Fore Sail/For Sale

Well, the less marine based puns the better, lord knows I don’t want to expose my shocking lack of knowledge of sailing. Carpentry, cabinetry, tiling, boat fitting in general. Of the many things I do know about I must admit that actual sailing, sadly, is not one of them.

This post is nothing to do with that so, moving swiftly on, today’s blog will be a little bit about readying boats for sale (not sail, if you go out in to open waters with a narrowboat then best of luck to you, but it is a seriously silly idea unless very well prepared).  I do hear people talk about flipping boats in the way they do houses, and you can probably make a few quid doing this. However, unless you are doing the labour yourself and can add value at a greater per hour rate than you’d earn doing your day job then I would be wary of looking at boat renovation as any kind of gold mine

That said, people will want to sell boats. Be it a project that has come to an end, moving on to a different boat or, heaven forbid, on to land, perhaps you’re going to move in with a partner and you’ve lost the coin toss and your boat is the one to go under the hammer. Whatever the reason, you may be looking at sprucing up your boat pre-sale to either add value or improve saleability. 

The most important thing is going to be the same as with any house or flat and that is declutter. We all know boats aren’t the mot spacious places to live so best to maximise what space you have. If it’s full of your junk, then it’s never going to look appealing. So, get us much out as you can, get it organised, get it clean and clear and you’ll be halfway there. 

The cheapest fix and the easiest, for those with less advanced DIY capabilities, is a good coat of paint. While I wouldn’t suggest trying to cover a boats problems with a layer of emulsion (for a start it’s a boat, let’s push it out and go acrylic ay?) simply repainting the interior can go a long way to brighten and revitalise a space.  The veneer throughout look can seem very dated and the yellow varnish and stained walls will often look great with a decent bit of redecoration. If the veneer and trims still look good then a wood and paint mix, e.g. panels painted and trims left or an above below gunwale split, can give a much more modern look but retain an aquatic favour

If you’re going to do further improvements, then I would suggest leaving the painting till last. You don’t want to ruin your good work with a load of other work going on. For my money then paint/varnish is the final thing, the icing on the cake. 

Look at how you’re using your space. People love some clever storage. What about some chunky floating shelves or a new cupboard to use a dead space? When I first moved on to a boat I was amazed at how my van load of possessions quickly disappeared in to the nooks and crannies of a boat. Again, if you’ve got cupboards and shelves a plenty, why not repaint tired old doors, keep it simple, or, add some colour. White and white is the rule for houses but I think that a bit of character sells a boat.  People aren’t looking for that same beige life experience that they want with a half million one bed flat in Hackney (75% now sold, buy buy buy!!)

For those of a more daring disposition then the real gems of a boat are often the bathroom and kitchen. Done well they really make a boat, if they are damp, mouldy and smelly then there is nothing surer to send a canny purchaser running for the hills.  It is a bigger endeavour to redo a whole bathroom or kitchen but there are some easier fixes if you don’t want to rip everything out and start again.  Replacing the kitchen doors, worktop and sink and you have a new kitchen. New tiles and a new vanity unit in the bathroom and it can look like a whole new room.

I do feel that if you are getting somebody in to do the work then you are unlikely to add more value to the boat than you are spending, it is just the same in houses. Good quality work is not cheap and while it will increase the value of the boat you shouldn’t expect to make a great net gain.  That said, what you can get is greatly improved saleability.  With the market in boat sales having taken a slump over the last year (anecdotal only, don’t expect me to back this view with evidence) then having something to make your boat stand out can help get it off the shelf.  The world and her wife are all in the boating game these days and the number of boats for sale in London and round the country seems to be increasing near exponentially. 

When I bought my boat I fell in love with the head room, the feel, the value and the ‘well put togetherness’ of it.  I looked at hundreds of boats online and tens in person before finding the one for me.  I don’t know if I’ll ever finish it, let alone sell it (edit: since writing I’ve made good progress, possibly helped by sharing her with a partner these days.) Should I sell I know I’ll never recoup the value of all the hours I have put in. I shouldn’t say, but at the end of the day I think a lot of us would rather sell to somebody who we think is going to love our boat the way we did, over the person who is going to pay the most.  Still, we do what we can to try and get value for what we are offering and boating is becoming more and a more a commercialized area. 

Final thought, pick your battles and make it stand out. Do what you can yourself, that which you can’t get an expert to do it well. Quality shows and people love boats in a way that I feel houses rarely achieve. We all hear the horror stories of people buying lemons but most people selling boats are decent and most people buying them are looking to love and own that boat for many years to come. A well looked after boat with a few stand-out features is always going to have value.

