With grandchildren to Wien and Bratislava

So much has been happening the last two weeks that I didn´t have time and energy to write my weekly blog last week. Today is July 30th and I have some restful days in a peaceful marina, MYCB, outside Bratislava, where there will be a new change of crew. It is now almost two months since this adventurous trip began in Lagarde, France, and I am for the first time feeling some tiredness from this boat-life, always going to new places and with new crews every week to be instructed and taken care of and a sometimes failing engine which also needs daily care. Your position on rivers and canals are always in kilometers. For Donau it is the number of kilometers left before it reaches the Black Sea. My position in Bratislava is km 1870, which means that we have done 540 km during our three weeks on the Donau but also that there are 1870 km left before I can raise the mast and set sails on the Black Sea. So I can well need some rest now to recharge the batteries for new adventures and challenges to come.

From Linz, where I finished my last blog, there was a five-day-trip to Wien, now with three teenagers as Joyce´s and my crew, my grandchildren Agnes, 16, and Christoffer, 13, joining Gustaf, 15. So the boat became then quite a boisterous place with those great kids, so full of energy. There was a lot of swimming in the harbors and of course every night cardgames, which always has been the tradition when these kids are sailing with grandpa. We had another heat-wave this week, which we enjoyed, especially as we could be cooled down in the coolish Danube water (except Joyce who had a real hard time with the heat). And the Donau gave us an abundance of magnificent views of the landscape, some parts wild wooden hills (see picture with captain by the rudder),
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other parts as in Wachau, the wine district, with hills filled with vineyards and lovely towns and villages (see picture)
There was a series of big locks, the kids did a good job there and all went smoothly. (see picture).
In Krems Joyce and I celebrated our 4th anniversary by staying on a modern hotel with AC, a blessing for Joyce indeed in the heat-wave and a good relaxation for me too. And here is a lovely picture with my crew on a sunset walk along the Donau in Tulln, the last stop before Wien.
Then we spent six whole days in Wien, where we stayed at the Marina Wien, a comfortable place with a restaurant and the subway close, expensive (38 €/night, the other marinas seldom over 20 €/night) but well worth it. Here we had another small change of crew when Gustaf left us (see picture)
and Agnes´s boyfriend Philip joined us. In Wien we of course made the most important touristy things, of which Schuberts last little room in his brothers apartment where he died at age 31 and his brothers piano where he made some of his great last masterpieces was a high point for me – thank you, Schubert for giving me so much help to join sorrow and joy (see picture).
But also Kunsthistorisches Museum with Raphael magically beautiful picture of ”Madonna in the Meadows” (see picture),
two charming Mozart-and Strauss-concerts and a lunch at the Donauturm (Danube Tower) with a revolving restaurant and a magnificent view of the city were all well worth the Wien-visit.

But there was another big event that took most of my energy in Wien. My mast, 150 kg heavy and 13,4 meters long, had been delivered there from Travemünde, Germany, where I left it a year ago. This has saved us from having the mast on deck in all af these 400 locks, where it would have been very vulnerable. But it also took a great cost, 2000 USD for the transportation, the biggest expense of the whole trip. Worth it? Maybe. And there at the Marina Wien it had been delivered and was waiting for me. I had now the task to build a construction for it on deck, good enough to last to the Black Sea and comfortable enough to live with for a month. Construction is not an easy game for me but I had gotten good advice from a very good handy-man, Lennart. Now it involved getting the material (timber, screws and good straps to hold it) from Bauhaus, a huge hard-ware-store, which meant renting a truck for the transportation. And then measuring, sawing and drilling and mounting it. A sign that it created some stress for me was that these days I woke up at 5 in the morning instead of my usual 7.30. It was indeed quite a challenge to get it right, especially for not to making it interfere with the cover over the cockpit, which is badly needed for protection from rain and sun. But I got it done and on the picture you can see the result together with the happy crew, Christoffer, Philip and Agnes.
In Wien, Joyce left me for a couple of nights that she will spend with his son Sam in a fancy hotel before they will join me in Bratislava. I and the teenagers went on toward Bratislava, a day trip from Wien. The first big waves from the big boats showed some instability of the construction, which we corrected. After the lock in Wien the Donau became far more violent than before, with a strong current, taking us at more than double speed downstream, eleven knots instead of five, which means a current of six knots! This is definitely a current too strong for my boat to manage upstream, which is why there is no way we can go the same way back. There was no problems to navigate and we were expecting an early arrival in Bratislava had we not run into problems. The cooling system of the engine had earlier shown some signs of failing but now suddenly it failed seriously and the temperature of the engine went high up to dangerous levels. I had to stop the engine but we could make good speed all the same with the current. Thing was, though, that we had to find a place to tie up the boat to let the engine cool down and work on the problem – probably a stop in the intake of cooling water around the propeller. I found a possible small harbor in Hainburg close to the Slovakian border, and had to use the hot engine quite forcefully to be able to get out of the strong current to get into the harbor. It went well, the harbor was luckily deep enough for us and we managed to tie up the boat alongside another ship. After some diving down to the propeller of me and Philip we found a possible cause to the problem in weeds entangled in the propeller. It would be possible now when the engine had cooled down and there came some water through through the exhaust pipe to go the rest of the way down to Bratislava but it had now become too late in the evening. So we stayed the night in our emergency harbor, fortunately with a restaurant close with ice-cream for the kids. Next day we went on low rpm without problem to this peaceful marina outside Bratislava, which I mentioned in the beginning of this blog. It is run by a family and includes a restaurant, where we had a good and cheap dinner yesterday. And today: a farewell to a great crew and a night alone till Joyce and Sam comes.

