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2013 11 10 Newsletter – Narrowboat Running Costs

Living on a Narrowboat News 10th November 2013

I’m going to discuss narrowboat running costs this week.  There’s a huge amount of free information on this site but there are also one or two products which I offer for sale. One of them is a package which goes into great detail about the cost of buying and maintaining a boat on the inland waterways network.

Income from the sale of these products helps me to maintain and further develop the site so I spend some time each week promoting the products. About a year ago I uploaded a five minute video to YouTube to help generate more visitors to the section of the site where I sell my guides.

YouTube allows unmoderated comments. Many comments have been posted on my video. Sadly, quite a few were racist (Sally is from the Philippines) and many were just plain unpleasant but there were some which offered constructive criticism.

One comment suggested that, because my video was a blatant advert and offered very little helpful information, I should watch some of the videos made by twenty five year old Daniel Brown on the subject of living on a narrowboat. I was told that he has a particularly good video detailing narrowboat running costs.

Since then I’ve watched that particular video plus a few more in his narrowboat series and I’ve read his Kindle book, The Narrowboat Lad. I thoroughly enjoyed his book. It covers the purchase of his 30′ narrowboat Tilly and his adventure as he takes it to his home base near Oswestry. It’s an honest and very enthusiastic account and only costs £1.50.

His videos are also unquestionably well meaning and entirely positive about living a life afloat. I think they are a little misleading though. Take his ten minute video on narrowboat running costs for example…

Dan lives on a 30′ narrowboat with a cruiser stern. His internal living space is tiny. His cabin is just 15′ long (compared to the 47′ cabin on my own boat). Dan, as far as I know, is a young single bloke who’s happy living a very simple life with virtually no material possessions. I take my hat off to him. I like a few creature comforts and although there isn’t much space on my own boat there’s nearly three times as much as Dan has on his boat. I think that very few people would be happy living such a spartan existence in such a confined space.

Dan details a few costs in his video. He says that the two major costs are the boat’s annual license and the cost of insurance. I agree with him about the license cost being one of the two major ongoing expenses, but not the insurance.

By far the largest ongoing cost for most boaters is their mooring fee. Dan says in his video that moorings are based on the length of the boat and the fee for his boat is just £64 per month and that he pays for moorings for just two or three months of the year over the winter.

Some marinas offer moorings on the boat length but many mooring fees are determined by the pier length. At Calcutt we have two marinas; twenty five year old Locks marina and seven year old Meadows marina. Locks marina is charged at 67p per foot per week so Dan would pay £87 per month for his 30′ boat. Moorings on Meadows marina are charged by pier length rather than by boat length. A 60′ pier costs £2,300pa or £191.67 per month. There are also 70′ piers available for £2,683pa or £224 per month. These moorings are rarely available to rent by the month though and they are not available for anyone living on their boat.

Dan only quotes figures for winter moorings. In his book and in many of his other videos on YouTube he talks about the joy of being able to move his floating home wherever he likes and of the logistics involved in commuting to work from his varying locations. Unfortunately by cruising backwards and forwards along the canal to stay close to work Dan isn’t complying with CRT’s rules for cruising. He is either supposed to register a home mooring with them or comply with their continuous cruising guidelines by continuing on a progressive journey. CRT is clamping down on boat owners who aren’t following the rules so unless Dan complies he’s likely to receive some unwanted calls from them.

In reality, rather than under £200 he currently pays for winter moorings, if he needs to stay in one spot so that he can commute to work, he needs to find a permanent residential mooring and pay four times his current total for mooring for a full year. If you are going to be living on your boat, and if you need to stay close to work, in reality you are going to be living on a boat closer to sixty than thirty feet. In reality your mooring fees are going to be closer to £2,000 than £200.

Dan then talks about his diesel costs. He says that he pays about £1 a litre so the cost to fill his 150 litre tank is £150. His diesel is much cheaper than it is here. A litre of diesel at Calcutt on a 60/40 split (60% propulsion/40% heating) is £1.25 per litre. Dan points out that his costs are low because he doesn’t travel much and because he doesn’t often have to run his engine to charge his batteries. Dan’s circumstances are unusual and probably won’t apply to you.

His boat has a tiny cabin and very few electrical requirements. He doesn’t have any power hungry electrical devices on board. I don’t think he even has an inverter so he can’t run any mains appliances. At one stage he didn’t even have a fridge. He kept perishables cool be putting them in his water tank.

The only electrical power he needs is for charging his phone and iPad and for running the lights and water pump(s). His power consumption from lighting is very low because of the exceptionally small cabin and because he sometimes uses candles for lighting.

