My Travel Blog

Returning to Rabelo!

Our trip to Africa was amazing, but it was nice to be back on our floating home “Rabelo.” While we were gone Kevin along with a deck hand, or as they call them in France a matelot, moved Rabelo from Clamcey to Migennes at the northern end of the Burgundy canal. After talking to Kevin about his trip it didn’t sound quite as exciting as our trip up the Canal du Niverais, but there was still plenty of excitement.  Fortunately Kevin delivered our big baby without any damage, and that’s all I cared about.

We met our or next set of friends, Wilke and Becky, at the train station in Tonnerre which was just a few miles up the Burgundy canal from Migennes. Wilke is a car collector so the first thing we did was go to Chateau de Sauvigny-les-Beaune.  Even though we visited the chateau last year their car, plane, tractor, fire engine, and motorcycle collection is so phenomenal we didn’t mind going back a second time to show our friends.  If their collection isn’t enough to satisfy you they also make some excellent wines.

Something you don’t see every day in the middle of a vineyard. Do they call their wine Afterburner, or maybe Super Sonic?

Some of the tractor collection.

There are hundreds of motorcycles.

Becky and Wilke standing in front of the car collection.

Lisa and I in front of Chateau Sauvigny-les-Beaune.

Many of our friends ask if they can try driving Rabelo.  Driving a very large vesselon a narrow canal takes concentration and nerves of steel.  Or maybe not, but it is challenging. Normally I’ll let our guests give it a shot, but either Kevin or I stand right over them in case we have to takeover. Both Wilke and Becky were impressive, and hardly took any time at all to learn the tricks to driving a 200-ton barge.  Given their skills there might be a future for them driving barges. Of course Wilke would have to give up his law practice, and Becky her medical practice.

Becky drives like a pro.

Our next stop was Tanaly. There wasn’t much to the village, but it did have one of the nicer chateaus that we have visited. We especially liked the chateau because it was within walking distance from where Rabelo was moored.  In the thirteenth century a chateau-fort was built on the property.  It wasn’t until 1559 that construction began on the existing chateau utilizing the foundation from the old fort. After a series of owners it was eventually sold to Jehan Thevenin in 1704. The castle has remained in the same family to the present, and was one of the better preserved chateaus that we have visited.

Chateau Tanalay.

The kitchen.

It seems like every season we traverse roughly 450 locks on Rabelo. About 90% of the locks have lock houses where the old lock keepers lived.  But things are changing, and the French government is in the process of converting most of the locks from manual to automatic.  Nowadays, depending on the canal, we might be given what looks like a garage door opener so that we can operate the locks on our own. Sometimes there is a lock keeper that travels along with us opening the locks. The bottom line is that with the modernization of the canal system the need for lock keepers has been greatly reduced. Many of the lock houses have been abandoned or rented to the public to live in.  There are only a few left where a lock keeper still resides.  Often the people living in the lock houses have an artistic flair, a sense of humor, or they are dedicated gardeners.  On our way up the Burgundy Canal we came across one lock that was exceptional.  The person living there was artistic, an amazing gardener, and he had a sense of humor.It’s those sorts of encounters that make cruising the canals of France so wonderful.  You never know what you’ll find around the next bend.



There was even a witch flying over the canal.

-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.