Musings

We Bought A New Boat

Second draft, first one was a literal write off, gate crashed into cyberspace. {She clicks SAVE now}

Here it is, moored up on a roundabout.

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This roundabout is still under construction, but priority number one is boat installation.

In an arrangement with the local authorities, we agreed that during the next few months it will adorn several roundabouts in the area on a rotational basis. Delicately craned in and out of each one till launch date. 1st April 2017, from our local millionaire marina full of rust buckets such as these.

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Situated just beyond this beautifully manicured Blue Flag beach, where the sand is raked of footprints overnight, every night.

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The “New Boat” Connection:

My faithful reader who´s followed our journey of life over the years {congratulations, well done} will know we once lived on a canal boat in the UK. That´s when I first started blogging, good grief it´s almost ten years ago.

In hindsight our life afloat was jinxed from the start, didn´t know it at first, had to learn the hard way. Me falling off the jetty into the water just five days after we bought the boat was an omen of what was in store for us. I had to avoid doing the splits on a slimy surface by diving in over the ropes while avoiding the bow. (An immediate death blow if ever there was one). It was October, fifteen foot deep where we were moored, and there was already an engineer on board fixing something.

I don´t need to add any drama to our story, bear in mind this boat was only 18 months old when we bought it. (Unfortunate circumstances dictated the owners had to sell).

A week after ownership the boiler broke, it was mended, refitted, and broke again several times. Four months later we still had no hot water and the central heating didn´t work. During that time there was no choice, we had to move back into our house and return to urban life. Things were not going to plan. Regardless, we remained positive.

Eventually, when the new boiler actually worked, we settled into life afloat and made many lifelong friends, partying and having a good time, whenever, wherever. Sometimes we´d all take our boats out on the canal, moor up and stay put for a few days. If it rained, which it often did, everyone ended up on our boat (rather than the towpath) because it was bigger, the size of a Dutch Barge. Yes, a real party boat it was, except there was always something wrong with it.

We even lived aboard for six weeks while the bedroom and bathroom had to be stripped back to bare steel and refitted. Slept on a blow up mattress in the living area that killed the spine. A slow leak in the water tank had caused rising damp to set in. The boat was insulated, but it made no difference when the source was from inside, under the bow. Dave had to add carpentry to his ex working life engineering skills.

Beyond that, this is what I remember throughout several years of broken boat syndrome:

  • The boiler packed up again and had to be replaced with a bigger one.
  • The inverter and battery charger both packed up. Replaced with a very expensive “Smart” combination.
  • The starter alternator packed up and was replaced.
  • The leisure batteries alternator packed up and had to be upgraded.
  • Electrics had to be re-wired by an electrician (else insurance was void).
  • The back cabin began to rot and an unfortunate disaster meant it had to be replaced with a fancy new one. Very expensive.
  • We had a bow thruster fitted, optional, but necessary for full control of a boat that size. It means you can steer the bow from the back of the boat. When working, the boat could turn on a sixpence, a full 360 on the spot. It could even go sideways! Very expensive and the left side of the interior had to be ripped out.
  • The hot water tank died, and had to be replaced.
  • The exhaust system blew out plumes of smoke, yep a hole had developed from nowhere.
  • Minus 17 degrees one winter I moved into a hotel while a wood burning stove was installed. Very expensive when retro-fitted.
  • All central heating radiators leaked and had to be replaced with double ones.
  • Even the toilet had to be replaced!

Conclusion, this boat named “Take it Easy” was anything but. Were we cursed? Everyone else thought so, including the expert engineers who practically lived aboard with us.

Still, we weren´t put off! Dig your heels in time, after four years we said goodbye to our friends and moved to a different marina so we could go out on rivers. A spa / swimming pool / gym was being built there, and mooring fees were less! Too good to be true? Yes.

  • The rivers were always flooded.
  • The spa etc. idea fell through.
  • The majority of the NEW hi-tech spec mentioned above failed, even the bow thruster died.

