Chartering in the Canals of France

In May 2007 we rented a boat and spent ten days in the Burgundy area of France. Here is a report on our experience.

Booking: We chartered through Crown Blue Line and were able to complete most of the process on-line at www.crownblueline.com. They also have an Annapolis office, if you wish to ask questions. The staff in each of the bases is multi-lingual.

Cost: There were three couples and we booked a vessel with three staterooms, each with a toilet and shower. For the ten days, it cost $2000 Cdn per couple. This also included bicycles for the ten days. We had booked outside of the “high season” and thus had lower rates.

Travel: We found the rail system in France very efficient, reasonable, clean and an easy way to get around the country. Tickets were purchased on-line before departure at substantial savings.

Checking-in At Base: This process seemed un-necessarily slow and time consuming. If we had known the length of the wait, perhaps our group could have split up and done the provisioning in that time. As a contrast, checking-out was quick and painless.

Weather: Our travel was done in late May and the temperature varied from extremely hot to quite chilly, as could be expected.

The Boat: Our vessel was exactly as indicated on-line. Linens and towels were provided. AC was available on this boat and we did use it several times. The few basic provisions that were pre-ordered were placed aboard for our arrival. There was no VHF radio, depth sounder, battery monitor or knotlog on the boat. Communications with Home Base was to be done by cell phone.

Food and Wine: Only bulky or heavy items were pre-ordered from the company. Local markets fulfilled our needs for groceries. And the selection of reasonable wines is amazing – good wine can be purchased for less than 2E or $3.50 Cdn. The cheeses were delicious and formed a basis of our cocktail hours.

The Canals: The lock system is quite efficient and simple to transit. Most nights we found dockage free of charge, some with power supplied. A chartbook supplied gave us information on the river, the towns and facilities available.

Language: None of us were fluent in the French language; in fact some had none at all. My high school French was mostly adequate and everyone we met attempted some English to help out.

Water: We purchased bottled water as part of provisioning. The municipal water is good quality (available on docks) and some in the group drank this water from the vessel tank with no adverse affects.

Stuff We Would Take Next Time: Clothes line and clothespins, lots of sun screen and hats as there is limited shade on the boat, peanut butter (not available in stores in France), GPS, a portable depth sounder.

The Bottom Line: It was an enjoyable, reasonable priced vacation that could be taken by persons without much or any boating experience. And it was a lovely way to see the countryside and small villages.

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