History of La Péniche
Since living on a ship in the 1980’s, Tony and Kate Elliott-Cannon were inspired to give Falmouth a dining experience on a vintage vessel. Tony initially sought to utilise a mini cruise ship as a hotel. The idea brewed over time and the search for a smaller more realistic option began. Delta, our 1938 péniche (French barge), arrived in Falmouth Bay in early 2019.
Originally named “Raymond” she was built at the Mourlon family Boatyard at the village of Pierre le Treiche, near Nancy, France. As a commercial barge she would have been able to carry 250 tonnes of cargo. During World War 2 she was requisitioned by the German army and was later found in the port of Genoa, Italy. We can only imagine what stories she could tell! Retrieved and restored by her owners she continued to work as a cargo carrying barge until 1984 when she was converted to take passengers and reborn as “Delta”.
Later purchased by Englishman Roger Collins, Delta cruised the River from Chalon-sur-Soane in Burgandy for 15 years, giving joy to many dining on fabulous French food whilst enjoying the peaceful bucolic scenery passing by. Tony and Kate sailed on one of her last voyages before she began her journey to England.
Before leaving Chalon, as Delta had been enlarged, she had to be restored to her original “Freycinet” width by cutting specific deck structures. This was the only way for her to make it through many of the older canals and even then it was a very tight squeeze. In addition, she had to be weighted with 6400 breeze blocks and 8650kg of concrete blocks to ensure she would get under bridges. What a start to her next adventure!
Roger and his Bargee Bruno navigated Delta a total of 726.86 KM and through 177 locks as they travelled the network of canals across France over the course of many weeks. Her journey, although arduous, must have been spectacular. It included sights such as the famous Eiffel aqueduct. Google it! C’est fantastique!
More drama! She dry docked in Paris to undertake hull repairs after hitting a submerged object, then continued her journey to be greeted by Tony and Kate in Poses, Normandy. As work was begun to prepare her for her sea crossing it became clear why so few people had undertaken similar ambitious projects. Red tape from officialdom (French and English) and insurers made this process quite a challenge, with a total of 4 surveyors appointed to satisfy their requirements and fabulous Falmouth surveyor, Tom Hustler, coordinating to keep us all sane.
We followed her journey across the English Channel, biting our nails, after learning a similar vessel (The Oliver Cromwell) had sunk off Anglesey whilst being tugged across the Irish Sea. Delta arrived safely in Falmouth Harbour in February 2019 thanks to MTS Taktow who left her to rest until the tide was high enough to take her to Butlers Boat Yard, Penpol.
Since then Tony, Kate and their small team of helpers have been restoring, repairing and improving her. Our interior design is mostly all about the view. There are 19 huge windows. However, if we had to describe our décor we would say it’s a modern twist on an art deco theme. The original inspiration for bar decoration began with a Clarice Cliffe piece of pottery.
Conversations with the Harbour Master and Falmouth Town Council were positive from the outset. We seem to have very forward thinking officials in Falmouth who genuinely care about our keeping our town a vibrant place to live and visit. Initial mooring sites investigated included Prince of Wales Pier and Church Street Car Park, then we were made an offer by The Haven.
Take a look at our Facebook page @La Peniche Falmouth, Café & Bistro if you enjoy human interest stories; it documents the trials and tribulations from 2018 to her opening in Falmouth in 2020 and beyond. Delta has great character and we hope “La Péniche” will become a beloved venue to all. Come visit us soon!