2014 06 01 Newsletter – Single Handed Boating Part 3
It’s raining AGAIN! More accurately, I should say it’s STILL raining. The rain hasn’t stopped for more than a few minutes since the beginning of the disastrous 2014 Crick Boat Show. Visitor numbers on Saturday were fair, Sunday was poor and Monday was abysmal. In fact, Monday was so bad that by mid afternoon many of the exhibitors in the Kingfisher marquee were playing let’s-see-how-far-we-can-throw-a-paper-plane-without-hitting-a-single-customer. I believe that the winning plane sailed the full length of the tent.
The weather has been a nightmare for Pat and I. Our work is 100% outside. There’s always plenty to do. We work when the ground is iron hard under inches of frost, when the marina is buried under half a foot of ice, when we have to wade thigh deep in snow and when we have to lean in to a wind so strong that boats can’t get through the marina entrance. We work under a sun hot enough to bake the earth and open ankle turning, mower swallowing cracks in the dessicated clay. We work in all conditions, but we really struggle in relentless rain.
It’s the best conditions for grass to grow, but the worst to cut it. Most of the low lying areas are now either under inches of water or just to sodden to cut. And the grass continues to grow. Moorers who usually let their dogs gallop unrestrained around the grounds are now attaching leads to their pets to prevent them disappearing in the long grass.
It’s Wednesday afternoon as I write this. Wednesday is normally a working day for me but there’s not much I can do in the hammering rain. I’ve swapped my days off so I can work later in the week when the weather is supposed to be better. Pat doesn’t have the option of swapping his days. I can hear the sound of his strimmer now over the howling wind and the rain rattling against the windows.
Rather him than me.
The stove is burning of course. I managed about twenty four hours at the beginning of the month with it off, and I let it go out last night, but I lit it again this morning after a quick dash into the woods to break off the dead lower branches from one of the young oaks to use as kindling.
Sally and I are off on our cruise on Sunday. I’m hoping that the worst of the weather will be behind us by then but I know it’s asking too much. We’ll be taking two bags of Pureheat briquettes with is plus a cupboard full of seasoned oak logs. After all, it’s June in England so it’s quite reasonable to have to expect to stoke up the fire and resort to drinking brandy to keep warm.
Talking of drink, I went to a pub for a rare drink on Monday night with fellow live aboard boater Alan Izatt. Alan hasn’t quite cut the apron strings yet. He lives on board during the warmer months but returns to his Somerset home in the winter. He has to visit occasionally during the rest of the year too to comply with a requirement of his insurance policy to occupy the house at least every sixty days. On Monday he journeyed from house to boat by hire car before we journeyed from boat to pub by foot. We walked in the rain of course.
It’s good to get out now and then to relax over a pint or three. I still enjoy the beer as much as I have ever done but I don’t appear to bounce back the following day quite as easily as I did in my youth. Anyway, I enjoyed a quiet night out in an excellent not-quite-canal-side pub. It was the King’s Head at Napton in case you’re in the area. It’s about five minute’s walk from the bridge 109 next to Napton marina. The pub serves excellent food and not a bad drop of beer.
Alan and I touched on the subject of novice boaters and how many struggle to arm themselves with the right information both prior to purchase and immediately after they are are handed the keys to their new boat and unleashed on the waiting waterways. We discussed a service I’ve been thinking about offering novice boaters for a while. We talked about it for a pint or two before drifting onto other subjects and other pints until Sally dragged us kicking and screaming from the bar to her waiting car and then the warmth of the stove-heated boat where I collapsed into an incoherent heap in front of the telly for the rest of the evening. I managed to jot down a note or two to remind me to write about the new service idea in the next newsletter before my mind stopped working completely. The note was effective. The proposed new service is outlined below.
I had Calcutt’s favourite marine electrician, Dave Reynolds, crawling around the engine room on Thursday morning. My alternator was only charging the leisure batteries. I wanted it to charge both the starter and the leisure bank so he had to replace a split charge relay. Because my starter batter wasn’t being charged properly/at all, it had to be replaced. Dave’s back is a little delicate so he asked me to remove the old starter battery and put the new one in place ready for him to finish off the wiring and replace the relay. Dave’s not daft. I thought removing the old battery was going to kill me.
