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Old 05-20-2014, 09:45 AM   #1
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Canal Cruising in France

Hi Everyone-

I just joined the forum last night, after lurking for a few weeks. From what I can gather y'all (all y'all?) like photos and stories, so I thought I'd post some info about something completely the same (boating) yet totally different (on a canal in France). And for those who didn't read our "hello world" post on the Welcome Mat, we are looking to buy a 38-42' (44'?) trawler, preferably a single-engine DeFever or GB, first for cruising the east coast/ICW/Bahamas and then for full-time live-aboard.

My favorite wife and I own a 29' fiberglass boat in France, currently on the hard in south-east Burgundy, awaiting our return next month. She (the boat, not the wife) was built in 1991 in England for use by a charter company in France. The layout is actually pretty similar to that of a GB42; forward V berth, forward head, galley up, L-shaped settee with engine "room" underneath, then two steps down to a double bunk master cabin and head. We have both an inside and outside driving station. And believe it or not this all fits in a package 29' long and 11' wide.

The canals impose very different constraints on boats than the open water does; we have to worry about not only draft (1.2 meters on the smaller canals) and beam (the locks are 5 meters wide), but also air draft, to fit under the low bridges; 2.75 meters will get you under every bridge in France, and if you forgo the southern section of the Nivernais Canal and the central portion of the Midi Canal, you can get by with about 3.1 meters of air draft.

There are two very good things about canal boating; first, there is no anchor to drag - you just tie up for the night pretty much wherever you want. Boats even come with big stakes and a sledgehammer for you to make your own mooring. Second, the speed limit is 8km/hr, or just under 5 knots. So we generate plenty of power with our 43 hp Nanni diesel (Nanni is a French company that converts Kubota tractor engines for marine use). They get a workout; ours accumulated 12,000 hrs in 20 years of the charter trade, and we've put on another 700+ hrs in 3 seasons of cruising. My mechanic told me it won't need a rebuild until 15k hrs. Nice!

And best of all, we burn 2 LITERS per hour. So I always get a chuckle when I read a trawler listing on Yachtworld that says something like "economical fuel consumption at only 5 gallons per hour!" I'll just need to get used to talking in gph instead of lph.

Ok, some pics:

1. The marina at Aigues Mortes, on the southern coast near the Rhone River - we are the second boat in. It was our first night of ownership, and we hadn't yet applied the bow graphic.

2. The "raison d'être"; fresh bread, pastries, cheese and jam

3. Big barges moored along the Midi Canal

4. Our boat tied up for the night on a make-shift mooring a couple weeks later, now showing off her bow graphic

And for those who are interested, there are many (many...) more stories and photos at unexcusedabsences dot "the usual". Click "Read from the Beginning" and scroll down to find boating stories starting mid April 2011 with the post titled "You Bought a What?!?"
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Old 05-20-2014, 10:15 AM   #2
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Very nice. I also did some European canal cruising while living in Germany, and thought maybe it would be interesting enough to post something here about it. The trouble is, without challenging the definition of full-displacement hulls or musing about anchors, I'm not sure how much attention the thread would get!
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Old 05-20-2014, 11:05 AM   #3
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The trouble is, without challenging the definition of full-displacement hulls or musing about anchors, I'm not sure how much attention the thread would get!
OP did not address the issue of whether the canal boats are full displacement based on the scientific principles previously discussed, or just go slow because the boat is underpowered.

Always wanted to do a canal boat in France, this post caused me to look up the charter rates.
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Old 05-20-2014, 11:21 AM   #4
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Always wanted to do a canal boat in France, this post caused me to look up the charter rates.
Excellent! We can attest that it is a most awesome way to see Europe.

And in attempt to get more viewership to this thread (grin), full displacement hulls are much better in the canals, since they track straighter. The slowness is dictated by the VNF (French canal authority), so there's definitely no risk of planing at 5 kts. We've followed flat-bottomed boats that skate all over the place, so a nice long keel and tapered bow and stern are a huge plus.

Cheers
-Kent
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Old 05-20-2014, 05:14 PM   #5
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I very much enjoyed reading "The Plastic Butterfly" and gaining an insight to some of the canal cruising.
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Old 05-20-2014, 05:23 PM   #6
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Very nice. Canal cruising in France is on my Bucket List but will probably never be checked off the list.

You said your "favorite wife". How many do you have?
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Old 05-20-2014, 06:22 PM   #7
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I have long held a great desire to go canal cruising in Europe, so I am looking forward to reading thru your website

You might also find this other subject thread, on this forum, of interest
Living Aboard a French Canal Boat

...and one of my favorite canal boat designs, Roi Soleil


And another subject thread I started on another forum
Inland Waterway Cruising Boats, Barges, etc


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Old 05-20-2014, 10:31 PM   #8
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Très bon Mr Apres,

Nous suivrons avec intérêt....
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Old 05-20-2014, 10:51 PM   #9
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You said your "favorite wife". How many do you have?
I was wondering who would pick up on that. I have five - and it's a long story. The short version is that 5 years ago I skippered a caribbean sailboat charter with my wife and four girlfriends. We all had a blast, but the best part (for me, other than the topless sunbathing ) was pulling into an anchorage and watching the other boaters counting the women on deck and then slowly realize that t here were no men to go with them. It was over Halloween and our group costume was the classic arab-sheik-and-his-five-wives thing. So to distinguish my actual wife I started calling her my favorite and it kind of stuck. But there's a lot more to the story than that. Some pics of that trip are at "doctor vacation" dot "the usual" and then it's the third link down on the left, titled "BVI and St. Barths".

