Learn about life afloat the easy way

Life on a narrowboat can be as peaceful as it is idyllic BUT you need to understand the pros, cons, highs, lows, and day to day logistics in living on England's inland waterways. Let me help you find out all you need to know before you commit to what could be a very expensive mistake.


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2013 03 31 Newsletter – No More Excuses

Living on a Narrowboat News 31st March 2013

It’s Easter at last. A time for sitting outside with your face turned to the early spring sunshine, happy in the knowledge that the winter is behind you. Dream on! It’s minus five at the moment, there’s a layer of ice on the marina and a decidedly chilly forecast for the week to come.

The cruising season has begun for our hire fleet. We had our first trickle of hardy holiday hirers last week. For the first time in the three and a half years I’ve worked here, we had to shovel the snow off the hire boats before we cleaned them. It wouldn’t be my first choice for cruising conditions but the groups hiring our boats don’t have the choice. They book their week or two week escape from “normal” life months in advance. While the liveaboard boaters steer clear of wet, windy or exceptionally cold cruising days, holiday hirers have to crack on regardless. We had one ambitious family complete the Warwick Ring, all 106 miles and 115 locks. They had a week to do it so had to cruise for eight hours every day.

For those of you who don’t have boats yet, the four day Easter break is the perfect time to move forward with your plans to get one.  As ever, Apolloduck is a great place to browse online for boats. This morning there were 415 cruiser stern, 307 trad sterns, 153 semi trads, 116 widebeams, 28 tugs and 13 butties; 1,032 canal craft for you to choose from.

Maybe you don’t want a previously enjoyed boat though. Maybe your sights are set on having a brand new boat built to your own specification. Maybe the idea appeals to you but you don’t know where to start. Maybe I can help you.

 A New Narrowboat Guide: Are you interested?

For the last year I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a new narrowboat guide. It will document the  construction of a liveaboard narrowboat from the initial concept and design, through the hull construction, ballasting, fitting out and painting. The pros and cons of different designs and levels of equipment will be discussed and commented upon. I’ll post updates on the forum as the build progresses and invite comments from current liveaboard boaters.

I’ll also include advice on how to choose a narrowboat builder, how much you need to pay and when you need to pay it, how to spot an unscrupulous builder, and how to choose a good one, and input from the owner of the new boat throughout the build.

As with the two previous guides I’ve published, there’s a huge amount of work involved in research and actually sitting down to write it. I want to make sure that there’s enough interest before I invest a considerable amount of time and energy. Do you think that you would find it useful? As usual there’s a very short survey for you to vote one way or the other. Here it is.

Case Study Of Widebeam Liveaboard Antioch

I am in awe of Sarah. She’s a lady who can do stuff with her hands (as opposed to me, a man, who struggles to change a plug.). She lives on board a widebeam with two of her three children on the Leeds/Liverpool canal. If you like the idea of living afloat, but not cruising very much, a widebeam may be a better option for you than a narrowboat. Here’s Sarah’s story.

GRP Cruiser For Sale

Last week I received an email which I’ve copied onto a page I’ve just created It was a plea for help to sell a GRP cruiser. I offered to mention the boat in my next newsletter and asked Norah to send me additional information. I know it’s not a narrowboat. In fact, it’s the first time in three years that a GRP cruiser has appeared anywhere on the site. It’s not suitable for living on board, although some people do. The letter and the photo’s I received from Norah are reproduced here.

I don’t know anything at all about cruisers, but maybe you do or someone you know does. If you’re interested in what appears to be a pretty good recreational cruiser, please follow this link

Essential Boating Equipment

I told you last week that I had ordered an essential bit of boating kit; a magnet for retrieving items that have been dropped into the water. It’s no ordinary magnet.  It’s called the Maxigrab Magnet and is available here. The magnet arrived last week. It’s tiny, but it’s a beauty. Sally and I have had hours, well, minutes, of fun picking up increasingly heavy steel objects with it in the boat.

Maxigrab Magnet

No More Excuses!

I know. You want to live on a narrowboat. You really do, but there are some important reasons why you can’t at the moment. You’re too young, too old, too inexperienced, nervous, poor, married, single, jobless, ill etc. The list of reasons is endless. The fact remains that if you really want to achive your dream, you can. Here’s some inspiration from someone who’s taken the bull by the horns and realised her dream. I won’t reveal what’s so special about her. You’ll just have to read her post. Please do. You won’t regret it.

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.

Popular Forum Posts

Now that the forum login problems have been resolved, forum posts and visits have seen a dramatic increase. There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.

  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the countries most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • The Llangollen canal – Here’s a view that you’re never going to see from your narrowboat.
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat – Narrowboat costs explained in detail. My own maintenance and living cost on narrowboat James for a full year. Use this information to work out your own costs.
Find out what parts of the canal are closed and for how long. Essential cruising information for you.
Do you need to find a home for your boat? Here’s a comprehensive list of the narrowboat friendly marinas in the UK
Do you want to see where these marinas are on a map? Here it is.
Here’s a map of all the canals on the system to help you plan your route.
Newsletter Archive – Browse through a wealth of useful content in the newsletters over the last year.

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Paul Smith
 

After six and a half years living on a narrowboat on England's inland waterways, Paul and his wife Cynthia wandered Europe by motorhome during the winter, and on the Dutch and French waterways in the warmer months on their 35' Dutch motor cruiser. However, the pull of England's muddy ditches proved too much for them. Now they're back where they belong, constantly stuck in mud in a beautiful traditional narrowboat.