Anjodi, cruising along the Canal du Midi, painting by Stanley 


welcome to the November edition of the lock-keeper.

We are well and truly into winter here, autumn and the fall have come and gone but we are still busy on the European Waterways. As we speak, La Belle Epoque is on her way to Belgium, she's passed Paris on the River Seine and is making her way across Picardie to Zelzate, over the border and into Holland. This is where we built La Belle Epoque in 1995, at Mr Martin Carron's amazing shipyard, Shipswerf Van Zelzate.

Zelzate is both an old curiosity shop full of old engines and anchor winches as well as hosting the most modern haul out equipment in Europe for barges. Martin's father is a whizz with a spanner, so we've asked him to tweak La Belle Epoque's 200 horsepower MAN diesel main engine and also check over the other three generators we have aboard.

The Nivernais lock system (more on this later) has also taken its toll over the years on some of the steel plating up forward, so we are taking the opportunity to plate up a couple of rubbing areas as a preventive measure which should ensure many more years of happy barging.

Also in this month's lockkeeper, we announce our Actief cruise winner and to change things around, we have a great new competition to win a couple of highly acclaimed books on Provençal cooking and Lanquedoc wines - something to read over the winter months...

We have a trip report from our Anjodi cruise winner Steve Brown, and some nice pictures of Anjodi too. We also feature the Canal du Nivernais where La Belle Epoque and L'Art de Vivre ply their trade, a Scottish Highlander update and La Dolce Vita's Historical regatta cruise in Venice...

I look forward to hearing from you, and seeing you at our website, where you can find out all about GoBarging and keep up to date with the latest news as it breaks....

please read on and welcome aboard,

best regards,

Derek Banks, Chairman

Derek Banks - Chairman

in this issue:

Anjodi Diary

Scottish Highlander update

Canal du Nivernais

Actief cruise winner

Book competition

Dolce Vita historical regatta


back issues:

january 04

february 04

march 04

april 04

may 04

june 04

july 04

august 04

september 04

october 04

(please note that past competitions are now closed)

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Anjodi Diary
A week on the Canal du Midi by Steve Brown
Anjodi waiting to welcome usWe met Captain Rupert Pitt and barge mates at the Chateau de Lignan, near Beziers on Sunday, Oct 10th. Once assembled, we journeyed through town in a new VW van and arrived at the Anjodi, docked at the marina in Marseillan.

Her paint was fresh and crisp, the candles were lit, and the planter boxes on her deck were filled with autumn mums in yellow and rust. The sun was setting on this nautical scene and the crew were waiting to greet us and offer a toast to our upcoming week. This week, we would journey from the northern most point on the Canal du Midi at Marseillan to Marseillette near Carcassonne.

The first day dawned gray and windy with the threat of rain. We putted out past oyster farms and fishermen, then started for the canal at what I learned would be our typical, very leisurely pace. No hurry - quite the contrary. If you found it difficult to be still, you could always walk or cycle (you could walk faster than the barge!), and the quiet, steady craft would find you somewhere along the canal.

wine tasting with Jean VillneuveEach day we were offered an adventure, from wine tasting with Jean Villaneuve, the proprietor of Domaine de Raissac near Portiragnes, shopping in Beziers or visiting the ancient walled city of Carcassone. We walked or cycled into a nearby village for coffee, phone cards or simply went sightseeing everyday.

Our knowledgeable Skipper Rupert explained that after the canal was manually constructed in the late 1700's, eventually 46,000 trees were planted along its banks. The trees provide a beautiful, canopied ride: a lovely ceiling stretches overhead and views to vineyards just beyond, punctuated by villages, steeples and an occasional castle, are magnificent.
The proportions of the footpath alongside the canal are ideal as the path is just wide enough to cycle or walk two abreast, and easy to jump to and from the barge.

Meals on board were anticipatory affairs and our chef John Baxter embodied the best of both French and English cultures. With an extensive background in hospitality and culinary training, John shopped, cooked and presented us with the most magnificent repast, all with a jovial enthusiasm for his profession!

