2014 08 10 Newsletter – Narrowboat electrics, heating and engine specifications

Another week in paradise has flashed by. Here we are on Sunday again and I’ve spent so much time thinking about to write in the main section of the newsletter that I haven’t had time to tell you about my working week at the marina. You’re probably fed up heating about that anyway, so maybe it’s a good thing.

As ever, I am eternally grateful to anyone who takes the time to  email me with content or a suggestion for content which I can use in the newsletter. Stephen Hartley sent me the following email. I hope you find my answer useful.

“You are asking for suggestions for your Newsletter.  I am about to look for a high fit second hand boat or commission a new one.  I would be interested to know what is thought to be the minimum engine/batteries/chargers/generators/heating/number of rads to have an efficient live aboard.  Hope you will be interested.”

Always happy to oblige Stephen. I hope the following will be of use to you.

Narrowboat Electrics

Firstly, you need to decide what you are going to use your boat for. I know it’s going to be a boat you will live on, but is the boat going to stay on a mooring most or all of the time, or do you intend to live a nomadic lifestyle cruising the waterways continuously and spending most of your time disconnected from the national grid?

If you are going to travel very little and have an electrical supply on your mooring which you can plug into, you won’t need to worry so much about generating and storing your own power when you are cruising.

I currently moor in a marina so my on board electrical needs are pretty basic. However, I take the boat out for a couple of week every summer, escape for a day or two whenever I can and I hope to be out cruising full time in about two years so I want the boat fully equipped for extended cruises.

The boat’s power setup was very basic when I moved on board four years ago. Nothing elaborate was needed because it had never been a live aboard boat. James was built in 1977 for a family who lived in London. They used the boat regularly but not extensively for warmer weather cruising. The engine averaged 200 hours a year for the twenty years they had it until the owner sadly passed away in 1997. James was then purchased by Roger Preen, Calcutt Boats’ owner. Apart from the odd day out, James was unused until I moved on board in April 2010.

The boat had one starter battery and one leisure battery which could only be charged by running the engine. The starter battery was reserved solely for starting the engine. All of the on board electrics, the internal and external lights and the fridge plus the bilge, water and shower pumps were 12v and were powered by the single 110ah leisure battery. The boat also had 230v sockets which could only be powered by plugging into a shore supply.

As soon as I moved on board I had a charger fitted which would keep the batteries topped up when the shore line was connected and I replaced the single 110ah battery with two 135ah. The two batteries weren’t sufficient for our needs if we wanted to spend time away from the marina so I eventually upgraded the domestic battery bank to four 135ah batteries.

Four 135ah batteries is right for us, but you may be able to get by with less if you want to live a pretty simple life, or you may want more batteries or even a generator if you want all the electrical comfort you enjoy on dry land. You may also need a couple of extra batteries if you want a bow thruster.

My next electrical addition was an inverter. An inverter is needed if you want to run 230v appliances when you aren’t plugged into the national grid. An inverter will cost you anything from under £100 to over £2,000 depending upon the size of the load it can handle and whether it is pure or modified sine. If you don’t understand what this means, there’s an excellent article about inverters and all other narrowboat electrics on the site here.

The final piece in my electrical jigsaw was to have a solar array fitted. I have 3 x 100w panels coupled with an MPPT converter. The solar panels provide me with plenty of free electricity in the warmer months so I don’t have to run the engine as often to charge the batteries when I am off grid. Again, there’s an excellent article about solar power on the site here.

Our electrical system on board is now in pretty good shape but because of the limitations of the charge held in our batteries and the size of our inverter there are many appliances we can’t run when we are cruising. Our washing machine will still work because we have a low power twin tub machine which requires just 120w on the wash cycle and 180w on the spin cycle. We couldn’t run either of the two popular narrowboat washing machines from Candy and Zanussi. We also can’t use hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, irons, toasters, electric heaters or my beloved Nespresso coffee machine.

We will need additional power generation if we want to run any of these power hungry appliances. The easiest and cheapest solution is for us to buy a suitcase generator to keep on board. One of the smallest, lightest and consequently more expensive suitcase generators is the Honda EU20i at about £1,000.

