2013 12 29 Newsletter – Managing Christmas Afloat

My working year is over. Over as far as Calcutt Boats is concerned anyway. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll be spending quite a few more hours working on this site before I see the annual fireworks over Big Ben.

I had an exciting few days before we closed for business on Monday afternoon. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but it’s been a tad windy over the last few days.

We have three paint/repair tents at Calcutt Boats; two at the end of Locks marina close to the engineering and carpentry workshops and another straddling  the old single lock next to the new (80 year old) Calcutt Middle lock at the end of our wharf. We use it for refurbishing our hire fleet boats when the fleet is out of commission during the winter months.

Last Wednesday night the heavy duty canvas blew off the steel frame. The canvas has been there for years. It’s never moved an inch in all the years it’s been there but on Thursday morning when we turned up for work the tubular metal frame was bare.

Replacing the canvas and securing it took five of us all day. Just pulling the canvas back over the frame took an enormous amount of effort. The job would have been much easier if the collective bulk of the office staff had been available but they were all busy with essential pre Christmas tasks (mainly eating mince pies and checking Facebook accounts).

We finished securing the canvas cover at dusk on Thursday. On Friday I was off work and everyone else on the project returned to more pressing duties.

On Monday, our last day, the weather was awful. I went to work in the morning expecting to spend my last day felling the final few oak in the woods. The gale force wind and torrential rain put paid to that idea, as did a rather more pressing mission. The wharf paint tent was in danger of taking off again.

Although the canvas skirt had been tied down as well as possible, they weren’t tied down well enough to cope with 45-50mph wind.

One of the wharf staff, Rob, and I spent a couple of hours in the morning threading scaffolding poles into the sewn sleeve at the bottom of the canvas skirt and then roping them securely to the frame. It was an exciting morning with the wind trying to rip the canvas out of our hands while the horizontal rain soaked us to the skin.

I hope for a quieter afternoon somewhere more sheltered than the open wharf but I was out of luck. All of our hire fleet plus the four narrowboats we look after for the Royal Navy were on the moored on the wharf. Unfortunately for us they were moored too far away from the power points we needed to use to connect them to shore power.

Getting them plugged into the mains was essential before we finished for the Christmas break. All of the boats have cruiser sterns which means that rain can get into the engine bay after running off the deck boards. Surplus water is removed from the engine bay by the automatic bilge pumps. The bilge pumps will only work of course if there’s power to them. If there’s a lot of rain over the Christmas period, and plenty is forecast, if the batteries fail so will the bilge pumps so we could end up with boats with a dangerous amount of water in the engine bay.

We had a very good example of this a couple of years ago. The boat in question belonged to a moorer in Locks marina. One of our fitters noticed that the back end was sitting very low in the water as he passed in another boat. He lifted what was left of the deck board over the engine bay to find that the water level had risen over the bearers and half way up the engine. They batteries were ruined. The boat nearly sank.

We managed to pole the boat over to the slipway (the engine wouldn’t start) with water lapping at the top of the gunnels and the boat rocking in an alarming fashion. We managed to pull it of the marina before it became a plaything of the fishes but the remedial work cost the owner a pretty penny.

So we had to pull a dozen boats along the wharf closer to the power points in driving rain and a howling gale. Of course, as luck would have it, we had to pull the boats sideways on into the gale. Do you realise how much resistance the side of even a small narrowboat offers?

Moving the boats took us the rest of the afternoon and, naturally, as we tied the last rope on the last boat, the rain stopped and the wind dropped.

The wind dropping was just a temporary reprieve. It resumed with a vengeance later on in the evening and increased in force after Sally and I went to bed. We are used to a bit of a stiff breeze at Calcutt but this really took the biscuit. I swear that I was in danger of being thrown out of bed a couple of times, and not just by Sally for snoring.

The storm reached its peak just after midnight. The boat rocked, the rain lashed against the windows, the wind howled, and Sally howled too as she was treated to an unexpected still-in-the-bed shower.

