**Life at An Angle Dutch Barge Information, European Waterways Calendars, The Quick Reference Guide to Dutch Barges, De snelle Gids van de Verwijzing voor Nederlandse Aken By Jane and John Griffin 2007**


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Guide to Buying a Barge (by Jane and John Griffin)

This is our experience of purchasing a barge, we hope you find it useful.

VrouweAntjeFullSail2.jpg (20612 bytes)Introduction: Thinking back to when we bought Vrouwe Antje it was looks that first determined which boats we viewed. In hindsight when you see the variety of boats that are out there and without a survey, what other way is there?  The only other suggestion we can think to make is to try to determine what space you need and go from there. Are you going to live aboard all year round? In this case you may need a little more space than if you are intending to use it for holidays or summers only.

Do you want to sail and/or cross the channel in it? This may determine what type of barge you buy. What weather do you want to use it in as you cross the channel, if this is your intention? Insurance Companies will insure most barges for a force 4 maximum for a channel crossing but most will insure a sailing barge to a force 5 maximum. This is because the sails dampen roll oscillations. If you don't intend to cross the channel but once in a blue moon, don't worry about it. Just time your crossings with good weather and do a Dover to Calais crossing.


It is also important to decide what size of vessel you feel you would like to handle, and lastly how much work you think you'd like to do on the boat before you start cruising.

Price may also play a role in the proceedings as it did with us!

Size matters: The style of vessel obviously makes a large impact on the living space. Keep in mind that a traditional vessel with mast and rigging generally has at least one room less than a boat with a built in cockpit and living space over the engine. We like the traditional look and love sailing so went that way. Our boat is 20.69 metres long. We could have had the same living space as we have now with a 17m boat that has a less traditional construction. Remember; however, that width has more impact on living space than length. Half a metre increase in width on a 20m boat is an extra 10m of living space. We like 4 to 4.3m width as most locks on the canals in France are around 5.2m wide. Half a metre each side is as tight as we're happy with. Saying this, keep in mind that the commercial barges only have a few centimetres each side free.

fulllockjuly.jpg (25730 bytes)20m x 4m in a more traditional vessel should get you 2 good sized cabins, a lounge/ kitchen/diner, a bathroom, and an office area depending on the layout. A 20m vessel could have more cabins but you may find that they are reasonably small with single or small double beds. Every 2 metres beyond 20m generally gives you another cabin. You can sort of look at the length and get an idea of what accommodations it might have. In our opinion 16 to 20 metres is a good length for 2 people to be very comfortable in. One other point is that over 24m you will be required to operate as a commercial vessel in the UK, then there are a load of requirements with which we are not familiar. This is our understanding so if you are looking at a 24m+ vessel check it out first. Avoid the issue if you can!....... If you want to go big there is a load of choice out there!




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You can easily see the inside space increase from a wheel house as opposed to a open cockpit.






25062005016.jpg (42652 bytes)Air Draft: Where do you want to use the boat? Some of the older French canals (Canal du Midi being one) have a maximum air draft at the sides of  arched bridges of around 3 metres although, the majority of fixed bridges in the canals in France are around 3.5 metres high so if you choose a barge with a wheelhouse that is higher than this and is not collapsible then your travels could be limited.







26062005012.jpg (40638 bytes)Inside head height: As a rule most converted barges have reasonable head height. However; it is quite common for the forward cabin head height to be lower then the average due to the builders trying to keep the natural lines of the vessel's deck. This is what we have with 6'8" for most of the boat and 5'11" in the forward cabin.

One other point, if a barge advertises traditional covers then it is likely to have original type covers covering the old cargo hold. This will now be the living space and will be around 6'2" in the middle and 5'4" at the edges. This does vary with the size of the barge and can be a little higher with very large vessels.




Can we handle the boat? Always a good question! One that we answer differently every day! Wind plays a big part in how controllable a barge is. In the wind almost any boat is a handful. Just accept that in wind over 15-20 knots, life is going to be interesting. Stay in port and drink the local wine in such conditions.

What if we get caught out? Boat design and modern add on's can help. The larger the vessel the smaller the locks appear and the more area wind has to act on. The deeper the boat sits in the water the less the wind can push the boat around. A draft over 1.0m starts to limit  which canals you can use.  With a draft of about 0.4m, you can use almost all canals and moorings but wind will have more of an effect.

