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ivan&alice

Rank these boat builders!

Which of these boat builders would you consider reputable / good value?  

52 members have voted

  1. 1. Which of these boat builders would you consider reputable / good value?

    • Alvechurch
      3
    • Avon Canal Boats
      2
    • Black Prince
      8
    • Canal Transport Services
      16
    • Colecraft
      23
    • Floating Homes
      2
    • G & J Reeves
      19
    • Hancock & Lane
      10
    • Heron Boatbuilders
      5
    • Les Allen
      23
    • Liverpool Boats
      11
    • Mick Cull
      4
    • Mike Heywood
      13
    • Pennine Fabrications
      3
    • PKB
      3
    • R&D Fabrications
      15
    • Springer
      8
    • Starcraft
      3
    • Steelcraft Ltd
      2


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As some of you may have picked up, my wife and I are in the market to buy a 70 foot narrowboat. Being a noob, I am trying to figure out what to look for when I look at boats and this really helpful thread taught me that the reputation of the builder or manufacturer is the most important factor when it comes to valuing a boat.

That just raises more questions for me. I made a list of all the 70 foot narrowboats I could find on the UK market (about 30 of them are for sale right now) along with their builders. Nineteen different builders are represented, but I haven't heard of any of them, so I guess their fame only extends as far as boating circles 😂

 

So I'm turning to the forum to help me rank them. I know different builders target different price ranges, so if it helps my budget is about 30 grand - I'm looking for a reputable manufacturer that is good value for money, but not expensive enough to be considered "high end". I created a poll asking which of these builders are reputable. If you have experienced a boat by any of these builders and know it to be decent please cast your vote. You can vote for as many builders as you like - feel free to vote for manufacturers even if you think they will be out of my price range. If you dislike a manufacturer or have never heard of them - don't vote for them.

 

If enough people vote I'm hoping I'll get a bit of a picture as to which manufacturers to look out for and which to avoid.

If you want to justify your choices please post below, and of course, any arguments about the more controversial builders (looking at you, Liverpool Boats!) are welcome to ensue in this thread.

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Les Allen, Reeves, Colecraft, all good boats, but based upon hull profile the only one I would consider buying would be Les Allen.

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I think you are fixating too much on a 70ft boat. Yes, there’s a fair bit of space but there are also downsides to a full length boat. As a newbie you are going to find handling 70ft pretty tough, especially if the wind is blowing. It’s also going to be harder to find a mooring for a boat that size, especially if you are thinking about Continuous Cruising in Greater London. You have seen very few boats really, why not widen your search to 60ft plus and go and view some boats? Get a feel for different layouts and stern types. Forget about buying in London, you will be paying an over-inflated price. Your budget is fairly limited and there will immediately be extra costs, insurance, licence ( licences are no longer transferable so you will need to buy one on day one. Budget for discovering all your batteries are knackered and you need four/five new ones or something else needing to be repaired or replaced. The old joke is that a boat is a hole in the water you throw money into is not far off the truth. No matter how nice the sellers seem, trust no one.

  • Greenie 2

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I vote for all of the above. In an old boat maintenance is more important than provenance.

 

And I'll vote twice for CTS because I own one (Although it's apparently not as good as a Les Allen 😂😂

 

JP

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Focusing on builders is not necessarily the best approach as how the boat has been looked after is going to make a difference. A top of the range shell builder that has had a rough and ready self fitout and not been regularly blacked is most likely going to be a worse buy than a clone craft with professional fit out that has been blacked every couple of years.

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I don't think any of them are particularly rank.  If they were that bad they wouldn't have stayed in business.

 

I think your approach is very black & white.  Your attempt at categorisation works in the world of cars, even second hand ones.

Boats however is a different kettle of light bulbs.

I'd stick my neck out and say Springer is near the bottom merely because they were built down to a price and the last one was built in nineteen hundred and fast asleep.

Off the top of my head I can think of at least three excellent builders you haven't included …….

BUT ….. BUT ….. BUT ….. BUT …. BUT …. BUT …. BUT …. BUT …. BUT …. BUT …. BUT …. BUT …. BUT …. BUT! 

No that's not a single cylinder approaching, it's an important consideration: -

But - what specifications did the original owner dictate, and how have they impinged on its survival since?