The Honda is one of the lightest on the market but it still weighs about the same as a bag of coal. You also have the logistical issue of storing it somewhere away from the vermin who like to take what isn’t theirs and you have to find somewhere to store the petrol you need to run it or convert it to run on your boat’s propane supply.

Yet again, there’s excellent advice about generators here.

Heating Your Boat

Is your boat cold in winter?” It’s a question which every boat owner is asked sooner or later. The usual answer is something like, “No. Actually, I’m far warmer on my boat than I ever was in my house.” Some boaters take the statement to extremes. Russ, one of our fitters, said that when he lived afloat he can remember several occasions when the boat was so warm that he sat in his boxer shorts with the front doors wide open watching the snow falling on the towpath outside. My initial experience was at the opposite end of the scale.

I moved onto my long neglected boat in April 2010. After I removed the water from the engine room which had begun to seep into the main cabin, I spent a month with a dehumidifier running to combat the damp. The sunny summer days were glorious. I spent hours each day sitting at the removable table on my front deck either reading or just enjoying the peace and quiet.

The long summer days shortened, the nights drew in and the nights turned chilly. I had my Torgem solid fuel stove burning for longer and longer each day until by mid October it was burning coal briquettes twenty four hours a day.

By mid November the temperature plummeted to well below zero overnight and barely above freezing during the day. A steadily thickening layer of ice formed on the water. Within a week all waterways traffic had stopped. Boats were immobile under ice thick enough to walk on. Mallards, coots, swans and geese huddled together on a paddling pool sized hole in the ice. At least they had an effective layer of insulation to keep them warm, which was more than I had.

My boat was cold. The temperature dropped to a decidedly chilly minus eighteen one night. I woke the following morning to a below zero bedroom, a thin layer of frost on the bulkhead separating my bedroom from the engine room and a quarter of an inch of it over the Parana pine cladding inside the engine room.

My solid fuel stove was on all of the time. It has a back boiler which feeds three radiators down the boat’s port side but the radiators don’t provide much heat and they didn’t provide any heat worth talking about during my first winter.

I had two pairs of folding doors which separated the galley, dining and seating area from the rest rear section of the boat. I kept the doors closed to conserve the heat in the front of the boat but this meant that only the heat from the gravity fed radiators reached the rear section of the cabin.

I had created an “office” in the boat’s second cabin where there were three additional berths on single bunks. I used one as my office desk. I fed my Three mobile broadband dongle through a roof vent and up a four foot mast on the boat roof and sat in this very cold room for up to fourteen hours on my days off work. My indoor attire for these long sessions at the keyboard was two fleece tops zipped up to my chin, a fleece hat and a pair of fingerless fleece mittens, and I was still cold.

Of course my first winter was exceptional. It was the coldest winter on record with a six week period when no boats moved on the canal network at all because of the ice. Our pump out machines had to be disconnected each night and stored in a heated building to prevent them from freezing solid, not that any boats could actually reach the pump out machines through the ice although we tried to keep the marinas clear by charging around them in an old work boat we had at the time to break the ice. On several occasions I managed to get the front third of the fifteen tonne boat stuck on top of the ice. It was great fun but, boy, it was cold.

After this exceptionally cold introduction to boating I decided to improve the boat’s insulation and also cure the leaks in the old Masonite roof panels which allowed a steady stream of rainwater into the boat. In November 2011 James was transported eight miles away to have the Masonite cabin over plated with 4mm steel. Before the steel was fitted polystyrene sheet were fitted to the outside of the existing cabin roof and sides.

The enhanced heat retention was a huge improvement but the back of the boat was still very cold. I didn’t mind the bedroom being chilly because we could easily remedy that by sleeping under a heavy winter duvet, but the temperature in my office area was still too low for me to work comfortably. Because I spend most of my time with my shore line plugged in I was able to use electric heaters to supplement the heat from the stove. I bought two Dimplex 500w greenhouse heaters. One of them was plugged in under the desk where I work. The office is warm enough now but the electric heaters can’t be used if I am away from the marina.

