My Travel Blog

The One – The Only – The Johanna!

We spent the last night with our friends Bryan and Carrie at Rogny les Sept Ecluse. This is the village with the remnants of seven locks that were started in 1604. A couple of installments ago I talked about how we went through a double lock, where as soon as you exited one lock you entered the next.  At Rogny back in the 1600’s, you had to go through seven locks in the same fashion. It was a long and arduous process. In 1887 they opened a new canal.  The locks are now spread over a few kilometers, and there are only six.

The remains of the seven locks.

Bryan is also our most excellent dentist. How much were you going to charge for that filling?

Rabelo moored in the middle of the countryside.

I have not spent a lot of time going into the mechanics of how the various barges we come across operate only because I didn’t think it would be of interest. When the Dutchman who owns the hotel barge Johanna told us about the engine on his barge, no I should say bragged about it, I had to write.

When Johanna was built she was approximately the same length as Rabelo. At some point in her long life they cut out the center eight and half meters, so now she is only thirty meters long. This is not all that uncommon, relatively easy to do, and definitely not what makes Johanna so unique.  What makes Johanna special is her engine, and the way it is set up. Johanna has a diesel engine that puts out a few more horsepower than Rabelo but it is physically four or five times as large. Her engine was built in the 1940’s, and there is no transmission. That means the engine is connected directly to the propeller and shaft. On Rabelo our transmission has a four to one reduction, or for every four revolutions the engine turns the propeller only turns once. On Johanna there is no reduction, and so the engine has to turn much slower. The problems start when you want to slow down or come to a stop. The only way to stop the propeller from turning is to turn off the engine. If you want to speed back up you have to restart the engine. But what if there is an emergency and you need to stop very fast. On Rabelo I just put the transmission in reverse.  Johanna doesn’t have a transmission. The way you put Johanna in reverse is to stop the engine, and then restart it turning the opposite direction.  That’s right. On some diesels engines you can run them in either direction. I thought driving Rabelo into a lock required a lot of skill, as I am constantly going from forward to neural and then into reverse.  I can’t even begin to imagine what it takes to drive Johanna!

The hotel barge Johanna.

Johanna passing Rabelo on the canal.

A lovely pond near Montbouy.

Not all canal boats are as comfortable as Rabelo.

Our next stop was Montbouy where we would pickup Lisa’s niece Heather, her husband John, and their two young children Hayden and Jaida. Not far from where we moored were the remnants of a Gallo-Roman amphitheater.  At one time I suspect it could have held over five thousand people. What I can’t figure out is where the people lived.  There are no other Gallo-Roman ruins in the area, or at least none that are advertised.

The Gallo–Roman amphitheater near Montbouy.

Bryan and Carrie taking over our galley.

On the left is the old canal and what remains of six locks. On the right is the new canal.

-Tom Miller
Author of “The Wave”  and “When Stones Speak”– 
Chuck Palmer Adventure novels


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.