For none European nationals the 90 day stay rule can severely limit the appeal of buying a boat to cruise the French canals and rivers.

The answer is a Long Stay Visa. Here is a first hand report on the Long Stay Visa process from Australians Peter and Christine CRAIG, proud owners of a Sagar Barge.

"Late last year we became the proud owners of a 17.5 metre replica Dutch barge, our new pride and joy, currently moored in South Burgundy. We had a month on our barge getting acquainted, having it surveyed, registered etc. and came back home to Australia to tie up loose ends and apply for our Long Stay Visas.

For a long time, like many others, we'd talked about touring the French canals in our own vessel. Then we'd convinced ourselves that we should have done it 20 years ago and it was time now to grow up and act our age. Well, were glad we didn't take our own advice and the whole experience so far has been a positive one, not easy but nothing we couldn't handle - that is as long as our trusted broker, Graham Wharmby from Boatshed Bourgogne was around! He handled each step of the way with great style, calmly, competently and efficiently.

With the purchase "done and dusted" all we needed was a Long Stay Visa to be able to enjoy our watery new home. We were warned by many in France and at home that applying for our Visas would be difficult and drawn out with no guarantees of a successful outcome. They said the French Embassy in Australia had a reputation for being hard-nosed and uncooperative. So it was with some trepidation, and the knowledge that we had only one month of our tourist visa left, that we began the process. We elected to use the French Embassy in Sydney and made the compulsory on-line appointments and started getting together the many papers, certificates, licences and information required. Although most of the form was in English we had a French friend check it to ensure we'd understood exactly what was required.

On the morning of our appointments, too nervous to have breakfast, we made our way to the Embassy in Market Street arriving 1/2 an hour early. There is one appointment per passport holder and we were pleasantly surprised to be ushered in together to the 2 windows designated for French Visas. There were two nice young Consular officials, one male and one female, who greeted us quite formally and we proceeded separately to give them each item of information. We were aware that each appointment is allocated only 20 minutes. So it's important that you've read the form, answered everything to the letter, made each item easy to follow, dye-lined important information and ensured it’s in the order they stipulate. We kept a separate folder of information we thought might be useful. It included the barge's Survey Report which we were able to produce when the young man asked if we had a photograph of our pride and joy. After that the interview became more relaxed and less formal and we had time to exchange notes on interesting places to visit. It really was that simple and at the end of our interview we were told that our Visas would be posted to us in the next two weeks.

With hindsight the application seemed quite daunting but once you start assembling the documents it all comes together. We're happy to say this was not what we had expected and we left the Embassy feeling relieved and elated and ready for a good breakfast!

Good luck to those going through the process. It's worth it in the end we can't wait to start our new adventure."

Peter and Christine Craig