Boat numbers in the London area have exploded by 8-10% every year for the last five years. Congestion on the waterways is not the only troubling issue. With fewer experienced boaters in London, trade in poorly maintained boats and demand for boat maintenance works has boomed.

Increasingly, repairs and maintenance are performed by underqualified, unlicensed, or unethical tradespeople. Increased demand is driving up prices. Going to a reputable marina is usually a safer bet, but with overcrowding at current levels, many are fully booked for months. Even if a marina can be found, the expense and inconvenience can still feel like a deal-breaker.

The Floating Boatyard is currently unique in being the only London workboat licenced and insured for boat maintenance on the water. As continuous cruisers the Floating Boatyard can even take customers’ boats with them.

Director Liv Slater comments: “Experienced boaters know you can’t go for long without constant care, but many new or newish boaters aren’t so aware. They might not have the knowledge to spot an unfair deal or whether the boat will develop problems. We wanted to provide a safe alternative to rogue traders on the waterways. In today’s market, ordinary boaters struggle to afford basic works, so they have to do it themselves. Where does that leave a retiree, or a young person?”

clean bilgeProblems with works are usually passed onto customers. Poor quality work causes breakdowns, or doesn’t last as long as it should: for example, professional boat-painting can provide rust-protection for up to ten years. New boaters, many of whom have struggled with housing instability, are often not aware of the longevity of good work, or how to look for it. And in the delicate habitat of canals and rivers any kind of work, requires strict environmental and safety rules to guarantee it’s reliable and safe. (Top, dirty and dangerous bilge, above, clean and tidy bilge)

Floating Boatyard Director Sebastian Meier advises customers to look for tradespeople following the Marine Federation Terms and Conditions, which is similar to the Consumer Rights Act on land. He comments, “We follow them. It’s about accountability. If we do some work, we’re responsible for that work. Everything’s under warranty. We went through a year-long licensing process with CRT where they checked our Public Liability insurance and asked for full risk assessment. CRT’s Environment Officer even came to inspect the workboat, to make sure we don’t harm the waterways – dirty engine oil, for example, is always responsibly disposed of.”

Water tank blackingIn keeping with the community focus and working-class history of the canals, the Floating Boatyard was founded as a co-operative. All working members have an equal share in the business, and 50% of profits go to a charity chosen by the community. (You can vote for this year’s charity via the Floating Boatyard’s Facebook page, Low prices and tight profit margins keep down costs to members of the boating community. New boaters, retirees, and anyone else who doesn’t know how, or can’t manage their own works can get summer maintenance such as bilge cleaning, painting, rust treatments, at an accessible price. Meier says, “The market has gone crazy, but routine works shouldn’t be expensive.” (Above, water tank blacking)

Thanks to the Floating Boatyard for this report and images; contact them at or 07886 388 689

All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

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