My Travel Blog

Our First Dutch Barge Association Rally!

This past weekend worked out better than we ever dreamed. Lisa and I have been members of the Dutch Barge Association (DBA) for almost fifteen years. We’ve always wanted to go to their annual rally, but it has never worked out. This year was their 25th anniversary, and their big gala was in Auxerre, France. There was no way we could get Rabelo to Auxerre in time for the rally! To go there via canal would require us to transit well over 100 locks and two or three hundred kilometers of canals and rivers. The good news, it was only a one-hour drive from where we were moored on the Burgundy Canal. At the beginning of the week we decided to drive to Auxerre on Saturday, and check out the rally.

A couple of days later we got a call from our old friends Pete and Amanda on Le Piglet. Like all cruisers the first topic of discussion was if we would be able to meet up this season. We started comparing routes, and discovered there was a pretty good chance we would see them.We both planned on heading to Strasbourg though via different canals. Amanda mentioned that they had been broken down for two weeks. The settings on their battery charger got changed this past winter, and fried their batteries. They were stuck in Auxerre waiting for new batteries.

“Wow, that’s were we’re going this Saturday to checkout the DBA Rally.”

“Then why don’t you spend the night with us on Piglet?”

“Fantastic. We’ll see you Saturday.”

Pete was in the restaurant business. Needless to say we ate and drank incredibly well on Piglet. In fact when we walked off the boat we felt, and no doubt looked a lot like little piglets.

Pete and Amanda on their beautiful boat Le Piglet.

Just a few of the boats at the DBA Rally.

Dingy races were just one of the many activities that the DBA organizers had scheduled.

A couple of little piglets in Auxerre.

If you have been following this blog you’ve probably wondered what it takes to buy, maintain, and operate a barge in Europe. The first place I started and recommend to any prospective barge owners is the DBA website ( Their monthly publication The Blue Flag has great articles on every topic that has to do with barging. They offer an online bookstore dedicated to barging, and there are plenty of forums on the website for members. I have even seen in their classified ad section, cruisers looking for crew. Imagine a free trip on a barge through Europe, and all the while you learn how to operate a barge.

Lisa’s flower garden in full bloom.

We tied up to this old barge waiting for the lock to open after lunch. The canal was so clogged with weeds we couldn’t get any closer to the barge.

This machine is used to clear the canal of weeds. Alas it was also on a lunch break.

You may wonder what it costs to cruise through Europe on your own barge. The costs are similar to what you would spend buying and operating an RV in the states. When it comes to RV’s I realize there’s a huge difference between the cost of a modest camper and the most luxurious models available. When it comes to barges you’ll find the same cost differences. The good news is that if you know what amenities you want, you can get them in a barge for roughly the same money you’d spend on an RV with similar amenities.

Of course if you just want a taste of barging you can always rent a room on a hotel barge.

How about a baguette in the shape of a snail?

Hoisting our car off of Rabelo.

People that haven’t traveled a lot are always worried about the language problem. Well it’s not a problem. Lisa and I still don’t speak fluent French, but language has never been a problem. The French have always been very polite and helpful! Besides, the cruising community is mostly English speaking.

– 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.