National Geographic : 1964 Aug
Inside Europe Aboard Yankee dam, the Netherlands, while the new Yankee took shape in 1959. She was of radical design, clipper-bowed to balance her great cabin and raised poop, her tough steel hull drawing only 4V2 feet of water with centerboards raised, narrow-beamed for locks, and ketch-rigged for easy handling by two hands. Travel While Staying at Home Since then we have lived a life that Robert Louis Stevenson in An Inland Voyage termed "both to travel and to stay at home," one where a man "may take his afternoon walk in some foreign country on the banks of the canal, and then come home to dinner at his own fireside...." For us no packing or unpacking, no buying tickets, making reservations, catching trains or planes, ordering too-rich meals. We lost ourselves in the remote countryside; every day we felt closer to the people with whom we mingled at back doors and beside fields and orchards. We could almost tell time by the activities we observed as we cruised along at only four miles an hour: children starting for school, horses plowing, women washing, cows crossing bridges over our heads. Sometimes we did the same things ashore that other tourists do. A couple of motor powered bicycles carried aboard Yankee let us travel to nearby sights or zip to markets for shopping. Sometimes we missed things tourists would not dream of ignoring-either because a waterway would not float us there or because at the end of a long outdoor day we were content to stay at home. Bikinis Bring a Yachtsman's Quip Yankee's masts were folded and lashed as we motored out between Marseille's old forts and through the big commercial harbor full of all kinds of ships from everywhere. Out to sea, two miles from the mainland, appeared the chalky cliffs of the Ile d'If and the grim walls of the chateau crowning them-a for tress prison made famous in Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. Along the beaches, the sight of sun-tanned bodies recalled a remark made by one of our cruise guests in his Virginia drawl: "Ovah heah they spell bikini with a verah small 'b'. " Ahead of us beckoned the Rhone River gateway of our summer's cruise to Belgium, the Netherlands, England, and back through France again (map, page 163). We could have sailed by open sea to the mouth of the river, some 25 miles west of Marseille. We chose instead to plunge directly inland, taking the Tunnel du Rove through the hills to the north west of Marseille, and then a canal that meets the Rhone at Arles. We used to have qualms about tunnels. The first we went through was the worst: the arched darkness closing in, the narrow clear ance between rocky walls, the fear of a loos ened boulder dropping on us. But repeated trips through tunnels had eased our fears. We remembered our first ex perience inside a French mountain in total darkness. Eleanor Barney or her husband Ken sat at one side of the ship, I at the other, with Irving at the wheel. Holding flashlights down toward the black water, we would call out the inches to spare on each side, and Irv ing would steady her. Thus we evolved a system of chanting through the tunnels, "ten inches, eight inches, seven inches, five inches," and sometimes "two, one... whoops!" Tunnel Cave-in Jolts Complacency Here in the Tunnel du Rove our sidelights were bright dots in the inkiness. As our eyes grew accustomed to the dark, we found we could turn off our flashlights and Irving could steer without the inch-calling. At last a tiny circle of daylight glimmered, grew larger, and we were through. A week later, we learned, part of the tunnel roof caved in. We were never quite so com placent about tunnels after that. The inland waterway to Arles is one of the quietest in Europe. Most craft go the fastest way, by the Rhone itself. All day we met no other vessel as we made peaceful progress along the edge of the Camargue, the region of the Rhone delta where genuine French cowboys ride herd over wiry black cattle.* * This unique region of France was described in "The Camargue, Land of Cowboys and Gypsies," by Eugene L. Kammerman, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, May, 1956. Nimble fingers-and a few toes-aid in mending nets at Marseille's Vieux Port. Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde, crowning the hilltop, supports a 30-foot statue of the Virgin. From the height, visitors survey the largest seaport and oldest city in France -the ancient Greeks knew it as Massalia-where the centuries have witnessed a fiery parade of navies across the Mediterranean. Here Yankee's cruise began and ended. KODACHROMEBY NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICPHOTOGRAPHERJOSEPH J. SCHERSCHEL© N.G.S.