2014 08 03 Newsletter – Essential Boating Equipment
The hire boats are out in force. Our wharf is empty. All of our boats are out, as are the boats of many of the hire companies in the area. Most are having a wonderful time but I met a not so happy hirer on the wharf last Sunday evening. I had just come back from a discovery day, dropped off two very tired but happy soon-to-be boat owners and, as I was on the wharf, took the opportunity to vacuum yet more water out of my engine room.
I have a leak again. For months my bilge was gratifyingly dry but in the last two weeks since I had my new calorifier fitted, the half inch deep water is back again. As I was feeding the vacuum hose into the engine room I noticed a hire boat veer off the main channel and charge up to the wharf. I’m always slightly nervous when I see hire boats approaching me at speed, especially in this case as my boat was at right angles to the rapidly approaching hirer. Some hirers are very experienced boaters with more cruising hours under their belts than many boat owners. Many are not, and many are often not fully or even at all in control of boats which often weigh in excess of fifteen tonnes.
This guy had his boat under control but was only just keeping a lid on his temper. He was desperate for a pump out. Two pump outs actually. He and his four crew had been on the boat for just six days but both toilets were full to the brim. He was angry because he had just called the yard which hired them the boat and asked why the toilet tanks were full. Their reply, and you can understand why he was angry, was that the problem had been caused by his group eating and drinking too much!
The toilet tanks on our hire boats will last a family of four about a week on average but of course the exact length of time will depend upon the amount the toilet is used and how often it is flushed. It’s also possible for the flush water to continue flowing after the flush pedal or button has been released so the contents of the boat’s water tank are fairly quickly transferred into the waste tank.
The guy had to moor above Calcutt Top Lock and return to the wharf the following morning to have his toilet tanks emptied. He was a different man the following day. His family had had a tranquil evening moored next to Napton reservoir’s forty acres, they had access to our toilet block overnight and when he phoned the hire company again the following morning, the hire company agreed to pay the £18 cost for one of his pump outs. Another happy boater.
At the beginning of the week I spent a few hours in the main woods on one of my latest projects. The six and a half acres of predominantly broad leaf woodland close to where Sally parks here car has matured wonderfully over the four years that I’ve been here. The oak and ash now provide a canopy over the network of paths which twist among the trees. The spindle, hazel, holly and field maple which were planted last autumn now provide even more variety and ground cover for our woodland creatures. There’s a wonderful mix of native trees and shrubs but very little colour. I have decided to change that.
On Monday I cleared a hundred square metre area of sparse nettle growth on either side of a path to a glade where I have installed a picnic bench where Sally and I often sit and read. I’m going to spray the area a couple of times over then next few months and then sow wild flower seeds over the winter which I have just bought from this web site.
I might see one or two flowers next year but most will appear from the second year onwards. The flowers will attract more insect which in turn will bring in more birds. The woodland glade is going to be a wonderful place to sit and relax in years to come.
I had the pleasure of watching passing boats for most of the day on Wednesday. I was in the cottage garden behind the water point removing a substantial self seeded willow which has spent the last few years forcing the brickwork apart on the side of the old lock in the garden which was used in years gone by to weight the cargo of boats passing between the Oxford and the Grand Union canals. The lock is now an ornamental rectangular pond. The twenty five feet high willow looked slightly odd in a garden full of fruit trees and was causing a considerable amount of damage. It had to go, as did an ash sapling growing out of the opposite side of the lock.
On Thursday I had to take James back into one of the workshops to try and identify the source of the new leak. As suspected, it was the calorifier. The seal around the imersion heater was dripping steadily onto the ply flooring under the bed and then running backwards into the engine bay. I purchased the calorifier in January this year from Steve Smith at Evesham marina along with the yet to be fitted Webasto heater. Steve’s response to my phone call was first class. “Sorry to hear about your leak, but it’s no problem at all. I’ll send you another calorifier. It will be with you before midday tomorrow. Replace the faulty calorifier with the new one and send the faulty one back to me so that I can return it under warranty.” Now THAT is what I call good service.
This really is a wonderful time of the year to be living afloat. The weather is gloriously warm so Sally and I spend much of our time on board with the doors and hatches open. We’re close to nature all year round but with the boat open to the great outdoors we really feel part of it.
Last week I hung a bird feeder from the cockspur thorn tree on the grassy bank next to our mooring. The feeder hasn’t attracted a huge number of birds yet but we really enjoy watching the few colourful finches which turn up now and then to stuff themselves on the feeder’s seed mix. We keep a pair of binoculars next to the open port side hatch so that we can see the birds in glorious close up detail.