Lunch onboard Anjodi, while waiting for lock passage at 

BeziersLunch was our favorite.
One impressive dejeuner consisted of chicken baked in turmeric yogurt sauce accompanied by four cold salads, all delightful. We enjoyed two different kinds of cheese and at least one type of wine with plenty of fresh fruit for dessert. (Dinner was always accompanied by two wines, two cheeses and a dessert.) My favorite meal the entire week consisted of paella, with each component prepared separately to suit each guest.

After repeatedly pestering the crew in the galley after most meals, I was treated to a morning in the kitchen 'helping' John prepare lunch. He was kind enough not only to tolerate my presence (no small feat, in such a compact space), but to instruct me in knife and salad dressing techniques: priceless!

We learned midweek that the Anjodi is a vessel that most everyone on the canal wishes they were traveling upon. One midday when our group returned from town, our hostess, Mieke de Court (New Zealand Kiwi) had set the lunch table on the sundeck. With gleaming stemware, luxurious linens and chilled wine, we were the envy of all we passed.

That afternoon as we passed through the multi-locks of Beziers, "spectators" would crane their necks to look upon our beautiful barge, as the Anjodi regally approached and passed.

Anjodi Diary continued..

A word here about our hostess, Mieke, she was the personification of easy, friendly, first-class accommodation. She cleaned, served, attended and chatted (very knowledgably) about food, wine, cheese, and locale and was always at the ready with coffee, cocktails and 'nibbles'.

Anjodi, expertly handled through some very low 

bridges on the Canal du MidiAnother of the ships crew was Xavier Villette, or as we dubbed him, Johnny Depp du Canal. Xavier was the first mate, guide, driver, translator, and all around go-to guy and when he spoke English, it was musical.

It took several days to become accustomed to such a slow pace, and then mind boggling to imagine that time would pass so quickly as we nary lifted a finger. As parents of two boys, our vacation time is typically filled with sports and activities. This time we were surrounded by adults, in pursuit of adult conversation and past -times, and we rediscovered the best parts of our marriage. With only six passengers on board, the barge never seemed crowded. Nonetheless, bedrooms were very inviting, with dark wood, plenty of natural light, comfortable beds and abundant pillows, Provencal linens and bath products, fresh flowers and luxury chocolates.

Our intrepid captain Rupert was always available to give us a brief history lesson, and as a resident of the area, insight into the local culture. Rupert was the quintessential captain: capable, well versed (in multiple languages), easy-going, and elegant. The ultimate expression of his capabilities came on our last morning. We are quite competent travelers, and moving from one continent or town to another on local transport is not intimidating to us. However, Rupert drove us to the train station in Narbonne, before sunrise, and made sure that we chose the fastest, most direct train to Paris.

This was an incredible holiday on the Anjodi. We have been the envy of our friends who are considering this as a holiday option. Though trips like this are rarely duplicated, the fabulous memories make us hope to return to the Anjodi someday in the future. Once again, Thank you European waterways and GoBarging.

Visit Steve's Anjodi Photo gallery
Scottish Highlander update

Scottish Highlander is out of the water again up in Corpach, North West Scotland and jolly cold it is too.

We noticed the rudder needed some work during the season hence the haul out and fortunately because the yard had covered premises, we can work in the dry with an extra opportunity to get some more paint on to keep Scottish Highlander bright and shiny.

The Scottish yard also look after the Caledonian MacBrayne ferries which visit the islands all the way up Scotland's dramatically beautiful West coast, so we know the work they do is first rate. A big thank you to Sandy and the team up there.

We received some nice feedback from June Simeth who cruised on Highlander from July 11 th to July 18th this year. June wrote; the luxurious saloon on Scottish 

Highlander'the interior of the barge was very beautiful and my room was extremely comfortable. The scenery was beautiful, of course, and the places selected to drive to were very good and interesting.

Your crew on this barge was simply outstanding, and I cannot say enough good things about them. Captain Geoff was extremely personable and made everyone feel comfortable by his demeanour. He made each day interesting and took an interest in each person individually throughout the trip. He also did a wonderful job navigating the barge.

