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Yearly Archives: 2013

2013 02 20 Newsletter

Living on a Narrowboat News 20th February 2013

2013 is going to be an expensive year for Sally and I. I’ve lived on James now for just under three years and, although I’ve made essential improvements, the boat needs a great deal more doing to get it to the standard that we want.

When I first moved on board at the beginning of April 2010, James was barely habitable. The rear cabin was virtually under water, the stove glass and flu was cracked which meant that the stove was unusable, and the original ply cabin top had perished to the point where rainwater would drip through the roof after anything more than a moderate shower.

James, freshly painted, back on its mooring

James, freshly painted, back on its mooring. Do the coach lines look straight to you?

In November 2011 I had James taken eight miles by road transport to a local boat builder – a journey that cost me £1,100 – where they overplated the original cabin with steel. When James was brought back to Calcutt, I blacked the hull while the boat was out of the water then, when James was launched again, I spent three weeks painting everything else.

After the new cabin was added and I had finished painting, James was fully watertight. The exterior looks pretty good now even if, to me, the coach lines look like the profile for Blackpool’s Big Dipper. The interior, aesthetically, is in much better shape too. I had some paint mixed to match the cabin’s interior Parana pine cladding so that I could paint over a few areas too badly water stained to sand out, the curtains were dry cleaned, the carpet steam cleaned and everything else cleaned with a large dollop of elbow grease.

We did as much as we could without spending a fortune but we’ve now decided to bite the bullet and upgrade James as much as possible.

We started in January by buying new curtain material. Sally made the curtains, and a fantastic job she’s done too. Material cost £286.70 for ten pairs for the regular sized windows, plus a single for the one bathroom porthole.

Narrowboat James new curtainsIn January we also bought a new mattress. I should have replaced it when I moved onto James. I don’t think the one that I inherited was terribly old but it had been in an uninhabited and therefore very damp boat for a number of years and had also been under one of the many spots where rainwater had leaked through the roof (resulting in some very suspicious looking stains on one side of the mattress). The original mattress was also quite soft. In fact so soft that it was causing Sally backache. We bought the new mattress from Argos. They delivered it almost to the boat. The roads were quite icy at the time so they would only come as far as the marina main car park. We had to transfer the mattress to one of the site vehicles the rest of the way. The mattress cost us £233.94 (reduced from £460) for a small double which is 6’3″ long by 4′ wide. Let me stray from the main subject for a minute and talk about beds and their sizes. I won’t take long and you may find the diversion very useful.

Narrowboats by name, narrowboats by nature. With an exterior maximum width of just 6’10” and in my case in the back cabin where we have our bed, an internal width of  6’4″ there isn’t much room for a fixed bed with mattress plus a passageway by its side. As our bed is four feet wide, we have a passageway 2’4″ wide through the bedroom. The passageway is wide enough, but with a standard double bed 4’6″ wide, it wouldn’t be.

Both Sally and I are quite slim. Sally is a size 8, whatever that is, and I am 5’10” tall and twelve and a half stone. Even so, a 4′ wide bed is quite a tight fit. If you are a little larger than us, and any taller than I am, you need to think carefully about the bed on your new boat.  The width of the bed can be increased to include the passageway by fitting an infill section of mattress on a removable or folding base, but they you need to consider where you’re going to store the extra bits when they’re not in use.

Back to the main topic: We wanted to make sure that the new mattress stayed in pristine condition. Our old mattress was often quite damp. It’s an often encountered problem on boats, especially where the mattress sits on the bed base. One solution is ensure that the bed base is ventilated. Ours was, but we still had a problem. We bought a Dry-Mat from Ship Shape Bedding. It works a treat. No more damp mattress, and no more £59 in my bank account.

Our mattress wasn’t the only damp problem we had. The bedding in both dog baskets was constantly damp too. Warm dogs on bedding next to the cold boat floor = damp bedding. We had planned to fit some anti slip matting on the front deck so we put some under each dog basket to allow the air to circulate between boat and bed. It worked. We now have dry beds for both people and dogs.

We’ve just ordered some more anti slip matting for the front deck to help protect the paintwork and manage the mess left by dogs with dirty paws. That’s another £87.60.

Now that we’ve fully embraced spending money hand over fist, there’s no stopping us. I don’t know how long ago the current carpets were fitted in James, but their replacement is long overdue. Narrowboat flooring is subject to much abuse. In a house, the area of flooring that is used most is the hallway. A narrowboat is just one long hall. I’ve steam cleaned the carpets on James now three times, but you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear. The carpets have had it.

A carpet isn’t the most practical flooring to have in a boat when you have dogs.  Our dogs, Charlie and Daisy, are generally very good. They don’t make a mess. The vast majority of the time, they’re clean and can be left for quite long periods between toilet breaks. Unfortunately, they’re dogs. They’ll eat just about anything that’s vaguely edible; sometimes with disastrous consequences. You only need one or two bouts of doggy illness before steam cleaning is neccessary and carpet cleaners aren’t the easiest of machines to manouver around a narrowboat.

We’ve decided to fit Colonia English oak effect vinyl flooring. The cabin floor area on James is 24 square metres. The cost of the flooring, including fitting is £640. We would have liked solid oak flooring but it just wasn’t either practical or cost effective to have it fitted around the built in furniture on James.

And then there’s the electrics. James doesn’t have an inverter. That’s about to change. We’re going to have one fitted on Thursday.

I’m fed up paying for electricity when there’s sunshine that I can tap into. I’ve asked Tim Davis from Onboard Solar to fit a 300w system with an MTP controller. He’s coming to do that on 8th March. He’ll be leaving with £995 clutched in his hot, sweaty little hand. He claims that the system will pay for itself in about two years which sounds reasonable as I’ve paid over £500 for electricity for each of the last two years.

And finally – for now – we’re going to fit an inverter. Today I was looking wistfully at the inverter on one of the shared ownership boats we look after. It’s a Vicktron 3kw pure sine wave charger inverter which can quite happily run power hungry appliances like vacuum cleaners, hair dryers and irons. Unfortunately at £2,300 it’s about £2,000 over my budget. We’ve decided to compromise. More about that later.

