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Sinewave

Boat Hire Legal Question

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Hi all, 

I recently hired a narrowboat which developed a fault with the leisure batteries not charging, Upon calling the boatyard for assistance I was told the duty engineer was not available to attend but would give instructions over the phone for me to fix myself.

As a member of the public and just a consumer would it be Legal for me to attempt to fix it myself without insurance.

Any feedback on this would be much appreciated.

Sinewave (Ian) 

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There's no laws restricting who does electrical work on boats, so yes it would be legal. But in my view the hire boat company would remain liable for ensuring that the boat still meets the general requirements of health and safety and their insurance. So unless it is a very simple fix, I would expect them to get someone out to fix it for you.

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47 minutes ago, David Mack said:

There's no laws restricting who does electrical work on boats, so yes it would be legal. But in my view the hire boat company would remain liable for ensuring that the boat still meets the general requirements of health and safety and their insurance. So unless it is a very simple fix, I would expect them to get someone out to fix it for you.

Thank you David, I have had quite a few issues with this particular trader,  Most of them have been Consumer Rights related.  I just wanted to check that I had not broken any laws by working on his boat.

I Have to be careful about libel because I think this will end up in court so cannot say much at present, However I think he will have a job explaining why he boasts excellent service and a 24/7 emergency callout service, when his "DUTY" engineer takes 7.5 hours to return my emergency call, tells me he can't attend and my best option is to fix it myself.  

Ian 

Edited by Sinewave
bad grammer

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How much did it impact on your hiring?

 

10%

30%

50%

etc

 

I do wonder from your posts what your motive is tbh.  Boats and hiring come with issues and delay. I hired for many years before buying and issues did occur, but I would be interested in what you were expecting as a hirer rather than a litigant.

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I've hired narrowboats that have developed problems, and had to call the duty engineer.  We may be 50 miles away from the hire base, the engineer may be attending another boat 50 miles in the opposite direction, and both boats may be 2-3 miles from the nearest road access, so it can easily be hours before the engineer can arrive.  If they can give instructions over the phone that let us fix the problem and get on with our holiday, to us that is by far the best solution.

(But agree taking 7.5 hours to call back isn't really acceptable - if they do that they can't really complain if you arrive back a day late!)

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Impact of the collective issue's was about 60% , I Paid a tad over £1,300.00 for a weeks holiday hire as a special treat for the wife and I. We are both in our 60s now and the last time we had a boat was back in the year 2000.

So not being as agile as we once were, we chose the Ashby canal and a bit of the Coventry as our route (no locks) together with a British Marine Member to supply the boat for a nice relaxing weeks cruising, (or so we thought )

Long story short , we had 4 or 5 issue's with the boat, the engineer and the trader that cost us 3 days cruising , all were down to the trader and his engineer.

The Trader refused to remunerate for the lost 3 days even though the issues we had were solely down to the trader and his engineer. it's all just escalated from there.  

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35 minutes ago, Cheese said:

I've hired narrowboats that have developed problems, and had to call the duty engineer.  We may be 50 miles away from the hire base, the engineer may be attending another boat 50 miles in the opposite direction, and both boats may be 2-3 miles from the nearest road access, so it can easily be hours before the engineer can arrive.  If they can give instructions over the phone that let us fix the problem and get on with our holiday, to us that is by far the best solution.

(But agree taking 7.5 hours to call back isn't really acceptable - if they do that they can't really complain if you arrive back a day late!)

Exactly my point, I don't mind the fact that he could not attend and I had to fix the problem myself.  BUT mishaps, accidents and incidents can be minor or major, so the least I expected was a quick call back from the engineer to check the degree of our issue.

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If it costs you three days through no fault of your own, I would expect half my money back at least, probably more if it wasted my weeks leave.

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Many, many years ago we hired from Coles Morton Marine (I can name them as they aren't around now) We suffered 5 breakdowns, all but one down to poor maintenance, plus the gas lines freezing due to use of butane rather than propane. We asked for, and got, a 10% refund on returning the boat. 

Over our 20 years of hiring it was a rare holiday where we didn't have a breakdown of some sort but none of them, other than above, cost us much time as we always managed to meet at some mutually convenient point. 