Yes, we were at a different marina, but became best friends with every kind of engineer who worked there. Yet another group of people who discovered the boat was cursed without us having to tell them. We even got bills for less than they should have been, time they spent working on things was free of charge.

Our first introduction to this new “home” wasn´t very nice either. In fact it was a nightmare that should not have happened. The boat had to be transported by road on an extendable lorry. Optional choice but it cost a lot.

When we arrived at the marina the boat was already up in the air, they´d started to plonk her in earlier than stated, but it was a  narrowboat crane! Wrong one! Ours needed balancing beams and a bigger crane! We watched in horror as it bounced off the roof of the boatshed.

When we got inside, apart from fixtures and fittings, the place was trashed. Everything was taped up as it should be in advance, “this wasn´t supposed to happen” happened. Insured for transit, yet the crane company blamed the lorry company and vice versa.

There was no compensation, no proof of fault. I was in shock, and it took two days to clear up the mess. Every piece of glass from the kitchen through to the BEDROOM had to be carefully removed. Even the heavy fridge freezer found a new resting place in the corridor, and a huge wardrobe (with mirror) was laid across the bed.

That was December 2011, by December 2012 apathy was starting to creep in, and we both agreed that we couldn’t do another winter in the UK. Six weeks in Benidorm was the tonic, and it was also the tipping point. Never mind the weather, we couldn’t live afloat on that boat anymore. A Spanish seed was planted.

We also discovered that we´d both been pondering (separately) about moving on for about six months. Yes we do communicate! But this was different, just quiet thoughts that weren´t worthy of a conversation. What? Where? How? Don´t be daft. 

Consequently much of our time in Benidorm was spent discussing and planning for the future, a better future without the ever present question “WHAT NEXT, and how much is it going to cost?” Borderline paranoia. “Don´t touch that it´ll cause this to happen!”

Back from Benidorm, much of 2013 was a nightmare. Rectification and repairs began to stack up, there was now a list. An expensive “to do” list. We spent most of our time doing research online about making the move, where in Spain we´d want to live, how to make it happen, it kept us sane! But the boat could hear us…

In MAY that year the two year old bow thruster packed up. Without full control of the boat when on the move, we were stranded at the marina. We had no time to go out anyway. By then the main aim was to sell up, we had an appointment with a “FOR SALE” sign.

The engineer sorted the bow thruster problem, BUT it reappeared the very next time we used it. He took the motor away, bench tested it, no problem. However, when he fitted it back on the boat it wouldn’t work. Each time (there were several failed attempts) he would take it away to try something else. Even he was baffled to the point of tearing his hair out.

Last resort, it meant a new motor had to be ordered direct from the manufacturer. Six weeks later it arrived and turned out to be the wrong one. No surprise there then, we´d got beyond that stage. Another six weeks later the correct one was fitted in SEPTEMBER.

Mentally exhausted with it all, we decided it was time for “boots on the ground” in Spain. We rented an apartment in our chosen area for four months. This time was serious, we were here to buy a house if the place was right for us. Someone said “You´ll know for certain if it´s the right place for you within the first six weeks.” We did, and it was.

There was no need to rush into anything, we had plenty of time to seek and find the right house for us. Guided by our estate agents we were taken to see many properties. Just two per day max, else there´s room for confusion. As time went on they learned exactly what we were looking for, but still nothing really stood out.

After 30+ viewings they came up with “the one” oh wow, we were blown away. I´ll never forget walking up the steps to the front door, sitting on the settee outside and saying, “Well this is the one, it´s ok I don´t need to see inside!” Joke of course, but hey we knew this was it, the owners were there at our viewing, (they knew our estate agents) and passed on how everything works, all their contacts and a lot of knowledge. They even put a big fat folder together full of receipts and instruction manuals for everything from the TV to the oven.

As a bonus our sellers had the house built, and the guy owned his own building firm in Britain,, and knew the contractor who built it. The house was also their second home, so there was no chain, they were going back to their mansion in the UK! So why were they selling up? (Had to be asked). Turned out to be health reasons, they didn´t live here, and had no private health cover.

