Does anyone here (in France) live on a boat?

..... I'm just interested to know what the costs are here in France, and the pros and cons.

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I'm not sure, but I think

Barges are like houses, there are many and varied. Most barges are dutch. There are many types, most are converted work boats. There are also new replica dutch barges that look like old boats but have all the modern fittings one would expect in a modern house. The most expensive I have seen was a replica barge 36m long, 5.2m wide. Hydrolic crane with a cage. a smart car would fit inside the cage which could then be lowered inside the barge and covered over out of sight. It is believed to have cost over two million euros. Another example was a 1889 circ. beautiful dutch barge, well fitted out, 38m long by 5m wide very well maintained, sea worthy off shore. asking price dropped from 220,000 euros to 185,000euros never got sold so was taken back to UK as a live aboard.

Have a look in under barges in Holland. You will learn a lot just looking.

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Curious but why have prices crashed so much?


Thanks Dennis, Done motor homing as well, in Europe and the states, terrible our travel itch!

We intend to spend the forseable on the barge.

Not anticipating many guests. We want big, warm, and comfortable for us and and a couple of dogs,any ideas?

Yacht wise I know my ideals, but as for barges no idea. What to look for,engine hours,etc no idea. I cook as a hobby so would hate a poky, downstairs galley, one reason I envied the catamaran, we had a 49 ft mono hull lovely to sail but the cats were better for space

Hi Tim, I am about to leave my barge tomorrow near St Jean de Losne, to spend the winter in Spain on my motorhome ;-)

To buy a barge, normally Holland is the place. Plenty to pick from, and prices are cheaper than France, however, the market has crashed over the last few years and its a buyers market. I have seen 7 barges, in my Marine,being sold this year and all were eventually sold for approximately half the asking price.

Narbonne, Carcassone, Toulouse, all have fair weather in the winter. I suggest buy a motorhome and travel around France looking at barges.

The internet is superb for window shopping. the biggest website is Apollo Duck. Most agents put their barges on there to sell. Just remember only offer half price. Let me know how you get on.

Dennis .

We had 15 years live aboard in the Caribbean. Tried landbase for a year and do not like it.

Thinking seriously about barging so will leave Spain where we are now in feb to rent a house to look for the barge.

Absolutely no experience so where would you suggest we base ourselves to start the search. So far I have come up with Narbonne,mainly because it is South. Missing that Carribean weather!!

Thanks for your wordy reply John!! :-)

Sailboat, motor-cruiser or barge; there are a few common themes: the ports are either remote from town / city centre or (paradoxically) slap-bang in the middle of the town's social scene; either way you'll be limited to what you can carry back to the boat when going shopping. Your storage and refrigeration space is key; hire a taxi for the occasional 'stocking-up' . Folding bikes are (generally) a complete waste of money.

Marina electrical set-ups can be ad hoc and not always safe - install a well-designed and protected electrical system on board. Most harbours now include electricity in their charging structure - so have a well thought-out shore-power system. Run cables in easily accessible and tough conduits - mice and rats enjoy a good chew on power cables and the resultant corpse can be difficult to extract. In a similar vein, your cockroach defences need to be effective: once aboard they can make your life misery; don't take cardboard or thick paper below decks. Change your shoes before going below. You can drive yourself crazy with mosquito nets - a mains-powered pastille burner is better.

Be aware of grey and black water discharge rules and make sure the vent from you holding tank is as far away as possible from your 'lounging on deck' area. "Feed the fish" on dark nights.

Doing the laundry (especially in winter) can be a drag. Toilets and showers can vary in quality from harbour to harbour.

Being a live-aboard is radically different from leisure use....and it is wonderful; the people you meet, the places you see and as others here have mentioned: when you tire of the scenery (or neighbours - yes, it happens) you can slip your lines and and move on.... Buy stout padlocks for kit left on deck - sadly thieving can be a problem in places, but usually not by other "boaters".

Your boat is your home - make it personal and comfortable (think about bespoke mattresses, for example) - music and entertainment systems. Many ports now have wi-fi, but worth investing in signal-boosters if internet is important.

Insulate the hull (not with foam) with plenty of ventilation to restrict condensation (winter) and keeping cool (summer). UV degradation of anything left on deck is not to be underestimated, a well-fitted awning can improve life immeasurably in both all seasons / weather. Herbs can be grown in containers secured on deck while in port and stowed below when at sea. It is a popular misconception that boat owners are wealthy people; and by some standards they are; in comparison with local conditions. Under no circumstances carry or allow aboard any illegal drugs - your boat can be confiscated...and in some countries this can include aspirin! Carry a letter from your doctor for any prescription drugs you have aboard.

