2014 05 11 Newsletter – How To Avoid Common Narrowboat Accidents

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’ve arrived here after clicking on the link in the introductory email for the 18th May newsletter, you’re out of luck. You’re out of luck because I’m stupid. I should have linked to the correct newsletter for 18th May here. And if you arrived here via any other route, please ignore what you have just read. I’m really quite a bright guy and I never make mistakes!

We reported the damage, they did nothing. We reported it again, again they did nothing. Several of our moorers also phoned the Trust to highlight the worsening condition of the entrance wall to lock ten on the Napton flight. Once more, they did nothing.  At the beginning of the week the inevitable happened. The lock wall collapsed, closing the flight and trapping one of the boats we look after for the Royal Navy south of the stoppage.

All of our boats were scheduled to go out at the weekend, including the four RN narrowboats. We had two contingency plans in place in case the flight didn’t open in time for the usual Sunday change of crews. We couldn’t swap the new crew onto another boat because all the boats were all fully booked so we planned to either (A) get the stuck boat as close to base as possible then send staff out to it to prepare it on its canal-side mooring, and then tell the new crew that they had no other route option other than travel south down the south Oxford towards the Thames or (B) ask one of the staff to bring the boat back to base via the only other route.

The alternative way back was to go back down the south Oxford, travel south down the Thames to London, then turn north back up the Grand Union before joining the Oxford canal again at Braunston and the final two hours to Calcutt. There was much hand raising for this trip. Fortunately for Calcutt but sadly for one or two daydreaming members of staff, myself included, the lock was repaired and the flight reopened by Friday. It’s only a temporary repair and the contractors can’t promise how long the wall will stay in place for, but at least the navigation is open again.

I was off work on Thursday and spent all day tapping away at my keyboard while I watched vertical rain rods plunging deep into the still water outside my window. The day was perfect for pottering inside the boat so I typed for a while, replaced the Ecofan blade which fell off last week, typed for a while, experimented with different positions on the stove to get the fan working more efficiently (the Torgem stove has quite a small footprint. Ideally, the fan should stand at the back of the stove facing towards the front so it can draw cold air from behind and push it past the warm air rising from the stove top but the Ecofan won’t fit there on my stove without the blades hitting the flu), typed for a while, experimented with different stove fuels and rates of burn to reach the optimum stove efficiency (as I suspected, if I allow the stove to burn at the manufacturer’s recommended temperature, the boat is likely to melt) and programmed the alarms on my Smartgauge battery monitor and then, or course, typed for a while.

I am absolutely delighted with the battery monitor. It’s already alerted me to a problem with my starter battery which, in turn, highlighted an issue with my alternator which was doing nothing other than driving me slowly mad with its annoying squeal when the engine’s running. It certainly wasn’t charging the batteries.

The monitor has also removed the mystery from the battery bank’s state of charge. The alarm is now triggered if the capacity drops below 75%. It’s a visual alarm which flashes when triggered and which continues flashing until the capacity increases to 95%. Now that I have the Smartgauge fitted I realise what a hit and miss affair my charging regime was before, and how lucky I have been not to experience any problems as a result of not knowing the capacity of either the domestic bank or the single starter battery at any time.

To test the battery capacity alarm, I turned off the mains charger while I was programming the monitor. Thanks to my solar panels, even with a mainly clouding sky, two days later the capacity had only dropped to 88%. Four days later, this morning, it had only dropped a little further to 82%.

Apart from an incident earlier in the week (more on that below) my working week has been all about battling growing grass between showers. The last seven days hasn’t been as varied as most weeks but still immensely enjoyable.

On Friday we had to do some “normal people” stuff. Sally has a house with a lovely garden. A garden which would be very pleasant to sit in while basking in the spring sunshine if it wasn’t for the monstrous, light blocking Leylandii bordering the bottom of the garden in the house behind her.

Before I met Sally, she tried but failed to negotiate lowering the hedge to an acceptable height. The retired and rather belligerent burly hedge owner was a little more flexible when she visited his property with someone equally as belligerent. He wouldn’t do the decent thing and cut his own hedge, but he did agree to us cutting the hedge for him on his behalf.

