The Journey – Day 55 – May 25th

The day started about four hours too early this morning.  I was awake most of the night listening and surveying the idiots who got out of the rain to practice laughing at nothing at all, running around throwing beer at each other and attempting to grow a hangover.  I went down the bank to the Banana and found it in good order.  There were two main things to do.  One launch it, the other get it around the pillar of the bridge which came down almost directly into the lock wall.

The ‘hydrofoil’ was hooked on the stones and partly on a step , so it could not easily be pushed out into the lock.  This was a good plan which worked well, except I needed to push it into the lock and take it to the waiting ship.  Surprisingly my idea to leaver it into the water with the paddles I have worked first time, no problem at all.  I pulled the Banana around towards the bank and towed it along towards the bridge.

This was not so easy, the stones were slippy and the incline was inclined to try to make me slide down into the lock.  After a couple movement like a dance with the star’s lesson, I made it to the quay.  Down a ladder set into the wharf, onto the Banana, around the pillar and up the next ladder rowing gently using the handle loops on the Banana as rowlocks.  I tied the Banana to a bollard on the quay behind the ship and went to sort out my equipment for the voyage.

When I got back to the quay the captain and his crew member were already looking at what to do with the Banana.  I arrived and made some suggestions to how best to tie it on the ship which was done in a few seconds.  I said ‘gutten morgan’, shook hands and tried to keep myself out of the way as they got the ship ready to sail.  Once underway and chugging towards the lock I climbed up the steep steel steps into the bridge house and settled into a seat at the back of the wheel house.

Within a few moments of clearing the lock the ship passed the confluence of the Danube channel that led through the lock and the river Regen.  I left the wheel house and filmed the passing of another river.

Whilst in Regensburg I found the quite a few people didn’t know which parts of the river where what.  The Main Danube Canal is fed in part from the Amul a small river that joins the Danube about 5km upstream from Regensburg.  Part of its waters are used to feed the locks on the canal the rest flows on its natural course.  The river Danube is split into three parts after the Amul joins the Daube.

One is the continuation of the waters of the Main Canal which continues into the lock system, another forms a swift moving river which forms an island between the lock and its left bank, its right bank is also part of an island ringed by the largest flow of the Danube which passes through a large hydroelectric generator before rushing through the town and re-joining the other two branches.  Once passed the Regen, the Danube gathers is full waters and enters a part of is long journey to the sea along a course here set out for it by engineers.

The next lock system is 25km away and this controls the height of the water in the river, now wide and apparently slow moving.  There are large lakes along the banks that the river can flow into in times of flood and there are signs of manmade controls periodically along the banks.  The ships depth gage shows increasingly deep water, and in places there is seven metres under the ship.  Only on the Rhine did I see deeper water, where, at the Rock of the Sirens the gauges indicated 17 metres under the center of the river channel.

I came back into the wheel house and greeted Ruth, the wife of Klaus the captain and thanked them again for taking me on board.  I told them of the problems in the Regensburg with having to watch the Banana night and day; getting up at four in the morning after two hours’ sleep had left me tired but took nothing away from being very grateful to be out of town with is revelry which was to continue until the following Sunday night.

After an hour or so of delightful gentle hillsides and quaint towns gliding by I was jolted from a light snooze to be asked if I would like some breakfast.  I had made myself eat some Weetabix and banana in the early hours but a second breakfast would be most welcome; I have found that if you cannot get sleep, eating is a second best subsidy for the energy.  She returned with some excellent coffee and two large rolls, cut into open sandwiches with various smoked meats and cheese.

Drifting into a snooze again, I was brought back by Klaus who was pointing ahead to a very large building, a long way off on a bend in the river.  The scene was quite beautiful with steep wooded hills coming down to the water’s edge and the early morning mist stating to clear off the mirror like waters, disturbed in places with swirls of current or a large fish getting its breakfast.  Valhalla, the dream like heaven for the Vikings drifted into my thoughts then I realised it was Klaus saying the huge building set into the hill was called Valhalla.  The structure looked like the acropolis in Greece, with a set of wide stairs rising in angled tiers from the water to the coulombs set along its classical architecture.  I collected my thoughts and my camera and filmed a cruise ship coming towards us which would fill the shot until Valhalla came into view.

