Welcome to Part Two of “Gascony in a Self Drive Boat.” In this segment, I plan to describe the boat we rented for our one week trek to le Mas d’Agenais and look at a few boat handling tips.
Most rental companies have a captain’s handbook located on each boat which should be your first reference. Le Boat, for example, has this one on their web site. Follow the link to take a peek – you can download it. Captain’s Handbook The British Waterways and The Environment Agency also have “The Boater’s Handbook: Basic Boat-Handling and Safety” for download at The Boater’s Handbook It pertains to boating in general, not just the British waterways. I’ll review a few things that I think are especially important and some things I see people doing that cause them problems that may not be included in these handbooks.
The boat you chose for your self-drive cruise is very important. You don’t want to pack more people in than you are comfortable “living” with in close quarters over the period you rent your boat. My husband and I like our space and privacy. You can save some money by packing in the people but my advice is make sure you are comfortable with it otherwise it can ruin your time on the water.
We chose to rent a 29 foot boat from Le Boat that they call the Cirrus. When we arrived in Montauban, we were greeted by the office staff who quickly checked us in and got us to our boat and on the canal.
We didn’t need much training since we’ve made a number of self-drive trips, and, in fact, we actually rented this exact style in France once before. For the less experienced, the staff will happily spend as much time as you need to acquaint you with how everything works.
My husband took a couple of burgees from home – one is our personal burgee and the other the burgee for the Amatuer Radio Club at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club (Florida Council).
The style Cirrus we rented has a master cabin with double bed, separate head and shower, salon, galley, lower helm, a “patioette” on the bow, a skylight, bridge with upper helm, and a small aft deck for easy line handling and on/off.
Mooring the Boat
Mooring, tying up at a marina or pulling over to the side of the canal, is very easy but you must secure the boat with the lines (ropes) provided. If done correctly the vessel is very safe and is easy to untie when needed. Many boaters end up with a glob of line knotted line on the cleat – I wish I’d taken a picture of what I mean. The proper way to tie to a cleat is shown below in a diagram taken from the Boater’s Handbook or you can see it on this video Cleat Hitch.
Sometimes there is no cleat but a bollard which you can tie to as well (photo source Boater’s Handbook).
An alternative is to loop the line over the cleat or bollard and tie off to the cleat on the boat. This has the advantage of allowing you to untie the boat and pull away from the mooring spot without getting off. This is what Ralph and I did when we moored at Lacourt St. Pierre our first night out.
Sometimes you may want to moor along the canal where there are no cleats or bollards. In France, it is permissible to drive stakes into the ground (comes on the boat) and either tie to or loop around the stake to secure the boat. The stakes provided are about two feet long and a mallet is also provided so staking is quit easy. We staked the boat at Buzet as shown below.
When we stopped in Damazan for an hour or so there was only one bollard available so we used that and one stake.
In the locks, you generally don’t tie the lines to allow for the raise and fall of the water. We’ll cover line handing in the locks in Part Four of this series.
Throwing a Line
Have you ever had someone throw you a line and it hits you in the head? PLEASE, aim at my waist! Instead of throwing the entire line, just loop a few feet in one hand while holding the rest loosely in your non-throwing arm then toss the end to your victim. Oh, and make sure one end is hooked to a cleat on the boat. I once saw someone throw the entire line to the person on shore without checking to make sure it was tied to the boat.
When the lines are not in use they should always be coiled up neatly so that they are ready in an instant if needed.
Some Signs Along the Way
There are signs along the way that provide special instructions and most of those are use international symbols such as this sign instructing you to reduce speed to 3 kilometers and no wake.
No wake is generally expected around marinas, docks, swimming areas and so on. When in doubt, slow down.
All the tools you’ll need to successfully operate your boat are provided. Review the information before hand – it makes for a more enjoyable trip.
Well, this is the conclusion of “Our Boat and Boat Handing.” I hope you found it informative. Feel free to send questions in the commits below. Until next time.