Since the starter battery was fitted (about 1942 if its condition was anything to go by) I’ve had a frame welded around the engine so that I could deaden the noise by fitting insulated deck boards around it. Unfortunately, access to the batteries wasn’t a consideration when the frame was fitted, so I had to lift the battery at a forty five degree angle through a gap roughly one and a half cigarette paper thicknesses wider than the battery. The removal was made even more interesting by me having to lay flat on my stomach to reach it and by the fact that both plastic handles on the battery were missing.
Sally did what she normally does when she hears screams of pain and frustration coming from the engine room. She turned the vacuum cleaner on, turned her music up and moved to the far end of the boat.
I managed to rip the battery out in the end, along with a strip of skin off the knuckles on my right hand. I also managed to splash a couple of drops of acidic water on my face as I wrenched the battery out. Sally prudently decided to leave the boat to do a bit of shopping soon after I raced into the galley with my eyes shut before plunging my head into the washing up bowl to dilute the acid.
I was back in the engine room on Friday. I didn’t really need to but it’s a lovely place to sit and do very little. I emptied my tool box out onto the deck board covering the engine and slowly put all the tools, most of them still clean and unused, back in the box while I watched two proud swans fussing over their four signets as they waited in vain for me to come out of the engine room and throw them some bread. It was a completely unproductive and hugely enjoyable half hour. Then I measured my chimney.
I’ve just ordered a new stainless steel chimney from the Little Chimney Company. My current steel chimney is on its last legs, as is the very poor excuse for a coolie hat which is sitting drunkenly on top of it. Unusually, I can’t find a record of the purchase but I think I bought it about a year and a half ago for about £60. The new chimney costs over twice the price but it’s hand made from far thicker steel, it’s stainless. it’s guaranteed for three years and it’s a thing of beauty. I’ve also gone for the chimney in 2 x 12″ sections so that I can reduce the chimney height for cruising. I have to wait three weeks for delivery. I hope my current chimney will last that long.
A New Service For Soon-To-Be Narrowboat Owners
When I was in the pub in Monday ,I told Alan about a new service I was thinking of offering to anyone considering buying a narrowboat, especially one to live on.
I won’t say too much about it here because I’ve gone into more detail on this page but, basically, I’m thinking of offering a combined narrowboat training and discovery day. The day, hosted on my own live aboard narrowboat, would cost about half as much as a typical RYA helmsman course but would be far broader in scope.
If you are considering buying a boat, whether it’s for leisure cruising or as a full time home, I would be very grateful if you would spend just a few minutes to give me your feedback. I know that every man and his dog wants you to complete feedback forms online but this one will literally take you ten seconds to complete and will really help me decide whether to run with this idea. Additional information about the proposed service, and the link to the feedback form is here. Please take the time to click on the link and complete it.
Boat Handling – Lift and swing bridges
The following is a continuation from last week’s article about negotiating locks. I received an emailed rebuke following this article;
“Fascinating information about locks, but as a single boater how do I get back on to my boat when I’m exiting a downstream lock?”
I should have included the information in the article. I have now so if you want to know how to get back to the helm of your beloved boat when it’s in an empty lock six feet or more beneath you, please reread last week’s newsletter. I’ve added the new information in the bulleted suggestions just above the bogus advert section.
Now that you’re up to speed with locks, it’s time for bridges.
I don’t know much about lift and swing bridges. My only experience of them to date was on my first cruise down the south Oxford and then down the Thames to Beale Park when I took the Calcutt Clipper to the IWA show. I took my then twelve year old son, Brook, with me to help with the bridges and the locks and to enjoy some quality father-son time.
Unfortunately young and slightly built Brook wasn’t strong enough to work the locks and wasn’t heavy enough for the lift bridges. I have a lovely photo somewhere of him swinging on one with all his might but failing to move it an inch.
The following information has been provided, as is often the case when I need the experience of a widely travelled boater, by continuous cruiser Peter Earley…
“Lift and swing bridges are usually a right pain, especially if you’re on an unfamiliar canal and haven’t looked at your Pearson’s too closely.
