2014 02 02 Newsletter – Monitoring Your Boat From Afar
Tuesday evening… Boy, am I glad we’re getting on a plane and heading towards warmer weather on Saturday. I love living on the boat but this weather is a real pain. Things aren’t just wet, they’re sodden. I spend my working days slipping and sliding through shallow pools of liquid mud, dodging showers and trying to think of something constructive to do which doesn’t involve testing how much rainwater my “waterproof” jacket will absorb.
Ditches which have remained dry every other winter I’ve worked here are now full to overflowing. In fact some of them have overflowed. Sections of paths through the woods are under six inches of water, including areas where I planted hazel, spindle, holly, field maple, hawthorn and blackthorn a couple of months ago. The excess water’s not going to do them much good.
Just to make matters even more frustrating I have until Thursday afternoon to cut some grass. I don’t think it’s going to happen.
We have a lot of grass to cut around the site. Normally at this time of the year we wouldn’t need to go anywhere near it. It’s been so mild this winter though that it’s continued to grow. It’s been growing most of all on the almost vertical banks next to our Locks marina. Cutting the grass there is a rather demanding job which I don’t particularly enjoy.
The company has spared no expense and purchased specialist grass cutting equipment for this particularly difficult to cut area of landscaping. It’s a Flymo on a rope. Cutting all of the steep slopes with the Flymo takes six or seven hours. It’s grueling work and although I won’t admit it in public, very tiring after even fifteen minutes.
Anyway, it’s my turn to do it. It’s too early in the season really but it’s starting to look a bit scruffy. I’m away for a month from the end of this week and Pat went into hospital on Monday to have a piece of bone removed from his shoulder. He’ll be on light duties for a few weeks so the last thing he want to be doing is hauling a mower up a hill for hours on end when he comes back to work.
The rain this week though has been relentless (I’ve been writing this bit whenever I’ve had a few minutes spare. It’s now Wednesday evening). The grass is too wet to walk on, never mind cut…
I’ve just read the last few paragraphs, and I can’t believe what I’ve written. My life is so lacking in stress these days that I’m getting myself worked up because I can’t make an area of grass a couple of inches shorter in the middle of winter! Life can’t be bad if that’s all I have to worry about!
It’s Friday morning now. I’ve finished work for a whole month. Yippee!
Actually, that’s not quite true. I’ve finished one of my jobs. I’ll continue to do the other one, maintaining this site and writing and sending out weekly newsletters, every week while I’m away.
Writing a section of the newsletter this morning has prompted me to mention something to you. There’s a very important issue for you to consider if you intend to work from your boat doing anything which involves concentration. I’m raising the point now because I’m really struggling to concentrate.
I often get up at 5am while Sally is still asleep and when the boat is quiet so I have no distractions. I’m male, so I’m not very good at multitasking. Most of the women I’ve known well have had the alien ability to concentrate on what they’re doing as well as doing at least one other thing at the same time.
They’ve always assumed that I could do the same. I can’t.
I have to focus my mind on the task I’m working on. If there’s an external distraction, my train of thought is broken and I have to start again.
Often on my days off Sally is working so I have the whole boat to myself. Even when we’re both off Sally often leaves the boat to visit friends or shops or to take the dogs for a walk. These excursions give me the quiet time I so desparately need.
Today is an exception to the rule. We’re off on holiday tomorrow so Sally has decided that she needs to wash every item of clothing we own. I’m convinced that she’s also borrowed a lorry load of clothes from friends and family so she can really give the washing machine a workout.
It’s now 6.30am. Sally’s just turned the washing machine on. It’s not something which would bother me in a house. The washing machine would be in a utility room or a kitchen some distance away from where I would be working. On the boat, the washing machine is five feet away from me. It’s not a noisy washing machine but it’s driving me mad.
Sally is never far from me either. Just to make preparing for the holiday even more interesting, she’s decided to spring clean the boat and cook about a month’s worth of food for her son Michael who is at university in Nottingham. We’re going to pay Sally’s daughter Maricar a lightening visit early this evening to deposit the dogs. They will be staying with her while we are away. We’ll also drop in on Michael to deliver him his food.
So the washing machine is droning, the vacuum cleaner is roaring in between pan clattering, dishes banging and constant threats from Sally as the dogs sit under her feet in the kitchen begging for scraps. Sally needs to get past me to get from one end of the baot to another so it’s like working in a very narrow and noisy corridor.
In an ideal world, we would have a boatman’s cabin equipped as an office for me. In case you’re new to boating, let me explain. A boatman’s cabin is a small eight to ten foot long cabin at the back end of the boat. On traditional working narrowboats the boatman, and his family if he had one, would live in this tiny space. In front of the boatman’s cabin would be the engine room and then the rest of the boat would be reserved for carrying cargo.
These days, the boatman’s cabin is just one area of the boat’s living space, separated from the rest of the living space by the engine room which normally has doors both in and out of it.
A boatman’s cabin would give me a quiet space to work in. Sally tries very hard not to disturb me when I’m working but I don’t think she fully understands just how fragile my concentration is at the best of times. Right now I’m trying to work out whether throwing the washing machine out of the side doors into the marina would be detrimental to the tranquility and harmony we hope to achieve on holiday.
Engine Room Condensation – An Explanation
I wrote about my ongoing battle with water in the engine room in September and October last year and wrote an update a couple of weeks ago. Sean Milligan sent me this very helpful email earlier in the week. I thought I would share it with you.
“A couple of weeks ago you were asking about the effect of heating your uninsulated engine room. You have probably had a number of responses on this, but just in case I will add my thoughts.
Without getting too technical condensation is caused by a surface cooling the air in contact with it to below the air’s dew point. Dew point is the temperature at which the air can not hold any more moisture – it is saturated and the relative humidity is 100%. So there are two variables, air temperature, and air humidity.
When air is heated it can hold more moisture, so if you have a damp bilge, or other sources of moisture, some of this water will evaporate into your warmed air and increase the amount of moisture in the air (although it may feel dryer). This additional moisture also increases the air’s dew point and this increases the likelihood of condensation on the inside of the hull.
Your hull plating will be at a temperature somewhere between the marina / canal water temperature and the outside air temperature as steel is a good conductor of heat. The exception is when direct sunlight is heating up your (I assume) black painted hull plating in which case these sections could become significantly warmer.
The conclusion is that when you run your central heating you will get condensation on the inside of your hull plating, at least for part of the time. How much depends on the variables mentioned above. The good news is that heating the engine room side of the inner bulk head should prevent condensation on the other side as the bulkhead will be relatively warm.
When deciding whether to insulate the engine room hull (and from what you say in the latest newsletter the rest of your hull and bilge) you might like to consider just how much of the fuel you are burning in your central heating is being used to heat both the atmoshere and canal water outside through your hull plating. Incidentally, water will remove heat from your boat’s hull 26 times faster than air – so if it is possible an insulated bilge (or cabin sole) may well make economic sense. Carpet and underlay come to mind for this though I admit not always practical afloat.
Also, may I make a suggestion for your secondary glazing – instead of the magnetic strip consider screwing the glazing to the wood frame with a soft rubber sealing strip (draft excluder foam strip) between the plastic sheet and wood frame. Drill oversized holes in the plastic glazing and use washers under the screw heads. Just tighten sufficiently to make a slight compression of the seal but not enough to distort the plastic glazing. Then all can be removed by removing the screws. You will be left with small screw holes in the wood frames when the glazing is not in use which may not be acceptable. Brass round headed screws could look acceptable for holding the secondary glazing and shorter ones of the same gauge could be used to hide the screw holes when its not in use.
As a footnote, I used to lecture in maritime meteorology to merchant navy officers and have lived aboard a steel yacht all year round in Shetland (60 degrees north). It was well insulated inside and being a sea going boat didn’t have draughty windows. However, the small cabin windows did run with condensation all the time the heating was on as the glass conducted heat away to the aluminium frames and steel cabin sides. Like you I considered secondary glazing, simply to stop the condensation drips, but circumstances changed before I got around to it.”
Keeping A (Digital) Eye On Your Boat
Most narrowboat owners don’t live on their boats. They park them on a leisure mooring either online or in a marina and return to them on high days and holidays to cruise and to carry out essential maintenance. Many have to travel for an hour or two to the marina from home. It’s rather difficult to keep a watchful eye on a very expensive investment.
The winter months are often a period of worry and uncertainty for non residential boat owners. Sub zero temperatures can cause significant damage to narrowboats if water in pipes, pumps or heaters freezes. You can avoid costly damage to your boat by either winterizing it or by making sure that the boat stays warm enough all year round to prevent freezing.
Winterizing your boat involves draining water out of anything which can be damaged by water expanding as it freezes. Winterizing isn’t difficult but it’s not something you want to do if you intend visiting your floating haven for odd days during the cooler months. A popular alternative is to leave low power greenhouse heaters on the boat running on a frost setting,
These heaters are very effective… providing you have a continuous electrical supply. And that is often a worry. How do you know whether the power supply is working and, if it is working and if you have the usual marina meter which is kept in credit by feeding it with prepaid cards, do you have sufficient credit in the meter?
Our office receives regular emails from boat owners over the winter months asking for their meters to be checked and topped up if neccessary. We always oblige but we also charge for the staff’s time to check and top up the meter. Many boat owners don’t want to incur the additional cost so they just sit at home and worry.
An all year round concern for boaters generally is whether their beloved boat has been tampered with. Marinas are usually safer than online moorings but they have their fair share of boat break ins. I’m delighted to say that boat burglary is not something we’re familiar with here at Calcutt.
Our marinas are not easy targets for the degenerate filth who make a living from other people’s misery. Visitors to the site have to travel up a half mile private road before they reach the entrance to Calcutt Boats. We have electric gates which are closed soon after our office closes for the day plus CCTV monitoring the site from various points around the site.
Before the gates and the cameras were installed we had regular visits from travelers looking to turn a quick profit from the large number of engines we keep in our tip area for spare parts. Scrap metal is extremely lucrative these days and they considered our tip easy pickings.
Sometimes we caught them and sent them packing, sometimes we didn’t. But with the additional site monitoring from the cameras plus two roving groundsmen who know most of the vehicles which are usually on site, it’s now very unusual for an unknown vehicle, especially a large van or flat bed truck, to get onto site without us noticing.
All staff carry radios so that we can communicate effectively across such a large site so if a strange vehicle is spotted, especially a scruffy one containing two or three shifty looking men, a radio call goes out to all staff in the area. We race to the suspicious vehicle, box it in and question the occupants.
After a couple of incidents like this and after pointing out to the travelers that they had been recorded on camera and by our number plate recognition software, they decided to look elsewhere for an illicit income.
Sometimes burglars access marinas from the towpath so marinas and online moorings on the towpath side are more accessible than those on the offside. Calcutt Boat’s two marinas are on the offside. Burglars planning to access the site from the towpath would have to leave a vehicle parked at least half a mile away, walk up to Calcutt Top Lock where they could walk across the gate, negotiate the locked gate into the grounds, sneak past the occupied Lock Cottage before walking another couple of hundred meters to the nearest boat.
The inaccessibility of the site and the additional security measures mean that in the four years that I’ve been here there hasn’t been a single incident of a boat being tampered with. Other marinas are not so lucky.
So leaving a boat often filled with valuable possessions, sometimes for months on end, at a remote location can be a worry. Fortunately there’s a solution. Enter MaxMon.
Martin Lambert emailed me just over a week ago to introduce his remote monitoring and control system which can be used to keep an eye on any important space from afar. So far Martin’s sold them to owners of homes and rental properties and owners of boats in coastal marinas. He wanted to know if I thought that narrowboat owners would be interested.
Martin offered to bring a demonstration unit to me which I could use to keep an eye on James while I’m away.
He arrived on Monday morning with a small cardboard box and an entry level Android smart phone. The box contained a Quatropus monitoring unit plus a temperature and relative humidity meter and a passive infra-red motion sensor. The Quatropus sensors record data which the smart phone cannot. The smart phone then sends reports to you via either the boat’s WiFi or via the phone if the phone can receive a signal inside the boat.
The Quatropus is the more basic of the two units available. The Quatropus SA also allows you to connect a float sensor (for those of you with a cruiser stern who worry about the bilge pump failing when your boat’s bilge fills with rainwater) and a proximity sensor for windows, doors and hatches. Unfortunately Martin didn’t have a Quatropus SA demonstration unit available.
The system needs a constant power supply so it’s not going to work for you if you leave your boat with the power turned off. However a constant power supply is rarely a problem for most marina moorings. The Quatropus/smart phone combination only draws two watts so the cost to run it is negligible.
More of an issue for boat owners is how the data is going to be sent to you at your remote location. Boats are notorious for blocking phone signals and are often moored where phone signals are poor at the best of times. Here at Calcutt I rarely get a signal anywhere in the grounds and never get one inside the boat. I am on the Three network. Sally does a little better with her T Mobile service although there is only one place inside the boat where she can receive a signal, and that involves pressing bother her phone and her ear against an often condensation covered window at the front on the port side.
Because I don’t have a phone signal I have had to rely on an internet connection via my boat’s WiFi. I’m also with Three for mobile broadband and, unlike their phone signals, their mobile broadband is pretty good. I’m rarely without a connection on the boat.
Martin set the system up for me in a few minutes, but it wouldn’t have taken me much longer. The Quatroport was plugged into an available 230v socket, and the smart phone, a Samsung Galaxy, plus the two sensors where plugged in to the Quatropus.
After that, all Martin had to do was set up the MaxMon app on the Galaxy. He needed to associate and email address with the phone, specify one or more email addresses to receive the reports and set the report frequency, boat location and half a dozen other settings. The whole process took less than fifteen minutes.
Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of receiving a daily report plus regular emailed alerts when the system detects a deviation from the acceptable parameters. The alerts include the following data..
Acceleration : 0.0 (0.0 to 1.5)
*Battery(%) : 81.0 (2.0 to 100.0)
Humidity(%) : 54.5 (42.3 to 66.2)
Location(LL) : 52.26854,-1.32093 net ±21m
*Location(m) : 6.0 (3.1 to 258.4)
Memory(MB) : 119.8 (88.8 to 131.1)
**Motion(secs) : 20.7 (0.0 to 286.7)
*Power : ON (OFF)
Temperature(C) : 17.6 (16.2 to 18.5)
[**=alert, *=past alert, ?=dropouts]
The only one on the list which isn’t self explanatory is Acceleration which uses the phone’s gaming software to detect the phone’s physical movement. If the boat was in an area prone to earthquakes, tsunamis or typhoons I could see this coming in handy. However, in rural Warwickshire the only time this alert will be triggered is if the phone is either picked up and moved or if it falls off the desk where I’ve left it.
One of the first alerts I received was the location alert. I panicked for a couple of seconds thinking that the boat had been stolen… before I remembered that I was actually on the boat when I received the alert and, as far as I was aware, we hadn’t been hijacked.
The alert was due to slight variations in the phone’s location reports. This was easily resolved be changing the apps location sensitivity setting from 50m to 250m.
The next alert I received was a motion alert. It was the first of many. I’ve used the system’s supplied Advanced Sensor Positioning system, AKA a strip of Velcro type tape, to position the sensor in the best place for monitoring the maximum internal cabin space (Just for your information Martin, because I know you’re reading this, the adhesive tape is rubbish. The sensor has fallen off the wall half a dozen times. I’m considering replacing it with a dab of strawberry jam). The best position to monitor the boat’s interior is two feet away from where I sit. The motion alerts have either been me somewhere in the front of the boat or one of the dogs walking through the galley area where the sensor can see them.
It’s possible to programme the system to use the phone’s camera to take a photo if the motion sensor is triggered. However, as many break ins are done at night you would need to turn a light on in the boat before the photo was taken. To get this to work you need to purchase the Quatropus SA and use the included RF actuator in addition to a remote power socket and a light you could plug in to it.
I also received a Power alert yesterday to tell me that the phone was no longer charging. I discovered that Sally, unaware that I was conducting an experiment vital to the safety and well being of the boating community, had unplugged the unit so she could do yet more b****y clothes washing! That one was soon resolved too. I had to wait until the washing was done.
I’ve been receiving regular motion alerts since Monday. It’s reassuring to see how quickly movements made by Sally and I and the two dogs is picked up by the sensor.
MaxMon is now set up ready for our holiday. Next week I’ll let you know how it worked in a real life remote monitoring situation. The only report I’m really interested in is the temperature alert. The boat is moored in a secure location so I don’t expect any unauthorised access (touch wood).
I’ll be leaving two greenhouse heaters on the boat on their frost settings and I’ve left plenty of credit in the shore supply meter so I should be OK. Next week I’ll show you the reports I’ve received. The location report is a cracker. It links to Google Maps and shows the boat’s exact location. I’ll be able to look at my lovely boat while I’m sitting under a palm tree seven thousand miles away sipping San Miguel!
I often think of useful tips for new boat owners. I get sent quite a few too. They’re quick tips so don’t warrant an article but they’re worth passing on so I’ll add them to the newsletter every now and then.
Here’s a great one from fellow moorer Allan Birkett. Last week I was talking to him about cruising in some of the less pleasant areas of the canal network. The rare places on the canals where the dregs of society like to hang out and upset and annoy law abiding boat owners.
One of the more unpleasant pastimes of this particularly unpleasant group of imbeciles is to throw stones or bricks at passing boats. “What can you do to stop them?, I asked him,“You can’t confront them because that’s what they want and, because they’re cowards there’s usually half a dozen of them and you can’t outrun them because you’re traveling in a narrowboat at 4mph.”
“The solution is easy,” said Alan with a smile, “You just photograph them!”
He told me that he was on the receiving end of some thrown missiles when he passed through Blackburn last year. Two half bricks had landed close to the boat before Allan realised what was going on. Allan is not the shy retiring type. He’s ex army and both confident and competent when it comes to dealing with trouble but he realised that he was in the vulnerable position that narrowboat owners often find themselves.
He decided that direct confrontation wouldn’t result in a happy outcome for him so he simply pulled out his mobile and started to take photographs of the yobs. While he was taking them he explained to them (slowly and in words of no more than one syllable so that they would understand) that he had his camera phone set to send all photo’s instantly to his mobile photo album and that he was about to phone the local police and share the photo’s with them. The scum grunted an unintelligible acknowledgement, waved Allan a fond farewell with a couple of fingers and slithered back under the stones where they spend most of their miserable lives.
Allan was unfortunate enough to have stones thrown at him on another occasion on the same cruise. The Paparazzi approach worked then too.
There you go, a simple solution to a rare but unpleasant problem.
Here are some more quick tips for you.
“I mentioned a while ago an idea for an article, perhaps it got overlooked, but what about an article about cheap good ideas for boaters , I have a couple, candle wax on the metal runners make the cabin hatch slide very well. Our boats external cabin paint has faded badly, to make it shine for up to 3 weeks at a time we apply baby oil with a cloth, takes about five minutes and gives us some time to save for a re paint.”
Mark and Helen Meopham
“I would quite like a regular article on narrow boat cooking with recipes, frugal but good quality food, and tips on housekeeping. For example, the wood burner glass comes clean with white vinegar 49p Tesco.”
If you have any useful tips which you would like to share with other boat owners, please let me know.
Buying A Sailaway To Fit Out Yourself
“More haste, less speed”, that should be my motto. I was in such a hurry when I put together the text and photo’s for last week’s Part 3 of the build blog that I didn’t review it properly (at all actually) before I published it. As a result I duplicated some of the content and didn’t format the rest of it properly. Julian and Lynn, please accept my apologies.
I’m getting my knickers in a twist with correcting part three and adding part four this morning. It’s Saturday and we’re due to leave for the airport in a couple of hours. Sally’s not saying anything but if I was in her shoes I would be a little annoyed at having to do all the packing, organising and boat tidying myself.
Common sense has prevailed. I’m going to stop working on the site now, remember that there are two of us in this relationship, and abandon the site temporarily in favour of preparing for the holiday. There should be plenty of time to work on the newsletter at the airport when we get there, but as it’s quite important that we reach the airport, I’m off for now…
…four hours later.
We’re at Heathrow. It’s 2pm. The plane’s due to take off at 5.15pm so, for the first time in my life, I’m at an airport too early to check in. We’re sitting in Pret A Manger regretting the week’s wages I’ve just spent on two mediocre sandwiches and a brace of thimble sized smoothies. I’m taking advantage of the airport’s fee forty five minute internet allowance while I endure filthy looks from the restaurant staff for having the cheek to use one of their tables for longer than the minute and a half it took us to eat their food.
I don’t have the time now to format part four of Julian’s build blog, so I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until next week. To make up for the content deficit this week, I’ll publish Julian’s part four next week and part one of the Sea Otter build blog I promised you a couple of weeks ago.
I’ll have to go now. I have to put my surgical compression socks before the flight. Sally says that she’s not going to sit anywhere near me. She thinks that I should be wearing long trousers with the stockings!
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.
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.
Cold floors, cold air above the floors and cold hull sides. It’s a combination which can cause your bottom half quite a bit of discomfort. Here’s what I do to deal with the problem.
Weil’s disease – It’s an often talked about and often feared aspect of living, working or playing close to inland waterways but just how dangerous is it and what can you do to keep yourself safe?
If you’re on a budget maybe a self fit our sailaway is the way to go for you. Here’s the story of a wide beam self fit out to give you inspiration (or put you off completely)
Planning for the year ahead – Written plans and goals have always been important to me. They help me see into the future. Here’s what we’ve planned for our lovely floating home in 2014.
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.
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.
Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Managing your water supply
An American blogs about his travels
Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube
All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller
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!
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.
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?
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
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?
The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.
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.
Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold
Meet one of your legless canal side companions
The canal network’s largest floating hotel
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.
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?
The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring
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
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.
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
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.
Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis
Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer
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
First tests and reviews of the budgeting application
The best aerial for a narrowboat television
The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application
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
I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date
Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs
Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home
The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners
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
Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans
Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson
Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels
Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)
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
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
DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter
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.
- Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
- Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
- 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
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.
|vaccines||Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.|