... ... ... Seven years in an unassuming narrowboat on the waters of the "longest, friendliest village in England"  


I first saw Pentargon in September 2011. It had been looking for me since late 2010 when I had started my search for a canal boat. I'd been told that if you have the patience to just keep looking for the right boat, the boat will find you and this was my experience. It has taken a while to get to where we are today (9th January 2012), many road miles, many detours, many viewings, each viewing an eventual no-go. Pentargon waited patiently til I was about to give up.  It was late August2011; I'd been to one marina too many and viewed one crap boat too many. On-line pictures of Pentargon were not appealing, the price was much too high! its spirit went on the offensive and nudged me to look. First sight turned out to be love at ... This was a right ugly gosling but something about her was "right". Closer examination showed she ticked all the boxes. I cannot put a finger on an instinct. But this boat was the one. The next hurdle is how to buy her. One COULD have gone the Appalling Dick route, paying serious wonga for what you can see above the water line and, (although you don't yet know it), what you can not see below water. One could buy a money-bucket into which to pour all one's hard-earned and still not have a sorted boat.


One can travel the straight, tedious, narrow path,

doggedly paring away at the brokerage system,

the road miles and the disappointments

and eventually get what wants you. 

 I'm of the latter persuasion.

Pentargon was in the hands of a broker.

  If you're serious about buying something a stiff-necked broker is offering, you can't just call in a surveyor to give it a 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 Britannia (or the Titanic come to think of it). Oh! Neither do you get to kick the tyres.  Brokers can be the most tedious of tychkes: in fact they usually are. Mine certainly was. 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 a [usually] unsuitable boat ... Or not ... They may wave in the general direction of whatever will make the most profit ... for them. Sometimes they'll let you prowl around and you may even get to see inside an actual boat. In my case, I pointed at the ugly gosling and asked "How much?" Having a drive was out of the question. Starting the engine was out of the question. To even look inside, I had to prise a key from between his clenched teeth.

A "full' survey costs around £500 + the dreaded VAT (add £100).  AND first you have to pay the cost of having 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! And! 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 Samsons and ALL Water-Bugs have a serious angle to the bottom!) but, as a novice, you probably 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 ... Just ... remember ... you ... heard ... it ... here ... 36ft Springers have a very shallow angle and really can be treated as thought they are flat-bottomed.

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 must lay down a [10%] deposit and commit to purchase before a 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 where, if you plump for a surveyor who has no 'agreement' in place, the stiff neck requires that the boat surveying is done out in the cut, but in clear view of their pillbox/snipers post! Fat chance of getting at the only part which matters. The wetted hull. Watch yeerseffs out there. Lunatic soup it are; there are some right sharks in and around the soup; there is 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. No prizes for guessing correctly who that "agent" might be? 


This is where some rite shite work gets done, as in some ... right ... shight ... 


The broker has you over a barrel and knows it


so he gets in a baboon,

pays him bags of peanuts,

gets some monkey work done,

hoovers up the margin,

and the surveyor may even be in on it! 


... muggins pays wads of wonga 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 ten years previously ... Buyers come in all shapes and sizes and skills. Rarely will they have a background in sheet metal fabrication, gas installation, plumbing, AC&DC electricity, carpentry, glazing, engines, gearboxes, 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 a potential purchaser with all those skills and many more, who engagingly looks, acts and talks like a cretin. It's part of my charm.


Unfortunately, any dreams the last owner might have dreamt of clearing a profit were about to go up Shit Creek Without a Paddle.


If a boat should fail a marine survey under the terms of a legally binding marine 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 should be prepared to 'lose' up to £800 (for survey, slipping and slippage) and have nothing to show for it at the end of the day apart from a gaping hole in your wallet about the same size as a nice holiday in Madeira. Sometimes this may be the right way to go and the right thing to do especially if BIG WONGAS are involved. For me, I was laying out BIG WONGAS: my life-savings at the time ... aka ... my future funeral fund.

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

Sometimes, in doing the test, the surveyor might knock a hole through the hull under the waterline with his little hammer. Under these circumstances, the boat is instantly failed by the surveyor and the broker is notified. The boat can not be put back in the water until "repaired". As of that moment, both unsaleable and unsailable. 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 might not have 2" of free water under them at times. The broker is now under notice, by the actual survey, that the boat is unsafe and he now has to declare this fact legally. Before that he could (and would) stay mum and be legally entitled to.

This little is gem is entered into the discussion for the advantage of readers who might be SELLING a boat which gets surveyed. The "law" only applies under brokerage where the participants are deemed to be qualified professionals capable of delivering expert opinions A private owner, as such, is neither qualified nor bound to know that a boat is dangerous, even if he is told. 

If the survey is not quite ok, maybe a weak spot in the hull or some dodgy problem was found which could be fixed for less than 5% of the agreed purchase price (on £22,000 that would be £1100) the purchaser is obliged by contract to ask/demand that the seller fix it, but at the purchaser's expense, after which the surveyor rubber-stamps the fix. See notes on connivance between interested parties further up and be assured the misfortunate seller is never party to these shenanigans. The purchaser is 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 you'll have bought ... a pup ... a dog ... and a-pig-in-a-poke ... all in a single transaction. 

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

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

It is entirely justifiable and eminently sensible to  

Make Haste ever so slowly.

The 'normal' way a marine surveyor proceeds is to go over the boat in the water "as seen". His "brief" (even if unspoken) is to find anything and everything which his client - YOU - can use to pull the price down!  Once the inside is done and the engine tested afloat, the surveyor gets the yard to haul the boat out so he can check the "wetted hull": provided he is not on the yard's black list. Canny purchasers might be able to use this haul-out to steam-clean or pressure wash the bottom, check anodes, examine blacking, thus securing maybe four years happy boating before it has to be hauled out again. Be aware however that you are messing with someone else's boat. But life is a game and a series of challenges and I know at least one marina where almost every boat afloat has a thick coat of zebra mussels all over the wetted hulls. Most surveyors are separately BSS certified and some/most? will include a Safety Certificate within the cost of a full survey if it is helpful or applicable. In Pentargon's case her BSC was due to run out in April 2012 so a bonus was coming with the survey (provided it passed) because the survey was in mid January and the BSC could be forwarded to it's expiry date.  In the event it did not apply as Pentargon's survey was eventually completed in MAY 2012 after she had been bottomed and the surveyor had passed her. The very best surveyors charge higher rates but you get a better product from the best. Trevor Whitling from Crick is right at the top of my class.

The buying of a boat from a broker is absolutely outside credit card territory.

Brokers marinas have separate accounts for sales, moorings, repairs, and fettlin 'n' fuellin'. So your hard earned may have to be moved by you to a current account to allow you to pay the balance by cheque. Provided of course your potential purchase has passed it's survey. To reduce the pissin abart, you might consider getting a banker's draft: it works like cash and the charge might speed things up ... Or not ...  

Pentargon FAILED her survey comprehensively on the 4mm rule ...