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2013 11 17 Newsletter Narrowboat Central Heating

Before I talk about this week’s subject narrowboat central heating, let me just say a huge “thank you” for the many, many emails I’ve received offering Sally and her family moral support. I’m delighted to be able to report that Sally’s family are OK.

We tried and failed to contact Sally’s sister, Corazon, for four long and very worrying days. None of the houses have land lines a stone’s throw from La Carlota City on the island of Negros where Corazon lives. The island was completely without power for four days after the typhoon battered the island on Friday 8th November. No power meant no way to charge mobiles so no contact with the outside world.

Tacloban City was completely destroyed. An estimated 10,000 people have died in the city and on neighbouring Samar. The island’s population is still without food or water. The relief effort is being co-ordinated from Cebu City airport 112 miles to the south west of Tacloban. La Carlota City is just sixty five miles to the west of Cebu City. Given that the storm front was an estimated three hundred and fifty miles wide, Corazon and her home were extremely lucky to have escaped the storm.

Sally and I are both very relieved. We both naturally feared the worst when we couldn’t make contact after four days of waiting and countless frantic phone calls. Not only are Sally’s family OK, but the house has escaped without any damage at all. The family are all well, the house is in one piece, but they have potentially lost their meager income for the year.

The family, like many of the less affluent residents in the area, rely on the small income they can generate from the sugar cane they grow and sell. The wind and the rain have destroyed much of the crop. We don’t know how much.

Life in the Philippines is a struggle for many. The islanders have to cope with constant severe storms while they try and scrape a living from the soil. We are thankful that Sally’s family and their friends have escaped harm on this occasion but saddened by the news of the loss of their crops. We’ll see what we can do to help them when we stay with Corazon in February.

 New Residents At Calcutt?

We have a new visitor at the marina. We may have two.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had the pleasure of getting up close and personal with a grey heron. It’s very shy, unlike the mallards, moorhens, coots, and swans which are often almost within touch as I work close to the water on Meadows marina.

The heron is quite spooky. The other water birds are quite vocal as they conduct their daily affairs; the mallards quack, the swans hiss if I get too close to them, the moorhen croak, the coots beep but the heron just doesn’t say a thing. Not only is it very quiet, it’s also very still. It’s like one of those street performers, made up to look like a lifeless statue, completely immobile until you get too close and then startling when it launches into flight.

Actually, the heron doesn’t so much launch into flight as float away. All the other birds on the water, especially the geese and the swans, make quite a fuss as they struggle into the air. The swans, which are shorter than the heron but much heavier, need quite a long runway as they thrash at the water before eventually hauling themselves off the water. The heron simply opens its wings and floats silently in the air like a released helium filled party balloon. It’s a marvelous sight.

I’ve seen a single heron every day for the last two weeks. Last Saturday I saw two. They were flapping around each other like a pair of ethereal crane flies. I’ve only seen two together once. The rest of the time there’s just one. A solitary predator intent on its daily meal of small fish, frogs and voles.

I see it in the morning as I walk along the grass embankment on the west side of Meadows marina. The huge bird stands in the shallow water on the edge of the reed beds waiting for breakfast. I see it again standing in the shallow stream which runs from the reservoir through one of our paint tents. Sometimes it stands next to the marina access road looking for something to eat in the long grass.

The grey heron is a welcome addition to the already rich wildlife here at Calcutt.

Choosing Narrowboat Central Heating

I’ve spent much of the last week trying to decide which central heating system to install on James.

James, as you know, is quite an old narrowboat. When the boat was built in 1977 it was a wonder to behold and was at the cutting edge of modern technology. The Torgem stove fitted in James was a popular boat stove at the time but they’re no longer made and aren’t as good as the most popular narrowboat stove these days, the Squirrel from Morso.

My Torgem has a back boiler attached which feeds three radiators along the port side; one half way down the boat in my office area, a tiny radiator in the bathroom and a slightly larger one in the rear cabin where we sleep.

