The perils of buying a boat

June 3, 2009 at 3:27 pm Leave a comment

Earlier this year, and looking for a new challenge in life, we thought it would be fun and exciting to live on a boat (once again). So we found a wonderful converted barge on a decent residential moorings in central London. The price seemed reasonable, and the boat truly wonderful. Over the next couple of months, we put our flat on the market; found a buyer; sorted out a boat-mortgage; and spent many happy hours planning our new life afloat. But just before laying out the first hard cash (for an out-of-the-water survey), I checked the terms and conditions of the moorings, at the South Dock marina. It turns out that:

a) you need a residential licence to moor there;

b) residential licences are not transferable; and

c) no new licences are being issued.

Bottom line: if we bought the boat, we would have to move it away indefinitely. So with huge regret, we’ve had to cancel the deal, and stick to bricks and mortar.

What makes this even more infuriating is that the marine broker presumably knew that there would be a serious problem with the residential licence, and knew this months ago. But instead of discussing it with us, he blandly assured us that it could be sorted out later (i.e. after we’d starting handing over cash). And when we told him yesterday that we’d started making our own enquiries, he got very angry and more than a touch offensive. I still find that hard to believe: that a broker, helping to sell a boat, would be upset that a customer might ask the marina a few basic (and highly significant) questions. Imagine if an estate agent tried to sell you a house saying,”Yes, it is a wonderful property, but you mustn’t speak to the neighbours until you’ve  moved in. Trust me or I can’t help you.”  Caveat emptor, especially if what you’re emptoring floats.

More generally, the whole issue of residential boating in London (and beyond, I’m sure) is crazy, with apparently arbitrary rules at different marinas, and the possibility that by changing these rules, the value of a boat can basically be halved overnight. Due to a change in the regulations by the marina owners (Southwark Council, in this case), the residential boats at the Greenland Dock and South Dock can only now be sold ‘off site’ and with no right to reside for new owners. So the boats are worth much less, through no fault of the owners. And I rather doubt they’ll get any compensation from Southwark Council, who presumably want to encourage leisure use rather than residential use for their own commercial reasons. Sad all round.

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If this metaphor was a piece of elastic… Political shenanigans

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