The two pairs of folding doors across the centre of the boat were also a problem. They prevented any heat from the stove reaching the office section when they were closed and they were just in the way when they were open. I removed them.

Stove top fans are very useful for moving heat away from the stove and further into the boat. I bought one of the most popular, and Ecofan and noticed an improvement. It worked well when the blades were spinning but this wasn’t all the time. I realised that my stove was to blame. The Ecofan uses the stove’s heat to power the fan. The stove’s top needs to reach (I think) one hundred and ninety degrees before the fan will work effectively. Unfortunately for me, unlike the popular Morso Squirrel stove, my stove has a double skin on the top plate which means that I could probably sit comfortably on the stove top without coming to any harm.

I’m considering taking my Torgem stove out and replacing it with a Squirrel. The problem that I have is that the Squirrel is slightly deeper than the Torgem so it would protrude three inches further into the middle of the boat than it does now. We will make a decision about that some time in the future. It’s not a priority but the additional efficiency would be very welcome, as would the larger single skinned top plate which would allow the Ecofan to work and would allow us to both cook and heat water on the stove top.

A new and slightly better stove would be good, but it’s not going to heat the back of the boat. We need additional heating in the boat. We need additional heating which doesn’t neccesitate us being attached to the national grid if we want to keep the boat warm when we are away from the marina during the winter months.

I want to install a central heating system to supplement the heat from the stove. I also want a central heating system for the warm days/cold nights periods in the spring and autumn. I considered a number of options. The first be discounted was anything which requires gas.

Gas central heating is very expensive to run. When my floating home was taken away to have the new steel cabin fitted, I spent ten days during a not particularly cold November living on one of our hire boats. Most of our hire boats have gas central heating. They have two 19kg propane cylinders in lockers on the back deck. The boat I stayed on had two full cylinders when I moved on board and two empty cylinders when I left. I used 38kg in ten days or 3.8kg per day. The cost of the 13kg cylinders which are fitted on most boats cost £27 or £2.08 per kg. The cost to heat the cabin of the small boat I was on for ten days was £78.92. The cost to keep my stove burning twenty four hours a day using coal briquettes is £42. Given that my stove is burning most or all of the day for seven or eight months a year, gas would be a very expensive option.

Have you noticed that I only mentioned the cost of coal as a fuel for the stove and didn’t include wood which many consider a free fuel readily available from woodland as you cruise the network? I haven’t mentioned it because I don’t consider wood to be a cost effective option.

First of all, wood needs to be seasoned before it can be used as a fuel. Seasoning logs involves waiting for at least two years for the moisture content to reduce to an acceptable level. The acceptable level is under 20% moisture. Two of the most common trees you see on your boating travels are ash and oak. Oak has a moisture content of 45% or more when it’s cut. Ash, which many people think can be burned immediately, has a moisture content of up to 35% when cut.

If the logs are burned before they are seasoned, the fire uses more energy evaporating the moisture than it does generating heat so the logs don’t burn very hot and because they don’t burn very hot they create creosote. The creosote forms an ever thickening layer on the inside of the flue and creates difficult to remove stains on the cabin sides near the chimney.

Storing your seasoned logs is also an issue for boat owners. I use about two tonnes of coal briquettes each year. I can buy coal from a multitude of canal side suppliers as and when I need it and store enough fuel for a few weeks either on the cabin roof or on the front deck. If I wanted a constant supply of seasoned wood available as and when I needed it, I would need space to keep seasoning logs and space to keep logs which were ready to burn. That storage space would need to be under cover. Unless you have a mooring where you are allowed to store tonnes of dry fuel, wood burning on board really isn’t a practical option.

Diesel central heating costs about the same as running a solid fuel stove. You pay duty on the diesel you use for propulsion, but diesel for heating is duty free. Diesel for your boat’s heating system is easy to store. It will be drawn from either your boat’s propulsion diesel tank or from a separate tank fitted just for the central heating system.

