Monthly Archives: February 2011

Boatsales: An Essential Check List Before You Consider Buying A Boat

A narrowboat is likely to be the single most expensive purchase you will ever make after your house. It may even become your new house and cost you in excess of ?100,000. Your boatsales purchase is not something you should rush into. I know you can’t wait to cruise through tranquil countryside, stop for a pint or two at some of the many picturesque canal-side pubs and moor for the night where there’s a spectacular view to greet you in the morning but you need to take your time.

boatsales at Whilton marina

boatsales at Whilton marina

There are many, many aspects of the purchase to consider before you look at your first boat.

Boatsales: Essential first questions before you consider buying a boat

  • How much can you afford and where is the money going to come from? Are you going to sell your dry land home to fund the one afloat or are you going to have to take out a loan? If you need a loan, how much can you afford?
  • What will be the purpose of your boat? Are you just going to cruise now and then, or do you intend to live on board full time (Read this if the boat’s going to be a liveaboard)
  • What’s your ideal length? If you intend to cruise throughout the canal network you are limited by the length of the locks on some canals. If you intend to live on board full time but not cruise much, you want as much living space as possible.
  • Do you want a traditional, semi-traditional or cruiser style stern? Cruiser and semi traditional stern narrowboats offer you space on the rear deck to stand with friends when cruising but, because of this, provide less living space down below. The reverse is true of traditional stern narrowboats.
  • Sleeping accommodation for two … or more? Will you want the hassle of preparing a pull out bed every evening or will you be prepared to sacrifice a little bit of space in favour of a fixed double?
  • What toilet system do you want on your boat; pump out or cassette? A pump out toilet is like a traditional dry land toilet where you can pretty much flush and forget. However you must take your boat to a pump out point every few weeks to have it emptied. This can prove challenging in the winter when your boat is frozen in. A cassette toilet deposits waste in a small holding tank that you can remove by hand to take off the boat to empty into a convenient Elsan point. Because the cassette has to be carried, the capacity is far less than a pump out toilet.
  • How good are you with engines? Do you want an older engine that you can play around with for hours or do you want a hassle free engine basic maintenance from you and regular servicing from a boatyard? (If you are going to rely on boatyards to do the servicing for you,make sure that you don’t choose a boat with an engine that many marine engineers will be unfamiliar with).
  • Where are you going to moor your boat and how are you going to get it there? (Read this article to help you decide on a mooring.) Once you’ve chosen your mooring, do you really want to consider buying a boat that’s several hundred miles away? Will you have time to cruise to your mooring or will you have to use road transport? How much would that add to the purchase cost?
  • Electrical Usage: If you decide to live on board or cruise for extended periods you will probably be making quite high demands on the electrical systems in particular, so make sure any potential buys are up to the job. How many of your electrical appliances are you likely to be running at any one time? For example (and an extreme one at that), will you want to use your vacuum cleaner while your are doing your washing as you wait for your coffee maker to finish making its perfect cup of coffee to go with the steak pasty that’s warming up in the microwave? You don’t want to be doing expensive upgrades to charging systems or inverters after buying.

Once you have answered the above questions, you will have a pretty good idea what to look for. Visit Appolloduck There are a huge number of narrowboats for sale on the web site (1,085 at the last count). Use this to get a general feel for price and style. After you’ve browsed through this vast selection a few times, you’ll have a clearer idea of what you want and how much it’s likely to cost. Now it’s time to get up close and personal with some real live narrowboats.

Visit a boatsales broker to view your first selection of narrowboats. Why? There are several very good reasons. Firstly, a good boatsales brokerage will have a wide selection of narrowboats. You’ll be able to see the difference between traditional. semi-traditional and cruiser stern narrowboats and the trade off between living and cruising space, different lengths and varying equipment levels. The staff at the brokerage will also be able to answer just about any question you throw at them. They’re used to dealing with potential customers who are new to narrowboating so don’t be afraid to ask them anything that you’re now sure about. Here’s a comprehensive list of narrowboat brokers in the UK. Whilton marina is one of the largest narrowboat brokers in the country. Here’s an interesting article detailing how their very professional business operates.

When you inspect a boat you’re interested in, here are a few things you should check. You can either do so visually while you are looking around the boat or by asked the broker or owner by phone if you have a long way to travel.

  • What’s the ceiling height? If you are tall, can you stand comfortably inside the boat?
  • How would you describe the state of the engine? (This tells you something not only about the engine but how well it has been serviced).
  • Is there a bath or a shower on board? If there is a bath, how big is it? When I first moved on board James, there was a very shallow 3′ long bath instead of the shower I have now. I can only conclude that the previous owners had used the bath exclusively for their pet hamsters. It was certainly too small for me and at 5′ 10″ and 12st you can hardly call me big.
  • How much storage space is there? If you intend to live on board or cruise for extended periods, you want plenty of storage space. Some narrowboats advertised as liveaboards don’t have enough storage space for weekend visit let alone a lifetime on the cut.
  • Are there any signs of water under windows/hatches? Brokers can usually tell the difference between leaks and condensation.
  • Is there a reasonably recent hull survey that I can see? This can be invaluable. You can look at this on arrival, or most brokers/owners would be happy to send a copy to a serious buyer. A folder full of paperwork and receipts is also a good sign and can tell you a lot about how well a boat has been looked after.
  • When was the hull last blacked? A narrowboat hull needs to be painted every two to three years with a tar like bitumen to protect the steel from corrosion. Especially around the waterline where the constant mix of air and water can speed up corrosion.
  • Are there any photos of the boat I can see? Although a lack of photo’s is not necessarily indicative of an aesthetically displeasing poorly maintained boat, it can be.

