Looking for a Boat

In 2003 we sold our Narrowboat Pollyanna, the story of which is told HERE. It’s now 2021 and in May we enjoyed a successful holiday on the Leeds and Liverpool summit aboard a Shire Cruisers 45 foot boat called Cambridge, details of which are HERE.

The main lesson we learnt was that for two people, a 45 foot boat was big enough for a week, and probably quite a bit longer. As we didn’t intend to stay on board for months on end to “do the system” a boat of this size would be fine.

What’s more, the length of the boat made it easier to turn and otherwise maneuver, as well as reducing running costs – in comparison to a 60 foot boat by at least £1000 a year. We also liked the diesel heating and practical galley – we actually cooked a couple of simple meals on board the boat, partly because of the Covid restrictions, which made the expensive habit of eating out less practical than in the past. The bathroom sported a hip bath, which although quite impractical as a bath – you would have to spend far too much time at water points – did help the bathroom stay dry when use as a shower tray, with nothing more than a curtain to cover the top half.

One thing that was less comfortable than we remembered was the 4 foot wide bed, and that whoever was on the inside struggled to get out in the night to visit the loo. Some boats have a reverse layout, which means the bed is at the front, and can take up the whole width if you don’t mind not having use of the front doors, and this appealed to us.

So, when it became time to buy another boat, we had a good set of criteria in place. Little did we suspect that shortly after returning home our personal circumstances were to change. We would have a lot more free time and some cash to buy the boat sooner, rather than later.

We started to look at what was for sale. The first thing that struck us was the lack of boats available from brokers. Canal boating was enjoying a huge surge in popularity because of foreign travel restrictions, and also because more people were living aboard because of the ridiculous price of housing.

Still, we searched what was around, and what had recently been sold for prices in out budget. We started at £40,000. The unsold boats at that price were generally in need of quite a lot of work, either to modernise or to renovate, and there were hardly any reverse layout boats. We visited two marinas without seeing anything we liked.

One boat had caught out eye, though – it was an ex-Canaltime boat, looked in good shape and had just sold for £45,000. These boats were built for a timeshare scheme and had no doors at the front, but a side hatch about 7 foot back, allowing a king-size mattress to occupy the front of the boat. They had been built in two sizes. The 55 foot version has a cabin in the centre with two single bunks and it’s own loo. They were fitted with a hip bath under a shower.

Brokers charge a lot for their services, which when the market is slow is justified – they may be sitting on a boat for months before it is sold. We started looking at private adverts. Ebay was full of unfinished projects, but the website Apollo Duck had a few boats of interest. First of all a 55 Ex-Canaltime boat appeared, but by the time I contacted the seller it was under offer. He also had another one for sale, but was a bit vague about where it was. Even in the pictures it clearly needed a repaint, and it turned out it was on the Lancaster Canal, which required a trip on the Ribble Link to get it onto the main system. Priced at £39,000, it was was too long and a day’s driving to get to it. Still, it might be worth the trip.

And then another Ex-Canaltime boat popped up. This was 45 foot long and looked well cared for boat. I was the first to phone and arranged a visit the very next day, so we had first choice.