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Yearly Archives: 2013

2013 10 13 Newsletter – On Demand Water Heater Problems

Living on a Narrowboat News 13th October 2013

Over the last week I’ve been working hard on my latest obsession; building up a store of firewood to use in my stove to help me cut down on my astronomical heating bill. Between August 2012 and July 2013 I spent £889 on coal and on heat logs to get the fire started. By using logs I won’t be able to eliminate the cost of coal completely. I’ll still need to bank the fire with coal overnight and for extended periods away from the boat but I’ll use logs for all other occasions.

I am very lucky. I have the job of thinning out our fledgeling woodland area – in addition to removing the diseased oak and ash – and of disposing of the cut timber. Much of it is going into marina owner Roger Preen’s own wood store at his home six miles away from the marina. Fair enough. It’s his land and his wood. However, he allows me to take enough for my own use. So taking enough wood for my own use is what I’ve been doing this week.

In the last month I’ve felled about seventy diseased oak and coppiced about fifty willow. The goat, white and crack willow have been coppiced so that they’re (A) more aesthetically pleasing but mainly (B) so that they do a better job of soaking up the water around our reed bed filtration system.

I have the usable wood from all one hundred and twenty trees piled next to our reed beds. Over the last week I’ve been processing the trunks and larger branches. I’ve cut a couple of tonnes into large logs for Roger’s wood burner and another couple of tonnes into smaller logs for my own stove.

Willow log pile

The wood in the photo above is a small part of the felled willow. The large wooden article in the foreground is me. Please excuse the shorts. It’s Sally’s idea of dressing me up ready to go out to a party. I’m weak willed so I always do as I’m told. Willow isn’t the best fuel in the world but it’s free, there’s plenty of it and I’ll be able to use it much sooner than the oak.

I now have about two tonnes of firewood stored on pallets. I’ll leave the oak alone now for the next two years to allow it to season. I should be able to use the willow next winter. Over the next year I’ll add to my stock, mostly with oak from thinning out the trees in the woods but also with ash sometime next year after we’ve been able to assess which are afflicted with sudden ash dieback.

Seasoning wood is a science. If you’re going to use wood as a fuel on your boat you need to get to grips with it otherwise you may suffer unpleasant winters using poor fuel in an otherwise perfectly adequate stove. Here are a few pointers for you.

Know Your Firewood

Correct seasoning is by far the most important factor when determining how efficient the wood be as a fuel. You’ll get nearly twice as much heat from dry (seasoned) logs as you will from freshly cut (unseasoned) wood.

Correct seasoning is the most important factor but the type of wood you use is also important. Here’s a poem to help you choose the right logs for your stove. It was written during the coal strike of 1926 and first published in Punch magazine in that year.

Logs to burn; logs to burn;
Logs to save the coal a turn.

Here’s a word to make you wise
when you hear the woodman’s cries;
Never heed his usual tale
That he’s splendid logs for sale
But read these lines & really learn
The proper kind of logs to burn.

Oak logs will warm you well,
If they’re old and dry.
Larch logs of pinewoods smell
But the sparks will fly.
Beech logs for Christmas time;
Yew logs heat well;
Scotch‘ logs it is a crime
For anyone to sell.
Birch logs will burn too fast;
Chestnut scarce at all;
Hawthorn logs are good to last
If cut in the fall.
Holly logs will burn like wax,
You should burn them green;
Elm logs like smouldering flax,
No flame to be seen.
Pear logs and apple logs,
They will scent your room;
Cherry logs across the dogs
Smell like flowers in bloom,
But ash logs all smooth and grey
Burn them green or old,
Buy up all that come your way
They’re worth their weight in gold.

The poem suggests that ash can be used as firewood as soon as it’s been cut. I’ve heard that before but after a little more digging I’ve discovered that ash isn’t quite the stove’s quick fuel fix that everyone thinks (and hopes for). Although ash has a fairly low moisture content, it’s still usually about 35% when it’s cut. A seasoned log needs to have a moisture content of 20% or less if it’s to perform well as a heating fuel.

As an aside, you may be wondering how you can tell whether logs are seasoned or not. You can buy seasoned timber but I assume that, if you’re going to use logs in your stove, you’re more likely to try to find or cut your own. Even if you do buy “seasoned” logs from a supplier, there’s no guarantee that they have been seasoned or at all.

There are some indicators that the logs have been seasoned; cracks in the ends of the logs, bark which comes off quite easily and a lighter than normal weight (something you wouldn’t know unless you were used to handling that type of wood when it was first cut). By far the easiest way though is to use a moisture meter. I’ve just ordered a Stihl Wood Moisture Meter from Amazon. It’s about the size of a box of matches and at £17 for something which can take the mystery out of selecting the right logs for the fire, for me it’s a must have gadget.

The poem doesn’t mention willow, a common species in England and one which grows very quickly. We have hundreds of willow on site – goat, crack, white and weeping – which regularly have to be cut back from the roads, paths and car parks. I haven’t given much thought to them as a firewood before but now I’m obsessed with the subject, I’ve done a little research.

Willow is being used increasingly as a firewood. Because it grows so quickly, it isn’t as dense as the far more popular oak or ash so burns far more quickly. It produces a reasonable heat though as long as it’s seasoned for at least a year so it’s worth adding to your firewood mix.

On Demand Water Heater Problems

Sometimes I think Sally is very unreasonable. She makes a fuss for the silliest of reasons. Let me give you an example.

On Wednesday evening she returned from work as usual at about 8.15pm. As usual she jumped straight into the shower straight away to wash the day’s work away. It was then that her routine differed from normal. She doesn’t usually emit a high pitched scream, leap through the shower curtain and accuse me of trying to kill her.

Apparently Sally doesn’t enjoy showering in boiling water.

We have an “on demand” gas fed water heater on James. It’s very old. In fact, it’s as old as the boat. The Vaillant water heater was installed when James was built in 1977.

The heater has done very well to last this long although I don’t know how much use it’s seen and how often it’s been serviced. James was used up until 1997 for recreational cruising, mainly in the summer, before being moored at Calcutt marina until now. During the time the boat was at Calcutt it was pretty much unused until early 2010 when I moved on board.

The heater has done well to last this long, but it now either needs a thorough servicing or replacing with something more modern. The cause of Sally’s anguish wasn’t the heater though. I hate to admit it, but it was all my fault.

I have 3 x 100w solar panels which, for the last five months have provided us with nearly all the electricity we need. I’ve become used to leaving the shore line turned off and using just the solar panels to power the batteries.

The few days prior to the shower incident where dreary and overcast. The solar panels weren’t providing enough power to keep the batteries topped up so by Wednesday evening when Sally jumped into the shower they were pretty flat.

There was still enough charge in them to power the LED lights we have throughout the boat, and to power the water pump… after a fashion. The water pump was the cause of the problem.

Although the pump was running, it wasn’t working in its normal efficient fashion. Because it wasn’t pumping water around the system as quickly as usual, the water was passing through the water heater’s burner far slower than it should so the heated water was far hotter than expected.

The simple and immediate solution was to switch over to the land line to charge the batteries and get the water pump back up to speed. Too late for Sally and her reddened shoulders (and my reddened ears) but a valuable lesson learned all the same.

Back to the heater itself. I have two issues with it. One might by a quick and inexpensive fix. The other definitely won’t be.

