Thursday, 16 August 2018

Decision time rowing through Lyon

Decision time rowing through Lyon

Decision time - what do we do about Lyon. There are VNF regulations, CNR regulations, Police regulations and certainly an heap more, they love their regulations in this part of the world. Throughout the confluence, the approach, the lock and the departure channel non-motorised craft are prohibited as a norm. During our negotiations with the VNF we were given a firm list of 'don'ts'. Although in many previous circumstances we knew that we were probably skating on thin ice, I rowed through in a state of blissful ignorance, misunderstanding of French and an attitude of if it is not on the 'don'ts' list then I can 'do' and so far I had bluffed my way through. Lyon is however very different as it is closely monitored by all 3 services. 

Although we have advised them of our intentions several times by email, sending copies here, there and everywhere (as per their original instructions) asking for permissions and guidance we have, as usual, received nil response. From previous experience we doubt that would impress any minor jobs worth who wants his piece of paper.

The lock itself is on an island with power stations at each end and bordered by a motorway and flyovers leaving Sara no access to assist. Although not clear, it appears that the 10km exit canal is CNR property which could classify it as a 'dont'. If so, from our maps and charts there appears no other option than to portage some 7km to a safe entry into the old river which would certainly test my gammy leg to destruction.

An alternative which from signage appears to be a kayac route commences with a violent Weir into the original river and has several white water rocky sections along it's length. I am sure that it is great fun for paddlers facing forward but definitely not recommended for a rower going backwards.

Of course, the newly introduced Crit-aire certificate to reduce pollution in many French cities provides an additional complication. We do not yet have one so Sara would have to drive to the moon and back to get around Lyon. From what we hear, another 6 months police pounding will go a long way to paying off France's Nation Debt so it is better not to take the risk.

With all the previous in mind and having gained a firm impression that any deviation from the rules could easily jeapodise the whole venture, we are very reluctantly slowly coming to the conclusion that perhaps plans should be adapted accordingly. The major prize for us is to reach the Mediterranean and dip our toes in salty water, any further delays will make us later in the season lower down so if it is better to put Lyon on hold for a bit and do the last 300kms or so first then so be it.

I still have another 2 days of rowing to complete the River Saone to Lyon so there is always the outside possibility of receiving the necessary guidance and permissions but we will definitely not hold our breath. Meanwhile we will drive back to Drace lock, where we lifted out, tomorrow and wild camp ready for an early start for the row to Villefranche-sur-Saone on Saturday. On Sunday I will row to Couzon lock, which at 17km north of Lyon unfortunately is the closest practical slip to lift out and stow Oggi.

At present my good leg is still in a bad way but if it survives the row and locks to Lyon and then the demands of the Rhône locks (with Sara's assistance) we may possible attempt the Lyon section on the way home if the route has been clarified by then. It is more likely though that the distance not rowed due to this enforced deviation will be added to the 12km we owe to the charted distance due to VNF prohibition of my passage through various tunnels.

We already had it in mind to pause on the River Somme on our way home to catch up these missing kilometers. Providing we remain in good working condition to enjoy it this most pleasant of rivers would provide a satisfying conclusion to a very testing and memorable experience for us.

If we are not --- Well there is a very good restaurant and campsite in Long, overlooking the river and I still owe Sara both a birthday and a 34th wedding anniversary dinner!!!

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