Last week, our article 5 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Narrowboat covered continuous cruising, lock-miles, financial planning, surveys and on-line scams. Whether you intend to live aboard, go on an extended cruise, use the boat most weekends, or keep to summer cruising and ‘winterise’ the boat for half the year will affect the kind of boat you are looking for.

1) Do Your Research

Everybody has different personal requirements when they are looking for a boat for sale. Things to think about include, whether you will want central heating, how much headroom do you need, and what kind of layout you would prefer. Make a check list of what is important to you, but be prepared to be flexible; it is unlikely that any boat will tick all of your boxes.

I remember a friend of mine dismissing several possible boats that had no fridge, but then found that she hardly used her fridge. You can of course buy a fridge if the boat does not come equipped with one. Some boaters prefer to keep items cool in a portion of the hull, which saves on electric power. Another friend’s boat came equipped with a large fridge and washer dryer, which they then got rid of as it was all too power hungry. So it really is down to personal preference.

2) Pump out or Porta Potti?

A pump-out toilet has a large holding tank, but will need to be (you guessed it) pumped out. This can be done at a service point where there is a charge for using the pump-out machine. However, if your toilet is a ‘PortaPotti’ or ‘cassette toilet’ the cartridge can be carried and emptied by hand into any Elsan point. This container will be smaller than a pump-out tank, so needs emptying more often, but you can always carry a spare. Elsan points are more common than pump out points when travelling and you will always be able to remove the sewage from your boat, even if your boat is immobilised by engine breakdown or a frozen canal.

3) Size Matters

For a first boat some prefer to choose a smaller vessel.Small boats are cheaper, easier to heat, easier to manoeuvre single handed, easier to moor and easier to turn without finding a winding hole. If you like the lifestyle you can then sell up and buy something to your own specification when you’re more experienced in boating.

However, bear in mind that in most cases you may need to invest a little into a new boat from the beginning. Will you regret spending money improving a boat that is simply your ‘starter’ boat, only to buy bigger and better a year or two later? While smaller boats are undoubtedly easier to handle it is fairly easy to become confident with a larger boat given time.

Be aware that certain English canals and navigations can only accommodate boats of certain widths or lengths. However, while continuously cruising the whole system may sound ideal, your personal circumstances may find you based in one area with a home mooring. Therefore being restricted in size may not be so important to you. For living aboard you may prioritise space and storage and choose a longer or wider boat.

Second Hand Canal Boats

All boats creak and groan - you'll get used to it! But are new boats better than old? Not necessarily. Older boats are often constructed of better quality steel. However, some of the old ex hire boats from the 1970’sand 1980’s that originally had through bilges may have rusted through from the inside If they haven't been cared for and altered.

Before you buy your first canal boat check out How to Buy a Boat: The Ultimate Guide


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