Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

A Boating Argument.

I'm sure many of us have been here - something doesn't go to plan, a crew member makes a mistake, and an argument ensues.
Unfortunately for Colin on historic boat Sharpness, his ear bashing was caught on camera and posted on Youtube.
Next time you find yourself in an argumentative mood - remember to smile, you might be on candid camera!

A beautiful boat though........

Friday, 29 November 2013

A Boating Mishap - Could It Happen To You?

The owner of this large motor yacht watched in despair as it was being lifted from the water for routine maintenance.
Next time it is blacking time, be there to check those harnesses. (I always use a slipway).
I bet the crane driver is one who always loses his digestive into his brew when he dunks it.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Another Spanish Property Scandal Report.

Today, once again the Daily Mail has run a full centre section spread on what they call their 'Spanish Property Scandal Special'.

Again the article makes interesting reading for those of us who have recently been considering a move to the sun. It tells of property from lists of finished as well as unfinished developments, that are supposedly safe from the prospect of demolition, sold cheaply to unsuspecting, often British retirees, and often backed by official government literature, for the subsequent buyers to find that same government are later insisting that their house has been built unlawfully, and will have to be demolished. One couple have watched their house demolished as unlawful, and are now living in their garage because that was deemed to be lawful. People on one side of a street have been unaffected, while the unlucky ones who bought on the other side have had their property demolished. You couldn't make it up! The article also describes how Spanish Government officials attended UK Spanish property exhibitions along with so called specialist estate agents in order to promote these properties to the Brits, who having bought, now find they are left with nothing.

This might seem to be a recurring theme here now, but anyone who is still considering buying Spanish property would do well to read this article in full, as well as the ones that are linked to it within the text.

Daily Mail 'This Is Money' Spanish Property Special.

British Pensioners Lured Into Buying Condemned Spanish Homes

Then, as usual, my advice is always to 'make your own mind up', using all the resources you can - then there is nobody else to blame!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Poor Value For Money - Or Just Real World Supply And Demand?

Image courtesy of debspoons,
Why is it that when you add a £1500, 12 year old caravan body to a similarly old £900 Fiat van chassis, it undergoes metamorphosis to become a £17,000 motor home? See:

This particular model wasn't produced by the company for long, as it is built on a car derived van chassis, so has a relatively small payload of around 400kgs. Autotrail moved on to using the Fiat Ducato panel van derived chassis for this reason in later Tracker models.
However, for our needs, this coach built model would suit us well. An element of luxury over what you would expect from a 'camper van' derivative, while offering easy latent storage on the drive, and the ability to be used as more of a normal car away from site. This particular one is also LHD, which I believe would benefit us, as our intentions are to use it mainly abroad, keeping the narrowboat for the English Summer. It also appears to be in exceptional condition.

The problem is - they are just too damned expensive, and don't strike me as being good value! Not just this model, all of which are of a similar age, and are all similarly priced. I have found around a dozen of them available at present - all at this price level. There are also some 25 year old rusty old 'sheds' around, that are masquerading as luxury motor homes  and none seem to be under £7k, even now, as we approach the season to be jolly, rather than to go camping. The equivalent vans these are based on went to the scrapyard years ago, but the cheaper motor homes seem to be snapped up quickly.

It is difficult to obtain European breakdown cover on vehicles older than 15yrs, so that was the limit of our choice, hoping to buy and run alongside the boat. But, at these prices, I believe it requires a re-think as to whether a much newer motor home of a comfy living size should replace the boat, or to forget the idea altogether and stick to renting property over shorter time periods.

I have been monitoring and researching this for weeks now and it appears the caravan and motor home sector of the leisure market isn't suffering in the same way as the boating one, with an apparently much more buoyant market, (no pun intended). Or am I mistaken?

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Should we look to spend our Winters in warmer climes?

We are sick of the weather in the UK! Is it because we now have more time to notice how bad it really is since we retired? Or has it really got worse than we remember it? Whatever the reason, we seem to be restricted in what we do in Summer on our narrowboat, only to find ourselves housebound in Winter due to even more foul weather. Our friends - ex work colleagues, sank part of their retirement funds into a touring caravan, where we chose our narrowboat, and they have been spending their Winters in Spain for the last 5 years. 
I visited them there in October 2011, while Margaret was in India with our daughter, and we visited them again this October, this time together. They enjoy a great outdoor social life in the sun, while we are at home listening to the wind and rain beating against the windows. It started me thinking 'why can't we do the same'?

Well, here are the results, with some of the links to the information I came across, while researching the possibility. My research is around our own circumstances, being retired, so called pensioners, (although I am yet not old enough to claim my pension), I am at least self sufficient. We wouldn't want to cut our links with the UK completely, just spend time in a warmer climate over Winter. As I dug deeper I found there were many pitfalls to consider, many of which were changing almost on a daily basis due to the the failing economy in Spain.

First, information for EU citizens who wish to spend time in other EU countries can be found here:

Your Europe
The 'Your Europe' portal gives individuals and businesses practical information on their rights and opportunities in the EU. It focuses on real-life, cross-border situations, e.g. European citizens wishing to work or study in another country in the EU, or European businesses wanting to move to or open a new branch in another country in the EU.