Back in the wheel house and more hours of river until the next lock, and the next until a discussion on where I was to be left.  At a lock (always the best choice) or in the dock where the ship was to be loaded on Friday, ready to sail on Saturday to arrive at Linz on Sunday sometime in the afternoon.  During the discussion they realised I could call up the motorhome and would be very happy to wait until Saturday to be off again.  They agreed to do this and I sent off messages to get the motorhome delivered to Mega, the company who would be loading the ship.  All arranged, I allowed myself a few moments with my chin on my chest and a dribble stain on my shirt when I woke up five minutes late, feeling quite refreshed.

The ship came through the last lock for the day, at Straubing, where Klaus and the sailor and I moved the Banana to the side of the ship and tied it front and rear.  We sailed another hour to a dock branching off the Danube into the complex of Mega, with its huge tanks and pipes, ships coming and going and lorries looking quite small on the quaysides.  Klaus brought the ship around and reversed into the dock.  The Banana does not do well in reverse as the hydrofoil gets washed away from the body of the front and allows the rope system to get under the tubes.  This is exactly what happed.  Once the tieing up process was completed I went to inspect the Banana.

Sure enough the ropes were under the tubes and the hydrofoil was jutting out away from the body of the Banana.  Klaus tried to push the hydrofoil back under the Banana (this I have tried before without success).  I tried to explain that the ropes had to be freed first then the hydrofoil could be positioned by pulling the Banana forwards at speed and the force of water rushing under pushes it back into place.  It took a few attempts to try to get the ropes sorted.

The extra cords I had added had got themselves caught under the hydrofoil.  In a hurry to free them I caught hold of a bungee (the type of elastics that have a hook at each end and are used to secure things on car roof racks etc.)  I pulled the Banana along at speed with it and the hydrofoil started to move under the tubes, but I was not pulling it fast enough.  I gave an extra powerful pull on the bungee, stretching it to its limit.  The wire hook straightened under the force and the bungee whipped back at me with all the force I had put into it.  The straightened hood hit my thumb on my right hand and ricocheted onto the back of my ring finger, the wire punching a hole down to the bone.

I grabbed the Banana which had immediately started to drift away from the side of the ship into the dock.  As I pulled it back spurts of blood jetted from my finger into the air and dotted the Banana with bright red polka dots.  Klaus saw what happened and got a close view of jets of blood coming from the back of my hand.  He visibly winced and instinctively turned away, not liking what he saw.  Ruth too saw the blood on the Banana and came to look at the damage.

My thumb had a 10mm black line like a blood blister, which it wasn’t.  I put my forefinger on the hole and more or less stopped the spurts.  She went off to get first aid, but I felt that it would heal itself ok once the wound congealed.  She started to get huge bandages out but I said no, not necessary for a small neat but very deep hole.  Within five minutes the spurts turned to normal bleeding and we wound a sticky plaster over a pad to put pressure on the wound.  I took some photos for Facebook, sadly most of the blood had been washed off my hand and Klaus had scrubbed the spatters off the Banana, which I really wanted to film.

I waited for a visit from the harbour master, who wanted to ok the position of the Banana, and who was making us all wait for his visit.  I finished off sorting the Banana, tugging the blue ropes free and, having attached a proper rope pulled it until the hydrofoil was washed back into place.  I pulled the Banana to the stern and secured it between the high harbour wall and the ship.  When Klaus saw that this was an excellent position, he phoned the Harbour master and convinced him there was no need to come and look.

This done I climbed up onto the quay and made the final arrangements.  We would meet at five in the morning on Friday to move the ship across the harbour to the other wharf to be loaded for Saturday.  I would be required to move the Banana around the ship during this process.  That sorted I went off the find the motorhome and drive to Straubing.  No need to guard the Banana and no need to look for a ship; a day off.  Well almost.

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