Narrowboat Hull Survey: What is it and How often Should I Have one?

Canal Boat UK is supported by its readers. If you buy something with our links, we may earn a commission.

As the narrowboat trend is growing and the prices are rising, the hull survey is a term that anyone in the community will hear again and again. But what exactly is it, why is it important and how many times does it need to be done in the lifetime of a narrowboat. These are the very questions we will be answering today. Wonder no more about the world of surveys.

What is a Narrowboat Hull Survey?

A hull survey is an inspection of the condition of the hull below the waterline of the vessel. A hull survey typically includes examination of all underwater surfaces of the vessel, including the keel, plating, frames, bilge keels, shaft brackets, chines, and rudder.

A hull survey will help find any areas where water may be able to penetrate the hull (AKA holes!). The survey can also locate any corrosion, cracks, or metal fatigue. The majority of the problems found during a hull survey are usually minor and, if the problem is left unattended, may require more extensive work in the coming years.

During a survey, the surveyor will take a series of detailed steel thickness measurements across your boat’s hull. This is vital to see how much your hull has worn and if there are any points that are likely to breech due to thickness. This can be a great early warning system for your hull.

How Often Should I have a Narrowboat Hull Survey Done?

In a perfect world, a yearly survey on your narrowboat would ensure you catch any signs of hull corrosion before they set in. However, most narrowboaters settle on a compromise of getting their hull surveyed every two years (usually as they get their hull blacked). These regular hull surveys become more and more important the older a boat gets. If you have a boat over 15 years old, they become a critical part of your boat’s maintenance. Miss one at your peril. You would be amazed at how much your hulls condition can change in that time.

I am always amazed at how many people skimp out on getting their boat regularly surveyed. But to me, the potential cost of not catching hull corrosion early would be much higher (and worth this bi-annual cost).

If you have just bought a brand new narrowboat, the situation is a little different. You can realistically wait for five years before you have your first survey.

When buying a secondhand narrowboat, always get a full hull survey done before completion of sale. It may seem like a hassle and an expense, but it will save you a lot of heartache down the road. And most people find that the cost of the survey will often be covered by the amount you can negotiate the price down from whatever it uncovers.

How Much is a Narrowboat Hull Survey?

In this article, we are specifically talking about the narrowboat hull survey. You can expect to pay around £400 – £600, everything included. As your boat will need to be put in a dry dock to do the survey, this is the first thing you will need to pay for. Then you will need to pay for the actual surveyor to undertake the survey.

To give an exact example, Braunston Marina (at the time of writing) quote you £225.00 for a dry dock survey and £300 for one day in the dry dock.

Be aware that, like anything in life, finding a surveyor quickly can be very much based on supply and demand. Usually, you would expect to find a surveyor that is from the area around where your boat is stationed, leading to prices as described above. However, in times of high demand, you may have to pay extra for a surveyor to drive from a different area of the country to undertake your survey. The further they need to drive, the more you will have to pay.

You may also have to pay more depending on the way that your narrowboat is lifted from the water into the dry dock. If any type of crane is required, expect to pay more.

Who Will Undertake a Narrowboat Hull Survey?

The only person qualified to give your narrowboat a hull survey is a certified marine surveyor.. You want to find one that has regularly worked on canal boats, as they will know exactly what to look for on your boat. You can either ask your local canal marina if they have marine surveyors they recommend, or you can do your own searches on the world wide web to find a surveyor yourself. Just make sure they have the qualifications they say they do.

Why are narrowboat surveys important?

In basic terms, regular narrowboat surveys are vital to ensure that your vessel doesn’t sink and you and your family and friends live to see another day above the cut. Water is the enemy of any narrowboat, so making sure your hull is strong and intact plays a major part in keeping it out. You want to catch any potential problems as early as possible, lowering the repair cost and making sure you don’t have a problem that could spiral out of control.

To get into more technical terms, your narrowboat’s hull is probably made out of steel and is prone to galvanic corrosion. When a steel hull is placed in water, some of the atoms inside the metal will start to come out. You see, most metals have an element of instability within them and become more stable as some of these atoms are released. The atoms in the metal that make up your hull are also electrically charged. And the process of galvanic corrosion is not exactly helped by the fact that you have filled your boat’s hull with electrical equipment etc. Put simply, corrosion of a narrowboat hull is a real thing and should be taken seriously!

Leave a Comment