Cédric Saleck and his wife, Céline, live in Logonna-Daoulas, a village set in the center of a 5-mile-long peninsula surrounded by the waters of France’s Bay of Brest. So, it’s no surprise that the couple has accumulated a small fleet of boats. They have a 29′ sloop-rigged cruiser, a 12′ fiberglass sailing dinghy, two double kayaks, and a 15′ fishing dinghy, but still, something was missing. What they longed for was a pénichette—literally a “little barge” that could be, as Cédric called it, their “floating hut.” A search of the web turned up a lot of boats that could work as a comfortable retreat—after all, France is laced with canals and boats designed for leisurely travel on them. But everything his web search turned up was either too big and expensive or just ugly.

Photographs by and courtesy of Cédric Saleck.

While the openings in the bulkheads seen here are not in the original design, they give the cabin a more spacious feeling and will improve the circulation of heat from the woodstove. The blue foam padding that's wrapped around the arched roof beam will come off when the roof goes on but perhaps not before the occupants learn to duck when passing through the cabin.

He happened upon the Escargot canal cruiser, designed by the late Phil Thiel, half a world away in Seattle. The Washington State city is an unlikely place to give rise to a canal boat. While it does have what is called The Ship Canal, the waterway is scarcely 3 miles long and is mostly a stream bed made navigable in 1917 by a dam and a pair of locks. The two parts that actually look like a canal have a combined length of just under 1 mile. Phil got his inspiration for the Escargot from the boats plying the canals of France where he spent many of his summers. The name of his cruiser, Escargot, is the French word for snail, both a nod to the origin of the design and a declaration of the pace he intended for the boat’s barge-like hull.

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