The wind was so strong and the rain so heavy that, for a couple of very interesting minutes, sheets of water were forced upwards until they found the cracks around the closed hopper window in the bedroom before spraying Sally with icy rainwater.

Sally temporarily moved her bed to the front of the boat next to the stove and close to a window which didn’t leak. She left me laying in the wet patch. Why always me?

We’ve had a few pretty windy days since then but the saving grace is that they have been relatively mild. There’s not much chance of snow this Christmas!

The Practicality (And Desirability) Of Hosting Christmas Afloat

“What’s Christmas like on  a narrowboat?”, I’ve been asked a few times recently. “Do you sit down with a group of friends or family for a celebration meal? How do you manage in such a small space?”

I’m afraid the simple answer is that we don’t do Christmas on board James. It’s too much like hard work and, to be honest, neither Sally nor I are big fans of Christmas overindulgance.

Once upon a time I used to really look forward to a much needed week and a half off over Christmas. I had staff to manage, customers to keep happy and difficult to find payments to find for my bank and for Revenue and Customs. My business became increasingly stressful to manage and Christmas was a time when the world slowed down.

If I took a break from work at any other time of the year I was constantly worrying about what was happening in and around the business all the time I was away. During the Christmas break nothing happened at all. Everyone else was on holiday too. I could relax.

These days I have no responsibility at work at all. The worst that can happen when I’m away for a week or two is that I’ll come back to slightly longer grass. There’s no stress when I’m away from work at any time of the year so the Christmas break isn’t as important to me as it once was.

Christmas is more for children than it is for us olduns. It’s a time for far to high expectations to be dashed and for parents to plunge deeper into debt. I watched Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone over Christmas. The scene where spoiled Dudley Dursley exploded in a fit of rage when he was told that he only had thirty six presents compared with the previous year’s thirty seven reminded me of previous Christmas days with my own children. They weren’t spoiled children but but, like so many modern day children, they expected an extraordinary value and number of gifts to keep up with their peers.

Finding the space for presents and a tree to put them round, plus the space to sleep a number of over excited and expectant children is very difficult on a narrowboat.

Once the presents have been opened on Christmas day, the main focus is on Christmas dinner. Christmas dinner is better shared with a large group of people rather than just a select few. That’s where the problems begin on a narrowboat. There simply isn’t the space.

James is optimised for the comfort of two people, four at a push, and four is a push. Christmas is a time drinking to excess – or at least drinking over the safe drink drive limit – and consequently multi day stays. We have a fixed double on James for Sally and I and then the option of using two of the three bunks we usually use for storage for people to sleep in. The third bunk space is used as my office desk so we can’t use that.

Even if we had somewhere for our guests to sleep, creating the usual over-the-top Christmas day feast would be very difficult.

I used to do most of the cooking at Christmas. We usually went to my mother-in-law’s house for the festivities. Even though the house was a modest three bed semi, there was a huge amount of space compared to what we have on the boat. I would usually lock myself in the kitchen at about 10am with a huge selection of raw ingredients (and a bottle of good red wine) and emerge five or six hours later with enough food to feed an army.

Our kitchen on James is very modest. There’s a work surface shoe horned into the space between the hob and the draining board which, at 500mm square, is just large enough to take a chopping board. There’s another work surface of equal size opposite the hob above the fridge. The cooker isn’t quite full sized so there’s no chance of fitting even a modest turkey in it and there’s certainly no space to put anything else in the oven with the bird.

We have a standard waist high fridge with a tiny freezer compartment at the top. On the rare occasions when we overflow the fridge at any other time of the year we use the engine room, the coolest area on the boat, to store perishables. The fridge is just large enough to store food for the two of us for three or four days so there’s no chance of accommodating enough food for a festive mob.

Even though there is more storage space on James than there is on most narrowboats, there isn’t enough room to store the mass of utensils, cutlery and crockery needed to both cook and present even the most modest Christmas dinner. And even if I found room to store the vast array of serving dishes, plates and glasses, I certainly wouldn’t have the space to display them when full of food.

