Renting a Boat--Canal du Midi

Jul 17th, 2010, 07:31 AM
  #1  
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Renting a Boat--Canal du Midi

Has anyone ( or someone you know) rented a self-drive boat for a trip along the Canal du Midi? Would like to hear about the experience. WE DO NOT want to take the "hotel canal crruise boat"....did that many years ago in Holland...it was great, but we are looking for another type of trip. Merci!
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Jul 17th, 2010, 03:25 PM
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I have no personal experience with self-drive boat rentals, but an excellent website in general for Languedoc is www.creme-de-languedoc.com. They do have listings for boat rentals.
historytraveler is online now  
Jul 17th, 2010, 05:25 PM
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Thank you...just went to the web-site....very informative--bookmarked it-- and it will help with a future decision
reg Canal du Midi!......still would like to hear if anyone has had an "on-hands" trip with a self-drive rental.
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Jul 17th, 2010, 05:37 PM
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We did this about 13-14 years ago with another couple and had a great experience. We picked up the boat in Narbonne and made our way to Carcassone and back over the course of a week. (After that we drove Narbonne-Carcassone by car in about 75 minutes!) We did it in early May, which was great -- mild and sunny. We tied up anywhere we wanted to stop; we were told that in mid-summer boats line the banks and you need to stop fairly early in the afternoon to get a "parking spot."

We booked a boat with two master cabins, each with its own bath, so neither couple was consigned to a "child-sized cabin." The main sitting area/galley had a roof that slid back on sunny days. We also rented bicycles that rode on the roof; we would stop, hop on the bikes, and head for the nearest village bakery to find things for lunch (or more wine). Stopped once at a chateaux for wine tasting.

There were virtually NO tour guides detailed enough to cover this region, but the rental company provided detailed canal information, suggestion where to stops, restaurants, etc. We ate in small towns along the way and NEVER had a bad meal. We were certain that the whole thing was programmed by Disney -- you'd stop in a small village and here came a pretty young girl pedaling along on her bicycle with a bunch of flowers and a baguette in her basket!

Driving the boat was easy -- they all have "baby buggy bumpers": rubber bumpers around all the sides. You could easily predict which day of a week-long cruise any given boat was on, depending on how frantic or relaxed their actions were when they approached a lock. It only took a day or so to become confortable with the process.

The other couple booked everything through Connoisseur Cruises; at the time they had a US booking agent which made payment easy. We also saw a lot of Crown Blue Line boats as well, but both companies have apparently merged with Le Boat. I found this site, which might give you some leads: http://www.connoisseurboating.co.uk/...nal_du_midi/73
skibumette is offline  
Jul 17th, 2010, 05:41 PM
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If you've ever managed a power boat or house boat, you can do this easily. We were sailors, so knew boats...but the larger motor was new to us. But no problems steering -- and it didn't take long to learn to manage the locks. (Managing the ropes while going up is more work than lowering the boat while going down!)
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Jul 17th, 2010, 05:52 PM
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We have two lots of friends who have done this - one group had a fabulous week with a group of friends and have raved about it. The other group were unlucky and it rained every day which made for a very soggy trip. I think they were unlucky though and it is definitely something I would like to do. Have you watched Rick Stein's trip? We get it here on tv, but you could buy it on dvd.
cathies is online now  
Jul 17th, 2010, 06:06 PM
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We did it, although not on the Canal du Midi. I chose the Canal de Bourgogne because it had more "old stones" to see. A one way rental is preferable to a round trip. If going one way, try to go upstream--not that the canals have any current--but the locks are generally kept open on the downstream side, possibly to minimize the growth of algae along the lock walls. When traffic is light, it means that one can go right into the lock instead of waiting for it to be filled. We did 50 locks in one week, so that the waiting does start to add up.

For our rental we used Rives de France.
Michael is online now  
Jul 17th, 2010, 06:49 PM
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We took a Connoisseur boat on the Canal du Midi in the first week of April, 2000. Our boat was the Corvette with two master suites. There's a description at the link below:

http://www.leboat.co.uk/flotte/corvb

The best feature of that type of boat is the high sundeck with a steering position. It puts you high enough to see over the high berms that line the canal. There was very little traffic on the canal at that season, but people have told us of crowded conditions during the summer, as well as very hot weather and mosquitoes.