A Bowthruster is a great help. One that is up to the job is even more help! Our view is have one! As strong a one as you can afford and one mounted in a way that you are able to clean the bowthruster prop, if it has a prop, with the boat in the water. We have one attached to the bow of the boat just under water. We have no problem cleaning a plastic bag from the prop blades with the boat in the water. A bowthruster tube can only be cleaned with the boat out of the water. On the other hand, some would say that a  prop in a tube focuses the force and works better?

janetunneljuly.jpg (24328 bytes)Steering: Wheel steering is normally easier unless it is an old chain type. Check out the steering when you see the boat and make sure it feels easy enough. With tiller steering you can go from hard to port to hard to starboard in seconds but it feels much heavier. It may take a wheel up to 20 turns to go from lock to lock. Another thing to keep in mind is most tiller steering is open cockpit. Many a day days out in the cold and wet! We like the hydraulic wheel steering on our boat and have a handle we can extend on the wheel to help to turning it faster if we need to. We also have an open cockpit with a cover which we very happy with so have a go and see what you like. Some of the tillers look amazing!




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A recap so far:

1. You've decided the size of boat you want and price you have to spend.

    Look on the web,







    To name a few!

2. Pick quite a few boats that you like the look of and in the size and price you want. Hopefully you'll find some!

3. Get the list down to a number that you could be able to view. Weed out a few with these questions:

    a. Do you like or want an inside or outside steering position.

    b. Which way are you leaning? Wheel or tiller steering?

    c. Which type of wheel steering (if you go for that)? Hydraulic or chain steering? Chain steering can be stiff on some boats.

    d. Generator or inverter or both.(size and age of generator). (see section 4 below)

    e. How old is the engine and what size is it. 2.6 HP per metric ton of boat is a good rule and gives you enough  power to handle any river.                1.0 HP per ton is the minimum and could limit you to going down stream only on some rivers. This can be done as there are generally                 canals near by for a route back.

  f. Lastly, room sizes, equipment and decorations.

Now go and see the few that you haven't weeded out!

The viewing: Don't worry about the items that will be picked up in a survey. Just look for the obvious.

Does the boat engine sound good and no obvious rusty holes anywhere. Rust on the bits you can see------hmmmmmmmmm-------- how about the bits you can't?

Do the engine and generator(if it has one) start well?

Does it have the look you want and the space you want?


All the other items we mention can be used to decide between boats and comparatively speaking are cheap to fix to your liking.


Questions to ask when at a viewing.

  1. When was the last Survey done? Ask to see it.---------   You are trying to see how much metal is left on the bottom. 4 millimetres thickness is the minimum that it can have for insurance in the UK (as far as I'm am aware).The hull survey is generally at the end of the survey and is a map of the hull showing its thickness in each tested point.
  2. When was the last time the hull was treated inside?------- It would be great if it has been done in the last 5 years. This needs to be done, depending what is used, at least every 15/20 years. Generally a hull grease is used and applied hot. Its a miserable job and means that all the floors have to be lifted. We had to do this in 2005 and the painful memory is still fresh! We bought the hull Grease from Energy Solutions who import it from the Netherlands. www.energy-solutions.co.uk
  3. Has concrete been used as ballast anywhere? Concrete blocks are ok but what you don't want is it to have been poured into the hull structure. If the hull needs to be treated then you can't get to it and some insurance companies in the UK frown on it! Also, we've been told that the chemicals that leach out of concrete over time act as a corrosive to iron and make the problem even worse
  4. Other things to think about :

a. Generator- I have a 6Kva (6000 watts) generator and I find that it will power the whole boat no problem.

gen.jpg (22892 bytes) 4 kva is the minimum we'd suggest but it will have to work hard. It is better not to run things to their design maximums. A generator is quite expensive to install so its rather nice if it is installed already, that is if you decide you want one. When deciding what size of generator is large enough, keep in mind that much of the time when moored for long periods you will be plugged into shore power. Most shore power cables are rated to max 16 amps (volts x amps = watts; 240x16=3840 watts). So, normally you will have to limit your total boat usage to that amount. Another point, most shore power from a marina is limited to only 6 amps (6x240=1440) despite the fact your cable can take more. 6 amps will run most things but the average British kettle seems to trip it every time so we always start the generator for breakfast.Most British kettles are 2000 watts!

