Tuesday 18 May 2010

Choosing the right boat.

Now that we are almost new owners, I have been thinking back over the trials and tribulations of finding the right boat.

The idea of spending part of our retired lives on board a boat always appealed to me. However, i'm not sure that a narrow-boat was high on the criteria of Mag's retirement plans. I had spoken of my interest in a different low key lifestyle after retirement, but we did not discuss outcomes in earnest.

When we did get around to discuss the retirement phase of life we both had a few ideas in mind. Buying a second home in India (a place we both love and have friends) where we would spend up to six months of each year (October to March) was one idea. Mag's had in the past owned a place in Spain so that was off the radar. Turkey and the Turquoise Coast was another possibility for a six month winter-summer turn around. The South of France in the Languedoc-Roussillon area near to Carcassonne was another possibility. (I had once owned a holiday cottage in Capandu, a small village between Narbonne and Carcassonne)
But as usual, I digress.

Who knows maybe we could even retrace the steps of Terry Darlington (Narrow Dog to Carcassonne) and take our boat and Fox Terrier dog along the European canals. Even down to Carcassonne and then go a few miles further to re-visit Capandu. (Book title: "Skinny dog to Capandu" it has a certain ring to it) But I would certainly avoid the dash over the channel. It might be a pipe dream, but I can pipe dream for England, or France in this case!

Whoops, I digress again.

The specification was quite simple, or so we thought. In hindsight, it took hundreds of miles, many visits to view frogs before we found our princess.

  • Our specification was for a 50-55 foot narrow-boat. This was in keeping with the space available in the place where we hoped she would eventually be moored.

  • We also wanted a pram cover, to give some additional space to sit out and to offer some protection from the vagaries of the English weather on the move. So this almost dictated that we would need a semi trad boat.

  • Our specification also included a reverse layout. It seemed so sensible to have the eating and cooking area close to the stern.  

  • We wanted the bathroom just forward of the central position, if only to provide a natural boundary wall between the living area and the bedroom.

  • After some experience on various hire boats, we knew we wanted a cross bed layout.
We did the usual round of web sites such as Apollo Duck and ABNB plus a number of others. We found a few boats that one or other of us liked. We found a few boats that we both liked, but it required making some compromises. What did become quite obvious was that a number of "brokerage" were putting a significant price premium on what were in our opinion a load of old tosh.

We had got to the point of considering a new build, we started to investigate our options. When out of the blue we saw some pictures and description of a very nice looking boat. The description was exactly as we wanted the layout to be. The internal and external photographs looked to be very good. A phone call to the broker and a viewing was arranged. We were both very impressed. I asked Mag's what she might want to change she answered "I would not even change the curtains".
We placed a conditional bid and it was accepted. We then had an out-of-the-water survey done. The survey, confirmed our first impression. There was not a single fault to be found, not even a bulb out!
The down side was that our employer mucked us about for a while, first with an offer of voluntary redundancy - which was cancelled a couple of days before the due date. Flexible retirement was the next offer - which was also cancelled within a week of making the offer. So we needed to borrow from the bank to make up the shortfall which was intended to come from our pension or redundancy package. Today we got a positive text from the bank that everything looks good. We are now busy cashing in some of our investments, life is generally looking very good.

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