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Life on a narrowboat can be as peaceful as it is idyllic BUT you need to understand the pros, cons, highs, lows, and day to day logistics in living on England's inland waterways. Let me help you find out all you need to know before you commit to what could be a very expensive mistake.


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2014 01 05 Newsletter – New Year Resolutions

A Happy New Year to you!

Did you celebrate? Did you party until the wee hours or, like me, enjoy a quiet night in?

Sally and I aren’t party people. Most of the time we enjoy each other’s company and the peace and quiet on the boat. On Tuesday afternoon we paid a quick visit to Sally’s favourite Thai grocery shop in Banbury, and an even quicker visit to the ridiculously busy Tesco store just to the north of the town, before heading back for the sanity and tranquility of the marina.

We defrosted 1kg of tiger prawns (each the size of a well built Shetland pony so only twelve to the kilo) and quickly stir fried them with garlic, chilli, ginger and coconut milk. Served with rice and washed down with a couple of bottles of Thai beer and a bottle of bubbly, it was an easy but ever so tasty meal to celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the new.

So here I am on New Year’s day, thinking about the twelve months ahead as I listen to the sounds around me. It’s raining of course, and very windy too. On days like this in the past I’ve been used to an icy draught streaming in to the boat through the port side doors and hatch. Not today though. The hatch and doors are now completely draught free.

I’ve talked before about the draughts we suffer from the poorly fitted front, rear and side doors and hatches. The draughts make a huge difference to the temperature inside the boat. Last year Sally effectively cured the draughts by stuffing foam offcuts into the gaps and securing them with duct tape. It wasn’t a bad solution, but involved much messing about if we wanted to open the side doors.

Last winter we didn’t need to open them until the warmer weather in the spring. This year Sally’s been using the port side doors regularly each week.

Earlier in the year we bought a twin tub washing machine. One of the advantages of the twin tub is that it doesn’t need to be plumbed in. The fact that it’s free standing is also a disadvantage when it comes to draining the machine. We either have to drain it into a bucket and then tip the bucket into the sink or, our preferred method, open one of the side doors enough to poke the drain hose out of the boat and pump the water straight out into the marina.

It’s a bit of a nuisance trying to do this if the door is taped up so we looked for another solution to the door draughts.

We had a new cratch cover fitted in November 2011 soon after the boat cabin was over plated with steel. The cover cost me £450 which was less than half the price quoted by some of the better known canopy manufacturers. I’m generally very happy with it. During heavy rain we get a little water coming through the zip as the zip is open to the elements rather than covered as it is in most of the more expensive canopies but, apart from that, it’s served us well.

We asked Karl, the guy who fitted the cratch cover, to quote us for covers for both side doors and hatches and for the rear doors and hatch. He offered to make and fit the lost for a very reasonable £120.

He fitted them just before Christmas. The fitting took him less than an hour. I don’t know how he did it as I had to help with the emergency repairs to the wind blown wharf paint tent. The starboard and rear of the boat were pretty straight forward as Karl could work from the pier for the starboard side and from the rear deck for the rear hatches. However, how he managed to fit the port side cover is a mystery to me.

The port side hatches are on the water side. To my knowledge, Karl can’t walk on water but as he couldn’t have walked along the gunnels because of their narrowness after the extra steel was added to the cabin, I’m not completely ruling that out. Karl may be part bat and have fitted the covers by hanging upside down from the roof.

Whatever he did, he fitted all the covers in less than an hour and fitted them very well. The difference on the boat has been remarkable, especially on a day like today.

Fat rain drops are rattling against the cover over the doors and the boat is shuddering under the impact of the gusting wind. The air temperature is a relatively mild seven degrees but the wind chill is minus two. I don’t care though because none of that icy wind is making its way into the boat via the side hatch.

We’re another step closer to having the boat completely up to scratch.

Planning For The Year Ahead

Talking of improving the boat I’ve been spending some time over the last week writing down what we want to accomplish in 2014. I’ve always found that having a specific written goal helps me get where I want to be.

