2013 09 29 Newsletter – The Folly Of Using Unseasoned Logs For Your Stove

Living on a Narrowboat News 29th September 2013

Have I ever mentioned that I love my job? Yesterday, Saturday, was – for me – a perfect day.

I spent an hour in the morning cutting back the low hanging ash branches on the wharf lawn and the elder branches above the grassy bank where we park our recently acquired telehandler (fork lift truck), roped off a section of footpath between our online moorings and Napton reservoir where the footpath has been undermined by a leak from the canal into the reservoir, then spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon felling and removing infected oak. I don’t enjoy destroying twenty year old oak, but I love working in the peace and quiet of the woodland with the autumn sunshine filtering through the trees and the crackle of fallen leaves underfoot.

I’ve now removed about sixty of the one hundred and twenty infected oak. I may only have 50% of the trees left to cut, but I have at least 75% of the work ahead of me. The wood isn’t very large as woods go but the remaining oak are at least 200m from the nearest point where I can park the truck. Every trunk, branch and leaf has to be dragged out of the woods and loaded onto the truck for transportation.

The time of the year influences how much work I have to do too. The last few months have been pretty dry so the ground next to the woods is firm enough to drive the truck over without damaging the grass. All that is about to change though. October normally heralds the start of the autumn rains. We only need two or three days of rain to soften the ground enough to prevent vehicles from driving onto the grass without making a mess which will mean that shortly I will have to carry or drag the cut timber even further.

Yesterday was dry, sunny and a real pleasure to be alone in the woods talking to the trees. Alone that is until my radio interrupted my daydreaming with a request to go on a rescue mission.

One of the narrowboats we look after for the Royal Navy had broken down at Braunston between the lock flight and the entrance to Braunston marina. One of our engineers had been out to it and determined that the boat couldn’t be repaired out on the canal. It would have to be brought back to Calcutt to be fixed. Bringing it back to Calcutt would necessitate taking one of our hire boats to Braunston to use to tow the navy boat back to Calcutt.

I left Calcutt yesterday at 4.30pm for a quick cruise to Braunston. It would have been quicker if I hadn’t been stuck behind a boat intent on cruising at a maximum 2mph. I thought for the first couple of hundred metres that he was looking for somewhere to moor up because of his speed and the way he was zig-zagging from one side of the canal to the other. He wasn’t. He was just in his own little world, enjoying the scenery at his own very leisurely pace. I decided to do the same.

Eventually he pulled over to let me pass, I increased speed, and so did he. He stayed on my tail all the way to Braunston. I couldn’t work it out but it didn’t matter. I was out on the cut enjoying a pleasant autumnal cruise… and being pad for it.

I arrived at Braunston at 6pm, moored just before the junction then walked along the towpath towards the Braunston flight to find the navy boat and to make sure that I could turn my rescue boat near where it was moored. I found the navy boat next to the entrance to Braunston marina. An entrance I can use to turn my hire boat when I go back there later today.

I waited in the Boathouse in Braunston for Steve Cox from the office to pick me up and bring me back to the marina. Of course, we had to have a pint when he arrived. The purchase of two pints in a canal side pub reminds me why I don’t drink in pubs much any more. Seven pounds for two pints! I can buy one and a half bottles of very good Australian red for that much in a supermarket. At £3.50 a pint it’s fourteen times more expensive than the first pint I ever bought in a pub. Mind you, that first pint was thirty six years ago in a spit and sawdust pub in a particularly unpleasant part of Birkenhead.

I was back at the boat by 8pm for a quick bite to eat, X Factor (I love it), bed and an early start to finish the newsletter before returning to Braunston at 11am. I’m just about to leave now. To be honest, I’m a little nervous. There’s a stiff easterly breeze blowing which isn’t going to make the journey back with a total boat length of 110′ any easier on a day when I can expect there to be plenty of traffic.

Whatever happens, it will be an adventure. I’ll tell you how much of an adventure next week.