Oh, I nearly forgot! Sally bought me a new chair for my office. The one I’ve been using for the last year was a bit of a liability. It was an old typists chair donated to me by the office at Calcutt. To put it mildly, it had seen better days. The base was five supports radiating from the centre column like spokes on a wheel. One of the spokes was broken so I had to carefully position the chair before I sat down to make sure that the missing “spoke” wasn’t behind me. Of course, I quite often forgot which resulted, much to Sally’s delight, in me being catapulted off the back of the chair onto whatever was behind me. The new chair cost £80.

You may be wondering why I’m telling you about expenses I’ve incurred that may not be relevant to you and your boat. I’ll tell you why.

James’ initial cost was quite low at just under £20,000 and with very good reason. When James was built in 1977, she was the bee’s knees and a beauty to behold. Sadly, the passage of time and the lack of some much needed TLC transformed her into an unatractive shadow of her former self. However, James was all that I could afford at the time – actually more than I could afford – but more than that, the boat just felt right.

The ply cabin needed replacing, the rust on the gunnels crunched underfoot, the engine room was falling apart, there was no effective heating, the inside was extremely damp, the carpet was ruined and the electrics needed upgrading. You get what you pay for and James wasn’t worth much at the time.

James was in a livable condition when I first moved on board, but only just. I was using James as a static floating home so the engine and the ability to live “off grid” weren’t important to me at the time. I needed a roof over my head. James just about provided one. I moved on board in April 2010. The spring and summer were a pleasure as long as anticipated the rainwater pouring through the roof during heavy showers and laid my collection of pots and pans in the right place. The winter was a different kettle of fish. Oh boy, was I cold!

The winter of 2010/11 was severe. One night I recorded minus eighteen outside. The following morning I had a quarter of an inch of frost on the inside of the unheated engine room. My bedroom was next door. The morning temperature was just under freezing in the back cabin.

When I leapt out of bed in the mornings it was to put on as many clothes as I could. I would often wear two fleeces, a fleece hat and gloves inside. It wasn’t warm and it wasn’t pleasant. I spent much of my time sitting as close to the stove as possible trying to keep warm. The following two winters were much different after I had the original ply cabin overplated and more insulation sandwiched between the old and the new cabin.  I don’t really notice the temperature outside these days. I’ve just checked the temperature outside. It’s minus four, but I’m as snug as a bug in a rug inside the boat. Adding the new steel cabin and the additional insulation has transformed my life on board from endurance to comfort, but the transformation wasn’t cheap.

Insulating and waterproofing James was just the first stage of James’ necessary upgrade. I intend to use the boat this year for what it was built to do, cruising. But I can’t do that until I’m happy with the engine and I’ve added inverter so that we can continue to use the more important of our 230v appliances while we travel.

You can buy a narrowboat for relatively little money, but you need to make sure that it’s fit for purpose, especially if you’re going to live on board. You can survive on just about any condition boat. You won’t die, but you won’t have much quality of life either. You’ll see no end of decrepit barely afloat boats littering the canal side in many areas of the country. The boats, and the lifestyle of those on board, cost very little but, apart from the very few days in the UK when the days and nights are warm and calm, it’s not much fun.

The first on your list of essential requirements is that your new boat is watertight and that it will be warm enough during the periods of the year that you will be using it. As far as I’m concerned a good solid fuel stove is essential but you have to consider whether it is enough.

Painting your boat is hard work, requires a degree of skill to get a half decent finish or costs a fortune to have done professionally. As a very rough guide you can expect to pay £100 a foot so for my 62′ boat professionally applied paintwork would have cost over £6,000. Painting the hull requires very little skill but is very hard work and very dirty work. All of your steelwork needs to be constantly protected from the elements, as I know to my great expense. In total, the cost overplating the original wooden cabin on James was just over £10,000. The steelwork cost £6,5oo plus VAT, the road transport £1,100 and the remedial work another £1,000. Then I had to take three weeks off work to paint the new cabin.

The cost of the work was hard enough to bear, but the disruption was incredible. I had to find somewhere else to live while the work was done. Fortunately for me, the ever considerate Roger Preen let me use one of the out-of-season hire boats for three weeks, so I was OK with the accommodation. But the mess that I had to clear up after the work was completed was incredible.

All of the windows were removed from the original cabin prior to transportation then fitted into the new steel cabin after the boat was returned. All of the window openings were protected from the weather during transportation and while the work was done but in some areas they weren’t very effective. The boat was full of thick black dust produced as a result of grinding the sheet metal. In the dining area, red hot sparks had burned dozens of holes into an upholstered seat.

The remedial work involved more grinding so that the windows, vents and chimney flue could be refitted, and the manufacture of hardwood inserts between the old and the new cabin sides around the windows. It all made quite a mess. If you’re considering having substantial remedial work done after you move on board, please bear this in mind.

After all of this costly work, James still wasn’t ready for cruising. It’s not critical that I have 230v power when I’m off the mooring, but I want it. Maybe you feel the same way. I spend many hours each day editing this site, so I need my laptop. If I only had to think about my laptop, I would buy an adaptor that will run the laptop via the boat’s 12v supply, but we have other stuff too.

We have a Kindle, and iPad, a mobile phone each, chargers for batteries, and a television. They’re the easy appliances to accommodate. They use very little power. However, there’s the heavy duty appliances to think about too; vacuum cleaner, iron and washing machine. I have a simple solution to deal with the iron… don’t use one. Sadly, Sally doesn’t agree.

Before we met, I didn’t use an iron at all. I didn’t need to. I didn’t have many clothes but they were all chosen with care. Everything was very good quality but well suited to life on a boat. After washing and drying, I simply hung them up and watched the creases fall out of them. Sally had other ideas about my personal dress. It’s a woman thing. She wanted me in smarter, better coloured clothes. I have to agree that, when we go out these days, I’m far more presentable. The downside is that there are hours of ironing involved and I have to be careful getting on and off the boat so I don’t get my clothes dirty. After we’ve been out, I can’t wait to get back to the boat and into my good old crease free functional favourites.