James is a very different boat from the neglected craft I moved on to in April 2010. I can honestly say that the boat is now a very comfortable floating home and one which I’m proud to own. We’re nearly there with the refurbishment, but there’s still a bit to do.

The first and most important of the improvements planned for this year is the installation of the new central heating system. We’ve already booked that in for the first week in February when we are on holiday. The work is going to take three or fours days and will cause a fair amount of disruption throughout the boat. The disruption is always a major consideration when you live on board your boat. When you live in a house and have some work done, you can just move to another part of the house when the workmen are in. You can’t in a narrowboat. There’s nowhere to move to.

The installation will involve removing the three knackered old radiators currently attached to the stove’s back boiler, filling the back boiler with sand, removing all the old pipes, removing the existing gas fired water heater, removing a gas fire, fitting a large radiator for the front half of the boat, another smaller one in the office area to keep my toes toasty when I’m sitting immobile for hours on end while I slave away over a hot keyboard, as big a towel rail as we can manage in the bathroom, another radiator in the bedroom and a further towel rail in the engine room.

The engine room will also be home to the heart of the new heating system, the Webasto Thermo Top C. Once the burner unit is fitted, new pipes need to be run to all of the radiators and to the new calorifier which will be installed under our bed. Installing the calorifier will mean taking the mattress off and then trying to find somewhere to put it. Narrowboats definitely don’t have space enough to store a mattress anywhere else than on the bed base.

The logistics of having work done and what to do with yourself if you’re a liveaboard is certainly something you need to think about. When I had the cabin over plated, James was shipped away to be worked on for ten days. I was very lucky at the time to be working at Calcutt Boats and at a time of the year when the hire fleet was out of commission. I was allowed to live on one of the boats while James was away and while the remedial work was done before the boat was fit to live on once it was returned.

So the first of our goals for 2014 is already organised. We also need to…

  • Fit a folding shower door to replace the flimsy curtain we use at the moment. You can’t really relax when you’re using a curtain rather than a far more substantial glass or plastic panel. You’re especially nervous when showering if, like me, in the past you’ve had the particularly unpleasant surprise of stepping out of shower after a refreshing scrub into a rather deep pool of water which has already made itself very comfortable deep in the pile of the bedroom carpet. Shower curtains can very easily slip outside the shower tray as you thrash about trying to avoid jets of scalding water from a very temperamental gas burner.
  • Reupholster the soft furnishings in the front of the boat. We have L shaped seating in front of the stove with foam upholstered seats and backs. Aft of this seating is the Pullman’s dinette with four more upholstered seats and backs.One of the few complaints I had about the steel over plating workmanship was that, at some stage in the process, the covers the company placed over the empty window frames to protect the inside of the boat slipped off as they welded next to the dinette. Consequently there are a few pin prick burns in the seating. The burns aren’t too bad and if they were the only problem with the upholstery I wouldn’t be bothered.

    More of a problem is my own stupidity or laziness or a combination of the two. I have a habit if sitting down to eat as soon as I return from work in the evening. I’m normally very tired so I just want to eat and rest for a while before I do anything else. It’s been a big mistake. Boating generally isn’t the cleanest of pastimes and working on the grounds at a marina can be particularly mucky. Consequently, whether it’s been as a result of a normal working day, or collecting dirt from the outside of the boat, lock walls or balance beams when we’ve been out cruising, I’ve made a bit of a mess of the upholstery where I normally sit.

    The third problem is that the material that was used in the first place wasn’t very good. In fact, we’ve been told that it’s curtain material rather than fabric suitable for seating. It’s has a velvety feel and is pale green. The colour shows the dirt and the fabric has sagged and stretched.

    We’re hoping to have the work done in March or April when we’ve recovered financially from our holiday

  • Fit a permanent drain for the twin tub washing machine. Earlier I talked about the new covers we’ve had fitted for the side doors and hatches. They’re very effective but they also create a bit of a problem. Sally likes to drain the twin tub by opening the side hatch and poking the drain hose through. She can’t do that if the cover is in place. So, when she has one of her marathon clothes washing sessions (I think it’s every alternate day) I have to take the port side cover off so she can open the door.Taking the cover off might not sound like a big deal but it’s not the easiest job in the world. Sally asked me to take the cover off yesterday. I forgot to do it in the morning when she first asked so I ended up tackling the job in the dark last night.

    Of course it was raining and of course the rain was being driven horizontally by a howling gale.The boat’s port side is next to the water so to take the cover off I have to climb onto the roof and then lower myself down very carefully onto the starboard side gunnel, a gunnel which is now only two inches wide because of the extra steel we’ve had added to the cabin. It’s bad enough on a calm summer’s day but on a dark winter’s night with an icy rain numbing my fingers so I struggle to grip a wet, highly polished 25mm rolled box section roof rail as I crouch down to free the gunnel level studs just inches from the rain lashed water, it’s a very interesting couple of minutes indeed.With the cover off, Sally could open the side hatch to drain the washing machine. Unfortunately the post side is the weather side so opening the side hatch for even a minute instantly fills the boat with cold air.

    A permanent drain would mean that the side hatch covers could stay in place, Sally could wash away to her heart’s content without me having to resort to night time aerobatics and we could retain the warm air in the boat we work so hard at maintaining.

    Update Sunday 5th Jan: After writing about this last improvement I realised that I  had probably spent longer recording my thoughts than it would take to do the job myself… if I could get hold of the right tools. So I went on bended knee to fitter Russ. He calls himself Tools-R-Russ. He has every tool known to man, and a few extra ones too. Staff often borrow weird and wonderful things from him.

    I borrowed a heavy duty drill from him with a nifty fitting for cutting a 22mm hole (I think) in steel and a threaded brass spigot to fit in it. Russ’s parting comment bothered me a little, “Just make sure you drill the hole above the water line!”. He knows me too well.

    Twenty minutes energetic drilling in my lunch break and the job was done.

    It may not sound much to all you macho tool wielding men (and women), but I was quite proud of myself. All I need to do now is work out how to stop the water pouring through the hole from the marina!

  • Actually, I can’t think of any more major jobs to do. We’re nearly there. Yippee!

We haven’t just been thinking about the improvements we want to make to James. We’ve also been making plans for actually using the boat to get out and about on the network as much as we can while we are still able.

Sally and I had a marvelous two week break at the beginning of June last year and plenty of overnight stops at various beautiful spots on the stretch of Grand Union/Oxford canal between Napton and Braunston junctions. Much as I enjoy being moored in a beautiful spot at Calcutt, it’s not where either of us want to be long term. However, as far as this year is concerned,  our trip to the Philippines in February will use a big chunk of our savings and Sally’s holiday entitlement. I’m self employed so I don’t have to worry about whether I will be able to have the time off work, just whether I will be able to afford to do it.

We both realise how important it is to plan for the future but we also realise how often people are forced to change or abandon long term plans and goals because of circumstances outside of their control.

Overall health plays a huge part in boating plans.

Boating is an active and healthy pursuit. There are paddles to raise and lower, 400kg gates to open and close, more miles of towpath walking than anyone could wish for and twenty tonne steel boats to drag, push and pull as you negotiate your route. It’s fantastic exercise and a wonderful way to keep fit.

Unfortunately, because of poor health, far too many would be boaters with a lifetime of dreams and plans behind them fall before the final hurdle.

I’ve seen it no end of times over the last almost four years I’ve been living and working at Calcutt Boats. The majority of narrowboat owners are no longer spring chickens. Most people who buy a narrowboat buy one not as a home, but as a very expensive hobby. It’s a hobby that the younger generation, saddled with the cost of paying for a home while they raise a family, simply can’t afford.

Many boat owners would love to take their boats out more, but they simply don’t have the time. They’re in the same position as many others who have expensive hobbies. They can’t spend the time they want enjoying the result of all their hard work because they need to carry on working hard to pay for their hobby.

They’re all waiting for that dream date in the future when they can stop the daily grind and start to live. Unfortunately life often gets in the way of their plans.

All too often I hear, “We’re going to have to sell the boat. Bill just can’t manage it any more,” or “We planned to cruise all of the network before we learned about Jean’s illness.” Most of these bitterly disappointed boaters had endured years of unremitting toil, often in jobs they didn’t particularly enjoy, working towards a lifetime’s goal of a world of leisure and exploration on board their own floating homes.

Last week I sent out an email to a large group on my newsletter list which my software had recorded as not having opened the previous half dozen weekly newsletters. The software seemed to have tagged quite a few incorrectly. I don’t know why. However, far more of the emails I sent out where to subscribers who for one reason or another genuinely hadn’t read them.

For some, the reason was that they simply didn’t have enough free time because of work commitments but an alarming number emailed me though to tell me that the reason either they or their other half hadn’t opened the email was because of illness, often both long term and acute.

Neither Sally nor I earn very much. We’re not complaining. There isn’t much stress in our lives, but there isn’t much money either. And because I’m self employed, if I don’t work, I don’t earn. Because of that, it’s tempting to think of time not working more of a lost opportunity to earn rather than a gained opportunity to relax.

We don’t earn much money, but we are both still blessed with very good health.

More and more these days, we’re trying to achieve the right balance. The focus now is more on deciding we’re going to have some time off and then working out how we’re going to afford it rather than doing as I’ve done for most of my working life and just taking the time off that I can prise myself away from work.

So one of the most important conversations we had during the first few days of the year was to establish when we we are going to take the boat out.

The fact that we’re going to see Sally’s family in the Philippines next month plays a large part in our plans. Once upon a time I would have considered this break as the maximum time I could reasonably take off work for the year but with our new motto of “More leisure time, less work” we’ve decided to take James out in the summer too.

We are going out for the first two weeks in June. We’re going down the south Oxford and onto the Thames. I love the route but the last time I went that way I was in a bit of a rush.

I took Calcutt Boats’ show boat down to Beale Park for the IWA show in 2010. I had been working for Calcutt Boats for nine months and living on board James for about two. I didn’t know much about handling narrowboats. God knows why they let me take their brand new boat to the show.

It was a marvelous but hectic trip. I took my twelve year old son, Brook, to help me with the locks and lift and swing bridges. Unfortunately he was too light for one and too weak for the other, but he was very good at keeping me supplied with regular mugs of coffee.

We completed the eighty mile, fifty two lock journey in three days but we were traveling for an average of thirteen hours a day. The scenery was beautiful, the weather mostly good and the experience memorable, but we didn’t have time to enjoy it.

This time will be different. We’ll spend a week cruising each direction and we’ll stop where and when our fancy takes us. I can’t wait. To tell you the truth, I’m looking forward to the cruise far more than the imminent trip to the Philippines. The two week cruise will cost us a twentieth of the amount we’ll spend on the trip abroad.

Two weeks cruising on the boat isn’t enough. We’re going to take another week out on the boat at the end of the summer too. We’ve penciled in a date but we’re not sure where we’ll go yet. Without the trip abroad we could afford to cruise for far longer this year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thoroughly looking forward to some time away from the dreary winter weather and the opportunity to see Sally’s family but  the money we’ll spend on air fares would buy us a lot of diesel for the boat.

So we have our year planned, both for improvements to the boat and the trips we’re going to make. The cost of the trip to the Philippines and the two breaks on James and the fact that I won’t be earning while we’re away will stretch us financially but it’s the right way to go. We’re fit and healthy so now is the time to make the most of the boat.

We have our year planned. Do you? If you’re thinking of making a move to a life afloat, how far have you got? Is it just a halfhearted idea at the back of your mind or a fully fledged commitment to change your life for the better?

It’s not too late to make New Year resolutions you know. In don’t know about you, but these days times passes alarmingly quickly for me. Before you know it, the summer will be behind you and the year will be drawing to a close. Where will you be then? Will you have concrete plans in place to help you buy or use your boat or will you just be doing the same old things you were doing at the beginning of the year?

I’ll give you a hand. Here are some resources to point you in the right direction.

If you don’t have a boat already. Here’s a great place to start window shopping. It’s the world’s largest narrowboat site. There are over 1,000 narrowboats for sale at any one time.

If you’re wondering where you can take a narrowboat, what routes you can take and how many locks you’ll pass through, Canal Plan will tell you this and lots more interesting information.

Of course, before you look for a boat in earnest you’ll need to know how much both the boat and the lifestyle is going to cost you. The simplest way of finding out all the costs and creating your own financial projection is by using the package I’ve put together for those new to boating, Narrowbudget Gold. You can read about it here.

Once you’ve established you can afford to buy and maintain a boat and you’ve seen a few you like the look of on the Apolloduck site, you’ll want to see a few boats in the flesh. Whilton marina has one of the largest stocks of boats for sale in the country. Just turn up at the marina, tell the staff which boat you’re interested in and they’ll give you the keys so you can wander through it at your leisure.

Before you start to look at boats seriously, you’ll need to know what to look for. Here’s a check list for you.

And finally, if you can’t find the answer to any questions you have about buying, maintaining or living on a narrowboat, there’s a forum full of very helpful boaters just waiting to answer your posts. All you have to do is ask!

There you go, everything you need to know to help you with your plans. Happy New Year! (And if you want even more encouragement, here’s a photo Sally took with her camera phone this morning while I was writing the newsletter. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Sinrise at Calcutt in January

Suggestions Please!

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

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

Newsletter Index

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

29th December 2013

The practicality of hosting Christmas afloat – How do you achieve a floating festive event (and do you really want to)?

Liveaboard case study, The Pearl – Tony and Jane Robinson believe in forward planning. They stated their narrowboat fund thirty years before buying their own boat. Now the two retired education workers moor in a marina for the winter then explore the waterways during the warmer months.

22nd December 2013

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

15th December 2013

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

8th December 2013

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

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

1st December 2013

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

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

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

24th November 2013

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

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

17th November 2013

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

10th November 2013

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

3rd November 2013

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

27th October 2013

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

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

20th October 2013Condensation. It’s a common problem on boats. Here are a few suggestions how to keep your boat’s interior dry.

A new organisation for liveaboard boaters

13th October 2013

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

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

6th October 2013

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

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

29th September 2013

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

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

22nd September 2013

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

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

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

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

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

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

25th August 2013

Effective fly killers for boats

The downside to living on a narrowboat

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

18th August 2013

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

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

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

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

11th August 2013

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

Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners

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

4th August 2013

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

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

28th July 2013

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

21st July 2013

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

14th July 2013

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

7th July 2013

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

30th June 2013

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

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

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

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

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

16th June 2013

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

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

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

9th June 2013

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

2nd June 2013

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

26th May 2013

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

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

19th May 2013

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

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

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

12th May 2013

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

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

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

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

21st April 2013

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

Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop

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

14th April 2013

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

7th April 2013

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

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

31st March 2013

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

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

24th March 2013

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

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

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

17th March 2013

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

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

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

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

11th March 2013

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

3rd March 2013

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

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

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

Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013

20th February 2013

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

8th January 2013

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

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

24th December

Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis

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

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

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

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

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

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

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

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

17th October 2012

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

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

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

30th September 2012

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

18th September 2012

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

VAT on narrowboat sales

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

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

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

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

27th  May 2012

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

Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke

13th May 2012

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

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

29th April 2012

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

15th April 2012

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

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

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

 1st April 2012

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

18th March 2012

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

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

4th March 2012

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

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

Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat

A review of Debdale Wharf marina

22nd January 2012

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

8th January 2012

The first four narrowboat case studies published

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

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

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

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

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

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

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

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

Popular Forum Posts

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

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

Useful Links

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

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Paul Smith
 

After six and a half years living on a narrowboat on England's inland waterways, Paul and his wife Cynthia now wander Europe by motorhome during the winter, and on the Dutch and French waterways in the warmer months on their 32' Dutch motor cruiser.