Some ramblings from the Director of BoatQuay:

“BoatQuay is borne of my experience over the past few years of the maritime industry as a consumer and new boat owner (a little more about that later) and the genuine wish to share all I have picked up with others captivated by spending time on the briny (or indeed any body of water). It seemed to me that there is a lot of disparate information and boat sales, services and finance out there. Some of which is difficult to find and often happened across by accident. In short, we wanted to bring everything around the buying and owning of a boat together in one accessible place and critically to remove some of the unknowns and hassles out of getting on the water or upgrading to a newer, larger, more fun or just plain more suitable vessel.

I have also been surprised simply by the number of boat manufacturers in the market. Our research suggests something like over 600 companies making boats from Dinghies and Ribs through to Super Yachts. Had we not created this site and spent a few years researching the market, I simply wouldn’t have had any sense of the volume and diversity out there.

My journey on the water started without knowing a transom from a bow, a windlass from a bilge pump, but having dreamed of owning a boat since summer holiday trips to the coast as a child; I scoured boat classifieds, ebay and anywhere else i thought might sell the floating dream. Much searching and unknown terminology later, I purchased a very reasonably priced 21ft Sportboat (1979 Sunseeker SS21 Cuddy for those familiar with such things). Moored her with the MDL Marina in Torquay and set about spending over 100 hours that season with my family exploring the bays and coastlines within 30 miles of home and ultimately becoming completely hooked on being on the water and all things associated.

Our lovely SS21 wasn’t to last very long though as a result of our Volvo Penta (the engine) giving up the ghost - turns out inboard Penta 4.3 GL’s are primarily intended for lake/non salt water use and upon stripping the engine down discovered the manifolds, risers and a couple of the cylinders were corroded badly as a result of sea water ingress - a complete engine rebuild required.

Lesson 1 Learned: Don’t skimp on engine maintenance and regularly replace manifold gaskets!

Lesson 2: 10 years is a reasonable life expectancy for a boat engine before a partial or complete rebuild is required.

Lesson 3: If you want to travel more than a mile or two offshore. Buy a boat with 2 engines (or if you have a smaller boat, have a small outboard - known as auxiliary/trolling engine). You can always get home on one engine, but rowing or hanging off the swim platform kicking your legs often doesn’t help get you back to safety.

The joy of being on the water and freedom to go wherever the mood, wind, tides and decent moorings take you, coupled with the experience of the first purchase under our belt and a realisation that more space was required led to a more considered choice for the next one. More scouring ensued, boat directory sites, forums and brokers being the sources this time. Unable to find a leasing option (not possible due to UK lenders being unwilling to keep ownership of boats on their books I came to discover after discussing such things with those in the finance industry) or indeed a decent finance option (didn’t then know where to look) for a new boat, I considered the next best option was the purchase of an older boat with newer (direct cooled - ie not cooled by seawater) engines. The result was ‘Nordic Lady’ a 30 Foot Princess (286 Riviera, again for those interested in classics). Re-engined with two Diesel Yamaha 370STI’s which had done less than 250 hours (Lesson 4: Engine Hours are akin to car mileage - ie very important). Replete with a galley (kitchen) head (toilet) and decent sized mid-ships cabin (bedroom in the middle of the boat) as well as a decent sized forward cabin with table and option for double bed. Critically having a wine rack and a heater. Essentially our own Floating Gin Palace!

The purchase heralded a new season (boating seasons are broadly May to September in the UK - though in our case, more like February to November) of trips up and down the coast, visiting other harbours, beaches, towns and navigating rivers as well as a channel crossing. Generally the feeling of freedom associated with a bigger and more reliable boat. It also brought the sense (given the family usually accompanies me - including a 2 year old daughter) that some courses and training would be a good idea. Crucial ones being a VHF course and a the Powerboat Level 2 and/or Certificates of Competence. Along with which a lot of online searching for guides on pilotage (getting in and out of harbours/marinas) and passage planning (the big or small bit between the harbours/marinas/anchorage) and a general understanding of wind, weather, air pressure, tides (and their ranges - very important when anchoring), tidal flow/rate and the position of the moon (determining monthly spring and neap tides). In other words, anything that might affect the sea or a tidal river, how rough it might be and the fun or otherwise of being out on it.

Just ask anyone with a boat from Torbay about strong ‘Easterlies’ and they’ll tell you to open a bottle of wine and stay on your berth (some thoughts and more details on those things that are most important will appear in the ‘guides’ section of the website).

I could wax lyrical for some time about all of this, but instead I hope the site proves a useful reference point and a platform to the bright blue yonder.”

(Side note - two crucial knots to learn a ‘Bowline’ and a ‘Cleat Hitch’ - much needed for securing your boat and moving those pesky fenders (old salts out there, please bear with me).

James Williams

Boatquay Director