2014 05 25 Newsletter – Single Handed Boating Part 2

Crick! It’s the biggest event in the inland waterways’ boating calendar. The Crick Boat Show is always held on the Spring Bank Holiday, as is the local Napton Show, or the Napton Horse, Pony and Novelty Dog Show as it’s properly called. Both are renowned for dismal weather. Last year was a welcome exception. Three days of unbroken sunshine delighted the crowds. This year we’re back to form.

Calcutt Boats are exhibiting at the Crick Show this year as usual, but unusually the stand is under cover in the Kingfisher marquee. The stand is protected from the weather but access to it is not. I spoke to Steven Cox, our buyer who is attending the show, on Saturday morning just before he left Calcutt in time for the show’s 10am opening. The sodden ground behind the marquee was already a quagmire on Friday when the exhibitors were setting up, and that was before another four hours of continuous rain on Saturday morning.

If you’re going, make sure you take a good pair of wellies!

Saturday was quite a busy day for us on the wharf with six of our hire boats going out in the afternoon. Preparing the boats before they go out is always a challenge in heavy rain. We always pray for a break in the weather for the afternoon when the hirers arrive for a possible wet waterways week.

The weather improved yesterday as the day progressed but not enough to prevent us from regularly swapping between tee shirts and waterproofs. At least we didn’t have the wind to contend with as well.

One of the crews I instructed yesterday were enthusiastic but inexperienced. They last hired a narrowboat twenty years ago. On this trip they wanted to introduce their two teenage daughters to the pleasures of a leisurely break on the waterways. I’m not entirely sure that the holiday is going to be successful though after overhearing a mother-daughter conversation on the front deck.

“This is BORING!  I don’t want to listen to that man talking. I want to go NOW! When can we go Mum? When? When?”
“Just be patient. We have to learn how to handle the boat safely first.

“What’s the problem with it? We’re in, like, two inches of water!”
“Just shut up and listen for once will you!”
“And it’s not as though I can talk to my friends. My phone’s not working in this stupid place!”
“I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as soon as we get going.”
“WHERE are we going?”
“We’re going to Warwick.”
“But we passed Warwick on the way here. It’s just up the road!”
“We’re going to go there by boat. It’ll be exciting.”
“How long will it take?”
“We should be there on Monday.”
“Two days! We only passed it in the car half an hour ago!”
“Yes, but we’re going by boat this time. You’ll like it. You can open the locks.”
I don’t want to open the locks. I don’t want to go on a boat. I want to go HOME!”

I quietly retreated at this stage and helped get the boat ready for departure. The young lady’s mood improved a little when she was unleashed on the lock but judging by the squabbling with her sister about who should raise the paddle, who should lower the paddle, who should open the gate, who should do just about anything at all, it’s wasn’t going to be a peaceful and harmonious trip.

The father “supervised” his two daughters while the mother took the boat into the lock while I stood on the back of the boat with her and watched. She managed a perfect lock entry, then brought the boat to a very graceful halt inside the lock. The warring sisters opened both gates to allow us out, and then we met another novice hire boat crew.

They hadn’t discovered that in order to move the boat out from the side they needed to push the bow out, so they were grinding the bow down the reinforced concrete on the towpath side between the two locks with the stern jutting out into the canal and across our path. Our lady steerer was at a bit of a loss. She remembered me telling her that she must pass boats port to port. Clearly she couldn’t do that here, so she began to panic.

Of course, if she had a few more boating trips under her belt, she would have expected the unexpected and simply maneuvered carefully around the floundering hire boat on the “wrong” side before entering the next lock. Once she had been given the solution, the execution was no problem at all. With minutes we were safely in the second lock watching the windlass wielding competitive sisters.

Successful narrowboat navigation is all learning the theory then using common sense when putting it in to practice. I can help you with some of the theoretical stuff below. I’m afraid you’re on your own with the common sense part of it.

Narrowboat Handling

In last week’s newsletter I discussed the narrowboat style which I think is most suited to the lone boater and basic equipment you should have on hand to make your cruise both safer and more pleasant. This week I’m going to talk about boat handling.

Before I go into the intricacies of boat handling I want to briefly mention a common addition to narrowboats, usually but not always cruiser stern boats, which makes boat handling a pain in the backside.

Head high rear deck covers, or pram covers as they are often known, are a nightmare. I love moving boats around the marina. I enjoy the challenge of steering boats of different lengths with a variety of engines and handling characteristics and responsiveness in reverse (ranging from none to very little). I love them all, apart from those fitted with pram covers.

Rear deck covers are wonderful for cruiser stern boats which spends long periods on static moorings. They are far less than wonderful as far as actual boating is concerned.