Sally also uses the open side hatch to interact with her new best friends. There’s two adult coots with one chick almost the same size as them and another tiny and ungainly chick with its prominent red and mustard yellow head markings. There’s a pair of mallards with six cute chicks and a ravenous shoal of roach fry.
We spent a very happy hour on Thursday evening leaning out of the side hatch basking in the warm sun while we teased both birds and fish with pieces of my favourite whole grain bread. We watched the silver red finned roach flash beneath the surface and snatch mouthfuls of bread from under the stabbing beaks of the frantic birds. Who needs television?
We had so much fun feeding the menagerie that I was toastless on Friday morning. Sally said that the birds’ need was greater than mine as she patted me on a slightly wobbly stomach.
After a rabbit food breakfast I took James back across the marina to get the replacement calorifer fitted. Even though the bed base needed to be removed to get the calorifiers in and out, the swap took less than an hour as all the pipes were in place. As expected, the new tank has cured the problem. We appear to be leak free once more.
Essential Boating Equipment
I received this email from Chris Dury last week…
“I do like a good list. With your experience, is there a list of items that you would not leave the marina without? There are the obvious ones like a first aid kit, spare windlass, light bulb etc. but I thought you would be able to put together a handy checklist. You mentioned in a recent newsletter that parachute cord was very useful and not bulky.”
I included the following pre cruise check list on the newsletter on 2nd June last year but I have added one or two items which aren’t essential for cruising but which are very handy to keep on board.
- Hose and hose reel – I tried several different hose types before settling on my current hose. I had two of the flat blue hoses on white reels you often see in chandlers. They were rubbish. The hose reels fell apart within days and after a couple of month of dragging the hose across gravel they swelled until they would no longer fit on the broken reel. I moved on to the standard Hozelock hoses and reels after that. They didn’t fare much better. The standard hose kinks very easily. I now have a Hozelock maxi plus anti kink hose and it’s marvelous.
- A dog poo spade (Probably not muck use to you if you don’t have a dog) – We don’t collect our dogs’ mess in plastic bags because we then have to carry the waste around with us and when we do finally find a bin for it, it ends up as land fill and, because it’s in a plastic bag, doesn’t rot away. We use the spade, a small coal shovel, to flick the poo out of the way where it can’t be stood on, usually in a hedge, where it decomposes within days.
- Garden shears – Otherwise perfect moorings are often quite frustrating to use when the bank side grass is too long. Five minutes with the shears soon sorts the grass out.
- Folding chairs and table – Ours are from Midland Chandlers. We can sit and enjoy our evening meal on the towpath or just watch the world go by at a snail’s pace.
- 2 x windlesses – one spare just in case we throw one in which we can’t find with the recovery magnet.
- 2 x lump hammers – one spare
- 3 x mooring stakes – one spare
- 3 x mooring chains – one spare
- British Waterways key – for the locking plates on the water points, the waterways owned Elsan points, showers and toilets and for some lift and swing bridges.
- A recovery magnet – It’s worth its weight in gold. My Maxigrab magnet has roughly the same diameter as a two pence piece, is about the length of a box of matches and can lift a very impressive fifty pounds – I have used it to retrieve several windlasses, mooring hooks, shackles and, on two occasions, my main bunch of keys with all the boat keys on it.
- A reel of para cord – Great for tying onto the recovery magnet when I go fishing but also very handy for temporary washing lines, shoe laces, belts, dog leads etc.
- Anchor, chain and rope – I don’t need one for most of my trips out from the marina but when I’m cruising the network full time, an anchor will be essential. I have one on board at the moment but I need to change it for something more substantial.
- Life jackets – I have two similar to the ones worn by CART employees
- Weed hatch tools – A sharp knife with a serrated blade, bolt croppers and mole grips for removing obstacles from the propeller.
- A set of tools which I should use more often – My tools are pretty basic but include, screwdrivers, spanners, socket set, Stanley knife, pliers, electric drill and bits, Allen keys, hacksaw, wood saw and my favourite and most often used tool, a hammer.
- Torches – We have two of them, one kept in the engine room and another in a cupboard near the front doors
- A laser pen – I really, really don’t like Canada geese or the noise they make. A quick flash of the laser pen at the marina is enough to scare them off the water for the night. I haven’t had to use it on the cut yet, but it’s there just in case.
- Roof furniture – Pole, plank and boat hook, and also a children’s fishing net for those little things which frequently blow off or get dropped from the boat into the water.
