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Our Home Afloat On French Canals
By Mike Thiel

I'm not sure what I expected, but I was most pleasantly surprised with our Nicols' cruiser. I use the term "cruiser" purposefully, because Nicols' boats are not typical of the captain-it-yourself barges or peniches rented by other companies.

A peniche typically has a deep and relatively narrow hull and modest window and deck areas. Nicols' fleet of more than 200 boats includes peniche-like models, but their newer cruisers are akin to modern sea-going cabin cruisers in design and layout. What they lack in charm, they more than make up for in practicality.

For starters, they are quite roomy. Our Nicols 1000 (10 m., or 33 ft. long) offered a generous aft deck near water level, shaded by a retractable awning and equipped with a table and chairs. The cabin roof doubled as a sun deck and alternate helm position with a commanding view.

Spring/Summer 1996

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