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Old 01-10-2020, 06:37   #1
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French waterways, questions

Hi there people! It's been a lot of time since I wrote my last post here.
I've been working as a sailing instructor and sailing a lot by the way.
Now I am planning to sail the French waterways (canals) may be in 2021 or 2022.
My questions are related to season (weather), and any tips you might have to make of this the best experience.
Of course, as a sailor I will research all I can about the proper boat to make that trip as I am thinking of renting a power boat (though sailboats are my world, I know the problems a high mast can be for such kind of sailing, narrow passages, trees, and so on.
Well, thanks in advance.

PS: I am starting to read and get infomation through this website: https://www.french-waterways.com/
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Old 01-10-2020, 17:37   #2
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Re: French waterways, questions

Climate change is impacting the canals with droughts causing lower water levels and sometimes forcing closings and/or shortened open periods. Check before you go. You are right to want to use a power boat. We rented a Penichette and found it very well thought out and efficient. They have a central pilothouse that is raised up so you can see everything. Aft, down some steps is the galley/dinette area. It has windows on three sides so it is airy and you can see out. Forward, down some steps, are the sleeping cabins and head, with portholes for ventilation. The deck goes from the pilothouse forward, so line handling is pretty simple. The roof of each section is at a different height, which makes it easy to step aboard in locks as the boat goes up or down. They're not overpowered, so you spend less on fuel. Locaboat, which rents them, provides two steel stakes and a hammer that you can use to tie up to the canal bank. (Not too close to any lock, though.) We saw many other rental boats - standard power cruiser designs - that were not well suited to canals. Overpowered, they were still restricted to the canal speed limits (the lock masters can tell if you show up too soon from the last one) so they waste fuel. Many didn't have cleats in the right places for securing lines in locks, or their cleats are too small for the lines. Some require going through the cabin and up the forward hatch to get to the foredeck to handle lines- no side decks. Lots of them had big flaring bows so that fenders were useless against the lock walls; they hung down too low to work. Their dining and galley areas were often down below so there is no view for the cook and the cooking heats up the sleeping areas, making summer nights uncomfortable. Few hatches or opening ports adds to their problems. https://www.locaboat.com/en/boats/pe...tes-classique/
We went to Joigny to rent our boat, starting on a Saturday. Saturday is market day in Joigny, making it easy to stock up for a week's cruise. Prior to getting the boat a skipper's meeting is required. The head mechanic took a bunch of us out to show us how the boats work for about fifteen minutes. They are pretty simple. He went through his spiel once, in French, for the English, American, German, Spanish, French and Italian skippers picking up boats that day. There being no questions, he handed out the keys. If you have a problem, you call them. They can get help to you quickly since they use the autoroute, not the canal, and tend to drive a lot faster than a Penichette. Beautiful countryside and historic places to visit. Count on eating in some of the best restaurants in France in the towns that line the canal routes. Bon voyage!
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Old 02-10-2020, 13:48   #3
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Re: French waterways, questions

Thank you very much for your reply!
One more question, when you can, are these boats powered with diesel or fuel oil (British people say petrol)?
Thanks again.
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Old 02-10-2020, 14:09   #4
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Re: French waterways, questions

We have had some experience similar to PSK125 on short rentals.

Locaboat, Le Boat, and Nichols appear to be the big three rental companies in France although there are many smaller local companies that won't necessarily show up in a web search. But, as far as I recall, they are very oriented to weekly rentals and I don't know if they offer a cost-effective long term option.

Looking at the type of boat they offer will give you some ideas of what to look for - they are optimized for canal cruising. My only problem with the boats we had is that the throttle is barred to prevent you from exceeding the canal speed limit. Understandable, but caused some problems maneuvering in wind on a couple of occasions. Aside from that they're idiot-proof; I am living evidence.

In answer to your specific question, the boats were diesel powered.
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Old 02-10-2020, 15:34   #5
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Re: French waterways, questions

A friend cruised those canals over years. Both the main N-S canal and the other canal (I believe called Burgundy one).


Draft is the obvious subject. Check yours. The canals get shallower every year and especially in dry years. Invest in big pro-grade strainer easy to clean and check underway.



The weather is horrible in the winter. Basically you want a lovely dock and that's how you spend the winter there.


It is very beautiful there. Romantic in a way. AWESOME FOOD.


I always envy people who cruised there. The adventure, the diversity and, sure thing, the wines and liquors (Cognac, Champagne, Burgundy, Chablis, to name only the four wind gods). Real non-pasteurized cheese, real fat butter, eggs from hens, not from factories. Truffles, dried ham, pate ...



Use google sat images to pre-plan and dream. Docks are visible there. Where there are docks people will also anchor (shore to shore - when narrow). Also visible on some sat images.



