quest of discovery

I had a week off work recently (well, a week off from the day job!), so Ryan and I decided it was the perfect time to check out some boats we’d seen online.

We really needed to work out what would suit us, what we would feel comfortable with and had narrowed our reconnaissance down to a small handful of potential boats. Revisiting the canals also helps to keep the Quest alive and kicking!

So, let the challenge begin.

Armed with our list of boats, we sallied off to Whilton Marina – where fortune was with us, as this marina had a number of great boats that both interested us and were reasonably priced.

The marina makes it easy to view the boats you are interested in – simply register your name and contact number at reception. You’re then allowed to take up to three sets of keys and check out the boats on your own. While I do understand that some owners of boats may be uncomfortable with the security of this method, it does allow you, the purchaser, the freedom to really look closely at the boat that might one day become your home, without feeling pressured by time or having someone hovering over your shoulder.

Ryan and I requested three sets of keys from our list of boats and merrily set off to view them. The first boat provided a nice little challenge at the commencement of this day’s quest, requiring us to scramble across the back of another boat, then shimmy along the side of our target boat to get inside! Ryan, predictably, almost took a dip in the frigid marina waters! We arrived safely though and unlocked Boat #1.

With a semi-trad stern and at 57 feet long (our preferred stern configuration and length) this boat ticked a lot of boxes and we loved it.

Image from Whilton Marina website

Reverse layout with the kitchen – or galley as they call it in boat terminology – up the back, adjoining the lounge (saloon). It had a walk-through bathroom with a forward bedroom (cabin – for those nautical types out there).

The kitchen had plenty of space, important for Ryan’s future chores as master of the galley, and the bench included a compact breakfast bar which we thought would convert quite handily into a small office desk. A solid fuel stove in the corner of the lounge area would keep us warm during those cold winter days (I guess Spring and Autumn as well). The spacious bathroom was a little dark for our tastes, with black tiles, black shower enclosure and black handbasin. Still, it was one of the better bathrooms we’ve seen and perhaps the application of some white paint above the gunnels would lighten the tone somewhat.

The bedroom was spacious and could be easily changed to suit our personal taste. We both agreed later that day that if we had the funds, we would have put an offer on it, after a second look of course – you always want that cooling off period.

Boat #2 was a bit of a disappointment, especially after the first one, but it did have some unique features which we wanted to check out.

Plus, it was only 50 foot long which would make it cheaper to own. Although we’ve researched what we would prefer in our future floating home, it doesn’t hurt to look at other options, just in case you fall in love with something else or see a great idea that you could incorporate.

Image from Whilton Marina website

So, Boat #2 had a traditional layout with a cross-ways bed at the back. The bathroom, next to this, was off the side of the corridor and was simply a wet room, with no shower basin – the entire (tiny!) room was the shower, with the toilet and handbasin tucked in. We didn’t really like this idea and it felt very claustrophobic.

The small kitchen came next and was in desperate need of updating. At the front of the boat, the compact saloon had a solid fuel stove and not a lot else to recommend it. I’m sure someone will enjoy this well-priced boat, however, we couldn’t see ourselves living on it or being able to easily adapt it to our needs. I was also surprised at how much I noticed those missing seven feet of space. We know now that we would struggle to live permanently on something that small and don’t think we would be able to go less than 55 feet for full time cruising.

On that note, what was in store for us with Boat #3?

Well, it was a 57ft which was a good start and from the photos we’d seen, it looked stunning inside, even if the outside looked a bit drab. It was a semi-trad stern with a neat little Captain’s Seat – a raised section of the bench seats near the tiller provided a perfect spot to perch while skippering!

This one also was reverse layout with the steps leading straight into the beautiful kitchen. The white cupboards were enhanced by lovely solid timber bench tops. On the downside though there were only two gas burners on the stove top, one of them very small (I never use the small one even on a four-burner!).

While there was plenty of space in the saloon and a portion of the upper walls could slide open on both sides, great for letting in light and a pleasant breeze on a lovely summer day, we realised there was a benefit to looking at this boat on a wet and chilly day as you really received a reality check on the practicality of this feature. We also couldn’t see any way to latch or lock these hatches closed from the inside, which did worry us slightly. Of course, we know this wouldn’t have been a major issue to fix, but it was a consideration.

Image from Whilton Marina website

One of the things we really loved about Boat #3 were the skylights! There was one in the kitchen and one in the lounge area and they brought in so much light. One thing we dislike about porthole windows (which this boat had) is that they don’t let in as much light as normal windows making the rooms very dark, but on this boat you didn’t notice it thanks to those skylights.

Unfortunately, things deteriorated as we moved forward. The bathroom was walk-through, but the fit out was very poor with gaps everywhere and the shower looked like it would fall apart in a stiff breeze! The bedroom was was up the front – it was very sparse and the layout not ideal but, again, would have been relatively easy to change around to suit us better.

The biggest negative was probably that the boat was a tug style, and at 57ft long, this boat lost a lot of usable internal space with the large front deck. There was a large empty space up in the bow underneath the tug deck, which I had assumed held the water tank or something similar, but no – it was just empty space and was too difficult to access to use for general storage. While I can imagine us sitting out on the front, relaxing in the summer sunshine with a drink in hand, for a permanent residence I think it would get little use.

Overall, it was quite a nice boat, but definitely felt like it had been fitted out by an owner rather than a professional. It would probably make a nice summer holiday escape for someone, especially if you had some DIY skills.

So, Boat #1 was a firm favourite with both of us, it had everything we wanted. Unfortunately, we aren’t in a position to buy anything just yet. Although our savings are growing little by little, we’ve got a ways to go. Still it was nice to be visiting the canals again and we have a better idea of what suits us. We are more determined than ever to make the dream happen.

This Quest has only just begun!