The cutting took three and a half hours with my trusty chainsaw and now there’s a mountain of cuttings piled on the lawn waiting to be removed. Not once did the owner of the hedge come out to help, offer encouragement or otherwise acknowledge in any way that we saving him the cost of hiring a tree surgeon to do a job he promised to complete a year earlier. When I mentioned to Sally her neighbour’s reluctance to help with the hedge cutting, she suggested a novel way of disposing of the branches. Because I thought all of the branches wouldn’t fit and because her idea would cause Mr. Grumpy some difficulty when sitting down, I will borrow the truck I use for work to cart them away instead.

Saturday, as is normal during the fleet hire season, was wharf day for me. We had eight boat scheduled to go out in the afternoon. They all needed checking to make sure they were ready and one needed a complete engine change. By 1pm the old engine had been removed, the new one fitted and all the boats were bobbing about on the wharf, washed and ready to go.

The boats were bobbing about because of the near gale force wind howling across the water. You can always count on an interesting afternoon when you mix a strong wind, a flat bottomed boat and a novice boat crew.

As part of the instruction, we take the crews up through Calcutt Top Lock and a quarter of a mile up the canal towards the junction before we step off and leave them to their own devices. The route passes the forty acre Napton reservoir. The wind often howls across the reservoir unimpeded before playing havoc with any passing boats. On a day like Saturday, many full time boaters would simply moor up and wait for the wind to die down. Hirers have a short period, usually a week, to achieve their objectives so they don’t like to waste a minute. On particularly windy days like Saturday, hirers are often moving while boat owners are not.

We managed to get all of the boats past the reservoir and then past a row of moored boats close to the junction, travelling past the moored boats a little faster than normal to maintain some steerage in the wind. We have normally left the boats by the time they reach the junction where they have to slow down to make a right angled turn. I suspect one or two would have been pushed into the reeds at that stage.I hope they managed to negotiate the junction safely but it’s all part of the boating experience!

All of the boats were away by 5pm. At half past five I borrowed the company’s Nissan Cabstar, drove to Sally’s house, loaded the back high with Leylandaii cuttings, roped it down and returned to the marina before offloading the cuttings in our tip area ready for burnings. I’ll need another two trips to clear the garden though.

How To Avoid Common Narrowboat Accidents

This week I was going to focus on single handed boat handling and continuous cruising as a result of a suggestion from Alan Hayes who, I presume, is planning some single handed continuous cruising in the near future. I’m sorry Alan but you’ll have to wait until next week. The incident I mentioned earlier on prompted me to write about the perils of boating instead.

I wrote about narrowboat safety in this article eighteen months ago. This week’s accident has prompted me to to highlight once more just how often a momentary lapse of concentration can spoil weeks or months of boating enjoyment.

We had the emergency services here again on Tuesday. Narrowboats may travel so slowly that anyone who is reasonably fit can travel faster by foot along the towpath, but they, and the canals and rivers they use to creep across the country, need to be treated with respect at all times.

Our one to one and a half hour instructions with new hirers always include some basic health and safety. That particular part of the instruction has to be judged carefully. I don’t want to spoil the hirers’ holidays by filling them full of dread, but I do want to impress upon them the need to take care.

Here’s an example; all of our boats are cruiser stern narrowboats with a gas locker on either side of the tiller at the rear of the boat. The gas locker lids make comfortable and convenient seats. Most hirers are tempted to sit on them at every possible opportunity so I have to point out the danger of doing so in confined spaces. I point out that if the boat drifts back and touches a vertical obstruction such as our wharf wall or a lock gate, the first thing to touch will be the rudder. The boat’s momentum will force the rudder to fold flat and force the tiller to sweep to one side or the other. The tiller will sweep anyone sitting on one of the gas lockers off the boat and into the water, straight into the path of the churning propeller.

Of course accidents like this don’t happen very often but once is enough if you happen to be the boater concerned. Something similar happened about five years ago to one of our moorers in his own boat when he reversed it on to our wharf to buy some diesel. The unpleasant result of the accident was a severed femoral artery which one of our wharf staff had to pinch together to stem the huge blood loss until the air ambulance arrived. I understand that the boater took over a year to recover.

