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