My Travel Blog

It’s Time To Hire A Boat! Rules of the Canals

It’s time to crash and burn.  The has weather finally turned warm, and the hire boats are out in force.  For those that want to experience the canals and rivers of France, and you’re not ready to buy a barge, then the hire boat is the way to go.  Hire boats range in size from 28 feet to 50 feet.  They sleep four to twelve, and the best part is you get to be the captain.  In fact I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve seen driving a hire boat wearing a captain’s hat.  I really need to get one for Rabelo.  I haven’t looked at a hire boat brochure in some time, but as I recall it doesn’t matter what size boat you rent they all come with one bathroom.  So if your dream vacation is cruising down a French canal with eleven of your closest friends sharing one bathroom we highly recommend a hire boat.

“The temperature is in the 80’s and the hire boats are out in force.”

“Note the husband/boyfriend at the helm. The fun is about to start.”

You say you’ve never driven a boat before, not a problem. So long as you have a MasterCard or Visa you’re qualified.  Lisa and I laugh at the number of fenders they use on these plastic boats.  We walked to a lock the other day and watched as three rental boats squeezed in.  As soon as the lock keeper opened the floodgates the action started.  It reminded us of the bumper cars we use to ride at the fair.  After watching five minutes of carnage we’re convinced that no matter how many bumpers they have it’s not enough.  If I owned a hire boat company I’d just rent large bumpers and call them barges.  Fortunately on this part of the Soane there are only three locks, so how bad can it be?

“Lisa trying to make a few extra bucks selling wine at the lock.”

“Actually the wine sales was this young lockkeepers enterprise.”

I shouldn’t make fun of our weekend warriors and their floating vacation homes.  After all I had to learn how to drive a boat, even if I was just eight.  Besides, I’ve probably done over a 1,000 locks, and despite all that experience I still screw up on occasion.  The good news is that if you bang up your hire boat, embarrass your guests, or that cute young girlfriend you wanted to impress, you’re still just like all the other guys driving them.

“This is where Rabelo will be tied up for some time. It looks a little tight.”

“I didn’t think we would fit, but no worries. The Port Captain said just stick your bow out into the channel. No one will mind.”

When it comes to hire boats there are a few immutable laws of nature.  It doesn’t matter if the Earth stops spinning, the Sun goes dark, or I go bald these rules will never change:

Rule 1 – The husband/boyfriend always drives.

Rule 2 – The wife /girlfriend always handles the lines.

Rule 3 – The husband/boyfriend always yells at the wife/girlfriend that it was her fault when he screws up driving.

Rule 4 – There is an exact correlation between how loud and often a husband/boyfriend yells at his wife/girlfriend and how incompetent he is at the wheel.

“This motorcycle show was less than a block from where we were tied up in Auxonne.”

“We were right next to this fortified wall and chateau in Auxonne.”

“Note the woman at the helm of this private boat. She knew what she was doing.”


-Tom Miller
Author of “The Wave” – 
a Chuck Palmer Adventure novel


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.