A disadvantage of diesel heating is that the burners can be very noisy. During the winter as I walk around the marina I can hear diesel heaters running on boats from a distance of about fifty feet. One of the quietest and most reliable of the popular narrowboat diesel heaters is the Webasto Thermotop C.

I purchased one at the beginning of the year along with a fifty five litre calorifier. The calorifier has replaced my old and unreliable gas water heater. The calorifier has already been fitted and is wonderful. It supplies me with piping hot water via the immersion heater when my land line is plugged in and via the engine when I’m cruising. Once the Webasto is fitted the calorifier will have a third heat source.

I understand that the Webasto burners will coke up if they cycle on and off too often. To combat this it is essential to make sure that the radiators have a capacity greater than the burner’s heat output. I have calculated what radiators I need to keep the burner happy. I’m going to add a heated towel rail in the engine room too to help dry wet weather gear. I’m hoping to have everything fitted before the end of the year.

I haven’t gone into technical detail about on board heating systems for one very good reason. I’m incapable of it. However, I know a man who is very knowledgeable on the subject. Here are two posts he wrote for me on narrowboat heating. The first details stoves, the second central heating systems.

Choosing an engine

I’m really out of my depth with this section. I know nothing about engines. They frighten me. Over the last four years I’ve learned how to check the oil and water religiously before I take the boat out, but that’s about it. The thought of doing anything else fills me with dread.

My own engine is rather unusual. It’s a Mercedes OM636. It was developed in the late forties and was fitted in the Mercedes Ponton sedans in the 1950’s. A marine engineer who was doing some maintenance on an old working boat here at the marina had a look at it for me. I told him that my engine has done just over 4,000 hours in the thirty seven years since it’s been installed. He listened to me for a little while, he listened to the engine for much longer, he crawled around it for five minutes, then he offered me his opinion.

“It’s a cracking engine! I haven’t done much work on these because they rarely go wrong. Your engine is a baby. It has four thousand hours on it. The engine should be good for a hundred thousand hours or more. This type of engine is what’s called oily which means even if you took it out and pressure washed it, once it was running again it would look dirty again within half an hour. Don’t worry about it though. The engine should go on and on!”

I was understandably very happy with the appraisal but there is one aspect of the engine that I am slightly nervous about. Most modern engines are keel cooled which means that the engine water is kept cool by running through a skin tank fitted against the boat’s hull. Some older boats like James are raw water cooled. Water is drawn from the canal and through a heat exchanger before being expelled from the boat via the exhaust.

There are two potential problems with a raw water system; blockages and water ingress. There’s a fine mesh grill fitted over the water inlet in the hull to prevent larger object from being drawn into the engine and then a “mud box” for removing fine sediment, weeds and bits of dead animals which can pass through the grill. The mud box is in the bilge beside the engine and the bulkhead separating the engine room from the bedroom. It’s a pain to get to but periodically I have to squeeze myself into a tight gap, unbolt the mud box cap, scoop out the accumulated debris with my hands into a bucket, reassemble the mud box, climb  out of the tiny space with my bucket, and throw the contents overboard. It’s a bit of a pain but I need to do it to keep the raw water system working effectively.

The real worry though is the sea cock. The sea cock needs to be opened before I start the engine and closed again when I stop. Leaving the sea cock open all the time would be much easier for me. If I forget to open the sea cock before I start the engine, the raw water system won’t work so the engine will overheat. Leaving the sea cock open all of the time would mean that I would remove the hassle every time I start the engine of lifting the deck boards off the engine, carrying them off the boat, climbing down into the bilge to open the sea cock and fetching and replacing the deck boards. Leaving the sea cock permanently open would be much easier but, as I have been often reminded by engineers, rather risky.

If the sea cock is open and the valve fails when I am away from the boat even for a relatively short period of time, the boat would sink. I have been advised to keep a spare and more powerful than usual bilge pump on the boat set up ready for immediate connection to the battery bank in case of emergencies. I am sure that, in reality, the raw water system will be good for many years to come but the expectation that when I’m out cruising continuously I’ll experience blockages, and the possibility of water ingress is enough to make me consider having the engine adapted to keel rather than raw water cooled.

