opps - I see you are in canada
. forget all i say about americians, the french love canadians
the main obstacle is unless you are a french or EU citizen, is that you will not be legally allowed to live there for more then 90 days in any six month period , not 183 days as a previous poster says. thats the length of the normal tourist visa, after 90 days you have to leave for the remainder of the 182 days.
NOTE. I you qualify for extended visa ( student, working , etc) that after 183 days you will be a tax resident of france, also you will not be eligable for the 18month temporary import
of your boat without VAT being due. What you are considering is more correctly a TOR procedure. ( transfer of residence) and you can bring in all your personal possessions, including a boat completely TAX FREE. but you have to meet all the legal
The french are very friendly towards americans, ( I always shake my head
at the public image that your press has painted about france), Remember they helped you in the war of independance, they have quite an emontional attachment to the US. ( unlike the brits , which I have found actually dont like americans! a lot).
As to cruising the midi, this is the smallest gauge canal in france, so check carefully what can fit.
given that france is easily the best place to live , great food
, great people, great public services, trains,buses, culture, etc you do need some basic french however, especially in small shops, talking to ifficialdom, etc.
the atlantic french coast will get very cold in winter, not a lot of snow, but days of cold dreary weather
however unless your french or an EU citizen, a long stay will be impossible
The south of france is much warmer even in winter, but trying to get a long term berth - forgetaboutit. Almost impossible, italy
might be better. The only way I can see would be to buy a berth. ( about 100K euros) for 12 metre
as to boat equipment
, I wouldnt agree about boat equipment
pricing, its a bit higher ( about 10 to 20%) and is similar to all other mainstream EU countries and you can of course order over the Internet
, though bringing anything in for the US is too exepnsive with The VAT and carraige ( except for high priced elctronics which might be worth it).
on the west and northern coasts you can get basic items very cheap
in stores that sell to the fishing
fleets, ( 3 strand rope
, galvanised parts
( just back from 4 months on my boat in nice)