1)Find a mooring. Seriously. The number of people who have purchased boats or barges and then have nowhere to park it is ridiculous. Don't be that person. If you don't have a mooring which can accept the length, draft, air draft, width AND weight of your vessel then don't buy. Wait until you have one. If necessary get a mooring held for you and pay money to secure it.
2) Take someone with you who is a bargee and knows their way around to poke around and ask the annoying questions. You may fall in love with the exterior and the shabby chic interior, but if it's held together with snot and bird crap then you need someone there to tell you.
3) Get a survey. I know this may sound daft from someone who got right royally shafted on their survey, but this is the minimum you must do. Get it out of the water as well. Also, don't trust the surveyors. To them it's just a job. To you it is a major investment and possibly a forever home so it needs to be suitable, safe and sound. Take a cynical bargee with you who can ask the annoying questions and...
4) Get into the Bilge. If there is ballast in the way, get it out or get the owner to prepare it and get it out. Don't accept no for an answer. You can buy little cameras which plug into your phone for less than a couple of coffees and some chips and mayo (god bless the Dutch for this invention - the chips and mayo that is...) or you can hire borescope inspection cameras with the twiddly controllable end. Get that thing into everywhere and take photos or just have a look. If you see yellow or bright orange paint then most likely that is lead paint and is a H&S nightmare.If you see layers of crap in the bilge and not nice well protected steel then dig into the crud and see what is below. If you can't get to a considerable portion of the bilge, walk away unless you have at least £50k to burn as if you pick a wrong 'un that's what it might conservatively cost to get it up to a suitable standard of hull thickness. If you are unlucky you might not make it across the channel to your new mooring which you have had for 6 months because you took note of point number 1...
5) Drain the fuel tank and inspect it before you move. Massively important if you buy from overseas and intend to move any considerable distance. Don't just add the bug killer and think you will be fine. If there is the diesel bug, you have just killed it and left all their little corpses floating in the diesel ready clog your filters. If you can't get the tank drained, inspected and cleaned with something akin to acetone or light fraction, walk away.
6) Go out on the barge. If you are serious and want to make some form of offer, ask to spend a day or two on the barge. Make sure you travel for a good portion of a day and ensure everything works. Engine, cooling, electrics, lights, anchor winch. Make sure you get into everything and try it to a suitable level. Just turning it on and feeling a radiator get hot isn't a test. Leave it on for a good period of time and see how it performs. Take the controls and see how the barge handles (or otherwise). If the owner has had it for some time they will know how to make steering and all the processes that go with it dead easy. Manoeuvring Zee in a tight space is hard work physically - she is a big tub and you need to be able to haul the wheel around quickly whilst smashing the gearbox from forward to reverse. Arriving in the half light at a lock is not the time to find out the barge handles like a plate of sick or the lights and nav lights blink off after 5 minutes and does not make for stress free barging.
7) Find someone who has done the hard work. Yep, people get to the stage of having done all the hard work on the hull and lose faith/the will to live/sense of humour or just look at their bank account and think 'Naaahhhh'. They flog their newly cleared out, welded and painted barge which is ready for internal fit. This would have saved us at least a year and probably £40k on purchase price/dry dock bills etc had we chosen the one we looked at earlier...
If you have purchased from Holland, decide whether you want it removing from their ships register (the Kadaster) and putting on the SSR in the UK. Not much advantage to either as far as I can see but Zee is registered on the SSR as she will be spending most of her time in the UK.
If you are moving from Holland to the UK, make sure you do it in the summer and pick your time wisely. A big high pressure system coming in will give you warm weather and light winds. If you can afford a skipper then hire one, but expect £200 a day for their services. If you aren't present as crew expect the cost to be considerably higher as they will need crew, food and probably a competent engineer of some description. If you have been out on the barge (see point 6 above) you should have a good idea of the foibles and character of the barge which can save time and money.
