What kind of boat pushes barges
Houseboat special Charente: how to make your trip a success!
Cast off. The adventure begins. The three of me spent a week with my daughter and a boating friend in a corner of France Houseboat on the way, which is still an insider tip: the Charente.
The 381 km long river flows through the eponymous department of the region Nouvelle-Aquitaine in southwest France and flows south of La Rochelle near Rochefort into the Atlantic.
Top speed: 8 km / h!
As leisurely as you are allowed to sail here - a maximum of eight kilometers fast - life runs here too. The places by the river seem to have fallen out of time with their old stone houses, flowering walled gardens, the crowing of the roosters, the singing of the birds.
There are colorful blooms in fields and groves, meadows and pastures, and stables are only winter and bad weather quarters. We saw donkeys and cows in the pastures; Gray herons and even beavers right on the river.
Often we could only imagine the landscape behind the thick curtain of trees and leaves, lianas, flowers and bushes that lines the river - the bank was so green.
Here and there anglers had pitched their tents. Some even live and fish in the middle of the river: on an air mattress with a bivouac and a battery full of rods.
Would you like to discover the Charente yourself in a houseboat? Here I have put together the most important information and tips after our trip. The best thing: You don't need a sports boat license for this houseboat trip. A short briefing is enough - and off you go!
Charente houseboat area: the sailing area
The Charente is an ideal sailing area for everyone who wants to combine nature and history, relaxation and a gentle active holiday. In many meanders, the river meanders calmly and serenely through rural, gently undulating land. Wine grows on the slopes of the hills and is later distilled twice to make cognac.
The soil right on the coast is too damp for that. There you can see poplar plantations and sometimes arable farming. Herons, kingfishers, ducks, swans and hawks can often be seen here.
Carp, pike, bream, roach, chub and largemouth bass live in the very clean, but often cloudy tides. You can also fish roach here.
Here and there shady towpaths line the bank. They are perfect routes for safely cycling with children. Since September 2017 you can also use the river on the cycle route FlowVélo consequences.
The Charente is navigable for 142 kilometers between Angoulême and Rochefort. There you will find a total of 21 locks. They are located next to weirs that are usually quite large, which, together with the current, can develop a strong suction effect.
Here you are your own lock keeper. The advantage: You don't have to pay attention to any closing times. But it’s going to be sporty. Because you have to open and close every lock in the Charente by hand.
Green flywheels help you with this, which are sometimes a bit stiff, but were still easy to master by the three of us girls.
Taxes? Very easily!
I never thought it was much easier to steer a 14 m boat than a small, short boat! Our houseboat lay calmly in the water, held its course, and responded as I told it to. Wave dancing like on the Vilaine or the feeling that the current is pushing the houseboat differently than I had steered never existed on the Charente.
It is controlled with a steering wheel and throttle. In addition, many houseboats today also have bow thrusters, which make mooring easier. Every houseboat has an inside steering position. It is usually arranged to the starboard (right), only very rarely in the middle. Very helpful when mooring and unloading: the bow thruster - that should be part of the boat equipment!
Top or bottom?
Often there is a second steering position outside, usually on the upper deck. The backrest at the top can often be folded down as some bridges are very low. To go through it, you have to steer from within.
The steering position on the upper deck became my favorite place, despite the long legs that I found difficult to accommodate. From up there I was able to look over the country ... and even better recognize any dangers or impending locks.
The sandbanks are also typical of the Charente, which is largely a natural river. They are marked on the river maps and marked with red buoys in the river. When navigating, stick to the course entered on the maps and it is best to steer the houseboat from the upper deck, where you can see the sandbanks better.
The further you travel inland, the shorter the distances between the locks become. You can even sail towards the sea to Cognac for almost an hour without going through the lock. That is pure deceleration. When there is no wind, the Charente is transformed into an almost mystical mirror that doubles the landscape. I almost had the feeling of floating in a houseboat.
The river map
A river map of the sailing area is part of the standard equipment of every houseboat. It not only shows you the course of the fairway in the river, but also provides you with practical information on locks, berths, services such as water, electricity and waste disposal as well as tourist offers.
Do not wait until you are on board, but order the river map in advance with your other travel documents. Then you can plan your houseboat trip completely relaxed at home.
Houseboat trip: perfectly prepared!
Depending on Houseboat category there is less or more space. In general, however, there is only limited storage space on board. It is hidden under the seat cushions, in shelves on the side wall and under the beds.
For packing, instead of hard-shell suitcases, use flexible bags that can be folded up and stowed away better.
You can borrow bed linen and towels from the houseboat rental shop.
Layered look for any weather
As you pack, remember that you are near the Atlantic coast. The weather can change quickly - even in summer. Pack a fleece jacket, but also a summer dress or shorts, and combine the laundry for cool and warm days in a layered look.
On deck you shouldn't walk barefoot or in slippers, but wear sturdy shoes - trekking or water sandals or boat shoes.
Have you received the houseboat, do not cast off immediately. But first fill up the supplies, because there are supply gaps on the way ...
In the larger towns such as Angoulême, Châteauneuf-sur-Charente, Cognac and Saintes, shopping is no problem. In addition to the well-known French supermarket chains and specialist or specialty shops, there are also small, local producers.
The grand surfaces such as Carrefour, Casino and Intermarché have ensured that the infrastructure in the small towns was destroyed. There is no longer even a baker in Saint-Simon. In Sireuil, a machine at the pier delivers fresh baguettes, croissants and pain au chocolat in the morning. It is supplied by a baker who makes the big round early in the morning and supplies the machines that have been set up.
Houseboat trip: perfect on the way
During the briefing that always takes place when the houseboat is handed over, Audrey Motta from Inter-Croisières in Sireuil and her colleague Ludo both independently emphasized these two points again and again.
As on land, the alcohol limit of 0.5 also applies on board. If you steer your houseboat tipsy, you risk severe penalties, including losing your driver's license. The police control. Even if big and small producers all along the route lure with tastings of Pineau and Cognac .. not done!
Because even when tasting and spitting out ( cracher ) so much alcohol gets into the blood through osmosis that you get over the limit. Rather enjoy the drops at the aperitif when your boat is firmly moored for the night.
Only drive in light!
Without radar, the Charente can only be navigated from sunrise to sunset.
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