It’s not just the fantastic range of boats we have on offer that fills us with pride. At Val Wyatt, we are wholeheartedly committed to delivering the best customer experience. Our team of experts will support buyers throughout their entire journey – from first enquiry, right through to an in-depth handover – and beyond through changes and upgrades.
The best way of showcasing that expertise is by interviewing our customers. We went back to our archives for this case study, where Mark and Caroline discussed their purchase of a beautiful Intercruiser 27 Cabin and their ongoing relationship with our team at Willow Marina (so much so that since writing, they have upgraded their boat to an Intercruiser 29 – read the case study here).
Why did you want to own a boat?
With both daughters having flown the nest, my wife and I suddenly had some time on our hands. We thought to ourselves, “what did we used to do at the weekends before children?” After much deliberation, the decision was made to buy a boat for use on the Thames.
We looked at a few marinas in the area, but quickly homed in on Val Wyatt in Wargrave. It is an independent business and the staff there were extremely helpful in making sure they knew what we wanted.
If you don’t count the Mirror dinghy we owned for 20 years, this was our first boat purchase. We’d done quite a bit of sailing in the past, but river boating was certainly a new experience for both of us.
How did you choose your boat?
We knew we wanted to be able to sleep on board, mainly at weekends, and to be able to take friends and family out for day trips. I was very impressed with the build quality, character and style of the Dutch Interboat/Intercruiser range, and we eventually decided on a new Intercruiser 27 Cabin.
The boat has a huge cockpit that can comfortably seat 10 people, but it also has a small two berth cabin and head to allow for overnight stays. Our daughters have also slept in the cockpit on several occasions.
A fridge, cooker, toilet and sink were also “must haves”. As we spend most of our time on the boat in the cockpit, it was important for it to be big and comfortable. We felt the Intercruiser 27 was perfect for our needs.
How was buying a boat for the first time?
Buying the boat through Val Wyatt was very straight forward. We could specify the exact options we needed, and we made stage payments throughout the build. They sent me photos at various stages, but I also went out to Intercruiser in Holland to check on the progress. It was an exciting day to see her for the first time, and I could further specify particular options.
When the boat was launched, Val Wyatt took us out for our first trip to show us the basic controls. I also arranged for a 4-hour RYA tutor session on our boat to go through some more in-depth training. I wanted to know the procedure for going through a lock gate and I wanted to know how to take on fuel and water. On this trip, we went to Henley and back, and we also did a series of mooring manoeuvres to help us get used to the handling.
Are you happy with the specification you chose? Is there anything you would change?
It is a very straight forward boat to handle, but I am glad I opted for the bowthruster. Whilst I try not to use it much, it has helped me out from time to time – and we haven’t managed to hit anything! We also opted for the fixed windscreen, a slightly larger 52hp Vetus engine, shore power, a Raymarine depth and speed display, a teak folding table and an additional high cockpit cover, which allows full standing headroom throughout the whole cockpit. We are very happy with these choices.
Our one mistake was not opting for the diesel-powered warm air heater for the cabin and cockpit. There were a few occasions during that first year where it was quite cold early and late in the season, and we knew we’d use the boat more for overnight stays with a heater on-board. Over the winter after that first season, Aquatec (in Willow Marina) fitted the heater, and this has been a great improvement.
I’m quite a fussy customer and I was a bit worried about this after-fit, but I have to say that Aquatec listened to my requirements and did a first-class job of installing the heater. It performs really well.
How do you maintain your boat?
We have the engine serviced by Aquatec once a year and they winterise the boat before it comes out in September, as well as recommissioning it when it is launched in March.
We do all the other maintenance tasks ourselves, although if we get bored with this it is nice to know that Val Wyatt can do any of the maintenance tasks such as painting the underside, polishing the hull and cleaning the teak etc. They also specialise in antifouling boats.
Where do you moor your boat?
We’re very happy mooring our boat at Val Wyatt and the whole experience that brings. They are constantly making improvements. New toilets and shower facilities have recently been put in and new moorings have gone in on the meadow side.
I often can’t get over to the boat during the week, and it is very helpful that the staff are on hand to look after the boats. It is a secure marina with coded gate entrance. Also, as the river level changes, the staff will go around adjusting ropes and fenders, and checking on all the boats. This is very reassuring. We get a boat insurance discount because it is recognised as a secure marina.
What would you say if someone asked, “is it worth buying a boat?”
Prior to purchase, as we both work full-time, we were slightly concerned about how much we’d actually use the boat. I can say that we actually use it far more than we expected. Most summer weekends we now stay on-board. Sometimes it’s just a Friday or Saturday night moored at somewhere nearby, like the regatta meadow in Henley, which is just one lock gate away.
Most mooring spots on the Thames are free overnight, but the Henley spot is £8 for 24 hours. It’s such a lovely place to moor and with an easy walk into Henley, we really think that £4 per person for a weekend in Henley is a good deal!
Even though we live only 20 minutes away from the boat, it really is a surprising escape from our normal routine.
Where are the best places to boat on the Thames?
We love waking up on the boat in Henley and watching the rowing while having breakfast. Other times we’ll do a one-week boating trip along the Thames, stopping at several places downstream to Windsor (through Hurley, Marlow, Bourne End, Cookham, Cliveden, Bray), or upstream to Dorchester (Pangbourne, Streatley, Wallingford). We do at least two longer trips per year and keep finding new places to stay.
An unexpected bonus was weekday evenings in the summer months. There are some very beautiful parts of the Thames, and whilst we knew it reasonably well through walking, we have discovered some unspoiled places. We love it.
As we used the boat more and more, we realised it wasn’t all about boating. It was also about country walks, exploring Thames side villages, no TV, no housework, listening to Radio 4, photography, bird watching, going out to different restaurants, reading a book or a newspaper, and watching the sun go down while enjoying a glass of wine.
I’d never seen a Kingfisher before, and it had been a long time since I’d heard a cuckoo, but these are now regular experiences.
What’s your advice for someone buying a boat for the first time?
You could think that buying the boat was quite a risk and we certainly could have dithered for much longer. In the end, we were decisive and have absolutely no regrets.
First published in 2015.
Check out our range of handy guides
From purchase and mooring to maintenance and events, our guides contain everything you need for your boating journey.View more