Our Hostess Davina was always willing to please and made us feel right at home. Both Geoff and Davina had a smile to go around all day long for everybody. Davina was one of the most cheerful and uplifting persons I've had the occasion to meet. She was a true hostess.

Kirsten was our driver from Australia and she too excelled at her duties. She always had a pleasant manner and tried to accommodate special requests wherever possible. She was very conscientious about finding the right sights for people to see and the places she took us to suited us very much.

Chef John was unsurpassable in his occupation! I have never tasted such delicious food. He even made haggis as an appetizer and no one left a crumb on their plates. You have a veritable treasure in him! This superb crew worked so smoothly together that it seemed as though they had operated as a unit for years. They are responsible for making the trip what it was.

Eilean Donan castle in the west Highlands of Scotland. Stronghold of the MacRaes and MacKenzies I found the locks at Fort Augustus very interesting, and some of the towpaths I walked were simply lovely. My favourite excursions were the Culloden Battlefield, Cawdor Castle, Eilean Donan Castle, and Fort Augustus.'

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Canal du Nivernais

the Canal du Nivernais
The Nivernais Canal ( 111 miles -119 locks) passes through western Burgundy, crossing the Yonne Valley and from time to time merging with the Yonne River itself. North of the summit at Baye, the River Yonne serves as a navigation channel for most of the way between Auxerre and Clamecy.

Where the canal is artificial, the Yonne serves as a feeder. Opened in 1843 after sixty years of chaotic work, the Nivernais Canal was built to transport firewood from the Morvan forests to Paris. From the 16th century, the Yonne was used for flottage de bois, i.e., a system for floating logs. As the firewood demands increased, there was a need to transport logs from further away.

The Nivernais Canal was first proposed in 1708 but abandoned due to opposition from the Duke of Orleans who, not coincidentally, was proprietor of the nearby Loing Canal. At the end of the 18th century, a project was started to extend the "floatable" part of the river towards the forests of Bazois by building a little channel under the hills of Collancelle. However, since this was the era of canals, instead of a small channel for floating timber, a navigable canal was built. Work started in 1784 (based on a plan devised in the 17th century) and was finally completed in 1841. The wood trade was the region's main source of income until the 1920's, even though timber had to be carried on barges when flottage was outlawed in 1881. Although originally built for commercial use, the canal saw the last of its merchant traffic in the 1970's. A shallow draft and small gauge locks limit the size of barges that can use it.

Now the Nivernais Canal is known for its peacefulness, its beautiful valleys and hills, and its historic and picturesque villages and vineyards. Its path through the hills of Morvan, the wild valley of the Yonne, and the green meadows of Bazois makes it one of the most beautiful canals in France. For canal enthusiasts, the Nivernais is a showcase for a great variety of lock gates and paddle gear.

At the junction of the Canal du Nivernais and the River Yonne, Auxerre is a beautiful city and a pleasant port, with elegant buildings gracing its waterfront. Auxerre was an important spiritual center and a big market town for timber and wine. The River Yonne made Auxerre's fortune. When rivers were the only viable means of transport in Europe, a good navigable river flowing towards interesting markets was the secret of wealth. Its town center has a pedestrianized main square, timber-framed buildings and a 15th century tower with a richly-decorated 17th century clock. Cobblestone streets line the old quarter, and an open-air market beckons. Spires of three churches form an impressive skyline. The Gothic Cathedral St-Etienne was completed in 1560, taking over three centuries to build. The interior is lit up by 13th century stained glass. Flying buttresses lend support and architectural interest. The Musee St-Germain houses an exhibition of Gallo-Roman finds. It occupies a 12th century abbey founded by the wife of the first Christian king of France. The crypts are decorated with the oldest frescoes in France (9th century).

visit our
Auxerre gallery for some fantastic photographs of Auxerre and the Nivernais canal.
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Actief cruise competition winner

ActiefIn last month's Lockkeeper, to help celebrate our new Actief photo galleries, we had a new cruise prize to offer.