You’ve pulled over and dropped someone off to open the bridge, backed out into the channel and are patiently waiting. Why is it taking so long you’re thinking when your partner comes back, shouting something to you that you can’t hear over the engine noise. You manoeuvre back to the bank to find they need a handcuff key/BW key/windlass, or all three. Back out into the channel and the bridge is still shut with traffic streaming over and then, AT LAST. Your blood pressure goes back down and you are through. Only another five bridges to go, you think.
Now look at it from your partners view. They’ve had to jump over a 2 foot gap because you can’t get close enough to the bridge. A quick look at the bridge to see how it works, a long wait for the traffic to die down so they can actually get across the bridge to where the lock/console is. Being considerate they wait for that car that has just come round the bend before finally pressing the button. The barriers come down but for what seems an age nothing much else seems to happen except for a lot of whirring noises and then, slowly, the deck starts to move. After you’ve passed through the bridge is closed, again with that long gap without much happening when, suddenly, the barriers are up and that huge queue of traffic you’ve stopped start streaming across. Eventually there’s a gap and they can cross over and get back onboard only to be greeted with you saying ‘why did you take so long’!
Swing bridges and lift bridges come in all shapes and sizes. There are those simple ones on the L & L secured with just a handcuff (probably done up too hard) that may swing with a gentle push or may need you to elicit the help of a group of walkers just get it started. Others just need a turn of the key and a press of the button whilst you look around and count the cars you’ve stopped. In between is very permutation you can think of.
The worst I can recall was the swing bridge next to the Slipway Inn at Burscough. First you unlocked the barrier on the towpath side and lowered it, repeat that on the offside, unlock the retaining latch and pull it up, take your windlass and wind out the wedges then push. When the boat is through you repeated it in reverse. Boaters are saved all this now as it has been converted to fully mechanised. Dock Lane at Shipley is similar except you wind it open with the windlass.
I know we all moan about these bridges but failure is not generally down to poor maintenance. Those swing bridges on the eastern end of the L & L are almost all at the bottom of some lane where every rain shower washes a new batch of grit down into the gaps. Most boaters keep pushing the swing bridge until it crashes into the latch rather than allowing inertia to bring it gently to a stop. And then they moan about CRT.
The swing bridges for foot traffic are generally fairly simple affairs. A wooden or steel deck, counterbalanced on one end and turning on a pintle. A arm stuck out at one end generally gives you enough leverage to enable the bridge to be swung. Likewise with the lift bridges. Those on the Oxford have large wooden beams to provide the counterbalance which you pull down on to open the bridge. If you are lucky, there will be a chain and a hook or nail to attach it to to keep the open, if not, just sit on the beam until the boat has passed. There are other simple ones on the Peak Forest and Northern Stratford that require a windlass to open.
The swing bridges that carry heavy vehicle traffic are a different matter. These have wedges at one end that are pushed into the gap between the bottom of the bridge and its support and so force the other end of the bridge down so that it is rigid for the traffic. This is why there is that big delay between the barriers coming down and the bridge starting to turn. If you watch the deck at this time you will see the bridge deck seeming to twist. Lift bridges of course don’t have these.
Then there are the bridges over very busy roads. These tend to have timers built into the control system to prevent their use during rush hour. Be aware of these if your cruise is to a timetable as you may be waiting for up to 90 minutes.
Now, if you think like me, that these bridges are a pain, then think of the poor single handed boater. Yes, some of these will have landing stages on the offside or operating consoles on the towpath side but these are in the minority and, even where they are provided, may not be us able. A lot of the bridges down to Liverpool have offside landings. Great, except that BW allowed the house owners to extend their gardens to the waters edge. And, of course, you tie your boat to these landings, unlock the bridge and push, only to find that the bridge wants to go where your boat is. With no convenient landing our lone boater has to stop on the towpath, take is centre line over the bridge with him, tie it off, open the bridge and then pull the boat through before closing the bridge and get back on. Of course, if it is a lift bridge he has the added complication of getting the rope around the the obstruction of the raised bridge deck.
No wonder that many will wait until another boat happens along. Which brings me to one last point. If you opened a bridge and another boat arrives, it is convention that you let them through before you get back onto your own boat, even if several boats appear.”