- Coal, kindling and firelighters – Some boaters carry ten or more bags of coal on the boat roof during the winter months. I have to be very careful what weight I add above the waterline. I added a couple of tonnes to the weight of the boat when I had the cabin over plated with steel so the centre of gravity is already much higher than it should be which means that the boat isn’t as stable in the water as I would like.
- Carbon monoxide monitor – Carbon monoxide from a solid fuel stove can kill. We have one in the main cabin and one in the bedroom.
- Stove top fan – The most popular is the Ecofan. They use the heat from the stove to power a fan to distribute the heat further from the stove. Boat owners with the very popular Morso Squirrel stove tell me that they work brilliantly. Unfortunately for me, my stove has a double skin on the top plate so the fan struggle to reach the temperature necessary to work. A new stove is on our shopping list.
- A spare 13kg gas cylinder – Up until a month ago I was using gas for both cooking and water heating. Since I have had the calorifier installed my gas usage has reduced signifficantly. I was going through a 13kg cylinder every twenty one days but a month after the gas water heater was removed the cylinder which was in use at the time is still half full. I expect a cylinder to now last me three months or more but I will still always carry a spare on board.
- Oil – Spare engine and gearbox oil
- Spare grease for the greaser – Turning down your greaser at the end of each cruising session is essential. The greaser is a brass syringe which forces grease between the stern gland packing and the prop shaft. This helps prevent canal water from entering the engine bay along the prop shaft. I always have a full tub of water resistant grease in the engine room for refilling the greaser.
- A dipstick for my fuel tank – It’s a four feet length of dowel which I have marked at the full, half and quarter levels
- Rope – Bow line, stern line and two centre ropes plus a spare stored in the engine room. all present and in good condition
- Maps – The two most popular guides are Nicholson’s and Peasrso’s. I favour Pearson’s purely because they are the ones I am used to. They are essential for finding water points, turning areas, estimated journey times and quiet mooring spots away from housing, roads and railways.
- Compass – We don’t need one to find out where we are going, but it’s useful to know where the sun is going to end up in the evening. We always try to find a mooring which is open to the west so we know we can sit in the sun in the evening.
- Waterproofs – I have two sets. I have a totally bomb proof jacket and trousers from Guy Cotten. They are designed for use by deep sea fishermen. They are 100% waterproof but aren’t breathable. They are wonderful for standing immobile in the pouring rain but not very good if you’re walking between and operating locks and generating heat. You very quickly get as wet through sweat building up inside the waterproofs as you would from the rain if you’re exerting yourself. I also have I also have a Kakadu leather hat and full length drover’s coat which is a very good waterproof combination and breathable too.
- Wellington boots – The towpath can get very muddy. Wellies are both comfortable and easy to clean.
- A pair of binoculars – There’s plenty to see when cruising but it’s often not close enough to see enough detail. Binoculars allow us to get much closer.
- Sun hats and sunglasses – I favour a wide brimmed leather hat. Sally likes baseball caps, although I don’t know why. There no accounting for taste. We both wear sunglasses.
- Gloves – Sally uses a pair of smart gardening gloves to protect her hands when locking. I have a pair of Sealskinz gloves which I just use for colder weather.
- Fleece hats and tops. Mine are made by Swazi. They’re warm and very durable.
- Collin’s reference books for flowers, trees and birds – Being able to identify the flora and fauna adds to the cruising experience.
- A battery powered vacuum cleaner – At the moment we have a Phillips mini vac but I’m thinking of upgrading to a Dyson DC59 Animal. It’s claimed to have as much power as a corded vacuum cleaner. One of the guys at Calcutt has just bought one. I’ve had a quick play with it on his boat and it’s carpet liftingly powerful. The battery life is supposed to be twenty minutes but I’ve read one or two reviews which claim it’s only half that, but even at ten minutes it’s plenty long enough to vacuum our little home. I know that Sally will love it but at £350 she’ll probably have to wait until Christmas.
- A sense of adventure and anticipation, and a degree of flexibility – You never know what’s around the corner to either encourage or force you to stop for a while. Plans are good but they need to be flexible. Rigid schedules can be a disaster on the waterways.
- Emergency food – Fresh food availability can be quite limited in many rural areas so we always carry tinned and dried food as a back up. A tin of pilchards, a couple of dried chillies and a couple of cups of rice makes a very easy and tasty meal. Our emergency food can easily last us for a week
I’m sure that if I sat here for another half an hour thinking hard about what we have on board I could add a few more items but, to be honest, we moored in a sunny spot on the towpath as I write this and the canvas chair under a towering ash next to the canal is calling me. If you don’t mind, I’ll leave the list for a while in favour of a gentle summer breeze and a view over rolling hills.