Spend some time just sitting in a boat that you like the look of and picture yourself living in it. The staff at Calcutt Boats are more than happy to let you spend as much time as you like on board. I suppose that the thinking behind this is that the longer you spend on board, the more likely you are to buy the boat.

Have a look in cupboards and hatches. Particularly look for hatches through the floor into the bilge. Look for water there and be wary if you find any water in the bottom of the boat other than a little around the engine that may have seeped in through the deck boards if they are exposed to the elements.

Ask the engine to be started from cold for you. Often the best way of doing this at a boatsales broker is by turning up unannounced. If the engine has been well maintained, it should start without a problem.

If it still looks good, put in a offer to buy subject to an out of water survey when a surveyor will be able to check the integrity of the hull for you. Always offer less than the asking price. Remember that there are a huge number of narrowboats for sale at any one time. There are an estimated 32,000 – 34,000 narrowboats on the system and on Appolloduck alone in excess of 1,000 for sale at any one time. You have a lot of bargaining power. Good luck with your search.

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Why I Thank My Lucky Stars Every Night

Good living on narrowboat James

Good living on narrowboat James

Before I knew anything about boating in general and narrowboats in particular I thought that people who lived on boats were unfortunate, unlucky and should be pitied. When my eldest son first started playing football for the local team, there was a boy playing alongside him who lived on a narrowboat with his parents. I can remember thinking what pleasant and well adjusted people his Mum and Dad were before I knew that they lived on a boat. After they told me, I thought that they lived on a boat because they had to; that they couldn’t afford anything better and that they were struggling financially. I was wrong.

There home was a lifestyle choice. I was fortunate enough to be invited to their boat for a drink. I was amazed. It was a beautiful and well appointed home. Dave had an internet business that was doing very well. Since his son’s birth, he had been cruising the canal network with his wife and new baby. They had all the luxuries of modern day living. They had television and top of the range music system, an internet connection for their work computer, a full size washer dryer and produced enough electricity to power all of their devices wherever they cruised or moored. But most of all, they had a quality lifestyle that I could only dream of.

Now I live on a narrowboat. I don’t earn much working at the marina, but I don’t really need to. I used to live in a fairly large house, have a new car at least every three years, go abroad twice a year and spend what little free time I had on fancy nights out in Birmingham and London. I don’t have any of that now and I don’t miss it at all. I don’t feel the need to spend money to compensate for working too hard earning the money to fund a lifestyle that I don’t really want.

I live in a small space but it is more than I need. I have a roof over my head and I’m warm (most of the time). I’m two steps away from the beautiful countryside that I enjoy so much.I’m so close to it that I can hear it all as I lay in bed at night. And because I don’t feel the need to spend money on cars and holidays and toys that I can’t fit in the boat, I can spend a little extra on the food and wine that make every evening a pleasure. I’m going to have a glass or two of that wine now, enjoy the tranquillity and thank my lucky stars that I’m living on a narrowboat

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A View From The Engineroom Of Narrowboat James

a view from narrowboat James' engine room

My boat is moored on the west side of Calcutt Boats’ Meadows marina. It’s a stunning location. To the west – in front of the boat – are open fields and the entrance to the larger of our two woodland areas. To the south is the view from my galley windows; a grassed peninsula between my boat and the neighbouring group of moorings. To the north is my neighbour, narrowboat Nell. She’s almost new and puts my boat to shame. To the east behind the boat is the ever so pretty and spacious Meadows Marina. That’s the view you can see in the photograph. The grassy area is the one acre island in the centre of the marina. The grass us kept short all year round to encourage our birds. One hundred trees were planted on the island when the marina was built in 2006. Ninety nine have survived and flourished. In a few years time they’ll provide and beautiful and colourful canopy. Behind the boats to the right of the island is our 110 berth Locks Marina, the entrance to the Grand Union canal and our slipway.

It’s such a peaceful place to live. Actually, it’s a peaceful place to live most of the time. At the moment it’s a bit noisy. Not from the British Waterways contractors driving piles into the wharf, but from our resident birds. They’re getting a bit frisky. The mallards are chasing each other round and round the boats, the Canada geese are honking for England and the swans are flying none stop between our marinas and Napton reservoir. It’s hectic, but I love it.