For a start, a cover encasing the rear deck impedes access to the boat’s centre rope. Easy access to the centre line is essential for lone boating. On all the deck covers I’ve seen, you can fold down the plastic window in front of you, so it’s possible to reach forward and grab the centre line, but you then can’t step off the boat with it in your hand. The deck cover’s side panels get in the way. The only way you can step off your boat holding the centre line is by precariously shuffling along the gunnel to get around the deck cover before quickly grabbing the rope then leaping off the boat before you fall into the gap between the boat and the approaching bank. It’s not pleasant, safe or easy.

Another problem with cruising with the covers up (and if you want to cruise with the cover removed you have to find somewhere to put it) is that you can’t feel the wind. Why do you need to feel the wind? Because when you are handling a narowboat you either have to work with the wind or really struggle to control your boat on anything other than a still day. I’ll cover the effects the wind has on your boat a little later on.

One final disadvantage with rear deck covers is negotiating bridge holes. I was talking to a couple on the wharf on Tuesday who were sadly on what was going to be their last ever cruise on a boat which they’ve owned for twenty years. The man, who had just turned eighty, had lost his enthusiasm for boating. The effort of carting possessions from house to boat and back again, hefting heavy bags of coal and gas cylinders and working stiff locks and bridges had become more than a chore than a pleasure.

They had a head high cover over their rear stern which had cost them a fortune. It cost them an arm and a leg to have it made in the first place and then repaired, twice, after the top caught on low bridges.

The whole point of boating is to get you out of an artificial environment and into a natural setting where you can enjoy the sights and smells around you. It’s very difficult to become one with nature when you’re encased in thick plastic! Forget the thought of having a pram cover over a cruiser stern. Buy a trad stern narrowboat and enjoy getting wet instead!

OK. Now that’s off my chest, on with narrowboat handling.

Steering A Narrowboat

Imagine your boat as a compass. It pivots at the centre so if you want to turn your boat to the left, you have to push the tiller over to the right and vice versa. It’s very simple and you soon get used to it. As part of the instruction we do with our hirers we take them along the canal above Calcutt Top Lock for five hundred metres before jumping off and leaving them to their own devices. Very few new boaters have problems steering the boat forward. Going backwards is a different kettle of fish.

The only way to reverse a narrowboat effectively is to get the boat pointed in the right direction by going forwards, then stick it in reverse and hope it goes in a straight line. It rarely does. Most narrowboats will drift to the left because of “prop walk” If the boat drifts off course, you need to correct the line by going forward again. Once the boat is again pointing in the right direction, you can again put it in reverse.

Some narrowboats, not all of them by any means, can have their direction influenced slightly by pointing the swan’s neck in the direction you want it to go. It’s usually not much of a help, but it is a help.

Getting On And Off Boats

Once you have steered your boat gently towards the bank, and applied reverse thrust to bring the boat to rest, you can get off. Of course you don’t want to get off and then discover that the boat has gone off on a cruise of its own so make sure that you put the boat into neutral and then take it out of gear. It’s very easy on a cruiser stern narrowboat to catch the morse control (the gear lever) with your foot as you step off. If the boat is still in gear when you catch it, the boat will go surging off down the canal without anyone on board.

I actually saw this happen at Calcutt Top Lock a couple of years ago. The crew of a hire boat – not ours – had brought their boat to a controlled stop beneath the bottom lock. The two ladies stayed on the front deck while first one man, then the other, casually stepped over the boat’s side rail and onto the towpath. The centre rope remained neatly coiled on the roof in the middle of the boat.

The second man to step off caught his food on the morse control as he stepped onto the footpath. The boat, still in gear and now at full throttle, surged forward and away from the towpath. In a desperate attempt to regain control of the boat both man tried to jump back onto it. Both failed. Both fell into the canal. One narrowly missed jumping into the spinning propeller. The boat crashed into the closed lock gate knocking both ladies on the front deck off their feet.

An experienced nearby boat owner first talked to two shocked ladies into taming the out of control boat before asking them to throw the centre line to the two dripping and very embarrassed males who had been pulled out of the water onto the towpath. No harm was done on this occasion apart from a few splinters out of the long suffering lock gate and a few chips out of the boat’s bow paintwork. They were very lucky.

Another fundamental mistake made by narrowboat novices is when they try to move from the towpath back into the centre of the canal. Remember that a narrowboat turns from the centre? So, in order for you to move at an angle from the towpath back into the middle of the canal, the stern would need to swing round to allow the bow to point in the preferred direction of travel. Of course it can’t if the boat is hard up against the bank, but that little inconvenience doesn’t stop novice boaters from trying.

We see no end of hire boats surging along the towpath between locks knocking chunks out of the concrete and scraping the little remaining paint from the boat’s rubbing strake.

The way to move quickly and quietly away from the side is to give the boat a helping hand. Keeping hold of the centre line you walk along to the front of the boat, lay the palm of your hand against the cabin side and give it a good hard push, making sure that you don’t lose your balance and fall into the canal. Yes, I’ve seen it happen at Calcutt, more than once.