To win a cruise on Actief in 2005 we asked you to visit our Actief galleries and then answer some simple questions about Actief's route and what Actief has to offer as a luxury cruise on the Upper Thames.

Lots of people entered this fabulous competition, but find out who the lucky Actief cruise competition winner is here.

November book competition

win this 

fabulous wine and cookbook prize in the November Lockkeeper competition
This month, we thought we'd try something a little bit different...

We have two books to offer in our competition. Not just any books however, these are two fine titles.

Provence: the Beautiful Cookbook comes from an award-winning series which offers an exquisite region-by-region taste tour filled with culinary specialties and surprises. Included in each large-format volume are gorgeous food and landscape photographs.

Paul Strang's 'Languedoc-Rousillon: The Wines and Winemakers' covers Languedoc-Roussillon - one of France's oldest wine regions. This illustrated book explores the terroir, traditions, winemaking practices, laws, personalities and wines of the region.

Chapter by chapter the author identifies each of the region's most important wine-producing areas, exploring their local grape varieties and influences on wine growing. He then highlights the winemaking methods used in each area and profiles the producers and their wines.

The book includes maps detailing rivers and roads, main wine towns and villages and where each producer can be found. The colour and black-and-white photography illustrates the diversity of the landscapes and personalities, while fact boxes offer information about the climate, soil and grape varieties in each area

Enter the November wine and cookbook competition here.

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Venice Historical regatta and La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita historical cruise in Venice

Go Barging presents one of the most attractive events in Venice: the Historical Regatta.

For this special occasion, our cruise program will slightly change, to offer the possibility for our guests to admire the Historical Regatta from the sundeck of our barge on the Canale della Giudecca in front of Saint Mark's square, Venice.

The Historical Regatta takes place on Sunday, September 4th 2005.

During the Sunday there will be a special program, including a very typical Venetian menu, and during the week it will be possible to visit a traditional boat building craftsman and see how a gondola is made out of wood and word-of-mouth know-how. We've outlined below some of the historical information regarding this exceptional event.

Every year, the first Sunday of September (Sept 4th in 2005), the Regata Storica comes back in Venice, the most traditional among the Venetian events, which took place for the first time on the 10th of January 1315 under the rule of the doge Giovanni Soranzo. The sumptuous event, organized in the Serenissima times to celebrate the military victories or to honour the foreign dignitaries, today is made up of two different parts: the historical parade and the rowing boat races.

the colourful procession beginsThe festival starts out with the colourful procession on water, formed by the Bissone, the Bucintoro and the boats of the Venetian rowing clubs; the event commemorates the Queen of Cyprus, Caterina Cornaro, coming to Venice, which marked the beginning of the Serenissima rule over the Mediterranean island.

The historical parade has now just a picturesque significance, a memory of the distant economical and political greatness of Venice on the seas, while the regattas represent still today the climax of the agonistic season in the world of the rowing "alla veneta": winning that day for the rowers means to become a part of the history of this sport and, to a certain extent, of Venice.

To those who are going to be present for the very first time to this ancient event, we give some basic information about the races, so you know what's going on.

The first race after the historical parade is the Youngster Rowers; one, or two-oared "pupparini", very technical boats that challenge the ability of the promising young men.

Then it's the turn of the Women's race on "mascarete" (the name comes from their head looking like a mask, the " bauta"), these are light two-oared boats used in the old days by the courtesans.

racing along the canalThe third race to start is the Men's Race, on heavy six-oared "caorline", these are river-transportation boats almost out of use nowadays that were often furnished with a sail while travelling through the lagoon.

The climax of the event is the champions' race on two-oared 'gondolini', light boats shaped as a very slim gondola. Unlike the regattas on the most popular lagoon boats, these competitions show off the rowers technical abilities more than their strength.