The first problem is that it’s very difficult – impossible actually – to get the shower to run at a constant temperature. One minute it’s hot, the next freezing cold. I understand that the problem is probably that the diaphragm needs replacing. I understand that the diaphragm controls the gas flow and therefore the rate at which the water is heated. A perished diaphragm means inconsistent heating.

I have a problem. Calcutt Boats think they have a diaphragm in stock which will fit my rather old Vaillant heater but the only way to check is to take the heater apart and remove the existing diaphragm. The problem lies in not knowing how perished my diaphragm is. That won’t be a problem if the one that Calcutt have in stock will fit my heater. I’ll have a major problem though if the heater is taken apart, the removed diaphragm falls to pieces, and the Calcutt stock diaphragm won’t fit.

I’ll then be stuck without a water heater on the boat.

The second problem is that my water heater, like most others on the market, needs to have a constantly lit pilot light. I understand that the pilot light, because it’s burning twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, uses a fair amount of gas.

Many boaters simply turn their water heaters off and keep them turned off until they need them. They say – although I have no hard evidence to back it up – that their gas supply lasts twice as long this way.

Adopting this policy isn’t something that will really suit Sally and I. Our Vaillant is in quite a tight space so the pilot light is difficult to reach and once the pilot light is lit we have to wait about five minutes before the burner will kick in.

The alternative is to fit a new water heater and splash out on one which doesn’t require the pilot light to be on all of the time. The downside of a pilot light free heater, apart from the higher cost, is that the burner takes a little while to kick in so too much water is wasted.

I suppose I’ll have to go down the diaphragm repair route and just hope that the one which is in stock at Calcutt actually fits my Valliant. I don’t want to be days, or weeks, without hot water until I could get a new water heater fitted. At least I wouldn’t have the problem of a screaming and scalded Sally flapping about the boat.

 More Tales From The American Among Us

I’ve just added another article written by our roving American friend. Richard writes eloquently about his encounter with an Englishman in a lock whose command of the English language wasn’t quite so well developed. If you’ve ever taken your boat through a lock where a fellow boater was less than helpful, you’ll be able to relate to this story.

Richard doesn’t just write about the canals he cruises on. He also writes about the people he meets on his travels. I think his articles are fascinating. I hope you do too. You’ll find links to his stories, including his latest episode “Me Missus”, at the bottom of his case study here.

Suggestions Please!

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

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

New Kindle Narrowboat Guide

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

 Newsletter Index

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

11th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

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

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

8th January 2012

The first four narrowboat case studies published

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

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

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

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

22nd January 2012

Two more case studies. One of them waxed lyrical about life on the waterways and enjoyed every minute of her life afloat. Now (April 2013) she’s selling up to follow another dream in Spain.

4th March 2012

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

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

Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat

A review of Debdale Wharf marina

18th March 2012

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

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

 1st April 2012

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

15th April 2012

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

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

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

29th April 2012

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

13th May 2012

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

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

27th  May 2012

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

Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke

10th June 2012

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

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

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

18th September 2012

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

VAT on narrowboat sales

30th September 2012

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

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

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

17th October 2012

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

28th October 2012

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

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

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

2nd December 2012

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

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

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

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

24th December

Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis

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

8th January 2013

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

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

20th February 2013

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

3rd March 2013

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

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

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

Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013

11th March 2013

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

17th March 2013

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

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

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

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

24th March 2013

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

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

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

31st March 2013

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

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

7th April 2013

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

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

14th April 2013

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

21st April 2013

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

Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop

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

28th April 2013

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

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

12th May 2013

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

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

19th May 2013

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

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

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

26th May 2013

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

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

2nd June 2013

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

9th June 2013

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

16th June 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

30th June 2013

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

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

7th July 2013

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

14th July 2013

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

21st July 2013

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

28th July 2013

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

4th August 2013

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

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

11th August 2013

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

Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners

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

18th August 2013

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

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

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

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

25th August 2013

Effective fly killers for boats

The downside to living on a narrowboat

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

1st September 2013

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

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

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

15th September

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

22nd September

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

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

29th September

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.

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.

Popular Forum Posts

There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.

  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat – Narrowboat costs explained in detail. My own maintenance and living cost on narrowboat James for a full year. Use this information to work out your own costs.
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.

 

 

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The Room Of Kindness

The room was filled with kindness itself.

As we walked into Aldin’s Tea Rooms, a long, slender arm was quickly extended upward to me in greeting and I shook and held the smooth unresponsive hand of an older man who smiled back at me and silently pointed to his prominent lapel button. I leaned in for a closer look: “Ah — Her Majesty’s 60th Jubilee — very good!”  I exclaimed. Someone else at the large round table of disabled customers and their caregivers asked: “Another pal of yours Charlie?”

We spotted the last vacant table across the room and made our way among the dozen or so other customers — sitting down with a view toward the corner entrance and, through large windows flanking either side, back into the street. But, for the next few minutes, no one entered or left the café.

The simple, almost cream-colored room was bright and alive with conversation and greetings between tables; small talk passed between the old woman next to us and the caregiver of a gentlemen in a blue jumper smiling unceasingly from his wheelchair — an open-mouthed smile framed by the small wooden pickets on either side that were the last of his teeth.

At the larger table, loud scrawking came from a tall gangly woman who then turned and looked me in the eye, and, making a stroking motion down her chin, gave a cheery, “thumbs up” approval of my beard.

The Room Of KindnessPhotography was out of the question in the same way it would be in the midst of communal prayer. Somehow, everyone in the room, including us, was aware and interacting with all the others. We were not invisible observers as often happens, but immediately became part of the moment; bathed in that special pleasure a friend once described by saying “it’s good to be among friends – even if they are not your friends…”

And, it was good, indeed.

For a little while, all things weary in mind or body were set free.  We knew each other and were joined together by a look or a smile; a few words or a gesture.  Forbearance and patience, hard-learned lessons and loneliness, healthy and crippled minds, ruined speech and broken bodies, laughter and  silence — all rose up and made the air radiant with the everyday tenderness of simply being human together.

The woman next to us, her curled auburn hair thinning and wispy, watched quietly and acknowledged occasional “hellos” until she was served an impressive portion of beans on toast that, immediately, for me, will forever define the dish itself.  Immediately she fell to, eating with earnest purpose and focus — her fork clutched from the left and knife unvarying from the right in proper British fashion. As the party on their morning outing from assisted living began to mobilize and depart, she stopped, looked up straight ahead and said quietly: “We must remember to be grateful.”

With the day-trip group leaving, we decided to move on as well. But I stopped briefly at her table to thank her for speaking of gratitude. Her name was Ann, and she replied: “Well!  Some countries don’t take care of their people —  do they now?”  and then talked quickly on with clarity and softness of her sister who had had two “normal” children and two “disabled” children – all within 5 years of each other. “Both were blind. The poor dears had to wear helmets because they would hurt themselves. It was terrible to see how they frightened the other children whose parents did not help them understand. Chrissie died when she was nine, Robert I think so too…”

I asked Ann if the group before us came here often and she said they did, but they also went other places:  “to give the people a variety of outings. I think there is a home or places nearby where they live…”

By this time additional wheelchairs had been retrieved, everyone accounted for and safely maneuvered out the door or guided along with a loving hand carefully threaded through the unsteady arm.