By the time you reach the back of the boat, the front should be pointing towards the centre of the canal so as soon as you step on board you can travel in a straight line away from the bank.

Negotiating Locks

Locks fill many novice boaters with dread. A wide range of skills are required, especially if you are a lone boater. You need to carefully bring your boat to rest just before the lock, secure the boat, raise the paddles, take the boat in through a gap barely wide enough to accommodate the boat, close the hefty gate behind you ( the gates at Calcutt weigh 480kg each), let the water in to or out of the lock, open the far gate, take your boat out, then close the gate behind you.

Calcutt Top lock is the first lock encountered by our own boat hirers plus those from Black Prince at Wigram’s Turn marina and Napton Narrowboats just around the corner. On busy turn round days in the summer we can sometimes have half a dozen novice hire boat crews congregated at the top lock, racking their brains to remember what they’ve been told about lock procedures.

The first and possibly the most common mistake is when they try to bring their boats close to the bank for the first time. The boat needs to be be brought gently to a halt, by letting the speed bleed off rather than by putting the boat in reverse, and at no more than thirty degrees to to the bank.

We often see boats approaching the bank too fast, which results in the boat being thrown in reverse with great enthusiasm, and one or two of the crew skiing along the towpath as they try to bring the boat to a halt by hauling on the bow line.

Even when the boat is brought to a controlled stop, the crew often have problems if they, as they often do, try to hold the boat to the side using either the bow or the stern lines. Powerful pumps carry water from miles downstream before depositing it in the summit pound about fifty metres back from the lock gates, just at the point where many of waiting boats pull over. When the pumps are running, the force of the water pushes one end of the boat into the middle of the canal unless the boat is secured firmly by the centre line. Controlling the boat should always be done with the centre line if possible.

Locks are a step in the water levels between one stretch of canal “pound” and another. The principle is always the same. If you want to go “downhill” you have to bring the water in the lock up to the same level as your boat, take the boat into the lock and then let the water out until it’s the same level as the next pound.

The lock will have either ground or gate paddles at either end which, when raised, will allow water to flow into the lock from the upstream end and out of the lock at the downstream end. Paddles at both ends should never be open at the same time.

If both the upstream and the downstream paddles are open, water flows from the upstream pound, through the lock and into the downstream pound. The result is that (A) the lock will never either fill or empty enough for you to open the gate and (B) more importantly, may flood the pound that the water is running in to.

A flooded pound is something we used to have quite often at Calcutt. Our wharf is located between Calcutt Top and Calcutt Middle locks. The distance between the two is just over ninety metres so it’s a relatively small area which can flood quite quickly. If we didn’t spot the rising water in time, the water would flow over the side of the wharf and cascade downhill to our engineering workshops. Load swearing from the sodden engineers would alert us to the problem.

We made life much easier for ourselves by raising the level of the wharf by six inches. Now if the paddles are left open, the towpath floods rather than our buildings.

I know our locks and the locks on the Grand Union and Oxford canals close to Calcutt very well indeed. But I’m not familiar with many of the different styles of locks in other parts of the network. It’s an important subject and one which I want to cover in as much detail as possible so I’ve enlisted some help.

Peter Earley (Pearley on the forum) has more than enough experience for the both of us. Since he sold his house and had his boat built in 2007 he’s been continuously cruising the network. He kindly agreed to jot down a few notes about locks. Here they are…

Narrow locks going up

The top gates may have just ground paddles or ground paddles and gate paddles. Open the ground paddles first but gently. All locks have there own characteristics but you should be able to see from the behaviour of the boat when and how much to open more gate paddle. The initial surge of water will tend to push the boat back. Keep your tiller turned to one side to prevent the rudder hitting the gate. Your rear fender should be long enough to prevent this but! If the boat starts to charge forward or backwards you are opening them too much but a gentle movement is OK. It is OK to allow the
boat to ride up the front or rear gates, after all you have fenders but keep an eye out for any obstructions that might foul the boat. When the water level has risen enough, usually up to the fill, then you can progressively open any gate paddle.

Narrow locks going down

Again, you can have ground but gate paddles are more likely. Whatever, it is normally OK to open these fully but ensure your boat is well forward from the cill. The boat will be drawn forward by the flow through the paddles so just let it gently nudge up to the gates and drop down with the fender riding down. Be careful when the lock is empty as there is a tendency for the boat to start to move back meaning you could strike the cill.


It is not generally necessary to use ropes in narrow locks unless you are single handed.

Wide Locks going up

If you’re a single boat going up a wide lock it is a real pain. OK, if you have a big crew someone in the front can be holding the boat with the front rope whilst the steerer holds on with the stern rope, that’s if the bollards are nicely placed. If your crew is just the two then it is normally the centre rope you use. And now the bollards definitely won’t be in the right place but there might be a handily placed ladder.

