Mulhouse to Breisach - powering along


Mulhouse was hit by heavy showers and thunderstorms and temperatures dropped. 


Returning from the city Lukie, the ever friendly mechanic, and Ott Senior were already busy pulling the Freshwater into position to be lifted out. The new prop had arrived, shiny and perfect and among general cheering was put into place in no time at all.


Bright and early the next morning, we were powering along! Leaving the last of the small locks, a feathered lock keeper was standing watch. After Mulhouse the canal widens immensely and becomes the canalised part of the Rhein river. 


We encountered the first of the big commercial barges and accordingly, the locks were now 11m to 16m long hellholes of 10 - 25m depth. The slimy ladders going up the lock walls seem like  stairways to heaven! Luckily the locks have floating bollards to tie up to, so there is no need to climb these ladders anymore! The lock keepers sit somewhere high above in a glass tower and give their instructions over two-way-radio.

All the big barges, of course, have priority, but usually the locks fit a barge and up to 6 other boats. Most of the barges are slow and it  involves a long waiting time for all pleasure boats to enter the locks.

But thanks to our new prop-power we made it to Breisach by 5pm and were welcomed and ushered into the French port on the other side by our NZ friends, Rob, Sue and Rebecca. 

In the meantime the New Zealanders encountered a little trouble with their bow thruster, and a young German diver, Axel, came to the aid of the local mechanic. He dived underneath their boat in full scuba gear. A diver in the canal! That was a first for us! With his underwater camera he made photos of the damaged part - all free of charge. The news wasn’t good: all the propeller blades were sheared off with only a 10 cm scrap left in the housing of a bow thruster blade.

This asked for a debriefing session. So the New Zealanders and we, Axel, the mechanic, his wife, Marta and her friend, Selma, met under the capitainiere’s marquee for a trilingual conference and the necessary fluid calmatives.


The following day, Austin and I cycled the 2.5km to old Breisach town in Germany. I still find it amazing, that nowadays you can just cycle across the river from France to Germany without any passport control or custom checks, and yet encounter "a very different culture and atmosphere” as Austin remarked.


Breisach is a quaint little town built around the former castle mountain with steep cobblestone lanes leading to the Münster (church/cathedral). We discovered an Open-Air Theatre standing on the place of the former castle and bought tickets for that evening. The play “Die deutschen Kleinstädter” , a comedy about people in a typical small town, intrigued Austin, as he doesn’t really believe in “German humour”! We were lucky that the night stayed dry and warm. The play, put on by the amateur theatre of Baden Württemberg, poked fun at german small town mentality and was actually very funny. 

Today is world cup Final day and I can’t concentrate on writing anymore! I am being distracted by tooting of cars from across the river! And it’s still 3 hours to go to the Final! We are cycling back to the German side to watch the game in a big pub. Austin in his usual fashion is intending to wear a light blue and white striped shirt. We might not make it into the pub! we’ll see.

Back again victoriously! A great night of football and celebrations! The atmosphere was fantastic, especially the never-ending parade of cars tooting and cheering along the streets of Breisach after the game. We were glad being on bikes as the fan parade caused a mayor traffic jam. Congratulations to all the Deutschland fans here and in Oz!

© Austin Robinson 2019