And Brian, thanks for the links, Roi Soleil is quite beautiful. She appears to be a "Luxemotor" design, and there are a number of hulls like her floating around France, in various states of repair/disrepair/renovation. One of the most beautiful and aesthetically pleasing hull shapes out there. I've attached a pic of a boat called "Saroche", which is available for charter for something like $35k per week.

And I should have searched harder in trawlerforums, I did a quick search for "canal" but didn't do the advanced search. So clearly I'm not the first one to talk about canal boating in France here (grin).

To re-enforce some of the other past contributors to the forum, canal boating really is the best way to see France. We've had some incredible experiences there, and the French people have been uniformly welcoming and enthusiastic when they learn we're Americans. On a side note, we've had to cary a stash of American flags because apparently most other Americans are afraid to admit their country of origin, and pass themselves off as Canadian or something else. We proudly fly the American flag (Après Ski is after all a US Coast Guard registered vessel) and we can't count the number of times French people have told us they never see Americans on the canals. I refrain from telling them that there are actually lots of Americans cruising around, and instead offer them a flag, which 100% of them (so far) have been genuinely happy to receive. Our tiny contribution to international relations.

Et enfin, merci dhmeissner!
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Old 05-21-2014, 12:31 AM   #10
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The short version is that 5 years ago I skippered a caribbean sailboat charter with my wife and four girlfriends. We all had a blast, but the best part (for me, other than the topless sunbathing ) was pulling into an anchorage and watching the other boaters counting the women on deck and then slowly realize that t here were no men to go with them. !
Wifey B: My hubby gets a lot of that as most of our friends are females and typically if we go out it will be him and a bunch of bikini clad babes. Or to South Beach, then topless. He's so freaking spoiled...hehe. Plus our girlfriends all absolutely adore him....well, they like me too. Sunday was just three of us and him so not up to your five. Yesterday, just me. But then at home by the pool too so he's use to it.

Unfortunately they all work so not on our long cruises much.
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Old 05-21-2014, 02:03 AM   #11
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Hi everyone, I'm a newbie to the Trawler forum. I live on board the canal du Robine which is just off the canal du Midi in the South of France. I sailed/cruised my boat here from the lakes in centre of Ireland, if anyone has any questions or queries I'd be happy to help out. If you Google 'How To Cruise Between Two Sea's' and download a free Kindle reader you can see the canal du Midi from Bordeaux to Sete to give you an idea. I'm not pushing sales, you can read the first 30% absolutely free.
The VNF, (Voie Navigables du France) speed limit mentioned in an earlier post is to stop the wash undercutting the canal banks and the ubiquitous plane trees on the canal du Midi were planted to anchor the banks, give shade to the horse drawn peniche's (now extinct), prevent weed growth(no direct sunlight) and to stop evaporation.
The cost of hiring a boat depends of course where you hire, there is a site called Groupon in Europe which gives discounted offers for a wide variety of things from restaurants to glasses and sometimes gives discounted cruiser hire so it's worth watching if you are planning to visit..
I hope this is helpful.
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Old 05-21-2014, 02:12 AM   #12
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Après Ski,
p.s Your boat is a semi displacement Aquafibre 32 built by Aquafibre at Rackheath in Norfolk, England, the company built fibreglass cruisers from the early 60's for over 35 years and had a reputation for tough, solid build quality cruisers for the hire market and probably built over 80% of the hire cruisers in Great Britain. The hire boat fleet you bought yours from were 98% built by Aquafibre before being taken over by the German travel group TUI.
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Old 05-21-2014, 02:28 AM   #13
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In reading about the canals, I find the beauty of the area to be incredibly attractive as well as the towns and people and history. Now, the cruising I must admit would be a huge adjustment as I'm not use to 5 knots and also not use to the frequency of locks and bridges. In reading, it sometimes seemed like a lot of work not to get very far in a day. That pace would be different but doesn't mean not enjoyable.

I do enjoy completely different cruising grounds than my norm and while it will be many years before the canals are on my agenda, I do think it could be an incredible experience one day. Meanwhile it's a pleasure cruising vicariously with the rest of you.
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Old 05-21-2014, 02:58 AM   #14
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Aahh. European canals.



