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LondonRascal

Big Changes Ahead

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One of the things about this Forum I have found over the years is the fact there is a real community spirit, both online and offline at meets and the like.  People come and share their boating adventures, or ask for advice and learn new tips for all types of things related to boating.  But there are also those posts where people share their more personal life stories which have little to do with boating, but attracts just as much helpful replies or support none the less.

So it is time for me to share something which, as changes in life go, is rather a large step certainly for me – forgive me for writing one of my typical essays on this.

For some time I had envisaged leaving London and moving away – and since I have a real soft spot for Norfolk it seemed pretty obvious that would make an ideal place to head to.  As time passed though I questioned what I would actually want to do if I did this, where I would go so far as living and what I would do so far as a job. There would be the complete ‘cut off’ from everything I know here, people, places, the comfort of the job I do and people I work with and yet it feels increasingly like the right thing to do.

Now I am used to the gritty urban nature of greater London, and while I like to ‘get away from it all’ I would surly go loopy if I had it removed completely so while the sleepy villages in Norfolk might be to some peoples taste, I need something a bit more busy with things going on so that brought me to looking at Norwich – it had all this, but the sleepy quiet places all within easy reach too.

So with this in mind it was time to make a plan and get looking at places, ideas and the like - you could call this my ‘sensible approach’ to matters.  I was impressed with what one could find on the outskirts of Norwich, proper little houses, a driveway, a conservatory too nice garden and then...Then I began to question would I really have use for a driveway, a garage, a garden and a conservatory? How many bedrooms should I be looking at and do I really see myself having the patter of tiny feet and needing those extra rooms in time for the kids? Honestly, I think you either have kids or you end up not, and at 38 I recon I probably won’t (though they say never say never) so I pondered would I even need shore based accommodation at all?

Uh Oh...This could only mean one thing. Boasts. What if I was to buy a boat and live onboard it?

So at this point that ‘sensible approach’ went flying out the window and because this is me we are talking about there was not going to be a compromise on space and facilities and certainly no chimney would be seen sticking out from the coachhouse roof. No, if I was going to do the whole live on a boat thing it would need to be ‘official’ and with as few compromises as possible. I figured a nice place to moor would be at the Waveney River Centre – it has great onsite facilities, not to mention a pub within walking distance of the boat so an email to James came back with favourable fees and ideas on THE location of mooring. Now what the hell sort of boat could fit the bill?

After much looking and wondering and looking which went ton for hours a day, every day for weeks I settled on a 1991 Fairline 50. It had the size; it had reasonable power and I could have a great deal of work done internally to being her out of the 1990’s and up to modern standards. The one I found was in exceptional condition, both from the point of engineering and her exterior.  But wait a moment, what the hell was that which hit me? Ahh that sensible hat had landed back upon my head.

It might all sound like an exciting and good idea, but would this really be what I wanted? And, if it was could I control myself so far as the refurbishment was concerned. I joined a Forum and posted my ideas to fellow Fairline and genera large sea boat owners – the consensus was I was mad and this seemed like a foolish idea but none the less also they would happily sit back and watch it all unfold and gasp as it did. You see I was building a list of parts which was not only getting ever longer but ever more ambitious (£20,000 on Lithium batteries is just one example) so I took a step back and pondered some more.

A new plan was formulated what about a newer Fairline that would require less work doing and just spend the money on that newer (and larger) boat?  Ah ha and so back to the brokerages pages I go, hours and days turned into weeks and I find myself settling on the Fairline Squadron 55. It had much of the things I liked about the older 1991 50 footer, but had ‘grown up’ with a larger outside space, larger sliding doors between the saloon and aft deck and a very much more luxurious fit out internally, it even came with a utility room complete with fold out ironing board and a washer/dryer! I would also not need to retro fit air conditioning as it came with it but there was one thing, it was just about twice the cost of the 1991 model but 11 years younger.

It was the only one for sale in the UK at the time and before long it was snapped up – damn. The next one was a lot older (1997) and in Holland, and to get anything past the year 2000 model meant looking to the likes of Gibraltar or Southern France and they were now way over the cost of the model that had only recently sold here in blighty.

