Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Narrowboat Maintenance.

The image is from happier times during our narrowboat ownership, and is from February 2014. It was approaching blacking time again and I had written a post HERE about my intention to have the hull grit blasted and re-painted with epoxy blacking, as the boat approached 10 years old. A job that was agreed at over £1700.
Our boat has always wanted for nothing. If anything went wrong, no matter what the cost was, she was repaired, even re-fitted in the case of the heating system. She was also submitted for the necessary regular maintenance that is required to keep a steel boat in good condition during the time we used her. That regime started in September 2009, just 6 months after we bought her, to have her taken from the water again, inspected and re-blacked in bitumen. Her last blacking prior to that had been in summer 2008 when she approached her 4th birthday. I hold all historic paperwork. This type of work has always been carried out at the same location during our ownership, and I had arranged the new blacking to take place this time on 18th March, again specifying an out of water hull condition inspection, although that should be a default process in this kind of maintenance.

What happened next I am still unable to discuss here, but the result was that we lost our boat. I hope to be able to report the full facts of events when the long process of sorting things out is over.

In the meantime, and as this is taking such a long time to sort out, I am very aware that many visitors to this website come here to seek the experiences of other boat owners whilst researching for themselves. That might be the costs of ownership, the costs of maintenance, what the realities of ownership are like, how to tackle a particular job, and so on. What I am going to list next are the pitfalls to watch out for that can happen to anybody, novice or experienced alike when employing the services of a 3rd party to undertake work on your behalf. Having since made research into problems associated with inland waterways boat yards, this type of occurrence is by no means unique and for example, there are no regulations in place that would ensure yards at least employ qualified personnel.

A steel hulled narrowboat is susceptible to corrosion. To prevent this happening too quickly, and to give the boat the longest lifespan, a good quality paint covering should be maintained - usually taking the boat from the water at most every 2 years to check and re-paint - referred to as blacking. I now suggest that as an owner you should either undertake the inspection and re-paint process yourself, or at least be present when the hull has been cleaned off and during the re-paint. Particularly during the re-paint, as once the boat is re-launched you have no way of knowing what quality of job was completed on your behalf, and in particular what condition the hull was in when the re-paint took place.

If trusting a yard to undertake this work for you, then checks should be made that their equipment complies with current safety standards, that they hold comprehensive public liability insurance, and employ qualified staff for the job you want them to undertake. Do not take first impressions of the yard as an indication of their abilities. A brand new state of the art establishment may prove to be severely lacking, where an old established and untidy yard may be the most experienced and best equipped to undertake the work.

Before you buy marine insurance, and there are many companies out there competing for your business, make a check of their schedule of cover. You may be surprised at the lack of cover they actually provide, and you may in fact have to pay a premium far in excess of what all the general advertised quoted prices are offering just to obtain acceptable cover. Be aware that at the first sign of trouble, all insurers will in the first instance try and wriggle out of their responsibility to you. Clauses to watch for relate to "new for old" replacements of damaged parts, and no indemnity for "a slow and preventable ingress of water". Also be very aware that that their use of grammar in their small print will be there to change the meaning of a statement that may not be immediately noticeable. Research the boating forums to see which companies provide the very best customer service - not in buying, but after a claim is made.

Be aware that all UK marine insurance is governed by an outdated Act of Parliament - The Marine Insurance Act 1906. This was introduced to combat fraud at the time where shipping lines were insuring vessels that never existed, only to make a total loss at sea claim for them. Now, in the 21st century, with a huge leisure boating industry, the Act assists marine insurers to restrict their payouts in the event of a major claim.

Read this document - it provides informative reading to the leisure boater: MARINE INSURANCE.

Be aware that many boatyards within the same area will not act in any way contrary to their neighbours. They will be reluctant, or even refuse to provide estimates for repairs, and will most likely refuse to attend each other's sites, making it an almost impossible process to rectify any problem that may have occurred and requires outside help.

Consider alternative battery charging methods to mains chargers. If you use a permanent mooring, particularly against galvanised piling, then leaving a permanently connected shore line is not good, even when using a galvanic isolator, which of course should also be checked for correct functionality on a regular basis.

I hear you say "It can't happen to me". I can assure you it can. So please act with extreme caution when employing 3rd parties to work on your behalf. The old saying "if you want a job done properly then do it yourself" makes very good sense in these circumstances.

1 comment:

  1. Now, over three years on from our disaster where we obviously had year on year electrical issues eating away our boat’s steel hull that instead of being notified what was going on by the boatyard we engaged to undertake out of water blacking and maintenance while we owned it, they simply repainted and relaunched over a seriously pitted and deteriorating hull, that eventually sank after relaunch and in their care. Once our sunken boat had been recovered ashore it also became obvious to me that the blacking job they had completed was also seriously under par.

    The biggest problem though was that the boatyard owner refused to take any responsibility for what happened and refused both our requests and those of a legal team we had employed to divulge the details of their own insurer so a full and comprehensive claim could have been made against them.

    This resulted in a claim to our own insurer - Craftinsure, underwritten by Navigators and General, to get the consequences of sinking fixed. Unfortunately they refused to provide new for old replacements, which meant the sunken starter motor could only be stripped, dried and put back into use, and the two sunken alternators actually worked once dry, so were to be left as is. On top of all that the water stained interior was to be left as is even though it looked awful, it remained serviceable.

    This is what formed my decision to sell the boat as salvage and just take cash in lieu of repairs from my insurer. To add insult to injury, after 12 months hard standing at the boat yard, the owner insisted on payment in full for his failed job, as well as insisting we paid storage charges while we tried to sort things out after what happened, some £2500 before we could allow our boat to be removed.

    Our legal team, funded by legal expenses cover on another insurance policy (a waste of time and money in our experience), could only advise we informed the marina owner that we would pay, but under duress, then attempt to get our losses back through the courts. Unfortunately that process also proved that it was going to be very costly, so in the end we simply cut our losses and walked away. We had tried to maintain our boat in everything it needed over the five years we owned it but were seriously let down in the end by the actions of the marina owner in our opinion. Had he provided details of his insurer at the outset, proper repairs could have been undertaken under a claim to them, I would have paid to repair the hull, and all would be fine and we would still own our lovely boat.

    Beware!

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