As an EU National, I have the right to stay in another EU country for up to 3 months with just an identity card or passport, although some countries may require me to record my presence at a police station or town hall. Simple as that.
As a 'pensioner', I can live in any EU country as I wish, providing I have comprehensive health insurance cover there, and sufficient income from any source, to allow me to live there without the need of income support. After 3 months, I may be required to register to obtain a document stating my right to stay. Again, this is done at a police station or possibly a town hall. To do this I will need a valid passport, comprehensive health insurance, and proof that I have the means to support myself financially. Contrary to what someone else has recently published, my stay is NOT limited to 6 months, nor will I be 'breaking the law' if I exceed this time.

However, I also came across this article in the Daily Mail on Wednesday 20th November. This is the link to their financial advice website, where a question was posed relating to an amendment of an existing law. This amendment was passed in Spain on 15th November 2012, without anyone taking much notice until the deadline for 2012 declarations was reached at 30th April 2013. As ex-pats became increasingly aware of it, it caused panic to some, who started to think of selling up there to return to the (financial) safety of the UK.

Daily Mail Money - Tony Hazell, finance correspondent.

This law relates to the taxation of worldwide  assets over 50,000 Euros, including property, of any individual, (including Spanish Nationals and non EU Nationals), who is present in Spain over 183 days in any financial year. The recent anti-fraud amendment requires obligatory declaration of assets, with a large fine for non compliance, whereas in the past, to an extent, the law had been largely ignored. Anyone spending time in Spain over and above this time is now deemed to be a resident, and thus subject to this tax. Again, information on this subject has recently been published stating that you can only have residential status if you own a property. Now not strictly true, as above. The journalist concerned passed the inquiry to be answered by a taxation specialist working for Deloitte Spain, who made a very general answer, correctly stating that individuals should always seek their own independent financial advice relating to their own circumstances. Of course there are ways to minimize your exposure to this tax, for example by reorganizing bank accounts to under 50,000 Euros, but property remains an issue. There is also a taxation agreement between the UK and Spain which should mean that people do not pay tax on the same income in both countries, but there are also inheritance implications that should be considered, especially relating to property.

Then there is the corruption issue. While we were in Spain, a local Mayor in the Vera district had just been jailed along with a property developer for allowing a new estate of villas to be built against central planning regulations. Purchasers received all the correct paperwork after conveyancing, to subsequently move in to their beautiful new property, only to discover later, after Central Government intervention, that their villas were unlawful, and had to be demolished. They lost everything, and jail for the offenders was not much in consolation for their loss. This sort of thing has been well publicised throughout Spain in recent years.

For us, all this means that we have abandoned our plans to own property in Spain, or even spend over 6 months there in a motorhome or caravan, as our friends do. What we have decided is that we will rent an apartment for a month next year as tourists. We have chosen one from this website, at a very reasonable £200 per week all in, bedding, towels, electricity and heating/cooling included. Even an English cleaning lady, (at extra cost).

There are however problems brewing on the property rental front as well. The Spanish authorities have just agreed to bow to the local tourism industry, (read hotels), and clamp down on private individuals wanting to rent out their property as holiday lets. See: Article from the Daily Telegraph.

Find further good information about living in Spain here:

To me, all these are symptoms of a failing economy that is in deep trouble. Lets hope we don't have to witness anything like the events we saw in Cyprus earlier in the year. Add to this the possibility that the UK might sever links to EU membership in the future, and who knows what will happen then. A complete minefield.

Friday, 15 November 2013

It Looks Like Winter's Here

At the boat again for the first time in three weeks because of one thing or another, such as car servicing and visiting friends. The really cold weather forecasted for next week hasn't yet arrived, but the interior is certainly much cooler than we remember it as we left in October.
The routine as we arrived was to turn the central heating on with the push button to air it, and heat the domestic water, while preparing the brand new Morso Squirrel stove, we had installed in the Spring, for it's first lighting. We had to replace the stove after last Winter's snow melt had managed to find its way down the flue, lying in and on the stove causing terminal damage due to corrosion during the layup. We also have a new flue and stainless steel chimney to replace the black enamelled tin one which had also seen better days.
For its first use we have decided to use seasoned hardwood logs, obtained on offer from Bridgemere Garden Centre while they were on offer, making them cheaper than coal. However, at the moment, they seem to be burning away much faster.

As per the stove instructions we kept the heat low to gently burn it in, but the new paint still caused the interior smoke alarms to activate occasionally during the afternoon. It appears to have settled down now though, and we are tucked up cosy for the cold evening ahead.

We have now replaced both the Squirrel stove and the central heating boiler during the time of our ownership. All aspects of practicality and cost were researched before the decisions were made, and I wrote about it here:
A brand new Morso Squirrel stove.

The initial problems with the Alde boiler leak.

Deciding on a diesel boat heater.

Living with the Webasto central heating.

If you would like to learn more about the costs of narrowboat ownership, and in particular someone else's decision making process when considering a new heating system, then look here:

Living On A Narrowboat, Loving Life Afloat, by Paul Smith.