Subject: Barge trip in Provence
They are called barges, but the craft are specially built for canal travel and creature comfort. There are traditional barges that can be hired, but it is unlikely that they are self-drive. A friend of mine hired a traditional barge last spring. It came with a crew of three and a gourmet chef. It cost $35,000 for seven days. We paid $800 for 5 days; we were the chefs gourmet or otherwise. I have a few decades of boating experience which includes both power and sail craft, but the operation of the barges do not require a great deal of experience; just common sense. The company sent material about two weeks prior to our arrival. It was pretty good, simple and easy to understand. At the beginning of the hire, the agent went out with us to demonstrate proper operation and allow us to get a feel for the boat and docking procedures. There were four of us; all but one shared the driving. The engines are diesels. For someone who is unfamiliar with boats and/or diesel engines, I would suggest finding someone with a 30 foot or so sailboat, diesel powered, and getting tips on operation of the diesel and docking (especially use of docking lines). We used a company called H2O, but there are several companies on the web and all will send you a brochure. One important thing to remember is that space on any boat is limited. Our barge was advertised as capable of 6 to 8. We had four and that was plenty. Any more and we would have been tripping over each other. We plan to do it again next fall on the Canal Midi in a one-way rental. We will have 6 people, but we plan to hire a 42 foot barge which is advertised as having a capacity of 10. In a week or so I will post pictures on my website.