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Canal boats cruising on the canal in French Burgundy

LOCABOAT: A WEBSITE EDITOR REPORTS ON HER FIRST TRIP ON A PENICHETTE

As a journalist I sometimes write for Locaboat’s blog, interviewing regular customers about their trips on a pénichette®. This time, it was my turn to discover the joys of a weekend on the water. After spending three days sailing between Joigny and Saint Florentin, it all seemed much more real!

That’s what we agreed at the start: ‘I’ll interview customers for the travelogue, but let me have a go on a pénichette®!’. A done deal for Locaboat, and now it was my chance to experience first-hand the things I’d heard so much about from people who are hooked on canal boat holidays: the zen-ness, the pleasure of doing things at your own pace. At the end of April I called the Locaboat centre at Joigny, and they fixed a date on the spot. I invited my parents to share the experience (I knew they were interested in boating holidays). So under the Spring sunshine in Paris, we set off for Burgundy.

We arrived in the middle of the afternoon. We were impressed with the cheerful welcome, the beautiful villa beside the river Yonne that’s home to the Locaboat team, the marina, and our fellow boaters who were also settling in on board, happy to be going on holiday. Things got more complicated when it came to the induction. ‘Who wants to take the helm?’ I let my father do the honours (actually, that suited me fine!) but at first he seemed to be having some trouble stopping the boat from drifting off course (driving a boat isn’t the same as driving a car, apparently!). My mother was looking worried. The thought crossed our minds: ‘Will we make it?’ But our worries didn’t last long; once we’d gone under the first bridge and done our first about-turn, we were well away. Off to the Burgundy Canal. Our captain seemed to have settled in already!

The first lock: a surprise. I recognised the lock keeper from his voice, as I’d interviewed him a while ago. Still, it was an odd coincidence. And I found it reassuring. We talked while we were casting off. He reminded me of the tips he’d given me for the article (I’d forgotten them; there’s nothing like actually doing a thing yourself!).

We moored up on the river Yonne for the first night, and on the Burgundy Canal, at Saint Florentin, for our second night. Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself... And the weekend was a real breath of fresh air: chatting with the lock keepers, one of whom showed us his little goats in a pen, talking to the other boaters (there’s a lovely, friendly atmosphere on the water, and everybody’s ready to help each other out!), tasting local wines and specialities, visiting villages, chilling out, chilling out... this famous chilling-out that so many Locaboat fans had told me about. I really, truly do understand now what they meant: everything happens slowly on board, but you never get bored. There’s always a lock to pass through, a heron to watch, a tree in blossom to gaze at, the freshness of the countryside to fill your lungs with and feast your eyes on.

Another very nice thing I noticed: whatever your age, going on a boating holiday with your nearest and dearest brings something new to the relationship. Hauling in the ropes, mooring up, passing through a lock in the sun or the rain, doing things and learning together, becoming a team of skilled sailors on the inland waterways, all that will never be forgotten. It’s something money can’t buy.

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