Just as we moved to the door, a small, round-faced  and perfectly dressed finch-like woman came in, sat down primly close to the entrance and the character of the shop and the associations of all present began taking a new form. By the time we were out again under the low grey sky of Market Harborough, “our” Aldin’s was a different place and time altogether.

The luminous moment now remains only in my heart — but for that moment I am, mindful of Ann’s words, very grateful.

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10

The Best And Sweetest Apples

Today we happened upon a small cafe-type restaurant in    Atherstone, Staffordshire called “The Larder” — a simple store-front converted into a restaurant with an unusual theme: the life of sacrifice (that included food) experienced by most of the British during WWII. The walls are covered with old food and petrol ration cards, original and reproduced propaganda posters about Victory Gardens and so forth — while in the background play speeches by Neville Chamberlain, and then Churchill, mixed with “In the Mood” and other period songs.  The two female servers dress in period costume as well – one in tan work overalls and the other in a ruffled frock that somehow reminded me of my mother.    The menu included, but was not limited to, wartime “dishes” such as Spam Fritters and Beans – which I immediately ordered — only to find, alas, that they had run out of Spam and I had to settle for local “Bangers in a Bun”.

PeterSo, it is probably understandable that, initially, we mistook the eye-popping entrance of a nattily dressed older man as the arrival of some additional member of the staff. But it turned out that “Peter” was just one of the regulars at The Larder – but a regular loved by all it was clear.  He was dressed to perfection in a grey hat, striped jacket, blue trousers with turquoise socks and a well-knotted tie and handkerchief of matching color, finished off by perfect accents in his pale blue shirt. Valari got to the camera first and began quietly shooting as he fiddled with his half-hunter pocket watch and ordered a coffee.

Peter was visual richness itself – the clothes notwithstanding, there was a true sparkle in his eyes that seemed to radiate life and intelligence and that; a gleam that somehow made sense of the large but subtle diamond ring and the aging tattoos on his wrists and above the second knuckle of each finger.

It wasn’t long before he called out in our direction: “Do I detect a trans-Atlantic accent…?” and so began a long conversation,  first across the restaurant — then I took my tea over to his table and we really started in. I commented that my wife and I are both photographers and so immediately had noticed his exuberant taste in clothes — to which he responded: “It is deliberate and in a little while I will tell you in what manner it is deliberate” indicating his hat and tie.

Then began the warp and woof of a lifetime of stories including: the first anniversary of the death of his wife of 30 years and his real loss of her to Alzheimer’s over four years ago; stories about Peter’s past (born in Canada, son of an aristocrat who had run off with his mother — a domestic servant on the family estate); the British Army in Malaysia at age 18; continuing “work” in places such as Australia, South Africa, Egypt and South Yemen. “Work” that, he quietly implies, remains largely shrouded in the Official Secrets Act.

But, always the emerging narrative pattern circles back to accounts of the real and present joy in Peter’s life at age 83. “You know what happens when you dress like this? he asked. “Women notice you. In fact, they are positively enchanted by you. Therefore, I dress like this because it attracts interest — and besides it helps me do things that would get a younger chap slapped silly”.

“Such as…?” I query, genuinely almost scandalized.

“Well”, says Peter, “Let’s say that I am charmed by a young lady sales clerk who concludes our business by asking if there is anything else I would like? And I say “only your phone number”. And you know, more often than not, I get it! Then, perhaps she and I have coffee and perhaps I ask the lady if we can meet again and she says “yes” and so I suggest a short train ride, just 25 miles or so, to a town with a very fine Italian restaurant where she and I could have panna cotta – how can she resist?

I remarked that old-fashioned manners and respect appeared to also be part of his charm and success.

Peter 2“Of course. When I was young and learning “the facts of life” my mother told me: “Peter, when you go looking for a lady friend or a wife, remember that what women most want, whether they will tell you or not, is kindness.”

“And, I find this approach does very well with women in the range of 19 to 46.”  Peter is speaking specifically here because his current “friends” include 19 year-old in Leicester and a 46 year-old in Birmingham. “Yes”, he mused “very attractive women at that…”

“And that is why the way I dress is deliberate. After all,” Peter concluded: If you’re going back into the orchard at my age — why on earth would you not pick the very best and sweetest of the apples…?”

With that, Peter graciously paid for all our lunches, picked up his silver topped cane and stepped back onto the high street.

RSV

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2013 10 06 Newsletter – Water, Water Everywhere… And Not A Drop To Drink

Living on a Narrowboat News 6th October 2013

Last week I told you that I had taken one of our hire boats to Braunston and moored it there ready to tow a broken down boat back to Calcutt. I set off for Braunston on Sunday as soon as I finished the newsletter. It wasn’t the best of days for towing a flat bottomed boat six miles along a narrow, winding canal with plenty of traffic on it. There was a stiff easterly breeze blowing which made traveling slowly and keeping in a straight line quite a challenge.

Going too slowly with a strong wind blowing was a recipe for disaster as we were blown towards the moored boats so, as usual when it’s a bit breezy, I cruised past moored craft slightly faster than I would have liked to. It’s always a fine balance on days like this between upsetting owners of moored boats by passing them too quickly, and upsetting them even more by passing them too slowly in the wind and being blown into them.

I didn’t hit any moored boats but I did “jackknife” the two boats on two occasions. I’m sure to an experienced working boatman towing an unpowered butty, negotiating ninety degree bends without the butty pushing the boat in front in a direction it doesn’t want to go is no problem at all but, on two occasions it was beyond me.

There was no harm done though. I managed to stop both boats before we hit anything and then just had to spend five minutes poling the lead boat until it was pointing in the right direction again.

Apart from these two brief mishaps the journey was uneventful and very pleasant. We took about half an hour longer than the journey normally takes, including the time it took to untie the two boats, breast them up through Calcutt Top Lock, then reverse the harnessed pair onto our wharf. I was back on my boat by 3.30pm enjoying a cup of coffee and congratulating myself on a job almost well done.

Liveaboard Case Study – Miss George

It takes all kinds of people to make the world go around and all kinds of people with their varying likes and dislikes to make the inland waterways such an interesting place. One person’s ideal mooring is another person’s idea of hell. After testing the lifestyle by taking a narrowboat holiday in the depths of winter, Jaks and Andy have now lived on their own narrowboat for four years on a rustic farm mooring on the cut with no facilities. Here’s their case study. Read on to find out why their perfect mooring would be my personal nightmare.

Managing Your Water Supply In The Winter

The idea of a tranquil online mooring attached to a farm on the quiet and peaceful Ashby canal really appeals to me. However, what really doesn’t appeal to me is having to work but not having any facilities on the mooring. Jaks and Andy don’t have either water or electricity where they moor. The electricity isn’t so much of a problem. They just have to be very organised with their charging regime. Their water management is more difficult.

There are two major hurdles to overcome if you need to work full time and have a mooring with no access to water. Firstly, you need to monitor your water usage and plan when to top it up. Topping up involves moving your boat from your mooring to the nearest water point, waiting for half an hour or more while the water tank fills, then returning to your mooring. Of course you will need to be able to turn your boat around both at or close to your mooring and at or close to the water point. Turning your boat will often involve cruising past both mooring and water point to the nearest winding hole (turning point).

Jaks and Andy are on the Ashby canal so they don’t have any locks to contend with. Locks are another significant consumer of time if they are between your mooring and the nearest water supply.

