Don’t overthink it! Just get going!


Why are we doing this???

My daughter, Alyssa, called and breathlessly shared that Elsa’s mother was selling her 52 ft. French canal barge.  The barge had been used as a floating B and B for almost ten seasons.  Donna and I had explored the option of booking a trip with Elsa’s mother.  Now there was not only the opportunity to take a trip on the barge, there was the possibility of purchasing it. Donna was in!

I have owned boats before.  I have sold them too.  The money I saved on moorage, maintenance, and repairs after getting rid of my 22 ft. sailboat financed a two week trip to Mexico and several trips to the San Juan Islands and Victoria B.C..  That was a small sailboat with an 8 hp outboard.  It was only a small hole in the water to throw money into.

My cursory research convinced me owning a 52 ft. converted mail barge was a nightmare to be avoided.  Chances that the barge’s electrical and mechanical systems were Dr. Frankenstein creations were almost a sure bet.  That the barge would require a new bottom sooner instead of later was highly likely.  I was intrigued, but increasingly doubtful.  Then I learned piloting a 52 ft. French barge down a French canal requires a pilot’s license that can only be obtained by passing a test given…in French. Nope!

It is possible to book passage on a hotel barge. That means you are booking a tour with a boat full of tourists.  Some people are drawn to that kind of communal Hell.  To me it has always seemed like being unable to escape from a flock of panicked birds. You’ve got three hours in this historic and scenic destination. On your mark! Get set! Go!!!

I like my own company.  I enjoy my wife’s company.  I am exuberantly social for as long necessary. Then I prefer to be left alone.  Exploring new places with a crowd of strangers, newly found friends, or any other grouping sounds claustrophobic to me.  Being berthed next to a barrel-chested pair of geriatric newlyweds shagging their way down a French canal would launch me into a monologue not suited for polite society. Imagine the breakfast conversation. “Did you sleep well last night?” A hotel barge was never an option.

So, we looked at renting a smaller craft from one of the outfits who cater to the tourist trade.  Self-piloting was the only option we considered.  This meant that Donna, a confirmed insomniac, started her 3 am research regimen. She is extremely thorough, and my “wants” list was very simple. I want a flying bridge.”  ” Anything else?” ” A working head, a galley, and a flying bridge.”  With that settled Donna started contacting boat outfits and ordering guidebooks.  I set about translating all the nautical concerns I could think of into French.

BATEAUX (bat-toe)

( My apologies to people who actually speak French. Google Translate and Spellcheck assure me the following are what you might say if you don’t speak any French at all. ) 

  1. The toilet won’t flush. Les toilette ne videra pas. (Lay toilette nay vee-dare-uh paw.)
  2. The toilet is backing up. Les toilette est la sauvegarde. ( Lay toilette ay la sove-gard.)
  3. The battery won’t charge. La batterie ne se charge pas. (La bat-ter-ee nay say char-jzay paw.
  4. The engine won’t idle. Le moteur ne sera pas ralenti. (Lay moture nay sera paw relenchi.)
  5. We need more fuel. Nous avenues besoin de plus de carburant. (New avon bez-wan day plue day car-bure-aunt.)
  6. Where is the fuel dock? Ou’ est le qui de carburant? (oo ay lay kay du car-bure-aunt?)
  7. The water heater isn’t working. Le chauffe eau ne fonctione pas. (Lay chofe o nay func-shun paw.)
  8. Can we moor here? Pouvon nous amarrer ici? (Poo-von new amar-rare ichi?)
  9. Is there shore power available? Il best puissance de rivage disposenibles? (Ill ay poi-sonce day ree-vaj deese-pon-ee-blah?)
  10. Is there wifi available? Y at il une connexiuon wifi? (Ee at-ill on connex-eeon wee-fee?)
  11. Can you write the password down please? Escririez vice le mot de pass se il vous plait? (Ee-cree voo lay moot day paws…sil voo play?)IMG_2613


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