Theoretically you open the ground paddle on the side that the boat is against. The water enters the lock in front or under the boat, hits the opposite lock wall and rebounds to hold the boat against the lock side whilst it rises nicely. This might work on the Hatton Flight but not everywhere. If you see the water is pushing the boat out and the steerer is frantically trying to hold onto the rope then close the paddle down and try the other side. With gate paddles it was considered normal to open the one on the opposite side from the boat on the theory that the water flow coming across the lock would hit the bow or front side of the boat and again hold it against the side. However, most gate paddles now have baffles to ensure the water doesn’t enter in a great spurt and flood your boat. These baffles will either direct the water downwards or against the lock side. If the latter then the water will be forced between the lock wall and your boat and push you out into the lock. Unfortunately, if it is an unknown lock to you then it is suck it and see.

There are some canals where upper gate paddles are the norm. Open these very carefully. Also be aware of any walkways on the lock gates. Most are on the outer side but not all. It is very easy to get a fender caught under one whilst rising in the lock, especially in those shorter Northern locks where you are trying to keep clear of the lower gates at the same time.

Of course, all this is avoided if you are sharing the lock with another boat but, if the two boats are of unequal length, problems can still occur.

Wide locks going down

This is much the same as a narrow lock. Just open the paddles. If you open the one on the side of the lock you are against then the flow through the paddle can help to hold you on that side.

Staircase locks

Follow the instructions on the notice boards. On narrow staircases it means you cannot pass another boat so there is normally some sort of rota like 3 boats up then 3 boats down.

On wide staircases, despite what some boaters might believe, it is possible for boats to ascend at the same time as another boat is descending. If it is one up and one down, no problem. One up and two down, or vice versa, again no problem, you just have to shuffle around a bit. Two and two down getsca bit more difficult and depends on the lengths of the various boats.

Guillotine Gates.

I can only think of 3 on the canals. Slaithwaite on the HNC, Todmorden on the Rochdale and Salterhebble on the C & H. The rivers Nene and Great Ouse have a lot and there is one on the Whitham and some on the Middle Levels. There are others but I won’t list them here.

Just follow the instructions and you can’t really go wrong but be aware that a few don’t have paddles as such but rely on the gate being opened a fraction so that water flows under the gate to fill the lock. This can be a bit like a mini waterfall. If the gate is manually operated don’t open it too much.

Those on the Ouse and Nene are usually automatic in that you just press one button and the opening sequence start on a timer. You might have to watch the warning lights which will tell you when you can press the button again to open the gate fully. Don’t try to anticipate this. Pressing the button again during this period just resets the timer to the beginning, delaying you even further.

Trent/Aire & Calder Locks

These are big! If you are lucky you might find a keeper. If not they have an operating console at each end of the lock accessed via your BW key. Insert your key and it will all light up. Again, follow the instructions, pressing the buttons when directed. Once your boat is in the lock and the gates are closed, you need to remove your key, walk to the other end of the lock and fill/empty the lock from that end. There are wire ropes recessed into the lock side to secure your boat to. Don’t do it too tight or the rope will snag. If ascending keep to the back of the lock to avoid the turbulence. Here again, the sequence is automatic once you press the button.

Low water levels.

The lock gates close against a wooden or concrete cill that sticks up from the bottom of the canal. You can see the one for the top gates easily if you look behind you when at the bottom of the lock. The lowest point on your boat is the skeg, that bit of steel that sticks out behind the boat to support the bottom end of the rudder. With low water levels it is not unknown for the boat to stick on this so exit the lock slowly. If you do

stick, don’t be tempted to reverse and take a run at it. You’ll only damage the cill and cause another stoppage. Often, taking the boat out of gear will allow the stern to rise a couple of inches and the boat may float out.

If necessary, run some water down from the lock pound above but only enough to get you moving. Remember, that water won’t flow back uphill so running down too much will make problems for either you or the next boat. If in doubt then phone CRT.

That’s the end of Pete’s information but I would like to add a few comments about locks.

Locks offer all the ingredients for serious accidents; copious quantities of fast flowing water, immensely heavy gates, often with walkways across them, enclosed spaces, slippery and heavy metal windlasses loosly attached to paddle gear, unresponsive boats, algae and lichen covered stones and bricks, steep drops, deep water, churning propellers and, last but not least, excited and often untrained boaters.