Seasoned V Unseasoned Wood As Fuel

Earlier this week I was given a very clear demonstration of the difficulty in burning felled wood which hasn’t been seasoned. Last week I told you about the problem we have with our oak trees. There are about 120 diseased trees in total which need to be removed from the woodland and, because the timber is infected, burned immediately.

So far I have removed forty twenty year old trees, cut them into manageable sections and moved them to our tip area where they are in an enormous 5th November sized pile waiting to be incinerated. I haven’t burned them before now because we have strict instructions on how and when to light fires.

The tip area is to the west of the original Locks marina and to the south west of the newer Meadows marina. The prevailing wind is south westerly so most of the time, if a fire is lit, the smoke and ash blows across either one or the other marina and understandably upsets boaters, especially if they have just spent hours polishing a boat to find it covered in a fine layer of ash.

We have to wait until there’s an east wind blowing. It doesn’t happen very often. Normally it’s not a problem as there isn’t much to burn. There has been recently with the continuous felling of infected oak.

There was a light breeze from the east on Tuesday so oak burning was the order of the day. I don’t normally have a problem lighting a fire. After all, I did spend a year as a boy scout… before being asked to leave as I was considered a bad influence on other scouts.

Normally I use a newspaper, sheets separated and screwed up, under a pile of cardboard boxes and then any cut timber – usually willow – over the top of the cardboard mixed with offcuts from our woodshed. Recently cut timber is usually a fairly small part of the overall mix.

On Tuesday 95% of the bonfire was recently cut oak and it didn’t want to burn. I tried my usual method with no success at all. I threw a gallon of petrol onto the fire and lit that. The petrol burned wonderfully, but not the oak. I added twenty five litres of diesel to the already burning paper and cardboard. Again, the diesel burned wonderfully, but not the oak.

I’ve now run out of options. I simply can’t light the oak.

Most recently cut timber is hard to light because of the high water content, water content which can be as high as 45%. The timber needs to be left, usually for a year or more to “season”, before it’s any use as a fuel. If logs are burned before they are properly seasoned, if you can get them lit at all, more energy is used evaporating the log’s liquid content than is used to produce heat.

Unseasoned logs don’t burn very hot, are usually smoky, and cause thick and damaging layers of creosote

I see, and hear of, no end of boaters who carry a chainsaw around with them so that they can cut up felled logs into manageable lumps for the fire. I suspect some, a very small minority, do the tree felling themselves. The cut timber is then piled onto the roof ready for burning later. But how much later do they burn it?

Oak is one of the most common trees in the UK and can often be seen along the side of the canals and rivers as you travel. There’s often windfall branches or felled branches or trees within sight of the waterways but, firstly, it isn’t there for every passerby to help themselves to and, secondly, it’s no good as fuel until it’s seasoned. Oak takes up to two years to season properly. If done properly, it’s left outside during the warmer months where the wind and the sun can help dry it out and then taken under cover for the winter.

Narrowboat owners simply don’t have the space to season enough timber to keep them going. I don’t use wood, but I know how much coal I get through. Between October 2012 and June 2013 I burned over 80 bags. That’s more than two tons of the stuff. If the wood produces the same amount of heat pound for pound – I don’t know if it does – a narrowboat owner would need to carry four tons at any one time (two tons to season and two tons for immediate use)… and, ideally, the seasoned two tons would need to be kept under cover.

I often see liveaboard boats with piles of logs stored on the boat roof. Those boats often have very smoky fires. Smoky fires are an indication of unseasoned wood. Unseasoned wood burns poorly, produces little heat compared with seasoned wood or coal and causes an accumulation of flu creasote and the risk of chimney fire.

The exceptions are the many boats you see on the offside with a mooring with either a garden or some space for storage next to the boat. You will often see a store of logs which have probably been well seasoned.

I think that the rule of thumb should be to use coal unless you have a mooring with sufficient space to store two or three season’s worth of logs.