The vacuum cleaner is a problem. We have two dogs and a solid fuel stove. The combination means that there’s plenty of dust and dog hair to deal with. A dustpan and brush doesn’t do the same job. We need a vacuum cleaner if we intend to go on any cruises longer than a week. One option is a rechargeable vacuum cleaner that we can run through the inverter. Dyson make some good (expensive) ones. We’re looking into it.

We also need a washing machine.

At the moment we rely on the washing machines at the marina. They’re a bit hit and miss to be honest. Their cleaning capabilities are adequate but no more than that. There’s also the inconvenience of carrying loads of washing to the shower block, hoping that the machines are free, and making sure that we have enough machine tokens to run them for the required time. We would both rather have a washing machine on board. We’ve identified a space where the compact washing machine will fit. There’s a 230v power point already in place. We just need to run a cold water supply to it from the bathroom six feet away.

The low power mains appliances are no problem. I’m going to have a fairly small pure sine inverter (1600w) fitted which will allow me to run them from the domestic battery bank, but I’ll have to think carefully about the larger items. Not only do I need a bigger inverter if I want to run these appliances from the leisure batteries, but I also need the inverter to be pure rather than modified sine to run the Zanussi washing machine that we want to use.  As I pointed out earlier, at £2,300 a pop, I can either have a powerful pure sine inverter, or another car. We’ll decide how to deal with this issue when we’re able to spend more time cruising than we do now.

James was a cheap boat to buy but it needed, and still needs, a great deal spending on it before it’s in the condition and has the level of equipment that suits us and the lifestyle that we hope to achieve in the near future.  When you buy your boat, consider what you want out of it. Work out how far the boat that you’re looking at is in terms of condition and equipment and how much it’s going to cost you to get it to where you want. You may find that going cheap is the most expensive option.

Liveaboard Case Study: NB Lucky Duck

Some people take to boating earlier than others. Amy and James have been living on their narrowboat since their early twenties. They love the lifestyle. In fact, they’re about to sell their current boat so that they can buy and restore their own historic narrowboat. If you’re interested in a ready made liveaboard narrowboat, you can find all the boat’s details at the end of their case study. You can read about their life afloat and their boat here.

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

Now that the forum login problems have been resolved, forum posts and visits have seen a dramatic increase. 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.

  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat – Narrowboat costs explained in detail. My own maintenance and living cost on narrowboat James for a full year. Use this information to work out your own costs.
Find out what parts of the canal are closed and for how long. Essential cruising information for you.
Do you need to find a home for your boat? Here’s a comprehensive list of the narrowboat friendly marinas in the UK
Do you want to see where these marinas are on a map? Here it is.
Here’s a map of all the canals on the system to help you plan your route.

 

Useful Information
Entertainment
Summary

A Case Study Of Liveaboard Narrowboat Lucky Duck

Amy and James have been living on their narrowboat since their early twenties. They love the lifestyle. In fact, they’re about to sell their current boat so that they can buy and restore their own historic narrowboat. Rather them than me!

Who are you? (and your significant other and, of course, your dog if you have one)

Amy steering Lucky DuckMy name’s Amy and I live afloat with my partner James and our cat Lyra

Tell me a little about yourself and why you decided to live a life afloat

Both of us come from families who enjoy boating but we came to love narrowboats through some friends who lived afloat. We both thought that it sounded like a wonderful way of life, so we decided to get one of our own.

What is your boat called and why did you decide on that name?

Our current boat is called Lucky Duck and it came with the name. We wanted to change it but it stuck! We are known as “The Ducks” to many! We are now in the process of selling it, to buy a historic boat. We wouldn’t dream of changing this boat’s name as it is part of the boat’s history.

Do you have a permanent mooring?

Yes, we have a residential mooring in Cambridge for which there is a very long waiting list – took us several years to get to the top of it, but it was worth the wait. We love it.

What is your boat style and length

Lucky Duck is a 48′ trad stern boat.

How long have you been a narrowboat owner?

Four and a half years!

How did you finance your boat?

We took out a marine mortgage with Royscot Larch

How much time do you spend on your boat each year?

We live on it full time!

Are you still working? (If so, what do you do?)

We are 27 and 25 respectively, so yes, very much still working! I am a research student and James works in a primary school as their IT specialist

What do you like least about narrowboat life?

Difficult! There’s not a lot I don’t like. But it is frustrating that we are not allowed to store anything on the bank next to our mooring so we have to keep our solid fuel in a garage 15 mins walk away.Lucky Duck

What do you like most about narrowboat life?

I like being off-grid and in touch with nature and the changing seasons, but the best thing is the community – boaters are such amazing people and we’ve made many firm friends on the water.

If you could change just one thing about your boat, what would it be?

Its age and history – we want to live on a historic boat and be part of its story. We hope that we will soon achieve this!

When you are cruising how do you resupply (How do you get to the supermarket without a car)?

We use Google Maps to locate the nearest one accessible by foot!

How do you do your washing when you are cruising?

Use Google Maps to locate launderettes

What type of toilet do you have on board and are you happy with it?

We’ve got a cassette toilet and I think it is the best type – it’s a cheaper and more flexible arrangement.

How do you connect to the internet when you are on your boat and are you happy with the service you receive?

Using mobile broadband – we use our mobile phones as wifi hotspots or use the iPad

What is your favourite canal or section of canal?

The BCN!

How do you generate electricity when you are cruising and how much do you use?

When cruising we use the engine, and when stationary we use our solar panel or the petrol genny. In the summer we are self sufficient for electricity.

How warm is your narrowboat in the winter?

Toasty warm, when the Morso Squirrel stove is going!

What advice can you offer someone considering living on a narrowboat?

Unless you will be continuously cruising, find a mooring before you find a boat. Don’t treat it as cheap housing because it isn’t, do it because you have fallen in love with the lifestyle!

What obvious questions have I missed from this list?

