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Motorbarge Nancy Jeanne
Due to popular demand, I've added some more photos of our 14-meter Dutch motorbarge Nancy Jeanne...
While living aboard our motosailer Emily
Belle,
we met a number of boaters who had
cruised the canals of Europe; without
exception they all absolutely raved about
their experiences.  We got the message that
this was something we should certainly
check out for ourselves.

We were amazed to learn the vastness of the
European waterway network. You can
cruise from Scandinavia to the
Mediterranean without ever going into open
water.  There are thousands of miles of
navigable waterways crisscrossing
Germany, Holland, Belgium and France.  
Many are spectacularly beautiful, most have
towpaths along them lined with 200-year-old
trees (to provide shade for the tow mules).
A peaceful overnight stop along the banks of the Haut Escaut in Belgium south of Ghent
Chartering a canal boat is a possibility
(and we have done that several times
since selling our motorbarge), but for
an extended cruise, there's no
substitute for having one's own boat,
and what better than a real Dutch canal
barge! The boat we found in
Loosdrecht (south of Amsterdam) was
built in 1905 as a motorless reed barge
(used to collect reeds for thatched
roofs).  In the mid 60's it was rescued
from oblivion and converted into a
cruising boat, the inside looked like a
small Dutch apartment -- and was
probably bigger than some!  The boat
came complete with gas stove and
furnace and an on-demand gas hot
water heater. It was very civilized!
Nancy in the main salon.  Flowers were always available in Holland and incredibly cheap!
A well-fed 1-year-old Michael eyes his mom as he gets a bath in the galley sink.
During the three years we owned motobarge
Nancy Jeanne, we cruised from Holland south
through Belgium and into France - each summer  
finding a different route and making a round trip
without retracing our route.  Only in a few large
cities (Amsterdam, Brussels & Paris) did we
have to stay at marinas and pay for overnight
dockage. Mostly, we found free dockage along a
wall, often in the heart of the city or town, and
seldom more than a five-minute walk to the
boulangerie -- we became accustomed to
fresh-baked bread every morning.  Did I mention
this was really civilized cruising?  Weather, tides,
seas and winds were never a problem; and no
GPS was required for navigation.
One of the advntages of a "real" dutch
barge was that everything could be
folded down to attain a remarkably low
clearance, we had an "air draft" of less
than 6 feet!  We very seldom had to wait
for a bridge to open, but we often had to
"duck" and warn the crew to watch out
as we passed under a low bridge with
only inches to spare.

A disadvantage of this barge was its
20-ton weight, it was a bit like driving a
10-car ferryboat.  Entering a lock, it was
standard practice to shift into reverse for
the last 300 feet of the approach.
Above: Out on the lift for bottom painting. If you
look closely, you can see the bow thruster and at
the back, the huge (wooden) rudder.  With no
keel, the boat would slide out on turns something
fierce, you definitely needed to plan ahead.
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Above right: The helm with the windshield folded down. There actually were a few days in Holland in July warm enough
for this!  Photo was taken at the boat's home slip in
Wetterville (WaterVillage) on Loosdrecht Lake. The boat came with a
60's-style fathometer with a neon "flasher" surrounded by a radar-like sun shield..  The good old days!
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Since we sold our Dutch canal barge, we have returned to cruise the canals of Europe several times, usually in chartered
boats.  Our favorite drive-it-yourself boat company is
Locaboat based in Joigny, France.  They have bases throughout
France and also now in Holland, Germany, Ireland and Italy.  Their speciality is the
Penichette which is designed to look
like the old French
peniche (canal barge). Their boats come in a range of sizes suitable for two to eight people, most
feature inside and outside steering positions and are perfectly suited for puttering along in calm waters at five knots.
Along with all those people we met, we now go around espousing the virtues of inland cruising in Europe whenever we
get the chance -- and it looks as though this may be one of those chances, so I say,
go for it!                          HMC 2/06/05
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Motorbarge Nancy Jeanne in low bridge mode along the wall in Rotterdam
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