You don’t have a sailing license?

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That’s great! Even if you have no license and no experience on the sea, you can still rent a Nicols boat and enjoy the inland waterways of France. Everyone can sail a Nicols boat with a short training given on the day they start the trip. These boats are famous for their simplicity and maneuverability, plus they have everything you would ask for in a luxury boat. And don’t forget that you’re not alone: about 80 percent of all boat renters on the French waterways are non-licensed people like you! Rest assured that you’ll have your first experience as a captain in a very safe way…

You don’t have a sailing license?

Discover France through a new perspective

C’est charmant, la France! No matter how many times you’ve been to this country, if you’ve never had a boat holiday on the inland waterways, you’ve missed a lot… Thankfully, you now have Nicols at your service through The Nicols fleet is among the largest in France, and the best part is that these boats are so user-friendly that they almost sail on their own and you don’t even need a license to be the captain.

Inland waterways are just the right route to reach the heart of France, its villages, rural life, vineyards, to get to know traditional France through canal charters. While sailing among medieval castles on one side and vineyards on the other, you’ll always feel safe on a Nicols boat.

With waterways of 8,000 kilometers, France has Europe’s largest network of rivers and canals. And Nicols has more than 20 charter centers throughout France to provide the customers with the best service. They have many charter options taking off from lots of different centers. The sailing season in French waterways and rivers is quite long, starting at the end of March and ending in mid-November.

With one of the largest fleets in France, Nicols is not only a fine charter company and an expert in canals, the establishment also has a deep-seated tradition that has produced more than 600 raceway boats in 30 years in its factory in Cholet, Bretagne. We’d highly recommend you experience Sixto Green, Nicols’ luxurious electric boat that they have launched in 2018. Nicols team is a big family that will quickly teach you how to sail a boat and support you throughout your journey… Nicols has many alternatives that can host 2 to 12 people. Sixto Green is their first electric boat model. For the time being, these electric boats only serve in the Alsace region which has charging stations built along the route. On an electric boat, you can enjoy a silent sail. The boats have bicycles, barbecue, and other extra gears aboard.

Whether you’re taking a vacation as a couple, a family, or a group of friends, you can plan for a journey that covers a weekend or one or more weeks and pick a route among a variety of courses. It’s so easy to just land anywhere you want among the little French villages and continue your explorations on the land. Boat charter on the canals may fairly be the most wonderful way to see this country from another perspective.

Anjou Region

Only two hours to Paris and located between Loire and Bretagne regions, Anjou Province has more than 300 kilometers of rivers to discover. Anjou’s scenic network of rivers will take you to the great food, wine, historic castles, and monasteries of the region. Nicols has three centers in Anjou, where routes on Sarthe, Mayenne, and Oudon Rivers are planned together with the customers. Forests covering slopes, mansions by the river, and charming villages full of flowers will set the scene for an unforgettable boat trip. While you sail as the captain (no experience needed!) of your chic boat, barges that you can easily belay along the river and the many stations to get water will make your work even easier. The places you should not miss in Anjou Region are the historic center of Chateau-Gontier, King Rene’s Angers Castle, and the Plessis Bourre Castle…

Alsace Waterways

As a difference from other canal routes, a journey in the Alsace Region of France gives you a taste of international cuisine. The region is closely linked to Germany and Luxembourg. Here you’ll find a variety of cruising routes with various durations. You can sail to the city of Strasbourg and the famous historic region of Petite France. If you head west, in the opposite direction, you’ll reach Lutzelbourg to take the famous boat lift called Arzviller Shiplift. A wonder of engineering, the ship lift has been working non-stop since 1969. After Lutzelbourg, Niderviller will welcome you with its historic buildings and interesting tunnels. You can swim or fish in the lakes surrounding the Sarre Canal. The local cuisine is famous for jerky and game. The region hosts around fifty festivals every year, mostly during the summer, and you’ll be likely to come across one. And which boat would we recommend? The electric model, Sixto Green for sure!

Aquitaine Region

Known as the land of the Three Musketeers, Aquitaine is a place to live the dolce vita. You’ll no doubt that you’re on a unique vacation route when you experience the serenity and peacefulness of the Garonne Canal and the wild appeal of the River Baise. Nicols’ center here is located in the meeting point of these two waterways. Along with medieval towers, windmills, and chateaus, you’ll enjoy the wonderful tastes of the region, as Aquitane is famous not only for its nature but also for its good quality wine and cuisine. We’d recommend truffled foie gras and Agen prune, and the local brandy Armagnac, and the Buzet wines as well.


Burgundy is among the most renowned canals in France, with its lovely villages, lively nature, curious historical heritage, world-famous vineyards, and delicious local food. The Nivernais Canal in Burgundy is worth special attention for those who enjoy rural life, traditional French culture, and of course, good wine. Do spend time in the antique villages of Auxerre and see the famous cathedral. With chateaus, cathedrals, splendid nature, and wonderful scenery, the Yonne River is yet another route that you shouldn’t miss. Those who are into enology will be excited to see the wine vaults and vineyards of some of the most prestigious vintners. Vineyards and great restaurants are often close to the canals. Good food, as well as a rich historic texture of monasteries and castles, is within a short walking or cycling distance from the canal. And Tanlay Castle has a nine-hole golf course awaiting those who’d like to golf in an astonishing historical atmosphere.