On Donau into Austria

In Saal, by the Daunbe near the end of the Main-Danube-canal, we stayed at a big, fancy marina with a restaurant in the harbor and one of these infrequent “Boottankstellen”, where you can fill diesel directly in the tank. From there we went by train to Munich to pick up Gustaf, my grandson, and had a couple of hours in the medieval centre of Munich for lunch and sightseeing (see picture of new crew):
Then it was time for our first day on the Danube (whose real name in German of course is Donau – why do the English insist on their own name?). It was a mighty feeling to take my Joy and Joyce out on this legendary river. In a way also surprising that Donau here is a pretty small river, about the same size as the river Main. There was not much traffic either so we were often alone on the river, admiring an often mighty landscape with wooded and rocky hills on both sides and now and then old castles or ruins of castles. Our first day we were aiming at Regensburg, the first big city on the way, which the guidebooks raved about as a must. The problem was, though, that the marina there was full. I had hoped that we could stay overnight at the lock in the middle of Regensburg but the lock-keeper was more than clear with his message that we were not allowed to do that. So maybe we had to miss Regensburg and anchor somewhere later along the river as there was no marina there for a long time. But just after the lock I saw a private small dock, which we decided to try. To my surprise it was deep enough for my boat and I went ashore and jumped a locked gate to try to find the owner and get a permission to stay. Eventually I found out that the dock belonged to a Wasserrettungszentrum, where they teach lifesaving on the river. I also managed to get the permit to stay overnight and information on how to unlock the gate. What a pleasure to have another successful problem-solving!
We had a very pleasant afternoon and evening in Regensburg, situated on islands and shores of a Donau, which there had parted into several branches. The famous medieval stone bridge was being renovated so we missed that but the dome with wonderful stained glass windows was well worth the whole visit. And also of course a great traditional German dinner in a Biergarten – the traditional beergarden of many of the old restaurants in Bavaria.

After two more days on Donau we came to Passau, another of these cities that all our books and guidebooks were raving about. And we were not disappointed. Like once Napoleon we thought this to be the most beautiful city in Germany, a three-river city where both the river Inn from the Alps and the river Ilz from the Bavarian Forest connects with Donau. We were all so charmed by this city so we decided to spend an extra day here. Joyce and I spent a luxurious night at a hotel by Donau (picture showing our hotel Am Paulusbogen from Donau, the dome in the background).
The old town of Passau is situated on a triangular peninsula, the tip being where the rivers merge. As most of the city was destroyed in a fire 1660 it was rebuilt in a pretty homogenous baroque style. The dome, also in extravagant baroque style (see picture).
It also had an extravagant organ, the biggest in the world with 17000 pipes, which we enjoyed in one of their daily noon concert. The peak experience, though, was climbing up to Vestre Oberhaus, a medieval castle high above the city with a stunning view of the city and its hilly serene surroundings. You could clearly distinguish the different colors of the three rivers when they were merging, the Ilz blue, the Donau greenish and the Inn brownish from all the stuff from the glaciers of the Alps. It was one of the most beautiful views I have seen, probably not captured in my panorama picture.
Close after Passau the Donau became the border between Germany and Austria and a little further on it had Austria on both sides. Donau had now grown considerably, especially as the river Inn is actually bigger than Donau. The strength of the current was also for a long time much stronger so we made good speed. The landscape changed and became even more beautiful with high wooden hills on both sides with even more old castles and ruins on top.
Further on I had a celebration when I passed the 400th lock (sic!) after starting the trip in Lübeck last year. The last stop of the week was in Linz, a big city, where Hitler spent his youth and even during the last months of his life planned to retire, build enormous buildings and be buried. For us it was the place for our next change of crew, Lennart leaving us and my grandchildren Agnes and Christoffer joining us.