The Pros And Cons Of Wide Beam Boats
Last week I wrote an article about wide beam boats which I knew some regular site visitors would disagree with. Some did, but not as many as I thought. Here’s a thread which started as a result of the article. If you’re still undecided about the suitability of a wide beam for your boating needs, maybe this additional information will help.
I received an email last week which upset me a little. The sender, it the nicest possible way, suggested that this site is becoming too commercial, that the narrowboat community is a very giving group of people and that I should follow suit rather than trying to sell stuff to people.
I objected to the sentiment for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there is a huge amount of free information on the site. Over 6,000 posts and pages actually. The content has taken me four years and many thousands of hours to research, write and publish on the site. The vast majority of the information I provide is free of charge but the site itself is far from free to maintain. The site actually costs hundreds of pounds each month to run. I pay the site running costs from the income I receive from book sales, access to the budget application and the recently introduced discovery days. Yes, you will see adverts for these products and services from time to time, but I don’t think they are too intrusive. If the guides, the budget calculator or the combination helmsmanship and discovery day courses don’t interest you, you can easily ignore the adverts.
On the other hand if you are serious about living afloat the products and services are, I’m often told, very good value for money. The new discovery days are proving just as popular.
I don’t think anywhere is more beautiful than England when the weather is good, and it’s very good indeed at the moment. I took John and Elaine Lord out on a discovery day last Sunday. John came back the colour of a cooked beetroot. He was tired after a 5am start and exhausted after handling his first ever narrowboat for six very rewarding hours.
John and Elaine plan to buy a narrowboat and live afloat in three or four years’ time. They wanted to find out as much as possible about the live aboard lifestyle and learn how to handle a narrowboat properly in anticipation of their hire boat holiday later on in the year.
As you know I’ve only recently launched my discovery days so I’m very keen to get feedback from everyone who joins me for the day. Here’s what John and Elaine had to say about their experience last weekend.
First of all we would like to thank you for such a brilliant day on James, we both really enjoyed it along with your company.
It was great to spend the day with such a knowledgeable and super guy, you were a fantastic, calm and patient instructor, a real pleasure to spend the day with.
The day was brilliant, the amount of information that you shared with us was excellent and answered all of our questions, and more, about living aboard and maintaining the boat.
Your instructions on boat handling were delivered in a very calm, patient, clear and confidence building way, it was an absolute pleasure to learn from you and you put us at ease right from your greeting, by your two loveable dogs, the best latte I have had for a long time, and the wonderful cups of tea. We don’t think you could of added any more to the day as you covered all of our questions regarding live aboard, boat handling and canal etiquette.
Yes my shoulders did ache, and I have never felt so exhausted in my life, but a deep bath soon sorted that out! The sun sparkling on the wind ruffled water is etched on my brain forever.
Thank you again for such a lovely day, most appreciated.
John and Elaine”
I’ve haven’t shared John’s email with you to try and boost my own ego, although it’s always a pleasure to receive such pleasant feedback. I’ve included it because I want you to know that everyone who has been on a discovery day so far, all potential or new boat owners like yourself, has found the discovery day very useful indeed.
My discovery day diary is completely full now until the beginning of November, apart from Sunday 10th August. The couple who were booked on the day have had to reschedule for later on in the year so this is a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of the current glorious English summer and learn how to handle a narrowboat while you discover the pros and cons of living afloat.
You can find out more here. Just click on one of the yellow “book now” boxes to go to the calendar and reserve your slot.
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 four 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.
The pros and cons of a wide beam boat – More and more wannabe boaters are considering more spacious wide beams rather than narrowboat. There is clearly more living space on board but how practical are wide beam boats on the inland waterways?
The dreaded weed hatch – Sooner or later your engine will start to overheat, you’ll lose propulsion and you’ll know that you need to dive down your weed hatch to free an obstacle or two from the propeller. Here’s how to do it properly and a list of the tools you’ll need.
Digital aids for narrowboat owners – Digital applications and maps for inland waterways boaters
Practical experience for lone boaters. Here’s an account of a day’s cruise with a nervous single boater. He wanted enough confidence to deal with locks on his own. I spent the day with him, designed a route to include twenty six locks and spent ten hours helping him hone his locking skills.
Extending your boat’s storage space – The pros and cons of fitting covers to your front and rear decks
Naming your boat – The legal requirements when naming, renaming and displaying your boat plus the inland waterways’ two hundred most popular boat names
Speeding boats – Are rocking stationary boats the fault of speeding passing boats or the fault of boat owners who can’t moor securely?
Boat Handling – lock and paddle gear types.
Boat handling – Swing and lift bridges
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.