The radiators don’t heat the boat very well. I feel little benefit from the radiator in the office so, to keep warm in the winter when I’m sitting immobile for hours on end working, I supplement the heat drifting back from the front of the boat with a Dimplex 500w greenhouse heater. The Dimplex doesn’t produce a huge amount of heat but on all but the coldest days it’s just enough to supplement the heat generated by the stove.

By the time the gravity propelled hot water has trickled forty feet from the stove to our bedroom it has lost the ability to provide effective heating. The radiator, at best, is tepid. The fact that the bedroom is cold isn’t really a problem. It’s a little uncomfortable climbing under the duvet’s icy cover when we go to bed, but it soon warms up. The real problem is the damp.

We have a dehumidifier in the bedroom to deal with the damp. It does a very effective job of removing the moisture from the room but it’s quite expensive to run the 600w appliance when we’re attached to the land line and unpractical to run it via the inverter and the battery bank.

We need central heating on the boat to supplement the stove over the winter. Central heating will also make life much easier during the warm day/cold night period of the spring and autumn when we need a quick burst of heat at either end of the day. The stove is very frustrating to use at these times of the year. In the morning when we light the stove we don’t really feel much benefit from it before we leave the boat to go to work and then the stove continues to heat a boat which is already being heated by the rising sun. Central heating would allow us to quickly heat the boat for the short period we need it and then just as quickly turn the heat off when we leave the boat.

I’ve considered all the options open to me. The first to be very quickly dismissed was gas.

Gas central heating is very expensive to run. Many ex hire boats are bought by liveaboards. Most hire boats have gas central heating systems. I’ve spoken to a few of the new owners who are appalled at the cost of keeping their boats warm. Buying two 13kg propane bottles every week isn’t unusual and at a cost of £27 each from Calcutt, heating James with gas would cost me as much as £250 every month.

When James was taken away to have the new steel cabin fitted, I stayed on one of our 45 cruiser stern boats fitted with an Alde gas heating system. I used 38kg of gas in ten days or 3.8kg per day. The cabin on that boat is just under 30′ compared with a 48′ cabin on James. I stayed on the boat in November when the weather wasn’t particularly cold. The boat was warm enough but certainly not too warm. Clearly heating the much larger cabin space on James over the much colder months of January, February and March would be much more expensive.

Diesel Narrowboat Central Heating

With gas discounted I then focused on diesel central heating.

Calcutt Boats are the UK agent for the very popular Canadian Hurricane diesel heater. It is widely acknowledged as the best diesel heating system on the market for narrowboats. It is reliable, relatively easy and cost effective to service and can accommodate the central heating and hot water needs of the most demanding user.

It’s a wonderful heater but there are three things I don’t like about it.

The first reason and probably the one which has put me off most is the cost. It is currently (November 2013) £2,640 for the 7.3kw heater and a further £600 for the narrowboat fitting kit. £3,240 is way over my budget at the moment.

The official Hurricane blurb claims that it is quiet in operation. In reality it is anything but quiet. Steven Cox, our buyer, has a Hurricane fitted to his own boat, Whistling Kettle, which is moored three boats away from me. I can clearly hear the roar of his Hurricane exhaust when I’m inside James.

The Hurricane isn’t the only noisy diesel heater on the market. NB Nell moored next to me has a Mikuni on board. Unfortunately the exhaust is adjacent to our bedroom. Watson and Sue on Nell are out cruising at the moment but they’ll return from their last trip of the year any day now. Nell will be left on the mooring with the Mikuni turned on to provide frost protection over the winter. There’s a cold snap forecast from mid next week with temperatures as low as minus seven. I’m not looking forward to being woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of a jet engine taking off six feet away from my right ear.

