`Messing ----- about in boats--or WITH boats. . . . . In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not.’
So said Ratty in Wind of the Willows. Of course, he wasn’t Pursar or Chief Engineer on an English narrowboat with its attendant housekeeping and maintenance requirements, but he had hit the lure of the waterways square in the middle of the target.
But he neglected to add that you meet such damned interesting folk on the waterways, particularly in France. In one sense, it’s a little like meeting people on the Web. You can be cruising alongside an American surgeon one week, and a French chef the next, while an English Pear Crumble Magnate awaits back in your home port. Nationality, religion, political colours, marital status, sexual orientation are insignificant considerations. There is a shared focus; provisioning - food, water, and fuel; doing laundry; safe cruising and locking (passing through locks - met The Grim Reaper in a few of those in France); weather forecasting; coping with breakdowns, accidents, and emergencies. These are the things that bring people together while messing about in boats.