But - many of the builders over the years have relied on jobbing fabricators, which ones were involved in the one you want to buy?

But - many boats suffer from poor owners who do no or little maintenance for years. After years of neglect a thick coat of blacking a good paint job can belie the truth regardless of builder.

 

I'd get hung up on builders if I were commissioning from new, but then I'd be visiting their premises, meeting workers and talking to recent owners. 

 

I suggest you get out, drive around clamber on board, take some out …….. or buy a Mondeo.

Edited by zenataomm
My socks are on fire.
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14 minutes ago, Stewart Kirby said:

I think you are fixating too much on a 70ft boat. Yes, there’s a fair bit of space but there are also downsides to a full length boat. As a newbie you are going to find handling 70ft pretty tough, especially if the wind is blowing. It’s also going to be harder to find a mooring for a boat that size, especially if you are thinking about Continuous Cruising in Greater London. You have seen very few boats really, why not widen your search to 60ft plus and go and view some boats? Get a feel for different layouts and stern types. Forget about buying in London, you will be paying an over-inflated price. Your budget is fairly limited and there will immediately be extra costs, insurance, licence ( licences are no longer transferable so you will need to buy one on day one. Budget for discovering all your batteries are knackered and you need four/five new ones or something else needing to be repaired or replaced. The old joke is that a boat is a hole in the water you throw money into is not far off the truth. No matter how nice the sellers seem, trust no one. 

Thanks Stewart, this is all good advice. We have been to see six boats so far, only one of which was a 70 foot, and honestly all but the 70' made us strongly doubt our dream as we didn't think we'd cope in such a tight living space. I know some people manage just fine, but I think it will be so much harder for us to transition from land life. Stern types also don't seem to matter on a 70' - you can afford a nice bit of outside space on such a boat, not so on a 57' where the cruiser stern seems to really eat into your living space.

Both my wife and I work from home and it's important for us to be able to be separate while we're working. It's a luxury I guess, but I think it may be a necessary one for this plan to work out.

I realise there are other downsides - the wind, finding a parking space, handling, turning around, maintenance costs, accessibility. I was orginally dead set on a 57' boat as I was given to understand that anything larger wouldn't be able to travel to all the waterways. This thread about accessibility for a 70 foot boat made me realise that accessibility is not much of an issue for the vast majority of the waterways.

As for wind and maintenance costs, a 70' boat is only 23% larger so I am skeptical it would make that much of a difference. Finding a parking space may be a problem in Greater London, and we definitely do want to spend some time there but I have seen a number of 70' boats doing it. We don't plan to join those "continuous cruisers" who work in London and move their boat every 14 days. I'm hoping mooring won't be as big a problem in the rest of the country. I guess I'm going to have to learn how to handle her quickly! Perhaps I can add some bow and stern thrusters to help me out? 😂

 

All that said, we are looking out for especially nice boats 57-65', but it's pretty helpful to be able to narrow our search down with that criterion.

 

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13 minutes ago, zenataomm said:

I think your approach is very black & white.

That may be, but it's this or remain ignorant about the reputation of builders. I feel like this is a better approach than going with only my gut. Note that I'm not judging a boat on the manufacturer alone, but if I find a boat I love that happens to be a Les Allen, I can at least be reassured that the builder is reputable.

 

 

 

15 minutes ago, zenataomm said:

Off the top of my head I can think of at least three excellent builders you haven't included

I expect there are many - these are only the manufacturers of 70 foot boats that are currently for sale. Feel free to mention any who have been excluded though, in case one comes up for sale.
 

 

18 minutes ago, Captain Pegg said:

In an old boat maintenance is more important than provenance.

 

18 minutes ago, Rob-M said:

how the boat has been looked after is going to make a difference

 

18 minutes ago, zenataomm said:

many boats suffer from poor owners who do no or little maintenance for years

Yes, how well a boat has been maintained is certainly important, but as @Mike the Boilerman said in the other thread "Once a boat is a few years old the faults tend to get ironed out by successive owners, but as they say you can roll a turd in glitter but underneath it is still a... ".

So surely a 30K boat from a reputable owner that has been well-maintained is a better buy than a 30K boat from an unknown builder that has been equally well-maintained.

