The region's coastline and many waterways mean water sports play a large role in this part of France. Evidence of this can be seen at Les Minimes marina in La Rochelle and the Grand Pavoi (an international floating water sports show), which takes place every year for a week in September (for more information call +33 (0) 5 46 44 46 39).
Of the 36 sailing clubs in Charente-Maritime, 23 are official 'Ecole Française de Voile' centres. This seal of approval guarantees the reliability of the club, and means lessons are given by qualified instructors. Also, the equipment is closely monitored to ensure conditions are as safe as possible for students.
With the amount of variety offered by 23 sailing schools, anyone keen to try their hand on the water can select the option that is most suitable for them. Some of the options on offer are sailing courses on light sailing vessels like Optimists, two-man dinghys, catamarans, or multi-person boats (week-long courses).
At the end of the week, the student is given a 'Passeport Voile Poitou-Charentes' sailing passport.
Apart from these week-long courses, other options are also available, depending on the club. Novices can sign up for an introductory course, and there are also lessons for beginners, improvers, and more experienced sailors to learn how to use houseboats or hire a craft.
For more information (clubs, services, prices, etc.), contact:
Comité départementale de Voile de Charente-Maritime.
Tel.: +33 (0) 5 46 34 67 83
The area boasts over 60 mi of navigable waterways, stretching from Marans to Niort, meaning that water-bound visitors can cross three administrative regions: Charente-Maritime, Deux-Sèvres, and Vendée.
Canal rides are available for cruises lasting an hour or more, and may come with the offer of a meal too. Plotting a course along the Mignon and Autize canals is one way of really making the most of all the countryside has to offer. This mode of transport also means you can watch how the locks work, as you will come across 9 along the way.