Now a year and a bit past being NB syndicate novices I thought I would share our experiences and give a real life perspective on what, for us at least, it’s been like. Hope it’s useful!
Quick introductions so you know what type of folks we are. Happily married for 28 years and both now fully middle aged but not even close to retiring. Very busy work lives and two daughters and a black Labrador (no we didn’t call him Montmoresy, but it was close!). Prefer the nicer things in life when possible, but also happy to semi rough it (I am ex-forces)!
We are not especially experienced boaters. I used to sail and we hired a Thames cruiser a good few years ago which reminded me how much I loved being on the water. Looking for an easy and cheap no frills holiday a few years ago we went on a canal club hire boat on the GU. Hooked immediately and thought how well setup it was. Except when the electrics kept failing and I missed World Cup Rugby matches (still really not amused by that). Venting my frustration at the boat yard on our return they showed us round some more modern NB’s. What a difference. Now we were really hooked. Finally started looking into boat shares as we would realistically only get 4 to 5 weeks a year on board and found this to be the perfect answer for us.
I assume a good number of people using this site ‘would love to be’ NB owners… but a boat share is an good alternative to hiring or fully owning. Some of my comments are a bit negative and that’s life I guess, but keep in mind we will be selling our share to become full NB owners … so it can’t be that bad
Think About What You Want
We were desperate to get back on board and didn’t want to hire as we saw that as dead money. So after a bit of thought we came up with our wish list: – Must be available now or very soon. – Prefer modern light fitout and good spec. – Prefer newer build so ongoing maintenance would be reasonably predictable. – Only need fixed sleeping for two but wanted option for guest beds if required. – Must have *perfect* electrics ! – Must be easy to sell later.
The economics were quite easy for us. As long as we actually used the boat for our allocated weeks then compared to hiring (not that you can hire in the winter as far as I know) we would see a ‘ pay back’ pretty soon even if we went mad a stumped up for a brand new share boat. Which is exactly what we did. Having looked at a few older boats we felt the difference was worth it. We really wanted one that was only 18 months old and was the best of both worlds, but someone else beat us to that.
It helps if you are happy to compromise and can live with that long term without it getting on your nerves every time you are on board. For us it was hydraulic drive. We couldn’t see the point on a NB (it’s not as if you can stick the engine in a cupboard somewhere!) so it just seemed like a lot of expense and added complexity. But that was what was on offer so we shrugged and went ahead. No regrets, we’d just have done it differently if we could.
Real Life… The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
There is no doubt in my mind that sharing is better than hiring, as long as you use it. Most shares are 1/12 so you get 4 weeks a year when it’s yours. Keep in mind this is your boat, not a timeshare. We also love the fact that you are on the cut in the winter, when it looks very different and is less busy. Depending on your budget you’ll get an older character boat or a shiney new one. But over the years the difference will to a degree balance out between initial cost and ongoing maintenance, plus of course the residual value. I won’t insult anyone by doing the sums for you, but at (say) £1000 a week average to hire and even only using it for 3 out of your 4 weeks it’s an easy business case. However you do of course need to factor in the monthly running costs. If you assume £80-£100 per month you’ll be close, plus any major items as they arise. But I think you can cut this significantly if you get a bit creative (see later).
It’s your boat (well the syndacates anyway). And I have to say that we really do feel it’s ours when we are on it. This means you can do whatever you get the majority to agree to. And because you are splitting the cost between 12 it’s much less of a financial lump to swallow. Does most of the syndicate eat on board rather than out? OK, so how about a freezer so you don’t have to keep going to the shops? Cratch or pram cover so you have more space in winter (or a normal UK summer!)?? Deisel rather than gas heating?? Etc etc. I’m sure you get the picture.
Someone said that a boat is a hole in the water that you throw money into! As a syndicate you have a least some protection from that, again because you are sharing the cost. Same goes for maintenance, with the added advantage that you don’t really need to get your fingernails dirty. Lastly if and when you do come to sell, I reckon it’s much easier to sell a share than a boat, for obvious reasons.
If your boat is professionally managed it’s all very easy. If you have a busy life or just don’t want to get involved then you can just pay up and turn up at the marina when it’s your week. You don’t even have to go to the AGM if you don’t want to. But there is a down side too (below)!
