For the Love of Boats


DSCF3162We came across her three years ago; she was moored in our home port on the same pontoon as us, a couple of berths down on the opposite side. Once or twice we saw people on board, but for the most part she seemed uninhabited, and we never saw her leave her mooring.

During our second season at the port, we remarked that she looked to be in need of a bit of ‘tlc’ but nevertheless was a very attractive little boat, nicely built, with a red canopy. Any effort expended on her would be well worthwhile.

But the effort never was expended, for whatever reason, and as the winters gave way to summers she began to look sadder and sadder. Paint began to peel, windows began to rust, brass tarnished and wood began to rot. Once, probably in response to a call from one of the neighbouring boaters, a couple arrived and secured a flapping piece of the structure that acted as a shade over the cockpit. We thought the renovation was about to begin, but we were mistaken.

By the time we came back to the port three months ago to start our spring cruise, there was no doubt that she was on her last legs; the time for rescue had passed, and when we returned to port after seven weeks on the waterways, there was an empty space where she used to reside.

Gone, but not yet totally disappeared.

For as we walked through the port towards the town, we saw her standing high on the quayside, the true extent of her deterioration revealed from top to keel. We gradually pieced the story together with the help of neighbouring moorers.

Our neighbour had noticed that the boat was listing badly and the owners were seen on board later that day, having drinks with friends.  She thought they’d come to attend to it, but they didn’t stay.   It turned out to be a farewell drink, as two days later the boat finally gave up the ghost and sank at its berth.

The Pompiers were called, a boom was placed around her and divers went down to check that the fuel tank was secured. Then she was pumped out and ignominiously towed past the moored boats for all to see, to the quay on the far side of the port, where a crane from the atelier prepared to lift her out of the water.

What happened next is self-evident from the photos.

The slings of the cradle that were passed beneath her just sank into the rotten wood of the hull as she began to rise from the water. Once started, the process had to be completed for now she had two very large holes in the hull, in addition to her earlier problem.

It’s clear that the port would like the hulk removed. Apart from being unsightly, it’s taking up a significant area of the quay and probably represents a hazard to passers by.   To make matters worse the word is that there is an insurance dispute.

Meanwhile, she sits there on the quay, and has done so for close on two months now, with her insides spilling out, the wood rotting even further and her shame evident to all who pass by.

Boaters are embarrassed to look; those of us who love boats are upset by the demise of a once fine craft. Soon, if not already, someone will start scavenging for items of value amongst the fixtures and fittings.

It’s no way to end her days.

And yet people do walk away from boats. Time and time again we’ve seen half-sunken boats protruding from canals and rivers, or boats that have been taken out of the water to avoid obstruction and now languish on the banks.

It’s easy to moralise about this, but you can never know the personal circumstances that have led to the demise of the boats you see littered along the waterways. People die, boating partners are lost for one reason or another, and some people find boating difficult as they themselves get older. Some people simply lose interest, but can’t be bothered to do anything about it.

Boat ownership is not for the faint-hearted. It’s a real commitment. Apart from being expensive to buy, they are expensive to run and need constant maintenance. It’s not just the price of the boat you need to think about. When something goes wrong it may well be below the water line – and craning out of the water to have it fixed is expensive. We’ve been charged 400 euros per lift before now, though we now know other places which will do it cheaper. But what if you can’t get the boat there…?

We’ve learned the hard way, you can’t just ‘take’ from a boat; you have to invest something in return. And that’s both time and money – on a fairly regular basis. As the saying goes, ‘a boat is a hole in the water, lined with steel, into which you pour a sizeable amount, if not all of your money’. And like most things, as they get older you have to spend more money on them.

Most of all though, you need to have a Plan B. What will you do when it’s time to quit the water?

Assuming it’s not some dire happening that suddenly forces you to sell, you need to identify the right time to put that plan into operation. Boats are not like cars; most people need a car, fewer people actually need a boat. Boats can remain on the market for two or three years, and if you’re not able to maintain it during that period it will probably remain on the market much longer than that, reducing in value all the while.

It’s a worrying thought. But it needs to be thought about.

We’d hate to think about Désormais ending her days like the one on the quayside at our home port. Sentimental or not, I think most of us feel the same way about our boats; they deserve better than that.

Do you have a plan?



About Sandra

I used to cruise the French waterways with my husband four or five months a year, and wrote fiction and poetry. Now I live on the beautiful Dorset coast, enjoying the luxury of being able to have a cat, cultivating an extensive garden and getting involved in the community. I still write fiction, but only when the spirit moves me - which isn't as often as before. I love animals, F1 motor racing, French bread and my husband, though not necessarily in that order.
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10 Responses to For the Love of Boats

  1. dmmacilroy says:

    Dear Sandra,

    It is obvious to me that your post is written on the foundation of years of love for boats and experience of living on one. “Break Out Another Thousand” is the equally apt translation of BOAT as an anagram. I know how you do it, and I admire you for it. I hope you and Désormais are on the water many years from now. We still have a date.

    Safe travels.




  2. Having seen the boat you describe, I completely understand your sadness and anger. Definitely a sad and depressing sight.



  3. Marie says:

    So sad to see the effects of neglect. Is there a licensing/waterways entity that can work with owners to remove deteriorating vessels from the water?


  4. Sarah Ann says:

    It is so sad to see boats die and decay. Our first boat was a wooden one. We sold her on to a nice young couple but their relationship fell apart, a parent got ill, and the boat was left. We heard later that BW pulled her out and burnt her, which was sad to hear as shehad been a great starter home for us. Such a heartfelt post with all too familiar pictures.


    • Sandra says:

      I agree Sarah Ann, very sad. We had friends who had an old narrowboat on which they’d lavished much tlc which met a similar fate when sold. I suppose we shouldn’t expect others to value things in the same way we do; I remember selling my first house, where I’d developed the garden and planted many rare plants and flowers. The buyers thought it lovely, asked for instructions on plant care and then dug it all up and concreted over it. People came from surrounding streets to salvage the plants from the dumper outside, I was told. 😦 Maybe we should try not to get so attached to things.


  5. Joyce says:

    Great pics and post. Good info. too for those wanting to buy a boat or need to know what responsibilities come with it. Very sad about this boat, like seeing a decaying house once loved and lived in, but then there is the land underneath it to gain and one can rebuild or remodel, but with the boat there is no ownership to the water or canal below from where it rots. One can only do what they can to protect and preserve it. It is sad when reading about the way our waters, oceans and seas are dumping grounds for people’s refuse and garbage and the water fowl and game ingest this stuff. I saw a news report yesterday about the ‘microfiber beads’ in cosmetics being poured into our water systems and the fowl are ingesting it. And the oil spills; that’s another issue, too.


    • Sandra says:

      I agree Joyce, it is very sad to see what we are doing to our own environment, and that of our children. We are throwing away so much of our heritage, and depriving others of so much for the future.

      Liked by 1 person

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