About Us

We are captivated by French history and the romance of cruising aboard these beautiful barges.   Our French company, Croisieres Fluviales de Bourgogne, was formed in 1982 with the involvement of our own, Leigh Wootton.  Over the years, partnerships flourished and the French Canal Boat Company was created to further share our love of luxury barge cruising.

Crew Member Spotlight

Luke Dessain – Executive Chef

Luke grew up in the British countryside, raised by parents who were passionate about cooking. It’s from them he got his love of food. At the age of 18, he went on a two-week cookery course, then dove right into the deep end of the culinary world, and immediately started in the kitchens at the French ski resort in Val d’Isère. This is where his passion for creating culinary feasts truly began. Over the next five years, Luke worked at a boutique hotel under a talented head chef, where he was given the chance to develop his own style.

He was promoted to head chef at The Farmhouse in Morzine, where he still oversees the menu during the winter months when he’s not cruising the French canals onboard our barges. Luke first worked with us in 2014 aboard Nymphea and instantly hit it off with Captain Leigh. He’s continued to work with us since then, creating innovative and unique multi-course gourmet meals. He loves the fantastic culinary opportunities found along the canals and rivers in the home of French gastronomy.


Leigh Wootton – Chief Skipper

Rumor has it, Leigh cruised the French canals before Noah built the Ark. Those rumors are only somewhat exaggerated. Leigh fell in love with the French waterways over 40 years ago, and he’s never looked back. He’s become one of the most senior and respected figures in barge cruising in the area and is deeply involved in ensuring the conservation and curation of the waterways that are so near to his heart.

It was Leigh who originally transformed Le Papillon into the leisure craft she is today, and he was able to reacquire her again through the French Canal Boat Company. Leigh is known as one of the wisest and most experienced captains on these waters. He knows which stops are hidden gems and which ones are simply tourist traps, and will make sure you have the best immersion experience possible. He delights in sharing his invaluable knowledge and insights while expertly guiding you through the French waterways he calls home.

Kim and Chris DickeyKim and Chris Dickey – General Manager (US) & Cruise Coordinator

Pictured here on board Nymphea at the Château de Chenonceau, Chris and wife Kim are our transatlantic Texan soul-mates. Just how two Texans found and fell in love with these hide-away French waterways is still something of a surprise, but we’re so happy they did! After experiencing French canal barging themselves and becoming enthralled with the unique experiences it offers, Chris & Kim knew they wanted to provide the same experience for others. Barging is a hidden gem of luxury travel, and their goal is to see more people experience the diverseness of French culture and history through it!

Chris is our General Manager, and he keeps us organized and moving forward. Kim is our Cruise Coordinator, and she’ll be the first point of contact for all of our American clientele.

Joanne Stones – Operations Manager

Having worked previously on yachts worldwide, Jo has the combined experience of managing people, maintaining five star service and implementing systems on board floating hotels. As one of our executive chefs for the past 4 years, she understands the importance of organization and creativity to run a tight ship and produce a gourmet four-course dinner every evening. Her high standards and attention to detail are a big part of why things run so smoothly on board our barges.

This year she has decided to move ashore and into a managerial role and we are thrilled to still have her expertise and input guiding us in the background.

Wiliam AltmanWilliam Altman – Tour Guru

William will remind you of a Medieval troubadour, many of whom traveled the rivers and canals of France while entertaining nobility and commoners alike. He studied music in his native city of Paris, teaching classical guitar for ten years before wanderlust got the better of him and led him to the French waterways.

He became a barge captain, married the chef (you know they say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach — this is even more true in France!), ending his barging career with two happy years on Le Papillon. Family life saw the couple move shoreside, with William guiding tours all over France and Europe. Luckily, troubadours always return home, and William has returned to our team as our resident tour guru. His knowledge and experience put him in a league of his own, and he’s an invaluable member of our team behind the scenes as well.

Thank you for the wonderful week! We will long remember the food, the wine, the cruising, the tours, the walks, the lounging on the deck, the conversation and just plain fun!

Jane & Nelson

A week of fabulous food, wonderful wines, terrific trips, comfy cabins, cheery company and most of all the super duper staff.


You made this a truly memorable week – great food, fabulous wine and such attention to detail.

Ursala & Garth

The beautiful French countryside, amazing French cuisine & fabulous Burgundy wines surpassed all we had imagined!

Mike & Carolyn

I have traveled all over the world and this is by far one of the finest experiences of my life.


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