Notes from Other Boats
New book about barging in France
Written by Bill and Nancy   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 20:07


People have always told us that we should write a book.  Well, we didn't, but a couple that we met while we were living in Paris did, and it is well written, laugh-out-loud funny, and true.  We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.  Bonne lecture!




Written by Christian and Charlotte Huber (Kinette)   
Sunday, 12 July 2009 00:00


Our Swiss friends on Kinette recently sent us this email about their cruising adventures.  Chris is a great photographer, so even though their web site is written in Swiss German, you should still go there to enjoy their pictures.

Dear friends

When we left Roanne Easter Monday, we had two fixed appointments: The DBA rally in Paris June 12 - 17 and the shipyard in the Netherlands September 4 - 11. So we had a lot of time to mess around the latéral à la Loire, the Briare and the Loing Canal. Here it was again, our Burgundy rhythm: three hours cruising, three days biking and exploring the region. In Beaulon we had "little Roanne" (the escaped ones...) with Andries and Rita (Weltevreden) and the Kyrenia-people. Once in St-Mammès (June 2) we made our DAF breath the fresh Seine air which it obviously appreciated.

The DBA rally in the Villette basin was gorgeous, about 30 barges, decorated with flags and pennants. What an eyecatcher! Socializing from morning until late in the night was hard work but of course great fun. Moreover we had our son on board who appreciated his private chambre d'hôte in the middle of Paris.

Down the Seine, up the Oise and spending a fortune at Guerdin's in Compiègne because we needed new ropes, new batteries and fuel. We discussed how to head north: Canal de St-Quentin or Canal du Nord? We had heard interesting horror stories about the Canal du Nord, heavy traffic and nothing but concrete banks - but we never have done it before so we did it. Just great! Thanks to the economical crisis few traffic, professional work of the lockkeepers and thanks to the VHF no waiting at all. The region around Péronne where we crossed the Somme river was absolutely marvellous! Mooring - to be honest - was not as we were used to but we always found a quiet place to stay overnight, mostly upstream of locks.

At the end of the Canal du Nord, in Arleux, we headed towards Dunkirk on the Escaut-Dunkerque (grand gabarit) Canal, a water highway again. We left it to reach Lille because we had friends on board who wanted to catch the TGV.

The canalized Deûle to Lille was green of algae, and the Don lock so full of algae you could have walked on it. Every half hour we had to stop,turn off the engine and clean the water strainer. Great fun.

Lille is worth a visit. No, absolutely no amenities for pleasure craft, but a hidden mooring in the "bras de la citadelle", just in front of a park and a greek restaurant. You know the Greeks? Their gastronomy? Their overwhelming friendliness? We could have spent the rest of the year there!

From Lille we cruised down the Lys (lilly in english), a quiet, small, rural river with the name it deserves. Weed, algae, shallow - great fun again.

On the Canal du Nord, in one of those endless long  lock, we met a professional captain transporting some hundred tons of grain. In the next lock, he said on VHF: "You seem to be nice people. I have a private mooring just before Dunkirk. Come and see me!" He explained us the entrance in the old Canal having to be done in reverse but we would have water and electricity. You have to take those opportunities if they come to you!

It was a very - VERY! - windy day (Flandres is flat as flat can be!) when we tried to turn 180° to enter through a narrow bridge into the Canal de la moyenne Colme. But the wind was so strong we just had no chance to turn on the grand gabarit Canal. So new decision: we enter there forwards. The bridge has on its two pillars wooden crash protectors. To be correct: it HAD two wooden crash protectors. One is missing now by unknown reasons.

Anyway, we managed to get in that Canal and saw (i) our captain friend and (ii) three steel piles close to the left bank. We had strong offshore wind. Repeat: Strong offshore wind. To make a long story short: We managed to throw our ropes to the bank (the steel piles would have cut them), we managed to get as close as possible to those steel piles, there was no gangway with the appropriate length and the wind blew that day, it blew the next day - and we were on our ship and saw the bank. No way to get out in reverse with this wind. Again: great fun.

Day three we woke up at 7 a.m. No wind. No breakfast, no completing our morning toilet. Just our check list "standard operating procedures for take off" and there we went, in reverse, back to the grand gabarit. It was like escaping from jail.

This happenend just some 8 kms from Dunkirk and, frankly said, Dunkirk's barge moorings are more than grotty. So we decided to enter the Canal de Bergues.