In order to limit my AC requirements my lighting is 24 volt. It can be 12 but...........we find 12 volt lighting quite dim. Further, for every metre of wire you lose a small amount of voltage which is not a problem with 12 volt in boats of up to about 15 metres long. Starting with 24 volts allows a longer run before the voltage is down to a unusable level. So for boats of over 15m its best to plan for 24 volt.

Simple! If the boat has 12 volt lighting and it is over 15m check that all the lights in the boat are up to your standard.

Another way to limit your AC requirements is a fridge that can run on gas as well as electricity. I have been using one for years and haven't had any problems. We also use gas for cooking. A gas bottle normally lasts several months.

Hot water can be heated from the engine or with its own diesel heater(or with gas). We also have an 240 AC immersion water heater which starts heating whenever AC is present. Throughout the day when we're on the go we start the generator enough times for a cup of tea to also heat the water for the evening.

Reducing you requirement for AC means that you are fairly self sufficient even if out in the middle of nowhere for weeks on end.

There is an option as an alternative to a generator- a large inverter. An inverter takes either 12 or 24 volts DC and makes 240 volts AC. You need large batteries and an engine set up to charge them. AC without the noise of a generator running! Another plus is that all the appliances in the boat can be normal household AC units not boat DC or gas as AC is always available. Quite a cost saving. A further saving in not needing a generator. The negatives are the extra cost in batteries and engine charging system. Also, If the batteries run dead then you have to start the main engine for some while to recharge them. If away from shore power and staying in one place for awhile then at least once a day the main engine will have to be started for an hour or so. Not so good if you have neighbours.  Also the main engine uses a lot more fuel then a generator.

Many people use this system and are quite happy. One other advantage of this system is that the batteries smooth out the surge of power required for things like a kettle when plugged into shore power.

Have both a generator and an inverter if you can afford it!!!!!!!!


With the start of the summer 2009 we installed an inverter. We can not say it was an entirely successful experience but here is what we learned.

What brought on the requirement to change our system was the demise of our LPG fridge. It no longer functioned on gas but worked well on AC. After some investigation the regulator in the fridge was found to have failed. The decision was made to install an inverter and use this existing fridge for one season then replace it with a modern efficient AC fridge at the start of 2010.

With our budget in mind we chose a 1500 watt inverter with a max output of 2500 watts. (Not pure sine) Also, we would increase our batteries to 300 Ah(amp hours) at 24v from 200Ah. (6 x 100Ah 12 volt batteries). This we thought would be enough to last overnight with the fridge on.

The system is in and been working reasonably well this season but.............we have decided to replace the LPG fridge with another LPG fridge as we found that we are now too reliant on AC.

The batteries last only 6 to 8 hours with the inverter on with the load of only the fridge and a few other items. This initially did not make sense!

Here is where our calculations went wrong:

1.Most inverters work on about 90% efficiency with using power to run cooling fans etc..

2. LPG fridges use generally 10 times as much AC as a modern household AC fridge. This is because most LPG fridges use heat to start the cooling cycle. This obviously produces an inherently inefficient system. Normal fridges use a pump to push around the coolant. Our original plan was to replace our old fridge with a more efficient one. What we discovered was even with a new AC fridge our batteries are insufficient.

3. If your batteries are not top of the line then it is likely that only 60-70% of the power can be extracted before the voltage is too low for the inverter to run. We are using maintenance free car batteries and with these we only get 35% out of the batteries before the voltage is below 22 volts with a load. The lights are still bright but the inverter won't run.

4. Lastly, we use some of our battery's output for lighting, pumps and etc.

Here is how we should have worked out our batteries life.

300 Ah (Amp hours)x 35%=105Ah (what we can draw from our batteries before the voltage is too low for the inverter to run.)

An amp hour is just the total amperage that can be drawn out of a set of batteries at a given voltage for an hour. In our case we could pull 105 amps at 24v for only one hour or 10.5 amps for 10 hours.

