Tips for a boat holiday: here’s how to organize it

Marrying a relaxing week in nature with a hint of cultural tourism was the starting point for a family vacation. Two adults and three children (17, 13 and 5 years old) and no dogs although for those traveling with Fido, animals are welcome on board. Thanks to closing and seeing an old movie with Cary Grant and Sophia Loren, we thought it would be nice to be outdoors on a boat, and go off happily like the protagonist’s family compound (in the Italian version, pair of senzito me). By typing “houseboat” in the search engines, we discover two options: throughout Europe you can rent buoys moored at a fixed location – be it in the center of Amsterdam or on Rimini Beach – or rent recreational buoys, motor boats that sail on the network of rivers and European canals, turned into river tourism after a glorious past of transport and trade.

The ‘self-managed’ cruise version – the boats can be driven alone and there’s no need for a sailing experience to charter – is what intrigued us the most, and the image of the Banshee elegantly cruising in front of a tree-lined plane, we chose the classic as our destination: Canal du Midi. “Canale del Mezzogiorno” is a masterpiece of hydraulic engineering, (103 locks and 225 between tunnels, canal bridges and dams that earned it inscription in a UNESCO heritage), designed in the time of Louis XVI with the ambition to connect the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. It flows for 240 kilometers in the Occitanie region, from Sete to Toulouse, the “pink” city bathed by the Garonne River. Navigating in just one week means deciding to “zoom in” on the river map and visit, in detail, only a small part of it because, to protect the dams and the environment, the average cruising speed is 8 km/h (a range of about 80 km from the starting point ).

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We started at the base of Argens-Minervois, a town dominated by a very square medieval castle converted into a wine house, where we bought a chest of excellent red for our kitchen. Leaving the car in the guarded parking lot at the marina, I took a first look around and, admitting it, wondered: Isn’t everything so monotonous? No, it wasn’t. The slow rhythm of the canal characterizes the days, constantly enriching them with new colors and scents: a field of sunflowers, a painting studio, fresh fruit stalls, people playing aux boules along the banks, and the echo of blues music played in the outside area of ​​a restaurant. Additionally, you can moor near exotic attractions, such as the archaeological site of Oppidium d’Ensérune, or some of the more famous destinations – from medieval Carcassonne to Narbonne, with its beaches accessible by bike (rental and accommodating on the boat) Or by water, taking the small Canale de la Robine that intersects with the Midi.

slow and not chased by the wind, The boat holiday is still a sailing holiday. On the boat there is always something to do: fix the ropes, arrange the cabins, remember where the boat hook ended, and the tied stick is very useful not to get too close to banks or other boats when moored. The provided river maps allow you to freely plan your itinerary, including overnight stays. You can moor in the open countryside or take shelter in the moorings. You sail as many hours as you want from sunrise to sunset, with the only obligation to return the boat to base when it is built.

It’s very easy to fly with barges, he reassured us over and over, even if they look more like modern yachts than the rickety barges in our movie. Choosing which boat to rent took us more energy than any other aspect of our vacation. The companies’ advice to splurge on the cab and opt for models with dual-pilot seats, so you can also drive them from the upper deck, is excellent but at a negligible cost. Moreover, booking a 14m long and 4m wide boat online and finding yourself face to face is a whole other story! The anxiety of not knowing how to control it melted as soon as we stepped into the driving lesson. After going through the inventory (there is everything, from the sheets to the salad bowl, through to the first aid kit) they explained to us how the water and gas tanks work and how much we commute each day to recharge the electricity. the boat.

Once the engines were turned on, we immediately felt like experienced leaders of fresh water, at least until we encountered one of those artificial ponds that fill and emptied of water to allow the boats to navigate the various gradients of the canal. The first lock is never forgotten: when seen from the bridge it seems narrow, frightening and inaccessible. Instead, once you give up, an employee appears on the horizon and shows you everything you need to do and turns it into a fun moment of entertainment. Our first Ecclesier had a beautiful mustache tickling to the beat of the music; He guided us near the embankments, and bent down to collect the rows my daughters had cast. As the water began to invade the basin and the boat floating here and there rising from the bottom, we were distracted by chatter about the indisputable superiority of French cheeses, and advised whom to buy. I got to lock level in about ten minutes, the gates opened, allowing us to stream through the canal. We resumed sailing and he whistled.

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Typical houses on the banks of the Amstel river in the central part of Amsterdam, at night

Rentable “floating” houses have been repaired, like here in Amsterdam.

Rolf Saint

The boat: where to rent it

Pontoons are motor boats, fully equipped and furnished, that can be rented, without a boat license, to navigate European inland waterways. There are many models, from traditional Penacetas to the latest yachts, which can accommodate a minimum of two people to a maximum of 12 people. In Italy, we sail the Venetian Lagoon and in Friuli Venezia Giulia (on board. The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, UK, Ireland and above all France offer many cruise itineraries to choose from according to your interests: nature, art cities, food, wine, outdoor sports and much more. On The websites of major shipping companies, see Locaboat Holidays (locaboatholidays.it) or Nicols (nicols.it), details of cruises and boat fleets are posted, as well as contacts to request information. Those who are more familiar with this type of holiday can refer to the section “Boats” on Boataround, “Booking.com” for boats (bookaround.com).

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