The Captain's Log
Owning and cruising a 24 metre barge requires acquisition of a tidal wave of knowledge of a huge range of subjects covering everything from the specifics of cruising on the continent, to finding the exact widget required for a specific flange on a 1955 Mercedes OM321 engine that Mercedes consistently tell me never existed and that they never manufactured.
The fact that I managed to locate copies of the engine's original owners instruction manual and parts list not seeming to matter a jot to their denials! (During winter 2007/8 I was lucky enough to locate and purchase two fully functional and identical spare OM321 engines. Parts or even a full replacement engine are no longer a problem! The buying was easy, but relocating two three quarter of a tonne engines far less so... )
Gaining the qualifications to pilot such a large and heavy craft were both necessary and important for safe navigation.
After considerable study and a great deal of time spent aboard other owners barges including a month doing nothing but learning ropes and mooring techniques, I sat and gained piloting qualifications both in English in the UK and in French in France! Quite an undertaking for someone who still has only rudimentary knowledge of the language.
I currently hold the UK Royal Yachting Association's 'INTERNATIONAL CERTIFICATE OF COMPETENCE' together with the additional CEVNI endorsements that cover navigation differences between the UK and European inland waterways.
In addition I also hold the UK's 'MARITIME RADIO OPERATOR CERTIFICATE OF COMPETENCE' for Short Range Radio (VHF)
At considerable expense, I also gained the French 'CERTIFICAT DE CAPACITE, Freycinet de Plaisence' (PP) license which qualifies me to pilot barges up to 39.5 x 5 metres.
The best experience though is of the hands on, get out there and cruise variety. You can learn all you like in the classroom, but it's out there where the real fun starts!
Nilaya and I have discovered over 13,500 km of European waterways during the last few years, which might not sound much by car standards, but at 4-6 kilometres per hour plus the time spent transiting so far, more than two thousand ecluses (locks), provided the real experience money couldn't buy.
If you'd like to spend some time aboard Barge Nilaya learning about many of the aspects of barge ownership and how I learnt everything from scratch, why not join Nilaya for an informal hands on cruise?
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