Dodgy Deals and Lumps of Steel

A few weeks ago I decided to turn my life’s savings (which were dismally minimal to begin with) into a 40ft lump of steel with which to transport myself around the narrow, crumbling waterways of the no-longer-quite-so-United Kingdom.

10/10 for that mooring knot-thing

The boat is a Traditional Stern narrowboat, built in 1994 by Evesham Boats in Worcestershire. Since her build she’s travelled a grand total of 3000 miles in circles round the Worcestershire and Severn waterways, but doesn’t seem to have ventured much further. Not entirely sure how much she weighs (and quite frankly, it’s rude to ask) but would hazard a guess that it’s between 12 and 18 tonnes. Quite a lot of steel for my money then.

I’ve been left with a long list of ‘quirks’ that came up in the survey that I must fix for fear of going uninsured / sinking to the murky 4ft depths of a canal:

  • Roof doesn’t drain.
  • Leaking stove chimney due to the above. This caused me great distress and a minor melt down following rain storm this weekend, much to boyfriends amusement and reassurances that all we need to do is temporarily re-seal until roof can be fixed.
  • Engine is misaligned with gear box.
  • Dodgy paint job (this is the boat equivalent of a dodgy lid or hair-do). Something that can be rectified with about £500 worth of Yacht primer and gloss. Once done I can out-peacock other boaters as I cruise past with a smug wave and a “what kind of toilet do you have?” — apparently the most common greeting in boating. The Casette vs Pump-out vs Compost debate. Will definitely write entire post on this once I decide where my allegiance lies because at the moment I don’t care how other boaters do their business, just as long as it’s not in the canal! This indifference puts me firmly in the ranks of a ‘land lubber’ and will not be fully accepted to the boating community until I develop strong opinions on which porcelain throne (…or plastic pot) is best.
  • The tiller is about to drop off. A common problem, I’m assured. Seeing as narrowboats have the precision steering and turning radius of a lumbering elephant, it might make little difference whether the tiller is attached or unattached anyway.
  • The boat builders didn’t measure up right when they built her and the hull was 18 inches too short. Following a bit of finger pointing and subsequently blaming the new apprentice, they hastily stuck in another 18 inch plate to rectify this but as the apprentice was so flustered by previous telling off the poor sod didn’t weld the new seams this created (or so I imagine). Somehow this had gone unnoticed for 22 years until one day I got a very thorough marine surveyor to check her over before I agreed to hand previous owner large lump sum of cash in exchange for large lump of steel. Luckily, this causes no structural danger as boat’s hull was well maintained otherwise but I’ll need to get it welded now it’s noted on the survey report or I won’t get insured.
  • Batteries wired up the wrong way (and now practically defunct) courtesy of previous owner.
  • Rusty gas locker. Again, common problem. Now a fixed problem thanks to an enthusiastic boyfriend*, a screwdriver/chisel, a wire brush or ten, and a few coats of rust-ite and bilge paint.
This is a gas locker, as you can se you can just about fit a human in there.
  • Gas problems. No flame failure devices to be seen and the main gas valve (I think?) was put in higher than the level the tanks are stored. Giving me nightmares of poor little lump of steel becoming mangled warp of melted steel due to gas explosion unless I fix this and place multiple gas alarms in boat. Overactive imagination / state of constant yet high functioning anxiety might equal safest boat on waterways.

This list is not comprehensive and does not include the ‘cosmetic’ fixes I really want to get on with in order to make the boat feel like a home. But can only get on to those once we’re done clearing out the previous owner’s Man City football memorabilia.

Boyfriend is United fan, very unimpressed.

The silver lining is that despite the (seemingly ever increasing) list of faults, her hull is in incredibly good condition for a 22 year old. There is miraculously little ‘pitting’ where the steel corrodes in little pits (funnily enough) which usually comes down to bad hull maintenance. This is something you must look for when buying a boat as it could be lovely above water-line but sink three days later**. I decided to go for scruffy above water-line but very unlikely to sink for any reason other than having a completely incompetent crew.

To undergo most of the work listed above, I’ve had her taken out the water and put on a hard standing where I bought her. This also helps to save on stress, licensing and insurance on a journey to a marina closer to home in a rush before the winter canal closures.

More updates to come as I delve further into project and slowly morph into a ‘boater’. Am hoping once transformation is complete (of both myself and boat) visitors will be welcome and the lump of steel will be able to take pride of place on all ‘Narrowboat interiors’ pinboards on pinterest.

For those of you interested, I’ve decided to blog the ordeal so I can answer all your burning questions. Such as, (my favourite so far): “But would Deliveroo deliver to a boat?”. While I get my act together, you’ll have to make do with the boats social media accounts. Yes, thankfully we live in a day and age where narrowboats have their very own twitter and instagram pages.

Happy cruisin’


* boyfriend was enthusiastic to begin with. Much more sweary and much less enthusiastic by end of day spent in cramped gas locker.
** May be over-dramatisation. Will also do a riveting post on hulls in future. Ba dum tish.
Please note: I’ve purposefully omitted certain facts and dumbed down elements of this post for ease of reading for non-boaters and general comic value.