With road transport becoming more sophisticated, bringing much of the continent within reach, there has never been a better time to relocate your boat and expand your horizons
Moving your boat by road to new cruising areas can be practical and cost effective if you like exploring faraway places but have limited time for protracted deliveries by sea. Specialist low-loaders for transporting boats are now highly sophisticated and the practice of hoisting even 50ft-60ft motor yachts on to trucks and driving them across Europe has become routine.
For many owners, the main objective in the past was to flee from our chilly northern waters down to the Mediterranean, where precious holiday time can be savoured in guaranteed perfect conditions.
But nowadays road transport is being used more creatively, not simply for one-off moves to chase some sunshine. There are many fascinating regions away from the crowded Mediterranean Sea, which in any case has its drawbacks in these uncertain times.
Each year, all types and sizes of boat are trucked to the Baltic ready for some fabulous cruising in Danish and Swedish waters. The Baltic Sea is vast and intriguing, and although its summers are fairly short, the marinas are geared up to wintering boats in cosy conditions.
You can also be driven to the German Baltic coast, which Andersons Boat Transport knows well. By using commercial North Sea ferries, deliveries to Norway are also possible and Geoff Houghton at Boat Transport is the wizard here.
There’s a veritable stream of boats driven to and from Holland, a nation unfazed by large loads with clear routes to accommodate them. The Sneekermeer is a regular drop-off zone, well-placed for cruising Friesland’s lakes and waterways, or for exploring the IJsselmeer. Interboat is particularly hot on Dutch deliveries.
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Look beyond the typical South coast boating bases and there are plenty of welcoming harbours that offer some delightful experiences
In our latest feature, Peter Cumberlidge explains why Stavanger Bay is the perfect starting point for boaters interested in cruising
The west coast of Scotland is a popular transport destination, and Ireland too. Shoreline Yacht Transport is slick on the Scottish routes. On the European Atlantic coasts, sizeable boats can be delivered by low-loader to French and Spanish Biscay, to Galicia in north-west Spain and further down to Portugal’s west or Algarve coasts. Some companies move boats to Lake Geneva in Switzerland and Hamer Boat Transport has driven to Hungary!
When researching this article, I spoke to a range of boat transport companies, mostly family businesses with a personal touch. Each has their specialist destinations, largely because of the costs of maintaining different international permits.
But the trailers for shifting and manoeuvring large boats are now extremely clever. There has probably never been a better time to expand your horizons by relocating by low-loader, thus extracting maximum pleasure and amazing new experiences from your boat for quite a modest outlay.
Most UK boat transport companies carry loads up to about 16m (52ft 6ins) long, 4.8m (15ft 9ins) high, 4.5m (14ft 9ins) wide and 20 tonnes weight. Height is the most rigid constraint, because of passing under road bridges.
Specialist boat low-loaders really are low, because the vital dimension for bridges is from ground level to the highest part of the load. The legal height of UK motorway bridges is 5.1m (16ft 8ins), so the absolute maximum loaded height is 5m (16ft 5ins).
For trucking larger flybridge boats, radar arches, aerials and other paraphernalia may have to be removed even to pass under standard bridges. Sometimes props and rudders need to come off, adding not only work and expense but also the risk of something not going back as it should. Some boats are simply too high for road transport in the UK and Europe, or for ferries.
On UK roads, laden widths up to 2.9m (9ft 6ins) are classed as normal loads and widths above this are wide loads, which may need an escort vehicle if the police require it. Boats over 3.5m (11ft 5ins) wide must have an assistant travelling with the load, either in the cab or an escort vehicle.
Different countries have slightly different rules so for moving through several countries, your transport company will be handling plenty of documentation. Whatever relocation ideas you have, talk to the truckers who do it all the time and they will produce a practical, legal plan.