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Old 24-02-2016, 14:33   #1
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Canal Boat in Alsace (France)

It's not the forum's hottest topic, but a couple of people have mentioned it so I'm throwing the question out for comments. After the planned sailing this summer, we're looking at a canal boat (rental) in Alsace in the fall. Exact location is the first thing we need to determine - we're thinking we'd rather be close to the Vosges mountains than the Rhine plain, but on the other hand don't want to spend all of our time in locks.

Aside from any thoughts on that subject, there are a few other questions on my mind:

If you have experience renting, are there specific companies or bases that you would recommend (or not)?
What should we think about in the planning and budgeting? Any surprises to watch out for?

Is there anything to know about handling these boats? They're supposed to be idiot-proof: in France they'll apparently rent them to anyone, with no qualifications required. Are there any surprises waiting to happen?

And any other thoughts from anyone who has done it before ...

(We know Alsace well - just not by boat - and speak French, so we have those aspects covered.)

Thanks,
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Old 24-02-2016, 15:59   #2
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Re: Canal Boat in Alsace (France)

Sounds like a fun trip.

I can't offer any advice, as I've never done it, but I did research it last year. There are a couple of primary companies people use (Leboat is one of them), and they come up rather quickly via Google.

I do know people who have done it, but in the Loire Valley, not Alsace. They had a blast. I think they're pretty slow and idiot-proof.

Keep us posted as to what you end up doing.
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Old 24-02-2016, 17:25   #3
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Re: Canal Boat in Alsace (France)

Quote:
Originally Posted by AnglaisInHull View Post
It's not the forum's hottest topic, but a couple of people have mentioned it so I'm throwing the question out for comments. After the planned sailing this summer, we're looking at a canal boat (rental) in Alsace in the fall. Exact location is the first thing we need to determine - we're thinking we'd rather be close to the Vosges mountains than the Rhine plain, but on the other hand don't want to spend all of our time in locks.

Aside from any thoughts on that subject, there are a few other questions on my mind:

If you have experience renting, are there specific companies or bases that you would recommend (or not)?
What should we think about in the planning and budgeting? Any surprises to watch out for?

Is there anything to know about handling these boats? They're supposed to be idiot-proof: in France they'll apparently rent them to anyone, with no qualifications required. Are there any surprises waiting to happen?

And any other thoughts from anyone who has done it before ...

(We know Alsace well - just not by boat - and speak French, so we have those aspects covered.)

Thanks,
We did this trip in 2012 with Le Boat. If you want you can read my blog posts covering it although its a bit more for the family and not so informative at times. (http://macblaze.ca/?cat=28).

The boats are idiot proof. Of course the idiots challenge that a bit so watch out for them. The bigger fear is you being the idiot and banging into (or just get close to) one of the privately owned cruisers. They aren't covered in rubber front to back like the hire boats and the owners will cast a baleful eye your way if you threaten their paint.

If you want to stray into the German river system you will need some sort of license/certification. We faxed a copy of our PCOC and they said they would accept that but in the end we stayed in the French canals. Personally I enjoy locks, although we've always had three aboard so they aren't much of a challenge.

We've done all our chartering with Le Boat. No complaints in the three trips we've done although we did have a bicycle break down on us on the Alscace trip. It took them a day to drive out a replacement. Out trip was an out and back from Hesse to Strasborg and back. It gives you some Alscase, some Lorraine, a tunnel and a fantastic trip down the lift at Arzviller. I will say the countryside outside Strasbourg was a bit on the boring side compared to other trips we've done.

Rent bikes (mountain bikes). Check where the bases are and where the nearest grocery is. There might be some cab rides involved. Also check the nearest train stations. Two out of our three trips have been one way and there is a premium for that. Worth it in my books. Go a minimum of 11 days on a 7 day route; otherwise it's just too damn rushed.

And if you are going for the wine, Alscase isn't your best choice and don't be tempted to try the reds. Trust me.

Nicols has some nice looking boats and there was a company renting steel boats out of Niderviller I think which had gorgeous ones.

Just be careful; there is a liberal sprinkling of German in their French that kept throwing me for a loop. Oh, and plan to spend a few days further north in Trier on you way home. Amazing history...

Let me know if you have any other questions. I love the canals; it is a fantastic way to see the country and buying a boat there is not out the question for us yet.

