So what went wrong in Paris?

The original plan was to advance up the Seine, all the way through the center of Paris, and on to the Yonne tributary to the Seine. In the vicinity of the city the Seine has a number of deep meandering loops. I was doing alright, motoring my way upstream towards the city. Seeing more and more garbage floating in the river, I knew Paris was approaching. Trouble was that I couldn’t find places along the river to moor for the night. And night time traffic is not allowed. As I had finally found a marina along the way, close to the city centre, I tried to find a spot to park. The only guest moorings were for boats shorter than 6m and with a depth of maximally 1m. The only open spots available were, according to a very unpleasant harbourmaster, rented out and I was NOT allowed to use these. But he did suggest I go back about 3 km on the river and take the canal route through Paris. For boats my size and depth he said that was the only way to find a mooring, as there were two marinas on the canals there. So I left, and went back down the river to the lock that was supposed to let me into the St Martin canal, on my way to Paris. After waiting a long time in front of the lock, seeing people walk around on the locking premises, I called the control center in Paris. Yes, I needed to give them a load of totally unnecessary information, and then they locked me through.

Now I was in the northern part of the canal system through Paris, Canal St Denis, in an area that felt very unsafe. I was very tired and told the canal controller that I stay and spend the night here. He tried to convince me not to do so, but I was tired and stayed. It was horrible, but I survived and continued the next day to reach the mooring at Bassin de Villette, in the middle of town. I got there during a heavy thunderstorm, but two boat neighbours came out and helped me tie up. Next problem, I needed a key to get in and out of the marina. And the key could only be retrieved at the Arsenal marina, a 35 min bike ride from here. Suck! I stayed in and the next day I got the key with my bike, after booking a mooring via the Internet. Bike ride to and from Arsenal was dangerous and a definite health threat due to the chaotic Paris traffic. I got the key and paid my fees, which were very expensive! Okay, back at Villette I enjoyed living in Paris for five days. I met with my friend Emily and she took me sightseeing and helped me buy a little 1/2 size classical guitar. Visited about 7 music stores, which was fun. During my stay at Villette, there was a national swimming competition in the canal next to my boat. I fear for the health of the swimmers, since water quality is very, very bad here. My boat neighbours were all French liveaboards who had absolutely no sailing experience. They lived here because it is a cheap way of living in the heart of the city. And that is a whole lot more expensive than living in a tent under the bridges, which is what thousands of more or less homeless people do here.
So, after some fun days att La Vilette and Paris, time to travel on. From here I was to take the Canal de St Martin down to the Arsenal marina and back trough a lock into the Seine, upstream of Paris. My friend Emily came along to help me through the 7 locks and we enjoyed the day. Before coming into the Arsenal marina, where I was to leave the keys, we went through a three km long tunnel under the city centre. It was an amazing experience, spiced up by some musicians playing brass instruments in the tunnel entrance. The lights and sounds were fantastic. And in the late afternoon I was out on the Seine again, left Emily on the river bank and was on my way east. But all in all, Paris was an expensive illusion of poverty and criminality. Glad to leave, so I was.

Author: captain

Johannes, born in 1960 in Zierikzee, The Netherlands. Owner of S/Y Isabell. Retired environmental toxicologist, now living aboard and sailing south.