Next week I’m going to finish off the boat handling series with some advice on handling a boat in weather which is less than perfect as a result of receiving this email from Richard Straton…
“I read your articles about handling boats on your own … but the weather was obviously sunny, warm, calm as a mill pond and idyllic. What about a few notes on handling a boat on a windy day, when the weather is wet (not necessarily lashing rain, but the dismal wet air that makes surfaces slippery), snowing, icy, or the sort of conditions that boat operators HAVE to deal with when “moving on”?
Live-aboards would simply say … stay where you are til the weather breaks! A lot of people, like myself and my partner Jean who owns “Jeri Kanda”, are “now and agains”. My two brothers and I (three men in a boat) also hire cruisers from time to time for more extensive adventures. There are many boaters who are hirers who read your pages finding the articles interesting and instructive. Holidays are enjoyed all the more. Tips are useful, making not only the handling of the boat better … but also appreciation of other boat users!”
Point taken Richard. I’ll discuss bad weather boat handling next week. I’ll also highlight some boating do’s and don’ts. After all, now that you know how to get your boat safely from A to B, your journey will be further enhanced by pleasant interaction with other boaters. I’ll tell you what you need to know.
A New Case Study
It’s not often I come across narrowboat owners who appear to have the balance right. The majority of narrowboat owners use their boats as an expensive and far too rarely enjoyed hobby. They spend so much of their time working hard enough to afford the boat, the moorings, the license and the maintenance that they don’t have the time or the energy to enjoy it.
Many boat owners overcome the problem of not spending enough time on their boat by moving on to it full time. Unfortunately they still have to earn a living so although they spend all of their free time on board, they don’t have the time to use the boat for its intended purpose.
Some are fortunate enough to be fully functional in both mind and body when they retire, and have enough of a pension pot to support them, so that they can cruise the canal and river network as and when they please.
A few, a very small minority, are able to combine work with pleasure and continue to work as they cruise. Dave and Alison are one such couple. They need to work to support their lifestyle but because they’re the clever techie types, they can work from the comfort of their boat for just one day a week and enjoy their lifestyle as true continuous cruisers for the rest of the week. What a life!
Please take the time to read this case study and to read Dave’s blog too. It’s well written, regularly updated, informative and very amusing. It’s one of the most entertaining blogs I’ve read (apart from this one of course). The case study is here.
RCR Maintenance Course
I’m grateful to Steve Southcoat for taking the time to write the following. He’s just returned from a two day RCR engine maintenance course. I have to admit that I’m the least practical person I know and the thought of playing around with the engine fills me full of dread. I can’t understand it. My father was an engineer who spent much of his free time up to his elbows in oil rebuilding engines. Why haven’t I inherited his skills?
After four years of boat ownership I now know far more than I did when I first moved on board. It’s still painfully little but it’s enough to make sure that the engine is fit to use before going on a cruise. Unfortunately I’ve encountered a few new boat owners who have paid severe penalties for their own ignorance, penalties which have ended up costing them a fortune.
My own experience of RCR is mainly positive. I have an issue with their administration (frequent phone calls not returned) but the engineer who has come to Calcutt twice now to service my boat’s Mercedes engine has been first class.
Here’s Steve’s report.
“The course is run once a month over a Saturday and Sunday and the tutor was Keith Duffy. As I don’t have a boat yet I decided to go and learn about boat engines before I bought a boat and found out it was a real wreck, as has happened with a number of cars I have bought.
The Aim of the course is to help you:
1. Recognise potential problems
2. Carry out basic maintenance
3. Specify reliable components
There were nine of us on the course, including two women. The course takes you through an oil change, changing fuel, changing air filters and oil filters, changing drive belts and throttle cables, lubricating points, bleeding the fuel system and water system, recognising that the engine works better with a good air supply. Fuel fault finding is also covered.
You receive a 107 page manual on what the training course covers, with lots of useful information about maintaining your boat. There was some basic information on boat electrics, but as they run a course on this subject the information was more common sense than over useful. Batteries and battery types, wiring, alternator charging and split charging.
There was an explanation on how the engine works. The injection system gearbox, gear box drive plates. Cooling systems , stern glands, shaft alignment. They covered why it is important to do maintenance on your boat or if you don’t want to do the work yourself, recognise that the engineer you hire is accurately the job right and completely.
