If you have ever wondered how to find a rental berth or to buy a berth for your yacht in the South of France in 2023 then the following may help you.
Availability, or perceived availability, is the key to securing a berth in most ports.
Marina operators in the South of France / Côte d’Azur do not handle hypothetical situations very well at all; ‘I am thinking of buying a boat or I am thinking if moving my boat to Port X next June, do you have a berth available?’. It can take you quite a while to discover this but by far the most effective way is to send an e-mail to the reservations department or apply on-line. Many port operators use the same online reservations service; the portal can be found at www.marinareservation.com
If you contact the marina operators directly then it is a good idea to do it by e-mail and to attach a copy of the Certificate of Registry plus a copy of your insurance certificate for your yacht. Then summarise the size of the berth required, the LOA, the beam and the required or desired duration of stay in the content body of your e-mail.
If you find a place, even short term, relationships matter, so try and establish a good rapport with the reception and managerial staff. I am not suggesting bribes, but politeness; perhaps a box chocolates or biscuits for the office may help. In many cases, especially in the very much sought-after locations, the reception staff can be surly and dismissive, in these cases, try using an agent to help you; someone who already has a relationship with the port. When I speak to a client who wants to bring their boat to Port Vauban – Antibes, Port Canto – Cannes or Port de Nice for example, I often have trouble explaining that they need to bring their boat to the chosen port for a week or a month and then to ‘see how they get on’. It is not very scientific, nor very certain, but there are always solutions. If you go along and say that you have a 6 meter or 36 meter boat and you want to rent a berth on an annual basis, then chances of getting a ‘oui’ are negligible.
The Renaissance Starts Here:
There is something of a renaissance going on in many ports as 40+ year leases are or have come to an end. New operators are bidding for new 20/25/30/40 and 50-year leases and parting with many millions of euros for the privilege. To recoup some of these costs quickly, they are selling leases. Most long-term leases are over 20 years, but 5-, 10- and 15-year terms are usually offered. These are not the now expired ‘Acte d’ammodiation’ which were bought and sold on, often on a speculative basis. They are no longer issued, and we now have ‘Les contrats de garantie d’usage’ which are a bit different; the pricing is more inline with the remaining duration of the ‘lease’ and they no longer apply to a specific berth, but more usually a region in the port. This is under French law; it is not the marina operators trying to be awkward.
So, are there any advantages to buying an existing lease rather than a new one? Yes, if you want security of tenure. I have two clients whose requirements have changed; both have berths for sale which are 24-29 x 7m. They bought at slightly different times, but there are effectively pre-price rises and at that stage they were offered inducements such as reduced or even waived service charges. One was on a 10-year lease and the other was 20 years. The buyer pays in 5-year tranches. To give you an idea of costs, it is around € 50,000 per annum, and you pay 5 years in advance. The balance should you decide to sell it then has a residual value.
Some Other Options:
I have been based near Port Vauban, Antibes for 20+ years now and up to now I have been focussed on berths in the local area. More recently though, I have had boats/yachts for sale in places such as Frejus and Menton. I have been hugely impressed with these ports and the good level of service I have benefited from there. The “friendliness award” though must go to the vieux port (the old port) in Golfe-Juan. They could not find me a berth there for either my RIB nor a clients 24-meter Sunseeker; but they kept me up to date with availability on a regular basis and showed genuine contrition for not being able to help. The “wooden spoon award” however for the most obstructive, surly and dismissive attitude goes to Port ….. – I dare not say. This is even though I speak French like a native (OK, like a native of the South Coast of the United Kingdom) but it is still French – ‘avec un accent fort Monsieur’