And here we are at the moment: Bergues. Scenic medieval fortress with a splendid harbour nobody seems to know, water and electricity and all amenities of a Ch'ti town. By the way: They really turned it here, the movie "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis". Bergues is French, its Flemish and it's marvellous. Once more we wonder how people can choose an other lifestyle than messing around with a barge!

Next week we want to make the Furnes-Canal to Belgium, the Lo-Canal up, the river Ijzer down and then - of course! - Brugge and Gent.

Now that's it for the moment.

We miss you, we hope you are okay, you enjoy life and you have a good time!


Charlotte & Christian Huber
M.S. Kinette
En voyage sur les voies navigables

Their journey continues with this update from September 13, 2009

Dear friends

About two months ago we reported our gorgeous journey from Roanne to belgian Flanders and we told you that boat and crew never did fail. If you now expect juicy stories about break downs in the worst possible moment: letdown! Thanks to the work done by Foster the last winter and the winter before we made it without the usual disaster (you remember Texas Bill? "In fact we do not cruise but we stumble from catastrophe to catastrophe"). Even two very, very long journeys, one of 84 kms (Gent-Antwerp) and one of 98 kms (Antwerp-Drimmelen NL) with full speed ahead didn't get Kinette worked up. Brugge was nice but very, very touristic and we felt ripped off. Gent was much more relaxed, a gorgeous town too and very friendly people. From Gent to Antwerp we took the fast train by waiting for the flood and then surfing down to Antwerp in six hours, sliding around the corners of twisting River Schelde. Great fun!

We left Antwerp 6 a.m. and cruising through the huge commercial harbour in the morning haze just before sunrise was a moment to die for. Hope you'll like the pics on our homepage as soon as report #56 is online.

Some quiet days in the nature reserve "Biesbosch" in southern Holland and then we headed for the shipyard. With Dicky and Ton Wilhelm ("Vrouwe Dirkje") we had arranged to go there one after the other. We helped and hosted each other and this turned out to be a perfect arrangement.

After all the experiences we had made with shipyards ("Oh! You're already here? We are behind! But you only have to wait one week!") this was heaven: arrival 9 a.m., hauled out 9.15 a.m., start high pressure cleaning 10 a.m., ship clean 11. a.m., prop off 11.15 a.m. and so on.

As we had some work to do to make Kinette conform to TRIWV (Technical Requirements for Inland Waterway Vessels) it looked like the pit stop at a car race: shipyard workers painting, insurance expert inspecting the hull, electrician installing an echo sounder and a transponder (expensive and useless gadgets we are obliged to have if we want to get that f... TRIWV certificate), carpenters making lovely teak hatches - above, below and in the boat were workers and in the eye of the hurricane Charlotte made coffee for everybody. Great fun again.

Now we are off the shipyard, our billfold is empty and we are happy. The weather being fine at the moment we have decided to mess around on those beautiful rivers and canals before we slip into the scenic town harbor in the centre of Gorinchem where we will spend the winter. A beautiful, small, medieval and fortified town, on the banks of the Rhine, here called Boven Merwede.

Everything would be fine if you all were here too. We sorely miss you and we are looking forward to seeing you again where ever it may be!

From Holland with love

Charlotte & Christian Huber
M.S. Kinette
En voyage sur les voies navigables d'Europe


Written by Mike and Jane Burgess (Drumsara)   
Thursday, 29 January 2009 00:00

Mike and Jane Burgess wintered with us in the Arsenal in 2007-2008.  When Spring came they headed south, and last January, Mike emailed us this very funny note about his adventures as the captain of Drumsara.


G'day Thought you may appreciate an update on my idyllic life on the french canals.