The most difficult part of the exercise will be to get a skin tank fabricated and welded in place. I haven’t looked at the costs involved yet but the project is on my to do list. So is having a hybrid system fitted.

A hybrid system is a standard narrowboat engine coupled with a powerful electric motor. The engine charges a very large bank of batteries which then allows the boat to run on the electric motor. The benefits are significant for a nature loving boat owner. When the electric motor us running, the boat moves along the canal without a sound.

Silent running is wonderful. I haven’t actually cruised on a boat equipped with an electric motor but I have seen several and have spoken to the owners. I’ve spoken to the owners when they have been standing on the back of the boats cruising past with the motor running. Unusually for a conversation with someone on the back of a moving narrowboat, they could hear every word I was saying. You often have a quick chat on the cut with the helmsman on a passing boat and you often don’t have a clue what the other is saying because of the noise from your own engine.

The electric motor is silent. The quiet operation allows easy conversation with other boat owners or towpath walkers. The silent operation also means that you can get closer to the canal-side wildlife without frightening it off and you can get closer to blind bends and bridges without fear of another boat appearing unexpectedly just where you don’t want them to be. You can actually hear an oncoming boat because your own engine is so quiet.

Other benefits include having an almost unlimited amount of electricity at hand so that you can stay for days at a time on a mooring without having to run your engine to charge your batteries, you can save a substantial amount on diesel costs and rather than surrounding yourself with diesel fumes when you’re stationary in long lock flights, sometimes for hours, you can switch to electric running and enjoy a fume free lock passage. You can also hear your crew when going through a lock.

When I’m working I’m often close to one of the three locks in the Calcutt flight. I don’t have to be that close to hear a boat and its crew in the lock as they try to communicate by shouting.

“Are you ready for me to open the paddle Bert?”
“I can’t hear what you’re saying over the engine love!”
“Always excuses Bert. You never listen to me. DO YOU WANT ME TO OPEN THE PADDLE?
“I still can’t hear you Brenda, but don’t just stand there talking, get the paddle open. We can’t wait here all day!”

Silent running means that boat crews can communicate easily without having to resort to shouting, sign language or the use of two way radios. I don’t mind the use of two way radios because they often add a little additional entertainment for the staff at Calcutt. Sometimes passing boaters will have their own radios set to the same frequency as the ones that all staff at Calcutt carry. It’s too much of a temptation to keep quiet. Sometimes we join their conversation and cause no end of confusion.

If I was having a new boat built I would be very tempted to have a hybrid system fitted. I understand that it’s possible to fit retro fit a system to some but not all engines. I don’t know whether it’s possible to fit one to my Mercedes. I also don’t know if it’s possible to fit the size and type of battery bank needed.

The system uses very heavy traction batteries. They’re difficult to get in and out of the engine bay because of the weight and because of the weight they can upset the boat’s trim. If the system is fitted when the boat is built, the batteries can form part of the ballast. If the batteries are installed in a boat which, like mine is already ballasted, some ballast would probably have to be removed. The problem that I have is that I have already removed a considerable amount of the accessible ballast to compensate for the weight of the steel which was added when cabin was over plated.

That’s about all I can tell you about engines I’m afraid and I’m rather embarrassed to report that there’s not a huge amount of information about engines on the site. There’s a very useful forum post here discussing the merits of having an engine with enough power to get you out of trouble on fast flowing rivers and there’s a pretty good summary of engine types on an external site here.

I Need Some Help!

Each time I write a newsletter, I tick another subject off the list of things which those new to boating have told me that they want to read about. The hardest part of the process isn’t the writing itself, it’s constantly thinking of new content for each issue. The trouble is, I don’t know what you want to read. I think I keep the newsletters reasonably interesting but I don’t know for sure. That’s where I need your help.

Can you let me know what you would like to read in the future? Are there any areas of narrowboat life you don’t think I’ve covered enough or areas which I’ve missed completely? Please let me know what you want to read about. Thanks for your help.