Yet another bonus, they were leaving it fully furnished to a very high standard. Yup, that´ll do! The buying process took six weeks and we lived in our Spanish home for a month before lock up and leave. In March 2014 we dragged our heels back to Britain and that boat, fully aware of what we had to do to sell up. I was in tears as the plane took off.

First thing was to have a whole new back cabin built. Going back four months, the very same night we were flying to Spain one of the front screen windows blew out. Yes it was windy, but that was the boat´s desperate excuse to play up good style and stop us going. The timing was impeccable and absolutely unbelievable even to us. We´d just dragged our suitcases outside, locked up, and were walking towards the “airport run” taxi waiting for us on the car park. All of a sudden there was a loud explosion, the noise came from, well guess where.

It was the middle of the night and people came running, people who knew us, the boat, and believed the curse. None of us originally believed in curses, but we all came to. It was 3am, we had a silly o´clock flight and our friends came to the rescue. Not only had one half of the screen blown in, the wooden sides had warped with the force of it.

Our friends came to the rescue, one of them had a huge piece of wood. It would do nicely to fit over the gaping hole and hold the cabin together. He very kindly jumped on the roof, while someone else held up a torch. Then said “Go, Go, I´ve got this, have fun, enjoy yourselves in the sun!” Everybody waves Goodbye while stood in pyjamas, and dressing gowns.

We walked away so thankful to them all, but by that time we didn´t care if the boat sunk while we were gone. It almost felt like revenge, justice, deserved. The dam thing could sit there looking like a wreck for 16 weeks, serves it right.

When we returned to the floating disaster zone, the “man who can” built a new back cabin, but it had to be “bespoke” to fit and meet the huge marine grade material roof. We knew this, and estimated the price. But it wasn´t an easy job and the cost went up considerably. Safety glass alone doesn´t come cheap, but it had to be impressive to a new buyer just like everything else.

While we did all the tarting up jobs in 2014, the floating drama queen didn´t throw up anymore major situations, a few little ones which was the best to hope for. It was all rather strange really. We suspected she had so much fun making us and the bank suffer in the past, it was a message to make us stay. “Be nice for a while, give them false hope and let the games continue.”

Well F off, we have a house in Spain to go to. In summer we took time out, spent six weeks at our home in Spain, even had family to stay for a couple of weeks. The pressure was off, a potential sail sale was going through. We even bent over backwards and took the boat off the market at their request, during which time we had about ten phone calls from other interested buyers, and had to say no. Meantime emails and phone calls from the prospective buyers went quiet, very quiet, too quiet.

They kept us dangling on a string for the full six weeks we spent in Spain. When they originally saw the boat they fell in love with it. Conversation led us to the fact that they were waiting for their house sale to go through, which would be wrapped up in the next three weeks. Not certain enough, Dave asked if they had investments to fall back on if their sale fell through. “Yes, oh yes, we have.”

No, oh no, they didn´t, and after messing us about for two months with the boat off the market the truth came out. “Our house sale fell through.” End.

The bad ship went up for sale again, this time through the broker at the marina. In October 2014 a guy came for a viewing, he was very enthusiastic and we heard him say “I´ve got to have that boat.” He went to the office and put down a deposit the same day. Alas the other two had also put down a deposit before pulling out, so it meant nothing much to us by then. No dancing on the tables yet.

We were leaving the boat fully furnished, and had been putting all our personal stuff in storage for months, (6 x 6 BIG boxes full) even without the kitchen sink.

Later that month the broker said we could park up the boat on one of their own moorings without us paying mooring fees. So we did, and they knew we were moving to Spain.

It took less than an hour for us to realise we were at last free to go, there was no need for us to stay any longer, besides if we did, something else would break. Within that hour we´d booked a one way flight home.