Sulking about this I just accepted that the whole plan was over ambitious and I should stop thinking about having such a large boat as a live-aboard on the Broads (I mean of all places right!) so I did the only thing someone like me would do. Think bigger. Hello Fairline Squadron 58.

With over 1,500 horses ready to be unleashed under the floor, 22tonnes, a 19 foot air draft and fly bridge large enough to play tennis on – yet would do 30 Knots. This boat was in Ipswich, no issues with bringing her back to the UK then, yet while it was nice in some respects (larger windows and a far more mature design overall) it seemed less soulful somehow than the Squadron 55. It has less rich veneered wood on show in the cabins, no oven and smaller utility room and at only 3 foot longer was it really worth it?

There was a real risk that likes so many of these boats out there the head and side linings would bubble up and sag and the original material and colour are now long gone, so whatever went in its place would never match exactly the areas that were not in need of replacement with those that were.  She also had vacuum toilets (horrible noisy things, complicated and prone to failure). The other big point shouting at me was what would I do with all that power? At 25 knots you’d be getting 0.6 MPG come down to displacement speeds and they would handle terribly, nudge up to 14 Knots and your pushing the hump all the time and the fuel burn really takes a dive so if you’re not going to go places reasonably fast did I need a large planning ‘sports’ boat at all?

Well, it was a nice idea – but sanity ruled.

Was it the freedom I sought, or did I really want to give up shore based living and risk it all on a boat?  I needed to step back and put all this on to the back burner. Then some time later I was having dinner in a restaurant in St. Katherine’s Docks and after the meal we walked around the Marina and there amongst many other, larger boats was a Fairline Squadron 58. It was like a light switch had turned off – she was flash, too flash maybe and I pondered how on earth would this really look if moored on the Broads and the single towering radar mast looked really rather odd amongst the other boats she was moored with.  No doubt a fine craft, but more suited to the Med or a sunny summer’s day on Southampton Water than the Waveney River Centre.

So, that is it you may think, good for you Robin have a pat on the back for ‘seeing the light’ and not being foolish spending out on a dream that you might find in 5 years time was a big regret owning a boat that has lost a lot of value and no longer fits my lifestyle. So does that also mean just staying here, in London keeping on the ‘hamster wheel of life’ – not a bit of it.

I still want to come to Norwich, there are plenty of other places and options but I feel I need to just grab it and take it and go with it or I won’t but a house, I am not sure about – at least for now, so have found a nice new build development of flats near the Cathedral just off Upper Kings Street. Suitably ‘in the middle of it all’ which I am used to and yet I can head off up to Stalham and Broad Ambition easily, I can go into the countryside or coast it all there about.  

So you might sigh now, thinking I was about to embark on a crazy new lifestyle on a boat and you could well imagine the videos as I got to grips with such but don’t fret, I am only being fifty percent sensible.  

You see, I’ve found a 2001 Trader 535 Sunliner. With its traditional, warm solid Teak joinery inside it feels like a really cosy classic ‘little ship’. Sure, not to everyone’s taste and the exterior lines are a little ‘odd’ but with an RCD Class A rating, old school semi displacement hull and 660HP of Caterpillar power she is a rugged ‘go anywhere’ cruiser.  Something you can enjoy the journey on and the destination. Keep her ticking over at 9 Knots and she will return 1.7 MPG which while not a great deal different to the Squadron 58 at the same speed but will be a far more soft and sure footed ride – and right up to 18 knots she will match the Squadron’s fuel economy – only pushing past 18Knots will it all fall apart and mean you needing your own oil well to feed her thirst. She also happens to be a lot less money than the Squadron, so less bling and speed and more charm and patience.

This is a boat you can spend a longer amount of time on without moving and be in real comfort – marble, teak and rich leather damn it, someone get me a cigar and brandy!  So that is the plan, the clock is ticking and so long as nobody makes a move before me then in the next few weeks it will all start moving forward. I hope.  This is life v2.0.

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Why not have the best of both, a short term land based rental (some really good rates on holiday properties over the close season) and your vessel for summer living and whenever the mood takes you.

 

What ever you do enjoy it, and go for it, better to try and fail than end life thinking "if only......."

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Have you looked into future employment as thoroughly as your future living arrangements, generally the two go hand in hand, after all there is no point living close to the boat, if you dont get time to use it. its all about work / life balance, you need a job that you are happy doing, and that allows you the time to get out on the water.

