My Travel Blog

Caught in the Ice!

This is the second full day we’ve been caught in the ice.  Fortunately we are tied up in front of a lovely home, and not stuck in the middle of the river.  The weather is overcast and dreary with light rain.

Taken the day before when it was clear and VERY cold. The anchors weigh over 1,000 lbs. each

There is a long metal pole aboard that Wilco and I use to break the ice around the hull.  It is incredibly hard work, but the only way to free us from the rivers frozen grip. Yesterday we poked and prodded the ice for two hours trying to get off the dock with no luck.  We finally gave up, and Scott and I decided to walk to the town just down the river.

The smoke coming is from our heater. It worked fine until the temperature got below 10 degrees Fahrenheit

We don’t know the name of the town, but the round trip is around 7 miles.  We passed the lock only to find the river clear of ice on the other side.  After all that hard work, and all we had to go was another 3 kilometers. It was Sunday and the shops and stores are closed except for one patisserie.  We were both starving so we stop in.  Scott orders a beer and I had a chocolat chaud.  It is the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted.  We then order sandwiches that came on fresh baked baguettes.  Were they ever good.  I can’t control myself.  I have to have that pie in the window.  It is divided into quarters filled with apricot, cherry, plum and apple fillings.  The cute hostess places it in a box and for the next three and half miles I carry it back to Rabelo as if it were my own child.  If we had to be stuck this isn’t such a bad place.

This morning the ice is a little better.  We will try to get off the dock and out to the middle of the river again.  We’ve seen a couple of large barges passing.  If we can make it to the center of the river we should then be able to follow a passing barge in its wake.  We have worked a solid three hours poking and cutting the ice around Rabelo, and are finally in the middle of the river.  A large barge coming towards us lifting our spirits.  It is passing just to our stern making awful cracking, grinding and rumbling sounds as it pushes the ice aside.  The huge 330ft barge is leaving behind a path of broken ice.  All we need to do is back into the broken path of ice it has left and we will be on our way.  I place Rabelo into reverse and we start to back up.  Solid ice is still blocking our way.  I put her in forward and push the throttle forward.  The prop wash breaks up the ice behind us and I am able to get closer to the trail left by the passing barge.  I continue to go back and forth slowly making a path through the ice.

Rabelo's propeller pushing the ice away at the dock

Then I notice that the path we left from the shore to the center of the river is starting to disappear.  Worse the wake of broken ice left by the passing barge is almost gone.  The ice around us is moving, broken loose by the passing barge.  We have to get back to shore now or we will be stuck in the center of the river.  I place Rabelo in forward, but the path we had left is almost completely gone.

With all this ice and freezing temperatures I can’t stop dreaming of the warm summer days ahead, and the beautiful French countryside.

Another beautiful canal, but not much room for passing vessels in the opposite direction.

Hautvilliers in the Champagne region where Dom Perignon is buried

Strolling along the canals couldn't be more idyllic

-Tom Miller


About the Author:

Tom Miller graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He is a consummate adventurer with over 1,000 dives as a recreational scuba diver, and an avid sailor who has traveled 65,000 miles throughout the Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands. Miller has also cruised the canals of Europe on his canal barge and given numerous lectures on cruising the canals of Europe, as well as sailing in the South Pacific. Piloting is also an interest of Miller's, and He has completed over 1,000 hours flying everything from small Cessnas to Lear jets.