The third thing putting me off the Hurricane is its size. It’s a big unit at 9″ high, 13″ wide and 19″ deep. It’s the size that it is so that the internal components are accessible for servicing which means that servicing can be achieved more cost effectively than some smaller, more compact diesel heaters. There’s not a huge amount of  free space in my engine room though so I would struggle to fit it in.

With the Hurricane discounted I then considered the Webasto Thermotop C.

The Thermotop C is much, much smaller than the Hurricane at 6.5″ high x 9.5″ wide x 4″ deep. It will easily fit into the available space in the engine room. It’s much cheaper too. About £2,000 cheaper to be precise. The price difference is the difference between me having a central heating system fitted this winter or waiting another year.

Unfortunately one of the problems with the Hurricane is also a problem with the Webasto. It’s noisy. However, I don’t think it’s anywhere near as noisy as the Hurricane.

I don’t think I can get over the noise problem unless I have a gas system installed. I won’t use gas because of the high running costs. Anyway I think I’m probably making too much fuss about the noise. The water heater itself will be in the engine room. The Webasto, like the Hurricane and the Mikuni, is noisier outside the boat than it is inside and it’s only noisy when the heater is on.

The only time I would be close enough to the heater and its noise would be at night when we are in bed. When we are in bed we don’t want any heating on so the noise won’t be a problem.

I’ve been told that the compact size of the Webasto means that servicing is more expensive. Rather than replace smaller parts when necessary as you can with the much larger and more accessible Hurricane, you have to replace much larger assemblies with the Webasto. I’ll have to replace a huge number of parts though before the Webasto costs me anywhere near as much as the Hurricane.

I’m very interested in the Webasto Thermotop but I wanted to hear from someone who had been using the heater for a while. I spoke to two owners.

The first was the owner of a boat moored about 50m from me. I stood chatting to the guy on his cruiser stern deck while the heater ran in the engine bay beneath us. He was very happy with the heater’s performance. I was happy that we could easily hold a conversation over the noise from the exhaust.

The second more clinical report was from Peter and Margaret Berry on board NB Kelly Louise. I contacted them after reading one of their blog posts about the Webasto heater.  I emailed Peter. Here’s his very comprehensive reply.

“Kelly Louise was first used in September 2004, and was fitted from new with an Alde gas central heating system, (the tall thin one). We found this to be expensive to use, ( 1 X 13kg bottle could be used over a weekend), and it was also inefficient, suitable only as background heat to the solid fuel stove. Eventually it failed prematurely due to a leak in the water jacket, which I now believe was due to a copper calorifier being used in the system, (Alde warn against this as they use aluminium in the boiler construction, and galvanic currents set up as a result of the mismatch caused the corrosion), so I believe the problem was due to an error by the boat fitters, not the fault of the boiler.

I researched what to do for the best, repair or replace, and then what to replace with. The quote for repair was £850, which included removal and stripping the unit completely. I chose to replace. The Webasto was my second choice – I would have preferred a Hurricane, but the cost put me off. The Webasto is about half the price of that I believe, but also less sophisticated.

However, the Webasto has proved very reliable in use, and can be used for lengthy periods, (the 1 hour timer of the standard unit has been disabled in the marine version). It has quite a hefty current consumption, around 3.5 amps if I remember rightly, but I do know that I have to limit its use due to this when we are not running on shore power and charger. K-L only has a small battery bank, (2 X 110ah lead acid deep cycle), and using the heater has flattened it on a couple of occasions before I realized what was going on. The Webasto shuts itself off when the battery level reaches a certain point to prevent damage to the batteries. Using it on shore power with a charger connected is no problem though, (the heater is 12V only in operation). I will get around to upgrading the battery bank next time I have to replace them.

