Saturday, 23 February 2013

France Here We Come

OK not quite yet but we have the necessary qualifications to go.  Sorry to get you all excited.

Over the last month we have both been studying for the necessary qualifications we need to be in charge of our boat when we take it to France.

To be legal unless you are on a hire boat in which case you need no training, knowledge, experience what so ever! the master of the vessel needs to have a VHF radio licence, to know the CEVNI rules and demonstrate your competence to handle a boat, in our case over 10m, this is the ICC part.

We did the VHF first about 3 weeks ago on a day course.  This we both found very interesting, I especially liked the DSC part, but this is pretty useless on inland waterways accept for group calling or calling a known MMSI of another boat, a bit like a phone number.

Once we had our license I bought a fixed radio and a handheld.  Two are recommended for France.  We chose models form Standard Horizon.  The fixed set also has GPS which is a bit of an overkill for inland waterways but it was only a small amount more and it gives speed and heading information as well as the time. The handheld is a just simple VHF only set.

This is the main set. But ours is in black

This is the handheld.


Once we had the VHF set it was then necessary to apply for Ship Radio License to get an MMSI number.  This was easily done online on the Offcom website and resulted in our own MMSI number 350974?? and our UK call sign 2GHQ6.  Part of this registration my personal details so the MMSI is tied to a user in case of emergency and I suppose misuse.  Once we are in Europe I will programme in a the ATIS

Then it was down to studying the CEVNI signs.  It's a bit like learning the highway code but for the river, except it’s not as well organised as it's (IMO) a bit of a dog’s dinner as it's compiled by bits from all over Europe.  As well as the signs there's also lots of different signs on various types of boat by day and night and differing in the type of vessels and what it’s doing.

This is the full CEVNI and here is a set of flash cards I compiled (with permission) from the initial work done by Bryan Griffin.  In the end the multiple choice paper was passed by both of us simply because we drilled ourselves with the cards for a good couple of weeks off and on.

Meet our new crew member MOB.


The practical part for the ICC Involved us taking our boat our with our examiner for the afternoon and demonstrating MOB (Man Over Board) recovery procedures and other boat handling and mooring skills as well as questions about river  craft, safety, emergency procedures.  Most of the handling was simply demonstrating what we do each time we take the boat out, but we did have to practise the MOB as we had never done this so  a good few ours were spent pirouetting around retrieving our very own MOB, yep a  buoy tied to a bucket.   The bucket acts as the simulated weight and sea anchor. Each time we practised this MOB it really got the adrenalin going.  Even though it was only a buoy and bucket it becomes so real.
Anyway, after that the instructor / examiner showing me my boat WOULD go backwards under control despite my insistence it wouldn’t and a final few questions he told us we had both passed.

I have also registered Avalon on the SSR and now sport the Reg. No.SSR1535623

I do have a massive blog to do on the very complex subject or Generators batteries and charging. I will get this done ASAP as I have learnt a lot with the help of Clive one of my blog readers.


  1. Such a long time in between posts! Really jealous of you heading to France - when are you going? Also does the VHf requirement apply to narrowboats too or is it just because you have a widebeam over 10m?

    1. No, it is because you have a radio! Nothing to do with the boat.

  2. Yeh! it has been a long time. I have been busy on things like this.

    All craft need to be VHF equipped over there. As for when we are off, not sure yet probably late this year or early next year.

  3. Well good luck! I'm really jealous! When you go, please please please blog everyday with loadsa details and pictures!!!

  4. This is our dream, so jealous.

    Quick question - are you sailing over or getting it trucked. We're not sure what's best. Pay the extra and get a wide beam that's seaworthy (like Peter Nicholls FCN) or save on build costs with a "conventional" hull and pay trucking costs.

    What to do???

    Thanks and good luck with your plans


    1. Well Chris I personally can't see the point in building an inland craft to Cat C just to make a sea crossing once or twice. OK I know you can take a Cat D to sea but I would think the insurance would be horrendous. Also consider the time factor. It will probably take you weeks to get the right weather conditions to get from the Thames to France, and by the time you have fueled and berthed and insured and paid for a pilot and given the time windows if you are still working, for me the only sensible way is to put it on a truck and have it all done in a day or 2. I doubt the cost would be significantly different either when all tolled.

      The only reason I could see to do it by water would simply be for the experience of doing it.


  5. Thanks Kev, that does make sense......

    Next thing to talk to the builders about is the horsepower needed. The canals are OK but others have commented on the amount of berries needed on the the Rhine/Rhone (planning on travelling the length of France down to the Canal du Midi when we retire).

    Matter of interest, have you trialled to see what your fine craft can do?


  6. Gosh you have been working hard!

    So pleased you have decided now to do what you have dreamed about since you bought that hull..

    Fantastic! xx

  7. I have 114hp which is way too much for tame water.

    As for speed. I have made 7mph at 2200 rpm but I am currently under propped at 21 x 16. I am looking to go to 21 x 19+. Currently I can make 4mph at 1000 rpm down stream and 1200 up. Stream flow is negligible here

    Speed is more dictated by the hull as much as by the engine. I have a theoretical hull speed of 10mph but have no idea how much power that would take.

    I know its great to have a boat built and my case is a bit strange in that I could do it myself, but I don't think I would be having one built, I would be looking at a used boat then use some of the cash saved to modify or refurb it if required to my taste. There's plenty out there and its a buyers market.

    I here also theres a few in France that the owners can't afford to get back to the UK


  8. Have you thought about the red diesel in your tank, I can't remember if you have a separate tank for the generator and heating.

    I believe the French are somewhat relaxed about UK boats having red in the propulsion tank providing you have all the receipts showing that duty has been paid.

    On the other hand if you venture further afield the Belgiums (and Germans) are apparently a real pain in the neck. If they find a trace of red they will fine you on the spot, UK boats are a nice little earner. Their tests for red are said to be very sensitive.