Another useful subject was the domestic water system and laying up for the winter.
I found the course very useful in realising the engine is not much different to my Land Rover diesel engine, but the information provided gave me a greater understanding of how it works. One of the more useful bits of information was that RCR will give advice on parts for engines and can recommend and supply things like oil filters cheaper than paying marina prices. One of the guys on the course has hired an RCR engineer to supervise him doing his own engine maintenance, this still works out cheaper than paying a boatyard to do the job for you.
I thought I had a lot to learn and in some respects I did, but some on the course (boat owners already) knew even less than I did. I found the course a good beginning to maintaining our boat when we get one, also when we look for a boat, I will pay more attention to the engine and engine bay rather than the alternative of relying just on the boat inspection.”
You can find out more about RCR’s engine maintenance courses here.
I don’t like pram covers. I’ve mentioned my dislike of them from time to time. Not everyone feels the same though. In the spirit of providing you with as balanced a view as possible about these rear deck covers, here’s an email I received recently from boat owner Chris Brown…
“Just one comment on the latest news letter concerning the points you make regarding stern pram covers. I have a 60ft cruiser stern narrowboat and getting a pram cover fitted was one of the best things I have done. The golden rule, of course, is that you should NEVER cruise with the pram cover up. I have occasionally moved the boat in a marina with the cover up and even then it can be a bit of a pain and extreme care must be taken. It takes me less than 10mins to put the cover up and down and the main cover remains on the frame (I remove the two side panels) in the down position. When down it takes up very little room at the rear and I use some bungee cables to keep it neat and away from the sides of bridges and locks etc.”
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.
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.
Single handed boating – Negotiating locks.
Single handed boating – Choosing the right type of boat for single handed cruising and equipment to make your solo journeys safer and more enjoyable.
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.
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.
What makes a perfect live aboard narrowboat. Two experienced boaters discuss layout, size and essential equipment
A cautionary tale if you are considering buying a wide beam boat to live on.
A further update to the site content index.
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.
How do you continue to earn money to support your boating lifestyle as you cruise the network?
Sharing your narrowboat space – The practicalities of sharing living accommodation the same size as a large shed.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Cold floors, cold air above the floors and cold hull sides. It’s a combination which can cause your bottom half quite a bit of discomfort. Here’s what I do to deal with the problem.
Weil’s disease – It’s an often talked about and often feared aspect of living, working or playing close to inland waterways but just how dangerous is it and what can you do to keep yourself safe?
If you’re on a budget maybe a self fit our sailaway is the way to go for you. Here’s the story of a wide beam self fit out to give you inspiration (or put you off completely)
Planning for the year ahead – Written plans and goals have always been important to me. They help me see into the future. Here’s what we’ve planned for our lovely floating home in 2014.
The practicality of hosting Christmas afloat – How do you achieve a floating festive event (and do you really want to)?
Liveaboard case study, The Pearl – Tony and Jane Robinson believe in forward planning. They stated their narrowboat fund thirty years before buying their own boat. Now the two retired education workers moor in a marina for the winter then explore the waterways during the warmer months.
Narrowboat Storage Space – How much space is there to store your worldly goods on board a narrowboat? Here’s a video walk-through of my own boat James.
Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?
Fitting secondary double glazing – Fitting the panels is a simple operation for those with the most basic DIY skills, something which I sadly haven’t developed. As you might expect then, the fitting didn’t go as well as it should.
Narrowboat videos – I launched the Living On A Narrowboat YouTube channel
Secondary double glazing for your boat – The pros and cons of double glazing on a boat and why secondary double glazing is a much better bet and a fraction of the cost.
Living on a narrowboat vidoes – My first hesitant steps into the world of video production for site content
Can you either live or holiday on a narrowboat if you have a disability? – Here’s what you need to know.
Winter fuel allowance – Do you qualify for one if you live on a boat?
Case Study – NB Progress. Kim Wainwright recorded her journey on the forum from nervous anticipation to current liveaboard boat owner. Here’s her story.
Narrowboat central heating – I don’t have any. All that is about to change. Here’s the system I’m going to install and why I’ve chosen it.
Narrowboat running costs – I compare my own running costs to those of a prominent YouTube video blogger and detail my exact costs for October 2013
Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.
