The 1000 km journey to Finisterre was chopped into two 28 degree unairconditioned halves - and two nights at campsites.
One without loo paper or loo seats and the second, English owned, offered both.
On the morning of Thursday 4th of July we arrived in Audierne at about 10.30 so I went over to check out the Fisher ahead of meeting with the eponymous JP.
The boat did look a bit of a mess tucked away in the back of a yard of rotten mobos.
The woodwork was shot - but I am good with wood and it would do to get me back to Waldringfield. Judicous use of marine play and self tappers would do to hold things together for 500 miles around Finisterre, up the english channel, around North Foreland, across the channel, through the Wallet and into the Deben.
she came with her own tree - which was nice.
It has the sort of radar normally carried by cross channel ferries back in the sixties and the worst running rigging I have ever seen.
So far so good - no deal breakers here I could see.
Jill and I went for a coffee and then returned at the appointed hour.
UP rolled JP in his Audi TT - black. A classic pimp's car and not one I would normally associate with Fisher owners.
Jill took a dislike to him straight away.... he was very sweaty and did not dress like a sailor.
He went across the road to Stratimer who own the yard and came back with a ladder and an electric drill. The story was that the boat had been broken into and the yard had screwed the door shut. I should say at this stage of the game that Stratimer have a good reputation locally, the English people who ran our campsite use them regularly for boatwork. Fine people apparently.
We climbed up to the boat - the toe rail was shot and the stanchions wobbly.
Then we removed the screws from the door. Clearly the images JP had sent me were some-what "historical" despite his claims on the phone that they were contemporary.
He had warned me that the instrumentation was shot - no problems there but the gear was straight out of the eighties and did not seem the sort of gear that the driver of an audi TT would put up with for a minute. The man was a living paradox.
Down below the boat was dirty, falling apart but two days with a jay cloth, a bucket of suds and a stanley knife would have had her looking quite habitable - it would make Jill squirm but it would be fine for two old boarding school lads such as Jon and myself.
It was at this stage that I asked about the anchor
Stolen was the answer
and the chain
gone too apparently but then it turned up in a locker - along with the chain
This was news to JP who claimed to have really loved the boat.
The engine looked in good nick - the oil in the gearbox was clear and the oil in the engine block was black but no sign of emulsifying that would indicate a breach in the block. I had offered to bring a battery and spend an afternoon trying to start the engine but JP said he would not allow me to start it.
So, I said, the boat will do. We can give you 1,000 euros now and the remainder by bank transfer.
Some of the following may have been lost in translation but JP said that he had already accepted an offer from the Frenchman
But you told me he has not seen it yet
Aha - his friend saw it. He is coming tomorrow. If you wish me to stop him then you must offer me more money to knock him out of the bidding.
It was at this stage that I realised that I had been brought 1000km on a lie.
I said OK - 9,000 then and held out my hand for the shake - at this stage of the game my optimism had gone overboard.
JP pouted and then in a trice he was on the phone to the Frenchman to see if he wanted to beat my offer - although I am not sure who he was talking to. The speach was too fast for Jill or I to understand but he was certainly not telling the Frenchman that he had lost the boat he had not seen yet.
To sort this out we contacted Helene to help. I explained that she had promised that I could buy the boat at the price advertised that day. She told me that the other bidder is a frenchman and might never turn up.
At this stage I said that it is time to stop this. Then the phone rang. It was, apparently another eager buyer.
I then climbed down the ladder and told him to sell the boat to the two Frenchmen. JP scuttled down the ladder after me and dragged me to the back of the car to inspect the paperwork.
he said we must go to lunch to discuss it - he implied that I should be paying him back for his time by buying lunch.
I gave it the once over and said you sell the boat to the other buyers. I am going swimming.
The boat is, at the time of writing still being advertised.
I did send an email to Helene
So we spent the remaining days cycling around old french towns while waiting for Tuesday when we could get the cheap ferry back to blighty.
The bad thing is that we spent too many days driving across France in a hot old car. The good news is that the car did not break down and we loaded her above the plimsoll line with terrible French wine.
I shared this story with JY who sent me the link - he is a wonderful bloke
this is what he said
I am so sorry to read this mail... Seems to me like a nightmare. I can not imagine that kind of people exist...
(never trust a man in a black audi, but i didn't know that)
It's a shame for all the french...
For me it seemed to be a good deal for you, and I never would have imagined that kind of incorrectness.
I could hardly sleep last night, I felt ashamed and guilty. But I'm only naive.
I found two of my boats on "le bon coin", my Mousquetaire and a little gaff rigged open boat, and only met kind people who loved boats.
Such a story is very bitter, I only can understand you and apologize for my good/very bad idea. I will never again give some advice, and I hope you will find your boat and forget this dirty story/dirty people.
All the best, and please accept my excuses
so if you do find yourself in a French Marina and there is a Fisher 34 there with JP hanging around give him my regards and tell him that he is often in my thoughts
PS - and the moral of this story is.... over to you chaps