In total, topping up your water at a nearby water point could take you several hours of your very valuable free time at the end of a hard day’s work – a job which can be even more painful if the weather is less than perfect.

Imagine coming home from work after a long and hard day at work. It’s good to be back on your warm and cosy boat. You slip off your shoes, glance out of your window, watch the mallards fussing about in the shallows and the bull rushes dancing in the breeze, and you start to unwind. The first thing you reach for is the kettle to make your self a glad-to-be-back cup of coffee. Cough… splutter… spit….

You’ve run out of water. You can’t have a coffee, a shower to wash the day’s dirt off and you can’t wash your dishes. It’s a Monday. Both you and your other half have another four days to work before a well earned weekend break. You’ve no choice. You have to take your boat to the water point and your whole evening has been ruined.

Your other half doesn’t get back from work for another hour so you call her to let her know that you’ve run out of water… again. She’s not going to be happy. She’s always a bit irritable when she’s tired, and she’s always tired when she gets back from an eight hour shift at the factory. And she always has a shower the minute she gets back.

You pull out your mobile to tell her the bad news. More bad news. You don’t have a signal. You’re on a mooring in the middle of nowhere and you always struggle to get a signal for your phone. Today is no different. You have a difficult decision to make. It’s 6pm. Julie isn’t due back until 7pm. You can wait until she gets back to the boat before you set off, ensuring that she doesn’t arrive at where the boat should be moored but isn’t. You won’t incur her immediate wrath, but you will delay her much needed shower and your much needed coffee by an hour. The alternative is to leave a note on your car, hope she sees it and doesn’t mind sitting in her car until you return, and set off for the water point immediately.

You decide on the latter. One hastily scribbled note later, two untied ropes, and you’re on your way…

You would be on your way if you could get off your mooring. There hasn’t been much rain recently so the water level is about six inches lower than normal. There isn’t much water on your mooring at the best of times. Now your boat is resting on the mud. You jump off your boat onto the bank leaving the boat in gear and rock furiously from side to side to help unstick it.

After fifteen minutes of frustrating and exhausting work, your boat reluctantly slides backwards into the deeper water in the middle of the canal. You’re off! But, of course, you’re off in the wrong direction. You have to cruise for a mile to the nearest winding hole before you can turn and head back up the canal to the water point.

At the winding hole you try to turn your boat, but there’s a stiff breeze coming from behind you so the bow just won’t come round. A simple three point turn becomes an exercise in frustration as you slide the full length of the winding hole at an angle of forty five degrees. In the end, you force your bow into the bank to anchor the boat so you can swing it round.

After half an hour’s cruising you arrive back at your mooring but thankfully now heading towards the water point. Another fifteen minutes and the water point’s in sight. Damn! There’s another boat on it. The owner has only just arrived and hasn’t even started to fill up yet.

Your shoulders slump as you nose your boat into position behind him. Julie will be arriving back at the mooring any minute now. You still can’t get a  signal on your phone so you have to hope that she will find your note. Even if she finds it, you know you’re not going to be back at your mooring for at least another hour. Julie will have to sit in her car and wait. The sky’s an ominous grey and fat drops of cold rain are splattering against your upturned and rather unhappy face. Tonight is not going to be a shining example of matrimonial bliss. Julie will be very unhappy.

Twenty minutes later, the boat in front has moved off, you’ve moved forward and you can finally start to fill your water tank.

After another twenty minutes your tank is full so you’re ready to head back to your mooring. Off you go, again in the wrong direction. You have to cruise another half mile to the next winding hole before you can turn your boat again.

It’s now half past seven. Julie is very punctual. You know she will have been waiting for you now for thirty minutes. You also know that she’s not the most patient person in the world and you know she’s going to remind you, very vocally and at great length, just how often she’s told you how unhappy she is mooring so far away from a water point.

Just to compound your misery, the rain is now bouncing off your roof and running in rivers down your neck. You arrive back at your mooring cold, wet and miserable but, by the look of Julie’s face, dimly seen through a misted up car windscreen where’s she’s now been parked and has been waiting for quite some time, you’re not as miserable as you will be in about ten minutes time… IF you can get your boat back on the mud flat which passes for a mooring.

Of course, I’ve painted a particularly miserable picture, the worst case scenario and one which probably wouldn’t apply to you. But it might, and it might actually be more difficult than the picture I’ve painted.

Forty Litre AquarollPeggy Melmouth, narrowboat blogger and ex liveaboard, wrote about the difficulty she faced trying to keep her water topped up during a particularly hard winter. Nearly every year the canals freeze solid at least for a day or two. During my first winter on board the canals were frozen under four or five inches of ice from the last week in November until the first week in January. Nighttime temperatures dropped to a decidedly chilly minus eighteen. On two consecutive days we had highs of minus six.

Nothing moved on the canals for a month and a half.

Peggy had an online mooring without any facilities. That winter she couldn’t move her boat to the water point for six weeks. It’s possible to plough your way through an inch or more of ice but you can do serious damage to your boat (one coal boat that year nearly sunk ploughing through ice to reach customers) and if you push your way through even a thin layer of ice you can kiss goodbye to the hull’s protective paint around the waterline.

Peggy couldn’t take her boat to the water, so she had to bring water to the boat.  She used an Aquaroll. An Aquaroll is a rolling water carrier designed for caravanners to easily transport a 40l drum of water from a water point on a caravan site back to the caravan. It’s a great idea. one litre of water weighs 1kg so a 40l drum, excluding the weigh of the drum, weighs 40kg or 88lb (just over six stone). Rolling is much, much easier than carrying. However, there’s a big difference between rolling the drum a hundred metres or so along the well kept ground of a camp site and taking the drum for a walk a mile or more along an overgrown towpath. That’s what Peggy had to do.

After walking  over a mile to the water point with her Aquaroll in tow, Peggy had a rather unpleasant surprise. The tap at the water point was frozen solid. If your boat is near a frozen water point it’s an easy enough task to unfreeze it with a kettle full of boiling water. Peggy didn’t have her boat with her though. It was frozen into the ice. She had no way of thawing the tap so had to return to her boat with her empty Aquaroll.

Not that forty litres of water would have lasted very long.

I have a small water tank on James but my small water tank is still 350 litres – nearly nine times the size of Peggy’s rolling water supply. With normal use, our 350 litre tank lasts us four or five days at the most or between seventy and ninety litres a day. Forty litres doesn’t last long at all. An average five minute shower uses sixty litres. Our washing up bowl holds eleven litres.

At a push we could make 40 litres last a day without resorting to ridiculous measures like going without showers for a couple of days at a time or compromising on the water we use to wash dishes or clothes. We could do it, but we wouldn’t want to. Where we moor we don’t have to but three years ago during my first winter on board I heard many tales of boats without water and the lengths the liveaboard owners had to go to just to survive.

They didn’t (couldn’t) shower on their boat so they had to resort to using public facilities or relying on the hospitality of friends or relatives. They transported ridiculously heavy but completely inadequate supplies of water along the towpath. They used shop bought bottled water when they couldn’t get any from water points.

That winter was exceptionally cold. The coldest on record in fact. Most winters aren’t nearly as cold. Most of the time the canals are free of ice. And even in the worse conditions there are many, many places you can moor where a constant supply of running water isn’t a problem. Most boaters didn’t have a problem that winter or any other winter. But they, more by design than by accident, where in the right place when the Arctic weather struck.

