2015 saw a revival of commercial traffic on some “Freycinet”* canals in France. Traffic from the Paris region carrying building site debris passes up the Seine River via the Canal du Loing to a landfill site at Givry on the Canal Latéral à la Loire. For the return journey these péniches are loaded with 245 tonnes of sand from a nearby quarry to be used in the Paris building industry.

For a pleasure craft operator these 38m barges are an impressive site but to get the opportunity to ride aboard is an invitation to a whole array of new cruising sensations. We were lucky enough to be invited on-board the Sunny and cruise a short length of the Briare canal including passing through a lock. Locking through a 38m lock on a 38m automoteur is an interesting experience for any pleasure boat owner. No need to wonder which bollard to put your ropes on! The boat takes up the whole lock and you can walk up and down the whole length of it ....... from the inside! It’s also impressive to see how the Sunny's owner & captain negotiates the manoeuvre, sliding with apparent ease into a lock that is just centimetres wider that his boat and all done with a joystick control as if he’s playing Nintendo. You can feel the great power of the main engine under your feet. Sense the inertia as the whole thing lumbers to a halt. It's like standing on a great living, breathing monster. For the patron of the Sunny it’s just routine. For us it was a treat and a much appreciated experience.

Translated from original text by Cathy Bouguereau

*Freycinnet canals have official dimensions of 38 m long & 5,05 m wide and are named after Louis Charles de Freycinet, ministre des Travaux Publics from1877 to 1879.