Shared Boats and what if it breaks down?

What Happens when my Shared Boat Breaks Down?

One of the main differences between having a shared boat that is "Managed" and one that is "Private" is the security one might feel tied to a managing agent if something should go wrong. 

Going back to my days with OwnerShips (In case you do not know I was General Manager there for 8 years and manned one of their two "Helplines" for 6 years) I can tell you with around 100 boats there was not a day went past when something didn't go wrong, with everything from one boat quite literally blowing up to somebody running out of gas on Xmas Day there were certainly some eventful calls mixed in with the more mundane.

I perhaps should mention that my roll at this point was simply to find somebody to repair the boat for the customer, not to actually get my hands dirty although I did do two actual "call-outs" in my 8 years as the boats were local to me, and on one occasion, and much to my surprise, repaired a fridge! 

How did call Outs get arranged?

The bottom line was I had a "Little Black Book" of boatyards who were ready and able (not always willing it had to be said) to go out and see to a broken down boat. Many of these people worked in boatyards we already had a relationship with and, of course, as boats generally never get that far from their home base when out when you consider how much quicker you can get to them by car or van then often the easiest option was to ask them to go out to it, especially as the same mechanic who might have to make some sort of temporary repair might then have to attend to a permanent job some days later.

One shared boat had an adventure

Thankfully I had left OwnerShips before the call to rescue this one of their boats came in.

How were the cost of call outs paid for?

In a nutshell "The Boat" paid for it. Say somebody has a starter battery that has failed. Out comes an engineer and changes the battery (parts) and has to be paid to get there and do the job (labour). Where it gets more interesting is if the fault lies with the owner on board.

Lets say somebody has been cruising about all day with the ignition turned off (it was a frequent issue believe me) and then in the evening finds their fridge is not working and does not realise the problem is infact flat batteries. An engineer calls and works out that the batteries are flat and so the problem is solved by just running the engine.

Quite rightly the engineer submits an invoice for his time and the next day the customer does not actually turn the ignition to the off position after starting the engine and all now appears well. The question now is who should pay for the call-out....and THAT is why such things called "Owners-Meetings" are held.

(As an aside here the boat that "Blew-Up" did so because the owner on board was at fault but the many thousands it cost to repair was paid out of the insurance company.)

I can only assume that today the bills are processed in much the same way, in that if the fault is with "The Boat" then the boat bank account pays whereas if the owner is at fault they pop their hand in their own pocket. It can, as outlined above sometimes be a grey area but that is rare.

What if my boat is not managed and it breaks down?

As an owner on board I will assume that you have been advised what you should do. 

For sure if you are in a managed scheme I would suggest your first action would be to call your home boatyard for advice and indeed for an unmanaged boat this may well be the suggested first course of action.

A lot of boats are moored for turnaround at bases which also look after hire-boats and so have the systems in place to attend to craft where help is needed. The other option is to get your canal maps guide and look for your nearest boat yard who might be able to offer help, this could be far cheaper that calling somebody from miles away for a relatively simple task to get you underway, like a "Jump Start" to get you to a place to seek expert advice and where tools, parts etc. may be more readily available.

Is there an "AA" service on the canals?

Yes there is, but here I would suggest if your boat is in a managed scheme it probably is not worth looking at as your management company should be there to help you but if you are an owner in a private scheme it could be worth considering, but there is a caveat. 

The company who offer this service are called "River Canal Rescue" (RCR) and they have been around for many years helping boaters, where most of their customers are individual owners (not shared boats) but they do offer their service to shared boat owners as well.

From 2021 RCR are only offering shared boat groups their "Retainer" level of membership which is £65 for 12 months (correct 2021).  If you need to call them out then each call out is charged at a further £50 per call-out (max time two hours on site before the price rises) and parts are charged separately. Also if you need towing or any further "rescuing" then this is also charged separately.

STOP PRESS: As at 2022 RCR seem to offer a breakdown service again to "certain" shared craft - best check with them. 

Prior to 2021 a lot of private shared boats had RCR "Gold" cover (see below)  which covered many more things and where there was no charge for call-outs. I can only assume given how much more shared boats are used compared to "normal" boats that the level of call outs required meant meant that it was not cost effective to offer the higher levels of cover with free call-outs. 

RCR also offer levels called "Bronze" and "Silver" which offer different levels of cover but once again these options are not available to shared boaters.

So, as a shared boating group you have the option of paying £65 as a "boat" (a little over £5 per owner based on 12 owners) for the peace of mind that if something goes wrong there is somebody who you can call who will be able to help you out, but then be prepared to pay more for them to attend.

One thought I have here is that when I was manning the helpline for OwnerShips quite a number of calls I was able to resolve over the telephone as I "knew" the boats. Things like "My engine will not start" could be resolved by asking if the engine pull stop handle had been pushed back down" and I do wonder if RCR were being called out for what we tongue-in-cheek called "OwnerFaults". 

RCR will only attend to you for mechanical failures and does not cover items such as central heating failure etc.

So, as a Private Shared boat is it worth Joining RCR?

This is a very good question, and one I suspect you and your fellow owners may well discuss at length. I guess at a little over £5 per owner per annum the answer could well be yes, but there are alternatives, and don't forget with RCR even after joining you are charged a minimum of £50 per call-out. 

If I were in a private scheme I would be asking if one "Competent"owner could actually be a "Helpline" for perhaps those less experience in mechanical matters and so be a point of contact if there is a problem and even go to the trouble of phoning around if indeed an engineer is needed. With (home) access to the Internet this would perhaps be easier for somebody sitting at a PC in a study at home rather than on a boat where phone and Internet could be at best patchy. 

A decision for your next owners meeting...