As I said earlier a rural mooring without at least a water supply, no matter how tranquil and idyllic, just wouldn’t suit me at all. I know how much the regular ordeal of simply topping up my water tank would bother me. It would cause me far too much stress and inconvenience. Maybe you’re much more laid back than I am so the prospect of a twice weekly jaunt to the nearest water point in all weathers, and maybe even in the dark during the short winter days, would fill you with joy.

I enjoy living on a narrowboat because it’s a more basic way of life living closer to nature. I don’t mind basic, but I don’t want it to be too painful.

 More Tales From The American Among Us

I’ve just added another article written by our roving American friend. Richard writes eloquently about his encounter with an Englishman in a lock whose command of the English language wasn’t quite so well developed. If you’ve ever taken your boat through a lock where a fellow boater was less than helpful, you’ll be able to relate to this story.

Richard doesn’t just write about the canals he cruises on. He also writes about the people he meets on his travels. I think his articles are fascinating. I hope you do too. You’ll find links to his stories, including his latest episode “Me Missus”, at the bottom of his case study here.

Suggestions Please!

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

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

New Kindle Narrowboat Guide

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

 Newsletter Index

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

11th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

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

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

8th January 2012

The first four narrowboat case studies published

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

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

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

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

22nd January 2012

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

4th March 2012

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

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

Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat

A review of Debdale Wharf marina

18th March 2012

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

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

 1st April 2012

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

15th April 2012

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

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

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

29th April 2012

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

13th May 2012

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

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

27th  May 2012

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

Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke

10th June 2012

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

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

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

18th September 2012

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

VAT on narrowboat sales

30th September 2012

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

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

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

17th October 2012

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

28th October 2012

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

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

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

2nd December 2012

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

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

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

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

24th December

Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis

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

8th January 2013

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

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

20th February 2013

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

3rd March 2013

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

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

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

Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013

11th March 2013

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

17th March 2013

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

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

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

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

24th March 2013

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

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

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

31st March 2013

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

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

7th April 2013

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

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

14th April 2013

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

21st April 2013

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

Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop

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

28th April 2013

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

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

12th May 2013

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

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

19th May 2013

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

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

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

26th May 2013

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

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

2nd June 2013

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

9th June 2013

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

16th June 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

30th June 2013

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

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

7th July 2013

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

14th July 2013

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

21st July 2013

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

28th July 2013

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

4th August 2013

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

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

11th August 2013

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

Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners

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

18th August 2013

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

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

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

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

25th August 2013

Effective fly killers for boats

The downside to living on a narrowboat

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

1st September 2013

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

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

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

15th September

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

22nd September

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

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

29th September

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.

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.

Popular Forum Posts

There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.

  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

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

 

 

Useful Information
Entertainment
Summary

A Case Study Of Liveaboard Narrowboat Miss George

After testing the lifestyle by taking a narrowboat holiday in the depths of winter, Jaks and Andy have now lived on their own narrowboat for four years on a rustic farm mooring on the cut with no facilities.

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

Jaks & Andy , with Bruno 9 and Freddie 4, the 2 mad staffies who bark at most boats who cruise past our mooring on the Ashby.

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

We were caravaners to start with, then had a boating holiday in February cheap off ebay. It was cold with cat ice on the cut but we loved it, a few years later we found Miss George on eBay not far from our house and with the kids doing there own thing we did it.

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

George on the north OxfordShe was called Miss George when we bought her, we would like to know why!

Do you have a permanent mooring?

A farm non towpath linear mooring which came with the boat. we have no facilities.

What is your boat style and length

A 1984 62 ft Peter Nichols trad, with a very unusual offside engine with lots of pulleys to the prop. we would love to know more about her!

How long have you been a narrowboat owner?

4 years

How did you finance your boat?

A loan

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

More than we do in a house

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

Both work for a agency have done so for a year, but planning to cruise some of the network next year!(we work 6 days 6am- 2pm) in a warehouse, we go to bed early which saves on electric!

What do you like least about narrowboat life?

This year has quite bad our engine ceased and we had to buy and fit a second hand one, the gear box coupling is broken at the minute,which Andy is hopefully going to fix next week as we are on holiday. condensation in the winter, no long lingering hot baths.

What do you like most about narrowboat life?

The out doors and simple life,  the boating community take you back to a time gone by when you could leave your back door open and borrow a cup of sugar!

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

Nothing really, we are easy to please and have a cosy cottage style boat!

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

Plan ahead, walk you are never far away from a shop.

How do you do your washing when you are cruising?

We have a full size washing machine, as we have a generator, powered by the engine.

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

Pump out with macerator, and back up Porta Potti.

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

Orange dongle, yes and no, would like better.

What is your favourite canal or section of canal?

Anywhere. when we not a work, home is nice.

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

When be bought the boat it had been upgraded by rose narrowboats, we have 4 leisure batteries,inverter, mastervolt charger, and a on board generator, we are sensible we only use high power equipment when the engine is running,we plug in phones laptop etc only when we put engine on, we try and be organised with rechargeable stuff. we do have 2 old small solar panels and are planning to upgrade. we also have some led lights which help.

How warm is your narrowboat in the winter?

In the last few very cold winters we were warmer than in our house, and it was cheaper as we burn anything and everything.

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

Try before you buy in cold weather, go to boating pubs or chat to boaters

_____________________________________________________________________

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.

 

 

12v sockets. Something I’m hoping to resolve pdq.

Useful Information
Entertainment
Summary

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

Living on a Narrowboat News 29th September 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seasoned V Unseasoned Wood As Fuel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Create Lasting Memories Of Your Travels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Nige And His Cruising Blog

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

Suggestions Please!

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

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

New Kindle Narrowboat Guide

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

 Newsletter Index

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

11th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

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

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

8th January 2012

The first four narrowboat case studies published

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

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

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

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

22nd January 2012

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

4th March 2012

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

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

Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat

A review of Debdale Wharf marina

18th March 2012

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

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

 1st April 2012

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

15th April 2012

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

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

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

29th April 2012

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

13th May 2012

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

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

27th  May 2012

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

Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke

10th June 2012

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

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

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

18th September 2012

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

VAT on narrowboat sales

30th September 2012

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

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

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

17th October 2012

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

28th October 2012

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

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

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

2nd December 2012

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

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

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

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

24th December

Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis

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

8th January 2013

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

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

20th February 2013

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

3rd March 2013

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

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

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

Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013

11th March 2013

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

17th March 2013

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

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

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

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

24th March 2013

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

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

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

31st March 2013

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

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

7th April 2013

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

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

14th April 2013

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

21st April 2013

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

Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop

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

28th April 2013

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

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

12th May 2013

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

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

19th May 2013

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

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

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

26th May 2013

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

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

2nd June 2013

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

9th June 2013

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

16th June 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

30th June 2013

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

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

7th July 2013

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

14th July 2013

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

21st July 2013

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

28th July 2013

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

4th August 2013

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

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

11th August 2013

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

Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners

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

18th August 2013

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

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

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

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

25th August 2013

Effective fly killers for boats

The downside to living on a narrowboat

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

1st September 2013

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

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.

Popular Forum Posts

There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.

  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

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

 

 

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7

Steppin’out; Solo Jolly day 7 Branston to Mercia marina.