This is the challenge that is most anticipated by the rowing people, the one that lights up the Venetian fans and has been strengthening in time the myth of the Regata Storica from an agonistic point of view thanks to its main protagonists: Strigheta, Ciaci, Crea, the Vignotto brothers, Super D'Este... Winning in "Canalasso", as natives call the Grand Canal, is still today the most aspired wish of every racer, besides being the impossible dream of many Venetians that are still rowing "alla veneta".

As the tradition of this sport goes, the first placed is awarded the red flag , the following three the white, green and blue flags, these are the awards that in Venice take the place of medals. Together with the symbolic prizes, there were traditionally also some "in kind" awards until a few years ago; the most famous of them was a little living pig that would parade on a gondola of its own in the historical parade. Its passing along the public ranks was like a thermometer of the Venetians reaction to the city government; when it wasn't satisfying, the pig would be acclaimed with whistles and screams such as "here's the mayor, long live the mayor". The pig ceremony has been abolished since a few years ago, officially after the protests of some animal protection organizations!

The last technical note is about the race route that goes from Riva degli Schiavoni, where the start is, to Punta della Salute where, after the "cavata" (the start sprint), the public waits impatiently for the first boat entering the Grand Canal, since often that is the winning one. Then (except for the race on pupparini ending up in front of Ca'Foscari) the boats go up the "Canal Grande" to the train station where the turning pole is, then they go back towards the finish line in front of the "machina" ( the floating stage reserved to authorities and built for this occasion on the Grand Canal in front of Ca' Foscari ).

When the various usual accusations of incorrectness and protests are over, in front of the "machina" the prize-giving ceremony takes place.

It's a great start to an amazing week and places are strictly limited on La Dolce Vita, Italy's only hotel barge!. Contact us for more information on the Historical Regatta cruise

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Tandem cruises...Just a reminder that for those larger groups of 16 -20 passengers La Belle Epoque can cruise in tandem with L'Art de Vivre between Clamecy and Auxerre and L'Impressionniste can cruise in tandem with Anjodi between Avignon and Agde. The new chart room on Belle Epoque and Impressionniste will be very helpful to these large group charters as they give room for an extra person making a 21 passenger charter possible or a 20 passenger charter with room for the Tour Guide to cruise with their clients.

In total, 4 of our barges are coming out of the water this winter for surveys and hull work. In order to comply with the stringent safety legislation which the Inland Waterways folk impose on us, every barge in the GoBarging fleet is regularly surveyed. We check the hull thickness over about 200 points every 4 years. The hulls are generally made of Iron with a high copper content, so corrosion is slow. We check the thickness with an ultra sonic machine but we also go around with a hammer, after years of practice its surprising how much can be learned about a steel hull just by hitting it!

Actief's refit on the Thames is progressing well, The works which were detailed in last month's newsletter will greatly add to Actief's fine reputation as the finest vessel cruising the Upper Reaches of this beautiful river.

Back in the Office, bookings are strong for next year, we are still working away at our new web design and a fantastic redesigned 05 brochure which is full of pictures we took this summer. Don't wait for the brochure though, all the current information, prices, itineraries and layouts are on the web site.

The first part of November was spent at the World Travel Market, everyone in the office went along and we spent much of the time talking to the various representatives from the tourist offices from France, Italy, Ireland, England, Scotland, Germany and the Czech republic. We also met up with old friends in the travel industry who make the trek from all over the World to what is now probably the premier Travel Trade Venue worldwide.

All in all its been a pretty busy few weeks, putting the boats to bed, moving them around and generally making ready for next season.

If you have any suggestions, feedback or barging stories to tell us, then please e-mail us. We'll be glad to hear from you and share your inputs in the lock-keeper.

Why not email this edition on to a friend, and let them share the fun. New subscribers can sign-up here, and are very welcome. More people are joining every day, so let's keep building a great Barging community..!

That's about it for this seventeenth edition, and hopefully the above articles have whet your appetite for that well-earned luxury cruise..!

Please visit barge cruises and have a look around, or follow the individual links above.

The next edition of the lock-keeper will be out in December, 2004, so we'll see you then.

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