Happy boating!

Flawless Flooring

We’ve been doing some nice floors recently and I thought it about time I wrote something on the subject. There’s enough to say that I will be doing two posts. This one on the types of flooring on offer, and a second on tips and tricks or laying a floor yourself

                Just a quick disclaimer, as ever, that this is opinion and I can accept no liability for any choices or actions you make based upon reading this. Always defer to manufacturers recommendations. I hope you find this useful and interesting

                There’s a wide range of flooring available now, retailing at anywhere from £5psm (per square metre) to over £100psm. People will swear blind that you should use this or that, that they’d never lay vinyl or that there’s no point spending £100psm on fancy wooden engineered floors. Personally, I think all floorings have a place. I’ll go through some of the common types and why you might want to use, or avoid, them

                A quick thought about subfloor and underlay is probably worth a paragraph, before we move on.  Most flooring suppliers will tell you what underlay you require to go with the product you are using.  This may have thermal or acoustic properties, or may simply be a vapour barrier.  This will go on top of you subfloor which may be solid or suspended. What (and where, e.g. ground floor/first floor) this is will impact the type of underlay. It may also be that some work to level this subfloor is required before laying the finished floor. We’ll look at this in the DIY tips and tricks flooring post


                Hard to beat on price, comes in all sorts of finishes and if you can get an offcut (good for the small areas found in boats particularly) then you can get a real bargain. You’ll need a decent subfloor as vinyl brings little to the table in structural terms, but it’s very easy to lay (measure twice cut once though!) and gives a good waterproof layer. We’ve used it on a couple of jobs, not my favourite thing to work with but it has it’s place


  • Cheap
  • Wide choice of looks
  • Water proof
  • Easy to DIY


  • Difficult to repair if damaged
  • Can trap moisture
  • Can look ‘cheap’
  • If you cut it too small when laying it is impossible to undo


Increasingly popular Kardean flooring, this was featuring on various boats at Crick in 2018.  It’s a multi layered vinyl flooring with a high definition photo print on the top to look like stone, timber etc.  Very durable and easy to lay, I’ve laid out once and it seemed decent. I did find the click lock on the product I was fiddly at times, though this can be true of other click products. It varies with brand and quality. It’s not cheap, but if you can lay it yourself then labour may balance that out. 


  • Durable
  • Can be easy to fit
  • Very Stable


  • Relatively expensive
  • Limited finishes and styles available
  • Not much structure to it, subfloor needs to be good


Our cupboard doors, laminate was laid by another company

Starting at around £10psm this is also a pretty economic choice. Laid well it can look pretty convincing and there are a wide range of laminate floors available to mimic all popular styles. It is a multi layered synthetic product and has a low to middling level of durability. Typically the cheap laminates are carboard with a printed wood effect on top.  Most are use a click together system for laying. If you are doing a ‘floating floor’, which most of these would be, then you need to have a reasonably flat  and level sub-floor. It is not something I have ever laid in a proffesional capacity so I have no photos of what we have laid, however there was laminate on a job where we made some gorgeous reclaimed wood doors.


  • Cheap
  • Wide Range
  • Easy to fit
  • More convincing look


  • Durability an issue with many
  • Difficult to repair is damaged
  • Soak up water and the cardboard/mdf base will swell and distort
  • Generally can only be laid as a ‘floating floor’
  • Thin structure is unforgiving on an uneven subfloor

Solid wood

Considered by some to be the height of quality flooring, and indeed it can be.  I rarely use solid wood, for reasons I will cover, but it can be very beautiful.  Prices can be as little as £20psm but can also be over £100! Oak is popular and readily available. Exotic species quickly get very expensive, though not as. We have done some lovely reclaimed floorboard floors.  Be aware this is a more skilled and labour intensive way to do flooring than buying a pre prepared ‘off shelf’ product.  Bamboo should perhaps be included here, but I will cover it separately.

If you are buying a ready made flooring then this will likely be tongue and groove. It can laid in various ways though I would tend to opt for a floating floor to allow for instability in the material.  A decent subfloor and a good underlay are  important.  Glue in the grooves will stick the whole floor together in to a large floating raft.


  • Attractive finish
  • Generally good durability (less so softwoods)
  • Can be re-finished if damaged
  • Can be quite economic, some oak boards are really good value


  • Can be quite expensive
  • Solid wood can be unstable (boards may expand and  contract)
  • Harder to lay
  • Needs acclimatising before being laid

Engineered Flooring

This is my main go to, along with bamboo. Especially for boats where stability is a factor. There are widely varying qualities of engineered flooring and this is reflected in the price. The best are a birch ply with a decent (4mm+) wear strip of the chosen hardwood on top. It’s this cross laminated structure (you could call an engineered floor a laminate floor, but they are generally regarded separately) that gives you such excellent stability.  The best boards can cost more than their solid wood equivalent. 

