My Travel Blog

Head to Head with the Big Boys – Art and Barge!

We waved goodbye to Nancy, and headed off to our next destination the city of Toul. Like Nancy we also visited Toul six years ago.

Because of Rabelo’s size we usually make mooring arrangements in advance especially when were going to a large city. It helps that when making mooring arrangements we talk.  We talk to the VNF employees, we talk to the people in the villages along the canals, and most important we talk to the other cruisers. While we were in Toul six years ago we met Don and Patty on their beautiful barge Maria. As it turns out after not seeing them for six years we bumped into them this year in Port sur Saone. I mentioned to Don that we were headed to Toul and hoped that the one spot in the marina that could take Rabelo would be available. Unfortunately, Don explained that we probably wouldn’t be able to moor there. You see it was now his permanent mooring. He said just before the lock at the marina is a basin where he thought we would enjoy mooring.  There was no water or power, but we would be tied up next to the ancient walls that surround the city. It sounded perfect!

Rabelo moored next to the ancient walls of Toul.

A low bridge as we entered Toul.

Damn these canals are beautiful.

This was a plum clafoutis that Lisa made. It didn’t last very long on Rabelo.

We exited the canal that took us through Nancy, and were deposited on the Moselle River. We would be rubbing shoulders with the big boys, barges over 350 feet long. The locks were not only large enough to accept the giant barges, but they were also much deeper than the small locks we had become accustom to. It was just another challenge that was part of barging in France. In a way I prefer being on the rivers with the big commercial boats. The pilots driving them are true professionals, and it is amazing what they are able to do with those massive monsters. Unlike the pleasure craft where you never know what they will do the big commercial guys do exactly what you expect them to. There are never any surprises.

One of the big guys. Note the blue board on the right side of the wheelhouse. It signified that he wanted me to pass starboard (right side) to starboard rather than the typical port to port.

Philippe had to retrieve the bow line after locking down in this giant lock.

One of the things we did, and I can’t believe I’m actually admitting it, was go to a quilt show. Lisa was a quilter, but she now calls herself a fiber artist. She still works with fabric and thread, but no longer makes quilts. I prefer her new pieces. She paints on canvas, and when the paint is dry she heavily stitches over the painting.The stitching adds depth to the painting, and livens up the colors. It was a two-hour drive to the show, and I’m embarrassed to admit that it was worth it. There really were some talented artists displaying their work. I also think that Lisa could have displayed her work alongside the best of them. The show was spread out over four different villages, and attended by over 22,000 people. You can check out Lisa’s work on her website at

This amazing piece of fiber art was actually similar to what Lisa does except it was originally a photo printed on fabric.

This was done by my favorite artist of the show. It is layers of denim, sometimes as many as 15 or 20. The multiple layers give the work an amazing three dimensional quality.

I asked Lisa to do a rendition of the classic painting The Scream. She is waiting for the paint to dry and then she will stich it.

– Tom Miller
Author of “The Wave”  and “When Stones Speak”– 
Chuck Palmer Adventure novels


About the Author:

Tom Miller graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He is a consummate adventurer with over 1,000 dives as a recreational scuba diver, and an avid sailor who has traveled 65,000 miles throughout the Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands. Miller has also cruised the canals of Europe on his canal barge and given numerous lectures on cruising the canals of Europe, as well as sailing in the South Pacific. Piloting is also an interest of Miller's, and He has completed over 1,000 hours flying everything from small Cessnas to Lear jets.