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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 04 14 Newsletter – Mobile Broadband Allowance On Narrowboats

Living on a Narrowboat News 14th April 2013

Last week I reported that my laptop was hacked into and my identity stolen. I think I’m back on track now, but there was one further quite scary additional development. I had an email from Google to let me know that my site was producing phishing URLs directing users to a bogus PayPal site.

The company which hosts my site, Liquid Web, one of the largest hosting companies in the USA, has given my site a very thorough spring clean to ensure that any rogue code has been completely removed.  Security to all areas of the site administration have now been changed and improved.

The phishing URLs didn’t affect site users as the URLs were buried deep in the site. I understand that the hacker would have used them as part of a phishing mail campaign where spam emails would have referred recipients to the phishing pages. Talking of security…

Narrowboat Security

I wrote about narrowboat security last week and referred to a thread on the forum.  Forum user Cheeseybits asked about the reality of crime on the cut. He referred to The Water Road by Paul Gogarty. It’s an excellent book about his four month figure of eight journey from London to the far north and back. He mentions carrying a baseball bat for security as he travels alone and of his unpleasant brush with stone throwing yobs in Wigan and then a little later, a charming tale about yobs rolling burning cars into the cut and shooting BW workers with air rifles!

Cheeseybits, in the nicest possible way, accused me of looking at life on the cut through rose tinted glasses and wanted to know whether he’s going to be at risk on his watery wanderings.

I’ve posted my experiences and those of our holiday hirers on the forum. I’ve been doing hire fleet instructions for Calcutt Boats for the last three years so I’ve debriefed hundreds of holidaymakers on their return. Did they experience any problems when they were out and about? You’ll have to read the thread to find out.

If you are a boat owner, please add your comments to the thread. I want the anecdotes in context though. I want to know about the problems you’ve encountered, but I also want to know how often you’ve had unpleasant experiences in all the time that you’ve been out and about on the cut. Have you had issues every time you’ve ventured out, or has it been just once in a blue moon in a geographical area where you might have expected it. If you don’t want to post on the forum, please email me to let me know about your experiences.

Mobile Broadband

I use the internet every day. I spend three to four hours sending and answering emails and researching and writing content for the site. I used to use Three’s PAYG premium package which gave me 7GB of data for £25. My average monthly broadband spend was £40. It was expensive but, because of a poor credit rating brought about by the failure of my business and subsequent bankruptcy, I couldn’t get credit. My inability to obtain credit for absolutely anything meant that I couldn’t take out a monthly phone or broadband plan.

My credit rating has been steadily, if slowly, climbing over the last three years. Eighteen months ago I was able to take out a 24 month contract on a mobile phone and then three months ago switch from Three’s PAYG broadband to a pay monthly tariff. The new tariff gave me 15GB of data each month which was more than enough… until last Friday.

Three weeks ago I bought a new laptop to replace my old Lenovo which had developed a mind of its own and typed text anywhere on the screen it wanted. It was quite quickly driving me mad.

The new Samsung laptop shipped with Windows 8 (Windows Hate would be a more appropriate name – what a terrible operating system!) but no other software. I needed to reinstall all of the applications I use on a daily basis, Microsoft office, Adobe Photoshop Elements, my accounting software, iTunes and half a dozen web site management and editing applications. Then I had to download my backed up data from Google Drive as well as my photo’s and music.

Then two weeks ago my laptop was hacked into so I had to restore the laptop it its original factory settings and do everything again. Yesterday, for the first time, I exceeded my 15GB monthly allowance. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.

If you run out of data with Three you can get onto the Three website to check your account but the rest of the internet is off limits. You can check your account to see how much data you’ve used but if you want to change any details, in my case payment details, you need to log into your account using a password. You don’t need a password at any stage when you first start to use your dongle. You just plug it in to your laptop, wait for the automatic driver installation, and away you go. Consequently, you aren’t aware of the need for a password at all.

Of course I couldn’t log in to my account to pay for more data without the password. I didn’t know it so I went through the Forgot Password routine. With any other system that I’ve used, this involves answering some fairly straight forward security questions. Not with Three.

I was asked for both the device and the SIM number. This information is on the SIM which is inside the dongle. My dongle is on the top of a pole on the roof. So on Friday night, in the dark and in lashing rain, I climbed onto the roof to fetch the dongle. Of course I had forgotten that last Sunday I spent seven hours lovingly polishing the boat roof with Carnauba wax. The combination of Carnauba wax on steel and heavy rain should be used on skating rinks. It’s almost impossible to stand on, as I discovered to both mine and Sally’s dismay when I fell over.

