Tak­ing your boat to France is a dream for many, but just how do you go about it? Aileen and Mike Queenan did it and ex­plain all you need to know in the first part of their ad­ven­ture

Canal Boat - - This Month -

Think­ing about tak­ing a boat to France? Here’s some ad­vice from one boat­ing cou­ple who did it and their tips for a sucess­ful trip

Be­fore Quain­trelle’s base­plate was even a twin­kle in the welder’s eye, the plan was to take our boat to France once we had ex­plored the UK canal sys­tem. We were up in the north­ern re­gions of the UK wa­ter­ways for much of 2015, ac­com­pa­nied by cold winds for most of the sum­mer and our thoughts turned to France and warmer climes, so from Jan­uary 2016 the plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion be­gan in earnest. There were three ar­eas of con­sid­er­a­tion in terms of plan­ning;

How would we get there?

What did we need done to the boat for France? What did we need in terms of doc­u­men­ta­tion and qual­i­fi­ca­tions?

To start with we de­cided to go to France and find some­one who had done it al­ready and pick their brains, so in De­cem­ber 2015 we headed to Car­cas­sonne, on the Canal du Midi in the South of France, and rented a house for two months.

The French canals are gen­er­ally closed from Novem­ber 1 to March 31 so the wa­ter­ways were quiet when we got there,

but we got lucky and stum­bled upon wide­beam Xe­nia, owned by English cou­ple Charles and Pam Briggs. They had brought her over in the spring of 2014 and proved a wealth of knowl­edge, not just through talk­ing with them but also from their blog where Charles had ex­ten­sively listed ev­ery­thing re­quired for France.

We were in no doubt that we would not be cruis­ing across the Chan­nel, and the Briggs had shipped Xe­nia over on the back of a CPL lorry. Lift­ing out wouldn’t be a prob­lem as many yards in the UK have cranes able to lift nar­row­boats, and with Gay­ton Ma­rina just a short hop from Wee­don on the Grand Union, where our boat was fit­ted out by Jim Birch, it made sense to go from there.

Xe­nia had been put in at New­port in Bel­gium and nav­i­gated south into France, but hav­ing re­searched this op­tion, we de­cided against it be­cause it meant po­ten­tially nav­i­gat­ing through some heav­ily com­mer­cialised wa­ters and we prob­a­bly wouldn’t cope very well with the big wash from the com­mer­cial barges and other traf­fic.

Charles sug­gested Mi­gennes as an op­tion, south of Paris, where the River Yonne crosses paths with the Canal de Bour­gogne, and where Si­mon Evans Marine pro­vides craneage.

At the end of Fe­bru­ary we left Car­cas­sonne and jour­neyed north­ward through France, fol­low­ing the Rhone and Saone much of the way, hav­ing a look at some of the big locks we might need to nav­i­gate if we wanted to take Quain­trelle south to the Canal du Midi.

By the time we reached Aux­erre in Bur­gundy and met Mike and Les­ley at Aquarelle, who run the Port de Plai­sance

‘As it gets very hot in France in the sum­mer we’d need shade, not only when we were en­joy­ing our aper­i­tifs but also when on the move’

in the town, we had de­cided that rather than win­ter Quain­trelle in the UK and do an­other recce of France over the win­ter, we should just move her over and live on her in France dur­ing the win­ter, which would give us a chance to work on our French.

Les­ley said they’d wel­come us gladly for the win­ter and to con­tact them when we had fixed dates.

The next stop was Si­mon Evans’ yard in Mi­gennes. His crane would be able to lift us in and they had noth­ing booked in for the week we were now look­ing at, the last week in Novem­ber. It turned out that they deal with CPL fre­quently, so we con­tacted CPL for a price and made a

pro­vi­sional book­ing. Sud­denly it was be­com­ing very real – we’d be mov­ing to France on Quain­trelle at the end of Novem­ber!

When we’d been with Xe­nia in Car­cas­sonne, we’d also had a good look at her and quizzed Charles and Pam on how they’d got on with moor­ings and locks. Mike took pic­tures of the bol­lards they have on the front and sent them over to Jim Birch at Wee­don re­quest­ing some­thing sim­i­lar be made for Quain­trelle.