Have spares. Plenty of them. You are going to be undertaking an epic Tolkien-esque type journey so pipe (various), jubilee clips, oil, instant gasket, oil and fuel filters, belts etc. The previous owners should be able to advise what and where to buy but you are probably going to be running the engine for far longer than it has done in the previous X years of ownership.
Get yourself an online freebie 3D planning tool and play around with the internal walls. It took quite a while for us to decide on the internal fit and even now we are flexible on where stuff fits. We have generally decided on where the major stuff is going to sit (pellet boiler, wood burner etc) but the fine fettling will be done closer to the time.
You could get your barge coded if you want. This means it would be available for commercial use for pax should that be the way you want to go. However, it is easiest to start this process when you have the barge stripped right back. It isn't a difficult process, but you need to ensure you have the right number of watertight bulkheads, safety devices, radios, fire extinguishers etc.
RYA - useful to get your skipper's licence at some point. If coming back from Holland you can claim a fair few miles towards your Yachtmaster.
Welding - oh good god yes. Get yourself and arc welder, nothing fancy, and go to a local shipyard and ask if you can rifle through their scrap bin and get some 4+mm thick steel and start welding. Even better, enrol on a course at a local college and get your Level 1. Don't bother with TIG, it's too fine for barge work. MIG is good but if you are welding outside or with crappy steel, MIG is less forgiving. You don't need to be the world's best welder, but if every time you want a bracket fixing to a frame you are going to get pretty miffed having to call a welder out every time. More likely they won't come out for piddling little jobs like this so you will be left in the lurch.
Carpentry/Joinery - absolutely vital during the refit phase. If you can't put up stud partition walls, fit flooring or put up wooden wall cladding you are going to spend A LOT of money paying someone else to.
Plumbing - much of the plumbing will be push fit for the ease of fitting. There will be a requirement for some copper (to/from boiler or immersion heater) but by no means all. I will be paying for someone to design the system but some of the easy donkey work and laying out of pipes will be done by me.
Above all "Know your limits" - there are times when you can have a go yourself and there are other times when this is not a good idea. Knowing your own skill limits is key and can save you blowing up distribution boards, blowing holes in metal whilst welding, etc etc.
PPE (I know I am teaching most people to suck eggs but, you know...)
a) decent safety glasses
b) ear defenders
c) face mask - a good one with changeable cartridges (see F below)
d) steel toe capped boots
e) decent work trousers with integral knee pads - the amount of clambering over stuff and kneeling down on hard sharp objects warrants the knee pads a million times over.
f) invest in a full face mask with eye protection - a bit like a gas mask worn by SWAT. Whilst removing the epoxy paint I have had several bits of high speed paint flecks flick in or very near my eyes, even under decent goggles. The full face option may seem over kill but I can highly recommend it. make sure all the incoming air forced over the eye area otherwise you will be in a 'steamy window' situation very quickly and get frustrated with it.
Must haves for demolition:
a) decent quality cordless drill
b) big hammer
d) miniature electric (cordless if you can afford it) rotary saw
e) Leatherman or similar
Must have for when you get back to the bare steel:
a) decent angle grinder
b) plasma cutter (if you are going nuclear) - preferably one which has its own in built compressor. They only cut through about 6mm steel but that's enough for most jobs.
c) chipping hammer used in welding - the pointed end will find delamination quickly without having to beat the floor to death with a big hammer and deafen yourself in the process.
Buy tools when you need, not just because you think you might need. I have a planer, band saw and wood lathe - all great but are taking up space and I haven't used to their full capacity.
Airless Sprayer - I got one for my birthday and it has proved invaluable. It is not a super powerful one which can cope with 2 pack epoxy paint (these are into the thousands of pounds), but it has allowed me to spray Vactan rust converter on the hull and has saved hours of hand painting. Additionally I have painted the insides of the hull in high build zinc phosphate primer and at a guess you can do 4-5 times the area with the sprayer for the same amount of time. An absolute must when you come to painting/rust converting large areas.
Last updated 29 Aug 2018