And then there’s the toilet.

We have a  Porta Potti Elegance cassette toilet. It works fine for us but it takes a bit of getting used to if you’re used to a normal household toilet where you can flush away your unmentionables with an unlimited amount of water delivered to the toilet bowl with enough force to wash even the most stubborn stains away.

There’s a routine to adhere to if you don’t want to leave a disgusting, difficult to clean mess in the toilet bowl. You have to introduce a little water into the bottom of the dry toilet bowl, lay a couple of pieces of toilet paper, crossed like a target, in the water, sit and strain and then, as quickly as possible, open the flap to drop the whole unsightly mess into the 21l waste tank beneath.

The process takes a bit of getting used to so isn’t ideal for those with a delicate disposition. It’s an interesting few minutes when we have new, none boating guests on board as either Sally or I take them into the bathroom to explain how to operate the toilet depending on the bodily function required. Their initial look of puzzlement turns to one of dismay as the instruction reaches its grand finalé.

Given the amount of eating and drinking done during the festivities, an effective and hassle free toilet is a must. Of course, many boaters have the far more convenient dump through toilets but even these aren’t ideal. The water used for the toilet’s flush is usually – not always – taken from the boat’s main water tank. The water tank holds a finite supply, unlike the mains fed household toilets, so the flush is limited to a moderate trickle at best. Blockages caused by the use of copious amounts of toilet paper aren’t uncommon.

Even with these difficulties to overcome, I’m sure there are boaters who host successful Christmas celebrations on board, but I’m not one of them. To tell you the truth, I’m appalled these days at the amount of money which is spent hosting a typical Christmas day. For example, take the last few days Sally and I spent with Sally’s daughter Maricar and her partner Ollie.

Maricar and Ollie aren’t wealthy but they have good jobs and spend, to me, a phenomenal amount on the finer things in life. We started the meal drinking Moet & Chandon champagne served with Hibiscus flowers then followed that with two or three bottles of lesser vintage but still prohibitively expensive Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The meal was followed by a ridiculous amount of alcohol. I’ve always enjoyed letting what’s left of my hair down with a drink or two but as I’ve matured I’ve started to resent the financial cost of a good night out (or in) and the cost to my health the following day.

To get the party going we downed double shots of Jack Daniels with honey, Wild Turkey and Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur. Then we progressed to cocktails. We had a quick mojito followed by a couple of slow Old Fashioneds.

I think I enjoyed the evening but I’m not really sure what went on. All I know for certain is that the following day was very painful, and not just because of the rare and very unsettling hangover I experienced.

Once we had all at least partially recovered from the “pleasure” of the previous evening we decided, I think because we hadn’t spent enough money the previous day, to go to the cinema.

Have you been recently?

Four of us went. The tickets alone cost us £37. I had barely recovered from the shock when we were forced to pay another £20 for a couple of small bottles of water and boxes of popcorn.

The third and final shock was the film itself. I wish Walter Mitty had kept his life secret and not shared it with me. Sally was asleep in her chair within ten minutes. I managed to stay awake. I don’t know why.

The end result was that we paid nearly £60 to watch a film which would have cost us about £2 if we waited six months and ordered it through our unlimited £7.99 a month LOVEFiLM account. We also drank nearly £200 worth of alcohol the previous day and stuffed ourselves with too much food costing about the same amount as the drink. We also exchanged presents and cards which none of us need.

I have nothing against the concept of Christmas in as much as it’s a time for families to get together and enjoy each other’s company although, quite often, they don’t. What I object to is the expected and often unaffordable extravagance over the festive period. The Co-operative bank claims that most of their customers don’t pay off their Christmas debts until at least March and a staggering 22% don’t envisage paying off their Christmas debts at all during the course of the year!