One thing I wish I had had was a pair of heavy, waterproof gloves for handling the wet lines when going through locks. The canal water was pretty unsavory.

We were very pleased with Connoisseur. Altogether it was a beautiful and memorable experience.
MaineGG is online now  
Jul 17th, 2010, 07:57 PM
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Last year, I hired two boats from www.locaboat.com for classmates reunions in Burgundy along Canal Nivernais, I was the only one with boating ezperience, but everyhting went qutie well.
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Jul 18th, 2010, 12:45 AM
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You have received valuable info above.

We were planning on doing the canal du Midi at one time and have driven/walked along it on several occasions. The water seemed to be "stiller" than that of other regionss' canals so seemed to have more growth, but there was not disagreable odor. It is a slow paced activity and about a week is all I could do of this sort of activity. We ended up doing a portion of le Canal de la Marne instead through Locaboat, but had a wonderful experience and would gladly do it again.

See if you can find an updated version of "Canal Cruising in the South of France - The Romantic Canal du Midi" by Pixie Haughwout and Ralph Folsom. My copy is a revised 3rd edition dating from 2003. It's about an inch thick and has all the maps, technical information, history on each halt and what services are to be found as well as helpful tips on where to stop for vrac wine, regional goodies, etc. If you can't get a newer version, I wouldn't trust the restaurant info or prices, but the other info would still be valid.

Here are a couple of tips I haven't seen mentioned:

Most companies, you pick up your boat after 3:00 pm and do the drive-around "get-to-know-your-boat" and are underway. For us there were several folks ahead of us, which meant we freed up to leave rather late in the day and all those boats were now ahead of us waiting in line at the first lock. We chose instead to spend the first night at the base in Lutzelbourg and leave in the morning; this gave us a chance to get to know the boat (how to run the stove, heat -it was beginning of Oct-, shower, etc. As it was fall and getting dark earlier, we didn't feel like this put us behind and we enjoyed the more leisurely pace in the morning on the lock. This also gave us the opportunity to address any issues immediately with Locaboat if something hadn't worked properly or we couldn't figure out how to make it work.

If you plan on moving out right away, the optimum, imo, is to stay at a hotel near the canal base the night before you are to pick up the boat. Be sure to reserve ahead because that is what lots of people do and if you wait until you arrive, you won't have a room. In the morning you do your grocery shopping (remember a lot of businesses still close for lunch until 2-3 unless there is a large chain store like Centre Le Clerc nearby) and be the first in line for your boat and can then head off earlier.

Besides the aforementioned gloves, if you are only a couple, bringing McDonald's or other fast-food salt/pepper/ketchup/mustard packets works better than having to buy a big bottle of condiments and have to waste them at the end of a trip (We hadn't thought of packets and had to buy "big" of everything which we left in a box at the Locaboat picnic tables at the end of our trip, hoping some new arrival would be able to use them--but it was money poorly spent; packets would be best). Bring a clear plastic jug or two for refilling with local wine along the route. Remember unless the canal is electronic, which the Midi is not, the locks close for a 2 hour lunch period.

Lastly, someone mentioned "locking-UP" as being a time saver. This is true, but try not to be the first boat into the lock if there are several of you (boats) If they cram you in like sardines 1) you take the full force of the intake waters at the front of the lock, which is in and of itself un-enjoyable but (think of being suddenly hit by the water gushing from a dam sluice) 2) your rope person really has to fight like *#!* to hold the boat in place and not ram the boat behind you, making them very unhappy if you don't succeed. You'll often see experienced boaters letting the novices in first and then stand by with their pole hooks at the ready in case the first boat comes back at them...and the poor sots thought they were being "nice" letting them go ahead!