Not surprisingly, the bad is a mirror of the good! I’d sum it up as committee life. In a nutshell you can’t do anything without getting a majority to agree, and there will probably be a number of members who just want to keep the status quo no matter what. So be careful what you buy into, because once you’re ‘in’ your power to negiotiate rests in your 1/12 vote.
It can be really hard to get the full syndicate to engage. The only official time you can put anything to the vote is at the AGM, which has proper rules for absent shareholders. So if you want to do anything outside then you have to trawl round and get everyone to respond, assuming your syndicate allows that. My advice is at the first AGM establish rules for ad hoc voting during the year.
Unlike hiring when you can pick a different base and route each time, on a share you will have a home marina. That means you cruise the same one week radius from your mooring. Typically a syndicate moves the boat every few years to a new area and you can also do ‘remote handovers’ if you can get the people before/after you to agree, but that needs car shuttle work to pickup and drop off everything for each crew. We have found this a bit restricting, and for us when the Severn goes to ‘amber’ we are stuck with a limited route choice. That said, we don’t mind too much, just getting out is fine and when the Severn is OK we have the joy of going down the Avon to Stratford which we just love.
Fees, fees and more damn fees! So here’s the rub.. If you buy a share in a new boat from a professional management company then you are at the far right of the scale!. They will assume they cannot sell all the shares prior to launch and so will factor that into the price per share. They may also mark up the actual boat build cost (they are managing that to an extent too). At the end of the day they are running a business and have bills to pay and profit to make.
So are there any options? Yes.. plenty. I know some syndicates are run by clubs which will save you the management fee (apprx £3-4k pa) and probably have a cheaper mooring (but you can’t move cheaply). On the minus, someone has to take charge of day/day and the AGM. Please note, if you have professional management they will chair the AGM, but that does not mean they are in charge. As I’ve said, this is your boat. Some people seem to forget that, and take whatever they say as gospel
Last up is the mooring fee. I think there are two ways to look at this. You can pay up and be happy, or scratch your head and say ‘hang on, this boat is out on the cut 50 weeks per year, and yet we are paying full whack for a home mooring, time to get smarter about this!’.
So fees = ugly. But I reckon you can at least halve your monthly costs if you self manage the boat and also become a CC’ing syndicate. Also means you see more of the network. I fully apprecraite this takes more effort and co-ordination between the members but you may find you have a better syndicate as a result. Take your pick, easy but more expensive professional management or more involved and cheaper self management.
Just to be clear, we’ve never done self management. But if the agreement is drawn up by a solicitor and you retain them to resolve any disputes (and make that binding) I think you have a good setup. Oh, and if you are sort of person who likes to be involved that helps too!
If you have got this far you are clearly hankering for your own NB. We love what we have (not allowed to name her here) and although we feel our syndicate is more expensive than it needs to be, we think we will easily get our money back when we sell the share next year.
But it’s not just the money, very important though that is. We know we will get 4 weeks a year on the cut in all weathers on a really nice NB. Come rain, shine, snow or ice we get to see our country from a wonderfully different perspective. Light the stove and it’s tropical in there, whatever the month !!
We are slowly transitioning to live aboard and the share route proved to us that we love it in winter as well as the few summer months. We had to know that for sure. We are not big fans of marina moorings so it’s the big narrow world of CC’ing for us and having to be self sufficient nearly all the time.
Great post Paul, and very informative. For anyone interested in shared ownership, here’s a post I wrote on the subject last December.
One point I’ll pick up on; the idea of having a continuous cruising syndicate. I know from my own experience that any boats used on a regular basis need a fair amount of work doing on them. We used to look after a fleet of shared ownership boats at Calcutt. Every time they came back to us when one share owner had finished their cruise and before another arrived to take the boat back out, we would service the engine and rectify any problems identified while the boat was out. We also offered a cleaning service for any share owners who didn’t want to clean the boat ready for the next arrival. Quite a few share owners made use of the cleaning service.
If the share boat didn’t have a home mooring, the logistics involved in maintaining and servicing the boat would be considerable.