 




 

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Dont listen to nonsense about 70 foot boats being hard to handle. The canals were designed to be operated by semi literate uneducated people for..... 70 ft boats on at least the narrow system

 

i have owned  a 45 ft boat . 3  71.6 foot boats, and one 55 ft boat. The 45 foot ( colecraft) was by far the worst to boat.

 

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Oh, I have the answer, buy two 35ft boats and have your working spaces separate, only one of them needs an engine (a boat with no engine that you tow is called a butty). When you moor, not park, you can put them side by side (breast up) so you only need a 35 ft space to moor. If you have no experience of handling a narrowboat I suggest you take a boat handling course, expect to cock up regularly in the beginning and then when you are really confident expect to cock up when there are lots of people watching you. Do not underestimate the difficulty of handling a full size boat in any conditions, it’s not like driving a car.

  • Haha 1

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1 minute ago, Stewart Kirby said:

Oh, I have the answer, buy two 35ft boats and have your working spaces separate, only one of them needs an engine (a boat with no engine that you tow is called a butty). When you moor, not park, you can put them side by side (breast up) so you only need a 35 ft space to moor. If you have no experience of handling a narrowboat I suggest you take a boat handling course, expect to cock up regularly in the beginning and then when you are really confident expect to cock up when there are lots of people watching you. Do not underestimate the difficulty of handling a full size boat in any conditions, it’s not like driving a car.

Just like anything else, if you learn on something, that becomes easy and anything different seems harder. So if you learn to boat on a 70’ that will be “normal” and a 35’ boat will seem flighty.

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1 minute ago, nicknorman said:

Just like anything else, if you learn on something, that becomes easy and anything different seems harder. So if you learn to boat on a 70’ that will be “normal” and a 35’ boat will seem flighty.

I often switch between a 10 ft sailing dinghy, 28 foot yacht, 48ft narrowboat and 70ft narrowboat. Boy am i confused! 

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8 minutes ago, Stewart Kirby said:

Oh, I have the answer, buy two 35ft boats and have your working spaces separate, only one of them needs an engine (a boat with no engine that you tow is called a butty). When you moor, not park, you can put them side by side (breast up) so you only need a 35 ft space to moor. If you have no experience of handling a narrowboat I suggest you take a boat handling course, expect to cock up regularly in the beginning and then when you are really confident expect to cock up when there are lots of people watching you. Do not underestimate the difficulty of handling a full size boat in any conditions, it’s not like driving a car.

I know you are probably being tongue in cheek, but have you worked out just how much more it costs to own and maintain two 35 foot boats than one 70 foot one?

 

Or just how much less accommodation you might end up with overall?

The simple answers to both questions is "Lots!".

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Both our narrow boats were built by the same builder (W J Yarwood and Sons) and in the same year (1936).
 

One is nearly 72 feet, the other 40 feet.

Many would argue that the 40 foot one is harder work.

Edited by alan_fincher
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Buy a 70ft boat. If it don't work out, get a steel plated welded in the centre, and cut it in half. 

 

 

Make sure you are standing in the correct half though! 

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I've got a 2003 built boat moored next to mine that hasn't been serviced, painted, blacked or maintained for many a year, the hull now looks very dodgy with the waterline in very poor condition. It may have started out much more valuable than mine which was built in 1993 but it is worth much more dollar than this neglected boat. Good luck with your search, the boat you are looking for will be one that you come across and just makes you smile because it's for you.  It could be any of the above

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1 hour ago, roland elsdon said:

Dont listen to nonsense about 70 foot boats being hard to handle. The canals were designed to be operated by semi literate uneducated people for..... 70 ft boats on at least the narrow system

 

i have owned  a 45 ft boat . 3  71.6 foot boats, and one 55 ft boat. The 45 foot ( colecraft) was by far the worst to boat.

 

That is a very unfair, and probably, unintentionaly negative observation of the character and ability of working Boat families. I do not know how far back your experience of boating goes, but my experience extends beyond fifty years when there were still a lot of working boats on the Canals. Most of those I knew on the Grand Union had not received any formal eductaion and few could read or write, but for the most part I found them to be intelligent and able, and far more capable of understanding life than many modern, so called, literate recreational boaters. I feel, respectfully, that your comment should be either modified or deleted.

