Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

There are professional fit outs, then there are professional fit outs!

Nantwich Canal Centre use a quote in their advertising that is taken from Red Adaire, the US oil field troubleshooter. It goes like this: "If you think it is expensive to hire a professional to do the job - wait until you hire an amateur." Today, during my attempted solution to a leaking central heating boiler, I found this couldn't be more true, and the following should be a warning to all those who are in the market wanting to buy their own narrowboat.
My Alde 2928 central heating boiler had developed a very minor leak, which, although still working, was emptying the header tank over several weeks, leaving a damp patch on the floor at the base of it. Having already had experience this year of plumbing joints around the water pump starting to weep, which were easily rectified by "nipping" up the securing collar of the joint, I presumed that this would also be the case on the boiler. However, having had a quick look myself, I could see that there was no access to the plumbing behind it, so I called in Nantwich Canal Centre to do the job on site.

The offending bulkhead is to the right of the boiler. There should be side access at both sides. The cupboards will now also have to come out!

When the engineer arrived, he confirmed my own (unprofessional) thoughts that access should be able to be gained to the plumbing joints. He said that he has known the boat from new, and the company who fitted it were a building / joinery company who had diversified into boat fit outs. Although the fit out is of good quality, and tradesmen carpenters had done it - they were not boat fitters, and gave no thought whatsoever to the future consequences of their design, in that the boiler had been installed, and then built in, leaving no access hatches at all. The result of this is that now we have a leak, the boiler will have to be removed to trace it, but before that, a whole cupboard, shelves and a bulkhead will also have to be removed first to gain access to the the plumbing so it can be disconnected!

After an hour or so of deliberation, and the cutting of a hatch that allowed enough access to feel for signs of a leaking joint, which couldn't be found, the engineer said there was no alternative but to take the boat in to the workshop. This left me with the prospect of a single handed trip taking the boat through Swanley No.2 lock, the flight of four at Hurleston, (which are not the easiest even with a crew), and then the remaining couple of miles to the canal centre workshops. I completed this task in two hours, not bad, I thought, under the circumstances, although I presume it wasn't a pretty sight, me going up and down the deep lock ladders like a rat up a drain pipe, and at my age!

I have now left instructions that the boat has the central heating repaired, if that can be done with a definite result, or replaced, which is possibly a better option, as I would replace with a diesel fired boiler. The offending bulkhead will also have to be removed and rebuilt one way or another, but at present I have complete faith in the company, who I have used before.

The nature of this problem probably wouldn't show up on any pre-purchase survey, as the finished result looks as though it has been built and fitted professionally, which of course it has. But with hindsight, I would have enquired more deeply into who the fit out company actually was, and what boat experience they had. Something potential buyers should take note of.

Lets hope that Nantwich Canal Centre now live up to their advertising slogan, and complete this job in a professional way. I am awaiting estimates on all options and I leave it in their hands.


  1. I see this a lot when I work on electrics on narrowboats.
    Cables and important items boxed in with little or no access. Its not just boatfitters - DIY fit-outers are just as bad..

  2. Yes, I deliberately avoided buying a boat with an "owner fit out." I now wish I had the experience of this when I bought the narrowboat. I had only ever bought branded high end fibreglass cruisers previously, and this problem didn't occur, not to say that I haven't come across some build horrors in some of their so called professional work though, which can usually be put down to cost cutting.

  3. This post is interesting to us. It is the sort of thing we worry about a little. It's a very good suggestion to find out what boat fitting experience the fit out company had. Good luck with getting it all sorted!

  4. Hi Elly, until I bought the narrowboat, I had only ever bought boats from branded manufacturers who complete the boat fully in house, from start to finish. It is only now that I realize that when buying a narrowboat, it can be anything from a home fit out into a bare shell right up to a fully bespoke build by a respected professional outfit. In between there are many joinery companies and the like, who have "jumped on the bandwagon", and although their work is of high quality, as I have now found out, doesn't always take into consideration the special needs of boat maintenance. On this note, I would suggest that a boat with a makers pedigree to completion might be the best option, although would undoubtedly be more expensive. Sayings like "you only get what you pay for" and "there is no such thing as a free lunch" now spring to mind. Anyway, all is not lost, even though we have incurred additional expense relating to remodelling joinery, at least we will have my preferred, fully controllable diesel central heating to go forward.


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