13 hours ago, Cheese said:

I've hired narrowboats that have developed problems, and had to call the duty engineer.  We may be 50 miles away from the hire base, the engineer may be attending another boat 50 miles in the opposite direction, and both boats may be 2-3 miles from the nearest road access, so it can easily be hours before the engineer can arrive.  If they can give instructions over the phone that let us fix the problem and get on with our holiday, to us that is by far the best solution.

(But agree taking 7.5 hours to call back isn't really acceptable - if they do that they can't really complain if you arrive back a day late!)

On the Avon a few years ago we came across a broken down boat waiting for an engineer (repairman) on a lock landing. We could see the repairman coming from where he parked his van about a mile away and carrying his tools across the fields. 

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Your first post suggests that you're seeking advice before attempting a repair yourself; have you now done so?

From your stated itinerary, I can think of only one hire fleet which this could be, and they are generally very well thought of, so perhaps you have just been unlucky.

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We hired several times a year before we bought our own boat and can only think of once when we had a holiday where nothing went wrong during the one or two week hire. Hire boats get a lot of use and will break down. Some things are unavoidable.

We had one boat trash a gearbox on a tidal section of river in the middle of nowhere in mid March. The boat had to be towed to the nearest town which was six miles away. We were then given the option of going back to the yard three days away where we would be given another boat, or letting them fix the boat at the side of the river and lose a days cruising. We opted for the latter. Did we let it ruin our holiday. No. We found stuff to keep us occupied whilst the boat was being fixed.

But then again we don't subscribe to the blame culture and claim culture. We just admit that sometimes stuff happens.

  • Greenie 2

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5 hours ago, Athy said:

Your first post suggests that you're seeking advice before attempting a repair yourself; have you now done so?

From your stated itinerary, I can think of only one hire fleet which this could be, and they are generally very well thought of, so perhaps you have just been unlucky.

Yes I did do the repair myself, But the engineer guided me, that's when alarm bells started ringing in my head.  He told me he had worked on the boat on the morning of our handover to repair a problem with the alternator not charging the leisure batteries, he then stated that he told boat yard staff to leave the boat's engine running to charge the batteries, however; the engine was stopped to allow the cleaning and service crew to work and his repair failed.

He went on to say it was an easy repair to re-do, I would just need to obtain a jump lead from somewhere and phone him back for instructions, which I did.

On receiving his instructions for the repair I was totally aghast, What he told me to do was run the engine at a fast idle the get into the engine well and remove the battery box cover, the place one end of the jumper lead on the +(positive) pole of the start battery , and the other end onto any + of the leisure batteries, leave for ten seconds and the remove the jump lead, Job done just run the boat for as long as you can to put charge in the batteries.

In essence then, he had not repaired the fault prior to our hire, he had just by-passed it with this manual shunt, This is just a get you out of the do-do measure and at best is a very temporary quick fix, so temporary in fact that it fails on every engine shutdown and requires to be remade on every start up.

Engineer my A***,  I did not have kit with me but my best guess was that the trigger wire to the old type Duric split charge relay was left off ,broken or missing , but as the alternator was able to charge the start battery a simple (VSR) voltage sensing relay wired between start and leisure batteries would have done the trick or failing that just wire a manual shunt to a temporary battery isolator switch.

But no!! This guy got the batteries temporarily charging and that was good enough for him, said nothing about the situation , and was quite happy to send the boat out on hire in this condition.

And yes it's not to hard to figure out who the trader is and your right his boat's are excellent and well appointed, If nothing goes wrong I can imagine hirer's having nothing but praise , But have a problem and the service is dire. 

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Thanks for that detailed explanation. Have you told the company what you have just told us? Such a reputable company should take such an incident seriously (and will want to know if sub-standard work is being carried out by its staff), so it would be instructive to hear their reaction.

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I suppose the flip side of the coin is would you have been happy to delay the start of your holiday so that the problem could have been fixed on a permanent basis?

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10 hours ago, Athy said:

Thanks for that detailed explanation. Have you told the company what you have just told us? Such a reputable company should take such an incident seriously (and will want to know if sub-standard work is being carried out by its staff), so it would be instructive to hear their reaction.

Oh yes , I have had several exchanges of emails, Even sent schematic diagrams from 12 and 240 volt reference books explaining the split charge circuits and how they work.

I explained to the trader that the problem did not lay with the alternator as it was charging the start battery, as I have said the "Duric" model split charger fitted to the boat was the older wired type requiring a permanent "trigger wire", and I think that was the problem because the purpose of the shunt was to by-pass this wire. 