Collecting post? We get post delivered to my work address.

Type of engine? We have a reliable BMC 1.8 – simple and easy to service and maintain.

You can read about Amy’s life afloat here. If you are interested in buying the boat, the advert is here.

Are you one of the lucky few who lives the dream on board your own narrowboat full time? Would you like to share your experience with some of the thousands of potential floating home owners who visit this site? If you can spare the time to answer a few simple questions, I would love to hear from you. Just let me know so I can email the questions to you. I’ll create a post like the one above complete with a link back to your own blog or website.

 

 

Useful Information
Entertainment
Summary

2013 02 10 Newsletter – Login Problems Resolved

Living on a Narrowboat News 10th February 2013

It’s the middle of February. Can you believe it? The snowdrops are out, the daffodils are poking their heads through the recently frozen ground and there’s just a hint of warmth in the sun (when it’s out).

I always feel that the winter’s on its way out when I can find my boat without the aid of a torch when I finish work. I’ve reached that stage of the year now and it’s a great psychological boost. Before long, I’ll be sitting on the front deck for an hour or two after a hard day’s work. Not that I’m complaining about my work.

I spent all day yesterday moving part of our hire fleet from the wharf, down through two locks and into the marina. The Trust are doing some long overdue maintenance work on Calcutt middle and bottom locks from 11th February to 1st March.

Calcutt bottom lock is leaking so badly that more, often than not, mud flats are showing in the pound between the middle and the bottom lock. It’s not a problem for boats navigating the locks because the central channel is still quite deep, but it’s not very pleasant for boats using our temporary moorings there. So I spent my working day yesterday boating in the winter sunshine and shooting the breeze with fellow boaters at the locks. It’s not a bad way to earn a living!

Future Newsletters

I’ve been told by someone who knows what he’s talking about that I haven’t been doing anyone any favours by sending you pretty newsletters complete with photographs and fancy formatting. He told me that many of the intended rescipients wouldn’t actually receive it because of server restrictions and bandwidth filters. I’ve taken his advice and put the newsletter on the site with just a simple link to it from here.

Log in issues fixed

For the last couple of months, I’ve been waffling on about transferring subscriber details from one part of the site to another, why I was doing it, and the confusion that it has cause to some of you when you tried to log in. You’ll be pleased to hear that I’ve done it now. I’ve also found out why some users weren’t automatically logged into the forum when they logged into the site. It’s a quick fix but you need to let me know if you’re one of them. Please read this post to ensure that you don’t have any further problems. Please note that your login details are at the bottom of this newsletter.

Calculating your narrowboat maintenance cost is now even easier

The enhanced version of the narrowboat budgeting software, Narrowbudget Gold, includes workbook with all of my narrowboat expenditure for 2012. It’s a great way for you to find out the costs you’re likely to face if you’re new to boating. However, different liveaboard lifestyles mean different expenditure. I live and work at a marina. I don’t do much cruising at all and I’m very lucky to have both mains power and a water supply close to the boat. Also, because James isn’t totally self-sufficient with regard to electricity generation,and because I don’t have an on board central heating system, I have to rely on mains powered electrical heaters to supplement the solid fuel stove, which means that my electricity bills are quite high. In order to supply a more balanced view of narrowboat maintenance costs, I had added another workbook to Narrowbudget Gold.

At the beginning of July last year, I published the case study of James and Debbie Ward on their cruiser stern narrowboat Lois Jane. At the beginning of 2102 James and Debbie decided to take a well earned gap year after two decades of hectic work. They won’t be going back to that lifestyle. They’re going to carry on cruising the network for as long as they can.

James has kindly added a workbook to Narrowbudget Gold with details of all of his expenditure for last year. Many of his costs are quite similar to my own, but some of them are very different. By comparing these two data sets, you’ll get a very good idea of what your own narrowboat is likely to maintain. You can find out more about Narrowbudget here. (Please note that if you’ve already bought one of my guides, you should have received an email offering you a substantial discount).

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

Now that the forum login problems have been resolved, forum posts and visits have seen a dramatic increase. 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.

  • 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

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.

 

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Important changes to the site login process

Over the last month or so I’ve talked about changes to the site login process. I’m sorry if you found some of the instructions both confusing and contradictory. Logging in to a site should be a straightforward process. it wasn’t, but it is now.

This site is built using WordPress. It’s blogging software that’s pretty easy to manage for a numpty like me, but it has its limitations. I have an ever growing number of users needing access to guides they’ve purchased and access to both the Standard and Gold editions of Narrowbudget. I couldn’t manage the access sucessfully with WordPress so I installed a plugin for WordPress to do this for me. Unfortunately, the plugin has a different log in system to WordPress, but it has to be used to manage product access correctly.

If you have been a site subscriber for some time, you have probably been using the WordPress login below.

Wordpress Login

Please do not use this login form any more. The only function that it served in the past was to log you in to the forum so that you could make new posts and reply to existing ones, and to access and edit your profile details. Using this form, you would have entered your username and password.

The new form has replaced the WordPress form. You will find the link to it at the top of each left hand column throughout the site. The new form requires you to enter your email address and password. The email that directed you to this page contains your email address and password that you need to use to log in using this form. If you have landed on this page via another route and want to know your login details, please contact me.

The default landing page from the new form is your own home page. There are three sections to your new home page; the welcome message with links to the main part of the site, the forum and Narrowbudget, your affiliate details and your profile details.DAP Home Page - Welcome

Under the welcome message, you will see all the products that you have access to. Unless you have purchased one of the guides or access to Narrowbudget Gold, you will just see one product listed here; “Site Access”. There is a message under this heading which reads, “Sorry, no content found. This could be because no content has been made available to you yet, or because your access to this product has expired.” Don’t worry about this. All it means is that there are no restricted files connected with your ability to log in and log out of the site.

