Shocked to suddenly find herself in temporary possession of a six-ton canal boat in France, the author quickly realized that she should have asked more questions during the charter company’s briefing. But until cruising the canals, she didn’t know what she didn’t know. This is the book that she wished had been available!
A Practical Guide for European Canal Boat Charters is written by Heather C. Thomas (a French canal boat owner and former charterer) for the novice to this type of boating vacation. This book prepares the reader to cruise on the canals by highlighting qualities of a good charter company and offering tips for boat handling. The book covers basic waterway etiquette, includes photos of signaling lights and mechanisms, and presents detailed instructions on lock operation as well as insights into European culture. It also celebrates the beauty and simplicity of life on the canals and offers advice to travelers seeking a gloriously relaxed way to travel in Europe.
This guide is a must-read for anyone planning a canal boat vacation and is available as an ebook or paperback from Amazon.com.
“Of all the methods of travelling I have ever tried this is the pleasantest…”
– Thomas Jefferson, on the Canal du Midi, France 1787
Heather Thomas has written an information dense how-to guide for people chartering in France. This is a book to read and highlight carefully, in advance of your charter. Those of us who live on canal barges in France appreciate knowledgeable charterers. Follow Heather’s instructions – go slowly, moor securely, be friendly and not too loud – and you’ll make new friends on and off the water. Come to France. It’s addictive.
Of course I have many friends who have taken canal boat cruises down various rivers in Europe, but when I had checked on them, they were both pricey and “organized”, not my favorite way to travel. But Ms. Thomas’ book, A Practical Guide for European Canal Boat Charters, opened my eyes to a whole new way to travel. And as Ms. Thomas points out, “Cruisers are travelers, not tourists.” A way to unpack once, and travel at a leisurely pace, stopping when you want, seeing parts of the countryside you’ll not likely see any other way, and importantly meeting strangers who become friends, perhaps for only a day, perhaps for a lifetime. Once Ms. Thomas introduced me to this new idea of how to travel, enchanted me with her stories, then she proceeded to provide the information to give me the confidence that I could do this. Wonderfully practical knowledge, both about handling the boat, and how to make your way through the rural countryside of France, and deal with the constraints of living on a boat. While I have never owned a boat, nor chartered any type of boat, I now feel like I could make arrangements with a charter company, fly to France, and after a short introduction by the charter company (Ms. Thomas provides a checklist, so that you can be sure to get and see all the information you need), to take off on a 4 week trip (maybe even an entire season) through the canals of Europe. The how-to’s are intertwined with the right amount of descriptions of the travelling / cruising life to make this a great read, even if you skip over all the boat handling information.
Don’t even think of going on a canal trip without reading this book. It covers every aspect of taking a canal boat through Europe, on a charter or your own. Even if you’re taking a canal cruise, reading about the history, the canal etiquette, and the canal lifestyle will make your trip more enjoyable. It covers every practical aspect, but also gives you a great feel for what the canal life is like, all in interesting and readable style. I’ll be sending copies to friends who are dreaming of a canal adventure.
I have been travelling the canals & rivers of France for 14 years on my privately owned boat so this book did not offer me much in the way of advice and guidance. But this book is not meant for experienced cruisers — it is aimed fairly and squarely at those planning their first cruise. So now when friends of mine ask me for pointers on what to take, what to expect and how to go about planning their boating holiday in France I can simply refer them to this easy to read and informative book. It is concise and can be be read in an hour or two but every page has helpful advice. The small spend on this book should offer a decent return on your investment and help you avoid pitfalls & enrich your daily travels. You may only have a week or two on your hire boat but if you are armed with this book it should help ensure that you have no unwelcome surprises. In summary, if you have boating experience and have previously cruised the canals & rivers of France then you might not get much from this book. But if it is your first time, you will only benefit from the tips & suggestions contained in this book.
This IS a practical guide and you shouldn’t rent a canal barge without it. We started out renting canal boats in France for vacations, first with friends and then by ourselves. We loved it so much that we bought our own 22 meter barge and lived on it, cruising on the canals/rivers of France and Belgium, for the next 12 years. Everyone should have the pleasure of spending time floating along on peaceful canals, and with Heather’s help you will avoid most of the mistakes beginners make. Not only will you be thankful that you came prepared, thanks to Heather, but barge owners sharing locks with you will be thankful too.
This book is packed with clear, thorough, and practical advice. Heather Thomas provides insightful anecdotes and lots of guidance based on lessons learned. I highly recommend this guide!
An excellent guide for first-timers with everything you need to know to get going on your first cruising trip in France.
Walks you through canal boating and tackles topics i would have never thought to ask. A must buy for those thinking about canal adventures!
Excellent practical information in an easy to read format. Perfect for anyone planning a canal boat holiday. Worth the purchase. I’ll be recommending it.
If you’re contemplating a trip on the many canals of Europe this book is an excellent guide and a must read before you even begin your adventure. Filled with not only practical, “how to” advice, it also has great suggestions on fitting in well with the culture and norms of good canal boating etiquette. And after your preparations for the trip, take this book along with your other maps and waterway guides for the day to day tips. And enjoy the wonderful pace of seeing the country at the slower pace of canal boating life.