I moved on to a narrowboat after I closed my business as a result of HM Revenue and Customs forcing me into bankruptcy. Although my accumulated debt was over expenditure on the business rather personal spending, the experience still drilled into me the need to only buy what I can afford. I don’t earn much money these days, but I don’t need much money to live happily.

Much as I enjoyed the over indulgence on Christmas and Boxing day, I would have been just as happy here on James just with Sally and the dogs. A traditional Christmas isn’t practical on board a narrowboat but typical owners of liveaboard narrowboats are unusual creatures. They don’t need “stuff”. They don’t need to spend money they don’t have as an escape mechanism for stressed and unhappy lives.

“Bah, humbug!”, I hear you cry. You may be right, but do you know what, I don’t care. Both Sally and I are supremely happy just being on our boat and living close to nature. Long may it continue!

Liveaboard Case Study – The Pearl

Tony and Jane Robinson believe in forward planning. They stated their narrowboat fund thirty years before buying their own boat. Now the two retired education workers moor in a marina for the winter then explore the waterways during the warmer months. Here’s their story.

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.

22nd December 2013

Narrowboat Storage Space – How much space is there to store your worldly goods on board a narrowboat? Here’s a video walk-through of my own boat James.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

Fitting secondary double glazing – Fitting the panels is a simple operation for those with the most basic DIY skills, something which I sadly haven’t developed. As you might expect then, the fitting didn’t go as well as it should.

Narrowboat videos – I launched the Living On A Narrowboat YouTube channel

1st December 2013

Secondary double glazing for your boat – The pros and cons of double glazing on a boat and why secondary double glazing is a much better bet and a fraction of the cost.

Living on a narrowboat vidoes – My first hesitant steps into the world of video production for site content

Can you either live or holiday on a narrowboat if you have a disability? – Here’s what you need to know.

24th November 2013

Winter fuel allowance – Do you qualify for one if you live on a boat?

Case Study – NB Progress. Kim Wainwright recorded her journey on the forum from nervous anticipation to current liveaboard boat owner. Here’s her story.

17th November 2013

Narrowboat central heating – I don’t have any. All that is about to change. Here’s the system I’m going to install and why I’ve chosen it.

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

3rd November 2013

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

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.

20th October 2013Condensation. 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

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.

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.

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.

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

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

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 inadvertently 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!

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.

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?

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

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?

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.

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.

14th July 2013

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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 equivalent of the AA but did you know that they will also come to your mooring to service your boat?

14th April 2013

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

11th March 2013

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

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

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.

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

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.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

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

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

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

17th October 2012

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

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

30th September 2012

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

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

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

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

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

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

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

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

29th April 2012

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

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

 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th 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

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

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Paul Smith

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

Julynian - Sunday,29 December, 2013

Hi Paul


How refreshing, we don’t do Christmass either on the boat or anywhere else for that matter. 


We also experienced similar at the cinema, with all the hype regarding the film Gravity and that watching in 3D was a must, we for the first time in many years decided to watch the film in the Odeon cinema in Bath. We were rather shocked at the cost to watch the film off peak on a weekday for 3 persons the cost was £42.00 which included 3D glasses. Not having visited a cinema for well over a decade we thought you probably get more for your cinema ticket cost these days. Well we should have known, not a bit of it, uncomfortable seats, no legroom and ridiculously priced extras. It was such a disappointment I actually wrote to Odeon complaining at the extortionate cost. Anyway it’s the last time we go near a cinema, I’ll be in a coffin first for sure. 

The film was excellent though from a 3D viewing perspective though, and superb cinematic scenes, but no real storyline. 8 out of 10 


We’ll stick with DVD and a 30 inch 12v tv 




Paul Smith - Sunday,29 December, 2013

Couldn’t agree more. Forget Christmas, stay on the boat and save some money. That’s the way to do it!


Paul B - Tuesday,31 December, 2013

No offence but there is many a happy medium between these points!

Christmas Lunch can be just a simple roast (aka Sunday Dinner rest of the year) and a glass of wine.

I think this time of year can be just as nice on a boat as on land.