The wind chill factor – How strong the wind is blowing and which direction it’s coming from can determine how difficult it is to heat your boat. Here’s what you need to know.
Case study – Another couple from down under living the dream on the inland waterways.
20th October 2013Condensation. It’s a common problem on boats. Here are a few suggestions how to keep your boat’s interior dry.
A new organisation for liveaboard boaters
On demand water heater problems – Discover a common fault with these water heaters and what you can do to resolve the problem.
Know your firewood – Not all timber burns well. Find out which is best and which to avoid.
Managing your boat’s water supply. You can use your water supply as and when you need it when you live in a house with all mod cons. You can pretty much do the same when you’re on a marina mooring with a water supply just a hose length away. It’s a different kettle of fish when you’re on an online mooring.
Liveaboard case study – A prime example of mooring without a water supply on tap.
The folly of using unseasoned wood as a fuel – Here’s essential information if you plan to use logs you find to heat your boat for free
Creating lasting memories of your cruises – Slightly off topic, but please bear with me. You’ll have some wonderful adventures as you travel throughout the network. They’ll be adventures worth remembering but will you remember them? I have a very poor memory but instant and total recall of all my cruises is just a click away.
A tragedy at Calcutt. Sudden Oak Dieback hits our 1,500 twenty year old oak trees
Forum private messaging – Now you can email other forum users from within the site
Managing your water supply
An American blogs about his travels
Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube
All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller
A disaster – I inadvertently deleted this week’s newsletter and there wasn’t a backup on the server. What a shame. It was all about the damage you can do to your boat if you don’t watch what you’re doing in a lock. You would have loved it!
Effective fly killers for boats
The downside to living on a narrowboat
Liveaboard Case Study – American Richard Varnes has taken a year out from work to cruise the canal network and write about his adventure. Here’s his case study and a few stories from his journey so far.
CART Guide Approval – The waterways’ governing body is now promoting the information packages available from this site. Yippee!
Narrowboat Insurance – A summary of insurance quotes from the major narrowboat insurers
Liveaboard Case Study – Keith and Nicky downsized their property in Jersey, used the released capital to buy their 57? “go anywhere” narrowboat and now live on their boat full time while they continuously cruise the canal network. They’re ridiculously young to retire, and I’m very, very jealous
Downsizing from a 3 bed semi to a narrowboat – What do you do with a lifetime’s accumulated possessions?
A free download – Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles
Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners
The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How one liveaboard boater manages on a shoestring
The perfect narrowboat washing machine? – It’s low cost and doesn’t need plumbing in, but does it actually clean clothes?
The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How much does living the life of a water gypsy really cost?
The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.
Hire boat expectations – Fully understanding what facilities will be available to you is essential if you’re going to enjoy a narrowboat holiday. Here’s what not to do.
Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.
Anticipating winter weather – You may well be enjoying unusually warm winter weather but the winter will be with us all too soon. Now is the time that you need to plan for the cold weather ahead.
Keeping your stove glass clean – Maybe you think it’s an odd subject for the summer but you can’t trust the English weather. Late June and the stove was still on now and again. At least now I have a crystal clear view of the fire I shouldn’t need to light.
Traffic chaos caused by Braunston’s historic boat rally – On a day with high winds and a canal full of working boats returning home after the rally, I had the pleasure of taking some very nervous hirers out on the cut.
23rd June 2013 – The cost of a two week cruise. If you live on your own boat, what’s the real cost of taking it away for a two week break?
Case Study – Mary Anne swapped dry land home rental for floating home ownership. Now she loves life afloat and works from home.
Life as a continuous cruiser – The Holy Grail of narrowboat ownership. The ability to travel where and when you like. Peter Early tells all.
The Ashby canal cruise part two – We spent a bit more time on the Ashby before heading south again, joining the Coventry canal, this time following it into Coventry’s rather depressing and disappointing city centre, then retracing our steps back to Calcutt
Most popular narrowboat names – Here’s the definitive list of the top 200 most popular narrowboat names and a resource you can use to find out if any other boat has the same name as yours
Considerate boating – An article prompted after a near head on collision with another boat trying to avoid a fallen oak.