Create Lasting Memories Of Your Travels

How good is your memory? Mine is awful. I can’t clearly remember what happened yesterday so I’ve no chance when it comes to cruises months or years earlier. The good news for me is that I don’t need a fantastic memory to be able to relive every interesting or exciting moment of my travels. I take photographs. I take lots of photographs.

My photographs are my memory and what wonderful memories they are. I’ve just had a quick browse through my online albums. Actually, the intention was to have a quick browse. I strolled down memory lane for over an hour. I have hundreds of albums with a total of just over 30,000 photo’s. I purchased my first digital camera in 2001. It had a massive 2.1 million pixels and cost £1,000. These days, the most basic mobile phones have higher resolution cameras.

I bought that first camera when my three boys, Blake, Brad and Brook were 7, 5 & 3 respectively. It was at a time when I got on reasonably well with my then wife and at a time when the boys were growing rapidly and changing almost daily. I can’t remember much about events from that period, or any other significant period of my life… until I look at the photo’s. Then the memories come flooding back.

My ex wife was immovable when choosing holidays. The holiday had to be two weeks, had to be somewhere where there was guaranteed sun where she could lay for fourteen hours a day in the sun. She wasn’t lazy. Far from it. She managed to combine looking after three very active boys with her job as a very busy property lawyer. Holidays allowed her to collapse, rest and recuperate. I understood the need for her to take these types of breaks but they weren’t for me.

I’ve always enjoyed the great outdoors and like to keep active. By 2007 we weren’t getting on very well at all and had been going to the same camp site on the coast about 100 miles north of Barcelona for five years in a row. I started to take breaks on my own and recharge my batteries in a way which suited me far more than a beach holiday. I went hill walking in Scotland.

The photographs I took allow me to relive those adventures in detail. One of my favourite trips was to Ullapool on the north west coast of Scotland in August 2007. I drove there from my Warwickshire home. I stopped off in the Lake District on the way there for an exhilarating long day’s walk on High Street and an overnight stay before continuing to Ullapool.

I stayed the night in an Ullapool B & B before being taken by taxi to Oykel Bridge, 30 miles north east of Ullapool. From there I walked back to Ullapool through the mountains. It’s a remote and stunning landscape completely devoid of human habitation. My first day’s walk was thirteen miles along a rough track in pouring rain wearing my new Paramo waterproofs. The rain didn’t get through but neither did the rivers of sweat I generated carrying a heavy pack while wearing thick waterproofs on a hot (for the Highlands) summer’s day.

I couldn’t have remembered the details without referring to my photographs. The photo  – click on it to show it’s full size –  shows my accommodation on that first night in the mountains. I had all my camping gear with me and enough food for a week away from civilization but I had read that there was a decent bothy by the side of the loch at the base of 3,000 feet high Seana Braigh.

Magoos BothyWith plentiful photo’s to jog my ailing memory, I can now recall the whole trip in vivid detail. I can remember how delighted I was when, wet and tired with aching and sore feet, I opened the door to the bothy to find that, not only was it in a very good state of repair, but it had also been stocked with luxuries by persons unknown with hearts of gold.

The bothy had an open stone fireplace but a fireplace is no good without something to burn in it. There was a pile of seasoned logs next to the fireplace and kindling and matches to light it with. On the mantlepiece over the fire where half a dozen substantial candles for nighttime lighting, a couple of packs of cards and, joy of joys, three different and completely full single malt whiskey miniatures.

I lit the fire, changed into dry clothing, hung my sodden clothes on the drying rack over the now roaring fire. I heated a Wayfarer ready meal then relaxed in an old armchair next to the fire, reading my book with the aid of a head torch and slowly and reverently sipped one of the little bottles of single malt. There wasn’t a sound to be heard apart from the crackling fire. No road noise (the nearest road was thirteen miles away), no air traffic noise (this area of Scotland is a long way away from any commercial flight paths) and neither sight nor sound of another human being. I felt a profound sense of peace and, thanks to my digital memories, I can recapture that feeling whenever I browse through the album.

The following day I left the bothy after a very late start, walked eight miles to another remote loch and camped almost within hearing of the waves lapping gently on the shore. I woke the following morning to the sound of grass being pulled from the ground very close to my tent. There were no sheep or cows anywhere near me so I didn’t have a clue what could be making the noise.

The culprit was a magnificently antlered stag, peacefully grazing less than ten feet from my tent. I didn’t dare move to get my camera in case I disturbed it but I remember the encounter clearly thanks to the photo’s I took either side of the chance meeting.

Why am I spending so much time telling you about one of my walking holidays when this blog is supposed to be about narrowboats, canals and rivers? Because cruising the network is an adventure, and adventure you’ll want to cherish if you’re ever forced to hang up your windlass for the last time.

I haven’t started to cruise the network in earnest yet but the little cruising I have done has been recorded in detail. I’ve recorded my cruises by taking plenty of photo’s and by taking plenty of notes in the form of this written blog.

I’ve been taking photographs ever since I’ve had children. The first eight years I used a film camera but I didn’t use it very much. I didn’t really know what to do with the camera so the results were poor and very expensive to have printed. My results weren’t much better when I switched to digital cameras, but at least there was no heavy printing costs to put me off taking the photo’s in the first place.

Over the years I’ve bought dozens of books and enrolled on web based courses but the very best tuition I’ve ever received has been a fantastic downloadable package called 123DI (The 123 of Digital Imaging). It contains over 4,000 pages of step by step instructions and tutorials. Since I started using it, not only have I seen a huge improvement in the quality of the photo’s I’ve taken (and therefore the memories I’ve captured for the future), but I’ve also understood why the improvements have happened and what to do in most situations to ensure that I nearly all of my Charlie on board Jamesphoto’s will stand the test of time. I love taking photo’s of my beloved springer spaniel Charlie. I’ve just taken one now and, using the the knowledge learned from 123DI, I’ve focused on his stunning eyes to make them stand out more. You can click on the image to see the full size photo.

If you want to take high quality photo’s with just about any camera and regardless of whether you are at the beginner, intermediate or advanced level of digital photography, 123DI is an essential guide. You can download an evaluation version of 23DI here.

There are some great tools available for managing and storing your digital images. I use Picasa from Google for organising my digital images and Google Drive for storing them. I used to have 30,000+ digital images stored on an external hard drive. After less than 12 months the hard drive failed. I had a quote of £400 to try to recover the lost images. I decided not let them try because (A) I couldn’t afford it and (B) all of my images are backed up to Google Drive the second they are added to my laptop’s hard drive. All of my photo’s were safely backed up, even if they weren’t backed up at quite as high a resolution as the originals. My 20GB of storage with Google costs me a ridiculously low $5 a year!.

Finally, I use and recommend online publisher Blurb. You can publish your own books, complete with photo’s and text, at a very low cost. I’ve been using them for about five years now. I’ve created several photo journals documenting regular events as my boys developed. One of them, a 400 page coffee table sized book, cost just £50 to have printed and shipped from the USA (Blurb have since opened a branch in the UK). The books were loved and admired by all family and friends who browsed through them and are treasured by me.

Blurb Book CaptureHere’s a screen capture of one of the books (Click it to see the full size capture). Just looking at the two photo’s here bring memories flooding back. I can tell from the caption on the photo that the event was a football match on Sunday 1st February 2009 in Balsall Common. Seeing the driving snow in the photo reminds me of how bitterly cold the day was and how cold my son Blake was (on the left in the red striped top).

The photo on the right was taken just four days later on Wednesday 5th February. Heavy snow brought the country to a standstill. There must have been at least an inch on the road. The schools of course were closed so I had to stay off work to look after the boys. We went to a nearby nature reserve and built this snowman. The little fella sitting in front of the snowman is my youngest son Brook. I made him sit there because he had added a very impressive but totally unacceptable additional appendage to the snowman.

These photographic memories are invaluable to me. If you don’t already have a camera, and you don’t have the gift of total recall, I urge you to go out and get one as soon as you can.

I am in the process of adding my cruising photo’s and notes to another book. I know that this book and others like it will be among my most treasure possessions in the dim and distant future when I’ll be forced to sit with a rug on my knees next to a fire and remind myself what a wonderful life I’ve had.

Our Nige And His Cruising Blog

Nige bought himself a narrowboat this year. He wrote some very entertaining blog entries about his journey back to his new mooring when he first purchased his boat. He’s been out and about again, this time he’s gone solo. Nige is very good at translating his experience into the written word. Grab yourself a coffee, settle down and read about his latest adventure. There are plenty of photo’s to keep you entertained too. There’s a full list of all of the posts he’s written below. The last eight are his latest solo trip.

Suggestions Please!

I’ve been writing regular newsletters for a couple of years now. During the first year they were every two weeks or so. To be honest, the frequency was a bit hit and miss. My New Year’s resolution, and one that I’m delighted to say that I’ve kept, was to send out a newsletter every Sunday, rain or shine. The hardest part of the process isn’t the writing itself, it’s constantly thinking of new content. The trouble is, I don’t know what you want to read. I think I keep the newsletters reasonably interesting but I don’t know for sure. That’s where I need your help.

Can you let me know what you would like to read in the future? Are there any areas of narrowboat life you don’t think I’ve covered enough or areas which I’ve missed completely? Please let me know what you want to read about. Thanks for your help.

New Kindle Narrowboat Guide

In the last few newsletters I’ve mentioned my new guide Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles. It’s a free download as a PDF here. It’s also no available on Amazon as a Kindle download. I’ve tried to make it available free of charge but I can’t work out how to do it so it’s been published at the lowest price setting of £1.99. The Kindle edition is here.

 Newsletter Index

I created the site just over three years ago to provide a source of information for anyone interested in narrowboats and the possibility of living on one full time.  The site has grown to encompass a comprehensive listing of inland marinas in England and Wales, dozens of articles, a forum and regular newsletters. I’ve already created (below) indexes of the site articles and the more popular forum posts. I thought it was about time I created an easy to use index of the newsletter content. Here’s the index so far. I’ve managed to reach the end of 2012. I’ll add the rest next week.

11th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

8th January 2012

The first four narrowboat case studies published

I’ll start with myself; Paul Smith, living on my own, moored in a marina and working full time. Narrowboat James case study

Meet Peggy. She has a husband and two small children, works full time and cruises the network during the summer months. Narrowboat Violet Mae case study

Fancy spending your retirement cruising the waterways of England and Wales? Meet Barry and Sue Horne. They’re living the dream! Narrowboat Adagio Case Study

Here are another working couple. Lina and Warren cruise the cut with their two cats.Narrowboat Olive Rose case study.

22nd January 2012

Two more case studies. One of them waxed lyrical about life on the waterways and enjoyed every minute of her life afloat. Now she’s selling up to follow another dream in Spain.

4th March 2012

Reviewed: The Liveaboard Guide by Tony Jones. A great guide to living afloat

eBay Narrowboat scam (and a little bit of flack for me from another forum)

Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat

A review of Debdale Wharf marina

18th March 2012

The downside of living on a narrowboat – This was a very controversial post. Liveaboard Pauline Roberts wrote about the less pleasant aspects of life afloat… and attracted a storm of comments

Case study: The Woodsman – Pauline Roberts again giving an insight into the life that you may think she doesn’t like.

 1st April 2012

As a result of the article about the downside of living on a narrowboat published in the 18th March newsletter, I asked liveaboard narrowboat owners to complete a survey to give a balanced view of the issues raised by Pauline. Here are the survey results and a much more positive article by liveaboard narrowboat owner and frequent forum contributer Peter Early.