We have just had a great Christmas… but nothing too crazy… family, nice food, and just little more booze than normal and off out for New Year with friends (if that’s what you like, but each to thier own).

I agree it can all be too much… BUT it doesn’t have to be.

And I’ve seen plenty of NB’s with full on decorations!

Anyway… it’ll soon be spring :)


Happy New Year to all.



Snow Goose - Wednesday,1 January, 2014

Have to agree with Paul B here. Each to their own. I quite like Christmas but not the over-indulgence nor the commercialism / capitalism of it all. Although we’re not living on the boat yet (mainly because it’s still in a shed in Newark with nothing but sprayfoam inside!) we’re “practising” for next year (oops I mean this year!). At our marina, they always have a bit of a party Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve so we can join in as much or as little as we like. Once on the boat, the reduced space will mean that we may celebrate slightly differently but just taking the boat out onto the cut and having a meal and a few crackers followed by a walk and a few drinks will suit us fine.

Anyway, however you celebrate, Happy New Year to all.

Dave & Jen


Julynian - Wednesday,1 January, 2014

Snow Goose said
Have to agree with Paul B here. Each to their own. I quite like Christmas but not the over-indulgence nor the commercialism / capitalism of it all. Although we’re not living on the boat yet (mainly because it’s still in a shed in Newark with nothing but sprayfoam inside!) we’re “practising” for next year (oops I mean this year!). At our marina, they always have a bit of a party Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve so we can join in as much or as little as we like. Once on the boat, the reduced space will mean that we may celebrate slightly differently but just taking the boat out onto the cut and having a meal and a few crackers followed by a walk and a few drinks will suit us fine.

Anyway, however you celebrate, Happy New Year to all.

Dave & Jen

Hi Dave & Jen

Possibly an XR&D fabrications build then? Good choice if so.


Snow Goose - Wednesday,1 January, 2014

Not quite. It’s being made by Paul Widdowson in New Ollerton. He used to work for R&D before starting his own business and a lot of the design is the same as R&D. We particularly like the fancy steelwork detail such as in the hinges and rails. If you are interested, pics are at boat.kashmir-arts.co.uk



Julynian - Wednesday,1 January, 2014

Nice one, I did hear someone started on their own. I’m pretty sure the quality will be as good. R&D under Ray & Shelia used to dedicate a single welder to each build and the customer would then liaise with the welder for all the finer points. This way the welders used to take pride in their build and even compete with each other on little design ideas and other subtle touches that individualised their particular boat We had some extra’s like seat lockers and built in bow diesel tanks. Other odds and ends as well. I heard the builder you are using is carrying on this tradition.

The chap who built ours is called Abdul and worked for R&D from when he was a kid and started there as a sweeper up I believe, Ray then taught him how to weld and build boats, some lovely welding skills and the some personal touches here and there made the for a lovely looking wide beam we now dwell in. He tried to go on his own but it didn’t work out for him, I did hear he was working for another boat builder now, so he might well be working for your builder now maybe. 


Anyway good luck with the rest of the build, are they fitting out as well BTW 


Snow Goose - Wednesday,1 January, 2014

Yes, we’re very pleased with the work to date. There is only Paul and his son working there so they do everything between them. Their welding is exceptional and the design includes long swims which in theory make the boat better to handle. Time will tell! As for the extra, we have visited several times and had coffee with Paul whilst discussing extras, changes etc so this really will be a custom boat. We have had lockers at the back and seating along the back where the rail would be. He has put lockers under the seats too. Also because I’m tall, an extra long sliding hatch so that I’ll reach the bottom of the steps before the end of the hatch. Also hatches on both sides extra wide at 30 ins.

The fit out is being done by a friend of theirs who lives at our marina. He has fitted out several boats and always chooses Paul to build the shells. He’s up there this weekend putting the engine in. The good thing is that we have been able to be involved in the build of the shell and also will be involved in the fit out as we will be at the marina several times a week. 2014 is an exciting year for us!


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