Well, since we returned from Oz my back has been playing up. Now this is not a new occurrence but I must say it was worse than normal and eventually I submitted to Jane's demands and took myself off to the chiropractor (by taxi coz I could not really walk). Anyway after a good massage that afternoon I felt much better and looked forward the first good nights sleep in many weeks. Alas the next morning I could not resurrect myself from the horizontal  position on the bed. Eventually I slid to the floor like an old carpet snake and hoisted myself up vertically with the aid of a well positioned cupboard. So now it's of to the Docs (bloody Chiro) and from there to the X ray clinic utilizing my best french as I go. (Well actually Jane's best french) Then, back to my favourite medico for the final assessment. Aahhaa, the expert opinion, Your back is rooted.  Like no joke! tell me something I didn't know. What have you been doing to yourself?  So I explain my 18 year heroic military career accompanied by the appropriate sympathetic murmurs from the medico. Aahha well I suggest you go to see the chiropractor was the resultant educated diagnosis. Bloody great. Now I digress.
I know you are a bit of an expert on boats so I won't go into the mechanics of hot water systems in to much depth except to say Drumsara was cunningly designed to have 2 separate and independent hot water systems, an immersion heater that works just like a domestic household hot water system and also a hot water boiler that runs on diesel. You probably also understand the curing properties of hot water running down a very crooked back. Well here is rub, at this point in my shattered life the immersion heater element decides to pack it in. Not only putting an end to the hot water but also shorting out the 240 volt breaker. No problem, with a flick of the switch the good ol' diesel boiler comes to the rescue. However being one that like to be fully prepared a decision was made to undertake repairs to the hot water system asap.
After adequate scrutiny, it became obvious that part of the wet exhaust had to be removed to allow access to the element, no problem given the extremely confined space with a stuffed back. At last, here it comes, christ a lot of entrained water pouring out into the bilge. No problem I'll mop that out later.
Did I happen to mention that water into the bilges runs into 5 separate compartments, all well hidden under the engine, gensets and a maze of other equipment, wires and hoses. You have to be a bloody hobbit to get in there. Anyway, back to the element, problem!!! no tool to remove this huge nut that is deliberately recessed to make it totally impossible to extract it with any other mechanical component short of dynamite.
Now in the process of wrestling with the element, I inadvertently and purely unintentionally leaned against a pump, a portion of my damaged body must have made slight contact with the mass of confusing pipework leading from the good ol' diesel boiler. Shit where is that water coming from. Never mind a huge monkey wrench will fix that little problem.
Oops that seems to be making it worse, time for the hammer !!!!  Now a smart man knows when he's beat but I'm sure with one more good tug I can stop it. Bugger, now it's leaking from the top of the seal too. Jane, call the plumber." What have you broken now?" she cries.  Never mind that just get the bloody plumber. The plumber, on being advised that the boat was almost sinking kindly agreed to rush over within a day or two.
So now no immersion heater and no boiler. By the way did I mention to you that the boiler also runs all the heating radiators on board. No, well it does. What the weather forecast Janey? 3 degrees, not too bad could be worse.
Of course the other minor problem, it has been necessary to shut off the water basically to stop the engine room from flooding. No water ?????, No showers (Too bloody cold anyway)  No toilets ??? Ooopppss !!!!!
Soon (37 hours 17 minutes and 23 seconds) my bestest friend in the whole world, the plumber, arrived.  Armed with an even bigger monkey wrench and a set of the correct washers, the good old boiler was fired up and we set about defrosting Drumsara. Of course he will also fix the immersion heater. What do you mean you don't have the right tool? Use the bloody dynamite. Ok, I will order the tool from the UK and you will return  to fit it when it arrived. Tray bon Mate.
By this time under the skillful hands of the chiropractor I was now able to raise myself on all fours. An amazing feat.  Given that there was going to be a week before the extremely technical tool would arrive it was decided to  evacuate the afore-mentioned water from the bilges. Only took 2 hours and then another 3 visits to the Chiro, now aptly renamed the master of pain.
Should only be a couple of days now before that tool arrives, what can I do while I'm waiting? I know the genset needs a run. Now I think I did mention previously about removing part of the wet exhaust to get at the immersion heater. I sort of forgot that the genset also discharges through this system. Aaahh, 20 litres of water pumped into the bilges by the time I was able to scamper up to the wheelhouse to shut the generator off. Oh well, still a couple of days before the tool arrives and the plumber returns. Plenty of time for another Houdini act and recover the water from the bilges and another couple of visits to the Chiro now known as Atilla, the inquisitor.
At last the tool arrives and my true buddy (le plombiere) returns for the delicate operation. In a matter of seconds, with one deft turn of the tool the delinquent element comes loose and with it, 50 litres of water pours into the bilge. The plumber gives me a wry smile and mumbles an apology, the prick. If my back wasn't so bad I would have picked up that huge monkey wrench and wacked him with it.
Well that's life on Drumsara so I cannot dally any longer I have bilges to clean and then its of to see Aldof the macerator.
from a very horizontal captain and engineer
Mike and the rest of Drumsara's scurvy crew
Mike & Jane Burgess
Somewhere in France

" The advantage of being lost is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries."