Subject: Re: Visiting France by Barge
Bonjour Sailors:

We have not taken that particular canal, but we have hired a barge for a couple of trips in Provence and on the Canal du Midi. If you are hiring a self drive barge as we did, then here is what we learned. We had the rental company send us the canal guide so we could read it before our arrival. It is helpful to know the canal signage before you start. Moreover, you can plot your distance ahead of time and make realistic goals. Barges are not fast; 9 KPH or so tops. Type A personalities can be reduced to Jello after a week on a barge. So, bring books to read and games to play.

We found that there is often more room in the brochure photographs than there is in the barge. We will make more barge trips, but we have hired larger barges than the rental company recommends. For example, our first barge was 30 feet and was advertized as accommodating 6 to 8. Four was perfect; six to eight would have caused massive mental trauma. Our second barge claimed it could accommodate 8 to 12; it was perfect for 6 of us. If younger children are among the 8, then I would go no less than 42 feet even if you are a really close knit family.

While you will not need gloves to handle lines in the locks, most of the Germans we met used them. If you are inclined to use gloves, then sailing gloves would be perfect: they have the tips of the fingers cut off. I brought a GPS from my boat; it was a toy and simply not needed. Check to see what linen they provide. Our first hire did not include towels; our second included everything. Of course, none of this is applicable if you are going on a crewed barge.

An experienced barger suggested that we bring favors with which to tip the lock keepers. We brought refrigerator magnets although baseball caps were also recommended. You can carry a lot more magnets than caps. It turned out that we were among the few people giving favors to the lock keepers. Nevertheless, we made a lot of lock keepers smile and appreciate the fact that we appreciated them. It was fun, so do bring somethings you can use as a tip. Do not give money.

If I think of more I will send it along.

Tom snowblowing in Carlisle.