My Travel Blog

Night Sailing With The Rabelo | Adventure Travel Can Get Intense!

It’s been a long day, but we made it to Maastricht.  The fuel dock is empty and waiting for us.  We will have to make a 180-degree turn to dock, but that shouldn’t be a problem.  I slow to a stop, twist the wheel so that the rudder is perpendicular to the direction we were moving, and give the engine a little throttle.  Rabelo easily spins on her own length.  That wasn’t hard at all.  I pull up next to the gas dock, which looks like a giant two story floating warehouse, and position us so that our fuel fills are directly in front of the pumps.

Note the rooftops of the houses next to the canal.

A freeway running under the canal.

I’m starting to feel pretty comfortable driving my big baby.  Every time I dock her or pull into a lock there’s a real sense of accomplishment.  The trick will be when we return to France and I have to slip Rabelo into a Freycinet lock, named after the guy who standardized the locks in France back in 1879.  You see Rabelo is 5.09 meters wide or about 16 feet 8 inches.  The locks are advertised as being for vessels up to 5.05 meters wide.  They are actually a little wider, but we will only have an inch or so on either side.  It is going to be a tight squeeze.  The season we spent in France on Tigre Rose we did 422 locks.  I’ll get plenty of practice driving Rabelo.

We have been traveling all day with out friend Erone.

It was a tight fit for Tigre Rose. It will be even tighter for Rabelo.”

 I know we are getting low on red diesel the kind that is not taxed as heavily.  Wilco just came into the pilothouse after talking to the fueling attendant.  He said we couldn’t buy red diesel unless we have some sort of commercial paper.  Wilco thinks he can get us one, but for now we will have to use the more expensive white diesel.  We tell the attendant to fill up our starboard tank, as fuel is only 1.46 euro per liter (It’s killing me).

We head down stream and it’s getting dark.  This is the first time I’ve been on a river at night.  The perspective is all wrong and the shadows look like land.  The lights from the surrounding city are confusing especially the red stop lights as they could be the port side of an oncoming barge.  Fortunately this may be the only time in my life when I have to drive a barge at night. At least I hope it is.  The wind is also starting to pick up.  It’s coming from our left or port side pushing us to our right.  At the last lock I had to approach at an angle that was almost 45 degrees away from the lock so as to compensate for the wind.  I probably scared the crap out of the lockmaster until I straightened out just before we entered the lock.

This wind is getting stronger and we have to find a place to tie up where we can drop off the car.  Tomorrow morning Scott needs to leave at 5:00am to catch a train to the airport.  The wind is so strong that the one place in the area to drop off a car is impossible to reach.  I don’t know what we will do.  The water looks awfully cold for swimming, but then again it’s only Scott.

Everyone should make a fashion statement.

-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.