Bruce
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Old 25-02-2016, 01:43   #4
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Re: Canal Boat in Alsace (France)

Can't help you with Alsace, but we keep a boat on the River Saone and have mostly cruised the Burgundy canal and the river so far.

You might find Cruising the Waterways of France by Boat or Hotel Barge a useful source of information if you haven't discovered it.

The VNF website also has a useful passage planner at VNF - Calcul d'itinéraire fluvial if you have an ambitious itinerary. There's a similar facility on the Fluviacarte site at Fluviacarte, cartes et guides pour la navigation intérieure.

GORDON KNIGHT
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Old 25-02-2016, 06:10   #5
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Re: Canal Boat in Alsace (France)

Macblaze,

Thanks for the information - very helpful. In particular I may be making too big a thing about the locks - is it true that they're pretty well all (Arzviller being an obvious exception) small and automatic? That would certainly make them less of a time-waster. My only locking experience to date is on the Welland Canal, which is another order of magnitude entirely.

No, you don't go to Alsace for red wines, alhtough they're getting better, but don't knock the whites. We will also be spending a week with friends who are wine producers; they produce a couple of classics including an Altenberg de Wolxheim that are worth the trip on their own merits.

Also thanks for the comments on LeBoat. Right now I'm working with a wholesaler in Montréal who deals with them and two or three other companies, so they are a possible choice.


athene,

Good references - thanks much.

George
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Old 25-02-2016, 07:13   #6
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Re: Canal Boat in Alsace (France)

I have many friends that have done this. pulling up to the river bank riding a bike into town for fresh produce and bread.


the biggest problem they had was fighting over who was going to drive


the locks are the most fun interacting with the usual husband and wide lock tenders


have a great time
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Old 25-02-2016, 07:25   #7
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Re: Canal Boat in Alsace (France)

We chartered with LeBoat in Sept. '13. Our itinerary was the Canal du Midi from Castelnaudary to the Med.; 62 locks downhill. Beautiful weather in Sept., not crowded, people were friendly, etc. Had a blown coolant hose on day 5 and LeBoat sent a repairman who came & had it fixed in about a 3 hour window. The boats have bumpers and navigation is a no-brainer. The only thing i would change would be to allow more time for sightseeing. It felt like we were rushing it to be at the final destination at the designated time. 1-2 more days would've been great.
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Old 25-02-2016, 07:52   #8
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Re: Canal Boat in Alsace (France)

George

The different canals all have different lock systems. Some have lock keepers, so me have switches you have to engage. The locks on the Canal de la Marne were automatic sequences. You had to give the lock keeper a call on their phone (at the lock) and tell him you were heading downstream and he would start the cycle. Then the next 5 or six locks would run automatically for you as you entered. Occasionally you have to wait for another boat but it was rarely a chore. If you stop mid way during the cycle, all you have to do is give them another call to reset the cycle. Not as fun as the ones on the Canal de Nivernais, but not a chore by any means.

The only big elevation change in the Canal de la Marne heading towards Strasbourg was a series of 11 locks now replaced by the lift. (be sure to go for a bike rid down the path by the old locks. Other than that it was pretty flat as I recall, almost boringly so after you got out of the mountains. But it's pretty countryside nonetheless.

I don't think you can go wrong with Le Boat or Nicols or Locaboat. I would choose the boat and the route that suites you. One of the reasons we have always gone with Le Boat is they have a searchable website and I could get the boat I wanted on the days I wanted.

Be sure to grab a fly bridge; I never liked driving from inside. Also make sure there is a deck for eating al fresco.

And we drank the whites. Lots and lots of whites We brought back a traditional ceramic carafe so we could keep on drinking whites after we got home. It was actually a good wine-learning experience.



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Old 25-02-2016, 08:15   #9
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Re: Canal Boat in Alsace (France)

Now I'm really getting eager!
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Old 25-02-2016, 08:23   #10
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Re: Canal Boat in Alsace (France)

In France we chartered a Penichete from " Locaboat ". They are on-line with prices and destinations.
Last week of season. Not too many locks on the picturesque canal Du Midi.
Mountains and ocean. Rent bicycles too.
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Old 25-02-2016, 08:32   #11
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Re: Canal Boat in Alsace (France)

I chartered from Locaboat out of Lutzelbourg in 2013 for a week. I thought it was terrific, although not very many cities to reprovision from. Interesting canal building elements like bridges over natural rivers and lakes, and the Arzwiller Boat Lift, which should be one of the Seven Wonders of the Canal World. Fascinating that anyone would build something that large to lift barges 45m in the air.