I’m not saying that I’m right and Dan is wrong but I couldn’t live like that. Dan doesn’t have a television. I didn’t for the first year and a half I lived on board. I resisted getting one. I told myself that I much preferred sitting quietly either reading a book or listening to the radio. Sally changed my mind for me. After a couple of months of visiting me on the boat she summed up her feelings in her normal forthright manner.

“Much as I like listening to music, it’s REALLY boring having to do it all the time. Don’t you fancy just sitting down occasionally to watch a bit of mindless telly?”

She’s quite right. On a long and dreary winter’s evening, much as I like sitting in front of the stove hypnotized by the flickering flames thinking deep and meaningful thoughts, sometimes I’m equally happy to watch an episode of Q.I. and let Stephen Fry clearly demonstrate just how stupid I am.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t spend that much time in front of the goggle box. But I do spend a fair amount of my spare time connected to t’internet researching and writing. My laptop is always on, day and night. I need constant power for it and for a selection of chargers too. I also need power, and plenty of it, for Sally’s two favourite appliances; the vacuum cleaner and the iron.

Because Sally likes to/needs to use the vacuum cleaner regularly throughout the day we tend to have the shore line plugged in much of the time so we end up buying far more electricity from the marina than I really want to at the delightful rate of 20p per unit.

Most liveaboard boaters have to run their engines for two to three hours each day to recharge their batteries.

Dan covers his utility expenditure in a sentence or two. He explains that a 13kg propane gas cylinder lasts him for months and months without needing to be changed. He qualifies that by saying that during the colder winter months he does most of his cooking and water heating for both drinks and dish-washing on his multi fuel stove.

Dan’s stove is an unusual design. The flue joins the stove at the top of the left hand side rather than the usual position on top of the stove so Dan has far more space than most to do his cooking and water heating. My own stove has very little space on top. I can only just manage to sit my Ecofan on top without it toppling over. I certainly couldn’t put any pans on it. The very popular Morso Squirrel stove has a bit more space but you would be hard pressed to cook a meal on it.

Narrowboat Running Costs GasDan also mentions in his book, but not in the video, that much of his “cooking” is heating soup. He gives the impression that many of his meals are takeaways. I’m not knocking his food choice. Each to their own, but I just want to give you an accurate picture of the costs involved.

I use propane gas for both cooking and for heating water on the boat via and on demand heater. We need hot water for two showers a day, five or six kettle boils a day for coffee for me, and toast in the morning for breakfast and a cooked meal for the two of us every evening. This year so far I’ve changed my gas fifteen times so, on average, I change my gas every twenty one days.

He mentions that water is available free of charge. It is. It’s either available on the canal at water points maintained by CRT – the charge for its use is included in your waterways license fee – or on your mooring as part of your mooring fee.

The one utility cost not mentioned by Dan is fuel for heating.

Heating fuel is a significant expense for most boaters whether they use diesel, gas or solid fuel for heating. I burned two tonnes of coal last year which cost me nearly £900. Your heating cost will be determined by the size of the area to be heated, the type of fuel you use and the effectiveness of your insulation.

Dan talks often about the pleasure of collecting and using windfall firewood for his stove. I’ve talked recently about the logistics of using wood to heat your boat. I doubt that the wood he collects is seasoned so it won’t produce much heat. He doesn’t need to produce much heat because he has a very small cabin space to keep warm. If the wood he uses is unseasoned, there’s a good chance that the inside of his flue is becoming clogged up with creosote.

Your liveaboard boat is likely to be much bigger than Dan’s so you will need an effective heating system and plenty of fuel. If you are unfortunate enough to be totally reliant on gas central heating, you’re going to pay a fortune to keep your boat warm. Two years ago I spent ten days living one of the smaller boats in our hire fleet. I used 38kg propane while I was on board or 3.8kg per day which works out at just under £8 a day to heat the cabin on a 45′ narrowboat. To put that in perspective James, with a much larger 48′ cabin costs me £4.40 a day to heat with coal. During the colder months I have to supplement the stove’s heating with two electric radiators for the back of the boat. These two heaters are too power hungry to run off the inverter so I’m about to have a central heating system installed. I don’t know which one yet.

Another cost mentioned by Dan is blacking. A narrowboat needs to have the hull painted (blacked) to prevent rust. This work needs to be done every two to three years. The figure Dan gives for blacking his 30′ boat is £550. This seems very high for such a small boat. At Calcutt we charge £6 per foot plus £195 for removing the boat from the water and then returning it once the work is done. If Dan had the work done here he would pay £375. My own 62′ boat would cost £567 if I asked Calcutt to do the work. James is due to be blacked again in April next year. I’ll do the work myself though. Calcutt will just remove James from the water for me. It’s very hard physical work but I can do it in a day and save a fortune.

