Thursday, 4 August 2011

Ben Harp – To Hell and Back Again – Chapter 10


The “tyranny of distance” attempting to have a boat built in the UK whilst living in Australia turned out to be a major complication.

Another restricting factor was the limited time (two weeks) we had to physically visit builders in the UK and produce a shortlist. If we had been living in the UK we could (and would) have spent more time visiting builders.

We did a reasonable job of reference checking the selected builder with two positive reviews from canal magazines and a glowing referral from a previous customer. However if we had known about Companies House and researched more about limited liability companies we probably would have completed a financial “health” check of the selected builder. This may not have revealed much about Ben Harp Narrowboats as their financial records only show them as trading whilst insolvent from 2009 which is the year in which we visited.

People who get “conned” are either greedy or chasing their dream. We were in the latter category and have accepted our share of the fault! 

We didn’t realise stage payments would be required in advance. Had we known and been in the UK, we would have opted for another builder. But being in Australia and having already waited 15 months for the build to start we decided to place money at risk. Albeit we attempted to minimise the risk by requesting (and receiving agreement) for invoices to be provided to prove our money was being spent.

Whilst the quick build timetable (4 months) provided by Ben Harp pleased us it also meant payments would be frequent. This meant there was little time to take a breath and review progress from a distance.

Employing a surveyor as our UK representative was a sound decision. The surveyor was able to inspect our boat in January when it was under construction at the shell builders. However there were two subsequent failed attempts within the following two months. That started alarm bells ringing about delays to the build schedule.

Some have queried why we made the 4th payment. Well the payment was due on the same date as our surveyor’s scheduled visit and there was an element of not wanting to disbelieve the very positive news being received from the builder. As it was, only half the stage payment was made due to a banking error.

We should have issued a notice of dispute to the builder earlier.  Probably immediately after the failed visit by the surveyor in late March.  This would have given us further legal protection. However at that time we genuinely wanted to help the builder continue in business and complete our boat.  We were also under the false impression he built high quality boats.

A number of people have told us we should have simply employed some “heavies” and taken our boat. Whilst it would have been a much cheaper option - it would have been illegal! Of course we didn’t realise that Ben Harp Narrowboats was going to be so belligerent, ignore High Court orders, lie, modify our boat, and attempt to sell it to another unsuspecting buyer. In the end this wasn’t just another failed business.

At the end of the day we have lost a considerable amount of money to a belligerent, dishonest, scurrilous and contemptible company. Our legal expenses are also substantial. But we can consider ourselves to be honest people. Our readers have already passed judgement on Ben Harp Narrowboats. 

Enough of the negative; there is little point in allowing the small number of despicable and amoral people in society to drag you down……. It’s time to look to the future!

Our thanks go to all our readers who have posted comments or emailed encouragement and support.  There have been so many; and we have been very busy; that it has not been possible to reply to everyone. 

Waiouru has reached her new builder and we will commence the process of rebuilding her. That story is going to occur over a longer timeframe and accordingly the frequency of boat building related posts here on our blog are likely to reduce in the short term.  But I’ve developed a liking for the daily blog, and there is so much of interest in the UK to write about that I’ll probably continue this daily routine.


Geoff and Mags said...

Hi Both
Been following your story with interest and dismay. I hope this hasn't put you off and tainted the dream too much.
Glad to see you can now see light at the end of the tunnel.
All the best,

Nicholas said...

Great to hear things are moving forward again .. I look forward to following your progress on the blog and i hope all goes well for you.

Tom and Jan said...


We've been following your blog for quite some time. One day we also hope to do "the Link"!