A DOZEN would-be boat owners have been left high and dry after the shock closure of a Mirfield firm with massive debts.
Heron Boats, based on the Junction 25 Business Park, is no longer trading.
The Examiner understands owner Jon Hunt has gone to live in France.
Some angry customers have lost more than £25,000 - including one who sold his Australian home to finance his retirement dream of retreading his father's route around Britain's 4,000 miles of inland waterways.
Richard Dyason, 55, and wife Audrone, 59, were looking forward to cruising the country's canals but got a shock when he found the Mirfield site padlocked and with only a short time to salvage his part-built boat.
Mr Dyason, who is English but was living in Australia, said: "We sold our house in Melbourne last April so we could build this show boat.
"We had this dream of enjoying this country's idyllic waterways before we got too old.
"The worst of it is that Mr Hunt demanded we paid up to 90% of our boat build, £84,000 - and now I have found out it's worth about £60,000 if that."
Former Brighouse man Mick Bycroft, 59, who now lives in Lincolnshire, was caught up in the collapse.
He agreed to pay for his 57ft vessel in seven instalments and by last December he had paid £75,500 for a half-finished boat.
When he heard of the company's problems he contacted the company.
He added: "I immediately got on the phone to the yard and spoke to Mr Hunt.
"He explained that the company had gone under and gave me a whole sob-story about how he was going to have to sell his house."
By the time Mr Bycroft got to the yard on March 10 it was locked up and closed.
Robert Adamson and Paul Charlton, of Mazars in Leeds, were appointed joint administrators for Heron Boats on March 21.
In a statement they said: "The company has estimated debts totalling £420,000 with additional liabilities arising from the breach of customer contracts estimated to exceed £200,000.
"Attempts to find a buyer for the business were unsuccessful as the time frames within which we had to operate were too restrictive.
"Unfortunately the company had ceased trading and dismissed all its employees prior to our appointment.
"The company's assets have recently been sold and these proceeds will be used to discharge costs with the balance being distributed to creditors.
"At this early of our administration it is difficult to project the likely return to creditors.
"A meeting for creditors will be arranged shortly within the required 10 weeks after the date of appointment."