Friday 11 February 2011

Trad, semi trad or cruiser

What is your preference and why?

We’ve talked a lot about which type of stern we want when we buy a narrowboat.  There seems to be quite definite opinions on the matter from other people we talk to as well.

The first we really though about the different stern types was over a cup of coffee with a couple we met when we hired a boat in 2007.  Ann said she had wanted a traditional stern but when they’d gone looking at second hand boats they’d found one perfect in every respect except that it was a semi trad.  She was happy with their choice in the end. 

The boat we hired had a cruiser stern.  To sit and chat to each other, we perched on the little taff rail boards – not very comfortable.  Cruiser stern fans say they prefer them because if there are visitors they can put a couple of chairs out there to sit on.  So maybe a couple of people could sit in a comfy chair, there wouldn’t be room for more than a couple and anyone else would be perching on the taff rail.

Our preference is a semi trad.  There is somewhere to sit for at least a couple of people.  We feel we’d rather make a choice that works best for the two of us rather than trying to find a good option for if we have visitors.  The visitors will be there maybe 5% of the time and the rest of the time just us.  We’ll work around it if we have somebody stay.

We’d probably consider a trad if we found a great boat.  There aren’t so many semi trads out there like there are cruisers.  We prefer the look of a trad or semi trad compared to a cruiser too.

We spoke to a couple of brokers about this preference when we looked at boats last October.  One thing we hadn’t considered was the ease of selling the boat again when we’ve finished with it.  It seems a cruiser is easier to sell because they are more popular.  The chattiest broker said if we won’t consider a cruiser then we should go for a semi trad.  It adds another consideration to the already long list!


nb Chance said...

Hi Elly and Mick. Do enjoy your blog, Interested in your comments on trad, semi or cruiser, we all have different objectives and ideas, we have always preferred a cruiser stern, as its great to sit out on the back of the boat in the evening, if you can't sit on the towpath for any reason, or you are in a city where there is less room, its much more sociable we find, and we have often ended up with everyone on our boat on the stern, with numerous chairs etc, Trad is great for winter cruising as you can keep warm inside, but it makes getting in and out of the boat a bit tight, especially if you are tall. Semi trad is a good compromise, but the seats aren't really comfortable and you end up with two large metal walls either side. But we are all different. Thank goodness!!

Peter Berry said...

Now then, we seem to have a disagreement in the results of our own research! Before we bought the narrowboat I was steeped in reading about the market, (Waterways World in particular), the trends, what sells, what's popular etc. etc. We visited just about every broker in the land. My own findings were that the most popular style and size were 57 foot semi-trad, and thus the ones that retained their value best on the used market and were easier to sell. Under 60 foot because the locks on some canals can only accomodate this size, The Leeds and Liverpool is one example I think. This size is also easy to manage for a couple. Semi-trad because narrowboat enthusiasts love the look of traditional boats, and there are many followers of heritage amongst narrowboaters, not just into it as you would be for purely leisure purposes as you would be with a caravan for example. The semi-trad gives the look of tradition with the benefit of some room at the helm for more than one to enjoy the cruise from there.
Then there are the practical issues. A 57 foot cruiser is going to have less internal space available than a trad of the same size. To me, internal living space is much more important than outdoor socialising space in this context. The semi-trad is a compromise again here, but you do get storage lockers that double up as seats in the cockpit area where a cruiser is usually all flat deck space. As you know, we bought semi-trad, which was my ideal choice, but would have bought a trad without hesitation if I happened to like the boat. We never considered a cruiser!
If I was lucky enough to be able to buy again, I would aim for a used, under 5 year old trad from a premium builder. It would have a traditional boatman's cabin and an engine room with a traditional engine sat there with its polished copper and brass metalwork. Unfortunately, one like that would be in the £75K-£95K price bracket, rising to anything up to £140K if buying new and depending on what is specified. Practically, I am happy with our choice, and am still happy that the style and size are the factors that are going to make it retain its value in the best way it can, given the present financial climate. Semi-trads in the used market at present, which come from "middle of the road" builders and are under 5 years old come at, (roughly), £35K bottom end to £55K top end, give or take. It is now more important than ever to ensure that you don't pay too much for the boat/builder/specification/condition/size/age of the boat of your choice. Using a surveyor before signing on the bottom line will help with this. In my case, in February 2009 I paid £46K for our boat that was advertised at £48K, had been on the market 12 months and started at £52K. It was in "as new" condition and recently blacked, with only 550 hours on the engine and full service history. I thought this was fair, as it came with the opportunity of taking over it's fantastic rural mooring, which was also one of my purchase objectives. In 2005, whilst visiting those brokers, generally there was nothing of any use under £40K. One example was a 1999 40 foot trad, of ownknown builder. The outside paint was ok, but internally, you have never seen anything like it! It was was a complete wreck, needed gutting and starting again. It was offered for sale by a very well known broker on The Leeds Liverpool at Chorley. The price? £40K. I actually offered £20K and it was refused. I am glad it was now! Do-uppers are now advertised everywhere for around £15K-£25K. These are my experiences only, and choice is a personal thing!

