Well…. we did it. We bought a canal boat in France. We spent a summer on a Locaboat Penichette 1165FB in 2017. We really liked the 1165FB so we contacted Locaboat and asked if they had any for sale. Which is how we ended up on “Decize” for a week in August. Decize is a 1996 1160FB which is nearly identical to the 1165FB. She is 23 years old and has been in rental that entire time, so the hull is showing some wear but the engine is only ~10 years old and most of her systems are quite a bit newer.
Here are some thoughts on how we selected our boat and more details about Decize.
Types of Canal Boats
There are two basic styles of (pleasure) boats that are used on the canals in Europe, motor cruisers and barges. The motor cruisers can have fiberglass or steel hulls (most of the dutch models are steel). They typically have a single inboard diesel engine, are 10-15 meters in length (30-45 feet) and draw 1 to 1.5 meters (3 – 4 feet).
The other major category are barges. A lot of these were commercial barges that have been converted. They almost alway have steel hulls and many of them have hulls that are 100 years old. There are also quite a few built-to-spec barges that have more recent hulls. They are usually much longer than motor cruisers, 20 meters (60 feet) is not unusual.
We looked at lots of used boats of both types and decided we didn’t really want either. The motor cruisers are nice (and sea worthy enough for light coastal cruising) but they tended to be expensive for what we needed and the internal layout didn’t support guests as nicely as boats we have rented. The barges were nice and some are affordable but handling a >20 meter boat scared us both.
So… we finally decided just to buy a boat exactly like the Locaboat Penichette we rented for the summer. We contacted Locaboat and they had a ~20 year old 1160FB for sale. We booked “Decize” for a week in August to check her out, and as a bonus, they would apply the rental fee to the sale. And ….. we bought her!
Though Locaboat does not sell their boats new, Decize probably had a value of around €250,000 new. At 23 years old (she was commissioned in 1996) she was offered for €70,000 which was in our price range and should allow us to invest some money for upgrades and repairs.
She is 11.6 meters (38.1 feet) long, 3.85 meters (12.6 feet) wide and draws only 0.85 meters (2.8 feet). Her “air draft” (height above the water) is 2.90 meters (9.5 feet). These last two numbers are important as some of the canals are shallow and some of the bridges are very low.
She has a 2008 (16,700 hours) inboard 50HP diesel engine. There is a cabin heater that supplies heat throughout the boat. The heater uses the same diesel fuel tank as the engine to heat the boiler.
Decize has a 420L (110 Gallon) fuel tank. The spec sheet (above) gives fuel use (under power) as 4.0 L/Hr, but our experience with these boats is that it is much closer to 2 L/Hr. Top speed is about 10 Km/Hr (about 5.5 kts). No, that is not a typo – top speed is about 6 mph. We generally cruise at 6-8 Km/Hr (and many of the canals have speed limits in this range). Assuming 2L/Hr consumption at 6 Km/Hr she has a range of about 1200 Km (745 miles).
The fresh water tanks have a capacity of 700 L (185 Gallons) which, for two people used to boating is well over a week of use. Decize has no black water or grey water tanks… everything goes overboard. This is legal in France but we expect that to change so we want to explore adding at least black water tanks. Unfortunately, there is no infrastructure (pump stations) in most of the smaller marinas and until that changes people will continue to dump overboard.
I haven’t figured out all of this yet, will have to wait till the coming summer trip. As typical there are two battery banks, a house battery and an engine starting battery.
The house battery consists of six 12V batteries wired series/parallel to get 24V. Total capacity is 118*3 = 352 Ah (20 Hr). This runs all the lights, refrigerator, water pump, toilets, etc. The starter battery is a single 12 v (75 AH) battery. Having two voltages is a little weird. Not sure how this works. Based on the breaker panel labels, the alternator has multiple windings and charges both batteries when the motor is running.
There is a battery charger that charges only the house battery (?) when the boat is connected to shore power. That would be strange but usually battery chargers cannot do multiple voltages.
There is a main breaker panel for the DC systems located in the closet of the main salon.
Decize definitely shows he wear and tear of being in rental for 20 odd years. The damage is entirely superficial but we would like to have her repaired and painted.
As the spec shows, Decize has three berths and two heads. The fore head is an integrated shower/head/sink. The aft head is split into two small rooms, a toilet room and shower/sink room.