Captain Mélissa Gilly has been sailing since she was 3 months old. Well-versed in navigating oceans, rivers and canals – she now Captains L’Impressionniste as she cruises through the French waterways of Burgundy. Meet Captain Mélissa…
Meet L'Impressionniste Captain, Mélissa Gilly
How long have you worked for EW?
I have been working for European waterways for 6 years
Is it how you expected it to be?
When I started to work for European Waterways, it was just a job I planned to do for one season. Never did I expect it to become a career!
Tell us about your love of the waterways
I was 3 months old when I sailed around the world with my parents and my brother. Water is a big part of my life as far as I can remember, and even if I can’t – it’s in my blood. I’m in love with nature: I love hiking, climbing and kayaking, so being on a river or canal fuses my connection between water and earth. I love it so much, I live on a boat all year long!
What was your very first job?
My very first job was Tour Guide and Deck Hand on L’Art de Vivre, 6 years ago.
What inspired you to become a barge Captain?
The people I met throughout the years. I did not consider being a Captain at the beginning, but a lot of people on my journey told me it was an opportunity to take – especially my first Captain, who pushed me hard every time to go for it – and taught me a lot! After that, working with different Captains around France taught me a lot…
What are you most proud of about working for EW?
Year after year, European waterways became more than just a company to work for. They care about their crew and we want to work hard for them. I am really proud about how European Waterways goes from strength-to-strength each year, giving crew the opportunity to grow in their careers. Look at me – from Tour Guide and Deck Hand to Captain!
What are your favourite daily duties?
- Drink my morning coffee on the water
- Pick up the bread when everybody is still asleep
- Pilot the boat of course!
- Pick up the guests, first contact with them is a really exciting time…
- Being able to problem solve something in no time – it’s the best feeling ever!
- Talking to guests, and hearing all their stories! Does that count as a daily duty?
What do you like most about being Captain of a barge?
Since the day I got my licence and became Captain, I took on all the responsibilities this job involves. It’s a huge thing, but I see also see this as a wonderful opportunity to create something unique onboard for the guests and crew to experience.
Favourite region to cruise in?
The Nivernais Canal on the L’Art de Vivre will always have a special place in my heart. This is where everything started for me!
What makes your barge unique?
The crew! I always want the crew to get along well with each other . People will say “yes everybody wants that”, but do they always mean it? I certainly do! Living together 7 days a week, 24 hours a day can be challenging for the 6 or 4 of us! And, keeping the same crew from the beginning to the end is to encourage and trust in everybody skillsets! Your reward is having a crew who care, helping each other and being dependable. At the end we are all in the same boat (quite literally!)
What feature do guests always love?
I have so many stories, but for me this is something exclusive for my guests while they are onboard. During a nice dinner with a glass of wine, or after dinner when I am behind the bar pouring them a welcomed digestive.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up on a sailing boat, then in New Caledonia – a French island in the Pacific Ocean
Do you live on a boat?
Yes I do. I have for the past three years with my partner
At the beginning I used to travel a lot: Asia, South America, New Zealand, Australia and of course New Caledonia! Now I spend more time renovating the boat we bought, and I also give climbing lessons!
What would you do if you weren't a barge Captain?
This is a really relevant question. I don’t see myself doing anything else, which is tricky! One day it will be good to do something that would suit a family lifestyle, for example. But as it stands, I am very happy with what I’m doing!
Meet Captain Mélissa aboard L'Impressionniste
Journey through Southern Burgundy’s vineyards on the 12-passenger luxury barge, L’Impressionniste, led by Captain Mélissa and her fabulous crew.
View our L’Impressionniste itinerary here >
For help in planning your post-lockdown escape along Europe’s charming waterways, please talk to a member of our team or order a copy of our brochure.
Inspired? Visit our Special Offers page to further inspire your wanderlust.