Baz Juniper said...

We hired both cruisers & semi-trads in the 90s before buying a 40' trad which we've used as a weekend boat with annual longer [2-3 weeks] trips. I like the trad stern as it maximises secure 'indoor' space and I am often found sitting to one side or another of the slide runners on a specially selected cushion, operating the throttle with my feet. However, as we drift towards retirement and longer cruises, we've decided that a stern where we can both sit out whilst under way would be less antisocial, so we'll be seeking a semi-trad, as neither of us like the look of most cruiser sterns. Trouble is, we also like portholes, and finding an affordable 58' ish semi-trad with portholes isn't going to be easy, if present brokerage adverts are anything to go by. Good luck!

Elly and Mick said...

Hi Doug & James, we have thought about the seating comfort on a semi trad stern - but with two of us, we hope we'll find one with seating each side so we can sit lengthwise with a cushion. When we hired in 2007 I loved to sit along the bow seats facing forward and reading a book. Bliss!

Elly and Mick said...

Hi Peter, I have a new project to look at now! My thoughts on cruisers being easier to sell weren't from any research of our own, only what a broker told us. Another blog reader said he had done a little project keeping track of how long a selection of boats took to sell but he was looking more at the pricing than the stern type.

We do think a trad would be good for having a bit more internal space but with storage under the seats in a semi trad it's an ok compromise. It would have to be a really good trad to tempt us. We don't want one where you have to be an acrobat to get in and there would have to be a door between the engine room (or whatever room is at the back) and rest of the boat so heat doesn't escape when you're cruising in cool weather. We'd want a boxed in engine in a trad.

How comfortable do you find the seating on your boat?

Elly and Mick said...

Hi Baz,
There certainly seems to be two teams on the cruiser stern issue - those who prefer the look of a boat with a trad stern (or semi trad for appearances sake) and those who think that's silly because the cruiser stern is more sociable.
Now the porthole issue will have to be a whole new blog entry!

Peter Berry said...

Doug and James are quite correct about the practicalities of the seating in a semi-trad. Yes, it is a simple bench with a hard metal void as a back cushion. But, personal thing again, I simply don't like the concept of cruisers. We generally cruise as a couple. The seating in our semi-trad cockpit is only suitable for 2 + the helmsperson who will be stood up, (or sat on a barstool sometimes). This compromise is better than anyone other than the steerer having to stand precariously on the side gunwhales if it was trad. Having thought about this now, it is most likely that I love the traditional lines but want the room for company. You will see different semi-trad designs have different levels of seating comfort. Grumpy Git for example looked ok with its large Dek-King finished side lockers, and raised seat for the steerer aswell. Ours is only 1 small bench, which has removeable upholstery and is ok just for the two of us, one steering, one sat. It isn't practical space for socialising when moored up though, as a cruiser obviously is.

Elly and Mick said...

Peter, we did see some semi trads with useless seating, or even no seating. We'll just have to hope we find a good one! We thought we could adapt the seating if necessary - between Mick's carpentry skills and me making some cushions we hope we'll come up with something we like. I think it's much nicer when you travel as a couple for the second person to have somewhere to sit and chat.

This has been an interesting blog topic!