Now what do we use?

The fridge (old LPG one running on AC) uses 200 watts. Our inverter works at 94% effeciency so that equates to 213 watts. This 213 watts originally comes from 24 volts DC so all you need to do to find Ah (Amp hours) is divide by the volts times the hours per day.

Watts is Volts x Amps so to get Amps just divide Watts by volts.


The fridge should be on 24 hours per day so to get Amp hours required just multiply by 24.

8.875 x 24=213 Amp hour of batteries just to keep the fridge running. Already more than we have!;-( We effectively only have 105 Ah.

We use two 40 watt bulbs in the lounge area for about 6 hours in the evening.


1.67a x 6 hours =1 9.99 amps hours

I guess that we use 50 watts per hour for our waking hours running pumps so that works out as 50w/24v=2.08A x 12 = 25 Amp hours.

So far without charging our computer, running microwave, heating water(1000 watts+ for at least an hour a day)(=42Ah min) and playing music we are up to 258 amp hours. If we only get 35% out of our batteries then we would need 737Ah of batteries.

All this is based on  having fully charged batteries. If the batteries have discharged once we tend only to charge the batteries about 1-2 hours. Even with a charger rated at twice our battery capacity one hour will only charge the batteries to 60%/ 2 hours for 80%.

At 80% we are only looking at 4-5 hours before we need the generator again.

What we're finding is that if we stay a few days somewhere then the generator must be used to recharge the batteries quite often. If our fridge was LPG and the batteries were used only for lighting and water they easily last 2 days without being recharged.

Having the inverter has definitely saved starting the generator for little things like making a cup of tea or charging the laptop so we're pleased we now have one although it would be nice not being dependent on it. At the beginning of next year we'll have a new LPG fridge!

In short if you decide to go down the AC/inverter route then:

1. Buy good leisure batteries and use this link to calculate how much ah to have. http://www.thepowerstore.co.uk/battery-calculator.asp

2. Buy the most efficient inverter you can afford.

3. Buy the most efficient appliances you can find.

4.  Lastly, whichever way you intend to charge these batteries (off the engine or off a generator) have the alternator or charger at least twice the size required so as to reduce the charging time.

5. Keep in mind that after a day you are likely to need to charge your batteries and unless you are plugged in to shore power you will have to run you engine or generator for at least a few hours.

We hope this helps! Keep in mind that we are obviously not professionals on this subject or our system might have worked better!;-)

b. Heating:

Options: Wood(or coal) or Diesel

There's not much to say about wood other than finding enough when you need it and storing it.

Diesel is what we have and like. We have two systems; a kabola unit that looks like a wood stove and the other is a unit that heats three radiators and the hot water. The latter being a 5000w D5W made by ebberspacher.Kabola.jpg (24689 bytes)

The Kabola heats most of the boat no problem but the extremities of the boat often stay cool and the area around the Kabola is too hot. We still favour this system as it is simple and never goes wrong (touch wood). They do make a Kabola that runs radiators which better distributes the heat throughout the boat.

ebersp.jpg (57416 bytes)The ebberspacher works well and heats the boat in most conditions. It is automatic and has a much more complicated way of working compared to the Kabola's drip feed. We like the unit we have but have found parts expensive and the unit is not as reliable as the Kabola.

Update 2009:

Our ebberspacher is still working well although we're finding that the unit is going through blower motors about one every two years. This is not that great as the system is not used much. We just switch is on for an hour in the mornings to take the chill of the barge early spring and late fall. The blowers are nearly £300 each!

Update 2011

At last we have stopped going through blower motors on our Eberspacher. The reason is that when Eberspacher first made the D5W at that time battery chargers charged at a max 28 volts. The new chargers can run as high as 31 volts and the blower motors overheat and burn up. A simple 24v voltage regulator placed before the Eberspacher had fixed the problem or just turn off your chargers when running the Eberspacher. Don't forget though!

These are the only systems we have any experience with and both work. We're sure there are others. Just as long as they work!

