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Boats don't rest in winter, and neither do the bases!

Join us as we take a behind-the-scenes look at how our bases maintain their boats during the low season. The aim is simple: to ensure that you can always enjoy your boats in top condition when you're cruising aboard your riverboat!


One objective: customer satisfaction

The aim of winter storage is simple but essential: to repair and prepare our boats to welcome you in the best possible conditions. As true specialists, our base managers always manage to find a solution to repair the boat and enable our guests to enjoy their stay...

At NICOLS, this is the key to customer satisfaction, and Eric instils this principle in all our bases: "if something is worn out, it's better to replace it rather than risk a breakdown". This is one of the advantages of Nicols being both a rental company and a manufacturer: everything (except the engine) is made in Cholet and most spare parts are in stock. This is a guarantee of quality, because it means we can react quickly when, at the height of the season, we need to send to a base any spare parts that may have been damaged during a yachtsman's cruise... and so enable subsequent yachtsmen to enjoy a boat in the best possible condition, for a great river cruising experience!


When the bases close

y the time the season comes to an end (usually around the end of October), all the boats have been taken out of the water. Some bases that have enough space on land take them all out at once, while others prefer to do it as they go along, "which doesn't change anything in terms of maintenance, it's just a question of practicality", explains the manager. And each time the boats leave the water, the ritual begins:

  • The boats are completely emptied of their contents: bedding, curtains, parasols, there must be nothing left on board.
  • Every single part is inspected and replaced at the slightest sign of wear and tear. "Holidaymakers must find unrivalled comfort on board," explains Eric.
  • Of course, everything is washed and cleaned according to the rules, using environmentally-friendly products. Cabins are cleaned from floor to ceiling, and portholes, doors and fittings are inspected for defects. "A squeaky door can spoil the pleasure of a week on the water, so we might as well apply a little lubricant as a preventive measure," explains the manager.


Safety first and foremost

The most important thing on Nicols boats is safety. So lifejackets, gaffs, ropes and anything else that can help you enjoy your boat without risk are inspected. And here too, as soon as there's any doubt (a suspicious seam, a fire extinguisher that's too close to its expiry date, a boat hook that looks worn), the accessory in question is replaced by its new equivalent.

And when it comes to boat safety, we're talking about the hull. "Once out of the water, the hulls are cleaned and made free of algae, shells and dirt," says the manager. Of course, all these careening operations are carried out in areas set aside for the purpose, and the water is not discharged into the public sewage system or, still less, into watercourses. "Nicols has developed a real concern for the environment at every level. Base managers and mechanics alike are made aware of the fragility of the environment in which the boats are constantly evolving".

When the hulls are laid bare, the most important inspection begins. Every square centimetre of submerged work is inspected for impacts, cracks or the risk of water ingress. Here again, if there is the slightest doubt, repairs (fibreglass) or replacement of the doubtful part will avoid the disappointments of the summer.


Checking engines

What would a Nicols barge be without a good engine? After safety, the engine and its accessories (propeller shaft, sealing rings, oil filter, fuel filter) are checked to ensure they are in good condition and replaced if there is any doubt. All the filters are replaced and the oil is systematically changed. "Every year, I order around 3,000 litres of oil for the whole fleet. Some engines contain 6 litres, others 4 litres. In any case, an engine undergoes two oil changes a year, one in winter during the wintering period, and another at mid-season". Another guarantee of quality holidays in boats in perfect condition.

Here again, the quality of the Nicols shipyard brings its own advantages: "We can supply turbines, filters or seals to the bases without delay, everything is standard". In the end, the time saved in ordering and managing consumables is put to better use supporting holidaymakers.

"The only thing our mechanics don't do is open the engines," explains Eric. It's not that they can't do it - he personally loves doing it from time to time - but because, here too, it's preferable to carry out standard exchanges rather than repairs, in order to start with new, reliable equipment that will last for several years.


At the head of a fleet control tower

To keep track of all these stages and make sure they don't forget anything, the bases have a list of all the points to be checked for each type of boat. They tick off the items to be checked and, if necessary, comment on the condition of one part or another.

And from Cholet, Eric has access to the maintenance logs for the entire fleet, which are constantly updated and maintained. This means he can warn a base that has fallen a little behind with its maintenance, or be proactive if damage occurs repeatedly on different models of boat.

A keen mechanic, Eric has an inexhaustible knowledge of everything that goes into making a boat work and giving its guests the pleasure they expect.


Back in the water and thorough cleaning

When the maintenance part is finished, the boats are put back in the water and the boat cleaning teams come in. Everything, absolutely everything on board is tested and cleaned: air conditioners are checked, as are the ovens and parasols. The idea is that a boat should be ready to set sail again once it has been checked.

As you can imagine, during the winter season, all the tanks, especially the water tanks, are emptied, especially in regions where frost can occur, to avoid unpleasant surprises in the spring. And this equipment (water heaters in particular) is tested again at the start of the season!

To complete the picture, random checks are carried out on the boats at Nicols, to ensure that everything has been done thoroughly and correctly.


Respect for the environment and people

Particular attention is paid to the waste generated during boat maintenance: litres of oil, coolant or bilge water are never discharged into the environment. "We send all waste to Chimirec for reprocessing," explains the manager. The cleaning and maintenance products we use are over 95% biodegradable. "There are several simple explanations for this. Respect for our working environment, respect for our employees and respect for our guests".

This is undoubtedly what makes Nicols a company on a human scale.

At the end of the winter, the base managers take their holidays. "Out of the almost 5 months that the bases are closed, 4 are devoted to boat maintenance and one month to employee maintenance," laughs Eric.

The aim is to provide you with an even better welcome the following season, and to remain constantly attentive to your comments, expectations and desires. "Like the air conditioning on the Fly range, requested by several customers," concludes Eric.

The time is approaching to book your summer holidays... You're safe with Nicols boats!

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