Buy a canal boat in France

You could create your own French tales of the riverbank, writes Vicky Leigh

A life on the ocean wave. Well, on a canal boat at least. The world could be your oyster. Full of adventure, possibilities and excitement. While it might seem like a distant romantic dream, the reality is actually a lot closer than you may think. Currently moored in beautiful Burgundy, Pastures Bleu has been restored to its former glory by owners Martin and Jan Weeks, and has served as both a home and holiday accommodation over the years. The boat is now on the market, so whether you’re ready for a lifestyle change, want to downsize or simply fancy yourself as a sailor, you could be following in their wake.

SHIP SHAPE

In 2003, Martin and Jan bought a tumbledown barn in Burgundy to renovate, and promptly added to their workload by purchasing a boat that also required extensive renovation work. They spent six months restoring the boat, where they lived while they began work on the barn, which took six years to transform into their ideal home. The boat was christened Pastures Bleu; a play on the words ‘pastures green’, inspired by their pre-France life as sheep farmers in Northumberland.

“We live in Burgundy full-time now that we’ve retired, and we’ve enjoyed numerous holidays on the boat,” says Martin. “We chose to buy in Burgundy for the canal system there, and we bought the boat in order to have fun on the fantastic canal system across France.”

The boat is fully equipped with kitchen and bathroom facilities, so could be used as a permanent residence should the new owner wish to live on it full time. The sale includes everything from the washing machine and fridge to the table and chairs and crockery. “Basically the new owner just needs to buy food to stock the cupboards and they’re ready to go!” says Martin.

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY

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For those who are keen to move to France but remain undecided about their location of choice, this could be a way to experience different parts of the country. And there’s certainly plenty to experience, with so many regions made so distinctive by their local cuisine, wine and cultural events. “It is an opportunity to buy a moveable home for not much money, and also a great way to explore France without committing to one location,” Martin reflects. “It’s quirky too; a bit different.”

It is possible to travel from Calais all the way to the south of France on the canal network, so it would be a lovely way to see the country at a leisurely pace. For those deciding where to buy it’s an affordable and fun way to choose which part of the country is right for them. “I have several friends who moved to France but then moved back to the UK because it didn’t work out the way they expected,” comments Martin. “It’s the ideal way to try before you buy.”

This applies to those with plenty of experience who have spent many an hour navigating the waterways, as well as novices. “You don’t have to be a boat person. I’d never owned, or even been on, a boat before and neither had my wife!” laughs Martin. “The nice thing about locks in France is that they are all operated by lock-keepers, so you really don’t have to do anything. Well, you do have to throw a rope from time to time, but that’s about it!”

Complete freedom

The boat is registered in the UK and has a Small Ships Register (SSR) registration number. “In order to be able to travel along the canal system a payment of €240 per year is required, which gives you the freedom to be on the canals for the whole year and to go wherever you choose,” explains Martin. Mooring fees for a boat vary depending on the location, but Martin and Jan currently pay an annual fee of €135 in Burgundy. They also have a contract which would be transferred to the new owner. When it comes to insurance, Martin says it is similar to insuring a house.

HELPING HANDS

“We’re happy to help a new owner by offering navigation tuition free of charge, should they need or want it, and by answering any questions they might have,” Martin offers. “We also have a cottage in our garden, and the buyer would be welcome to stay there during the handover period.”

The French navigation authority can provide a helping hand too. The Voies Navigables de France (VNF) website www.vnf.fr includes information on, and maps of, France’s inland waterway network as well as its associated facilities such as towpaths and leisure ports.

It’s quite obvious that they enjoy a challenge, having taken on both a house and a boat renovation, and at the same time. “We just love renovating things!” laughs Martin. “The opportunity has now arisen for us to renovate another boat, and that’s the only reason we’re selling Pastures Bleu. We’ve had so much fun with it that it seems a shame not to pass that on to someone else. We’ve finished the work on the house now too, so we don’t want to get bored!”

If life on the water floats your boat, this one is for sale for �25,000.

Jan and Martin Weeks

Tel: 0033 (0)3 86 58 38 82

jan.weeks@orange.fr