Very nice scenery, easy to bike around (although the bikes provided weighed about 50# with their run flat tires). I rented a 1107 which was fine for our family of five.

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Old 25-02-2016, 09:10   #12
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Re: Canal Boat in Alsace (France)

We rented a Penichete from Locaboat, went on Canal du Midi with our 2 year old god daughter and her mother. Everyone had a great time, boat was very easy to handle, locks were a breeze and broke the day up nicely. The slow pace was perfect to the point of grandmas passing us on their bicycles at times. Tied up pretty much wherever we wanted, either to fixed object ashore or when nothing handy just drove some stakes into the bank to tie to. Hammer & stakes provided with the rental. Locaboat folks could not have been friendlier or more helpful. We rented bicycles from Locaboat and used them lots to explore. The boats are purpose built, very sturdy & handled much like our sailboat under power. Easy. We would not hesitate going back to Locaboat if doing it again.
Edit: forgot to mention that this was about 10 years ago but Locaboat continue to be good.
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Old 25-02-2016, 09:41   #13
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Re: Canal Boat in Alsace (France)

Oh, one more thought. Going downstream is easier than going up if your crew are not good at getting a rope around a bollard that is 5 feet overhead. Otherwise you might have to disembark crew before going through the lock...
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Old 25-02-2016, 18:21   #14
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Re: Canal Boat in Alsace (France)

Have used Locaboat, Le Boat, and HPP. All are good companies and will take good care of you. The boats are easy to handle and they will take you out on a checkout run to show you how everything works. I would recommend not going during the summer months when all of France is on holiday and you will be fighting for mooring space and have long waits at the locks. Bon voyage!
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Old 25-02-2016, 21:20   #15
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Re: Canal Boat in Alsace (France)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Macblaze View Post
We did this trip in 2012 with Le Boat. If you want you can read my blog posts covering it although its a bit more for the family and not so informative at times. (http://macblaze.ca/?cat=28).

The boats are idiot proof. Of course the idiots challenge that a bit so watch out for them. The bigger fear is you being the idiot and banging into (or just get close to) one of the privately owned cruisers. They aren't covered in rubber front to back like the hire boats and the owners will cast a baleful eye your way if you threaten their paint.

If you want to stray into the German river system you will need some sort of license/certification. We faxed a copy of our PCOC and they said they would accept that but in the end we stayed in the French canals. Personally I enjoy locks, although we've always had three aboard so they aren't much of a challenge.

We've done all our chartering with Le Boat. No complaints in the three trips we've done although we did have a bicycle break down on us on the Alscace trip. It took them a day to drive out a replacement. Out trip was an out and back from Hesse to Strasborg and back. It gives you some Alscase, some Lorraine, a tunnel and a fantastic trip down the lift at Arzviller. I will say the countryside outside Strasbourg was a bit on the boring side compared to other trips we've done.

Rent bikes (mountain bikes). Check where the bases are and where the nearest grocery is. There might be some cab rides involved. Also check the nearest train stations. Two out of our three trips have been one way and there is a premium for that. Worth it in my books. Go a minimum of 11 days on a 7 day route; otherwise it's just too damn rushed.

And if you are going for the wine, Alscase isn't your best choice and don't be tempted to try the reds. Trust me.

Nicols has some nice looking boats and there was a company renting steel boats out of Niderviller I think which had gorgeous ones.

Just be careful; there is a liberal sprinkling of German in their French that kept throwing me for a loop. Oh, and plan to spend a few days further north in Trier on you way home. Amazing history...

Let me know if you have any other questions. I love the canals; it is a fantastic way to see the country and buying a boat there is not out the question for us yet.

Bruce
We have been talking about demasting our Beneteau 50 (draft 1.8M Beam 4.4M) and spending a year in the canals. Not sure which ones. It this feasible or just a numb ass idea? I suppose the Boat would sit a bit higher with the mast off? Less draft?
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