The final figure quoted is £200 for general maintenance. That’s probably not a bad guide if you know your way around a tool box. I’m afraid I don’t. The simplest tasks seem to be beyond me. I have to rely on the professionals. RCR gave my engine a major service in April this year. The service plus a new impeller cost me £187. This was just a small part of my repairs and maintenance expenditure though.

I’ve also had to buy a new starter battery, two additional leisure batteries, battery leads, an inverter plus fixings (and the labour to install them), rubber mats for the front and rear decks, draught excluder, polish for the cabin sides and roof, traffic film remover for removing the muck left on the side of the boat by the chimney, a coolie hat, an Ecofan to help distribute heat from the stove, replacement LED lights, a torch for nocturnal dog walks, Hozelock connectors, bolt cutters for the weed hatch, a recovery magnet, a carbon monoxide monitor, three new fire extinguishers and a fire blanket, a new shore line, two mooring chains, I had the engine fuel lines rerouted and a pre filter fitted, a frame welded around the engine so the engine room can be properly boarded, a new bilge pump and float switch fitted, a new front and rear fender, spring clips for hanging up mooring gear in the engine room and a padlock for the rear doors to replace the one I threw in the cut.

In addition to the maintenance expenditure, we’ve also forked out nearly £1,700 for a 300w solar power system and new laminate flooring.

Most of these expenses weren’t absolutely necessary but they’ve allowed us an easier, more convenient and safer life on board. It’s horses for courses. Dan appears to be very happy indeed living in a very small space with virtually no material possessions. He doesn’t doesn’t have a boat full of thirsty appliances so doesn’t have to buy large quantities of diesel so that he can run the engine to charge his batteries and power his devices. He makes do with simple meals which he can heat on the stove which also heats his boat and some or all of his water.

The larger and more complex the boat, the greater the cost to maintain it. James is a fairly typical length for a liveaboard narrowboat. It’s large enough to allow two people to live in comfort and not too large to manage on the waterways and some of the smaller locks. I think I would feel claustrophobic on anything we smaller than we have now, especially with two dogs under our feet all of the time.

Maybe you would be as happy as Dan obviously is living in a pocket size narrowboat. Statistically, you’ll go for something much closer in size to James. Your boating cots will probably be similar to my own, so you’ll probably be interested in the next section.

My Own Narrowboat Running Costs For October 2013

Here are my bang up to date expenses for my own liveaboard narrowboat James. Not all narrowboat owners will incur the costs that I do. Many of the costs below will apply though so if you’re considering buying your own narrowboat, you need to be aware of the costs. You may wonder why I have included costs for items and services that aren’t directly related to running a narrowboat. They’re included because they are typical lifestyle costs that you may well incur. You can discount them if you want, but just bear them in mind.

Electricity: Each mooring has a 230v electrical supply which is charged at 20p per unit and topped up cards available from our reception.  I’m currently looking into fitting a central heating system to supplement my solid fuel stove which fails to heat the back of the boat. In the meantime I rely on two Dimplex 500w greenhouse heaters to provide a little extra heat. I’ve only just started to use them so the running cost hasn’t really affected my electrical costs yet. – £20.00

Gas:  I’m averaging one 13kg propane cylinder every three weeks at the moment. I replaced two this month.– £45.90

Coal: I get a better deal if I buy ten bags at a time. Ten 25kg bags of Pureheat last me about a month when the stove is on all of the time. It’s been on constantly now for the last week and will be for the next five months, apart from the period we will be away in February visiting Sally’s family in the Philippines.

I expect coal briquettes to be my main stove fuel again this year. Next year I should have a plentiful supply of seasoned wood available from the willow and ash I’ve felled this year. I’m looking forward to using fee fuel but I don’t get anywhere near as much heat from wood as I do from coal. Waterways World published the results of their own stove fuel test in the March 2013 edition of the magazine. Here’s what I thought of their figures.

I bought ten bags of Pureheat this month– £109.40

Mooring: Mooring costs £2,300 a year – £191.66

Maintenance & Repairs: There were no repairs as such this month but I record sundry boat expenses here. This month resisted the urge to spend on anything but the essentials. We’re saving hard for our winter break so we need to watch the pennies.

We had to buy a replacement companion set for the stove. Our old brush had about three bristles on it and the coal shovel’s handle had snapped off. Our new shovel is pretty sturdy so it should see us through this winter – £16.80

Total boat expenses for October – £383.76

Other expenses for October…

Of course, the boat expenditure is only a part of the cost of life on the boat. Here’s what we spent on our day to day expenses in February.