Once you have successfully logged in to the site and reached your home page, if you click on the link to the forum, you should see “logged in as yourusername” in the top left hand corner. This means that you are able to create new forum posts and reply to existing ones. If you see a “Guest” icon and a message asking you to log in to post, you are probable one of the older subscribers who has an existing user name within the WordPress login system. Don’t worry, I just need to manually sync your new login details with your old ones to get the two systems working together. Just let me know so I can fix it for you. It only has to be done once and takes me just a minute or two.

DAP Home Page - AffiliateThe section beneath product details is Affiliate Details. This section is probably of no interest to you unless you have your own blog or website that’s waterways related and you want to earn some extra money for simply providing a link back from your site to mine. The link in this section has your own personal code embedded in it. It will enable livingonanarrowboat.co.uk to track any visitors from your site and any purchases they make on the site over the following 365 days. You receive a 50% share of those purchases. If you have a site of your own and you want to earn a little more cash from it, please let me know.

The final section is your Profile Details.  You can ammend your profile details in this section, change your password and unsubscribe from the emails you receive from me. There’s a tick box at the bottom of this section which allows you to turn off your email subscription. Please note that if you uncheck this box you won’t receive any further regular newsletters.

Each of the newsletters you receive from now on will have a link at the bottom of the email “Manage your subscription”. Clicking this Profile detailslink will take you to your home page where you can unsubscribe if you choose.

It’s taken me a while to get to this stage, but hopefully logging in to the site and finding your way around is more straightforward than it was before but, as ever, if you have any problems, just let me know.

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2013 01 20 Newsletter – Your Homework for a Cold and Snowy Sunday Afternoon

Living On A Narrowboat News 20th January 2013Living on a narrowboat: The Real Cost of a Life AfloatIf you’re thinking of buying a narrowboat, especially one to live on, you need to know how much the boat is likely to cost you to buy and to maintain. This useful guide details all the costs I’ve incurred during the two and a half years that I’ve lived on my own narrowboat. You’ll discover the hidden costs when you buy a narrowboat, mooring fees, utility costs, propulsion fuel costs, repair and maintenance expenses and much, much more. Download your copy here.

“This is an extremely useful booklet for anyone considering living afloat. The author has covered all of the outlay that you are likely to face in an easy and straight forward manner. I have been considering living on a narrowboat for years but was put off by the unknown. Having read this I am more likely to make the dream come true.” Tigs, Amazon Kindle Review

Most of the time I really enjoy spending all of my working day outside. I haven’t been quite so happy over the last few days. On Friday we had 2-3 inches of snow. It was fun to drive on for the first hour or two before it compacted into a thin layer of lethal ice. The cruel east wind didn’t help either. I’m working on a project in our tip area at the moment. The tip was about of about an acre and was where we stored spare engines, engine parts, aggregate, timber and some old vehicles. We’re disposing of quite a lot of the stuff down there so we can reduce the tip area by about 50% and use the additional space for container storage for our moorers. The work involves using the site digger and dumper to move heavy items around and level the ground ready for the containers. Sitting on a frozen digger seat while exposed to the easterly wind isn’t very pleasant, but it’s such a pleasure to get back to the boat after a day’s work.

The front of the boat incuding the saloon, dining and kitchen area is lovely and warm thanks to the coal fuelled stove. My “office”, about twenty feet back from the stove, is a little chilly. I need a small mains powered Dimplex greenhouse heater to keep the chill off when I’m working. Further away from the stove, the bathroom and bedroom are quite cold. The wind direction makes a big difference to the temperature in different parts of the boat. The boat is moored facing west so the prevailing south westerly scours the port side of the boat, finding every gap in the windows and side hatches. When the wind blows from the east, it hits the back of the boat and finds the gap between the rear hatch and the back doors. Consequently the engine room is freezing when the east wind blows, as is the bedroom just behind it. I’m not bothered though. We’re lovely and warm in bed with a four season duvet and additional blanket.

The weather at the moment is unpleasant to be out in so it’s great weather for staying in and doing a little narrowboat homework. It’s the perfect time for working out how much your new boat is going to cost to buy and maintain. I’ve got thhe perfect tool to help you…

Online Narrowboat Budget Calculator “Narrowbudget”

Narrowbudget DashboardGreat news! Narrowbudget is now live. I’m really pleased with it. Software architect Phil Copper has done a marvellous job. If you have a website and you need it enhancing by someone who is skilled, professional and a pleasure to work with, Phil’s your man. You can contact him via a link on Narrowbudget’s introduction page.

In case you’ve just subscribed to the site, or you’ve not had time to read the newsletters recently, Narrowbudget is a bespoke narrowboat expenses calculator. If you’re considering buying a narrowboat and aren’t sure what costs you’re likely to face, this application will really open your eyes. It’s been developed as a result of my own three years on a narrowboat, extensive research into general narrowboat running costs and feedback from numerous other liveaboards. The image on the left is just one of the charts from the dashboard area where you can see at a glance what the lifestyle’s going to cost you… and whether you can afford it.

The application is available in two versions; the Standard version, which is free to you as a site subscriber, and Narrowbudget Gold. Narrowbudget Gold is a complete solution to the problem is pinning down narrowboat costs. It allows you to save your data, create unlimited workbooks so that you can explore different scenarios, comes with a completed workbook of my own liveaboard expenses for 2012, and both guides that I’ve published to date; Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat and Living on a Narrowboat: 21 Liveaboard Case Studies. Narrowbudget Gold is priced at £19.95 but if you’ve already purchased one or both of the guides, you’ll pay a reduced price. You can find out more about both versions here.

Narrowboat Heating Part 1: Stoves

If you read and enjoyed Tim Davis’s excellent articles on solar power and narrowboat electrics, you’ll love his latest explanation of narrowboat heating systems. Narrowboat heating can be very confusing. Some boaters will tell you that all you need to keep you toasty in the depths of a harsh winter is a solid fuel stove. There’s much more to it than that though. Tim has thoughfully and thoroughly explained all the options from multi fuel stoves to sophisticated central heating systems, and what you need to do to ensure that you have a constant stream of piping hot water for that all important shower after a cold day’s cruising. Here’s part one and all you need to know about narrowboat stoves.