Click here to get a FREE copy of “Living On A Narrowboat:101 Essential Narrowboat Articles”
Paul you are absolutely right. We have a turn round service done for each handover. But all it consists of is checking the drive belts on the engine and any faults raised by the outgoing owner. I think any competent marina should be able to do that, especially if you call ahead for anything out of the ordinary.
Most of our syndicate do the cleaning themselves. Some use the marina occasionally. Again if you book ahead then I think you can have this done if you need to. For us an hour or so effort on way back in is all it takes. Found out the hard way that it’s much easier to clean the outside at a lock than by walking down the gunwale with a mop/leather at the berth… bad back for days!
In the interests of completeness I thought it would be good to update this topic as we have now sold our share and our own boat is due to launch next week.
Over the next few days I will update this with specific numbers (as we have not published the name of our NB I don’t see any privacy issue) so you can judge.
Given there are 8000 !! subscribers to this forum I think if you are wanting to be on a NB rather than just reading about it, it may be within your reach. Boating is never cheap, but could be closer than you think.
Our real costs to follow.
So here is a quick breakdown of the cost of owning our 1/12 share for two years (8 weeks use). Keep in mind that we had the benefit of a brand new high spec boat (62ft, 6 berth max) with everything provided and paid a premium for that. We also sold low because our own boat was due and we did not want to waste our on board weeks or have the cost of running two NB’s !!
In a nutshell … these costs are pessimistic.
Monthly fees: £2160 ( £90pm average over two years)
Fuel / pumpout: £960 (8 weeks in 2 years)
Total cost of ownership for two years: £6120
Compare this with hiring at say £1000pw in winter and £1500 in summer gives £10000 total.
Overall saving vs hiring is therefore apprx £4000 … in just two years!
You could drastically improve on this by buying an older boat and keeping it longer. Boats like cars depreciate faster when new. Also the brokerage said we sold cheaply and would have got £6500 – £7000 if we were willing to wait (which we weren’t). And if you are flexible about week dates you can often pick up extra weeks when others cannot use the boat. Lastly if you join a self managed syndicate your monthly fees will be a lot less.
I hope this is helpful to someone. If you are reading this site then I assume you’d love to be out on the cut (unless you already are). For me (us), no regrets … shared ownership was great and we loved it. Which is why we are about to be full time boatie’s
Just to give a little info on my self managed boat share syndicate after my first week on her (which was brilliant). Costs are £60pcm which includes maintenance, licence and mooring and I get 4 weeks a year, so each week costs me £180 (after the initial purchase price of the share). This of course doesn’t include any major unexpected costs, but our boat had a new engine a couple of years ago so unlikely. Pump out costs £15 a time at the home marina and for the week I used £47 of diesel doing 6-7 hours cruising a day. I didn’t use much gas as the weather was incredible and so hot that we had to cool down with regular pub stops and ate there rather than cook onboard. All in all great value for what we’ve got – a lovely narrowboat that sleeps 6 at a push, is very comfortable, reliable and a joy to part own. We even got back from the pub on the opening night of the World Cup and to my friends joy, set up the TV and got a better picture than at home of Brazil v Croatia, sat in the middle of nowhere (20 minutes walk back from pub) with bow doors open to fields of maize/corn, a full moon lighting the scene, drinking wine and eating cheese and biscuits – heaven!
We had to clean her top to bottom on the last morning and the next share owner told us she wanted it back by 10am so we were up early and found out she didn’t get there until later that day. Could have enjoyed another few hours as we missed the first day of our week and our next one (inherited from previous share owner) are in October & November (swapped as we couldn’t make the original week we had in July). Thinking now we’ll work our way to afford our own boat so we can just go there when we like and do what we want to it, but it’s a great way to find out if you like it and I’ve suddenly found a load of friends who’ve realised they really like me after all as my personality must have changed since owning a share in my own narrowboat!
Happy cruising, boozing and schmoozing.
Most Users Ever Online: 298
Currently Browsing this Page:
Paul B: 183
Johny London: 142
Our Nige: 110
Guest Posters: 71
Newest Members:SandyLochrie, lakeisharawson8, Stuart_2, StuartWeeks, MichelleBreeze, miquelbullard, archiemcdonald, DavidStone, DeanCowell, ecc
Administrators: Paul Smith: 1797