Here are some safety and operational suggestions;

  • Don’t let enthusiastic bystanders help you with a lock without your permission and without your supervision. Some may be working a lock for the first time and won’t have a clue how to operate it correctly. Some may have been boat owners for many years, and still don’t have a clue how to work the lock properly! If you allow people to help you with the lock, don’t be afraid of taking control. If you want the paddles raised slowly, tell them. If you don’t want the paddles raised at all, tell them.
  • Always make sure that the paddles are down at the end of the lock where you bring your boat in before opening the paddles at the far end.
  • When you are raising the paddle, stand at right angles to the rotation rather than in line with it. If the windless slips out of your hand, the weight of the paddles crashing back down can cause the heavy metal windlass to spin like a propeller catching your chest or groin as it spins. You don’t want to to happen to you unless you want to end up sounding like Demis Roussos, and you don’t want that!
  • The windlass can be slippery when wet. There’s a chance of it slipping out of your hand when the paddle is fully raised, especially if you’ve been winding it up quickly. DO NOT try to catch it if it slips out of your hand. I’ve done it before. It hurts a great deal.
  • Make sure that no one is in line with a potential flying windlass while you are working the paddle. Two pounds of flying steel windlass will dampen the enthusiasm of even the keenest boater.
  • If you have children with you, or excitable adults, don’t let them jump on and off the boat roof from the side of the lock. Both the lock side and the boat roof are likely to be slippery when wet.
  • Make sure that the lock gate’s are closed behind you before you open the paddle at the far end. If you open the paddle while the gates are open, the surge of water will slam them shut, damaging the gates.
  • When going down in a lock, ALWAYS make sure that your boat is in front of the cill markers. The cill markers are clearly painted lines inside the lock close to the upstream gate. The photograph below shows what can happen if you allow your boat to drift behind the cill markers.

Narrowboat hung up in lock

The cill markers denote a concrete or wooden ledge at the upstream end of the lock. If you allow your boat to drift back behind the marker, and the boat stays there as the water level drops, the rudder or the skeg (the horizontal metal bar welded to the boat’s base plate to support the rudder post’s lower end) will remain on the cill while the front of the boat continues to drop with the water level.

In extreme cases, the front of the boat will drop until the well deck and then the cabin fills with water and sinks the boat. The usual result is that the rudder is pulled out of the cup rendering the rudder unusable until it has been refitted. We have a hire boat caught on the cill about once a month during the season. Re-seating the rudder can often be done by the side of the canal but if the skeg is bent, the boat has to be towed back to base and taken out of the water before it can be repaired.

  • When leaving a lock, check to see if there are any boats waiting to come in. If there are, you can leave the gate open as you leave. If there aren’t any boats waiting, make sure you close the gate behind you, and once more check to make sure that all the paddles are down.You will often share a double lock with another boat in a wide lock so both gates will be open to allow both of you to leave. However, there may only be one boat waiting to come in. The waiting boat only needs one gate left open for it so you need to speak to the owner of the boat in the lock with you and agree which one of you will close a gate. It’s customary to leave the gate open on the towpath side. Please note though that the crews on some boats waiting to come in, usually but not always hire boat crews, are reluctant to enter a lock through just one gate so will want you to leave both gates open. It’s always a good idea to speak to the incoming crew to find out what they want to do.
  • Lone boater entering a lock going down – It’s an easy lock to enter because the lock is full. You steer the boat into the lock slowly and stop mid way between the two gates and lightly secure the centre rope to a bollard. Make sure that the rope is lightly secured because if the lock is deep and the centre line is firmly secured, as the water level drops, your precious boat can be left dangling on the lock wall secured by a relatively weak rope until the strain proves too much for the rope, the rope snaps, and your boat crashes into the water beneath. Keep an eye on the centre line as the water level drops. Make sure that it’s not going to snag on any obstructions on the roof as rope tightens. If the rope is too tight to allow the boat to drop with the water level, lower the downstream paddles before any harm is done and, if necessary, raise the upstream paddles to let more water into the lock until you have enough slack in the rope to resolve the issue.Once you have emptied the lock, it’s time to take your boat out. You have a choice; you can either climb down the lock ladder on to your boat roof and then hop down onto the back deck, or you can haul your boat out of the lock using the centre rope. Personally, I prefer climbing into the lock and on to the boat. I find it the easiest option, but you need to be careful.

    Lock ladders need negotiating with care. They are often wet and therefore slippery, and they are often bolted fairly close to the wall so you can’t get as much of your foot on the rung as you would like. Always have three points anchored on the ladder (i.e. both  hands and one foot) so if you slip, you won’t fall.

    Always take care when you step from the ladder onto the boat. Ideally, you should line up the boat’s rear deck with the ladder before you climb down so that you can simply step off the bottom of the ladder on to the safe and easy to negotiate deck. The boat may drift though so you’ll be obliged to step from the ladder onto the cabin roof. Tread carefully. I have to watch out for my pole and plank and the brackets securing them to the roof, and my three solar panels and cabling.

    If you are on your own in a double lock, sometimes the wind will push the boat away from the side of the lock with the open gate in front of you to the opposite side of the lock behind the closed gate. If you’re organised, you will have made sure that the centre rope is still on the opposite side of a lock-side bollard to the boat so that you can ensure that the boat stays tight to the lock wall.