The Main-Danube-Canal

Now it was time for the Main-Danube-Canal, climbing up 175 m in 11 locks to the highest point of the European waterway-system, 406 meters above sea-level and then 68 meters down through another five locks to the Danube. Katinka and Odd, who did this two years ago (see ”Katinkabloggen”, easy to find on Google) and have been an invaluable source of information, guidebooks and maps, warned me that the upward locks were tough as they (to save water) fill the uphill locks from the side putting a lot of pressure on the boat. That is also why I had arranged for my strongest mate, Lennart, to join us on this trip (see picture with Lennart at the rope).
Just when the locks started to fill up there was some pressure and I was pleased to have a strong mate then, but it was quite manageable with just holding the ropes with our hands. What also made it easy was that many of the locks also had ”Schwimpollern”, that is floating bollards to tie the boat to, which move up and down with the water. Some of the locks were really enormous, the biggest ones 25 meters (hard to really get on a picture).
The worst ordeal we had was not holding the ropes but to get the boat within reach of the floating bollard behind one of these enormous Viking cruise-boats which left it´s engines on, causing lots of turbulence behind. My boat turned around several times in the lock before I managed to use the turbulence to my advantage. In most locks, though, we were alone in our little dwarf-boat, and I was really surprised that they ran the lock just for us and didn´t make us wait for commercial ships before they let us through. A reasonable explanation is that the locks themselves produce so much electricity that it is really a net gain to run them.
The canal also had several attractions on the way. One of the best was the city of Bamberg where the canal starts and where we spent two days, changing crew, doing a whole lot of wash and enjoying this very charming city with a well preserved medieval center surrounded by the river Regnitz and the canal. One of the attractions was the old cityhall, which was built in the middle of the river in 1336 as a protest against the ruling bishop, who refused to give the people a piece of land for the cityhall (see picture).
We also had a half day in Nürnberg, interesting but more pompous and not with Bamberg´s charm. To counter the heavy nazi history the city has become a city of peace and human rights and had as a main attractions a human rights monument, where the UN declaration of Human Rights was inscribed on a long row of pillars in many languages (see picture).
The nature around the canal was beautiful with serene farmland and miles of rolling tree-covered hills. One night we stayed over night just after the last upward lock, a magic night with a peaceful landscape and two wildly singing larks over the fields (see picture)
We also encountered and solved one major problem on the way. The generator of the boat-engine had for several days signalled that it did not function OK, which had to be fixed. In the first marina after Bamberg, Marina Süss, there was a mechanic who had been recommended and who right away took on the problem, found that the generator was dead and in less than two days had installed a new generator. With a small delay and 600 € the problem was solved.

So Saturday July 8th we left the Main-Danube-Canal and steered the boat out to ”der schoenen blauen Donau” (see Lennart´s video).

From Lagarde in France we had gone 885 km and passed 95 locks. Before us is the Danube with no less than 2410 km to the Black Sea but no more than 18 locks, all downhill, which will take two more months. After having conquered the last uphill locks in the Main-Danube-Canal I have the feeling that the the worst challenges have been met and dealt with. Of course the Danube will have it´s challenges too. But I now feel I have so much experience as a traveller on the canals and rivers of Europe that I feel a lot of confidence that the challenges which will come up will be manageable. More and more I get these flow-feelings that are often the most enjoyable part of boating, a life-flow and now also river-flow. The Danube will give us a strong flow on a winding way down to the Black Sea.