I’ve heard another often repeated story – although I can’t find a definitive account – of someone being pitched off the boat in a similar fashion in a lock. The boat was in reverse, which caused it to hit the rear gate with considerable force. When the helmsman was catapulted into the lock over the back of the boat, he slipped between the boat and the gate after the boat bounced away from the gate after the impact then the boat, still in reverse and with no crew on board, again reversed into the gate and stayed pinned there. Unfortunately the boater was trapped under the boat. Onlookers failed to move the boat and reach him before he drowned.

There have been two accidents on the canal at Calcutt in the last two years. Last year the owner of an old and dilapidated GRP cruiser slipped from the lock sidethen fell onto his boat in the empty lock beneath. Calcutt wharf staff saw the accident but the guy, still looking dazed from either the fall or the suspiciously long and fat roll up cigarette he was smoking, indicated that he was OK and carried on down through the lock flight. By the time he reached the bottom lock he told us he was suffering from severe chest pains.

We alerted the emergency services. Because of the nature of the injury they dispatched a helicopter and a fast response car. Both arrived within minutes and were followed five minutes later by an ambulance. They came to Calcutt Boats because they could get closer with their vehicles to the injured man than they could by going to Ventnor Farm marina which is on the opposite side of canal. Unfortunately, the towpath, where the man was sitting next to his cruiser, was on the Ventnor side of the canal. Five paramedics and hundreds of thousands of pounds of high tech medical equipment were thwarted by a sluggish ribbon of dirty brown water.

If the situation hadn’t been so serious, the solution would have been comical. Rather than waste more time by driving three miles to Ventnor Farm, negotiating the electric entrance gates, then trudging over a long and uneven footpath to where man and boat were waiting, the ambulance crew asked the injured boat owner, who was bent double complaining between gasps about the difficultly he was having breathing, to walk back up the towpath to the head of the lock flight, climb over the lock gate and down the steps to our reception area where the crew could meet him with the ambulance.

By the time the ambulance had made its way from the marina entrance to reception the boater was waiting for them. We later learned that he had luckily just bruised his ribs.

Tuesday’s accident was less dramatic but the injuries were much more serious.

Dave and Sally Tailor had just realised a lifetime’s dream. The previous Wednesday Dave retired. Two days later they picked up the boat they had just purchased, their third in twenty years of enthusiastic boating on the inland waterways. Their plan was to cruise down the Oxford canal, past Napton Junction and down the south Oxford to the Thames.

Unfortunately the entrance wall to lock ten on the Napton flight collapsed at the beginning of this week so the flight was closed pending repairs. Neither Dave nor Sally wanted to wait for days, perhaps weeks, before the flight reopened so they decided to change their plans completely and head north west from Napton Junction along the Grand Union towards Birmingham.

Their first stop was Calcutt Top Lock. Dave expertly slowed his 62′ boat and pulled alongside the bollards next to the lock. Sally, as she’s done a hundred times before, stepped off the gunnel centre rope in hand to secure the boat before setting the lock. What she doesn’t normally do is forget to look where she’s putting her feet.

She tripped over one of the mooring bollards, knocked herself out, broke her cheek bone and fractured her arm.

Dave stayed with his wife while a passing dog walker ran to our office to ask us to call an ambulance. Once again, the response to the call was swift. Within fifteen minutes there was a paramedic by her side. By then she was conscious but in considerable pain. The rapid responder made her comfortable while he waited for the ambulance crew.

Once the ambulance crew arrived she was carefully lifted onto a stretcher and then onto the boat’s bow. Unlike the boating accident the previous year with the cruiser, this boat had a large and uncluttered bow which could accommodate the stretcher bearing the injured lady and enable Dave to gently transport her to the opposite side of the canal and the waiting ambulance.

Dave threw the boat keys to me, shouted instructions about shutting down his vintage Russell Newbery engine, what to do with his lovely new boat, and what to do with the two confused terriers in basket under the dinette table, and disappeared into the back of the ambulance with Sally.

I reversed the boat a hundred metres back up the canal towards the junction, moored the boat on the towpath away from the locks, let the two terriers out for a wee before their afternoon’s unexpected solitary confinement, locked the boat and left the boat keys in our office pending Dave’s return.

