We were definitely buying a second-hand boat – until we discovered diesel-electric drives and then a complete lack of these in the second-hand market. Christine found the review in Canal Boat magazine of the boat that became Here We Go Again, which led us to Ortomarine’s website and their email enquiry form. Caroline responded immediately and so positively that we arranged a Skype chat for a few days later. This was the day before Crick 2017 so she and the rest of the team we met were quite busy but they impressed us with their competence, patience and quiet confidence. Caroline went over costs and timings then left us to stew for a few days and worry about losing an early build slot. We needn’t have worried, about that or much else, and we felt no need to approach any other builder. We were living in Scotland then and Christine was negotiating a stressful disability retirement; we discussed visiting the Ortomarine workshop either straightaway or during the build but couldn’t detect any profit in it so we just trusted Dave, Caroline, Rob and their team, and never regretted it.
Ortomarine is that scarcest of commercial rarities, a company which does not overclaim; whether on their website or in person, everything they say they will do, they do, and they do it well. They do it this way not out of pride, which would be justifiable, but integrity, which is much more valuable. And bespoke means just that; they have preferences for wall-coverings and bathroom and bedroom fixtures etc but if what you want is practicable (and you’re willing to pay for it, obviously) then that’s what you get. Change of mind over an L-shaped dinette? No problem. Latest of many redesigns of kitchen layout? No problem. Here’s a barely legible sketch of a bespoke corner cupboard/bookshelf/TV unit, Caroline. No problem. (It looks good, works well and is precisely what we wanted.) That tiny sofa you had shipped to us is too big to fit through any final aperture so we’ll have to fit out the boat around it but, no problem. Our finished boat looked fabulous and worked well right from the start. There were minor niggles, of course, but they were fixed without delay or serious inconvenience to us.
Aside from an unavoidable sojourn in a marina over the winter, we have been continuously cruising since mid-November 2017; we have locked over 500 lockings and sampled 17 disparate canals. Never having been on a narrowboat before October our learning curves have been numerous and steep, and wintery conditions (in whichever season) have been… challenging. But cruising electrically is wonderful, especially early, before the World has properly wakened, and we have never regretted paying substantially more for this system either.