With an American crew on the Main river

To Aschaffenburg came our very good friends from California, Gina and Tom, who were also with us a week in northern Germany and Holland last year. They are travelers and boat people and of course it is a blessing for Joyce to have eight days without any Swedish. We started like last year with celebrating Swedish midsummer with herring, gravlax, aquavit and Swedish drinking songs. During the week we were now going further upstream on the river Main with 26 more locks, all the way to Bamberg, where Main is no longer navigable and the Main-Danube-canal starts. The service on the locks was excellent. Sometimes we had to wait a while for the barges and big cruisers but now and then we were the only boat in the lock and they filled it just for us. Gina and Tom learned to be a good lock-crew, gradually moving the lines upward as the water was rising (see picture).
The heatwave went on a couple of days but changed to more regular temperatures and some rain. We were now traveling in a part of Bavaria called Franken, a wine center with rolling hills full of vineyards and every now and then a town or a village with an medieval center and a castle or castle ruin above:

One of our favorite towns was Miltenberg, where we chose to stay an extra day to enjoy the great view from the castle (see picture).
In Miltenberg we also enjoyed a very well preserved old town and a good dinner at the Riesen restaurant, one of the oldest in Germany from the 12th Century. There the Swedish king Gustaf II Adolf had stayed during the 30 year war in the 1600s. (By the way, that was the time when Sweden was the leading power of the protestant war against the catholics, making war all the way down to Bavaria, where they say (as they did in Alsace) that the Swedes were ”the first and the worst”, plundering and raping. For a hundred years Sweden was a superpower in Europe till we were beaten by the Russians and changed into being a peaceful trading country, which now has not been in war for 200 years).
Lohr was another charming town, where the model of Snow White is said to have grow up in the big palace, using mirrors which was a speciality of the local glass blowers, escaping her wicked stepmother to the miners in the mountains, who had to be very short people because the mines were so narrow. (On the picture Joyce is impersonating the evil stepmother before the palace and the sculpture of Snow White and the seven dwarfs).
Würzburg was another, much bigger city, where we stayed half a day for sightseeing: the old university from the 1400s with lots of Nobel Prize laureates like Röntgen (who invented the x-ray) and a magnificent and beautiful rokoko palace, a World Heritage (see picture).
In Würzburg I found at last a replacement for the kitchen gas, Campingaz, which was said to be easily found all through Europe but turned out to require a lot of research and time-consuming trips to Supermarkets in the suburbs of big cities, one of the most annoying aspects of being a boat traveller. I was lucky because the day after I found a replacement the gas-bottle we used was empty. So our trip is not all pure enjoyment. A list of challenges: 1) On the river Main there is only one fuel station to get diesel directly to the boat, but it was too shallow for our boat, which means you have to carry the diesel to the boat 2) The reason is that the pleasure-boats on the rivers and canals, are only motorboats which have much smaller draught, which also means that most of the marinas are not available for my boat 3) That is also why we one night could not find a marina for the last night with Gina and Tom and had to tie up at a quay in Hassfurt, so high that you had to climb a ladder to get ashore, a considerable challenge for my elderly crew. We all got a big reward: a delicious fare-well dinner with Gina and Tom on the local restaurant:

Heat wave and full house on the river Main

Aschaffenburg, Bavaria, June 22nd
With my son and his family we were now 7 people on the boat. That is more than we have beds so we solved that by having the parents sleep at hotels, which they certainly didn´t mind, rather appreciated. We left the Rhine and started to go upstream in the river Main – picture shows where Main joins the Rhine.
We had only one easy lock before we stopped at a marina in Raunberg into a little bay of the river. We managed to get in – it is always uncertain wether these marinas made for German motorboats are deep enough for a sailboat 1.7 m deep. We had a nice evening but ran into the first big ordeal of the trip in the morning when we tried to get out of the harbor. We could go a couple of meters and were then firmly stuck in the mud of the bottom. The water level seemed to have lowered during the night. We called for help from the marina and David dove into the water with ropes that could help drag us out (see picture where you also see the mocking signboard wishing us a good trip).
With the whole crew rocking the boat, dragging the line David had gotten around a pole in front and the engine full speed we moved a couple of inches but were still helplessly stuck. After an hour a man from the marina came with his big motorboat and made several attempts in vain to get us loose. At one point he got one of the towing lines into his propeller so David had to be a hero once more, dove in and helped the guy to disentangle the line. With a final towing effort, now with two ropes from our helping motorboat we moved slowly forward and – at last after three hours hard work we were LOOSE! We handed our helper a bottle of whisky and off we went.
The locks all went very smoothly. David and I have done Göta Kanal in Sweden many years ago and are a good team (see picture from a lock with father on the lines and three happy children).
Next day we passed the center of Frankfurt with its great gothic cathedral and an impressing modern skyline. We stayed the night in a marina outside Frankfurt and had a very nice meeting and dinner there with Jack, one of my childrens´ American cousins from Seattle, who happened to work in Frankfurt this very day. (See picture, Jack to the left). We have had some really good meetings on our way, a definite bonus of this trip.
The next day we had bad luck with the marina we aimed at as we came later than the harbor master had expected so there was no way to get the key to toilets and showers and to the gate in and out of the area. But also this problem was solved smoothly as we made friends with some Germans on the adjacent camping ground, who helped us get out to a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant and in again to the boat for the night.
Then came the last day with David´s family, when we went to Aschaffenburg with an enormous 17th Century palace by the river, built by an archbishop and symbolizing the enormous power of the Catholic Church.
We had now left Frankfurt and Hessen behind us and arrived in Bavaria with rolling hills and vineyards. In Aschaffenburg we found a nice marina (Nautilus), and had as every night a good meal at a restaurant, seeing the parents off to their hotel and having a good night´s sleep with the children on the boat. The next morning we at last got the time for the traditional card game with the kids, a Swedish pokergame, called Chicago. This was another hot day, around 90°, with a lot of swimming for the kids before the whole family left in a taxi for the train to Frankfurt and their flight back to Sweden.
We were all very happy with the five days with this intense and fun family on the boat, the only drawback being the hot weather – every day had been around 90° F. All the problems we ran into were soved creatively and with a good mood. What a privilege for a grandfather to share an adventure like this with his grandchildren and their parents!! Picture: father and son:

Second week: Strasbourg and father Rhine

Wiesbaden, Sunday June 18th 2017
We spent three days in Strasbourg and enjoyed it a lot, it´s well preserved medieval centre with an abundance of restaurants and sights. The gothic one-tower cathedral was magnificent.
I got a great view of the city from the top of the cathedral after climbing 330 steps. There I could see the mountain range of Vousgues in the west, which we had just passed. In the east was another blue mountain range, Schwarzwald (the Black Forest), along the other side of Rhine, where we would spend our next week. In Strasbourg we also witnessed when Birgit´s friend Jean voted in the parliamentary election. We enjoyed a boat ride on a tourist boat around the city, we enjoyed a French public bath (because the marina didn´t have showers and toilets) and, not the least, we enjoyed listening to Swedish radio when Sweden beat France in soccer!
In Strasbourg we said goodbye to our first crew, Birgit and Ann (see picture above), and welcomed the next one, Clara (see picture below), a lady from Birgit´s choir with a lot of sailing experience. She had been able to come with short notice instead of Anders, who had fallen ill.
Then we spent the week on the Rhine, going downstream with great speed because of the strong stream, sometimes 12 knots instead of our usual speed of 5 knots. I had expected a Rhine to have a lot of commercial traffic but often we were alone on this vast river. We had two big locks on our way, which we passed very smoothly, the first one, Gambsheim, as the only boat in this enormous basin, 270 x 24 meters and 10 meters high (see picture with Clara by the rope).
We had first Schwarzwald on our starboard, later mostly flatland with great deciduous trees along the river. We also passed a stunningly beautiful hill with vineyards where some of the best Rhine wine is made, in Oppenheim and Nierstein.
For the nights we stopped at well equipped marinas close to cities well worth sightseeing: Karlsruhe, Speyer, and Worms, the latter both with magnificent roman cathedrals.
An important factor for living by and boating on the Rhine is the water level, which is extremely varied between the seasons. The level changes several meters, at the most as much as five meters! They have a system of official gauges, which are read daily and published on the internet. The gauges are called Pegel, see picture from the one in Mainz, indicting a water level of 250 cm.
After five days on the Rhine, we arrived in Wiesbaden, the goal of this week, with a very nice marina, Wiesbaden Yacht Club,  with floating house and docks, necessary because of the changing water level. Yesterday was the last day with Clara as mate and we made a great excursion to Mainz across the Rhine and visited a huge farmers market at the marketplace by the enormous cathedral. We also visited the museum of the most famous son of Mainz, Johan Gutenberg, and got a fascinating demonstration of the printing press he invented around 1450, a pivotal event of the Western culture.
Yesterday evening we said goodbye to Clara and received our next crew, my son David and his family, his wife Caroline, the twins Rebecka and Oskar, 12, and my youngest grandchild, Klara, 9. We are now looking forward to the next part of our trip, going up the river Main. From left: Klara, Rebecka, Caroline, David Oskar and the proud grandfather.