The problem is the trader (by his own admission )  is not very savvy about electro/mechanical issues so he relies on what this engineer tells him, and I think the engineer takes advantage of this fact when he wants to get out of doing certain jobs.

 

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10 hours ago, Naughty Cal said:

I suppose the flip side of the coin is would you have been happy to delay the start of your holiday so that the problem could have been fixed on a permanent basis?

Of course, especially on this occasion, As I say, it was handover day so we did not pick the boat up till late afternoon anyway, we could have just as easily spent the first night in the boat yard to give him time to fix it. The two alternate measures I have already mentioned (VSR or switch) would have only taken a competent engineer/fitter about an hour, and that includes the proverbial tea break.:D

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31 minutes ago, Naughty Cal said:

I bet they loved a customer sending them a diagram of how the wiring on their boat should be!

:D To be fair, for boats that are hired to the general public the electrical systems only need to be very basic, i.e. lights, water pump, inverter, heating pump, ignition and charging circuits  and that's about it.

I am not 100% sure but I think the fleet used to be ex Hoseasons boats, The fleet has obviously been seriously revamped because the boats fixtures, fittings and layout are excellent, I guess they have not got around to the electrics yet but they should really.   

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This sounds to me as if the domestic batteries were very or completely flat and the alternator warning lamp was somehow energised from the domestic bank so the alternator would not energise until it got fed from the engine battery. Then it energised and close the split charge relay (assuming its a Durite one).

A missing "trigger" wire on the relay would not allow the relay to close by jumping between the engine and domestic positives.

Its all sound very odd to me because the alternator warning lamp is usually ignition switch controlled and that comes from the engine battery  unless for some reason they misunderstand the bit about directing the alternator output to the domestic battery. They could be using a relay from the ignition switch to turn the warning lamp on from the domestic bank but on a  single alternator boat its very odd. That us unless it was a twin alternator boat and they disabled the wrong warning lamp.

All very odd and I can not  fully understand how that fix worked unless it was to do with energising the alternator.

If the boat really did have flat domestic batteries the last thing I would tell a customer to do would be to jump from the engine bank because a very hot cable and burned hands could ensue.

 

By the way Hoseasons is only a booking agent, as far as I am aware they do not own or operate any boats themselves so any fleet could book via Hoseasons if they wished and have Hoseasons badged stuff aboard. If the boat was bought in it would have come from another operator who just happened to book with Hoseasons.

 

Edited by Tony Brooks

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I only know of one hire boat company on the Ashby who we found to be excellent. When we once hired from them around this time of year they swapped us to a better boat because there was a problem with the boat we had booked, at no cost to us.

The op's reference to the Ashby implies it was a hire from the Ashby boat co., perhaps they could eliminate them from any speculation about the hire co. involved.

Edited by MJG

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2 hours ago, Tony Brooks said:

All very odd and I can not  fully understand how that fix worked unless it was to do with energising the alternator.

That was exactly my thoughts about this fix.

Certainly connecting engine battery to domestics for 10 seconds after starting the engine can not do much else!

Strange thing to ask a hire customer to do though - jump in the engine bay when the engine is running and short the two battery banks is not advice I would really want to give anyone.

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14 hours ago, Naughty Cal said:

I suppose the flip side of the coin is would you have been happy to delay the start of your holiday so that the problem could have been fixed on a permanent basis?

If it's the company I think it is they just swapped us to a better boat at no extra cost.

Though given the time of the year perhaps they didn't have another boat available.

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8 hours ago, MJG said:

If it's the company I think it is they just swapped us to a better boat at no extra cost.

Though given the time of the year perhaps they didn't have another boat available.

I think most yards do this if they have a boat available.  It has certainly been an option when we have had problems with hire boats.

We hired from Richardson's on the Broads last year and had a problem with the boat being very reluctant to start first thing but then the bloody thing wouldn't stop. There was a problem with the stop solenoid. The engineers came out very quickly to have a look and offered us another boat but that would have meant delaying the start of someone else's holiday so we decided to carry on with the boat we had. It was easy enough to access the engine and manually stop it.

Did we complain about it?

No. We accepted it was the end of a long hard season for the boat and things would not be as good as new.

We are hiring in Brittany in October. We fully expect that boat to have problems as again it will be the end of the season. 

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