He arrived back at the boat three hours later to collect the dogs and to confirm his wife’s injuries. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him before he left. The boat has gone now. I don’t know whether it’s gone with Sally back on board, or gone to a more convenient mooring closer to wherever she is convalescing. I hope she recovers quickly.

Even though her injuries are both serious and painful, they shouldn’t inconvenience her too much on board. A damaged arm is bad enough but injured legs make life on board very interesting indeed.

A fellow moorer, Anthony, lived on board for much of the time before he went to work in China. He has a solid 72′ narrowboat which he often takes out single handed. A couple of years ago he experimented with the use of his leg as a fender. The experiment wasn’t very successful.

On a windy day he was moored next to a towpath when he noticed a fully laden working narrowboat drifting sideways across the canal towards his pride and joy. He instinctively, and rather foolishly, thrust out a leg to fend off the approaching twenty tonne boat. Just before the two heavy boats made contact, he slipped off the gunnel and into the gap between the combined forty tonnes of unyielding metal. He successfully protected his paintwork but the damage from the impact caused considerable bruising and swelling and a very interesting technique for getting on and off his boat for a month and a half afterwards.

At least he could get on and off his boat afterwards. The lady owner of narrowboat Saphire moored on the same pontoon as me suffered a more inconvenient injury to her leg a couple of years ago. She was about to step from the algae covered wooden pier onto the boat’s front deck when her foot slipped off the pier into the gap between the pier and her boat. Her body fell forward into the boat while her leg remained upright… until it snapped.

The ankle to thigh cast meant that she simply couldn’t get on or off the boat until the cast was removed six weeks later. Fortunately she didn’t live on board.

I’m not trying to dredge up every unpleasant incident I can remember in an attempt to put you off boating. However, I think it’s important to realise just how easily accidents can happen if you drop your guard. I climb in and out and on and off boats regularly during my working day. I’ve fallen in the marina twice and the canal at our wharf once since I’ve worked here. All of my involuntary baths could have been avoided.

The most spectacular was undoubtedly the first time. The accident was on dank and rather chilly day in December just three months after I started working at Calcutt Boats. I was pulling a boat closer to the slipway using the centre line, leaning backwards pulling with all my might to demonstrate to my new work colleagues just how strong I was. Unfortunately all I succeeded in doing was demonstrating just how stupid I was when I somersaulted backwards through the marina’s thin ice and into the dirty water beneath. When those present stopped laughing, they suggested that I should return to my boat for a hot shower and a change of clothes.

The incident taught be a valuable lesson; when hauling on a rope, I should always brace myself so that if a rope snaps or comes undone, I will not lose my balance. Ropes have come undone on two subsequent occasions but because I was standing correctly I stayed on my feet. I was fortunate on the day of my very cold dip that the space I fell backwards into didn’t contain anything other than water. If I had fallen over the front of a moored boat into the well deck for example, I would have needed more than a quick shower to make me feel better.

Most of my slips, trips and falls were when I was new to boating. I see many new boaters every day, and some of the things they do terrify me.

Because we have our own fleet of hire boats, and because we have three other narrowboat hire companies close by, we see many holiday boaters negotiating a lock for the first time. Our wharf is between two locks so as part of our instruction, we take them through a lock and show them what to do, and what not to do. Other hire companies are not so conveniently located so they cover lock operation either DVDs sent with booking confirmation, or by using models of locks at their base. Of course, by the time the happy hirers reach their first lock they have forgotten most of the information about its operation.

Locks are exciting places for children. Locks offer them the perfect opportunity to display their agility by jumping between the lock side and the boat’s roof. Both are often extremely slippery either because of rain or early morning dew. I have seen many children fall. Fortunately they’ve only fallen onto the boat roof and not off the roof into the lock and fortunately, because they are young and fit, they tend not to hurt themselves.

The raising and lowering of the lock paddles is another opportunity for fledgling boaters to hurt themselves, or to hurt those around them. It’s not unusual to work a lock in the rain. The metal windlass handle is slippery when wet. If the windlass slips out of a wet and cold hand when the paddle is raised, the weight of the paddle will cause the windlass to spin like a propeller. The temptation is to try and catch the handle to arrest the paddle’s fall. The result is usually a severely bruised forearm. A rapidly spinning windlass, if left to its own devices, will often fly off the paddle with some speed either flying into the water or into a novice boater standing in the line of fire. We always advise our hirers to (A) refrain from grabbing at a spinning windlass and stand back and (B) ensure that any spectators stand away from the paddle.