June 9th: Strasbourg – first week successfully accomplished

Strasbourg, June 9th 2017
We have reached our goal for the first week of our long journey, Strasbourg, after a great week on the Canal de la Marne au Rhin. Captain and crew (Nils, Joyce, Birgit and Ann) are all healthy and content, boat and engine working well, the French locks smoothly functioning. First picture: Joyce before the European parliament in Strasbourg, which lies close to the canal.

We started our trip June 4th and worked successfully through the seven last upward locks, climbing up the mountain range of the Vosgues, the canal going through gorgeous arches of deciduous trees of many kinds and with hundreds of singing birds. The first night we spent in the little village of Xouaxange (hard to pronounce!) where Joyce and I enjoyed the luxury of a ”grand lit” (kingsize bed) at a local hotel, where also the rest of the crew could enjoy a hot shower.

The next day we had some trouble with the cooling water of the engine becoming too hot, which was solved by the captain diving down under the boat and disentangling some water plants from the propeller. Then there were some exciting canal devices to pass. First we went through two tunnels (the longest 1,5 miles, see picture, where you actually can see the little opening in the end of the tunnel) going through the mountain under the rim of the Vosgues.
Then another exciting device: a boat lift, which took us 140 feet down the steepest part of the Vosgues, bypassing 17 locks (see picture). Amazing technique!
After some more downward locks we stayed the night in Lutzelbourg, another small charming village with a castle ruin high up (see picture).
The depth of the water was not deep enough for our boat but the problem was solved by using our gangway to bridge the gap (see picture with Birgit entering the gangway).
We enjoyed a good dinner on the local restaurant, which was decorated with American, British and French flags, celebrating June 6th 1944, the invasion of Normandie.
The third day we had some rain but had nevertheless a pleasant trip downward to the little town of Saverne, Alsace, a nice town with with a huge castle, Chateau des Rohan in the middle of town, a magnificent neoclassical palace. (Se picture with Birgit and me).
Here we took a day of rest, Joyce and I visiting the famous rose-garden (the Roseraie) where they have rose competitions every year and showing 550 different kinds of roses – see Joyce among the other roses:
I also had an electrical problems on the boat, which was solved smooth and fast by calling Bill, our excellent mechanic in Lagarde.

Yesterday was then our fifth day, and now we had definitely left the Vosgues, which became blue mountains on the horizon in our back. A memorable moment was when several storks made their magnificent landing on a field where they were harvesting hay. But even more memorable was the evening, when Jean Hustel, an old French friend of Birgit´s, invited us to his home, not very far from the canal. It was an old 18th Century farm in the village of Hochfrankenheim, where he lived together with his son, who was a sculptor and proudly showed us his huge atelier in one of the barns.
We spent a lovely afternoon there, admiring the old house, learning about Jeans interesting life as an actor and ”animateur culturel” and also about the fascinating history of the province of Alsace, shifting back and forth between French and German rulers (See picture of Jean and Birgit).
The evening was then spent on a local restaurant with a genuine , huge Alsacian meal, a smoked hand of pork with a sauce of horse radish and potato salad and chips.
Today was an easy trip through the last locks and tying up the boat in a marina not far from the center. Here we will stay for three days, be tourists, leaving our first crew, Birgit and Ann and receiving the next one, Clara, on Sunday.
At last – a picture of my  excellent mate through 42 locks from Lagarde to Strasbourg, Ann.