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A Case Study Of Liveaboard Narrowboat Adagio

Meet Sue and Barry enjoying early retirement on board their narrowboat with Duffy the lurcher living the dream (Barry and Sue – not Duffy). This is the first of the site’s liveaboard case studies. {{{0}}}

Who are you? (and your significant other and, of course, your dog if you have one)

Sue And Barry Horne Relaxing On Their Front Deck

Sue And Barry Horne Relaxing On Their Front Deck

Barry & Sue Horne and Duffy a 4 month old lurcher.

Tell me a little about yourself and why you decided to live a life afloat

After 29 years in the RAF followed by 8 years in industry we took early retirement, sold the house and everything in it and moved aboard the narrowboat. We had owned a 57 foot cruiser stern narrowboat for 5 years previously which we used for holidays and weekend getaways. We had also taken several narrowboat holidays when the children were younger. So this is something we have always wanted to do.

We are looking for a simpler, more relaxed way of life but have yet to find it! However, we have been live aboards for only 7 months so still finding our way.

What is your boat called and why did you decide on that name?

We purchased Adagio second hand – she was 18 months old when we bought her. The name encapsulated our dream of life afloat so we kept it.

What is you boat length and style?

Liveaboard Narrowboat Adagio

Liveaboard Narrowboat Adagio

Adagio is 65 feet long with a trad stern (she is not a trad boat with engine room, though)

How long have you been a narrowboat owner?

We have owned a narrowboat for just over 5 1/2 years.

How much time do you spend on your boat each year?

We live aboard permanently.

Are you still working? (If so, what do you do?)

Both retired

What do you like least about narrowboat life?

Winter! Especially when frozen in and unable to move anywhere. Kind of defeats the whole idea of an itinerant lifestyle.

What do you like most about narrowboat life?

Sense of freedom and visiting different places and meeting new people.

If you could change just one thing about your boat, what would it be?

Add an engine room, back cabin and more storage!!!

When you are cruising how do you resupply (How do you get to the supermarket without a car)?

Canalside and local farm shops. We use a supermarket if nearby town has one close to the canal. We try to buy diesel and coal from canal traders – there are plenty of working boats plying trade on the Cut.

How do you do your washing when you are cruising?

We have a washing machine. Adagio has some pretty beefy electrical power systems so appliances are not really an issue.

How do you connect to the internet when you are on your boat and are you happy with the service you receive?

Vodafone mobile broadband and, no, not satisfied with the service! Very patchy coverage away from major cities/towns or motorway corridors.

What is your favourite canal or section of canal?

Shroppie, especially around Audlem.

How do you generate electricity when you are cruising and how much do you use?

We have a 240v AC Travel Power set feeding a Victron combi invertor/charger which, together support a bank of AGM batteries for domestic power. In our opinion you cannot have too much power!

What advice can you offer someone considering living on a narrowboat?

Work out how much you are willing to downsize then at least double it! Space is at a premium even in the longest narrowboat. Also consider the problems with healthcare if you intend to continuous cruise. The NHS is not set up to support people living the itinerant life. Oh, and think carefully about the toilet system you want. Pump out is fine until you are frozen in somewhere for 4 weeks or more. Cassettes are easy but you need to plan stops to include acces to Elsan disposal points. A combination of both is probably best for continuous cruising. Otherwise just do it!
Sue and Barry Horne have been blogging about their narrowboat life since August 2009. You can read about their adventures here.
Are you one of the lucky few who lives the dream on board your own narrowboat full time? Would you like to share your experience with some of the thousands of potential floating home owners who visit this site? If you can spare the time to answer a few simple questions, I would love to hear from you. Just let me know so I can email the questions to you. I’ll create a post like the one above complete with a link back to your own blog or web site.
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What Is The Difference Between Residential And Leisure Moorings?

A leisure mooring is for mooring your boat when you aren’t using it. The mooring may have all the facilities you need to live on board (electricity, water and sewage disposal) but you aren’t allowed to live there. You are allowed to visit and you are usually allowed to stay on board for days or even weeks. The duration of your visits will be determined by your particular marina. Unless you have an arrangement with your marina, you can’t use your mooring as a postal address.

A residential mooring requires planning permission. Your marina has to satisfy the local council that they have adequate sewage and waste disposal facilities to accommodate residential moorings. You can stay as long as you like on your residential mooring. It is your home and, as such, you can use it as your postal address. And because a residential mooring is classed as a home, you have to pay council tax.

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Do I Need A Residential Mooring To Stay On My Narrowboat?

You won’t need to get a residential mooring for occasional visits. Residential moorings are only needed if you’re going to live on the boat full time. Every marina should allow you to visit your boat on an occasional basis. Just how flexible the arrangement is depends upon the individual marina. Staying on board some nights during the week and sometimes at the weekend shouldn’t be a problem but if you started to stay on board every week night, you might be on a sticky wicket.

Even though your marina mooring may not be classed as residential, your marina may allow you to stay on board for a considerable period of the year, but this luxury may come at a price. Some marinas charge for “high usage” which could cost you as much as ?500 on top of your usual annual mooring fees.

Check the terms an conditions for each marina before you commit yourself.

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