Edited by David Schweizer

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36 minutes ago, ivan&alice said:

Stern types also don't seem to matter on a 70' - you can afford a nice bit of outside space on such a boat, not so on a 57' where the cruiser stern seems to really eat into your living space.

That's probably why the preferred 57' liveaboard is a trad, not a cruiser.

 

As for outside space, there is plenty of it on the towpath or in the pub!

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7 minutes ago, David Schweizer said:

That is a very unfair and possibly unintentionaly negative observation of the character and ability of working Boat families. I do not know how far back your experience of boating goes, but my experience extends beyond fifty years when there were still a lot of working boats on the Canals. Most of those I knew on the Grand Union had not received any formal eductaion and few could read or write, but for the most part I found them to be intelligent and able, and far more capable of understanding life than many modern, so called, literate recreational boaters. I feel, respectfully, that your comment should be either modified or deleted.

The point is that whilst those people probably were semi-literate and ill-educated, neither of those factors have anything to do with an ability to operate a boat. Nor with intelligence. So whilst the comment was factually correct, it was irrelevant. Gosh, we agree!

Edited by nicknorman

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5 minutes ago, David Schweizer said:

... not received any formal eductaion and few could read or write ...

So semi-literate and uneducated then?

 

He never said they were stupid.

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8 minutes ago, David Schweizer said:

Most of those I knew on the Grand Union had not received any formal eductaion and few could read or write,

 

So they probably couldn't spell education, then?

(Sorry - couldn't resist!)

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37 minutes ago, alan_fincher said:

 

So they probably couldn't spell education, then?

(Sorry - couldn't resist!)

They I can now 🙂

39 minutes ago, TheBiscuits said:

So semi-literate and uneducated then?

 

He never said they were stupid.

True, so why say it if it was irelevant? I know quite a few ex-working boat people, and the fact that they cannot read or write has a significantly negative impact upon their confidence to survive in a "literate" society, drawing attention to it just seems a but unkind.

Edited by David Schweizer

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I think that you need to go and look at boats. Go to Whilton and have a good poke round what they have for sale but don't be tempted to buy from there!! You may well find a 62ft boat that ticks all your boxes where a 70ft one doesn't. There are many good builders not in your list like Dave Harris, Malcolm Braine, Norton Canes, Steve Hudson, Roger Fuller, Roger Faringdon (Ivybridge Marine) to name a few. When you find a boat that you like ask for opinions on this forum = there will be those who hold their hands up in horror and others who say go for it!!

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32 minutes ago, alan_fincher said:

I know you are probably being tongue in cheek, but have you worked out just how much more it costs to own and maintain two 35 foot boats than one 70 foot one?

 

Or just how much less accommodation you might end up with overall?

The simple answers to both questions is "Lots!".

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Both our narrow boats were built by the same builder (W J Yarwood and Sons) and in the same year (1936).
 

One is nearly 72 feet, the other 40 feet.

Many would argue that the 40 foot one is harder work.

Yes Alan, a bit tongue in cheek but on the other hand if they both work from “home” and are self employed maybe HMRC would allow a deduction against tax if they are home offices? Tongue still in cheek. Anyway, you have a 110 feet of boat and can still afford it.

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48 minutes ago, Richard T said:

I think that you need to go and look at boats. Go to Whilton and have a good poke round what they have for sale but don't be tempted to buy from there!! You may well find a 62ft boat that ticks all your boxes where a 70ft one doesn't. There are many good builders not in your list like Dave Harris, Malcolm Braine, Norton Canes, Steve Hudson, Roger Fuller, Roger Faringdon (Ivybridge Marine) to name a few. When you find a boat that you like ask for opinions on this forum = there will be those who hold their hands up in horror and others who say go for it!!

You will know when you find THE boat. And I guarantee it will not fall into any of the categories you have prioritised.

We were looking for 60ft, semi-trad, probably 20 years old, etc. Then we found Dougal - 50ft, Trad, 33 years old, Peter Nicholls build. Annoying really as the Mrs decided the moment she saw it, this was it and told the seller as much!! No chance for negotiation!

The right boat will find you.

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