This Europe: Boat owners all at sea as French marinas feel the squeeze

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The Independent Online

Pity the poor, rich, homeless boat owners of France and many other nations. However wealthy they are, however ostentatiously expensive their new yacht or launch, they may find nowhere to drop anchor on the French coast this summer.

Pity the poor, rich, homeless boat owners of France and many other nations. However wealthy they are, however ostentatiously expensive their new yacht or launch, they may find nowhere to drop anchor on the French coast this summer.

There is, quite simply, no room in the harbour. French marinas and yacht harbours are fully booked and there are tens of thousands of homeless boats on waiting lists. More than 20,000 new private pleasure craft are registered in France each year but only 1,000 new mooring places are created.

The problem has become so acute that France has had to borrow an idea from the United States: the multi-storey boat park. Launches are stacked on frames four or five storeys high and recovered by fork-lift trucks when their owners wish to use them

But this provides a solution only for the owners of small to medium-sized boats, according to a investigation by the newspaper Le Monde. No one has yet found a way of stacking ocean-going, millionaire's yachts.

Other countries are building new marinas to cope with the demand, but the laws protecting the French coast are so strict it can take a decade to create a new harbour. There are now 768,000 private, pleasure craft registered with the French authorities, but only 164,000 mooring places in 460 ports and marinas (plus thousands of unofficial moorings).

Even allowing for the inaccuracies in the official figures, there may be as many as 500,000 boats looking for a home.

Partial relief may be on the way, however. The European Union's plans to rescue fish stocks by slashing European fishing fleets may offer a solution. Saint Mâlo in Brittany is considering converting part of its fishing port into a marina.

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