Taking a Rib to France on Holiday
The Challenge = camping on Islands in North France
The Equipment=1 x Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB), 1X Land rover, 3X Tents, 6 People, 2 X Dogs (Lots of Boatshed sense of humor and adventure)
A lot of people these days consider France as an expensive holiday alternative, but I thought that I would quickly brief you on one way to do this trip quite effectively.
Is Boating Expensive in France?
Firstly, there is the cost of the ferry. We are all keenly aware of the current petrol and diesel prices and therefore, whilst a Dover/Calais crossing is often the cheapest, it does involve considerable driving to get to Normandy. Therefore, we searched on the Internet and found a ferry price for a Land Rover and 7 metre trailer plus six people and 2 dogs for around £650.
We decided to go on this mission in August because of school holidays, as my nephews were not up for 2 weeks of truancy (Even for boating it seems !)
Too many People ?
Also a popular rumor is that the French campsites are packed full during the August period. In the four of five times we decided to treat ourselves and actually stay on a campsite, we found space always available and these campsites have great washing, laundry and facilities and generally are costing – for three small tents, space to park, Land Rover and boat – around 50 Euros per night for six people.
Another popular myth is the price of food and supplies in France. Again, we didn’t go mad; we visited either small bakeries or traditional supermarkets, but generally a full set of provisions, and certainly a large trolley-worth, came out at a cost of between 100 and 150 Euros. We did focus on buying simple French wine at approximately £3 a bottle and bread and popular barbecue provisions such as sausages and French steak, similar to burgers.
Lots of Rocks and Tide!
Brittany has a fearsome reputation for large numbers of rocks and lots of tide. Again, with careful use of GPS and decent charts, we made reasonably simple work of the navigation. Most of it is our eyeball navigation. The great thing with this part of the world is that should the weather be inclement or windy there are plenty of small rivers and sheltered areas to explore. Launching and recovering of the boat, again, we found simple. There is a large array of slipways and boatyard facilities available. Self-launching or launching with the aid of a local boatyard is simple and inexpensive at most states of tide. When not anchoring and camping on small islands, we utilised marinas. The cost of marinas for the Boatshed 6.3 metre Rib is approximately 14 to 17 Euros per night. This again included full use of all of the marina facilities.
Lots of Boats?
Despite the large number of vessels, (and as yacht brokers you can imagine we gazed around in wonderment at the many private for sale signs), the amount of nautical traffic was not heavy and we found all of the French boating fraternity to be friendly, polite and courteous with everyone offering a friendly wave as you pass them by.
There are considerable amounts of tide and we decided to test our navigational skills on the high spring tides and the range was in the region of 11 metres, which did give us tidal flows of up to 3 or 4 knots. Again, navigation, whilst daunting from when you look at it on the chart, careful use of pilotage and standard paper charts enabled easy eyeball navigation and the channels are very clearly and simply marked.
Our Skippers Neil and Mandy Chapman do have over 30,000 Sea Miles logged, but the combination of a Rib, basic navigation skills and common sense should not put anyone off this type of trip.
We considered taking the boat by sea via the Channel Islands but this would have prevented the flexibility to recover and launch the RIB again in new areas along the coast.
Nautical French Know How?
Whilst our group were fine on conversational French, it is also worth mentioning that our mechanical knowledge of French phrases was limited. Therefore, when taking a boat to France, it is useful to take a decent toolkit and set of standard spares. These generally included with us large quantities of gaff tape, cable ties and plastic sheeting plus a corkscrew!
Getting Fuel and Marinas
Most marinas have a ready supply of both petrol and diesel and we found this very convenient and easy to find on pontoons without the need to carry cans from local garages. It is also worth mentioning that a standard almanac carries a translation of technical components of boats. There are a number of French/English translation books available, particularly pictorial ones where you point to the picture and it has the English and French name underneath, which is very useful for us graphical types. Generally marinas, whilst helpful and inexpensive, will also send a small boat out to meet you upon arrival to assist with berthing.
Do not want to Cook ?
Most French campsites generally have in the evening time a visiting food concession. These are very different from the normal roach coaches that we are familiar with in England. They tend to prepare freshly made pizza, tartiflette or a variety of French specialty dishes and are inexpensive. So if you get back late from boating and you don’t fancy striking up the barbecue, you’ve got a nice easy, inexpensive way to get fed.
Lots of Bugs? / Domestics Stuff
We didn’t find many bugs and mosquitoes, but we did employ the use of standard anti-bug candles. Our cooking arrangements, because of the need to carry them in a boat, were simple: a reasonable sized water carrier, plastic washing bowls, crate to carry bottles of wine or juice as well as a number of dry, traditional, insulated food containers and also the inexpensive single gas burners that take a cylinder that you can buy from most high street stores, as you can see in our photos, are absolutely invaluable. They boil water very very quickly and, by carrying half a dozen extra cylinders, are extremely convenient – we can’t recommend the single gas burner highly enough. If you really feel like spoiling yourself, we also found our large stainless steel cooking pot very agreeable to placing two reasonably sized lobsters in for a slap up lunch, washed down with some 3-Euro bottles of extremely agreeable white wine on a deserted island.
We anchored in several small coves where it was simple to drop people ashore in the Rib, re-anchor the boat in deep water and then either swim ashore or take our small, very elderly tender to drop off the last person and recover the boat afterwards.
Thanks to Pete and Barbara Chapman for the kind use of their Rib during this trip and for letting us apply logos and flags to all the gear :)
The rib is now for sale to make way for a bigger one as more family want to come next year ! with only 199 hours on her since new
Parker 630 Rib For Sale Click