Internet: I’m still using the excellent 15GB per month mobile broadband service from Three – £17.02

Telephone (Mobile): Sally and I both have mobiles on contract and Sally has an iPad, also on contract. I’ve also included the cost of our Skype to landline/mobile calls – £79.78

Laundery: Calcutt Boats as two washing machines and a dryer for moorers’ use. We only use the washing machines. Sally hangs the damp washing inside the boat. It’s dry within 24 hours. The washing machines take tokens which we buy at reception. Each token costs £1 and keeps the washing machines going for 45 minutes BUT WE NO LONGER HAVE TO USE THEM!! We have  a low power twin tub on board which saves us about £20 each month  -£0.00

Groceries: We eat well but not extravagantly. The total includes £23.95 for wine £193.86

Entertainment: I love to read. I love my Kindle. It’s so easy to finish a book, use my laptop to browse through the Kindle books on Amazon, click a button and open my new book within a minute or two. I don’t read as much as I would like because of the time I spend adding content to this site. However, I still get through three or four books a month. Four books in October, plus a subscription for Lovefilm.com for unlimited DVDs each month – £27.79

Car: I’ve been without my own car since May so now we only have one car to worry about. Forty pounds for fuel. The balance is for two new tyres – £168.90

Tools: I’m not a great one for buying tools but I needed to equip myself properly for managing my growing wood supply. In October I bought a moisture meter, a chainsaw chain sharpener and a log splitting maul – £122.87

My total none-boat-related living costs for October were £610.22 bringing my overall total to £993.98. It’s been quite a low cost month but with our holiday looming and the prospect of fitting a central heating system, we need a few more months just like this one.

This is an example of the monthly expenses detailed in my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat. If you’re seriously considering buying a narrowboat to live on it’s an essential read. Some of the costs listed in this article are optional. You may be able to live on less than we do, but many of the costs that apply to us will also apply to you too.  Many potential boat owners mistakenly think that a narrowboat floating home is a low cost alternative to bricks and mortar. Nothing could be further from the truth. Please read the guide before you make a very expensive mistake.

The costs guide is now packaged with Living On A Narrowboat: 21 Liveaboard Case Studies and the Gold version of the site’s bespoke narrowboat budget calculator.

I’ve also just added a free bonus to the package. It’s a compilation of all the articles from the newsletters this year so far. The guide has over two hundred pages of indexed information about buying and maintaining a narrowboat to live on. I’ve added it to the package for today only. It’s a bit of a test. I’ll be removing it from the package later today and offering it for sale both on Amazon and elsewhere on the site. If you want a free copy you’ll have to get it today from this page.

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.

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 (April 2013) 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

8th September

A disaster – I inadvertantly deleted this week’s newsletter and there wasn’t a backup on the server. What a shame. It was all about the damage you can do to your boat if you don’t watch what you’re doing in a lock. You would have loved it!

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

22nd September 2013

A tragedy at Calcutt. Sudden Oak Dieback hits our 1,500 twenty year old oak trees

Forum private messaging – Now you can email other forum users from within the site

29th September 2013

The folly of using unseasoned wood as a fuel – Here’s essential information if you plan to use logs you find to heat your boat for free

Creating lasting memories of your cruises – Slightly off topic, but please bear with me. You’ll have some wonderful adventures as you travel throughout the network. They’ll be adventures worth remembering but will you remember them? I have a very poor memory but instant and total recall of all my cruises is just a click away.

6th October 2013

Managing your boat’s water supply. You can use your water supply as and when you need it when you live in a house with all mod cons. You can pretty much do the same when you’re on a marina mooring with a water supply just a hose length away. It’s a different kettle of fish when you’re on an online mooring.

Liveaboard case study – A prime example of mooring without a water supply on tap.

13th October 2013

On demand water heater problems – Discover a common fault with these water heaters and what you can do to resolve the problem.

Know your firewood – Not all timber burns well. Find out which is best and which to avoid.

20th October 2013

Condensation. It’s a common problem on boats. Here are a few suggestions how to keep your boat’s interior dry.

A new organisation for liveaboard boaters

27th October 2013

The wind chill factor – How strong the wind is blowing and which direction it’s coming from can determine how difficult it is to heat your boat. Here’s what you need to know.

Case study – Another couple from down under living the dream on the inland waterways.


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.

  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • 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.
CRT (Canal & River Trust) maintain the waterways. Here’s their site.
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.
Find out more about narrowboat running costs here.




Useful Information
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.