My heater is a Thermo Top C, and it has 2 automatic operating cycles, full, and half output. I use it connected to 1 x large radiator and 2 x smaller ones through the boat, plus the calorifier. You must calculate the correct heater to obtain and use for your own requirements, as if it is mismatched to your system, the heater might cycle too often, and damage it. A Webasto dealer will assist in this. Webasto quote fuel consumption at approximately 0.6ltr/hr on full heat, dropping to 0.2ltr/hr on the cooler cycle. The heater swaps between the two automatically depending on the heat of the radiator fluid that is returned and measured back at the boiler. Also, when the unit is turned off, a cleaning cycle is performed automatically to help prevent a build up of carbon around the burner.

 In practice, we get a weekend’s use for around 5 litres of diesel. For example, last weekend, Friday and Saturday evening, I used the heater consistently from around 5pm through ’til 10pm on both nights, approximately. I guess a total not exceeding 12 hours use. I started with a full tank of diesel, and I put in 5 litres on Sunday morning to fill it to the brim again. I get this regularly, so it appears to match Webasto’s claim. In use, the heater is also much more efficient than the Alde, and can be run as stand alone heating. Since we have had the Webasto, we rarely light the Squirrel stove, unless it gets very cold, and we require heat overnight.

 We have the standard timer unit that is supplied in the kit, which offers 3 individual start times, programmed as you wish. A more complicated timer/programmer is available as an extra, as is a remote control that can be activated away from the boat via your mobile ‘phone. Kings Lock demonstrated this to me, and I was impressed, but not at the additional £250 it would have cost me to include it at the time.

 Overall we are very happy with our Webasto. It is a huge improvement over the Alde, and from what I can gather, if serviced annually, should provide years of reliable use.”

I emailed Peter again asking for more information about the running costs. He said…

 “In your circumstances I believe including the mobile phone remote could be your best option, as it not only reports by text the inside temperature of your boat, when requested, again by mobile ‘phone, but allows you to turn the heating on just before you want to return to the boat, thus saving fuel by not using the heater unnecessarily.

 I have included the original brokers information for my boat as a pdf file, which includes sizes and layout diagrams for you to digest, rather than explaining it. We bought it off the first owners in Feb 2009. My radiators are normal domestic types with a 5 foot in the saloon, a 2 foot in the bathroom and a 2 foot double in the bedroom. Not sure on the size of calorifier, but I get piping hot water within about 20 minutes of using the Webasto. The rads also get too hot to touch, where the Alde only ever provided lukewarm to the touch.

 After 2 season’s use, heading into the 3rd I am fairly confident in reporting around 0.5ltr/hr fuel consumption on average with a good reliability. We still turn the diesel heating off overnight though, leaving the Squirrel to tick over if very cold, protected by the CO monitor.”

I’m happy that this heater will work for me. The running costs are acceptable but I will have to increase my maintenance budget by the cost of an annual service. One or two helpful individuals who obviously don’t know me very well have suggested that I do the servicing myself. I know my limitations though and accept that my maintenance skills only extend to running a vacuum cleaner over it once a week.


The next step is to organise the installation. At least three days will be needed. There’s a fair amount of work to be done. The original radiators need to be disconnected from the stove’s back boiler and removed, the back boiler needs to be made safe, new larger radiators and pipes need fitting, the current gas water heater will have to be removed and then the heater will have to be fitted and connected to the radiators and to the calorifier under our bed.

The work is going to be quite disruptive and unpleasant if we are on board. I’ll schedule it for when we are away in February. Hopefully we’ll come back to a warm and cosy boat.

More Tales From The American Among Us

I’ve just added another article written by our roving American friend. Richard doesn’t just write about the canals he cruises on. In fact, he rarely writes about his actual cruises. He writes about the people he meets on his travels. In this post he writes about the dying art of butchery. I think his articles are fascinating. I hope you do too. You’ll find links to his stories, including his latest episode “Chilling With Rich”, at the bottom of his case study here.

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.

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

10th November 2013

Narrowboat running costs – I compare my own running costs to those of a prominent YouTube video blogger and detail my exact costs for October 2013

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.

  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • 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 central heating 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.