Best of luck in all your endeavours.

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Ems and I looked a 90' static barge in Devon a few years back moored off the back of Chivenor air base (I call it an airbase as that's what it was when I lived just up the road, aged 0 - 4yrs) but unfortunately couldn't secure the funds at the time, I think we will end up on a houseboat at some point, we both love boats, both love Devon, and for my work, it doesn't really matter where I am as I just need an internet connection. Ems is an office manager/planner so she could also work anywhere within reason.

The idea of no rent (or at least minimal moorings) no mortgage, potentially no council tax and being able to hop into a butty boat to nip up the river to Tesco really appeals!

Best of luck Robin, if you want it to work out enough, it usually does!

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Have you looked into future employment as thoroughly as your future living arrangements

Nope not a bit, never have. In my life I have always left a job and then gone off in a completely different direction to the last. Not what most people do mind you, but otherwise I have no rocket up my Dirriére to do anything.

I also plan to have some back up income from a further property purchase for investment - be it in Norwich or elsewhere that will then be let out - again no need for a mortgage to fund that but needs some thought so far as what type of property and where is best so far as rental values go.  Some people I have spoken to have done well with bedsit type accommodation  for students - each paying a weekly amount per room which adds up (depending on size of property) to a nice monthly amount verses a single flat or house.  However, with students you also get a bunch more issues.

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Why not have the best of both, a short term land based rental (some really good rates on holiday properties over the close season) and your vessel for summer living and whenever the mood takes you.

I don't want to go near any form of rental because it is just giving money to someone else, I rather like the idea of leaving work on a Friday and deciding not to head to home but to the boat come summer or winter.

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Fuel tank capacity 2270 ltrs  you wouldn't want to fill that up on a regular basis

If you go into this sort of size boat and power the fuel costs are high, it is why many are bought as floating cottages with the odd dash out on a fine day and back to harbour. My plan however is to do more than just that, and perhaps a yearly trip to somewhere more than the likes of Southwold or Wells-next-the -Sea on the continent could be on the cards, and I am sure certain owners of Broad Ambition would not mind lending a hand with the ropes (and yes I'll be keeping up with Broad Ambition too for the sensible Broads cruiser) for the experience and quite possibly some other Forum friends too :)

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Have your dreams ever wandered towards the Netherlands boat builders?? Sturdy steel boats with a performance more akin to Broads type boats? Plenty of Lebensraum ! (Yes, I know, that's German!) Pedro, Linssen, Stevens etc?? There was/is a dealers at Brundall methinks!

Or for UK build, Aquastar which would give you a more speedy passage!

 

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The Trader is a proper ship, she can take you all over in comfort and safety. We had an ambition to take our Berwick through France to the Med but with a young family, house and all the rest of the baggage it never happened. And before you know it you look round and it is too late. 

Do it while you can, you sound like you have researched it well, not doing it on impulse, so best of luck.

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7 minutes ago, VetChugger said:

Have your dreams ever wandered towards the Netherlands boat builders?? Sturdy steel boats with a performance more akin to Broads type boats?

I did look but there steel and not large enough (or should I say per square foot to price to my mind is not as good value) I would personally avoid these also because like narrow boats being steel they sort of naturally just degrade and it is after all only the surface protection of epoxy and paint that keep the rust at bay.

Aquastar are okay too but generally small and the larger ones are costly - there is a sixty footer down in Southampton but close to half a million and just not the same joinery and luxury aboard as the Traders.

This is much like looking at a boat to hire - someone might love a centre cockpit and another will say no you should avoid them and go for a single level forward steer.

 

 

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Points of interest about the Traders from 2011 onwards - gone are the separate controls for throttle and gear (I am sure this is more for ham fisted Americans who love these) The only reason I can see, is they can't get to grips with a single combined throttle and gear control fearing they might topple forward when slow speed maneuvering in and our of gear and shoot off into another boat. Anyway post 2001 models feature  professional Kobelt electronic controls - one of these alone costs  €6779.00. I'd like to think they don't breakdown during the life of a boat!