New Guide: Living on a Narrowboat: 21 Liveaboard Case Studies

The last guide I wrote was all about my experiences on my own narrowboat and the costs I incurred. This one will give you a wider view of the experiences of narrowboat owners who live on board. There are actually twenty three case studies. I realised I had added two too many fairly early on but decided to keep the additional case studies in the book to give you a little more information.

I won’t wax lyrical about the guide here. I’ve written about the book and everything it contains on the site. You can read about it here. I believe that it will give you a much clearer picture of what life on a narowboat is really like and will help you choose the best boat and configuration to suit your needs.

New Login Details

In order to effectively manage access to the two guides I’ve published and the Narrowbudget narrowboat budget calculator, I’ve installed a new piece of software on the site. It won’t make any difference to your enjoyment of the site, but you need to how to log in to the new areas.

I will start to add subscribers to the new system tomorrow. There are over 6,500 now so the process will take me a few days. You will know when you’ve been added to the new system because you wil receive an email from me with your login details, and you will then receive a series of daily emails. If you don’t want to receive these information packed emails from me, you can turn them off through the “Manage your subscription” link at the bottom of each email. Please note though that if you turn off the daily emails, you will also stop receiving newsletters from me. If you want to remain on the newsletter mailing list, just delete the daily emails if there’s nothing of interest to you in them.

You will only need your new login details to access the following:

Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat
Living on a Narrowboat: 21 Liveaboard Case Studies
Narrowbudget Standard
Narrowbudget Gold

You will receive the login details for the above with your first email from the new system. Your login details will be the email address you used when you registered for the site, and a password, automatically generated when you registered, that you will be able to change through the “Manage your subscription” link.

Please note that if you have been a site subscriber for some time, these details may not log you in to the forum. This is an issue that’s been driving me mad for weeks. I haven’t resolved it yet, but there is a way around if for regular forum posters. You can use your old login details to access the forum if the new details don’t automatically log you in.

New login form – Use your email address and password for this form
Old login form – Only use this form if you can’t log in to the forum using the above form with your email address and password. You will need your username and password for this form

I apologise for the confusion. I’m sure I’ll have the issue sorted out soon but please bear with me until I do.

Popular Forum Posts

Here are some more forum posts for you. If you can’t find an answer to your narrowboat questions on the site or in the forum, please post it on the forum. It’s easy to do. All you have to do is to make sure that you’re logged in before you post. There’s no such thing as a silly question, so go ahead and ask.

  • 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

If you’re wondering why you are receiving this newsletter it’s because you subscribed to my site (Living On A Narrowboat). I hope that the information I send you from time to time is useful. After all, the site is all about narrowboats and you probably found the site from doing a narrowboat related search through a search engine. However, I don’t want you to receive emails that you really have no interest in. I know from personal experience how annoying they can be. If you really don’t want to receive information about living on a narrowboat and updates on the on-line, offline and marina moorings in England and Wales you can unsubscribe using the link at the bottom of this email. I hope you stay. I sincerely hope you find the information useful.

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3

Narrowboat Heating Part 1 – Stoves

By Tim Davis Onboard Solar

As a long term live aboard and ex boat builder I have been involved with many different heating systems over the years. The aim of this article is to look at all the options and to give some insight into the relative advantages and disadvantages of each of the different options.

When we look at heating systems on a  boat we are generally considering two things.

  1.  Heating the cabin space
  2. Heating the domestic water

First, let’s tackle the heating of the cabin. This broadly divides into two common methods.

  1. The solid fuel (or “multi fuel”) stove
  2. Some form of central heating

Part 1 – Solid Fuel Stoves

Let’s start with solid fuel stoves. The first point to make here is that heating using a solid fuel stove is generally the most reliable way of heating the cabin space. The vast majority of boats out there have a stove in the saloon area. Traditional boats with a back cabin will almost certainly have a small cooking range just inside the aft doors on the port side.

In the days of working boats when this was the only accommodation this would have been the source of heat, hot water (via a kettle) and cooking and would have been used 24 hours a day all year round. Many historic boats that have been converted by having extra cabin added over the hold space retain this range as do newer boats built in a replica style to a vintage boat.  This can be an advantage – in my boat for example which is a replica BCN tug, I have a stove in the saloon and a range in the back cabin.

The solid fuel stove is generally the most reliable and effective source of heat in a boat. Once up to temperature the saloon is kept very warm. It is a dry heat too, sucking in any moist air from the cabin and effectively drying it out so and condensation is quickly dispersed. Boat stoves are of the multi fuel variety which means they can burn coal and wood.

For the most effective heat a mix of the two works well. A bed of coal to start with then use logs on top once it has got well under way. Care needs to be taken in the choice of both the coal and the logs though! Coal generally is available as either “house” coal or “smokeless” and within smokeless there are many different makes.

The house coal is traditional coal that has been used for centuries. It lights very easily and quickly and gives a very good heat with lots of flame BUT gives a lot of smoke which, depending on where you moor, might cause problems. This also means that both chimney and fire get quite sooted up and thus need regular brushing and cleaning.

The general feel of using house coal is that it is quite dirty all round.  House coal also does not tend to stay “in” very well – that is, it does not stay alight all night as it’s a much quicker burn.

Smokeless coal however comes in the form of manmade “briquettes” which are smooth in appearance. These take a lot more effort to light so lots of kindling wood and paper or firelighters are needed to get it going. It also takes a lot longer to come up to temperature, once there though it will burn for hours on end.

Normal procedure is to get the fire up to temperature with all the vents open then close the vents right down so the fire just simmers with a red glow. There tends not to be much in the way of flames with smokeless coal but it is very clean burning compared to house coal.

I tend to have both house and smokeless in. I use the house coal to get the fire up quickly and easily, then add smokeless – this is a good mix. To enhance smokeless coal a log or two can be added to a hot fire in the evening to give flames and a rapid boost of heat. Logs of course have the great advantage that you can find them close to the towpath and collect for free. However beware!

