I read a book ages ago by Tristan Jones from memory and in it he described sailing through the French Canals, and I thought this would be lots of fun to do some time.
But to do so you need a yacht without a huge draft, so we would need to take this in to account when we purchase if we decide it is something we definitely want to do.
I have found a great website resource which has got heaps of information about the French Canals: http://www.french-waterways.com/
According to that, if you take the main waterways through France from the Channel down to the Mediterranean, it can take from 24-35 days.
You also need a CEVNI certificate – which I have already got! You can order a CEVNI rules and regulations book from the RYA and then you can sit a test online to get your certificate. It is easy to do and something that can be done in these planning years!
On that website I found this map which gives the depths of the canals. To go through the main canals we would need to have at least a draft of less than 1.8m. I have also read that having a shallower draft can also be of benefit in the Caribbean, and I guess in many other places too – enabling you to get closer to shore and there are a few less things to hit! I guess the downside is perhaps the loss of some upwind performance.
The website also gives handy tips about taking your mast out, how to store it on board or ship it to your destination, how to buy a licence to travel through the canals, tips on going through locks, mooring, hazards and lots more!
Another great website to check out is Distant Shores. They have got lots of great advice about canal cruising, and we have also bought their DVD’s which makes me even more keen to follow in some of their footsteps through not only France, but many other canal journeys.