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Our History

Derek Banks, Founder and Chairman:

It was sheer fascination with this amazing 17th century transport network which captivated Derek Banks' imagination back in the mid-seventies when he moved to La Maison Eclusiere de Fleury on the Nivernais Canal in Burgundy, and barging life on the European waterways began.

After qualifying as an ocean yacht master at the age of 20, Derek spent time delivering motor and sailing yachts between England, Denmark, Spain, France and Holland. He then spent time in Greece with a flotilla cruise specialist setting up their sailing base in the Sporades islands At the end of 1976, he moved to Burgundy to start up a self drive cabin cruiser business on the Canal du Nivernais.

Starting with one 22ft boat, the fleet had expanded to 40 cruisers by 1982, with a second base on the Canal du Midi. The rapid expansion of the French Inland waterway market allowed the company to create a boat sales division and during the first few years of business over 350 cabin cruisers were imported form England and sold to the French market. We can claim to have initiated the start-up of approximately 25 hire boat companies all over France.

In 1982 the barge Anjodi was bought in Holland. Comprising an original Dutch hull from 1929, she had been retired from hauling grain for 10 years and was lying, looking rather forlorn, in an Amsterdam backwater. Originally purchased for less than $10,000, she was sailed via Germany and the Rhine river to Strasbourg, Lyon, Montpellier and finally to Agde in the south of France, a trans european journey taking three months, recommended to everyone as a life time experience! After a painstaking two years conversion, and some $200,000, employing Dutch, French and English craftsmen, Anjodi became the premiere luxury hotel barge on the Canal du Midi. Extensive use of hardwoods, polished brass and a continuation of a graceful curved hull combine to make a beautiful ship which has proved a great success. The creation of Anjodi led to successive other purchases and new builds with the fleet gradually evolving into the most extensive line up of luxury hotel barges cruising the inland waterways of Europe today.
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