It is important that logs are well “seasoned” that is left to dry out all of the liquid sap that was present when the wood was growing or “green”. It takes around a year to season logs but often you will come across trees by the cut that have blown down and may well already be seasoned.

You can soon tell if they are seasoned enough when you saw through them. If they are seasoned the saw will cut trough like butter with very dry sawdust if not then you will feel the saw bind up and have a very damp like sawdust in which case they will need to be kept for next year.

You will also notice the off cut log is very light in weight. Alternatively of course, if this foraging for logs all sounds a bit much, you can buy logs ready seasoned either in net bags or by the load which is cheaper (When short I have looked in news agent windows wherever I am moored – you often see signs for people offering a load of logs for not much money.

Non seasoned logs will burn, but not as well as seasoned logs and they will cause a nasty sticky tar which runs everywhere, often down the inside of the chimney and onto the roof and down the side of the boat! There is a new type of manmade log available now which is made of compressed wood shavings. I tried some this year and they were very good and not too expensive.

Types of Stove

Morso SquirrelThere are many different makes of stove. You may have heard of Arrow, Morso, Torgem, Boatman to name a few. They all work in the same way and usually have two vents on the front, one below the fire which must be fully open to light the fire and one above the glass which acts as an air wash to help clean the glass. Which one is best?

This is a question I am often asked.

In my experience the Morso Squirrel seems to be excellent. It has a good size so can hold a lot of fuel, it has good vents so draws really well which is important when lighting and has two doors the bottom, one of which can be opened to rapidly assist in the lighting process.

Another good one is the Corner Bubble multi fuel. This is an unusual triangular shaped stove that sits neatly in a corner of the boat and again burns very well. At the budget end of the market is the Boatman Stove made by Northern Fabrications. A simple little stove but one that burns really well and takes up a small amount of space.

corner bubble stoveA good tip from old working boatmen is always have a kettle on top of your stove – it means you’ve always got a bit of hot water for tea or washing up – very useful I find.

What about heating the rest of the boat?

A solid fuel stove outputs a lot of heat and will comfortably keep the saloon and immediate area very cosy indeed, but what if you want heat at the other end of the boat where the bedroom typically is?

The first important “must have” accessory is the “Eco Fan” This is a two or three bladed fan that sits on a stand on the top of the stove. It uses technology called a “Peltier” plate which generates electricity from heat to drive a small electric motor that turns the fan. It very effectively directs the heat away from the stove and “spreads” it around the boat. A small boat of say 30 to 40 ft with a stove and eco fan would have no problems heating that entire cabin space.

There is a new stove fan available that uses a tiny heat driven piston engine (a Sterling engine). A friend has one and it is very impressive with the joy of a little engine driven by heat from the fire (I know – boys toys!).

Eco Fan

Back Boiler

Another way of spreading the heat is to have a back boiler on the stove. This is simply a steel tank with an inlet at the bottom and an outlet at the top. The stove is connected into a circuit of radiators – standard household type radiators – and filled with water via a small header tank at the end of the pipe run.

This system can be setup in one of two ways; gravity fed or circulation pump. The gravity fed system required large bore pipe work (28mm typically) and has to be setup very carefully so the hot water leaving the fire from the outlet at the top rises away from the fire and the return to the fire drops via a gentle slope back to the inlet at the bottom of the fire.

There is quite a bit of “science” behind getting a gravity fed system to work well and not boil when the fire is too hot, so it is not for the faint hearted!

More common these days is a pumped system. Here the pipe work can be kept hidden low down with a small 12v pump located close to the inlet of the fire (the bottom) and pumps water towards the fire. These work reliably but have the big downside of consuming power and of course must be switched on the whole time the fire is lit otherwise the water will boil and then explodes out of the header tank (which is normally located in a wardrobe!).

Back boilers are great. On a long boat with many cabins they work very well BUT as a user of them you need to be aware of them potentially boiling. It is possible to rig up a temperature controlled switch that will turn the pump on when the fire is hot enough and turn it off when it cools. I highly recommend this if you have a pumped back boiler system – it makes it much easier to manage!

It’s also important to have a simple bleed valve at the hot water outlet of the fire to make it easy to bleed off any stream that builds up – I use a simple drain cock for this purpose. See diagram showing the layout of a pumped back boiler system.

Back Cabin Ranges

Epping StoveThere is another way to heat the whole boat. Use the stove in the saloon to heat that part of the boat. Then if you have a traditional, vintage or replica type boat, light the range in the back cabin as well! I have this arrangement on my boat and sometimes have both stoves lit but it does get quite expensive running two

The range prefers to run on coal rather than wood (apart from lighting of course) and has the great advantage of a cooking plate and a small oven. On a cold winters day its great standing at the tiller with a range just inches in front of you perhaps with a casserole in the oven! One of the most popular ranges you will see is the Epping.

Oil Stoves

Another alternative to the solid fuel stove is the oil stove. This looks the same from the outside as a solid fuel stove, and they are available with and without a back boiler just like a solid fuel stove.  Popular makes are the Bubble (from Haworth who also make the solid fuel Bubble) and Kabola to name two.

The main difference is these stove run from the same diesel oil that is used to propel the boat. They are often fitted with their own tank separate from the main engine tank and often located in one of the bow lockers. These stoves were very popular for a time around 10 years ago when diesel was very cheap (I recall it was about 19p a litre then – happy days!). They are called a “natural draft” oil burner.

The main problem with diesel oil is it is actually difficult to light  – if you drop a match in diesel it will go out. These diesel stoves work by allowing diesel to drip feed onto a tray inside the stove, this is then lit using either a piece of tissue paper or better still breaking up a fire lighter into small pieces and using a small piece to start the fire. Basically you light the piece of fire lighter and drop it into the stove, drop in a cage called the catalyst which will shape the flame once its lit, then turn the diesel tap on, as the diesel slowly reaches the firelighter it heats and the vapour ignites.

This can be a bit fiddly and there is a definite knack to getting a diesel stove going! Once lit you have a tap allowing you to vary the height of the flame, however care must be taken as a very high yellow flame will cause a lot of sooting up inside the stove.