If you are more Senior or not as spry, you might want to consider locking-down, if you have a choice of one-way direction. First, you enter the lock already filled so rushing water is not an issue and you don't have to fight the incoming water. Second, it is easier for the rope handler because you start out at the height of the bollocks and just ease the rope out as you descend down with the flow of water (imagine a bath tub emptying); the handler never has to leave the boat. In locking up the rope handler has to work at getting the rope around the bollock which is like 15 feet higher either with the boat hook, exiting along the bank, which sometimes requires a hop then a walk up to the lock or climbing the mossy slippery ladders in the canal (not recommended)...definitely a little more physically challenging, though very doable.

Lastly, definitely get the bikes! They are fun, useful and worth every sous!
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Jul 18th, 2010, 01:29 AM
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I have not been in a boat on the Canal du Midi, but have spent many hours cycling or walking along the towpath, and standing watching boats go through the locks, and it appears as described above.

Locking up may have the problem of water spraying over the bow of your boat. The risk when locking down is that the stern of your boat gets caught on the sill of the lock, and this can be diastrous.

I noticed Klondike's phrase "you start out at the height of the bollocks". Do you mean the bollards?
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Jul 18th, 2010, 04:54 AM
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We have done a small barge in Burgundy (not a hotel) and loved it. On another board several years ago barging on the Midi came up, and a participant who lives in Provence said she would choose a different canal, personally. That there was more to see, and more scenic. That is just an FYI, and perhaps "worth exactly what you paid for it". ;o)
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Jul 18th, 2010, 06:36 AM
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we did the canal du midi with a French rental company. From Bezier up to the high point of the water and back again. Started at the top of the Bezier steps to avoid the delay, the boat we booked came into the harbour as we were waiting for it with all the crew at the bow (they had holed it at the rear) so we got the back up boat. This was ok but due to the slow speed required the steerage was terrible.

On some of the nights we stopped in little villages and ate in restaurants, tended to eat lunch on the boat. Renting bikes for the trip gave us a chance to get away from the boat. The boat we had had 8 births and only 5 crew and that ratio of 5/8 is about as tight as we could have put up with. The locks are oval which adds to the fun but all in all pretty easy.

Just a point the boats empty the loo into the canal so swimming in it is bad idea.

Any questions?
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Jul 18th, 2010, 08:22 AM
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The Canal du Midi is a good choice for "shoulder season" trips (we went the first week in May); it's the most southern of the canals and should be warmer at those times of year. We wore an anorak or light sweater in the mornings, but shed down to shorts and a tee shirt with sleeves by mid-day. Didn't need heating....

This is a leisurely way to see the French countryside; traveling through the locks and exploring villages was just the right amount of activity for those of us who get restless just lying on a beach somewhere.
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Jul 18th, 2010, 09:04 AM
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The pictures between the two maps are those of our Burgundy canal trip:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...7622755059630/
Michael is online now  
Jul 18th, 2010, 04:37 PM
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This is all GREAT Information...I can't thank all of you enough!
We have to decide, as spry "Seniors"( but not experienced with boats)....can we manage this
type of trip with ease & confidence. I saw that some choices could be 1-way or a short 3-day trip....will continue to do our research and take note of everything that was posted! Merci,merci.
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Jul 18th, 2010, 06:19 PM
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Michael---your pictures are lovely....the canal looks like a peaceful way to travel!
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Jul 19th, 2010, 05:00 AM
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I guess you might have to step up a couple of feet worst case and there are all kinds of things you can pull on or push
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Jul 19th, 2010, 03:13 PM
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Someone tell me more about how the locks work...opening/closing??? manual or any automatic...or a lock keeper??? I guess each canal would be different...and some canals easier for "novices"???? What do you all think???
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Jul 19th, 2010, 05:11 PM
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Most of the locks were manual when we went on the Burgundy Canal 15 years ago. There usually was a gatekeeper who worked the locks and we helped--you saw the pictures. Occasionally he worked two different lock sites and my recollection is that we could open and close the locks manually, but we were not allowed to open the valves to let the water flow in or out of the lock. I do not think that we even had to call; there must have been some type of warning system letting him know that someone wanted to go through the lock.
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