That is not to say there are not minus points - Caterpillar engines are not as advanced as the latest equivalent offerings from Volvo Penta since they have none of the EVC controls, so HP for HP might burn a bit more fuel and may be alittle less smooth and quiet (Volvo Penta D12 715HP as an example can be, for their size incredibly efficient and smooth running)

That said, outside of the usual service items things are costly Impellers on Caterpillar engines  I have heard that an impeller is £300 a pop for example.

It is not just under the floor, the electric toilets are Jabsco - I'd like to replace with Tecma units (their 1/2 HP macerators could handle the largest of logs)   The navigation and radar would need updated (Simrad) with their open array Halo Pulse Compression radar, side and structure  scan sonar, and auto helm. Simrad is not as well adopted in the UK, with the likes of Raymarine leading but here is an idea:

So got the plans, just don't want to miss the boat and avoid getting a lemon!

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13 minutes ago, LondonRascal said:

I did look but there steel and not large enough (or should I say per square foot to price to my mind is not as good value) I would personally avoid these also because like narrow boats being steel they sort of naturally just degrade and it is after all only the surface protection of epoxy and paint that keep the rust at bay.

Aquastar are okay too but generally small and the larger ones are costly - there is a sixty footer down in Southampton but close to half a million and just not the same joinery and luxury aboard as the Traders.

This is much like looking at a boat to hire - someone might love a centre cockpit and another will say no you should avoid them and go for a single level forward steer.

 

 

Steel boats naturally degrade ??? Really , its  like everything else its  dependent on how they are looked after and of cause built , yrs back I anti fouled a Shetland that was 3 yrs old and covered in osmosis , by the same token if seen 30 yr old narrow boats that have dropped only 0.5 mm in thickness on the hull at the waterline where its most vulnerable in fact the base plates arnt even painted ever .

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1 hour ago, LondonRascal said:

I also plan to have some back up income from a further property purchase for investment - be it in Norwich or elsewhere that will then be let out - again no need for a mortgage to fund that but needs some thought so far as what type of property and where is best so far as rental values go.  Some people I have spoken to have done well with bedsit type accommodation  for students - each paying a weekly amount per room which adds up (depending on size of property) to a nice monthly amount verses a single flat or house.  However, with students you also get a bunch more issues.

If you're looking in Norwich, the Golden Triangle (Unthank Road/Earlham Rd area) or Silver Triangle (Silver Rd / Magdalen Rd area) are good spots, with the former being better for student lets due to its proximity to UEA.

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Richard, you are right everything does degrade (leave bare GRP without its gel barrier and it will not last) but when you are buying something like this, having one less thing to worry about is handy and for me not needing to worry as much about what the hull is doing is nice. It was from factory epoxy coated and it has since had a Copper anti foul applied - which is a boon too.

Now, I admit that painted surfaces polish up really nice, and have a luster unlike any gelcoat could but it is a paint, it is (so far as surfaces go) thin and it will need to be kept in good order to maintain the steel under it. GRP boats simply require less ongoing care - no need to have an ultrasound reading done on hull thicknesses every so many years or worry about having to have the paint dealt with one day in the future when it is finally past its best.

So far as a Shetland hull being covered in Osmosis after only three years in the water seems unacceptable to me.Either was something seriously amiss in production (possible claim) or, if this is just how they are, then I pity the owners of Shetland boats generally if you're looking at that after such a short space of time. 

 

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Great news Robin. 

I grew up in an area not that far from where you live. Mind you, it was quite different back then but still well on its way to becoming the multicultural London of today. But I understand that buzz of being a city dweller and the towns of Essex have been as far out into the country as I ever wanted to be.

However give me the coast and that's a different matter. You are right to want to grab this opportunity while you can. I still think that we will head to Norfolk one day ... we just can't make the move yet because of family and work ties at the moment. The caravan has been a nice halfway house this year - I have so enjoyed leaving work on a Friday, packing a bag and being in Lowestoft before the sun went down.

We talked about whether we might choose Norwich to move to but I didn't want to swap one housing estate for another and end up somewhere that could be anywhere. We are gradually exploring the area on our weekends and could end up in a few places ... and maybe even swap the caravan for a boat one day.

One never knows what life may bring so here's to living it in whatever way anyone might wish for themselves. Best of luck and I look forward to reading all about your adventures. :default_drink_2:

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