15th April 2012

Life on the river Cam – A guest article on the pleasures of river life by wide beam liveaboard Luther Phillips

Case Study – Freelance writer Anne and her South African farmer partner John reveal all

Case Study – Toni cruises constantly with ex husband Allan. They cruise together but they live apart… on separate boats

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

13th May 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I’ve broken down the complete cost of painting your own boat and

Dealing with wind on the river – A guest article from liveaboard narrowboat owner Alan Cazaly

27th  May 2012

How to clean your stove glass – One of the real pleasures of a living fire is watching the flames on a cold winter’s eve. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you can actually see the fire.

Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

18th September 2012

I published my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat. When this newsletter was published it was only available as a Kindle edition. Now it’s available in both Kindle and PDF format and is bundled with Narrowbudget, the site’s bespoke narrowboat budgeting application.

VAT on narrowboat sales

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

28th October 2012

An unscheduled dip in the marina prompted me to write about safety on the waterways

Living on a narrowboat – Through the eyes of a young lady who would clearly prefer to be somewhere else

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

2nd December 2012

Low cost narrowboat ownership – A low cost solution to the problem of funding your first narrowboat

Solar power – All you need to know about installing solar panels on your boat. Written by the inland waterways most popular solar system installer

Case Study – Mr. Solar Panel Tim Davis writes about life on board his own narrowboat

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

24th December

Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis

I asked newsletter subscribers to send me detailed breakdowns of their bricks and mortar expenses so I could compare them with the cost of running a narrowboat. Quite a few subscribers obliged. I added the breakdowns to my narrowboat costs guide and the budgeting application.

8th January 2013

Case Studies – I put together 21 of the best case studies and analysed and summarised the data in this low cost guide. If you want ton save yourself hundreds of hours of research and costly mistakes, you need to read this guide.

Case Study – Mike’s circumstances are similar to my own. He moved onto his boat after a failed marriage. He’s upgraded from a 27′ GRP cruiser to a 50′ narrowboat

20th February 2013

The real cost of going cheap. An in depth look at the cost of my 36 year old boat, and how much I spent (and still need to spend) before it will be a comfortable full time cruising boat.

3rd March 2013

Stove fuel test – What works best; coal, wood, briquettes or something else entirely – Here’s my own take on a Waterways World test

Essential stove maintenance – Here’s what you need to do to make sure that your stove always performs well.

Internet connectivity – I use the internet four or more hours every day. This is the setup I have on my boat to make sure that I’m always connected.

Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

17th March 2013

Where can you find residential moorings? Here’s a great place to start

Getting rid of unwelcome visitors – Geese used to regularly disturb a peaceful night’s sleep where I moor. Not any more. Here’s my solution

Know your narrowboat costs – Detailed costs for my own boat for February 2013

Half a dozen boaters now have access to their own blog section on the site. You can too. Here’s how.

24th March 2013

Here’s an example of what happens when you really don’t understand how your narrowboat works.

Essential boating equipment – Here’s a low cost item which has paid for itself over and over again.

Whilton marina boat sales – Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. This alleged fact about the boat sales at Whilton has come to me from several different sources.

31st March 2013

Case study – Sarah lives on wide beam Antioch on the Leeds Liverpool canal. She can do man things with her hands. Here’s her story.

Be inspired – There are always reasons why you don’t make the move from bricks and mortar to steel and water. Here’s an anecdote which demonstrates once and for all that there really aren’t any worthwhile excuses.

7th April 2013

Narrowboat security – A spate of burglaries from boats and a break in at my former family home encouraged me to write this article

Case study – You need to committed to sell your home to fund the purchase of your narrowboat. That’s what Mick and Marlene have done.

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

21st April 2013

The Trust target illegal moorers but just what does the Trust consider to an illegal mooring?

Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop

RCR engine servicing – River Canal Rescue (RCR) are well known as the waterways equivelent of the AA but did you know that they will also come to your mooring to service your boat?

28th April 2013

Narrowboat blogs – My own first cruise, Our Nige takes his new home on its maiden voyage and a chance for you to have your very own blog section on this site.