Compared to a solid fuel stove the heat is less too. In part because of the fiddly lighting process and the need to clean the fire out after use which is quite messy coupled with soaring diesel prices mean this type of stove has become much less popular and many boats have replaced them with solid fuel types which is not difficult as they are physically very similar. Indeed a corner Bubble oil stove could be replaced with the much better corner Bubble solid fuel stove with ease. It’s important to consider the issues with diesel stoves when buying a used boat.

Part 2: Narrowboat central heating systems

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2013 01 08 Newsletter – Your Waterways Crystal Ball

Living On A Narrowboat News
8th January 2013Living on a narrowboat: The Real Cost of a Life AfloatIf you’re thinking of buying a narrowboat, especially one to live on, you need to know how much the boat is likely to cost you to buy and to maintain. This useful guide details all the costs I’ve incurred during the two and a half years that I’ve lived on my own narrowboat. You’ll discover the hidden costs when you buy a narrowboat, mooring fees, utility costs, propulsion fuel costs, repair and maintenance expenses and much, much more. Download your copy here.

“This is an extremely useful booklet for anyone considering living afloat. The author has covered all of the outlay that you are likely to face in an easy and straight forward manner. I have been considering living on a narrowboat for years but was put off by the unknown. Having read this I am more likely to make the dream come true.” Tigs, Amazon Kindle Review

My last newsletter was sent out on Christmas Eve at a time when you should have had something better to do than read a newsletter about narrowboats. Many of you did though, so thank you. I nearly sent you another newsletter on New Year’s eve. I thought better of it. I know you were all out partying. Personally, I don’t like crowds so Sally and I stayed on the boat and had a special meal; Maine lobster, Alaskan wild salmon and a bottle of Wolf Blass. It was the perfect evening for us.

The first week of the new year has flown by. It’s been a very mild start to 2013. I’ve even considered letting the stove go out once or twice. There’s some slightly cooler weather forecast for later on in the week but the winter so far has been a doddle. Long may it continue!

Online Narrowboat Budget Calculator “Narrowbudget”

I’ve talked about it before. You may even be one of the beta testers of the original version, a very sophisticated Excel spreadheet. It did just about everything you could ask a spreadsheet to do… apart from work for almost half of the people who tested it. The spreadsheet didn’t work if the user had a version of Excel earlier than the 2007 release. It also didn’t work for Mac users.  It was virtually useless. The trial was a disaster but it was also a stepping stone to the current version.

I decided to translate the spreadsheet into an application that would work directly from the site so that site visitors would be able to use it regardlress of software or platform. Software architect and site subscriber Phil Copper has put the application together and, I have to say, he was a real pleasure to work with. The application works perfectly. It’s fast and has far more bells and whistles than the original spreadsheet. It’s a truly comprehensive solution to the problem that many potential narrowboat owners have trying to establish exactly how much boat ownership is going to cost them.

I’ll be releasing the application in four or five days. There are just a few cosmetic changes to make behind the scenes. I thought you might like to see some screenshots of it in the meantime and find out exactly what it does. You can read more about it here. I know you’ll love it. (Please note that I’ve intentionally removed the link to the application until it’s ready later this week.)

Narrowboat Electrics Part 2

Last week’s newsletter included the first part of an excellent article about narrowboat electrics written by full time liveaboard and solar panel installer Tim Davis. I’ve now published the second and concluding part of his article. He talks about generators and invertors and what he considers the Holy Grail of onboard electrical systems. Tim is also thinking about writing further articles for the site. If you’ve enjoyed reading the two he’s written so far there’s an option for you to suggest which of several subjects he addresses next.

New Guide: Living on a Narrowboat: 21 Liveaboard Case Studies

The last guide I wrote was all about my experiences on my own narrowboat and the costs I incurred. This one will give you a wider view of the experiences of narrowboat owners who live on board. There are actually twenty three case studies. I realised I had added two too many fairly early on but decided to keep the additional case studies in the book to give you a little more information.

I won’t wax lyrical about the guide here. I’ve written about the book and everything it contains on the site. You can read about it here. I believe that it will give you a much clearer picture of what life on a narowboat is really like and will help you choose the best boat and configuration to suit your needs.

Film Stars Wanted

Katya, a film producer from the Guardian has posted on the forum. She’s looking for a budding film start for a documentary she’s making about buying a first/new home and wants to explore differing lifestyles. You can read her post here.

New Case Studies

NB Xanadu – Mike is a kindred spirit. He moved onto his boat after his marriage failed although his first floating home was far more of a challenge than mine… a 27ft GRP cruiser. His current 50? widebeam must feel SO spacious after that!

Popular Forum Posts

Here are some more forum posts for you. If you can’t find an answer to your narrowboat questions on the site or in the forum, please post it on the forum. It’s easy to do. All you have to do is to make sure that you’re logged in before you post. There’s no such thing as a silly question, so go ahead and ask.

  • 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

What’s Missing?

I want the site to be a comprehensive guide to anyone who is thinking about living on a narrowboat. I’m sure that there’s plenty of stuff missing, so I need your help. In general terms, what do you think is missing from the site? What would you like to see more of? What would you like to see less of. And, specifically, what can’t you find the answer to? Is there a specific question about life on board that you need answering? I’m not talking about specific technical aspects that will be of use to you, but of no interest to other readers but subjects that will be of use and of interest to the majority of visitors to the site. Please help by completing this very short survey. You don’t have to leave your details so you can say what you like.
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.

If you’re wondering why you are receiving this newsletter it’s because you subscribed to my site (Living On A Narrowboat). I hope that the information I send you from time to time is useful. After all, the site is all about narrowboats and you probably found the site from doing a narrowboat related search through a search engine. However, I don’t want you to receive emails that you really have no interest in. I know from personal experience how annoying they can be. If you really don’t want to receive information about living on a narrowboat and updates on the on-line, offline and marina moorings in England and Wales you can unsubscribe using the link at the bottom of this email. I hope you stay. I sincerely hope you find the information useful.

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