Solo Jolly day7 001

A bit chilly this morning and put the central heating on to warm things up. Quite a few boaters up and about early and not all of them very curteous as they were passind a good line of moored boats. Some of the boats and some of the people looked like they should know better. Can’t go by looks though can we? This boating is not exactly hardship avenue while out cruising is it? I sat with a coffee studying the form for todays losers at Market Rasen and Newmarket then had a long conversation with my brother on the phone. It comes under “best of both worlds” I think and I’m not knocking it.

Off we go then heading down to Branston lock. It’s certainly just a tad up from breezy I think so paying more attention. I had a good line coming in to lock mooring area behind a boat already there and just as the bow got to the bank and I started to bring the stern in the bow shot off with a mind of its own. With the bow on the other bank now I could revers and try to give myself enough room to turn and point back to where I want to go. This time with a little more force and the chap from the moored boat came and took my middle rope and we got moored up.  Another came in behind as I pulled down once the first boat went in and we all came to lift and drop paddles and things. While there a cruiser came and he had a hell of a job mooring up too. Looks like being an interesting sort of day.

Solo Jolly day7 002Down and then on towards Burton with fields spreading out towards the hills and then you turn a corner and a great big square wharehouse built of sheet steel, as they do nowadays, is staring back at you. Another one on the other side of canal and the A38 to pass under and we are back in Burton. As I approached Shobnall marina at a sedate pace as there were boats moored someone was coming out so I had to sound the horn as I was about 10 yards from the entrance. They did stop and so no accident.

Meandering through Burton by canal isn’t too bad as it keeps to the outskirts and goes by Shobnall fields where there were at least 3 youth football matches in progress.Solo Jolly day7 003 Now we come to Dallow lock which will be my last of the journey. Solo Jolly day7 004The lock was full so only had to open the gate and enter. There was a Stenson day hire boat moored right up to the lock on the downside lock landing area with three couples in and one of them fishing. I decided to just say nothing as explaining they shouldn’t moor there might get heated and I didn’t fancy the hassle. I’m a coward really. As I came back to close the gates another boat approached so I waved to see if they were going through and no response. I stood waving with both arms above my and shouting hello loudly. I figured they were going through so opened the gate I’d shut and walked back down still waving and shouting and being ignored and I was virtually back to them before they acknowledged by existence. ” oh we were looking to see if they were going through” indicating the hire boat, which is fair, but I just wish people would respond when you’re waving and shouting. It’s my age, where are my pills.

Solo Jolly day7 009

To say how windy it is today there are lots of boats out and about which makes it a bit tight in places and I slowed down and a couple of times stopped and hovered to make life easier for all of us. Would a thanks mate or  a thank you be too much to ask?Solo Jolly day7 019 This makes up for yesterday I guess when all seemed to go right. However I passed one boat where it was narrowed by a tree and there is a very narrow bit of canal, looks like it might have been a bridge at some time, with a boat the other side of the narrow who did stop for me even though it blew him onto the wrong side of the canal and I thanked him profusely.Solo Jolly day7 013

There is a narrow bridge just before you enter Willington and met two boats coming through so a bit more hovering then through and on to Willington. I had had a boat behind me for a while and he was still there as I got to the marina entrance which is tight on a good day in this direction. I had the one behind and one coming up infront and thankfully the man coming out of Mercia was stopped in  pound just after the entrance so I could turn in and only bumped once. Home or very nearly now and as I entered the marina proper you could feel the wind coming at you. I negotiated a couple of turns and ran down the farside of my bay and turned in and was doing alright till the last minute and hadn’t quite got it right so bumped my mooring partner not too bad but not as gently as I would have liked. Good job he’s a nice man.

Solo Jolly day7 023Strange really but it does feel like I’ve come home and it does feel like I’ve been on holiday and thankfully it feels like I’ve had a good time and for a weeks holiday I’ve spent nothing really. If you ignore the boat running costs which you pay anyway a holiday like this is dirt cheap. I may have spent less than normal as I moored out in the wilds four nights and after all the fresh air each day I was a sleep quite early. I should be out night clubbing till all hours when on holiday, I’m only 56 I’m still young. Ok well maybe not and maybe I’ll do the boring stuff next time too.

The last picture is a cheat I will admit as I took it one night about 2 or 3 weeks ago so it’s not actually this outing but it is taken off the back of my boat where I’m moored and so it is home.

038I look forward to my next outing and must post a bit more regularly than I have been doing.

Thanks for following and your comments.

God bless

OurNige

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3

Steppin’out; Solo Jolly Day 6 Fradley to Branston

Solo Jolly day 6 003

What a beautiful morning to wake up to. Came as a bit of a surprise as I was expectin the same as yesterday. Took my rubbish to the bins and used their toilets then cup of coffee and mop out the engine and bay and decided to fill my grease gun and tighten the stern gland while I was down there and it was about 11 gone when I set off. Had to wait for the first lock but then help on the second lock  and we are off.

Solo Jolly day 6 012Down to Common Lock where a lady who had walked it to the butchers in Alrewas was coming up with her dog and we got chatting, she was one of those really nice people who brighten you’re day up and make you feel better just for bumping into them. She volunteered to shut the gates for me so another job saved. She looks a bit blured on the photo but she  wasn’t quite as blurred as that in person.

Then Bagnall lock as you get to Alrewas and I was also going to call on the butcher there as they are supposed to be veeery goooood. Someone coming out of the lock as I got there so straight in and then moored up a few yards after coming out to wander down the high st and try to find the butcher. I found the PO first which was good as I had a couple of items to mail that I’d sold on ebay and she told me the butchers was just a few yards after the pub and not to get side tracked.

Solo Jolly day 6 014A very good butchers it appears to be. I picked up a lettuce and some toms on the veg and some smoked bacon and a home made pork pie but checked out what else they’d got. Good assortment of home made pies, scotch eggs, cooked meats and a few dishes with like stir fries in them where the meat and spices and bits were already in. Their meat really did look the business. I can’t stock up as I don’t have a freezer but it’s close enough for me to go by car from Mercia.

I thought I’d better stop by the George and Dragon in the interest of information for my blog so I had just a half of Burton bitter. The pub is old and lots of wood with a friendly feel to it. They serve meals there and the smell was very tempting. It was about 1 o’clock when I was there and it was quite busy. A good selection of hand pull beers and the Burton bitter I had was very nice. I shall be calling again when looking for a place to eat and will overnight at Alrewas next time I’m out and about. Moor at bridge 48 and just walk into the centre of town. The road is very quiet and this was Friday but the post office is there then the pub and the butcher and there could be a coop a little further down the street too. Oh and there is a chemist as well.

Off we set again and it’s a nice little village, you get the sense that you need a bit in the bank to live here, and down to the lock before the river section and a boat coming up. A nice couple with their grandkids I think and he stayed behind and did the gates for me as I was on my own. All the friendly people seem to be out today.

Solo Jolly day 6 022The river section is were the canal joins the river Trent for about a hundred yards and then turns of at the weir down into Wychnor. You can get stranded when the Trent is in flood as it can be closed to navigation. There is a notice board at Fradley junction saying whether the river section is open or not. The water is much clearer through Wychnor as it’s river water not canal water and after the first lock it is still nice and clear. It’s lovely being able to look and see the weeds under the water bending with the flow, the slide as the shallow bottom at the sides slides down as it comes out to the middle. Plenty of tall reedy grass at the sides aroung Wychnor. I like it up there and more so as it moves furhter away from the A38.

