an unassuming, tatty little narrowboat ... cruising  ...   "The longest, Friendliest Village in England" ... 


Although I first saw Pentargon back in September 2011, it had been looking for me (or vice-versa) since late 2010 although this had not been noticed at the time. Since coming on t'cut, I'd been told that if you have enough patience to just keep moving along, you will not have to find your boat: it will find you. This was my experience. It's taken a while to get to where we are today. One COULD obviously have gone the Appalling Duck route, paying large wongas for what one could see above the water line and, (although you don't yet know it), what one couldn't see below said water line. One could buy a money-sewer into which one could pour all one's hard-earned and one would still not have a sorted boat.


You can travel the straight, tedious and narrow path,

doggedly paring away at the brokerage system,

and eventually get just what you want.


I'm of the latter persuasion.

You only get to drive the boat you might want to buy from a broker if you're very lucky.

If they're having a good day, they may show you around. or not. They might wave in the general direction of whatever will make the most wonga for them. Sometimes they'll give you the key to have a prowl around on and inside an actual boat. If you're serious about buying, you can't just call in a surveyor to give what you like a right going-over (as you would with a house or a car or a painting).

Buying a boat is done on the same contract as would be used to purchase the royal yacht Brittania (or the Titanic come to think of it). 'Full' survey costs around £500 + the dreaded VAT (add £100).  AND you have to pay to have the boat hauled out which will knock you back another few hundred squid. AND! In some cases the boat may be miles from where it can be pulled out!

Oh! If you are looking at a SPRINGER, which I was, the hauler out may cream you for an excess on the basis that he has to user a special cradle to haul it out because it has not got a flat bottom. This may or may not be a total load of bollox (some newer Springers have a serious angle to the bottom!) but you don't know that at the time so you pay up. There's a really serious catch though for first-time buyers or anytime buyers doing the business through a broker.

You can only have a boat surveyed

after you've made an offer in writing on a legally watertight contract

and after your offer has been accepted by the seller.


Sounds daft, but that is how the system works.


You have to lay down a [10%] deposit and commit to purchase: "subject to survey" before the surveyor is allowed near the boat. This is a good time to underline that a particular broker may have "a mutual arrangement' with a particular surveyor. I know at least one broker/marina which requires the boat to be surveyed out in the cut if you plump for your own surveyor who has no erm 'agreement' with the broker/marina.

Watch it out there. Lunatic soup. And there are sharks in and around the soup and some VERY interesting small print in the "legally watertight contract" also:


 if the survey shows up multiple small defects which can be 'fixed' within a certain budget the fixing has to be done by the SELLER or his ... "AGENT"...  but at the BUYER'S expense.

Now take a guess at who that "agent" might be. 

This is where some right shite work gets done.

The broker has you over a barrel and knows it so he gets in a baboon, pays peanuts, gets some monkey work done, hoovers up the margin, nooses the surveyor into the deal and muggins ends up paying x% ON TOP of the purchase price for a boat which enters your life ropey.

This was NOT applicable to my purchase I hasten to add but appears to be what happened to Pentargon  when the previous owner was purchasing it in 2002/3.

Buyers come in all shapes and sizes but rarely will they have a background in sheet metal fabrication, gas installation, plumbing, AC/DC electricity, carpentry, glazing, engines, gearboxes, weed-hatches, sign-writing, galvanic corrosion and the best price for a length of string. Fortunately for Pentargon in 2011, she was under the gimlet eye of someone with all those skills and much more, but who engagingly looks, acts and talks like a cretin. It's part of my charm. Unfortunately for the last owner, his investment was about to float down Shit Creek Without a Paddle.

He's the only one I really felt sorry for. 

 If a boat fails survey under the terms of the legally binding contract (because the faults cannot be put right for x% of the agreed price) the buyer can pull out of the deal and walk away. But all you get back is your deposit. You have to be prepared to 'lose' up to £1000 (for the survey and slipping) and have nothing to show for it. Sometimes this can be the right way to go and the right thing to do especially if BIG WONGAS are involved. For me the wongas I was laying out were BIG wongas: like my whole life-savings aka my future funeral money.

There's an interesting side issue to a failed survey.

Sometimes, in doing the test, the surveyor might blow a hole through the hull under the waterline with his little hammer. Under these circumstances, the boat would be instantly failed and could not be put back in the water until repaired. The boat is, of that moment, both unsaleable and unsailable as the hole so hammered might cause the boat to sink in the water.

This sort of clause matters with the Titanic, which went down in 11,000' of water but it also applies to canal boats which in t'cut might not have 2" of free water under them at times. 

This little is gem is entered into the discussion

for the advantage of readers who might be

SELLING a boat which gets surveyed.

If the survey is not quite ok and a weak spot in the hull or a dodgy engine problem is found which can be fixed for less than 5% of the agreed purchase price (on £32,000  that would be £1800) you're obliged by contract to ask the seller to fix it at YOUR expense and have the surveyor rubber-stamp the fix. See notes above about connivance between interested parties and be assured the seller is rarely party to these shenanigans. You are also legally obliged to go through with the purchase without any legal or financial recourse. ... I can guarantee from observation, research and talking to others who got thus burned that you'll have bought a pup and a dog in one and the same transaction. 

So this is how the term "Think Fast Buy Slow" can be applied

 Once the boat is yours, so are the ALL the inherited problems.

It is entirely justifiable to   

Make Haste ever so slowly.

The 'normal' way a surveyor proceeds is to go over the boat in the water "as seen"and then out.  Once the inside is done and the engine tested afloat, the surveyor gets the yard to haul it out to check the "wetted hull". Canny purchasers might be able to use this haul-out to, at least, steam-clean the bottom, check the anodes and examine the blacking, thus securing maybe four years happy boating before it has to be hauled out again. Be aware however that you will be blacking someone else's boat and blacking adds £200/300 to the rising bill and you still don't own the boat. But life is a game and a series of challenges. Most surveyors are BSS certified and some/most? will include a Safety Certificate within the cost of a full survey. In Pentargon's case her 4yr BSS was due to run out in April 2012 so a bonus was coming with the survey (provided it passed) because the survey was scheduled for mid Jan and the BSS could be forwarded to it's expiry date In the event it did not apply as Pentargon's survey was eventually completed in MAY.

The buying of the boat is absolutely outside credit card territory. Brokers have separate accounts for sales, moorings, repairs, and fettlin'n' fuellin'. So your money may have to be moved to a current account to write the balance by cheque. Provided of course your potential purchase has passed it's survey. To cut down on pissin abart, you might consider getting a banker's draft to pay for the boat as that works like cash and the small cost might speed things up. Or not.