Cruising in Practice :: Shoreside Services
The usual water point features a conventional bib tap screw nozzle (as per UK) in various sizes (adaptors are useful), or the ubiquitous Gardena type garden hose plug-in.
A cassette compact ‘roll flat’ hose is ok but one has to unroll the whole thing every time, and then roll it back up squeezing the water out along the way. The hose-pipe is something that gets used frequently and one eventually comes to understand that it is futile to try to economise on it. The ‘best’ specification hose is reinforced and multi-layer to stop kinking and to make it easy to coil up.
A polarity reversal lead can be considered essential – more supplies are ‘incorrect’ in UK terms than ‘correct’. We made up a short length of shore power cable, with one of the plugs wired ‘wrong’.
Our ‘new supply’ connection method has been (1) all boat main and sub-switches off (2) connect up, switch boat’s main switch on, see if polarity reversal warning light goes on (3) if it does, add our reversal length into the power supply feed (4) switch on.
However – from an appliance point of view polarity reversal is not important – most modern equipment does not depend on ‘correct’ connection to positive or neutral and the supply constantly cycles between the two anyway. 2-pin continental plugs (i.e unless they have a third earth pin) fit in any alignment into the socket. The imperative, if there is one, has to do with safety. UK electrical installations switch only the positive supply, so the UK plug ensures safe polarity connection and also protects with a fuse in the plug. Continental installations switch both lines and protect both with a circuit breaker in the installation. UK boaters may be worrying unnecessarily, or about the wrong thing, since what may be needed is to replace a UK single (positive line only) pole main circuit breaker with a double pole breaker that switches both lines.
Besides the ‘normal’ blue 16A 3-round-pin shielded cylindrical plugs found in most UK marinas, French shore supply outlets might only feature the smaller ‘normal’ French plug and socket format (2 pins, optional earth). We’ve bought a 10m French extension cable and had need of it. Wish we’d bought a longer one (E LeClerc or Carrefour supermarkets are a good source). Get a UK 3-pin socket adapter to plug into the French lead. As a point of information, beyond the 3A flat two-pin plug, larger capacity round sockets that have an earth connection are slightly different between France and Germany. France has a socket with a male earth pin, Germany’s has earthing strips top and bottom. A universal plug is available that safely fits both.
There are some marina/port de plaisance outlets in Mediterranean Languedoc that have a very unusual socket requiring a plug with a number of asymetrical pins of different shapes and sizes. These plugs are very expensive to buy and there are not many moorings that have them, so it’s more sensible to hire them from the capitainerie.
Shore supplies will not sustain the use of a fan heater, kettle, immersion heater and battery charger all at the same time.
Bottled gas – both propane and butane – is available from supermarkets and filling stations almost everywhere. The key problem lies in getting the empty to the location and then the heavy full bottle back to the boat. Camping Gaz is also widely available from supermarkets.
Note that gas supply hoses should be renewed at least every three years.
There are very few waterside fuel points (mainly fuel barges and marina fuel pumps). Fill up when you can. Be prepared to make trips to a supermarket filling station with jerry cans (and carry them back). The following map gives an idea of the ‘gaps’ in the network where this will be necessary. Refer also to the Practical Navigation section for each waterway.
The fairest way to put it is that neither the waterway system itself nor its users have properly got their act together in pumping out waste water, despite the regulations that are theoretically enforced. On the infrastructure side, the map below gives an idea of where units have been installed, but sadly in the majority of cases they are very rarely used. We can only encourage boaters to ask for the service with irritating regularity, so that things eventually move, in line with the practice in more northerly countries, and of course to become legal as soon as possible.
Back Up, Have Alternatives
Cooking, lighting, power . . Beyond Paris supplies of fuel and gas become less easy and often involve trips to supermarkets. Electricity is not available everywhere and even water is not as available as one might think. So make sure you plan. Take spares, have alternatives available for vital things, top up frequently as opportunities arise.
Sources of Information
Breil and Fluviacarte waterway navigation guides give clear mapped guidance as to services at the shoreside (water and electricity, pump-out) and the location of nearby supermarkets and other shops. Inevitably, they are not always completely up to date. The Fluvial Guide du Plaisancier is a waterway directory updated annually with services information, plus tariffs and contact details.
With internet access now widely available, searching for “supermarche (+ the name of the nearest town or village)” is a very useful strategy.