Biche – France’s last sailing tuna fisherman

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Sailing French tunny fisherman Biche

Biche, the last sailing French tuna fishing boat is scheduled
to be relaunched in two years.

Googling around for Parisian boat-related material led me to the website of Les Amis du Biche – a society devoted to restoring and relaunching the historic sailing tuna fisherman. The grand old boat is due to be back in the water by 2010, and from the photos there has been a lot of work to do.

I’d also draw readers’ attention to the quaintly entertaining name on the side of the crane. This kind of light-hearted humour seems to happen around these machines: the crane that’s about to put our little boat in the water proclaims itself to be an Iron Fairy. It’s obviously been around long time, but I gather they are still available if you want to buy one – though the more convenient Matchbox toy version is apparently a rarity .

I was entertained by this ingeniously made video appealing for new supporters for the Biche project.

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7 thoughts on “Biche – France’s last sailing tuna fisherman”

  1. Biche was sold to the Douarnanez Maritime Museum by Graham 'Dusty' Miller, who is currently restoring Idle Duck. He believed that the museum was restoring her…Bob

    1. Dear Bob,
      You probably know the association “Les Amis du Biche”, who own Biche now, after 3 years rebuilding her. We are working on a book project, about Biche and her different lives, including the English one. It could be great for us to contact this Graham ‘Dusty’ Miller, to learn things about this time he owned her, and maybe to collect new elements.
      Tell me if you know how I could contact him. You can contact me at
      Thank you,

  2. It's astonishing how we are connected. I found the site while Googling for things to see in Paris, and what do I find but a Breton tunny boat that previously belonged to a geezer who works on boats in Faversham.

    Would Mr Miller feel he had been let down I wonder? I remember the Douarnenez museum being quite impressive and having a well-funded kind of look, unlike many of our smal provincial museums. I'd have thought they would have been just the people to do the job.

    At least it seems someone is looking after her. She is an extraordinary boat – I hope they get the colour scheme right as well as the timbers!


  3. If you look throught the photos on the Amis du Biche site, you will find some of a graveyard of old wooden working boats that the Museum has allowed to 'go'; this is where Biche was found, and where they had to fight to extract and save her.

    They have the same funding and political problems as we do [remember the Maritime Trust Collection at St Katherines], albeit that they have a more positive attitude towards their cultural and maritime heritage.

    Graham was quite shocked that they had not dry docked and maintained her as they said they would, but pleased that they had rescued her. He had spent a fortune maintaining her, whilst chartering; it was also his home for some time. I am really pleased to have someone of his experience and skill working on Duckie.

  4. I've just seen them. I'm shocked and surprised that these boats should be in the hands of such a nicely presented and clearly well run museum.

    It makes me wonder what the other craft are and how the decision to let them go might have been made. No doubt they would say they sometimes fail in their projects and have to make difficult decisions, but the results are heartbreaking whatever the reasons.


    1. I sailed on Biche in the late 70’s I think. It was then owned by a guy who lived in Wargrave, Berkshire I think. A story he told us at the time was that the French government woke up to the fact that there were only 2 of these boats left. They bought the other one and entrusted it to the French navy to sail it round to marseilles where it was to be restored and put in a museum. Unfortunately they put it on rocks before getting passed Gibraltar and it was lost.

      He did say that any time he sailed across the channel, he didn’t have to take any money with him as when he went into port with Biche people would buy him all the food and drink he could want.

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