I think many of us that regularly boat fish have been there and more than once. You have just had a great day afloat with perfect weather and caught a few fish and you start having those thoughts, dangerous thoughts (particularly for your bank balance but we will come back to that later)! Why don’t I just get my own boat? Then I can enjoy even more days of these amazing days which seem to live long in the memory. It sounds perfect, almost idyllic but if you are thinking of becoming a boat owner there are plenty of things to consider.

They do say that the happiest days of being a boat owner are the day you buy it and the day you sell it. Having been a boat owner on and off for almost 30 years there is some truth in this saying but personally having just got back in the saddle again with the purchase of a Pirate 21, I have to say I did really miss it when I did not have my own tub. There are always odd jobs to do on a boat which can be useful in filling the voids on those weekends where you cannot get out dangling for various reason (poor weather, wrong tides etc.).

So, you have decided to take the plunge and go for it and buy a boat. The single biggest factor for most of us when considering what we go for will be finances. When we first set-out on the boating ladder we probably all dream of owning that 30ft+ twin hull catamaran with twin 300hp outboards but unless we have the winning ticket on the Euro Lottery, we need to be a bit more realistic. If you are starting out on your boating journey I would certainly recommend starting at the more affordable end of the spectrum as you may decide after a few months that being a boat owner is not for you. With a more modest financial outlay you will probably find its’ easier to recover your initial costs rather than something which you have had to break the bank for.

At this point it’s’ also worth mentioning that you need to pick the right time to buy. As a result of Brexit and the current Covid-19 pandemic, the cost of boats (particularly those on the second-hand market) has gone through the roof. Personally, I do think that these inflated prices will come down once people start finding other things to spend their money on, but this is something to be aware of. If you are happy to wait and bide your time, then you are more likely to get something that is affordable.

Frankly my dear... a boat may cost more than you first plan to spend

Subject to finances all being in place and clearance from the boss (she’s happy as it gets you out virtually every weekend), you now need to decide on what type of boat to go for and whether or not you go for a slipping boat (one you launch and retrieve each time) or go for something a bit larger and heavier that will either sit on a mooring or tied-up in a marina.

Clearly each has its own benefits and really depends again on what money you are spending and what type of fishing you like to do. Having a slipping boat on a trailer means you can do away with those expensive mooring/berthing fees which can be considerable (you could easily be looking at fees in excess of £2k per year for a marina berth) and having a boat on a trailer also allows you to tow it to different venues. Retrieving a boat after a long day’s fishing is not for everyone, especially if its’ been a long wet cold day but if this does not faze you then this is probably the most cost-effective option. You also need to factor-in where you can keep the boat when not in use. Many people use secure storage facilities which will result in a monthly fee, but this will be less than a mooring or marina berth.

Personally, I like the ease of having a boat on a marina berth so I can simply turn-up with bait and tackle, turn the key and go fishing the for day. Launching and retrieving is not for me, but I have many boating friends who do not have any issues with such. It’s a case of ‘Horses for Courses’ and what suits you personally.

So, you have decided on what type of boat you want which reflects your budget and suits your requirements. Now if there was one piece of advice, I would give to anyone reading this article and buying a boat for the first time is to take your time and do not get taken in by the overwhelming urge to rush to get out on the water. I think we all get caught-up in this idyllic boat owning dream (I certainly did nearly 30 years ago) but make sure you take your time and do your research. Many of the more popular brands of boat (Orkney, Warrior, Arvor etc) now have their own dedicated owners’ pages on FB and this can be a great place for getting advice from existing owners. I can speak from personal experience on this point having recently joined the Pirate Boat Owners FB page and found it an invaluable source of information.

The real money pit on any boat... the outboard!

Another good tip would be to research and join a local boat owners club. There are many of these dotted around the UK and most have monthly meet-ups/boat comps. This can also be a great place for advice and as most meetups involve boats being launched and retrieved, you will probably have like-minded people on hand to assist with such duties (some have their own launching tractors which can be a great help and save the family motor). By joining such clubs, you may be able to get out with club members on their own boats thereby gaining vital knowledge and information. 