With a couple of weeks to go we sold the car, took some more bits to the storage locker, arranged a date for delivery of our stuff, and left ourselves with just enough to fill two large suitcases and hand luggage cases. Tatty Bye.

One last little present from the boat during our final days aboard, no longer could she disable her inner workings at will, she sabotaged the TV instead. Dead as a doornail it wouldn´t switch on either by remote or button on the side. “Fully furnished” included the TV, so we had to go out and buy another.

I´ll never forget the night we left, with suitcases packed I did a last check round to make sure we hadn´t forgotten anything. Stressed out to the eyeballs because it felt like I was running through a minefield. That boat could go off at any second,, and we were about to step outside dragging suitcases towards an “airport run” taxi. Been there, done that.

My penultimate entry into the ships log is here. Just 48 hours before we flew towards a new life in the sun. Still didn´t mention the curse, our new buyer might be reading.

Other people in the boating fraternity had a saying:

“Once a boater, always a boater. I´d never go back to bricks and mortar.”

No exception,, for years we thought the same thing. Living in a different world to the rat race, amidst the almost peaceful countryside. I say “almost” because road noise and railways were never far away. Aside from a mansion house planted in a field, this was the best it got in over-populated Britain. Even amidst all the problems the boat threw at us, for years we still believed that phrase.

In hindsight I´d edit it to “Never go back to bricks and mortar in the UK.” For us, and many others we moved on (by foot) to bricks and mortar abroad. We each had similar reasons,, for those with well behaved boats the constantly deteriorating state of the canal system was enough. Lack of funding meant temporary or no maintenance was rife, and nothing´s changed. Not possible without billions.

Sad really, corrupt managers at British Waterways put our licence fees into their own pockets and BW was no more. Administration of canals turned into a charity, but when it comes to someone making a donation to a worthy cause, the likes of cancer research take priority. A steep hike in licence fees made no difference either.

That wasn´t a problem to us, we had our own to cope with! I remember on one of the canal boating forums a boater said to me, “Well you never go out of your marina on your boat anyway.” He was right, but at the time I was too proud to tell the truth. Depending on what mood I was in, the true scale of our boat troubles wasn´t blogged. I just tried to keep it humorous, and light hearted. “Have a laugh at our expense like we do!” 

I kept the last couple of years of boating life on this blog so people could see how life aboard deteriorated when we moved to the new marina. It includes the why´s and wherefores of our transition. But thinking back, beyond the first year of trying hard to keep up with the challenges that boat presented us, I didn´t blog the full truth of the matter simply because we were trying to sell up! Oh what an “advert” the reality would be! How ironic that it turned into a “super boat” for the new owner — we´d spent 20,000+ pounds sterling on it over the years, yes the three zeros there are correct…

When determination to sell up set in, we thought that when (if) it eventually happened we´d be drinking champagne and celebrating.

We moved here on November 3rd 2014, the buyer was true to his word and the sail sale went through in December. The money transfer landed in the bank account and all the “proof of sail sale” paperwork landed at our Spanish address.

However our reaction was nothing more than pure relief. The figures on screen were proof the nightmare was truly over, done, finished. It did sink in (excuse pun) but a simple nod of the head and “Oh alright then” was sufficient.

We´d already moved on, happy with our new life in a quiet sleepy corner of the world, bathed in sunshine, new friends already made, a house that behaves itself, and no regrets whatsoever. You can´t put a price on that!

So there you go, a brief glimpse into a previous life that we´ll NEVER go back to. Did I say brief? {Scroll Scroll} Blimey, I´ve done some long blog posts in the past, but if you´re still here this could well break all records.

In summary the joke boat in dry dock on a roundabout is just that, and now you know why.

4 thoughts on “We Bought A New Boat

  1. Wow, Heather! What an odyssey. A former supervisor of mine lived on his boat in the Baltimore Harbor for several years. The boat was lovely but inclement weather was rough. My husband and I have thought of getting a boat and sailing all over the world but after reading your adventure, I don’t know if that would be wise. Very interesting post!

    Liked by 1 person

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