Be aware and cautious of holiday charterers: the "fifteen minute skippers" can cause a lot of damage in a very short period of time. Probably not an issue in France, but a little 'bakshish' can ease your passage and entry formalities with underpaid officials and dock workers.

The pros are endless......enjoy!

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I did my one day practical on a narrow boat in England its run by the RYA its part of the ICC (International Certificate of Competence) for inland waterways. I have heard from other expats that you can do the practical in a group and saves on costs. Will find out were its run. Also look up the VNF they are the regulators managers of the canal systems in France.

Just out of interest I had never been on a boat in my life before this one day course, it is very simple.

Unlike UK there are still many working barges especially on the rivers but also on the canals. They have right of way and they know it.

There are many books on the rivers and canals of France, there are also lots of travel logs on the internet by people writing about there everyday experiences, that's how I discovered about living on a barge in France about eight years ago.

Hi Dennis

Thanks for the useful info..

You say obtaining a licence requires a one day course. Is this what is meant by a permis fluviale?

Do you happen to know where such permis can be obtained? I live in the SW (Toulouse/Carcassonne/Narbonne axe). My internet research suggests Lyon or Paris!



I have a massive herb and a little veg garden on my boat all in containers, I have about 70 sq m of deck space to play with, that is plenty for me. I will settle in a house eventually with a garden but life's to good at the moment to become static!!

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A narrow boat on the canals would be fine, I have seen a few around, but not on the rivers, your engine would not be able to cope. You have to have a licience which involves a one day practical boat handling course, and a 14 multi question and answer paper. It can be taken in UK under the RYA, the exam can be taken on the internet.

I lived adjacent to the Grand Union, never fancied the life, but in Europe, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany the canals and rivers are massive and very well maintained.

Boats under 20m the basic UK regs are the same. Over 20m a little more strict, but most barges for sale will comply.

Its a great life, when you have seen all, in a particular region of France, you just untie your ropes and move your home to a new region.

Thats the best bit Dennis and the part I miss ...Its nice to have a garden again for my veg growing ...but must say some times i do wish I could untie my house and roam a little .....

I have lived the last three years on my dutch Barge. There are 5000 km of rivers and canals in France. apart from the Canal Du Midi in the summer, it has, in the main, very little boating traffic so you have it all to yourself. Most locks are automatic, making it easy for even the most unfit. There are many couples in there eight's sailing very large barges.

Barges range in size up to 38 m long and 5 m wide. 190m 2 is bigger than any house I've ever had. There is an annual "vignette" based on square metre's,. average is 500 euros per year. Mooring fees varies again by length. I pay 160 euros per month. On canals you are able to moor anywhere within reason free of charge but without facilities. Most barges are self sufficient.

I suggest you look up, nice website full of practical information.

Finally, the barge market has crashed, in general, nobody can sell any vessel, lots of people are desperate to sell and are prepared to drop their prices by up to half.

Its a great life, when you have seen all, in a particular region of France, you just untie your ropes and move your home to a new region.

feel free to ask questions.

Bon voyage

Sorry I dont either , but I did in England for 8 years a 50ft narrow boat and loved it , so will read with interest any information you find as I did nearly put her on a low loader and bring her down here but sold her and brought a house instead but have thought about doing it again .. It will be interesting to see the cost and the regs for licence and conformity , keep us posted of what you find ....Thanks


Thanks David -- does your marina have a web site?

Hello I am new to this forum and the world of barging. There are some questions I would like to ask.
I have seen two boats that I am interested in 1 is in France and 1 in Holland. They are both over 100,000 euros. If an offer were made
should I offer as you say at half the asking price?
Is this more acceptable in Holland or France or not an issue regardless of country ?
Where abouts in Holland would be a good place to focus a search
for a decent barge possibly with basic hold or even a complete conversion already done.
As the idea would be to spend as much time on the barge as possible
I’m currently based in the Uk and this has been a desire of mine for some 30 years Now the children are all adults I would like to try and
see if I could bring the dream finally to fruition.
Also would Holland be better than France to reside on a barge?
Are Dutch fees higher than French for riverside mooring or visa versa?any other help insight or suggestions please feel free to comment As I’m sure there are lots of wise boaters and barge people
who can advise a newbie like myself.
Dennis please accept my sincere Thank you’'s in advance