So… the boat buying experience has proceeded well and you are counting down the days to setting off on a meandering journey along the waterways. It would be lovely to think that was all you had to do, unfortunately, not quite….
Boat Licence/Registration Certificate
Generally speaking, on the Inland Waterways your boat will need some sort of licence or registration certificate to either be on the water or move on the water. There are a couple of historic exceptions to this, a few marinas where you only need one if you venture out, and the Middle Level Navigable Drains (which is currently in the Parliamentary process of changing). You can purchase these on short term, mid term and an annual basis in most cases so you can cross Navigation Authorities borders without having to spend a fortune – indeed the combined Gold Licence covering EA and CRT waters is only about 15-20% more than the CRT licence on its own. There are other cross border agreements such as the Bridgewater Canal allowing free passage through for CRT licence holders for 28 days a year maximum and vice-versa.
Most of the relevant organisations are below.
Canal & River Trust – the navigation authority responsible for all navigable non-tidal waterways except as listed below
Environment Agency – the non-tidal Thames, Nene and Great Ouse, Medway, Wye, Lydney Docks
National Trust – River Wey
Avon Navigation Trust – Warwickshire/Worcestershire Avon
Bridgewater Canal, Greater Manchester
Port of London Authority – the tidal Thames from Teddington to the sea
Middle Level Commission – 160 km of Navigable drains between the River Nene & the Great Ouse
Witham Fourth District Internal Drainage Board – Witham Navigable Drains
As mentioned elsewhere on our website – you must insure your boat, either Fully Comprehensive or Third Party, from midnight on the day of purchase. A licence cannot be purchased without valid Insurance and a valid BSS Certificate
What is a BSS Certificate?
A Boat Safety Scheme Certificate is proof that the boat complied, ON THE DAY OF THE EXAMINATION, with the relevant Navigation Authorities’ (e.g. the Environment Agency, Canal & River Trust, etc) minimum requirements for licensing. It was (and sometimes still is) referred to as the BSC or Boat Safety Certificate. The process is now all online and the Navigation Authorities can themselves check your boat has an in-date Certificate before issuing a licence. There is more information here on the BSS website.
How long is a BSS Certificate valid?
A minimum of 4 years and a maximum of 4 years & 2 months, depending upon the expiry date of the existing Certificate.
Many Certificates are renewed part way through the term but that does not mean there was necessarily something wrong with the boat. Some surveyors for example, if registered as a BSS Examiner, may issue a new BSS Certificate inclusive in the cost of a pre-purchase survey.
Who issues a BSS Certificate?
Only an authorised BSS Examiner registered with the Boat Safety Scheme. There are around 200 Examiners across the England, Wales and Scotland. Many inland waterways Marine Surveyors are registered Examiners.
Most narrowboats/widebeams of whatever description use diesel for their engines and central heating systems and this is widely available on canals and rivers in the form of Red marked diesel.
At the present time, leisure boats can still fill up and use Red Diesel for both propulsion (use of engine for travelling) and domestic (heating, generating electricity using engine or generator, cooking etc).
When recreational boaters buy diesel for their craft, they will need to make a declaration to the supplier if they intend the fuel for propulsion and will also declare what percentage of the fuel will be used for propulsion (as opposed to domestic purposes such as heating and lighting). Generally this is in the form of 60/40 or 80/20, in deepest Winter when you don’t move the boat at all it can even be 100% Domestic.
From this declaration, the Diesel retailer can charge the correct amount of tax/duty and give you a combined price. Having separate diesel tanks for domestic and propulsion can make this process less (or more) complicated!!
You may have heard in the news that the European Court has deemed this derogation unlawful after 10 years of it working well, and HMRC are now working on the way forward with boating organisations. Watch this space.
Most boats have a home mooring – either in a marina or ‘on-line’ for use when the boat is not being cruised. Some boats (especially GRP craft) are taken out of the water onto hard standing for Winter months. British Waterways in 1995 allowed boats on their waterways to have a licence that stated ‘without a home mooring’ – as a growing number of retirees were cruising the system most/all of the year round and didn’t need or want to pay for a fixed mooring. This became known as Continuous Cruising. The licence stipulates that bona-fide navigation is needed for this licence to be honoured, a continuous journey, not jumping from A to B and back to A perpetually. This licence has in the last few years become a bit of a millstone round the CRT neck as it has been adopted as a live board in small one area licence, causing local mooring shortages and stretching boaters facilities to the limits. Licence Enforcement has been stepped up to keep boats moving and remove licences from those boats not complying with the terms and conditions they signed up for.
