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. An 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.
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.
We bought a cassette compact ‘roll flat’ hose – 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 we have eventually come to understand that it is futile to try to economise on it. We now have the ‘best’ specification hose – reinforced and multi-layer to stop kinking and to make it easy to coil up.
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 filling station with jerry cans.
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.
As examples, we have travelled through some wet and cold weather, especially so at night. For us, heating is not a ‘luxury’ so we have a variety of options ranging from low-power electrical (when shore supplies will not sustain our fan heater) to gas warm air (when no electricity is available).
We have come close to running out of both gas and water.
Many showers work on a ‘jeton’ (a token coin that one buys) and push button principle. Having inserted the jeton, press the button and wait for the water to come through warm (this can take a number of minutes). Some kind of device to keep the button pressed in saves constantly having to press the blinking thing whilst showering. You may also need a key or access code to enter the shower or ablution building.
There are never enough hooks, or any. The floor always gets soaking wet, everywhere, and may be pretty dirty. Plastic bags (for one’s things and to stand on post-shower) are useful. Flip-flops or something to stand on whilst showering might make the experience less grungy. Some showers have hair-driers, some have electrical sockets to plug your own into (you will need a French/European 2-pin adaptor).
The capitanerie at Seurre has the best showers ever!
The showers at Sete capitanerie leave a lot to be desired . . .
These fairly essential shore-side facilities are not available everywhere. Where feasible, we have noted them at each place described in the Aboard in France website, but your best source of complete and up-to-date information is, of course, a Pilot Guide.