    If you’ve forgotten to do this, providing the wind isn’t too strong, you can carefully walk along the gunnel to the bow and push the boat off the “wrong” lock wall. By the time you reach the back of the boat again, the bow should be in line with the open gate.

  • As you leave the lock, if there is no traffic coming in, you are obliged to close the gate behind you. It’s quite time consuming when you are on your own to take your boat out of the lock, tie it securely to one of the bollards at the lock entrance, walk back to the lock to close the gate and then return to your boat to carry on with your journey.The quickest way is to leave the lock slowly and bring the boat to a stop so that you can step off onto the landing beneath the lock, run up the steps, close the gate, run back down the steps and onto your boat. The whole process should take less than a minute once you have done it a few times. Always make sure that you step off the boat with your centre line. You don’t need to secure it but leave it on the ground so that you can use it to pull the boat back towards you if it drifts away from the landing.

    This technique will only work on relatively calm days. If there’s a wind blowing, there’s a good chance that the boat will be pushed away from the landing or the bow pushed into the bank.

I hope you find these tips useful. If there’s any aspect of working a lock which you feel is missing or which you are unsure about, please email me to let me know. I’ll add the missing information as soon as I can.

Bogus Narrowboat Adverts

How would you like to buy a narrowboat for a fraction of its real value? I’m sure you would jump at the opportunity to save thousands or even tens of thousands of pounds. But you need to be very careful with online sellers offering bargain boats. If the offer seems to good to be true, it probably is.

Two years ago I was contacted by a lady who had seen a wonderful narrowboat being offered for sale on eBay for a fraction of what she would have expected to pay for it. After receiving several emailed replies to her queries she was still uneasy so she contacted me. I wrote about the scam in this post.

Earlier in the week I received an email from Pillings Lock marina. They have noticed that a number of boats for sale at their marina, now sold, are once more being advertised for sale online without the current owners’ knowledge. Here’s the email from Pillings Lock marina…

“I want to spread the word about fraudulent Narrowboat adverts.


 Many of our own adverts have been copied very recently on websites like “Friday-Ad”, “Loot” “Gumtree” and “Preloved” – there was even some on local Bristol and Huddersfield websites. It is not the fault of these websites, the sheer scale of advertisers & email only contacts mean that it is almost impossible to stop this kind of activity. But what we can do is publicise the problem and it may deter the criminals involved.

 If the advert is fraudulent, it seems the boat in question is usually under-priced, for quick sale etc. to encourage potential viewers into sending a holding deposit to hold the vessel before viewing it.

 Please advise all Boat Buyers to not get into this situation;

 Always go and see a boat before handing over any money.  

  1. Ask to see documentation – previous bill of sale, CRT license data/corresponds with owner, BSSC, Mooring bills, boatyard bills…
  2. Ask owner for photo ID (passport or photo driving license) and evidence of address details.
  3. Or buy via an approved Marine Broker/Boatyard/Marina.

 It would be a shame if anyone was caught out but this awful type of scam so any publicity you can give to this matter would be really helpful.

 Many thanks for your assistance!

Paul Lillie
Managing Director
Pilling’s Lock Marina Ltd”

  As you can see, the advert Paul linked to has been removed by the site owner. Here’s another which I copied before it was taken down…

Bogus Narrowboat AdvertIt’s possibly not the best example to use as the boat was actually sold for £14,000 by Pillings Lock so it’s not the best appointed narrowboat you’ll find but the current advertised price is about a third of its true value.

Paul offers excellent advice in his email but in addition, please read my post of the fraudulent eBay advert. I’m sure that communication withe the “seller” would follow a similar pattern.

Helmsmen, Beware In Locks!

Two weeks ago I wrote about common narrowboat accidents including ones we’ve witnessed at Calcutt and others I had been told about from across the network. I mentioned one particular story which I hadn’t been able to verify about a tragic and fatal accident in a lock. Graham Clutton emailed me with a link to an account of the accident on the BBC news website. I have reproduced the article in full below and included a link to the article on the BBC web site.

Mother’s Oxfordshire narrowboat death an accident

The death of a mother who fell under the propellers of a narrowboat she was steering on a family holiday was a tragic accident, an inquest heard.

Amanda Chapell, 47, from Devon, was negotiating a lock in Cropredy village, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, when the boat hit the lock gate last July.

She was propelled into the water. Her husband and children witnessed her death, the hearing was told.

The Oxfordshire coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Mr Chapell, 44, told the inquest that his teaching assistant wife had been at the helm of the boat as they entered the canal lock on 30 July, 2009.

Mr Chapell said he and their daughter, Anna, 15, were controlling the two sluices while their son, Tom, now 18, was at the front of the boat.

‘Over the handrail’

The family, from Totnes, began to “jiggle” the craft into the middle of the lock, as they had been advised, the hearing heard.