Your boat needs looking after to maintain its value and performance. The way the boat market has been in the last few years means that well maintained and good looking boats have actually been an investment!!
Your boat is subject to the worst of weathers, bangs into walls and other boats occasionally, has people on the roof and sides, and doesn’t live in a heated garage when you aren’t using it. Some jobs you can do, some jobs you will ask others to do – unless you are very capable or have oodles of time on your hands. Every boat is different so there is no one perfect list.
Generally there are Daily, Monthly and Annual things you will do, depending on how much you use the boat, there may also be seasonal jobs such as Winterising, engine service etc. There are also long term works to plan in and book ahead for, blacking, and checking anodes every 2 years for standard bitumen coatings, maybe slightly longer intervals for 2 pack/epoxy/comastic/zinger etc. Full repaints are probably a 10 year cycle depending on the quality of the previous job.
Morning/pre-cruise/pre-running checks – Engine oil level, engine coolant level, bilge levels.
Post running checks – Tighten stern tube greaser to stop the drip (tighten until resistance is felt and then usually a half to one turn more), check bilge levels, inspection tray beneath engine for any changes.
Monthly Checks – depending on use:
Battery electrolyte levels, flexible hoses/pipes & wiring for rubbing/wear, fan belt worn/slack, exhaust leaks, diesel leaks from all pipework especially metal spill rails.
Look for water seepage from any water pipes or pumps/equipment, check the cabin bilge for water, there will usually be an inspection hatch forward of the engine bulkhead- suck out if necessary and find out where it has come from, in Winter it may just be condensation.
Check gas flames (especially fridge, water heater, boiler) are burning clean blue – if not call in a GAS SAFE registered gas fitter.
Mooring ropes for damage/wear, mooring pins/posts/rings are still secure.
Diesel drip-feed boilers such as Kabola/Bubble stove may need cleaning out, when in continuous use, every 6 – 8 weeks, can be more often with intermittent use. Diesel compact boilers for central heating like Eberspacher/Webasto/Mikuni need the glow plug cleaning regularly.
Engine oil changes should be according to manufacturers instructions, fuel filter change as well, at least every other oil change, air filter 1/4 turn unless very dirty, then change.
Engine alignment, check stern tube packing or tighten bolts of stern gland, Fan Belts, Change gearbox oil, check weedhatch seal, check prop nut/split pin secure, check and tighten jubilee clips on hoses if need be.
Check and clean in-line filters in water pipes and shower pump, check accumulator tank pressure, change drinking water filter cartridges, Service central heating system.
Book annual service for gas equipment
Check antifreeze concentration, clean out any deck drains in engine area, front deck and hand rails, fill up the diesel tank to reduce condensation build up.
Check antifreeze concentration in central heating, empty toilet cassette or pump-out tank.
Use a couple of frost heaters if boat is going to be left on landline over Winter – make sure electricity is topped up if on a meter!! Clean stove flue – you may need to do this more than once if living on board over Winter.
Winterising if leaving boat unattended
This normally means emptying the domestic water system to avoid problems with freezing pipes. The easiest way to do this is empty the tank on the last day of your cruise prior to winterisation. Once the taps begin to splutter, empty the shower hose as well, remembering to empty the shower tray. Once all the water has gone, take the fuse out of the water pump wiring after turning off- to make sure it is not run dry by mistake.Leave the isolator tap open and possibly undo the pipe connectors either side of the main pump. Pour some antifreeze into the sink drains and shower sump. Detach the shower hose and place in the basin.
If you have a gas instant water heater, calorifier, drinking water filter – don’t forget to drain those as well.
Whenever the Boat is Left Closed Up:
Turn off main gas supply, turn off the battery master switch unless on a landline and equipment is left on, tighten the stern tube greaser, if safe to do so leave a window open to assist the ventilation.
Some boaters also switch off the water pump whenever they leave the boat for shopping or days out etc to avoid emptying the water tank or filling the boat should a problem develop.
Note: this is not an exhaustive list