As many of the French locks are much deeper than in the UK, we also de­cided to adapt our dol­lies at the stern so that the ropes wouldn’t slip off. We’d also need a flag. In France you must fly the flag of your coun­try of reg­is­tra­tion, a cour­tesy flag, and boats from the UK must fly the red en­sign. We’d nowhere to put a flag so tasked Jim with fit­ting some­thing to hold the flag and pole.

As it gets very hot in France in the sum­mer we’d also need shade, not only when en­joy­ing our aper­i­tifs af­ter a day’s cruis­ing, but also when on the move; as all nar­row-boaters know, you are ex­posed to the el­e­ments when at the tiller. We found a para­sol that would pro­vide the cover we needed and added to Jim’s list of chal­lenges a way to hold it steady in po­si­tion at the front and back of the boat.

Back in the UK, by mid-April we set off on our trav­els for the sum­mer and en­joyed some great cruis­ing down south be­fore head­ing home up the Grand Union in late Oc­to­ber to make the fi­nal prepa­ra­tions for our move. At Mil­ton Keynes we stopped off to col­lect eight bal­loon fend­ers we had pur­chased.

We know that bumps and scrapes are part and par­cel of nav­i­gat­ing the wa­ter­ways in a nar­row­boat, but in France we would be con­tend­ing with big washes from larger boats push­ing us

against the sides when moored, not to men­tion some of the large locks with their strong cur­rents, so for us the bal­loon fend­ers would be ideal to cush­ion any po­ten­tial blows. This meant an­other Jim chal­lenge; how do we hang them?

Our handrail is in­te­grated to the body of the boat so we can’t tie a rope around it. In the past we had used the white plas­tic hang­ers avail­able at most chan­d­leries, but as soon as a fender snagged on any­thing, they would snap and dis­ap­pear off down the cut so they bwould def­i­nitely not han­dle what we might be de­fend­ing our­selves against in France.

Back at Wee­don, Jim had pur­chased a new ma­chine and be­tween him and his son Jack, they de­signed and con­structed stain­less steel fender hang­ers for us – per­fect!

As Jim and Jack worked away on the adap­ta­tions for Quain­trelle it was back to school for us as there are var­i­ous cer­tifi­cates you must have to cruise your own boat in France. The main one is the CEVNI cer­tifi­cate, which is like the High­way Code for Euro­pean Wa­ter­ways, and we did it on­line. For­tu­nately we both al­ready had our In­land Wa­ter­ways Helms­man cer­tifi­cates, which you must have to get the CEVNI.

Mike al­ready had his VHF ra­dio li­cence but I needed to sit the exam to get mine and we had to send our ra­dio back to the man­u­fac­turer to be ATIS en­abled, af­ter be­ing is­sued with an MMSI num­ber from Of­f­com.

Your boat must also be reg­is­tered on the Small Ships Reg­is­ter which then al­lo­cates your boat a unique SSR num­ber which must be per­ma­nently dis­played on the ex­te­rior.

All too soon we were on our way back down the Grand Union to Gay­ton Ma­rina on the Northamp­ton Arm where we were booked to be craned out on Novem­ber 28. CPL were meet­ing us there at 10am and we would be on our way.

The morn­ing of the 28th dawned clear and bright but most im­por­tantly still, there was not a breath of wind. The team at Gay­ton were fan­tas­tic. They had clearly done this many times and han­dled the crane and lift­ing out and load­ing of

Quain­trelle with the ut­most pro­fes­sion­al­ism.

Firstly the slings were dropped in the wa­ter and we steered into them, af­ter which we were pulled in to the side and dis­em­barked. Quain­trelle was then lifted up and down a few times to get the bal­ance right and then in a sim­ple four-minute ma­noeu­vre, was on the back of the lorry with Paul at the wheel ready to head to Mi­gennes. Next month the ar­rival in France and what you need to know to do it your­self.

‘All too soon we were on our way to Gay­ton where we were to be craned out. CPL were meet­ing us there and we would be on our way’

A per­fect op­por­tu­nity to touch up the hull

Xxxx xx x xxxx xxx xxx xxx x xxx xxxxxxx Bath­room door on the floor, the only ca­su­alty

Anx­ious time as the boat is lifted

Cup­boards tied closed to pre­vent spillages

Luck­ily the wind dropped on the day of the lift

Sur­rounded by French tri­colours, Quin­trelle finds a new home

Plants safely stored in the shower

Break­ables safely packed

The SSR num­ber is manda­tory

The River Yonne where we were craned in

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