Gunnel walking is another source of joy and excitement for boaters. Most gunnels are safe to walk on with care. Mine are not particularly safe. They were originally five inches wide but when I had the cabin over plated the width was reduced to three inches which doesn’t leave much to stand on.

Even if the gunnels are wide enough, they can become very difficult to walk along when wet in the warmer months and when icy in the winter. I have seen several experienced boaters slip off their boat’s gunnel into the murky water beneath. One boater did it so often that when his wife, who was steering at the time, heard a splash coming from somewhere in front of her, she looked skywards and shrieked “NOT A-BLOODY-GAIN!!” In the meantime her accident prone husband calmly stood in the mud chest high in brown water, calmly trying to polish his misty glasses.

I don’t fall of gunnels these days. I have invented my own gunnel shuffle. Rather than step along the gunnel trapping ice or water between the sole of my shoe and the metal underneath, I slide my feet along to dislodge the liquid and to give my feet a better grip. At the same time I ensure that I always have an elbow hooked over the roof rail so that if one or even both feet slip off the gunnel there’s still part of me secured to the boat.

There’s one final potential hazard you need to be aware of; your rope handling. You need to be especially careful when trying to secure your boat, either at a lock or on a mooring, when the wind is blowing. Often, if a wind is pushing the boat away from you, you’ll haul on one of the three lines with all your might to bring the boat close to the side before frantically throwing a loop of rope around a bollard. Make sure you don’t catch a finger or hand in the rope loop before the wind pulls the rope immovably taught again. The rope, with the weight of the boat behind it, can easily remove the skin from your fingers. Trapping your hand in a taught rope loop could prove especially difficult to escape from if you were on your own. I always carry a Leatherman multi tool with me in a belt pouch. I use it regularly throughout the day when I’m working and very often when I’m cruising too.

Once again, I don’t want to put you off boating. It’s a wonderful leisure activity and a hugely enjoyable lifestyle. The more you know about the dangers you face, the better prepared you are to prevent accidents from happening. I hope you’re a little better prepared now than you were at the beginning of this article. I wish you happy, and safe, boating.

Are You Ready For Your Five Minutes Of Fame?

I had an email at the beginning of last week from television company researcher Gemma Singleton. She wants to talk to you if you live on board and have an interesting story to tell. Given that every live aboard boater I’ve ever spoken to has an interesting story to tell, she’s going to be spoilt for choice. If you want to find out more about her project, here’s a post she’s added to the forum.

Available Residential Moorings

You may have heard about the Pillings Lock Marina dispute. It was widely covered by the waterways press and concerned the payments the marina was obliged to make to CART under the Network Access Agreement. The ongoing dispute resulted in a standoff and threats by the Trust to blockade the marina entrance.

Fortunately for all, the dispute was resolved about a month ago. Now it’s business as usual, which is good news for you if you’re looking for a residential mooring. They have plenty. The marina is located between Leicester and Loughborough on the Grand Union close to the junction with the river Soar. Their website is here. There’s plenty of information on it, including rates and rules and regulations. Please note, live aboard boat owners aren’t allowed cats on board. I quite like cats. I just couldn’t eat a whole one.

 They’re Weighing You Up

Richard Varnes, the narrowboating American, is back with his tales from the towpath. Richard doesn’t write about the waterways he cruises along, he shares his thoughts about the people he meets on his travels. Here’s one about a warm and friendly tea shop just twenty minute’s walk from Mercia marina. Here’s his article.

I Need Some Help!

Each time I write a newsletter, I tick another subject off the list of things which those new to boating have told me that they want to read about. The hardest part of the process isn’t the writing itself, it’s constantly thinking of new content for each issue. 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.


4th May 2014

If you want to live on your boat and don’t want to, or can’t, cruise full time, you must have a residential mooring. Here’s how to find one.

27th April 2014

What makes a perfect live aboard narrowboat. Two experienced boaters discuss layout, size and essential equipment

20th April 2014

A cautionary tale if you are considering buying a wide beam boat to live on.

