Denise and I live just outside of Bristol, along with a small dog, one-
and-a-half cats, and a serious boating habit. Our first experience was
as two out of a crew of twelve, crammed aboard a narrowboat for a weekend
in the summer of '84. Despite that, we hired our first boat a year
later, before repeating the experience, this time with four friends, just
two months later. 1986 saw us fall into the pattern that we have
sustained ever since - a week with friends at the beginning of May, a
second trip, usually by ourselves in late June / early July, followed by
a further week, again usually with friends, in mid-September. In 1987
the summer trip was stretched to a fortnight, and this has been the case
ever since. We recently completed our 100th week aboard a hire boat.

The casual reader may at this point be wondering "why on earth don't they
just buy a boat and be done with " ? Well, there are two reasons.
Firstly, we both have to work full time (to fund our boating habit), and,
given the usual limitations regarding taking time off in the summer, four
weeks per season is pretty much the limit. Secondly - the 'F'
word......France. In 1990 Denise decided that she fancied a foreign
holiday, I still wanted to go boating, so off to the Midi we went, and,
like so many other people, we were completely hooked. From then on we
have invariably been back across the channel every summer, and since 1992
we have been back to the Midi every third year, such is it's enduring

When we meet up with other Brits in France, and they have found out the
extent of our experience, we are often told "You should write a book".
To be honest I really can't see that we could add much to the many
excellent tomes that have already been written, but we just might be able
to add something due to having so much time aboard hire boats in France,
both in terms of geographical knowledge, and of dealing with a hire
company year-in year-out. What follows on subsequent pages is far from
definitive, somewhat haphazard, and will be added to as and when I've got
both the time and the inclination to start tapping away at the laptop
whilst I'm commuting on the train. Having established a presence on
Youtube over the last couple of years, I've fielded a couple of
queries from other people, usually people who are looking to their first
overseas boating trip. I've cut and pasted advice that I've given to
them, then tweaked it as necessary, in the hope that it will be of
assistance elsewhere.

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