Mrs Chapell put the boat into a stern gear, as she had done many times before, after “quite a lot of water flowed in to the lock”, her husband said.

The inquest heard the vessel then began to move backwards.

But by the time his wife realised she had already moved from her position at the helm – possibly to pull in one of the narrowboat’s fenders, Mr Chapell said.

When she attempted to return to the helm to put the boat in neutral or reverse to steady it, the craft’s rear fender struck the lock gate.

In “a matter of seconds” she was sent straight over the handrail, said Mr Chapell who had been about 50ft (15m) from his wife when she disappeared into the water.

Coroner Nicholas Gardiner said: “I view this as a tragic accident.

“[Mrs Chapell] was not very highly experienced. The boat collided with the rear gate of the lock with some force.

“She would have been sucked around in the swell of the boat and suffered the injuries [from the propeller] causing her death.”

The original article is here.

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.

18th May 2014

Single handed boating – Choosing the right type of boat for single handed cruising and equipment to make your solo journeys safer and more enjoyable.

 11th May 2014

How to avoid common narrowboat accidents. They happen far more often than you might think. Here’s what you need to keep yourself out of harm’s way.

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 - Tuesday,27 May, 2014

Hi Paul, Marilyn here – arrived from NZ and in a hotel currently thinking it’s noon rather than midnight!

Just read the info re locking – I notice you don’t mention using the ratchets when raising the paddles. Do yu not teach people to do so as a safety measure?

Cheers, Marilyn


Paul Smith - Tuesday,27 May, 2014

My apologies for taking so long to reply. Because you didn’t sign in, your post was waiting in a queue for moderation before it became visible.

Hi Marilyn, No we don’t teach hirers to use the ratchet locks but only because the locks at Calcutt don’t have them. They are ground paddles which don’t allow you to lock them until the paddle is fully raised, so they aren’t quite as safe as the ones you’re talking about that. Because of the way these particular paddles are designed we warn the hirers of the danger of trying to grab a spinning windlass if their hand slips off it as they wind the paddle up, and the danger to anyone standing in the line of fire if this happens.

When do you pick your boat up?


nine9feet - Sunday,8 June, 2014

Single handed boaters develop their own process for negotiating locks. Whereas you prefer to climb the lock ladder, I don’t. So, here is my version for going up a narrow lock :

1. Position the boat against the bottom gates (just touch, do not hit!)

2. If lock is not empty, leave boat in gear, walk the gunwale with windlass to step off near the front of the boat, go lockside, wind paddles and return to boat

2. When/if lock is empty gently nudge gates open with boat bow

3. With gates open proceed into lock, knocking into neutral when at correct speed so that boat will drift to front of lock and step off at the bottom as counter passes lock tail

4. Make way lockside and while waiting for boat to drift pass bottom gates wind paddles down.

5. Close gates

6 Open upper (ground, usually) paddles slowly so that boat keeps against, or close to, front gate rubbing board

7. When boat has risen sufficiently (i.e. you can get to the control) put into gear against the top gate

8. Just before lock is full cross to offside and drop paddle.

9. Cross back and wait for level when boat will begin to open gate

10 Wind down remaining paddle while boat opens gate and begins to exit lock

11. Walk about half lock to step on counter and set exit speed to allow following steps

12. When at appropriate point past the gate opening, put into reverse and step off boat

13 While boat slows and then reverses, close gate

14 If timed correctly and gate closes ok simply step onto reversing boat and drive off


This method means I do not have to tie the boat up both below and above the lock, which involves manoeuvring both to and away from the bank or lock landing area and tying up and untying twice!

Some locks are difficult to get off below, e.g. I can’t use this technique on the Huddersfield narrow and I am really noticing the extra work!!

I would emphasise that great care must be taken not to damage gates. I have plenty of time and because I am solo take no risks and do everything lock-related slowly.


pearley - Sunday,8 June, 2014

I was reading your post thinking to myself, he won’t be able to do that on the HNC but got to the end to find you already know that.


pearley - Sunday,8 June, 2014

I was reading your post thinking to myself, he won’t be able to do that on the HNC but got to the end to find you already know that.


Alan - Monday,9 June, 2014

I do much the same as nine9feet except I don’t mind climbing the ladder so I drive the boat into the lock and leave it on forward tickover.  At 6’4″ I often don’t need the ladder to get up from the roof.

For going down:

1. No option but to tie up and open gates/paddles.

2. Drive boat in, nose up to bottom gate and leave in neutral.

3. Open paddles, checking to make sure there is nothing for the button to snag on.

4. Open gates.  For a while I did not step across the one open gate but a friend persuaded me if I did it once I would find it easy – again, at 6’4″ he was correct.  Not sure I would do it if I was a fair bit shorter though.  Loop a short rope round one of the gate posts.

