It's worth the airfare to see the offerings of many of the world's leading manufacturers of clothing, sails, electronics, outboard engines (including one diesel), smart regulators, generators, refrigerators, new sailing vessels and inflatablesand just about anything else that's boat related. The exhibitors run into the thousands. Don't let a lack of French stop you from going. Many brochures and flyers are available in English, and the larger manufacturers' representatives even speak the American version! Here are some of the highlights of this year's show:
One yacht we visited had three steering stations. The two rudders of X-Yacht's X-73 are controlled from either the pilot-house wheel, or the port or starboard cockpit wheel. I spent quite some time figuring out how they routed the autopilot and looking for the valve(s) they used to switch the flow of hydraulic oil from one station to another. What I really wanted was an explanation of how those valves know which steering station you're using without being told!
Well represented at the show were the charter companies, offering sailboats by the score in the Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean. For those wanting to rest the sails, other charter companies offer the old-world charm of the European rivers and canals. Each of the many exhibits we visited offered at least some information in English. Much of the French was decipherable. Some vendors thoughtfully provided cruising time tables, greatly facilitating planning for those unfamiliar with the waters.
For those planning a longer stay with their own boatunstep that mast and you can go most placesI strongly suggest that you outfit your boat from the US, and take plenty of spares with you. There are several reasons to do so. First, prices are often cheaper; secondly, US sales tax is considerably less than the European VAT, no matter what state you're in; third, you have easier access to warranty repairs and replacements; and fourth, you may speak English better than European languages. Even though many people in Europe speak English, the specialized vocabulary of sailing often makes communication more difficult.
European Cruising Resources
If you're considering a trip to France, or any part of Europe, here are a few useful online resources to consider using for background information and on-site assistance:
www.ffports-plaisance.com French Federation of Marinas
www.salonnautiqueparis.com The official website of the Paris boatshow, which offered WebTV for the first time this year. Check out new products, photos of the day, and something most of us never get to see: the setting up of a boat show.
www.lachainemeteo.com is the website of one of Europe's best multimedia providers of meteorological information.
For further information on blue-water chartering:
www.apaca.fr (catamarans only)
www.stardust.com Stardust Yacht Charters
www.moorings.com Moorings Yacht Charters
www.gpsc.com GPSC Charters
Local Fishing Laws by Sue and Larry
Strange Contraptions in Foreign Boats by Gary Kirkpatrick
The Waterways of Holland by Gary Kirkpatrick
Buying Guide: Headsail Sheet Lead Systems
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