My Travel Blog

We’re Late, We’re Late, For A Very Important Date!

With our rudder fixed, though behind schedule, we were back on the move.  Rushing was something I’ve tried to avoid this entire trip, but there were times when it couldn’t be helped.  Our friends were joining us in less than a week.  I wanted to meet them in the Champagne Region, as I knew it would be a special treat.  We were there nine years ago, and have fond memories.

“A couple of narrow boats from England we passed on the canal.”

Vitry-le-Francois was our destination.  We blew through Bar-la-Duc the first day, and did 21 locks.

“Passing through Bar-la-Duc I thought the town was kind of dead. Sorry about that, but I couldn’t resist.”

We had already seen the town while waiting for the rudder, and had a fantastic lunch at La Meuse Gourmands.  The best restaurant in town even comes with incredible views of the city.

“The view from La Meuse Gormands.”

The second day we did 29 locks.  My previous record had been 26 on our barge Tigre Rose.

We ended up just a few miles short of Vitry-le-Francois when our friends arrived.  After traveling for almost 24 hours by car, plane and train I figured they would want to clean up, sit back and relax while cruising those last few miles.  We loaded Scott and Lovita, Jon and Cherolyn onto Rabelo and took off.

“A champagne welcome for our friends.”

Of course when it comes to barging things never turn out as planned.  At the very next lock I put Rabelo in reverse, and discovered there was no reverse.  Holy $#%*$, now what?  I yelled to Wilco that we had lost the transmission, and I was stopping Rabelo by heading her into the canal bank.  Fortunately I was going very slowly so there was no damage, not even a scratch.

Wilco and Scott went into the engine room to see what the problem was.  I had visions of being stuck on the canal for a month waiting for a new transmission. A few minutes later they re-appeared announcing that it was not the transmission.  You could hear my sigh of relief all the way to the next village.  The problem was the coupling between the transmission and propeller shaft.

“Scott working on the shaft coupling. He could not have been happier.”

All eight bolts that held the coupling together were sheared. We think that six of the eight bolts had been broken long ago, and the last two finally gave out.  Wilco drove to a local hardware store and bought new bolts. Within two hours Rabelo was repaired.  We cruised into Vitry-le-Francois with a few more empty bottles of champagne and full of smiles.

“Our friend Cherolyn suffering as we cruised into Vitry-le-Francois.”

“The leaves are starting to change.”

“You never know what you’ll see along the canals.”

“A rainy day through our kitchen window.”


-Tom Miller
Author of “The Wave” – 
a Chuck Palmer Adventure novel


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.