I was on holiday for the first two weeks of June. Sally and I cruised from Calcutt to Braunston, north along the north Oxford where we joined the Coventry canal briefly before taking a very sharp right turn onto the Ashby canal. Here’s a daily report of the first week of our holiday.
An encounter with two poorly prepared holiday boaters and my own impending two week cruise encouraged me to put together a pre cruise check list
Laptop hacking – An update on the problems I encountered after buying a brand new laptop which I suspect was tampered with before I bought it.
Diary of a new narrowboat owner – Frequent forum poster “Our Nige” finally moved on to his new floating home. Here’s his story
My comments about an encounter on the Oxford/GU section between Napton and Braunston sparked a debate about the pros and cons of wide beams on the cut.
Keeping dry – You don’t really need to limit your cruising to sunny summer days. There’s something very special about standing on the back deck in the pouring ran protected by a set of bomb proof waterproofs.
Do you really need a car? Living on a narrowboat is all about enjoying a simple and stress free life. Sally and I had a car each. Mine cost £2,000 to run in the previous 12 months so I decided to get rid of mine to see if I could manage without one.
An encounter with a wide beam boat and why they aren’t suitable for much of the canal network
An interview with the Trust’s head of boating. Sally Ash talks about the Trust’s approach to the thorny issue of residential moorings
Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold
Meet one of your legless canal side companions
The canal network’s largest floating hotel
Narrowboat blogs – My own first cruise, Our Nige takes his new home on its maiden voyage and a chance for you to have your very own blog section on this site.
The Trust target illegal moorers but just what does the Trust consider to an illegal mooring?
Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop
RCR engine servicing – River Canal Rescue (RCR) are well known as the waterways equivalent of the AA but did you know that they will also come to your mooring to service your boat?
The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.
Narrowboat security – A spate of burglaries from boats and a break in at my former family home encouraged me to write this article
Case study – You need to committed to sell your home to fund the purchase of your narrowboat. That’s what Mick and Marlene have done.
Case study – Sarah lives on wide beam Antioch on the Leeds Liverpool canal. She can do man things with her hands. Here’s her story.
Be inspired – There are always reasons why you don’t make the move from bricks and mortar to steel and water. Here’s an anecdote which demonstrates once and for all that there really aren’t any worthwhile excuses.
Here’s an example of what happens when you really don’t understand how your narrowboat works.
Essential boating equipment – Here’s a low cost item which has paid for itself over and over again.
Whilton marina boat sales – Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. This alleged fact about the boat sales at Whilton has come to me from several different sources.
Where can you find residential moorings? Here’s a great place to start
Getting rid of unwelcome visitors – Geese used to regularly disturb a peaceful night’s sleep where I moor. Not any more. Here’s my solution
Know your narrowboat costs – Detailed costs for my own boat for February 2013
Half a dozen boaters now have access to their own blog section on the site. You can too. Here’s how.
James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring
Stove fuel test – What works best; coal, wood, briquettes or something else entirely – Here’s my own take on a Waterways World test
Essential stove maintenance – Here’s what you need to do to make sure that your stove always performs well.
Internet connectivity – I use the internet four or more hours every day. This is the setup I have on my boat to make sure that I’m always connected.
Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013
The real cost of going cheap. An in depth look at the cost of my 36 year old boat, and how much I spent (and still need to spend) before it will be a comfortable full time cruising boat.
Case Studies – I put together 21 of the best case studies and analysed and summarised the data in this low cost guide. If you want ton save yourself hundreds of hours of research and costly mistakes, you need to read this guide.
Case Study – Mike’s circumstances are similar to my own. He moved onto his boat after a failed marriage. He’s upgraded from a 27? GRP cruiser to a 50? narrowboat
Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis
I asked newsletter subscribers to send me detailed breakdowns of their bricks and mortar expenses so I could compare them with the cost of running a narrowboat. Quite a few subscribers obliged. I added the breakdowns to my narrowboat costs guide and the budgeting application.
Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis
Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer
Low cost narrowboat ownership – A low cost solution to the problem of funding your first narrowboat
Solar power – All you need to know about installing solar panels on your boat. Written by the inland waterways most popular solar system installer
Case Study – Mr. Solar Panel Tim Davis writes about life on board his own narrowboat
First tests and reviews of the budgeting application
The best aerial for a narrowboat television
The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application
An unscheduled dip in the marina prompted me to write about safety on the waterways
Living on a narrowboat – Through the eyes of a young lady who would clearly prefer to be somewhere else
I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date
Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs
Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home
The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners
I published my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat. When this newsletter was published it was only available as a Kindle edition. Now it’s available in both Kindle and PDF format and is bundled with Narrowbudget, the site’s bespoke narrowboat budgeting application.
VAT on narrowboat sales
Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans
Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson
Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels
Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)
How to clean your stove glass – One of the real pleasures of a living fire is watching the flames on a cold winter’s eve. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you can actually see the fire.
Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke
DIY narrowboat painting – I’ve broken down the complete cost of painting your own boat and
Dealing with wind on the river – A guest article from liveaboard narrowboat owner Alan Cazaly
DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports
Life on the river Cam – A guest article on the pleasures of river life by wide beam liveaboard Luther Phillips
Case Study – Freelance writer Anne and her South African farmer partner John reveal all
Case Study – Toni cruises constantly with ex husband Allan. They cruise together but they live apart… on separate boats
As a result of the article about the downside of living on a narrowboat published in the 18th March newsletter, I asked liveaboard narrowboat owners to complete a survey to give a balanced view of the issues raised by Pauline. Here are the survey results and a much more positive article by liveaboard narrowboat owner and frequent forum contributer Peter Early.
The downside of living on a narrowboat – This was a very controversial post. Liveaboard Pauline Roberts wrote about the less pleasant aspects of life afloat… and attracted a storm of comments
Case study: The Woodsman – Pauline Roberts again giving an insight into the life that you may think she doesn’t like.
Reviewed: The Liveaboard Guide by Tony Jones. A great guide to living afloat
eBay Narrowboat scam (and a little bit of flack for me from another forum)
Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat
A review of Debdale Wharf marina
Two more case studies. One of them waxed lyrical about life on the waterways and enjoyed every minute of her life afloat. Now (April 2013) she’s selling up to follow another dream in Spain.
The first four narrowboat case studies published
I’ll start with myself; Paul Smith, living on my own, moored in a marina and working full time. Narrowboat James case study
Meet Peggy. She has a husband and two small children, works full time and cruises the network during the summer months. Narrowboat Violet Mae case study
Fancy spending your retirement cruising the waterways of England and Wales? Meet Barry and Sue Horne. They’re living the dream! Narrowboat Adagio Case Study
Here are another working couple. Lina and Warren cruise the cut with their two cats.Narrowboat Olive Rose case study.
Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter
Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners
Comprehensive Site Article Listing
There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.
Popular Forum Posts
There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.
- Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
- Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
- Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
- CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
- Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
- GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
- Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
- Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
- Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
- Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
- A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
- Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
- Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
- Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
- Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
- Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
- Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
- The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
- 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
- “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
- Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
- Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
- It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
- Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
- VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
- Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
- Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
- Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
- Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
- Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
- Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
- Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
- Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
- The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
- Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
- A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
- Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
- Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
- The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
- Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
- Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
- My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
- Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
- Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
- The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
- Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
- Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
- Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
- Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
- A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
- Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
- Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
- Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
- Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
- Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
- Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
- Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
- Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
- Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
- Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
- Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
- Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
- Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
- Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
- Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
- Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
- Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
- Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
- Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
- Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
- Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
- Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
- Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
- Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
- Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
- Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
- Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
- Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
- Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
- Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
- Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
- Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
- Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
- The best flooring for a narrowboat pets – What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
- The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
- The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
- ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
- Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
- Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
- Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
- Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
- Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
- Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
- Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
- VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
- Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
- Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
- How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
- Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
- Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
- Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
- Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
- Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
- Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
- Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed
Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat – Narrowboat costs explained in detail. My own maintenance and living cost on narrowboat James for a full year. Use this information to work out your own costs.
CRT (Canal & River Trust) maintain the waterways. Here’s their site.
Find out what parts of the canal are closed and for how long. Essential cruising information for you.
Do you need to find a home for your boat? Here’s a comprehensive list of the narrowboat friendly marinas in the UK
Do you want to see where these marinas are on a map? Here it is.
Here’s a map of all the canals on the system to help you plan your route.
Newsletter Archive – Browse through a wealth of useful content in the newsletters over the last year.
Find out more about narrowboat central heating costs here.