Wychnor Bridges lock and someone coming through again. My timing is good today or someones looking after me. This time they were a couple who had bought the boat yesterday. I passed some tips on as not to rush and not necessarily to tie up in a single lock and not to worry if they hit something so long as they hit it slowly.Solo Jolly day 6 029 I’m not sure how much they took in. After I was in the lock and ready to open the paddle to empty it I had another lovely lady come to help me as she and her husband were coming up so a lot of work saved again.

Solo Jolly day 6 033Here is were the canal meets the A38 and runs side by side for a couple of miles. It’s still lovely and picturesque but very noisy as the traffic speeds past about 15yds away. Not much further to go when you get to Barton Turns lock and a cruiser coming out as I get there so just hovered and went in. As I was leaving the lock another nice man asked if I wanted the gates shutting. I replied yes please and asked if he was coming down and he was just walking past and offered. If only the world was like this all the time. I shall wake up soon and it will all have been a dream.

Tatenhill lock and no one was coming through, no one to help me. What is the world coming to? I shall have to complain to C&RT or someone. It is a lovely looking lock and yet over the hedge is a huge factory yard so it’s on the edge of an industrial estate yet feels, apart from the distant road noise, as though you’re in the middle of nowher.Solo Jolly day 6 036

Now I want to find a mooring and there a few boats moored alongside Branston water park nature reserve and I find a piece of empty armco just about the right size to fit Forty Winks in so I reverse her in and tie her up and settled for the night. My last night of freedom. There is a pub just down the towpath which does pizza and pasta but I’ve already got my faggots in the fridge so faggots, chopped toms with cinamon and bisto, mushrooms and onions for tea it is.

I have now eaten and returned to work on the blog. It was just what the doctor ordered well probably not the faggots as they probably have a lot of fat and preservatives in but they were nice. I’ve just looked out the side hatch and it feels like a summers eveing. Lights down by the pub, just the faintest feel of a breeze, the water flat calm. The night is dark and a few clouds but no moon yet. After a week out and a day like this I could almost think about living on a narrowboat. I shall have to give it some thought.

Solo Jolly day 6 037This is tonight’s mooring with the sound of the A38 droning noticeably but not too disturbingly. The Trent and Mersey canal from Shardlow upto Willington follows the A50 then the A38 takes over till you get to Wychnor Bridges where they part company, thankfully. But canals were built to carry freight and they follow roads and train lines so we have to grin and bear the times when they are side by side or closer than we would like.

Oh a passing comment on the tradition of partaking of a glass after mooring up once the travelling day has been completed. No it doesn’t matter what time it is. Today I had a glass of Talisker whisky which is distilled on the Isle of Skye and is the finest tasting whisky that I have pertaken of, well so far but there may be better, it danced on my tongue while my taste buds sang halleluiah.

There may be people with more money than me, infact there are lots of people, but on a day like today there aren’t many that are richer than me. Thanks to all of you who shared it with me in person, a few minutes here and a few minutes there and thanks to all of you reading about it. Hope it entertains you, relaxes you or brightens your day just a little.

God bless you.

Last day tomorrow.

OurNige

 

 

 

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Steppin’out; Solo Jolly day 5, Great Haywood to Fradley.

Solo Jolly day 5 009

Hey what happended overnight? It’s about 10 degrees cooler than yesterday and it’s a good bit breezier too. This is going to be a little bit of a different day to last few but never mind. There seems to be a few folks up and about and they seem to be in a hurry too. Thanks to Pearley for the courtesy article which explains about tieing up properly. The forward rope out front so it pulls forward and the stern rope out back so it pulls you backwards really does make a difference when people go past too fast. I’m not being thrown about as much.

Today I’ve had to put on two t/shirts and a fleece and my hat now the temperature has gone down, I have still got shorts on but I wear shorts virtually all year round. Ok so some of us are a little different this allows you normal people to feel a little superiorl.

Off down to Colwich lock and having got in the lock met by a nice lady coming the other way and shared a really nice conversation.Solo Jolly day 5 003 She was a lovely lady to start the day off and on leaving the lock her husband a pleasant chap too with one of those boats with the engine Paul was talking about a while back where they fire about once a minute. Makes my Kubota engine sound like a two stroke. Nice boat too, see picture.

Through Colwich again which is a picturesque type of place then back out into open country side. Now I’m going through the same places that I came through on the way up so I shall have to think of new things to say and makes sure I don’t use the same photos or you’ll rumble me. It is a bit breezy and it’s pushing the boat about a little as well making me keep the collar on my fleece turned up and my hat pulled well down but it’s dry and the sun is trying to shine. I’m not encountering many boats so I’m just plodding along at 3 mph ish.Solo Jolly day 5 010 I’m only heading for Fradley which should be about 11 miles and only 3 locks so no rush. Bridge 68 is the turning point where the open country changes to a few trees and then turns towards Rugely and the aqueduct over the Trent that says you’re there.

the first part is nice houses and gardens that slowly sort of turn a little less nice then becomes the town centre where there is plenty of mooring but today most of it is taken which makes it quite narrow and would have made life interesting if I’d have met anyone coming the other way but I didn’t. Rugeley merges with Mossley and a Solo Jolly day 5 029working factory then down to the Ash Tree pub and Ash Tree boat club moorings, Hawksyard Priory golf club and moorings then the Armitage tunnel, with no roof. Solo Jolly day 5 016

Coming out the other end you fall upon the Plum Pudding pub with moorings and lots of tables outside. I must try it next time I’m up this way as it does look like a nice pub. Then the alotments. Now being of a sound mind and steeped in logic and a Physics O level I understand totaly about water finding it’s own level and Archimedes and all that jazz but from Hawksyard priory I have had the feeling that i’m going uphill and I’m enclosing a photo to back up my theory.Solo Jolly day 5 021 Look at the boat and the bank is nearer the gunwhales at the back than the front indicating that is indeed on an incline. Your honour I rest my case.

Now on to Handsacre which boasts some nice properties at the side of Solo Jolly day 5 024the canal, again only a few boats compared to the number of properties. A left turn, under a bridge and back out amongs the fields and trees. A mile of lovely scenery and just before Kings Bromley Wharf I pass a couple hosing down the frontage where it looks like they’ve been concreting, they are stood next to a concrete mixer, and we pass pleasantries and they look as though they’ve earned their supper. Kings Bromley Wharf with a big sign up saying “No Winging”. Is it me but why are people so mean and mardy when there is ample room to wind. On the roads you see signs no turning. What mean people are they that don’t want to allow someone to use their space when as far as I can see it will do no harm what so ever. Is it just me?

Solo Jolly day 5 020Down past Kings Bromley Marina, a seperate enterprise, and onto what is at the moment one of my favourite stretches of canal. Lovely tree lined canal. Lots of Oaks and Silver Birch lining the banks and then a slight left turn and a long straight with Ravenshaw wood on one side and open fields on the other. This was where I overnighted on the way up, a lovely place. Woodend lock followed by a sharp left and the top lock at Fradley junction is in the distance.

