Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring, I’m not buying another boat! I notice though that Halfie (John) has been looking for one, and it drew me into reminiscing about our search which ended just six years ago next week when we found Herbie.
I well recall the check list of things we wanted in our ideal boat. Apart from the obvious things like length, condition, price etc. there were things we had learned from our hiring experiences. I wonder how many of these features we would change today if we were looking again for a boat? Let’s look through our old requirements list and test some out
Semi Trad stern – would I keep it? THE big question - I’ll come to that later
Rear galley - the well known “reverse layout”. easier to make tea etc. when you are cruising along, and less muddy boots through the bedroom. We like ours, but it puts the saloon amidships. It would be nicer if the saloon was up front where we could have the doors open in the summer. Another layout wouldn’t be a show stopper for us.
A side hatch in the saloon – not in the corridor (useless, but found in some boats). I’d still insist on it if we had a saloon amidships. The bigger the better.
Toilet type - I daren’t even start on this one or we’ll be here all week. We’re reasonably happy with our cassette type but I wouldn’t now rule out a pump out.
Easy access to the weed hatch – you only know how important this is if you don’t have it. I my opinion this is the one thing that is non negotiable. I have experienced lying across a hot engine trying to lift a heavy hatch cover at arms length. I never want to do it again. Ours is lovely. I should add that it becomes even more important in urban areas (plastic bags), or in places like up the Slough Arm where the weed thrives.
Easy engine access for maintenance _ Herbie is not too bad, but an engine room would be wonderful.
A solid fuel stove. Not as clean or convenient as diesel or gas heating, but oh so cosy. I’d find it hard not to have one. We have an Eberspacher diesel heater and radiators too but hardly ever use them.
A covered cratch. Hmmm. very convenient, but I might swap for a long well deck or I definitely would for a tug front deck.
240 volt sockets and an inverter. I hate using the inverter, but to plug in to a shore line and charge the batteries is very handy. I would be unhappy about a home mooring without shore power. The main thing is to cut down on equipment that needs 240v. Definitely get a 12v telly if you want a telly at all.
What was not on our list, but would be now?
1. A slightly longer boat - 56ft instead of our 50ft, then we could fit in a dinette which I would like.
2. One or two technical things like an easy to bleed engine and perhaps an aquadrive.
3. er, not a lot else really. Obviously I would like a Russell Newbury engine and a Phil Speight paint job and a Steve Hudson shell, but we’re operating on a budget here!
So what about that stern type then? The age old question that John and Jan are struggling with. Trad, Semi Trad or cruiser.
To some folks that’s easy. Almost everyone agrees that Trad stern boats look the best and their owners will go on about how nice it is to stand on the top step in the warm whilst cruising along in the winter. I don’t think I would have a trad stern with a rear engine. It would have to have a proper engine room with an engine that goes chug chug. I confess I often yearn for such a beast. With a trad stern you can also have a proper traditional boatman’s cabin with a little stove and a drop down table and folding bed and a ticket drawer and all that. I can well see why John yearns for such a thing.
But – (there’s always a but), everything has a down side and John has posted about the issue of social space. As you cruise along, do you want to be in the company of friends? You can get a couple of people on the back of a trad but after that it gets too crowded or (if they stand out on the gunwales) too unsafe. That’s the only thing that would make me think twice about a trad stern, but of us, it’ s a big factor. One of our purposes in having a boat was to be able to share trips with friends, not as passengers tucked away up the front, but as participants.
Then there’s the good old cruiser stern, much loved by hire boat companies. Room for a whole gang on the back deck but nowhere to shelter when the rain comes in sideways. The time I envy cruiser sterners is in the summer evenings, when they have enough space for alfresco dining.
I guess it all comes down to how you want to use the boat. Living aboard, or exploring the system as a couple, I would go for a trad. Carrying friends a lot of time, I’m not so sure. Perhaps a couple of our regular passengers may care to comment. Hint hint. In fact, John and Jan, that’s what I would do – ask your passengers.
Next time I’ll have something to say about what really matters when you choose a boat.