Athos history: a lovely story and an amazing email exchange

Athos history.  It’s where our business all began.

Athos is not exactly a “mainstream” business.  But because we are so entrenched in all things hotel-barging, I forget that hotel barging isn’t deeply known or understood world ’round.  We have lived on Athos or nearby the Canal du Midi for over 20 years now.  We are in close contact with others who also run hotel barge businesses both on the Canal du Midi and in other areas of France.  I write multiple daily emails explaining the how, what and why of Athos and hotel barging.  I point people at FAQ links, make suggestions about how to travel to Athos’ meeting point and answer a whole variety of questions… 

Last week I had a series of emails about Athos history that surprised even me.  And it turned out to be a lovely story:

Jonathan Sargent, Aug 3 (5 days ago)
to me

Good afternoon,

I went to an estate sale here in the USA and purchased blueprints of the ‘Athos’ and I was curious if you could tell me more about waterline and the boats history. Thank you for your time.

Aug 4 (4 days ago)
to Jonathan

Hello Jonathan – 

How amazing! …I imagine this was Mimi’s estate?  Mimi was one of the original financiers and shareholders of the Athos.  She and her husband Pierre Noubel undertook the makeover and project which are now your blueprints.  They then set Athos up as a canal-tourism business and brought over many well-heeled Americans who would never have undertaken to see the then-back-woods of Southwestern France and the Canal du Midi!

Athos still runs as a luxury hotel barge on the Canal du Midi, and has done since her makeover as per the blueprints in 1982 — slightly changed in cabin layout and certainly in decor, but in essence as your blueprints indicate. Julian was a Captain from 1988, just after Pierre Noubel sold the barge to new owners.  From 2001-2004, Julian and I leased Athos, and then by 2004 bought Athos together, and winter of 2006 gave her a massive interior makeover.  We are still running it as an active business.

Previously to 1982, Athos would probably have been destined for the North African boat scrapyards.  We think this is what happened to her 3 sister ships:  the D’Artagnan, Portos and the Aramis.  All 4 Musketeers were built in 1965 in the Marne, specifically for the Canal du Midi to be used as freighters.  Canal du Midi barges have very very low wheelhouses  in order to fit through the extremely low 16thC bridges. (have a look at the arch drawn in over the narrow silouette in Image 4 of the Plans!)  Many of these kind of freighters would have held grain, wine, sand, or fuel.  We know Athos didn’t carry fuel, but we don’t know whether she was more concentrated on grain/wine or sand.  Generally speaking, 1965-built barges had (give or take) a 25-year life span.  They were welded steel hulls with flat bottoms, and a maximum depth of 1.3m…not the ultra-thick black iron riveted hulls of their earlier Dutch-built counterparts.  

Alas, Athos’ lifespan technically should have been up by now, but she is drydocked annually, re-treated (and even re-bottomed in this past 15 years), and has constant and ongoing maintenance, improvements and tweaks.  

In fact, we’d be hugely grateful for a copy if you are able to either .pdf or post to us in France?  I’m not sure how big the plans are?  We seem to only have the electrics blueprint in our collection, and we still work around the water-tight bulkheads and fire doors indicated in the original copy.

Hope the above is of some interest and use to you.

Kind regards,

Dannielle & Julian FARRANT

Jonathan Sargent
Aug 4 (4 days ago)
to me

Let me start by saying thank you so much for the Athos history and for all of the information. My wife and I just started going to estate sales and this is truly a wonderful find indeed. I have pictures as the blueprints are very large in size. Wow… I am just in amazement. This is really neat to find on the other side of the world. Let me see what I can do. Would pictures work? 

P.s. When we started looking at these, my wife immediately said, “There has to be a three musketeers connection.”

Sent from my iPhone

Jonathan Sargent
Aug 5 (3 days ago)
to me

Dannielle,

 I miss-spoke and called them blueprints but they are actually schematics from the 1980’s. I had intentions of selling these to make something back but after talking about it with my wife, we would like to send what we have to you and Julian. We just feel like this belongs with the two of you. Let me know where we can send them to and I will let you know when they are sent. The history that you shared was more than what we ever anticipated. Thank you for sharing that with us, as we will never forget it. 

-Cheers-

The Sargent’s 

Dannielle Farrant <info@athosdumidi.com>
Aug 5 (3 days ago)
to Jonathan

Wow Johnathan – this is incredibly gracious of you!  We are of course delighted to share Athos history with anyone who wants to listen and we are so grateful that you have pieced together some of her missing artifacts! 

Lastly, I am so tickled by our exchange that I wanted to ask if I could post our emails as part of a Blog post on Athos’ website, linking it to some of the write-up about Athos history?

Best regards, Dannielle & Julian

Sent from my iPhone

Jonathan Sargent
Aug 5 (3 days ago)
to me

Oh wow! That would be so cool.  Maybe one day when we are in Paris, we can stop by to say hello. I will put them in the mail tomorrow. Please let me know when you have received them. That way we know they made it home. 🙂 

From our home with love, Jonathan & Ashley Sargent, Gulfport, MS

For the record, Johnathan & Ashley – if ever you’re keen to pop by and see Athos, you know where to find us!  Truly, Thank-you. 

A selection of Athos’ historical Plans, found by Johnathan & Ashley Sargent, Gulfport, MS

Athos history Canal du Midi plans overview

Athos history Canal du Midi plans overview
Athos plans overview
Athos history plans silouette

Athos history plans silouette
Athos plans silouette
original passenger cabin plans

original passenger cabin plans