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


Although I first saw Pentargon in September 2011, it had been looking for me (or vice-versa) since late 2010 when I had started my search for a canal boat. I'd been told that if you have patience to just keep looking for the right boat and have a proper shopping list, the boat will find you and this was my experience. It has taken a while to get to where we are today, many road miles, many detours, many viewings and each viewing an eventual no-go.

Pentargon waited patiently til I was just about to give up. Then its spirit went on the offensive and nudged me to at least have a look. It was late August 2011 and I'd been to Wilting Morina one more time too many and viewed one more crap boat too many. What is was about Pentargon I had no idea. The online pictures had not appealled to me and the price was much too high. But it turned out to be love at first sight. This was a right ugly duckling but something about it was "right" even though I had no idea what! I could not put a finger on on an instinct. 

One COULD have gone the Appalling Dick route and pay serious wonga for what you could see above the water line and, (although you don't yet know it), what you  could not see below water. 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 the road miles and the disappointments

and eventually get just what you want.

 I'm of the latter persuasion.


Pentargon was in the hands of a broker.

Brokers can be the most tedious of tychkes: in fact they possibly 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 permit you to have a prowl around on and you may even get to see inside an actual boat.

If you're serious about buying something a broker is erm offering, 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 Britannia (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! 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 newer Springers and ALL waterbugs do 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 ... Just ... remember ... you ... heard ... it ... here ... 36ft Springers have a very shallow angle and really can be treated as thought they were 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 have to lay down a [10%] deposit and commit to purchase: "subject to survey" before a surveyor is allowed near the boat. This is a good time to underline that a particular broker may have "mutual arrangements' with particular surveyors. I know at least one broker/marina where, if you plump for your own surveyor who has no erm 'agreement' in place, it requires that the boat to be surveyed is done out in the cut, but in 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 and there are some right 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 rite shite work gets done, as in some ... right ... shight ... work.

The broker has you over a barrel and knows it

so he gets in a baboon,

promises the simian peanuts,

gets some monkey work done,

and hoovers up the margin,

noosing a surveyor into the deal

while muggins pays a wad 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 and cunning 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 as your scribe.

Fortunately for Pentargon, she was now 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 dreams of clearing a profit were about to float down Shit Creek Without a Paddle. He's the one I 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 £800 (for survey and 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 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: like my whole 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 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 £22,000  that would be £1100) 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 misfortunate 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

 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 the ALL the inherited problems.

It is entirely justifiable and eminently sensible to   Make Haste ever so slowly.

The 'normal' way a 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 there has a thick coat of zebra mussels all over the wetted hulls.

Most surveyors are 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 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 January 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 2012 after she had been bottomed and the surveyor had passed her. The very best surveyors may charge higher rates but you get a better product from the best. Think Tesco - Waitrose. 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 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