This stability means you have  a wide choice of fitting methods with the floors; floating, glue together, glue down, hidden nail. Some can be laid straight to joists (this is true of most solid wood floors as well) if desired. 

At the cheaper end of the spectrum are boards made of softwood block board with a thinner  (2mm+) veneer on top. These are excellent value and can look great, but won’t be as durable in the long run. Most of the engineered boards come pre finished, oil or lacquer, though the higher end luxury/exotic veneers are often left bare for finishing after laying.


  • Very stable
  • Can be fitted in lots of ways
  • Wide range of woods and finishes
  • Can be refinished when damaged
  • Generally very good durability


  • Tend to be the most expensive, certainly for quality boards
  • Need acclimatising before laying
  • That’s about it, it’s a really good flooring!


Full disclosure, when I first wrote this post I’d not tried bamboo and had included it as footnote in solid floors. Since then I’ve laid, personally and as a company, quite a few bamboo floors and have come to hold them in high regard. Truth be told, it’s a frequent go to!

Price wise a good quality bamboo comes in a similar bracket to a mid to low quality engineered board. Around £30psm gets you a decent bamboo board. They are very durable, harder than oak and arguable more stand. There differences in the manufactur of bamboo, e.g. strand-woven, solid and engineered, but I won’t go into that here.

The variety of finishes and colours, these are added to the natural light bamboo colour, give it good range. It doesn’t look like wood, but I think it has a pleasing aesthetic of it’s own. There’s also the added bonus of it’s relative sustainability, though please do research this yourself if it’s an important factor to you. I’d be interested to hear people’s knowledge on this.


  • Relatively economic
  • Durable
  • Sustainable
  • Can be refinished
  • Stable


  • Can be fiddly cutting
  • Hardness wears tools
  • Definitely doesn’t look like wood (if that’s what you really want)
  • Needs acclimatising


I will cover tiles here very briefly, I write in greater length about tiling in other blogs and they really are a topic in and of themselves.  Tiles are attractive, durable, stable and available in range that replicates, or is replicated, by the various other floorings covered here.  We do a reasonable amount of tiled floor and it is great for boats. The main downside is that it can be a bit chilly, but this can (not so readily on boats that aren’t on shoreline, but fine for houses) remedied with underfloor heating. There are very reasonably prices electric kits available for under tile.  Another downside can be cost, which may be quite high if a lot of remedial work is required before laying tiles. That said, they come in a range of budgets and can be laid DIY fairly readily


  • Durable
  • Stable
  • Can be cheap to buy and install
  • Wide range of styles
  • Can be DIYed to good effect


  • Can be dear
  • A good subsurface is required
  • Potentially chilly underfoot


Let’s finish on finishes.  This is largely solid, engineered and bank floors, you don’t want to varnish your vinyl! The finishes available on boards are likely to be as good, or better, than you can achieve yourself. It doesn’t save much to get them unfinished, it’s really the high end exotic boards that you would buy unfinished. Also, if you want a very specific finish then you might do this, but by and large you will buy finished boards. It also means you can walk on them straight away and you aren’t stuck watching varnish dry trapped in the corner of a room and unable to get out (certainly not a personal anecdote, I swear!)

With pre-finished boards you’ll often get options on board and finish. First off you can choose plain, distressed or brushed (brushed is where they brush the timber with a metal brush, it helps highlight the grain texture).  Then on this you can choose an oil or a lacquer, both of which can come in a variety of sheen levels.  A two part lacquer is the most durable finish, if you want to just put it down and ignore it then this is the finish for you. Oil is beautiful and is easy to reapply should the floor be showing signs of wear and tear.  It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. More durable but hard to refinish, less durable but easy to redo.

Some extra blurb

Whatever floor you choose, if you are thinking of laying it yourself then I am hoping to have a Dan’s DIY tips for flooring that I shall be publishing soon. Watch this space

I’d also like to mention that one should read price per square meter with the understanding that you’ll need more than just the boards themselves. The addition of trims, thresholds and various sundries can be 50-100% that cost again

Big Bucket, Little Bucket, Little Dry Bucket

Winter is setting in and boaters are gathering round to exchange stories and news. If you’ve spent anytime on the water or with boaters then you’ll know that sooner or later, generally sooner, the topic turns to toilets. 