Update 2012

Having spent a winter in a very cold place (Epinal, France) we are now very aware of the importance of insulation. I you intend to live aboard in the winters then pay special attention to how well insulated the barge is. We have fibreglass insulation which is the preferred type by the Dutch as they see the future need to weld on old boats and this will not burn like the spray on foam. Saying that the foam works very well in keeping you warm and keeping warm moist air away from the cold hull avoiding condensation. Maybe the best would be thick fibreglass with a modern blanket type insulation over that on the inside? in either case we have neither. We have 3 inch thick fibreglass which works well enough but we have to throw a load of heat at it to keep warm. The Kobola is more then man enough but we suffer from condensation. The important issues seem to be keep the airflow away from the hull; floor, sides and roof. If this is done then you can minimise condensation. Then first winter we thought that air flow would help and got a surprise when it got much worse after installing vents in the floor. We had an 1 1/2 inch of water in the bilge in the forward cabin area after a winter. Now we check the bilge every week and Hoover it out. Keeping it completely dry is impossible if you live aboard in the winter! Spray foam stops condensation but if your hull need repair-----------well I have no idea how that would be done?

If you live aboard, river water is much colder in the winter then canal water so we try to winter as far from the source of the water as possible so the hull stays warm in the water and doesn't condensate. Not much else we can do! Insulation in the floor in our view should be just under the wood floors with no air flow from the living area over the hull and no insulation laying on bottom of the hull. This way if water does get in the bottom of the boat it is easier to clean up. Also loads of inspection hatches through the barge helps as each can be opened through the winter and any water Hoovered up.

These are the only systems we have any experience with and both work. We're sure there are others. Just as long as they work!

c. Fresh water system:

In my experience 800 litre fresh water tanks are the minimum. 1200 litres is what we have and we are happy with that amount. Keep in mind that each flush of a toilet uses about 2 litres of water and it may be a week before you can find the next place to fill up. Our solution was to reuse the shower water to flush the toilet. Something you can put in later if you like. The main thing is that you're happy with the tank size as it could be hard to reinstall them after the interior is in place. One other point; how easy is it to open the existing tanks and clean them? You can ask to see the access panels.

Keep in mind that what ever bathroom is on the boat, with the pumps available now days, you can fit a bathroom just like any house.

Update 2012

Our recycled shower water system proved to be a failure as it always went into the tank warm and the water smelled all of time in the toilet. We tried canal water but it was to full of bits that plugged the pump so we're back to using fresh water. Our toilet system is just a switch pressed for water in and another switch pressed for everything out. With this system we can only use what fresh water is necessary and not a set 1 to 2 litres each flush. We haven't noticed the extra water consumption..............yet!;-)


The same goes for the kitchen, as up to date as a house!  The bathroom is generally smaller than a house but still as functional.

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d. Anti-corrosion

The bottom of the boat will need coating every 3-6 years. Normally painted with a bitchumen paint. If you can arrange it, have the bottom re-coated just after the survey is completed. This of course depends on the survey going well! You've paid for the boat to be taken out of the water so might as well make sure it doesn't have to be taken out again for a few years.

From here it can get a bit complicated. You need to have the basics to be able to ask the right questions. Asking the right questions can save you money! If the boat owner hasn't protected the boat then there is no point spending the money for a survey. There is a very good chance the boat will be in poor shape.

Two small technical facts to take on before continuing:

1. Electrolysis. If an electrical current flows between two metal things then metal is carried along with the current. Taken from one metal thing and deposited on the other. This is how your car bumper is chrome plated.

2. Galvanic corrosion. If two pieces of metal of different types are in a fluid then the two types of metal react and generate electricity. This is how a battery works, all be it, very refined. Now you've generated a current and then Electrolysis can occur. Back to point 1.

Now we're ready!

Types of corrosion:


Just look for any bubbled paint or rust throughs. Look for a new layer of paint over a rough surface, just in case they didn't bother to fix a rust through correctly or just painted over rust without the proper preparation.

Ask what paint process they used. What we've found works for us is prepare the surface (hammer away the carbon-like rust layer, wire brush the area clean of rust, paint with a rust inhibitor like Rustol, prime the area, and then paint with a good quality paint.

The underside of the hull should be prepared the same way except painted with a Bitchumen paint.