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

12th May 2013

An encounter with a wide beam boat and why they aren’t suitable for much of the canal network

An interview with the Trust’s head of boating. Sally Ash talks about the Trust’s approach to the thorny issue of residential moorings

19th May 2013

My comments about an encounter on the Oxford/GU section between Napton and Braunston sparked a debate about the pros and cons of wide beams on the cut.

Keeping dry – You don’t really need to limit your cruising to sunny summer days. There’s something very special about standing on the back deck in the pouring ran protected by a set of bomb proof waterproofs.

Do you really need a car? Living on a narrowboat is all about enjoying a simple and stress free life. Sally and I had a car each. Mine cost £2,000 to run in the previous 12 months so I decided to get rid of mine to see if I could manage without one.

26th May 2013

Laptop hacking – An update on the problems I encountered after buying a brand new laptop which I suspect was tampered with before I bought it.

Diary of a new narrowboat owner – Frequent forum poster “Our Nige” finally moved on to his new floating home. Here’s his story

2nd June 2013

An encounter with two poorly prepared holiday boaters and my own impending two week cruise encouraged me to put together a pre cruise check list

9th June 2013

I was on holiday for the first two weeks of June. Sally and I cruised from Calcutt to Braunston, north along the north Oxford where we joined the Coventry canal briefly before taking a very sharp right turn onto the Ashby canal. Here’s a daily report of the first week of our holiday.

16th June 2013

The Ashby canal cruise part two – We spent a bit more time on the Ashby before heading south again, joining the Coventry canal, this time following it into Coventry’s rather depressing and disappointing city centre, then retracing our steps back to Calcutt

Most popular narrowboat names – Here’s the definitive list of the top 200 most popular narrowboat names and a resource you can use to find out if any other boat has the same name as yours

Considerate boating – An article prompted after a near head on collision with another boat trying to avoid a fallen oak.

23rd June 2013 – The cost of a two week cruise. If you live on your own boat, what’s the real cost of taking it away for a two week break?

Case Study – Mary Anne swapped dry land home rental for floating home ownership. Now she loves life afloat and works from home.

Life as a continuous cruiser – The Holy Grail of narrowboat ownership. The ability to travel where and when you like. Peter Early tells all.

30th June 2013

Keeping your stove glass clean – Maybe you think it’s an odd subject for the summer but you can’t trust the English weather. Late June and the stove was still on now and again. At least now I have a crystal clear view of the fire I shouldn’t need to light.

Traffic chaos caused by Braunston’s historic boat rally – On a day with high winds and a canal full of working boats returning home after the rally, I had the pleasure of taking some very nervous hirers out on the cut.

7th July 2013

Anticipating winter weather – You may well be enjoying unusually warm winter weather but the winter will be with us all too soon. Now is the time that you need to plan for the cold weather ahead.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

21st July 2013

Hire boat expectations – Fully understanding what facilities will be available to you is essential if you’re going to enjoy a narrowboat holiday. Here’s what not to do.

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

4th August 2013

The perfect narrowboat washing machine? – It’s low cost and doesn’t need plumbing in, but does it actually clean clothes?

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How much does living the life of a water gypsy really cost?

11th August 2013

A free download – Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles

Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How one liveaboard boater manages on a shoestring

18th August 2013

CART Guide Approval – The waterways’  governing body is now promoting the information packages available from this site. Yippee!

Narrowboat Insurance – A summary of insurance quotes from the major narrowboat insurers

Liveaboard Case Study – Keith and Nicky downsized their property in Jersey, used the released capital to buy their 57? “go anywhere” narrowboat and now live on their boat full time while they continuously cruise the canal network. They’re ridiculously young to retire, and I’m very, very jealous

Downsizing from a 3 bed semi to a narrowboat – What do you do with a lifetime’s accumulated possessions?

25th August 2013

Effective fly killers for boats

The downside to living on a narrowboat

Liveaboard Case Study – American Richard Varnes has taken a year out from work to cruise the canal network and write about his adventure. Here’s his case study and a few stories from his journey so far.

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

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.

  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • 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.



Useful Information

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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.