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   Loire River Raid, 2011

By Brian Anderson - Angé - France


I am proposing to host a messabout on the Loire River in France between Thurs 8 Sept through Thursday 22 Sept, 2011. I live in Angé on the Cher River just east of Tours, and 20 minutes from the Loire. The idea is that people will come, build simple canoes in plywood, and then spend a week paddling down the river from Blois to Nantes, or possibly just popping the canoes in the river Cher near my house and paddling down it (under this old pile of rocks) to the Loire and then down from there.

There will be 16 places (17 if there is a couple who want to come and there is only one place left) available. I think any more and it is all going to get unmanageable.

The Loire is one of the most spectacular rivers on the face of the earth in terms of both natural beauty and the towns and castles along its banks. In France it is known as the Queen of Rivers, the last wild river in Europe, the playground and battleground of rulers and of those who would rule. Kingfishers flit by in a flash of florescent blue. Dainty roe deer pick their way through the current between islands. Participants will watch the sun set on bridges that have withstood the floods of 700 years, on medieval castles dominating the towns gathered at the foot of their walls, eat wonderful dinners washed down with the legendary wines from the vineyards that stretch along the banks of the Loire.

The Loire - Queen of Rivers, the last wild river in Europe, the playground and battleground of rulers and of those who would rule.

It is also a calm, Class 1 canoeing river in the section we will be paddling. This is a wonderful opportunity for those who would like to see a beautiful part of France in a way that might be difficult to manage without a friend (me) on the ground who knows the ropes a bit.

The two weeks will go like this: one day to get to my house from Paris (take a train from the airport down to Tours, and somebody will come and pick you up) and get set up. Four days to build canoes and maybe do a little sight-seeing in the area. Five days to one week on the river. Two days to entertain Murphy and get back to Paris for the flight home. There is of course no reason why one could not make other plans either before or after the raid. For those who do not want to build a canoe, there will be other boat options and they need only turn up a day in advance of the voyage.

For those who do not want to build a canoe, there will be other boat options and they need only turn up a day in advance of the voyage.

Budget:

I think a realistic budget for the trip (assuming at least a few nights in accommodations and some restaurant meals) would be $1,500 plus airfare per person, maybe $2,000 -$2,200 for those coming from North America, though it could end up being less if one is very careful.

Deposit:

Because of the planning involved and upfront costs for materials, possibly renting a van, boats, house etc., I am going to ask for a non-refundable $300 deposit for those wanting to come. I know this is not usually done with messabouts, but the logistics of a get-together like this are a little more complicated than setting a time and a place and letting everybody sort it out for themselves.

This will buy you a voice in the planning process, and limit the number of people involved in planning to those serious about coming. It will give you plenty of time to shop for a good price on plane tickets, make sure the passport is in order, etc. Chuck Leinweber at Duckworks has agreed to collect the money by check, credit card or paypal. Then Andrew Linn, and Michael Storer have agreed to come a couple of days early with the deposit money, stay at my house, and we will buy materials, maybe do some preliminary steps in the canoe building and generally get things ready for the group. Any deposit money left over after group expenses have been covered can be refunded or spent on wine and pizza or whatever.

There is of course no reason why one could not make other plans either before or after the raid.

A number of Europeans have contacted me and/or expressed interest in the trip. Some will be bringing their own boats, in some cases some extra boats for those who don’t want or don’t have time to build. If those living in Europe, or anyone for that matter, are prepared to handle their own boats and logistics, they do not need to put up the deposit, but please let me know you are coming and everybody will of course be expected to chip in for group expenses they partake of.

Sorry to go on about money, but it is best to have everything clear on that part because it makes the world go ‘round, as they say, and can be a major source of problems, in my experience, with events like this.

For those coming I am going to set up a yahoo forum for discussion, scheduling and updates:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LoireRiverRaid/?yguid=302436122

Michael Storer, the designer who drew the canoe we will be building has done up a website for the trip too:

http://www.storerboatplans.com/wp/?p=863

Accomodations:

The plan is that this will be primarily a camping trip, but individuals can certainly opt to stay in hotels along the river, and it would be possible to rent a house or Gite (see below) near mine for the canoe-building part of the raid. From my own experience and talking to some folks who have done these kind of messabouts, camping all the time can get pretty tiring. So I am going to look for a couple of rental houses along the way. There is a kind of inn, called a Gite, that is pretty common in France. These are often booked for a night or two by hikers and bikers and offer very basic accommodations, often in dormitory rooms or lots of small single or double rooms at a fairly good price. I will see if I can turn up a couple of these for the trip, possibly stay more than one day to sightsee and stretch legs.

The plan is that this will be primarily a camping trip, but individuals can certainly opt to stay in hotels along the river

It would also be very useful to have a support van. I have a small, 5-seat van with a trailer that we could use. If a lot of people turn up, it will be useful to rent something bigger.