Would be convenient if one could accommodate an automobile:

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Old 05-21-2014, 06:56 AM   #15
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The secret of canal cruising is to go slowly and enjoy each town and region you pass through.
The tourists all make the same mistake, they hop off a train doing 400 mph then jump on a high speed train and rush take over their hire boat, when they discover it only does 5 knots they get a bit disgruntled but by the end of the week their minds have slowed down to the pace of life and they've begun to unwind and enjoy it and discover that Manana's a bit on the quick side and siesta's can be great fun(if you bring a partner).
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Old 05-21-2014, 07:21 AM   #16
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The Continent is not the only place to enjoy the canalboat life. We spent a very enjoyable time cruising in one in England in 2011, and can highly recommend it. Going through the locks and tunnels is a whole new experience compared to the usual sea type cruising.
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Old 05-21-2014, 08:10 AM   #17
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...as I'm not use to 5 knots and also not use to the frequency of locks and bridges. In reading, it sometimes seemed like a lot of work not to get very far in a day. That pace would be different but doesn't mean not enjoyable.
Hi B&B-

It all seems daunting at first, but after your third lock you come to look forward to them - really! It's a chance to stop, look around, take some pictures, try out your French on the lock keeper, meet some locals - you'd be surprised how many people out for a stroll or bike ride will stop to watch a boat locking through.

We've traversed 1,267 locks in our three seasons of cruising (yes, I do keep track) and always enjoy the experience. Below, a pic of one of the 189 manual locks on the Burgundy Canal. The second pic is us in one of the giant commercial locks on the Seine (we're the tiny speck off the port-side transom of the big barge).

Cheers
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Old 05-21-2014, 09:48 AM   #18
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....
To re-enforce some of the other past contributors to the forum, canal boating really is the best way to see France. We've had some incredible experiences there, and the French people have been uniformly welcoming and enthusiastic when they learn we're Americans. On a side note, we've had to cary a stash of American flags because apparently most other Americans are afraid to admit their country of origin, and pass themselves off as Canadian or something else. We proudly fly the American flag (Après Ski is after all a US Coast Guard registered vessel) and we can't count the number of times French people have told us they never see Americans on the canals. I refrain from telling them that there are actually lots of Americans cruising around, and instead offer them a flag, which 100% of them (so far) have been genuinely happy to receive. Our tiny contribution to international relations.

Et enfin, merci dhmeissner!
That is really good to hear,...especially after our treatment of their country for not supporting the Iraq war.

I was a little concerned as I found my experiences in France during the start up of the Formula 40 multihull racing in the early 70's to be a great experience.

They went on to really embraced the idea of sailing competitions and feats across the world's oceans like no other single country. It fostered a lot of new developments in the world of sailing.
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Old 05-21-2014, 10:22 AM   #19
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Topless Trip to Miami

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Wifey B: My hubby gets a lot of that as most of our friends are females and typically if we go out it will be him and a bunch of bikini clad babes. Or to South Beach, then topless. He's so freaking spoiled...hehe. Plus our girlfriends all absolutely adore him....well, they like me too. Sunday was just three of us and him so not up to your five. Yesterday, just me. But then at home by the pool too so he's use to it.

Unfortunately they all work so not on our long cruises much.
Reminds me of an occasion I had one time on a Sunday afternoon cruise from Ft Lauderdale to Maimi on a 60 Chris Craft. A good friend of mine and his wife happen to have the day free, and his wife invited 5 other females along for the ride. As we crossed over the yacht basin in Ft Lauderdale, we noticed that a big Navy ship had just arrived early that morning. The idea arose that both he and I would just hide out of site and let the ladies pilot the boat down beside the ship that was docked along the waterway going south.

Naturally the all-girl crew drew a lot of attention from all the sailors that were out on deck. But when all the ladies decided to go topless and wave up to the sailors,... pandemonium broke out. I thought some of those sailors were going to jump ship !!

Quite interestingly there was a sudden hush that went over the Navy ship, so Terry & I peaked out the saloon window to see what was up. Way up on a bridge of the Navy ship an officer had come outside to see the source of the commotion. He took one short look, nodded his head and returned inside to the bridge. The sailors went craze again.

That set the tone for the rest of the day. the girls just remained topless for our cruise down to Miami, and there were numerous vessels that passed us going north, that would flip around and come back for a second look.

Great fun that day
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Old 05-21-2014, 11:16 AM   #20
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Hi Everyone-

I just joined the forum last night, after lurking for a few weeks. From what I can gather y'all (all y'all?) like photos and stories, so I thought I'd post some info about something completely the same (boating) yet totally different (on a canal in France). And for those who didn't read our "hello world" post on the Welcome Mat, we are looking to buy a 38-42' (44'?) trawler, preferably a single-engine DeFever or GB, first for cruising the east coast/ICW/Bahamas and then for full-time live-aboard.

"
Welcome aboard.

I'll be in the Netherlands by October and I had always hoped to be able to do the French Canals, but it seems the air draft of my KK42 at 4.2 meters is too high.

I'm going to figure out how far in I can get from certain places, like Bordeaux for example.
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