A couple of locks and I’m moored up in the middle section. Nip to the loo and check out the showers. These are BW and are in very good order, no problems at all. After a shower it’s up to the Swan pub for a couple of pints and I chose to have the lasagne which came with chips, side salad, garlic bread and I had a side order of onion rings. The lasagne was very nice, probably microwaved, the onion rings were possibly the best I’ve had in a pub anywhere but the chips were frozen and I do love chips where some one has peeled a real potato the same day as they are fried, but that’s what you get in some places, they were ok. I didn’t leave any so they couldn’t have been too bad.Solo Jolly day 5 041 Bar staff and a lady I took to be the Landlady were good and the customers were friendly. I felt welcomed and at home within a few minutes. I had the Thatchers Gold cider which is nice and they had a good selection of real ales on too. The menu isn’t extensive but enough choice and with vegetarian options. A few people said the Sunday dinners here are wonderful and it get’s packed apparently.

Solo Jolly day 5 036A couple of pints and a meal. Watched some good sized carp taking bits off the top of the water then back home to write my blog. They have a folk night here on Thursdays but I’m tiring so I will miss it tonight and have to call round by car another time and join them. I lit my first fire of the week tonight as it was dropping a little cooler as I came back from the Swan so I am now well warm and cosy.

Falling asleep over the computer so it’s time for bed.

Night folks and tomorrow we can do some moor.

Nige

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Steppin’out; Solo jolly day 4

Solo Jolly day 4 (6)

It’s been an enjoyable, funny, different sort of day today. With friends meeting me it was always going to be a round trip back to where we started kind of day. Rather overcast and drizzly which actually turned into heavy drizzle and while planning routes on the computer, I’d opened the side hatch as I like to do if I don’t think it’s cold, and looking at map books and raising a hand to passers by, as you do, and this youngish guy sort of stopped and said something about it being cold and raining and I said it didn’t seem cold and I hadn’t realised it was raining and he laughed and said it was  cold when you’d slept out all night and he walked off. I’d assumed he was a boater as he had what I thought was a carrier of rubbish in his hand. He was polite and not threatening and normally well spoken and definitely not aggressive in manner, mid twenties or early. It was seeing a few homeless folks in Leicester about 10 years ago that got me into care work, which I’ve just come out of this year, and now felt like I should have made him a coffee and had a bit of a chat but I find it daunting and while in care always worked with adults with severe learning difficulties in registered care which is a different ball game.Solo Jolly day 4 (11)

Anyway the rain had about stopped my friends were getting nearer so I got ready started her up and I has I was only just down from the lock went up to open the gates as I’d seen a boat come down but when I got there the top gates leaked so it had filled up enough for me not to be able to open the gates and I hadn’t taken my windlass with me. As I was walking back a couple of boats arrived so ended up third in the queue. Next time I will move my boat up. 

Once through Haywood lock it’s only a spit up to the junction with the Staffs and Worcs and stopped and picked my friends up. It was by now about 11 am but I’d sorted a little route out so we didn’t have to rush or be travelling all the time so we set off up the Trent and Mersey. I just feel that most of the canals I’ve seen are beautiful places to be unless they are running through cities or towns and some of them are pleasantly different. Lovely reeds and trees and fields which if the sun had been out would have been  even nicer but still picturesque.Solo Jolly day 4 (28) Just one lock going up, Hoo Mill lock, and I was explaining to Brian what we needed to do and a boat caught us up so after opening the gates I went back for the boat and this other chap quite happily explained and showed Brian what happens and why. There really are some nice people about, some not so nice and grumpy but we won’t dwell on them. Through the lock and more lovely open countryside. Brian was on his third cup of tea by now. Caroline his wife and me don’t really drink that much tea and coffee so we let him drink alone after the first one. under bridges 77 and 78 then wound in the winding hole and a slow trundle back down to Great Haywood and moored up so we could nip to the shop there. Be very careful with this shop as a loaf of wholemeal bread, which was all I went in for, cost me £11 odd. OK so I added two home made faggots, a bulb of garlic, about a kilo of tomatoes, a jar of Staffordshire honey and a huge two scoop ice cream waffle cone, Cherry and Passion fruit which was delicious. So if you’re passing through or near Great Haywood this canal side farm shop on Mill Lane also does a selection of fresh veg, cheeses, cooked meats, fresh meats, fresh bread, home-made cakes large and small and all as far as I know of very good quality, not cheap but not too bad. So this is place to be avoided as you will spend more than you intended unless you’re of the iron willed brigade or devoid of any taste buds. It is a diet breaking shop.

Solo Jolly day 4 (12)From here we had to go about 50 yards and turn right into the Staffs and Worcs canal. At the junction the T&M is very wide, the bridge is high and wide and the S&W is quite wide compared to some junctions I’ve seen and there was no wind to speak off. Don’t you feel a plonker when you miss it by a country mile and have to use reverse to get enough room to spin it round and she’s only 50 ft. Never mind I’ll get another go sometime. Over the narrow aqueduct and onto the canal proper and there on the left is an almost submerged day cruiser which would have sunk further but it was on the bottom. Does the C&RT come round and fish these boats out or are they just left there for ever. There seemed to be quite a few sunken boats around Manchester.

Down then a short distance to the Tixall wide. As we approached  there was a mooring so we took that in case there weren’t any more further down. There was a long line of boats which didn’t look to have any spaces. Popped a light under the steak and kidney in the oven and we had a walk down the wide where there were some spaces further down. It’s quite nice down there but was as stated above quite busy. 

Solo Jolly day 4 (18)For anyone interested we only had mashed potato with our steak and kidney, whipped with butter and milk, potatoes should be just under cooked so they can be well mashed and handle the butter and milk without going gooey. Even though I say so my self it was bloody lovely and Brian and Caroline said so too. Wash the pots after a cuppa and wind round and back to Great Haywood where upon re-entering the T&M we couldn’t find anywhere to more. I hate to think what it’s like in the summer. We couldn’t find anywhere and were back at the lock near Shugborough so they walked it back to the car and I decided to go through and then find somewhere to more as there is a long stretch from the lock so shouldn’t be a problem.

As I moored up the boat to go back and close the gates I saw the same guy from this morning sitting on bench seat a bit down the canal so after I’d been thinking about it part of the day I was now faced with a dilemma. I could just have ignored him and trundled off down the canal. I could have stopped and offered him a drink and a chat, which I’m not sure I was ready for so I took the easier option of greeting him and asking if he had any money, which he hadn’t, so gave him a few pounds and though he seemed like he  would welcome a bit of time and a chat as much as the money I said see ya and moved off. A chat would have been good for him I think. I need to look into doing a bit of voluntary work somewhere now I’m not in care. All this philosophical stuff is for my benefit and can be ignored by the reader if you wish to. It does show that we all come from many walks of life and the canals and surrounding areas contain life in all its diverse and many coloured facets. Sometimes you get a second chance to make a bit of difference to someone this was a very quick second chance. 

Solo Jolly day 4 (29)The light beginning to fade as I neared Colwich lock and found a nice place to moor up among a few other boats. Might be a bit close to the train line  but should be OK. Nice aspect out over the fields. A couple of glasses of Scottish flavoured water and lost internet connection so that’s why I’m finishing this off this morning. I did sleep well.

 

May God bless you all and lead you into places where you’ve always wanted to go, really.

Have a great day and I’ll see you tonight.

OurNige

 

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