When it comes to viewing potential purchases, it is always worth taking along a second pair of eyes to not only pick-out those little things that you may miss because as far as you are concerned you are already standing at the helm speeding out at 25kts to the offshore reefs and wrecks! Make sure you take your time and have a good look at the hull (yes that means getting underneath if she is on a trailer), lift all the hatches you can access in order to have a look in the bilges and have a good look at the engine. You will be able to see pretty much straight away those boats which have been lovingly maintained by their owners and those which have not had the investment and will therefore become the money pit.

A popular choice of private boat, the Arvor.

If the boat is already on the water, then certainly ask for a sea trial (you would not buy a car without taking it out for a test-run so why not a boat). Yes, this might be difficult for the current owner if the boat is on a trailer but that is for him or her to sort out, not your problem. This will at least allow you to see how the engine performs under-load (rather than just sat on a pontoon on tick-over). Find out if there are receipts for any work undertaken in relation to servicing/maintaining the engine. If you know where the engine was last serviced, it is worth checking with them to see what works were done? 

Engine hours is an interesting one. Whilst many people look at boats with low engine hours (less usage meaning it will be in a better condition), sometimes the lack of use can result in there being lots of small problems simply because the engine is not being used regularly to its full potential as it is intended. Certainly, with high performance outboard engines more often than not you find that those engines which are being used daily (and being regularly maintained as a result) will give you less issues than the one which has been used for just a handful of hours over the past few seasons.

Each year myself and a few friends go to Northern Norway for a week of fishing where you have your own boats that are provided with the accommodation. It is fair to say that the outboard engines on these boats get pretty much ragged every single day however in 10 years of going to this place not once have we had a problem regarding the outboard motors. They are well maintained and serviced regularly and just keep going!

At present it is certainly a boat sellers’ market, so whilst you do not want to jump into anything straight away, if you know what you want then you may have to act quickly as some brands of boat such as Arvors are demanding high prices at the moment. Work out your budget and stick to it. However good the boat is, if it is out of your price range, then do not worry – another will come along sooner or later. The old saying “if it is meant to be, then it will be” will ring true.

So, you have done the deal and purchased your new boat, and your bank balance is now considerably lighter. Before collection, make sure you have the necessary insurance cover in place. Many providers require certain things as part of the policy such as motor locks for those with outboard motors so worth checking through the details. For larger vessels you may want to pass the hassle over to a marine haulage company. It is certainly worth considering if you can afford it. Towing boats is not for everyone.

If you keep a boat in a marina, you'll need to plan for periodic removal of the boat for servicing.

Rest assured once you have your new toy the expense does not stop there. Make sure you have additional funds to cover those niggling extra costs that you had not expected or budgeted for as they will arise. A good investment would be a full engine service (either inboard or outboard) once you have purchased the boat along with new marine batteries… something I have had just had to invest in. There will always be something that crops up which needs you to dip into your wallet for but better spent up front so that you are confident in your boat rather than scrimping and cutting corners and finding yourself having to be towed back into port on your first trip out. I think boating is all about confidence so getting off to a bad start is not what you want, and this is often the main reason why many new boat owners sell up after only a short while.

Hopefully, your new boat includes electronics. If not, number one on the list would either be a fixed or hand-held VHF. A fish-finder will not call the Coastguard for you in an emergency. It is also worth taking the RYA VHF Operators Course. Many boat clubs around the UK arrange and hold these courses once or twice a year for a modest fee. You have got to know how to use your VHF, and nobody wants to come across the airwaves sounding like a complete numpty! As well as radio operating courses there are also the various courses run through the RYA such as Day Skipper, RYA Level 2 Powerboat Handling, RYA Essential Navigation and Seamanship etc. These courses would be particularly useful if you are completely new to boat ownership and handling. Some have the added benefits of reduced insurance premiums as a result of getting the qualification.

So that is it – a very brief introduction of things to look out for when buying a boat. I hope you have found all the information useful. Have fun but remember that the sea takes no prisoners so stay safe!

Trailer boats are convenient, but the trailer irself offers a further expense.

If you’ve progressed as far as considering purchasing a boat and are now wondering which model would suit you best, check out the following video from The Fish Locker.