                It’s one of the favourite questions of Gongoozlers as well, ‘how do you go to the loo?’, right up there with ‘does it get cold in the winter?’.  Well, having just decommissioned a pump-out ready for a compost loo I thought the time ripe to write a few words on it.

Just a quick disclaimer, as ever, that this is opinion and I accept no liability for any choices or actions you make based upon reading this. Always defer to manufacturers recommendations. I hope you find this useful and interesting

                There are three main types of loo; pump-out, cassette/porta potti and compost. Or, as I like to think of them big bucket, little bucket and dry bucket.  Within these main categories there is further subdivision in both attribute and application but these three are the basics of what you’ve got, ‘in privy terms’. Please note ‘sea’ toilets are not legal for use in British inland waterways and are not covered here

Big Bucket

                A pump-out is a big ole tank (some bigger than others as pictured right, a monster we removed recently) and a toilet, either on top or separate. The latter generally requiring a macerator in order to make smooth the passage (yes, that is my level of humour) of waste to storage point.  If the tank is on top of the tank you don’t have a macerator, it can just drop straight through. The tank will have chemicals added to it to keep smells etc. in check. The particular concoction best suited is a much discussed topic, shows what happens when you don’t have a telly


  • Big capacity
  • Empty less often
  • Closest resemblance (with some models/set ups) to a traditional toilet
  • Requires little heavy lifting, the pump does the job


  • Carry a big weight of waste around, can cause a boat to list
  • You don’t want to have one that’s rusted through on the tank
  • If you can’t find a working pump-out point (in London, shocker!) then you may be holding it for a while
  • Pay £10-15 each time you empty it, plus a little smelly
  • Relatively expensive and complex system

All in all, they can be very convenient and, if used with an auxiliary backup, e.g. porta potti, then they are a good choice if in good nick and well maintained.  Unpleasant when they go wrong mind.

Little Bucket

This can be a cassette or the classic camping/caravan porta potti. It’s what it says on the tin.  A bucket with chemicals; toilet blue, toilet green, toilet pink, even biological detergent has been known to work.  Various formats make it seem more or less like a bucket/real loo but in essence it’s pretty simple.  When you’re full you just remove the tank and take to an elsan to empty


  • Relatively cheap system cost
  • Simple to operate
  • Not much to go wrong with it
  • Only ever carrying a small amount of waste


  • Small capacity
  • Heavy lifting, some 20kg of poop and wee, to empty
  • Quite smelly to empty

You can get spare cassettes and cassettes with wheels which alleviate some of the negatives. It’s still much smaller though and you may find yourself encouraging friends to wee in the hedge when they come to visit.  Most boat owners in general, but particularly those with a cassette, take a pleasure in managing to use a loo while out and about, be it pub, restaurant or a friend’s house. 

Dry bucket

A compost loo. The idea here being that poop if kept dry does not smell (edit: some people advocate a ‘one pot’ system and I can confirm that, having smelt one, these can be low odour as well)  All the urine is separated off, there are various ways of achieving this, and a small amount of sawdust is added each time to keep it dry and odour free. When full the solids are removed and left to compost until they are a safe and useful soil improver.  There is debate as to how smelly or not they are. With all systems a lot is down to how it is maintained and used, and this is no different.  There are passive and active systems, but the simplest is a bucket with poop and sawdust


  • Simple systems are very cheap
  • The products can be used in agriculture and/or disposed of more readily
  • Large capacity, presuming the urine is separated and emptied often the dry part can go a long time
  • Potentially no need to use smelly elsan or pump-out points


  • More up market systems can be quite expensive
  • Relatively long composting time to produce ‘safe’ end product
  • Urine still needs to be dealt with (where does boater wee go…..)
  • Some heavy lifting of full tank
  • Requires more balancing and TLC to get a well functioning system

They can be the highest or lowest of toilets, from fan assisted externally vented sci-fi toilets, to bucket and dust privy.  They are certainly gaining popularity amongst boaters and can be a good, reliable and green system if used well

I can’t tell you what toilet is best, it’s more discussed by boaters than coal brand, water heater type and whether a trad or cruiser stern s best all rolled in to one.  I do know that whatever type of toilet comes with a boat half of boaters want to change to something different. It really depends on the individual needs of the boater.

It can be reasonably economically to swap out a system if DIYing, though this can involve a fair amount of knowledge, quite a bit of brute force and, last but not least, potentially having to deal with somebody else’s old waste tank, yuk.  On my boat I have a porta potti, though I am planning to proto-type a compost loo in the new year (edit: we now sell a range of compost toilets, please contact us for info. I will be adding a shop to the site in coming months).  Whatever system you have and whatever system you want it can be, it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it