huge development of large retail outlets. We picked up a couple of things and retreated to the boat to wait out some pretty heavy showers.


At 9 Wednesday morning we were underway again, Dole just an hour away. We were tied up on one of the finger pontoon just after 10 and set off for town. We were pretty familiar with the layout of the streets by now. No such thing as a grid in these medieval towns, especially if there's a hill and church involved.
Luckily, at least in the morning, the weather was a little better and the light was good for some pictures.

One of Dole's major industries of old was tanning of hides. The old "Tanner's Canal" has had a makeover.

For dinner we had been advised that the pizza from the pizza barge was pretty good; cooked in a wood-burning oven, according to the sign. It was just across the canal so we took advantage of a brief pause in the rain showers to dash over for a pie. It wasn't the pizza of our dreams but pretty good.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

May 30-June 7 Waiting

There wasn't much we could do for the rest of the week but wait. But we have bicycles, we're in France and we might as well make the best of it.
One of the drawbacks of St. Symphorien is that it's a pretty good way out of town. It takes about 20 minutes on the bikes to get to the nearest grocery and boulangerie but, luckily, it's right along the river on a very nice, paved path. After a couple of days to do errands we decided we should make a trip to Dole, which was supposed to be our first days objective. It's just 20k up the canal; a little over an hour ride. We had visited the town when we were in France with John and Patti five years ago and vowed we would one day make it there on our boat. Maybe next week. This week we do it on two wheels.

The weather was not at its best, cloudy and a little chilly; light rain was in the forecast, so I didn't take a lot of pictures but we will be here in a week or so and hopefully it will be more sunny.
There is a very busy Nichols hire boat base and the town is overlooked by a spectacular church.

We had a huge French lunch, wandered about the towns twisty streets and headed back for the boat.
On the way back we saw this beautiful wheat field with a bunch of poppies in the middle. If they harvest this all at once do you get pre-made poppy seed rolls?

Friday was a much sunnier, warmer day so we took a ride up along the river to the town of Auxonne. it's just bout 8 k right along the river. This time no paved bike path but a beautiful ride through the countryside.
Another ancient city with a church that was constructed beginning in the 12th century, Auxonne was fortified by Vauban (who did a lot of that kind of thing) in the 17th century.

Part of the old city walls.

It's also famous for hosting Napoleon Bonaparte for a couple of stays in 1788-89 and 1791 while he was an artillery officer. There is a statue, of course.

On Saturday, one of the longer term residents here at Bourgogne Marine, Tim and Ali Julyan left with their barge Linga. They needed a better place to continue with their major rebuild/renovation and a space opened up down river about 15 k that was a little more convenient for all the work they must do. We met them right before we left last year when they fed us dinner as our stores dwindled and then we met up with them again shortly after we arrived back. Tim is a very capable shipwright/fitter/mechanic from Cornwall in England and was full of great information and support during our "troubles." We wish them well.

Ali waves goodbye

Captain Tim keeps a good watch as they enter the lock.

Linga heads down the Saone.

Meanwhile, we wait.

Saturday, May 29, The Diagnosis

At the crack of 8:30 am, before we had even finished our coffee, Alain showed up with a very welcome bag of pain chocolate and a couple of large toolboxes. Within two hours he had removed the cylinder head from the engine. While there was no obvious damage, there were a couple of places that looked questionable. We were again moored outside two big boats, making crossing difficult, especially with a large, heavy engine part. There was nothing Alain could do today, anyway, and he would be going to Dijon Monday afternoon, where a machine shop could pressure test the head and make sure it was flat. He would return Monday after lunch and deliver the head to Dijon. With nothing to do but sit and wait, we did just that.

Alain at work.

The offending part, we hope!

Our headless Mercedes.

Monday morning we were able to shift positions in the upper basin allowing us to be much closer to the bank with much easier access.
Monday afternoon a little before 2, Alain, true to his word, appeared, loaded the head into his truck and headed off to Dijon. By Tuesday afternoon we had word that the head was not cracked, was warped but fixable and once the parts arrived and the head was repaired, probably next Monday sometime, the engine could be reassembled. If the head was truly the problem, we could be underway by the middle of next week. All we could do was wait and make regular visits to the distributeur du billets (the cash machine) to make sure we had the euros required to make all this happen.