5. Climb down to boat and slowly forward.  Knock out of gear. Grab short rope on way out and use boats momentum to close gate.  Use pole to close other gate (not possible if very deep)

Unfortunately on bottom of South Oxford, where I am now, to save money they installed only one bottom gate so I have to step off and go back to close gate.


nine9feet - Tuesday,10 June, 2014

pearley said
I was reading your post thinking to myself, he won’t be able to do that on the HNC but got to the end to find you already know that.

Got lucky today as most of the locks above 24E (with the guillotine bottom gate) were such that I could do it as described, or with a slight variation, such as climbing onto the roof and stepping off that instead of the gunwale [cuz the bottom of the tail steps are much higher than midland canals or there is a bridge across the tail as you know!].

Alan said
I do much the same as nine9feet except I don’t mind climbing the ladder so I drive the boat into the lock and leave it on forward tickover.  At 6’4″ I often don’t need the ladder to get up from the roof.

For going down:

1. No option but to tie up and open gates/paddles.

2. Drive boat in, nose up to bottom gate and leave in neutral.

3. Open paddles, checking to make sure there is nothing for the button to snag on.

4. Open gates.  For a while I did not step across the one open gate but a friend persuaded me if I did it once I would find it easy – again, at 6’4″ he was correct.  Not sure I would do it if I was a fair bit shorter though.  Loop a short rope round one of the gate posts.

5. Climb down to boat and slowly forward.  Knock out of gear. Grab short rope on way out and use boats momentum to close gate.  Use pole to close other gate (not possible if very deep)

Unfortunately on bottom of South Oxford, where I am now, to save money they installed only one bottom gate so I have to step off and go back to close gate.

Going down I tend to take a rope lockside (usually centre but sometimes has to be stern).  I use the rope to pull the boat out of the lock and stop wherever is appropriate. Shut gates, re-position boat if necessary to allow me to get on somewhere. This adjustment is usually required due to accommodation bridge across lock tail, in which case also I have to drop the rope onto the roof or counter. Sometimes it can be a footbridge which is too wide or in some way makes it difficult to swing the rope from one side and catch on the other!

I don’t seem to be able to do the gate closing tricks you describe (partly because I don’t have a hook on the pole/shaft, but also because I find most locks too deep to use a short rope).

I will be interested to hear any variations from others Smile


nine9feet - Tuesday,10 June, 2014

pearley said
I was reading your post thinking to myself, he won’t be able to do that on the HNC but got to the end to find you already know that.

Got lucky today as most of the locks above 24E (with the guillotine bottom gate) were such that I could do it as described, or with a slight variation, such as climbing onto the roof and stepping off that instead of the gunwale [cuz the bottom of the tail steps are much higher than midland canals or there is a bridge across the tail as you know!].

Alan said
I do much the same as nine9feet except I don’t mind climbing the ladder so I drive the boat into the lock and leave it on forward tickover.  At 6’4″ I often don’t need the ladder to get up from the roof.

For going down:

1. No option but to tie up and open gates/paddles.

2. Drive boat in, nose up to bottom gate and leave in neutral.

3. Open paddles, checking to make sure there is nothing for the button to snag on.

4. Open gates.  For a while I did not step across the one open gate but a friend persuaded me if I did it once I would find it easy – again, at 6’4″ he was correct.  Not sure I would do it if I was a fair bit shorter though.  Loop a short rope round one of the gate posts.

5. Climb down to boat and slowly forward.  Knock out of gear. Grab short rope on way out and use boats momentum to close gate.  Use pole to close other gate (not possible if very deep)

Unfortunately on bottom of South Oxford, where I am now, to save money they installed only one bottom gate so I have to step off and go back to close gate.

Going down I tend to take a rope lockside (usually centre but sometimes has to be stern).  I use the rope to pull the boat out of the lock and stop wherever is appropriate. Shut gates, re-position boat if necessary to allow me to get on somewhere. This adjustment is usually required due to accommodation bridge across lock tail, in which case also I have to drop the rope onto the roof or counter. Sometimes it can be a footbridge which is too wide or in some way makes it difficult to swing the rope from one side and catch on the other!

I don’t seem to be able to do the gate closing tricks you describe (partly because I don’t have a hook on the pole/shaft, but also because I find most locks too deep to use a short rope).

I will be interested to hear any variations from others Smile


Alan - Wednesday,11 June, 2014

You don’t need a hook – you are pushing on the end of the balance beam, so you need a fairly long pole.  I understand this method was used by a lot of the working boats and some beams had a “stop” to hold the pole.  The rope works for me on locks up to about 8ft deep.  You could, of course use the pole on each gate.  One other thing – don’t worry if the gates are not completely closed – often the wash from the propeller will go through the opening and the back flow will close the gates.  If not and the top gates are leaking the gates will close anyway – if not leaking it doesn’t matter if the gates are a few inches open (advice from a professional!).


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