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Life on a narrowboat can be as peaceful as it is idyllic BUT you need to understand the pros, cons, highs, lows, and day to day logistics in living on England's inland waterways. Let me help you find out all you need to know before you commit to what could be a very expensive mistake.

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Whilton Marina

Whilton Marina has mooring facilities for approximately 200 boats, each berth has 240 volt hook-up with all piers having water taps. Our aim is to try and offer mooring on a temporary basis to everyone who buys a boat from us. Longer term moorings are dependant upon availability and are at the discretion of the marina owners – just ask at the time of purchase for more information.

Whilton Marina

Whilton Marina

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Whilton Marina Review

By Jim Shead: First published in Waterways World April 2004

Whilton Marina is located beside Whilton Bottom Lock at the foot of the Buckby flight. It was built in 1971 by David Steele who had a background in construction and civil engineering but no previous connection with the canals. At that time there were no services here and the site was just an empty field between the canal and the railway. Seeing the business potential of a site so well placed on the waterways network, and having the skills to manage the digging out of the large marina, David Steele acquired the land and established the marina.

The water space is still the same size as when the marina first opened although buildings and facilities have been added over the years.The marina is still owned by Steele family and is now in the hands of David Steele’s two sons, Nigel and Richard. I spoke to Richard Scowen, the Sales Manager at Whilton Marina, who explained the history and present day operations of the company. It started off as general moorings and then, very soon after the marina was built, boat sales were started. There was a period in the 1970s when they constructed fibre-glass river cruisers. This only lasted for about 3 or 4 years as it came at a time when canal boaters were turning from plastic to steel.

They have 200 moorings to let for private use plus 50 moorings dedicated to boat sales. Moorers at the marina can join the Whilton Marina Cruising Club. Boat brokerage and sales is the main part of the business employing six people. The marina office is dominated by displays of boats for sale and the water space immediately outside is packed with boats for sale. No wonder that they sell over 200 boats every year ranging from relatively cheap to top of the range new boats. They advertise in the major waterways magazines and have a website which they manage and keep up to date from their office on site.

In addition to the boating side of the business they have storage for 450 caravans at Whilton and also own Cosgrove Park – a 180 acre caravan and leisure park next to Cosgrove Lock.

The facilities at the marina are impressive and include two slipways, two wet docks and access to all the usual engineering facilities as they have an electrical engineer, gas engineer as well as general diesel engineers. There are eight people employed on the engineering work. Over plating, boat stretching and major repairs are done by contractors on site. They now have three boat fitters on site – Evolution Narrowboats, Ebony Narrowboats and Geoff Corbett who was about to retire and in September 2003 and was finishing his last narrowboat. The Sales Office also represents two other manufacturers of new boats – New Boat Company and George Morris Narrowboats.

The whole of this busy marina employs around 20 people in the various businesses. The excellent Whilton Chandlery on the site is run as a separate business by Richard Saillet and is well stocked to serve the boater, the tourist and the passing walker. A stop at the marina can provide all the usual services, such as pumpout, diesel, water and overnight moorings as well as the opportunity to buy a wide range of products and services, from a newspaper to new boat.

Update 23rd March 2013

I received an email today, reproduced in its entirety below, which voiced concerns about the way that Whilton marina operates. Coincidentally, I was given the same information yesterday by a boat builder. I have no proof that the claims are true. I have included the information here so that you can make up your own mind.

“It is all very well promoting Whilton as a broker but if you are seeking to provide good impartial advice to others you should be aware of some things they don’t advertise.
They aren’t actually brokering many of the boats, they own them. They do not reveal this fact in their advertising (including their website) which is against the law. I quote, “The Business Advertisement Disclosure Order 1977 requires all advertisements by people who seek to sell goods in the course of business to make the fact clear. This requirement applies whether the advertiser is acting on his own behalf or for some other person in the course of whose business goods are to be sold. Consumers should be able to tell whether an advertisement relates to a sale by a Trader or a Private seller. It is the responsibility of the Advertiser to comply with the order. It is an offence for which you may be prosecuted not to advertise the fact that you are a Trader.”
They don’t reveal it to a buyer either. Not until the money has changed hands and the buyer receives a Bill of Sale showing the vendor to be Whilton Marina Ltd does this become apparent. It also means that as a trade seller they are bound to offer a warranty. As far as I know they do not. Some former customers of theirs tell me that they even go through a routine of pretending to contact the owner when negotiating an offer.  
I recall that somewhere recently you stated that there is no VAT on the sale of a second hand boat. In fact, when a second hand boat is sold in the course of business this is not true and there will be VAT payable on the margin. Not such an issue for most, unless they want to take the boat to another EU country. As there are a number of narrowboats now bobbing around the waterways of France, Belgium and the Netherlands this should be highlighted. The member state may well insist on evidence of VAT paid status, both when purchased new and subsequently if a Bill of Sale shows the owner to be a business. This would apply to many of the boats sold at Whilton.
A professional broker will belong to either the Boat Retailers and Brokers Association division of the British Marine Federation or to the Association of Boat and Yacht Agents. Both have a similar Code of Conduct including the need for a Client Trust Account for customer funds. The broker has to prove that they operate such a protected account. Whilton are not a member of any recognised brokerage body. 
I hope you do not mind me raising these issues, because I think what you do is generally very good. To openly ally yourself to a business which does not operate in accordance with legal requirements or subscribe to a recognised body and the attendant code of conduct is possibly not such a good idea. It may harm your reputation and devalue your advice by association. I am by no means the only person who knows of these practises.”
After I published this email in the newsletter on 24th March 2013, I received the following information from Allan Cazaly…

“Richard Saillet’s Lease for the premises at Whilton Marina, was terminated last year by Whilton Marina Management – No reason was ever given

The Chandlery Shop, (I am lead to believe) is now run by the owners of Whilton Marine. Richard Sailliate has moved his business to Rugby and still trades under the name “The Canal Shop” in his new premises.  He has NO CONNECTION whatsoever with the Whilton Marina operation.

 Richard gives an outstanding service; he has built up an excellent reputation, so I would strongly advise and make sure that you check this site out, or visit him, before purchasing goods from the Whilton Chandlery Shop.”

Useful Information
Paul Smith

After six and a half years living on a narrowboat on England's inland waterways, Paul and his wife Cynthia now wander Europe by motorhome during the winter, and on the Dutch and French waterways in the warmer months on their 32' Dutch motor cruiser.

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