Self Driving boat in France fall of 2020

Dec 2nd, 2019, 07:36 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 28
Self Driving boat in France fall of 2020

We are looking to do a self barging trip beginning of October 2020. First time doing this and are looking for guidance. Two couples on one boat. Checking the different companies. LeBoat is very expensive. Not too impressed with their help trying to organize. Now, we're looking at other options. Locaboat and the Penichette style boat. More of a classic looking boat with all the features we want. Thinking that the South of France might be a good choice at this time of the year. We want to do a One Way Cruise. I see a lot of recommendations for Canal du Midi with small towns and good food and wines.

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated. We aren't looking for "cheap" since we will be staying on the boat for a week. Just want to be sure that our experience is a positive one.

Patti11 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 09:04 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 17,417
I'd do the following

1) Canal du Midi in October is a bit late but more likely to be warmer than the rest of France
2) I'd rent fro the French websites rather than any .com sites, ok you pay in Euros but the prices tend to be a bit lower
3) For two couples you need at least 6 births preferably 8 to have anything like enough space
4) The speed limit is pretty slow and these barges are all pretty much floating boxes, so you will want to keep the pace slow just to stay in control (4mph?)
5) A week is not a lot of time, people often take 2 weeks to do most (but not all) of available canals attached to Canal du Midi and, of course, you do need to decide before you start the rough route you will take
6) With October also comes a reduced level of support from canal-side restaurants and also the whole "piece of paper on the canal bank" offering you a restaurant and lift to it becomes a bit less common. There are food shops but not many large supermarkets and bread needs to be bought daily.
7) There are a few flights of locks, they can take a lot of time. NB locks stop for lunch (1 or 2 hours), believe it you just get to sit and wait.

Good luck, I'd make sure some bikes are onboard and try to extend to 10 days.

In terms of your questions
1) boat type, sorry no idea what you want, none of them are very exciting, I would stick to modern boats not wooden barges
2) Wine, well the region is one of the biggest wine areas in France. I prefer La Clape and Minervois (there is also a tiny Minervois sub AC but I forget its name).
3) One way (well from where to where?) are you going to Narbonne or Toulouse or Carcassone or Beziers?

Last edited by bilboburgler; Dec 2nd, 2019 at 09:08 AM.
bilboburgler is online now  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 09:44 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 47,887
I'd stay on land. Nothing about a barge on the Canal du Midi has even the slightest appeal for me. I always look out the car window when we are traveling in that region and see those flattened-out, half-drunk people on the decks of their barges and just thank my lucky stars I'm on land and can go where I want instead of floating at zero speed down an odorous canal with squidgy algae.

One way is pretty obvious. It's not a two-way street for the most part. If this year and last are any indication, you're going to freeze your azzes off in October. And those charming small French towns you're dreaming about will be pretty closed down.

A lot of things that are truly a pain in the tuchus look good in brochures.

You could have a thoroughly delectable vacation visiting Carcassonne, Toulouse, Castelnaudary, Narbonne, Perpignan, Collioure, and many other nearby places without subjecting yourself to a cold boat ride that will involve a lot of curt conversations with French people who'll be ticked off they have to be out at the locks at odd hours.
StCirq is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 10:03 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
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Last year and the year before, the Canal du Midi was flooded and damaged in parts during October. Flash floods and heavy rain are not unusual at that time of the year, they are called Mediterranean episodes. This year it has flooded south east France very badly but later than October (last week and yesterday, with loss of life).
Odin is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 10:46 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 20,991
For two couples you need at least 6 births preferably 8 to have anything like enough space

That depends on the style of travel one is used to. Back in 1995 we went one way on the Burgundy canal, two boats, 12 people with two couples sleeping in the common rooms, and the friendships survived quite well. But we were all used to camping.

I was the sixth one on that boat.
Michael is online now  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 12:18 PM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,534
My canal boat experience is limited to a 3-day rental on the Canal du Midi beginning and ending in Trčbes during the first week of April. We were with another couple and took a boat similar to the Horizon type on the Le Boat site. It turned out to be a good choice because of the upper deck from where we could see over the high berms that line the canal, as well as drive the boat. The cabins and salon were well laid out. In the more traditional penichette, you are very low with few views beyond the canal banks.

The first day we went from Trčbes to Carcassonne where we tied up overnight. It was a very stormy night so we did not venture out away from the boat. The second day we went back down past Trčbes and continued to near Marseillette where we tied up again for the night. Another boat, a penichette with six people aboard, tied up next to us and we were invited to go onto their boat to see the layout. It was very tight and I think they were already struggling somewhat with feeling cramped.

Going through the first half dozen locks was fun. After another dozen or so, not so much. There are a lot of them. Because it was early April, we never had to wait so October might be similar. My most important advice would be to have some thick, waterproof gloves for handling the lines when going through a lock. The lines get wet and the canal water is dirty and unsanitary since waste from boats goes straight into it.

I'm very glad to have had this experience and there were some highlights. The bright yellow kolza/rapeseed fields and the beautiful trees along each bank were beautiful. Picturesque stone bridges. Crossing a river on an aqueduct designed by Vauban in the 17th century was amazing. Would I want to do it again? Probably not. Three days was about right.

Good advice from bilboburglar. Hope your trip works out and is everything you want it to be. It's a wonderful part of France.
MaineGG is offline  
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