Barge Shopping


Barge Shopping

We shopped online before we left the U.S. to see what was on the barge market in Holland, Belgium and France. It was a good way to get an idea of what features we wanted in our boat, and of what we could expect barges to look like inside, but everyone agrees that boats that look great and affordable on the Internet, do not live up to the promise of their photos when you see them in person. The brokers sites, however, will give you a list of the components on each boat that is useful when comparing the barges that you are considering.

After looking at all of the boats that we could find on the Internet, we made a list of the ten most important items that we wanted on our boat and used that list as a guideline for choosing which boats to see in person. You will need to see the boat in person to inspect its condition and actual physical layout. You would be very lucky to find a boat that meets all of your requirements, and that is ready for you to move onto and cruise away. Many people find that one special boat that captures their heart, and that boat sometimes sends that carefully prepared the list of requirements right out the window. That happened to us.

Our boat was one of the first boats that we looked at in France, and we liked it immediately, even though it did not meet a couple of the items on our list. After looking at several other barges in France, we drove to Belgium and Holland to see as many barges as possible. Everyone had advised us to do this, because barges are plentiful in Holland, and it is thought that they less expensive also. We looked at many barges, but we never saw any boat that had the wonderful features of our barge. We had already fallen in love with its back deck and the large wheelhouse with a kitchen and dining area.

We came to France with our dog and suitcases and duffle bags full of what we thought that we would need to cruise for a few year before we bought our barge. We had booked in advance into a gîte, a farmhouse near the major barge brokers in St. Jean de Losne, thinking that we would stay there just while we looked at barges in the area. When we decided to purchase our barge from a nearby broker, we asked to stay for two months. We were told that the remodeling work that we were having done on our barge would be completed by then. In the end, we lived in that wonderful farmhouse for six months, and we now count Nathalie, the owner, as our best French friend. Our advice is to make plans, but don't be too disappointed when nothing happens as you expected. We have good friends that we met when they also booked into the gîte. They had booked for 3 days, thinking that they would stock their newly bought boat with supplies and cruise away. In France, particularly in small towns, there is not just one store where you can go to buy furniture, linens, electronics etc. Shopping to outfit your boat takes longer than you would expect. Consequently, we all lived together at Nathalies for 2 months, and we became great friends. Nothing happens quickly in France, and that is part of the joy.