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

The A -Z of everything narrowboat – With over 5,500 posts and pages on the site now, quickly finding exactly what you want can sometimes be a problem. For this newsletter I started creating and A-Z index of all the site content.

30th March 2014

How do you continue to earn money to support your boating lifestyle as you cruise the network?

23rd March 2014

Sharing your narrowboat space – The practicalities of sharing living accommodation the same size as a large shed.

16th March 2014

Paying for a narrowboat – What practical steps can you take to ensure you’ve established legal ownership and how do you deal with the transfer of monies between buyer and seller?

9th March 2014

Narrowboat Knots – At my first lock on my first cruise I watched my boat drift into the centre of the canal along with my twelve year old son. If you want to avoid the same embarrassment and potential damage to both your boat and your self esteem, you need to know how to tie your boat securely in a number of different situations.

2nd March 2014

Toilets is a subject often discussed by narrowboat owners but they usually talk about either pump out or cassette toilets. There is a third type though and it’s one which is both environmentally friendly and cheap to run. Here’s all you need to know about composting toilets.

23rd February 2014

Boat owners who live on board are considered to have a pretty simple and basic life by many living in bricks and mortar homes. Compared with the lifestyle of the farmers I’ve been staying with in the Philippines though, my UK life seems overly materialistic and expensive. Cou

16th February 2014

Here’s an account of my very first winter on board and that of one of the site’s subscribers, Nigel Buttery. They’re very different experiences. My first winter was the coldest on record. Nigel’s is one of the mildest winters we’ve had for a long time.

I’ve also included to links to my Philippines blog. I spent the whole of February living in a rural farming community on the island of Negros.

9th February 2014

Have you ever wondered how a narowboat is built. Here are the first two parts of a very detailed account of the building of a Sea Otter aluminium narrowboat. You’ll be particularly interested in Sea Otters if you don’t fancy the constant battle with rust that you have with traditional steel narrowboats.

2nd February 2014

Condensation is something all boat owners have to deal with. Here’s an explanation of why it occurs and what to do about it. I also tested a remote boat monitoring application in this issue.

26th January 2014

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.

19th January 2014

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?

12th January 2014

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)

5th January 2014

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.

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.

  • 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

Useful Links

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


Useful Information

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Paul Smith

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

macmaz, formerly cherswud - Sunday,11 May, 2014

Hi Paul,
A daunting read this week! But very good to have the reminders of being careful even when experienced, so thank you.
A question though: I assume when you mentioned the spinning windlass you were meaning its becoming freewheeling while being wound down? We are amazed by the number of people who don’t engage the ratchet for winding the paddle up – owners as well as hirers. If it’s hirers, we tell them that we are always told to engage the ratchet and the impression left on the face if it gets away on you. If it’s owners, we stand well clear and turn our faces away so we don’t have to see it if it all goes to custard.
The other thing is that we always remove the windlass when the gear is up and either carry it or drop it in the grass, so it doesn’t have the opportunity to fall into the lock or the cut, when the gate is being opened.
Only 13 sleeps till we leave for the UK and 15 till we get to our boat! Yay!!KissLaugh
Cheers, Marilyn


Paul Smith - Monday,12 May, 2014

Not all paddles have these type of locks. They don’t have them on the Calcutt flight. There’s a lock which secures the paddle once it’s raised but not while it’s being raised. And, yes, we always tell hirers to remove the windless from the paddle once it’s been raised in case the lock slips off, the paddle crashes down and the windlass takes off like a guided missile!


GM - Monday,12 May, 2014

I think one of the lessons we all need to remember is take your time don’t hurry, let the brain engage before you do anything on a boat, lock, swing bridge etc.

Every time I have had problems it is always traceable to having been in a rush.


pearley - Monday,12 May, 2014

And, not to get complacent! Just because you’ve been doing it for 30 years.


Alan - Tuesday,13 May, 2014

Good article, Paul.

I find my mistakes usually occur when I have lost concentration – chatting being the worst culprit.  Taking photographs has also caused a couple of “Oops”.

Most important lesson learned – never take your eyes off the boat while it is going up or down in a lock.


Comments are closed