Cheers,
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Old 02-10-2020, 16:15   #6
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Re: French waterways, questions

We did a week, one-way, on the Canal du Midi. It was a spectacular experience. The canal opened in 1680, so pre-Industrial Revolution. It was built to use the topography not overcome it. it meanders around one hill and swings around the next. As others have said, wonderful food and don't forget the wine. We got in the habit of eating out at lunch and food shopping and having breakfast and dinner on board.
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Old 02-10-2020, 19:42   #7
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Re: French waterways, questions

The Canal du Midi was apparently great fun to build. The engineer in charge kept getting delayed by an administrator who wasn't sure how things would work out at different points. So the engineer told the administrator to go back to Paris to see what the King said to do. While the administrator was away the engineer went on building as he wanted, so the administrator returned to a fait accompli.
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Old 03-10-2020, 04:15   #8
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Re: French waterways, questions

If you have a sailboat, it's very much possible to pull the mast and use your current boat. The one catch is draft.

It's not so much climate change but canals tend to silt up and need to be dredged periodiclaly...France has a lot of canals and limited budgets. Seasonal changes in water depth are normal.

Our ideal boat would be a small catamaran (taking beam limits for the locks into consideration. We've checked out the French system in a few places but didn't have a chance on a boat. We did do a summer on the Eire canal in out Gemini and it was a great platform.
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Old 04-10-2020, 22:54   #9
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Re: French waterways, questions

Looking forward to doing it in our boat, post-covid19. If you're buying for that purpose or renting, take a look at the DBA (Dutch Barge Association) who have private forsale ads as well as excellent information on the entire European canal network - don't discount Belgium and the Netherlands in your travels. If it's your own boat, you can even plan (like us) doing the "European Loop" and travel over the top: Rhine-Maine-Danube to the Black Sea, coming back around the Med (either up the Rhone or via Biscay). A lesser known route - and that's being generous - is through the Baltic, across the Russian lakes and canals, and over the top of the world and down the Norwegian fiords. Not in a Dutch barge though or canal boat though!
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Old 05-10-2020, 03:33   #10
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Re: French waterways, questions

Hi, hereby a lot of web site, about boat hiring and navigation.
Some of them could be out of order, and most of them are in french, but Google translate is your friend.


En bateau, Location de bateaux sans permis - Tourisme fluvial Les Canalous Alsace - Location bateaux Alsace et croisière fluviale Alsace location bateau , location bateau sans permis, Location Bateau,location bateau fluviale, peniche, penichette | river and boat Accueil - Louer une péniche pour les vacances Tourisme fluvial, Danfluvial Location de bateaux - Tourisme fluvial en Alsace et dans le Bas-Rhin En peniche, vacances fluviales en bateau sans permis Location de bateau sans permis sur les canaux et rivières d'Alsace Lorraine : Navig France. CrisBoat - Tourisme fluvial- Location de bateaux sans permis, peniche, penichette en France et en Belgique Location d'un houseboat avec Crown Blue Line Tourisme fluvial - location bateau et péniche en France et en Europe - LeBoat Location bateau, location péniche et croisiere fluviale - Tourisme fluvial avec France Passion Plaisance Babou Marine - Location de bateaux sans permis sur les berges du Lot Lot Navigation : location de bateaux–Bouziès St Cirq Lapopie
Inland Waters Resources Plovput | Пловидба | Електронске навигационе карте Elektronischer Wasserstraßen-Informationsservice - [Inland-ENC Dateien] Digital chart Rhine, Weser, Mittellandkanal, Elbe, Mosel, Danube Germany, etc. CEN - Fairway Information Services ANPEI association nationale du tourisme fluvial Index Fluvialnet le site du magazine fluvial http--www.vnf.fr-vnf-home.vnfaction=vnf La Péniche et le Patrimoine fluvial - voies navigables L'Institution d'Aménagement de la Vilaine EPTB Vilaine CNR - InfoRhône Histoire et Patrimoine des Rivières et Canaux ecluse Ports de Plaisance à Paris EuroCanals-Cruising the Canals & Rivers of Europe France waterways map Peniche bateau fluvial de patrimoine VNF - Calcul d'itinéraire fluvial Fluviacarte, cartes et guides pour la navigation intérieure Dernières actualités Plaisances Waterway Depths, Heights and Widths for Cruising in France Canal du Midi Fluviacap, Outil de calcul d'itinéraires fluviaux - Fluviacarte Cruising the Waterways of France by Boat or Hotel Barge VNF - Voies navigables de France - Cartes Ecdis Voies navigables de Bretagne – Navigation DTNE : Direction territoriale Nord-Est VNF Cartes ECDIS – VNF Actualités... - accueil - Escales Fluviales de Bretagne – canal de nantes à brest, Blavet, canal d'ille et rance et vilaine
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Old 05-10-2020, 22:31   #11
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Re: French waterways, questions

Thanks for this topic. Never crossed my mind to do this before and now I'm thinking it's a great idea. +1 is quite keen on the Pénichettes. What a great way to explore a region.
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Old 05-10-2020, 22:57   #12
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Re: French waterways, questions

I and a diverse group of friends did the Canal du Nivernais in 1995 and the Canal du Midi in 1998 using Locaboat as our charter provider. Among the most enjoyable vacations I ever had.
That was a long time ago, but other than changes in the depths I suspect things haven't changed that much. I intended use the canals on my European cruise in 2005-2007 on my sailboat, but by that time the projected depths got a little too close my boat's draught, so I decided to use the Strait of Gibraltar to enter the med instead.

Here's a link to the pictures and descriptions of those charter trips: Canal du Nivernais, Canal du Midi

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