Well, here we are South of Paris. But, it was not looking good for a while.
Readers will recall that, at the start of our trip, we had a log jammed in the propeller as a result of the flood debris in the swollen Yonne River and the fact that we were the first boat through. However, it was in a safe place and a kindly VNF (waterways) man helped us using his work boat.
We prepared carefully for the long day travelling upstream through the crowded waterway of the Seine in Paris because this is one place where you do not want your engine to stop or some equivalent event to occur.
Well, unfortunately it happened to us! We were going well when suddenly the engine slowed from 1,200RPM right down to 300RPM. In other words, it was running extremely slowly and very soon, so were we. Immediately, we started to move across the river to
where there were some large live-aboard barges moored. Then we stopped and the current started to carry us backwards. Checking in the engine room, the engine was running but no motion at all was being delivered to the propeller- it looked like the gearbox was dead.
Penny got out the Red Flag to warn people to keep clear and that we had trouble. David discovered that we could make extremely slow progress in reverse gear. So, basically we were able to just keep up with the current by going reverse into it and angle the boat so that the current slowly took us across. The owner of the boat we were (gently) heading towards came out and yelled that we could not stop there. We politely told him that we had no choice and that the gearbox was "kaput", so he took our lines and made us fast to his vessel. At least we were now safe and not going to be skewered by a Bateau Mouche (sightseeing boat) or 5,000 tonne barge.
I climbed over the back of the boat but could
feel nothing untoward at the back of the propeller. The owner of the barge came down and said he was a mechanic and had a look at things. He pronounced that the gearbox was definitely dead. He then kindly offered to let us stay there while we bought a replacement gearbox or disassembled and repaired ours.
We felt rather sick. We could see ourselves missing our flights next week or at least David having to stay behind.
Then some guys in a couple of work boats arrived and tied up to us, offering to help. Their job is to clean up weeds and debris from the Seine and they work for the Conseil General. They offered to tow us back down river several kilometres to a boatyard and workshop. We thanked them and agreed. Unfortunately, because of our weight and their smaller size, they were unable to tow us- we kept spinning in slow circles. The other driver called his HQ on the radio and asked for advice and finally, with a struggle, they towed us upriver several
hundred metres to the pontoon where they normally store their boat. Then they offered to get a friend to tow us with a larger boat. At this point, "calm wife" (i.e. Penny) suggested it might be worth double checking the propeller before undertaking more drastic actions. Fortunately, where we were was now a much quieter and less dangerous place to go swimming around the stern. So, into the swimmers and down David (me) went. I discovered a very large blanket- double-bed size wrapped around the propeller and the drive shaft! I got a lot of it out and then one of our new friends said he would finish it off. We think they were feeling their responsibilities for keeping the waterways clean of stuff like this. So, finally, the remainder of the blanket was removed and a test showed that we could again travel in both directions and that apart from the gearbox being a little hot, nothing appeared damaged. We think the blanker was not obvious when we were going backwards because it was under the hull, then when we were
towed, it moved to a more visible spot. In any case, it is amazing that we had been able to move anywhere at all.
So, off we went again and had no more dramas. We geve our friends a couple of bottles of wine, which they tried to refuse but hopefully will enjoy. They travelled in front of us for several kilometres collecting rubbish from the Seine in front of us and keeping an eye on us to check we were okay.
So, yet again, we have been impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of people here. As Penny often says "The French people have a Soul" and it is true!
David and Penny