Access panels inside:

When viewing a barge ask to see the access panels (hope they have them) to see what the inside of the hull looks like. Now you can see if the hull has been hull greased recently. If not, its not a stopper; just keep in mind it will have to be done in the near future. Don't be to alarmed if you see biscuit like pieces of rust if the boat has been untreated for some while. A 6mm thick piece of rust has taken away 1mm of metal. Don't despair, the survey will tell you how much is left. If its free of rust then great!


A barge has loads of different types of metal on it like the brass propeller, the iron hull and it may have a stainless steel prop shaft. As they are all in a fluid, water, then they will act like a battery and generate voltage. A current will flow taking metal with it and something will start disappearing.(electrolysis)

There is a way around this! Put something that always generates a voltage but is always the bit that is being eaten. This is called a sacrificial anode and most boats need them placed near to the different metals (i.e. 2 near the propeller and 2 near the bow).

The Hull will need new anodes about every 3-6 years and they must be the correct type for the water you normally are in; fresh or salt.

At the viewing ask when they were last replaced and what type where used?


This is how it was explained to us. If you put a voltmeter in the middle of a river you will read a residual voltage caused by the chemicals in the water. If you read the voltage at the bank you will read a different voltage due to the different array of compounds in the soil. Tie a wire between the two points and a current will flow. The earth from shore power is earthed somewhere on the bank and your boat is floating some way out in the water. Tie the two together and the current will flow eating up your boat in no time (i.e transferring the metal from your boat). We have a friend who earthed his hull without any protection to the shore power's earth and had thousands of pounds of damage in only one year. 

What was done with my system is where the shore power arrives at our isolation transformer (see below) the shore power's earth was cut and from there on the hull of the boat is the new earth for the earth wire. This could be done as we opted for an Isolation Transformer which isolated the boats AC system from the shore power. The boat is fitted with an RCD and a set of breakers (a set of breakers like a house) using the boats hull as earth. All the boat's electrical system is safe because we use our own earth that comes from the hull. (Keep in mind that ---WE ARE NOT SUGGESTING THAT YOU WIRE YOUR OWN BOAT. THIS INFORMATION IS TO BE USED TO HELP DECIDE IF THE PREVIOUS OWNER WAS AWARE OF HOW TO HANDLE EARTH.)

Another way around the earth problem but one we don't have first hand knowledge of is a  Galvanic Isolator: we opted for the Isolation Transformer route but we have been told a Galvanic Isolator is fairly effective. What we have been told is they only protect you from small currents in the water and if the system fails in someway then the hull could start disappearing. In this system the hull is earthed to shore power earth through the Galvanic Isolator which stops the corrosion causing flow of current without the loss of an earth. Here is a site with more information on Galvanic Isolators : www.galvanicisolators.com

In a viewing ask if the shore power earth is earthed to the hull? If so, do they use a Galvanic Isolator? If not, do they have an Isolation Transformer? They may not know so ask who put in the electrical system. If they don't know --------well the survey will certainly pick this up.

If you find you need a new AC wiring system, we've found a company called Energy Solutions more then helpful and sold us our system. www.energy-solutions.co.uk


Dissimilar metal corrosion:

This is a hard one to ask about unless the seller wired the boat her/himself.

Let's say a person wanted a light in a cabin and spent hours running one wire from the switch then got lazy. A DC light needs two wires, one positive and one negative (on boat lighting). If the idea occurs to that person that the hull is earth then yes this would act as the other wire but-------------! Here is where the problem lies. Now every time you turn on that light you use the hull as a wire, a current flows through the hull and everywhere two slightly different types of metal touch or are close to each other, corrosion starts. Back to the concept that current takes metal with it.

earthpoint.jpg (23559 bytes)Everything electric on the boat should have an earth or negative wire and all of them should go back to where the battery is earthed to the hull. Generally a big bolt with large wires attached somewhere in the engine bay near the batteries.

As you can see, its just a bolt with a load of large wires attached.

At a viewing ask if all the earths in the boat go to one point? Ask to see this point.