I didn’t quite fall off the roof, but it was close. I managed to grab hold of the edge of the port side hatch before I joined the fish in the marina. After retrieving the dongle, I climbed back into the boat to let Sally know what had happened. She wasn’t interested. The shock of me crashing down on the roof caused her to drop what was in her hand – the pressure cooker containing our dinner. She was busy scraping it off the floor.

I copied the details off the SIM  but, before I could find out whether I could log in with them, I had to climb back onto the roof, more carefully this time, to replace the dongle. The device and SIM card number allowed me to log into my account, but I was still unable to top it up.

There was a “helpline” number I could ring, but that involved finding a signal for my phone. I never have one on the boat. So, I went back out in the rain and into my car for a drive around the marina until I could find a signal.

Of course there was the obligatory frustrating automated system to navigate but I was eventually able to make a payment using one of Sally’s debit cards (remember, I don’t currently have a bank account following my hacking attack).

Back on the boat, I joyously connected to the internet… to discover that I still couldn’t get any further than the Three web site.

I jumped back in my car, raced around to where I knew I could get a phone signal and went through the whole painful call centre process again. After ten frustrating minutes I was put through to a real person. He was on the other side of the world, but at least he was human.

He very helpfully told me, from the safety of his call centre 5,000 miles away, that the payment I had just made had been credited to my monthly account but that I couldn’t buy any more data at the normal rate until the next billing cycle began in nine days time. Until then, he told me, I couldn’t use the internet at all unless I purchased data at the emergency rate of 10p per megabyte.

£0.10/MB is a huge amount to pay. To put this rate into perspective, if Three used the same rate for my 15GB monthly allowance, they would charge me £1,500 instead of the £18 I currently pay. Their emergency rate is over eighty three times more expensive than their standard rate!

Even if I wanted to carry on using the internet at that rate, they wouldn’t let me. They allow an emergency use of 200MB (at a cost of £20) before they cut off the account completely until the next billing date.

I used the extortionately priced additional data by mid afternoon the following day – yesterday – so for the first time for as long as I can remember, I was completely cut off from the virtual world I’ve spent years creating.

I didn’t fully understand quite how much I rely on the internet.

I use the web for checking the weather, the news, what’s on television and to more or less instantly find out in depth information about any subject that interests me. I store my photo’s online, I constantly back up my laptop’s documents to my online storage, I use an online To Do list and calendar. I’ve moved much of my life online and, boy, do I miss it when I can’t get at it.

Waiting over a week until my next data allowance cycle wasn’t an option so at 10am today I was in Leamington Spa waiting for the store to open. I purchased a PAYG SIM with 3GB data to get me through the next week until my monthly allowance resumes.

15GB is the biggest data package that Three offer, and Three is widely acknowledged as being the best provider for internet loving boat owners. 15GB is more than enough for a month’s general browsing but if you your laptop for watching TV or video or for regular large file uploads and downloads, you’ll soon use it up.

I hope that the tale of my misfortune will encourage you to think carefully about your mobile broadband options if you plan to spend long periods on your boat and you value a constant internet connection as much as I do. I haven’t enjoyed the problems I’ve had recently, but I’ve learned from them. As far as my internet connection’s concerned, I now have a backup in case of emergencies. Maybe you should too.

This story is really a long winded way of saying sorry for a content poor newsletter this week. I’ve spent so much time trying to sort out the problems I just haven’t had a spare moment to work on the site. I promise to try harder next week.

Read this forum thread for plenty more information about mobile broadband on narrowboats.

Online Moorings Available

I received an email ten days ago but forgot to mention it in last week’s newsletter. It’s from online mooring operator Peter Oakley…

“I’m a linear moorings operator on the Middlewich branch of the Shroppy at bridge 25.  With the pump out toilets, i encourage the (long term) moorers with a  pump  out,  to buy a Patay pump (normally off e-bay) and lay flat pipe.  If they are lucky  they can get it all for £50.    As we are farmers  we have a septic tank for our house  waste. Which is a 100mtr cruise into the next field along.   I ask the moorers to pump their waste into there as it is approximately 30 metres in from the cut.  4 pump outs and they’re saving £££££££.   I have checked with the Environment Agency .  As long as the owner of the vessel does it themselves it’s  acceptable.  If i were to do it for the boater I would need to apply for the relevant waste carrying licenses. I hope this helps a few boaters  in trying to save a few quid here and there.”

Peter went on to say that he has two fully serviced long term moorings (metred water and electricity hook up) available from 2nd September this year. If you are interested in an online mooring in a beautiful part of the country, you need to contact him quickly. Long term online moorings are like hens’ teeth and Peter has just placed an advert in Towpath Talk. Please contact Peter directly.

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

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.

  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • 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 country’s 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?
  • 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 now wander Europe by motorhome during the winter, and on the Dutch and French waterways in the warmer months on their 32' Dutch motor cruiser.