OK, the important bit. Boats.

I think we should use Michael Storer’s Quick Canoe. It is a nice boat, easy to build, and the designer plans to turn up, which will be a treat. The choice then becomes construction adhesive/chine log or stitch-and-glue construction. Probably works out about the same in terms of cost, with the stitch-and-glue maybe being a little simpler and faster considering everything.

I have scouted around and it looks like we can get luan ply with a kind of water-resistant glue for about $25 a 4x8 sheet. For the better kind of ply with waterproof glue and two reasonably thick face plies I use for boats it is going to be about double that. I think we need to think of these boats as essentially one-use disposable boats, but it might be worth a little more money for better ply and fewer problems during the week on the river.

So we are looking at a cost of between about $80 and $120 for a bare-bones two-person canoe. Rental canoes on the Loire cost about $30 a day. So even at the high end it works out to be a bargain.

I think a realistic budget for the trip (assuming at least a few nights in accommodations and some restaurant meals) would be $1,500 plus airfare per person

One thing that is sure is that we are going to have a more or less standard boat to build - these kinds of canoes can be lengthened or shortened easily to take one or two people. But I think that if we have different people making different boats it could end up taking too long on some builds and we could end up spending more time screwing around in the hardware stores and whatnot than we have to spare.

In any case we will have to discuss which construction method and $300 buys you a vote.

There will also be a few boats available, a couple of one-person canoes I built, and probably a couple of suitable boats brought by people living in Europe, for those who don’t want to build.

What to do with the canoes after the trip:

I don’t know, really. We can let it be known along the way that they will be available at the end of the trip and sort of unofficially give or sell at least some of them to fishermen or whoever for a nominal price. A lot depends on how many people turn up and build boats. If there are a handful, I can store them and find them a home and/or keep some for those who want to do another trip in France, either as a messabout in future years or alone. If there are many, some are probably going to have to get tossed or given away.


The Futreau

The third and very interesting possibility is my friend Pasqual does excursions on the Loire in traditional wooden river boats and has said that he would be willing to put his Futreau on a truck and bring it down to cruise with us. It can take 6 or 7 people. Pasqual is a very good guy, and speaks some English. He does this for a living and has agreed to do it for 2000 euros. With six people for seven days, that works out to about 50 euros per day. All things considered I think this is a reasonable price for the chance to sail in a boat like that with a captain who knows his business and the river. The boat has an outboard, which could come in very handy at times, but Pasqual normally sails or poles the boat. Passengers can expect not to be just passengers, but to learn to sail and pole the boat. On the other hand it is a pretty big, stable, boat and would be a good option for those who would like to come, but don’t want to do the trip in a canoe for whatever reason.

Here is his website. Here again translated by Google.

The futreau is the open boat at the front of the line of three boats in the photos section. It has a square sail.

It may well be that I can find a similar boat closer to our starting point that we could get cheaper. I know a similar, but smaller boat that I could transport on my boat trailer if there are people who want that option but not enough to fill Pasqual’s boat.

my friend Pasqual does excursions on the Loire in traditional wooden river boats and has said that he would be willing to put his Futreau on a truck and bring it down to cruise with us.

Tools: Europe is on 220 volts, so American power tools are not going to work without a transformer, which can cost quite a bit themselves. Those building should check with their airline about bringing a hand tool kit, a plane, chisels, screwdriver bits, etc. I think this should be no problem in checked luggage, but these days you never know when you are talking sharp objects on airplanes...

I have a reasonably well-equipped shop, table saw, power tools etc. Hopefully the European participants will also bring some tools. I think the one thing we are going to have problems with are cordless drills for driving screws, and we may have to use some deposit money to buy a couple of cheap ones. But this depends a lot on how many people turn up and we can figure that out at the last minute.

Things to plan on bringing:

1 - camping gear. Tent, sleeping bag, cup, plate, cutlery, whatever else you want and can pack (I will provide a good two-burner camp kitchen, and any Europeans coming ought to bring a cooker with them if they have one) Maybe we can find time to knock together some folding camp chairs...
2 - rain jacket and good sweater/fleece (it can get cold near the river, especially at night)
3 - Life jacket (these can be bought here, but are generally more expensive)
4 - one pair of river shoes and one pair for kicking around town, river clothes and a suit or two of town clothes. Rubber farm boots are easily found and cost maybe $10 for those who want to try to keep their feet dry
5 - dry bag
6 - Tool kit for the builders

You can get prepaid European cards to plug into many kinds of cell phones, as I understand it, though I am a real Luddite when it comes to those kinds of things.

Cheers and looking forward to seeing everybody

Brian

Loireriverraid@googlemail.com

http://www.woodenboattrek.com/loire

map of the Loire - click to enlarge

*****

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