One last one to know about! If another boat near your boat 'to be' has electrical power leaking to its hull due to some fault then that power has a tendency to want to complete its journey back to where it came from-----SHORE POWER. If your boat is between the boat with a fault and the shore power source then----------the electrical current finds it easier to flow to your hull and then back down your shore power cable to shore. It can only find its way onto the boat and back down your cable if you have a small fault in one of your AC appliances; like a kettle or water heater. Back to that again! Metal is coming off both boats as AC flows both directions 50-60 times a second. Not what you want. Whilst we have used the word fault, one other thing that puts large amounts of current into a hull is Arc welding. So if someone near to you is Arc welding then again there goes your hull unless you are isolation transformer or no electrical faults on your boat!

isolationtran.jpg (34689 bytes)An Isolation Transformer will stop this. It allows shore power to get to your boat without providing a way back to the source. There is no need to know how it works exactly, but basically shore power goes into one set of wires on the transformer and comes out on another two wires without touching. You have shore power but no return path for those wandering electrical currents in the water. We bought my Isolation Transformer from Energy Solutions. www.energy-solutions.co.uk/isolation_transformer_hull.html

Ask at the viewing if it has an Isolation Transformer. If not it is not exactly bad news as a well painted hull will provide some protection and a survey will of course checks hull thickness. Also people have been living without an Isolation Transformer for a long time before they came out. This type of corrosion relies on a fault on your boat as well as another. Double bad luck!

You can put one in later if you like. They're not too expensive (£500 to £800 for an Isolation transformer without a case).


We do have an Isolation transformer but not just as a way to stop corrosion!

If the boat was wired in Britain with British circuit breakers then breakers MUST be replaced before using the boat in most places in Europe.

If you get a shock off something, a British breaker shuts off the live wire. In Britain there is a live wire and the other is neutral (that's different than the earth wire which is the third wire in any cable). In most of Europe they have two live wires on shore power, (no neutral)(still three wires in a cable). If you use British breakers when plugged into shore power in Europe then if you get a shock off the wire that is not protected by the (single poled) British breaker well..............Not good!

So what does this have to do with an Isolation Transformer you ask?

An Isolation Transformer can be wired so European power comes in and what comes out is like the British system with one live wire. Now you can use the British breakers.

If you don't want to have an Isolation Transformer then just make sure the boat has European Breakers. They don't cost much!

No Isolation Transformer= have European (double poled) breakers.

If it does have an Isolation Transformer then it could have either type of breaker.

One more thing an Isolation Transformer can help with is that they can be wired to start slowly so when you plug into shore power there is not that big surge of power which can trip the breaker on the shore power. Just saves a trip looking for the harbour master to reset the breaker.


The rest you'll just have to see for yourself. There are many more bits that need to be in order but this is what a Survey is for.      

Here is a page from our survey as an example.survey5.jpg (64723 bytes)                    

You've found a boat!

We're going to assume that you've found a boat in Holland as this is all we know about.

Once a price is agreed then a contract is drawn up which is binding for both the seller and the buyer. From our understanding and with the way it worked for us, once signed you are required to buy and they are required to sell. You will be required to put down a 5% to 10% deposit and if you back out you will lose this deposit. Now here is the comforting bit. The seller must sell and is required to have the boat meet minimum safety levels for seaworthiness. It is important therefore to get the best survey you can afford! If anything is found that requires urgent repair the seller must have the work done at his/her own expense. At this point if something is found that changes your mind about the vessel AND the seller does not want to repair the item, you can both back out with mutual agreement and the deposit will be returned. This is how it was explained to us so don't quote us on it!

COSTS (these are the prices we paid in Holland in 2004)

    Survey--------------£400 to £600

    Lift out for survey £300 to £400

    Dutch Solicitor----£400 to £500 This is to have the deeds transferred from the Dutch register (kadaster) and to your name.

My understanding about the Dutch kadaster is that after 1918 it became not just a register of loans but also ownership. This is what I was told when buying Vrouwe Antje. I was told that the very least that should be done was to check for clear ownership of the seller on the Kadaster and then to register the new owner. The next step was required but not always done. The ship should then be struck off the Kadaster for export to   another country. This being done the ship could be put on the small ship's register in Britain for example.

    Delivery cost-----£3000 to £6000 Obviously you can sail the boat to the UK yourself. If you've never sailed a Dutch barge this is quite a trip to start on!

We thinks that's it other than the original purchase price.

Happy Barging and good luck!

Click here to go to our barge site!