Bretagne Region

Bretagne may be better known as a place to sail to the oceans, but its inland waterways are just as wonderful and popular. Rivers Erdre and Vilaine and the Nantes à Brest Canal offer you a journey to unique beauties. As you travel from Nantes to Brest, you’ll pass by medieval castles and villages, half-timbered houses and monasteries, and chapels. This grand historical heritage has 17 castles within 15 kilometers of waterway on Erdre. Josselin Castle and its reflection on the water are marvelous sights to see. And don’t forget you’re now at the heart of the land that produces the famous Cider, which is very popular to have with crepe. In many of the villages around live artisans of handicrafts and glasswork, which adds more to the cultural richness of the journey.

Camargue Region

Renting a canal boat in Camargue is a bit of an exception as you can enjoy being on inland waterways together with being by the seashore. Cruising on the Rhone à Sète Canal is surely to make unforgettable memories, where you’ll discover the large pond of Etang de Thau, its marshes and nature reserve of 85,000 hectares, which has one of the richest flora and fauna in Europe, where the diversity of birds is also miraculous. Throughout your journey, you can watch the wild white horses of the region, the migrating herons, and other species of wildlife. You should spare plenty of time to the marvelous town of Aigues-Mortes, its castles and walls. Camarque is also full of surprises for gourmet travelers. Enjoy the delicious southern cuisine, taste the oysters of Bouzigues and definitely try the Costières de Nîmes and Muscat de Frontignan wines. The region is famous for its olive oil and asparagus. And sea lovers have a great alternative throughout the route: as canals often follow the seashore, you can just land anywhere and get to the beaches whenever you wish.

Charente Region

King Francis had once called the meandering, wide Charente River “the prettiest waterway of the kingdom.” Charente passes through the antique provinces of Angoumois and Saintonge. The region is unique for its tasty wine, lush green countryside, clear waters, and historic towns and villages. On the hills by the river, the vineyards will be the first thing you’ll notice. They date back to Roman times. The wine trade has had an important place in the history of the Charente region, where you shouldn’t miss Pineau des Charentes, which is a mix of cognac and wine, and also taste the local cognac. If you like wine tasting, there are many wine cellars and distilleries along your canal route. Charente is well known for its oysters, meat dishes, snails, cheese, and melons.

Franche Comté

Located between Switzerland and Alsace and Burgundy of France, the Franche Comté region has more than 300 kilometers of waterways to discover. Nicols center here is in Dole, where the rivers Doubs and Saône meet the Burgundy canal. Here, together with the specialists in this business, you can select a route that suits you best among the many alternatives. This cruise takes you to wonderful historic cities such as Dole, Besançon, and Gray, along with typical French villages. We’d recommend that you spare some time for each. You’ll fall in love with the nature of Franche Comté, which has something to offer for all tastes, be it aquaparks, beaches, or caves.

Lot River

While sailing on the natural waterways of the marvelous Lot Valley, at every turn you’ll see some other cave, cliff, green hill, and of course historical buildings. Nicols awaits customers in the medieval town of Cahors, well-known for its vineyards. But, as the river sometimes changes its flow, cruising on the Lot River needs some sailing experience. Seventeen locks that you pass through in this river of 74 kilometers feel like traveling in time. The old, forgotten villages, roads, and moss-covered roofs in Quercy, Valentré Bridge in Cahors, the cliffs in Bouziès, and the historic town of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie built way up on the hills are a few of the attractions around the Lot River. We’d recommend that you go there on truffle time, as truffled foie gras, goose confit, and walnut muffins are worth the fame.

Canal du Midi

Canal du Midi is the largest artificial waterway and the most popular canal in France. The canal stretches for a good 241 kilometers in Southern France and links the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. Listed among UNESCO World Heritage, the canal was completed in 1666 with the efforts of 12,000 people. Canal du Midi is a pleasant route with vineyards receiving lots of sunlight, fabulous villages, and restaurants by the canal. It is lively at all times: deluxe restaurants by the waterway, local wine houses, little markets… Plane trees, cypresses, and umbrella pines provide the sailing boats with nice shades. The large ponds on the route provide wonderful places to chill out on the beach. (Let’s note here that if you’d like to take your pool, Nicols can provide you a boat-size jumping pit that you can pull along the boat.) You can have delicious food in many of the towns and villages by the canal. In Castelnaudary you should try the famous cassoulet, a casserole dish cooked with beans and three kinds of meat. You should also spend time in Toulouse, nicknamed ‘the pink city for the red tiles of all its buildings, visit the medieval castle in Carcassonne, and taste the wines in Minervois wineries.

Saône Valley

Saône Valley is just the right place to tranquil your soul in the quiet waterways between the wine regions of Champagne and Burgundy. Pretty green prairie will relax you instantly, and the serenity of the water here makes things easier for first-time sailors. You can take off from the Nicols center on Port-sur-Saône, pass to Canal de l’Est, and sail against the forest panorama of Vosges. To the south, canals between Champagne and Burgundy make another excellent route with graceful villages, fountains, and history. The rivers of Saône Valley are perfect for fishers; you can try fishing jack, bass, or catfish here. Try the pochouse (fresh-water fish casserole), matelote (wine-and-onions-sauced fish), or other fresh jack or bass dishes. We’d also recommend visiting the traditional glass blowing ateliers in Selles and do more good to your health in the thermal waters of La Vôge-les-Bains.


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If you have any story, insights, advice, tips or experience to share with fellow sailors, please write it down and email to [email protected]. We will publish it on our pages with your name!