Newsletter Index

I created the site just over 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.

3rd August 2014

Essential boating equipment – Here’s the stuff every boater should carry on board

27th July 2014

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?

20th July 2014

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.

13th July 2014

Digital aids for narrowboat owners – Digital applications and maps for inland waterways boaters

6th July 2014

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.

29th June 2014

Extending your boat’s storage space – The pros and cons of fitting covers to your front and rear decks

22nd June 2014

Naming your boat – The legal requirements when naming, renaming and displaying your boat plus the inland waterways’ two hundred most popular boat names

15th June 2014

Speeding boats – Are rocking stationary boats the fault of speeding passing boats or the fault of boat owners who can’t moor securely?

8th June 2014

Boat Handling – lock and paddle gear types.

1st June 2014

Boat handling – Swing and lift bridges

25th May 2014

Single handed boating – Negotiating locks.

18th May 2014

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

 11th May 2014

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

4th May 2014

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

27th April 2014

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

20th April 2014

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

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

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

30th March 2014

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

23rd March 2014

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

16th March 2014

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

9th March 2014

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

2nd March 2014

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

23rd February 2014

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

16th February 2014

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

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

9th February 2014

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

2nd February 2014

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

26th January 2014

Cold floors, cold air above the floors and cold hull sides. It’s a combination which can cause your bottom half quite a bit of discomfort. Here’s what I do to deal with the problem.

19th January 2014

Weil’s disease – It’s an often talked about and often feared aspect of living, working or playing close to inland waterways but just how dangerous is it and what can you do to keep yourself safe?

12th January 2014

If you’re on a budget maybe a self fit our sailaway is the way to go for you. Here’s the story of a wide beam self fit out to give you inspiration (or put you off completely)

5th January 2014

Planning for the year ahead – Written plans and goals have always been important to me. They help me see into the future. Here’s what we’ve planned for our lovely floating home in 2014.

29th December 2013

The practicality of hosting Christmas afloat – How do you achieve a floating festive event (and do you really want to)?

Liveaboard case study, The Pearl – Tony and Jane Robinson believe in forward planning. They stated their narrowboat fund thirty years before buying their own boat. Now the two retired education workers moor in a marina for the winter then explore the waterways during the warmer months.

22nd December 2013

Narrowboat Storage Space – How much space is there to store your worldly goods on board a narrowboat? Here’s a video walk-through of my own boat James.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

Fitting secondary double glazing – Fitting the panels is a simple operation for those with the most basic DIY skills, something which I sadly haven’t developed. As you might expect then, the fitting didn’t go as well as it should.

Narrowboat videos – I launched the Living On A Narrowboat YouTube channel

1st December 2013

Secondary double glazing for your boat – The pros and cons of double glazing on a boat and why secondary double glazing is a much better bet and a fraction of the cost.

Living on a narrowboat vidoes – My first hesitant steps into the world of video production for site content

Can you either live or holiday on a narrowboat if you have a disability? – Here’s what you need to know.

24th November 2013

Winter fuel allowance – Do you qualify for one if you live on a boat?

Case Study – NB Progress. Kim Wainwright recorded her journey on the forum from nervous anticipation to current liveaboard boat owner. Here’s her story.

17th November 2013

Narrowboat central heating – I don’t have any. All that is about to change. Here’s the system I’m going to install and why I’ve chosen it.

10th November 2013

Narrowboat running costs – I compare my own running costs to those of a prominent YouTube video blogger and detail my exact costs for October 2013

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

27th October 2013

The wind chill factor – How strong the wind is blowing and which direction it’s coming from can determine how difficult it is to heat your boat. Here’s what you need to know.

Case study – Another couple from down under living the dream on the inland waterways.

20th October 2013Condensation. It’s a common problem on boats. Here are a few suggestions how to keep your boat’s interior dry.

A new organisation for liveaboard boaters

13th October 2013

On demand water heater problems – Discover a common fault with these water heaters and what you can do to resolve the problem.

Know your firewood – Not all timber burns well. Find out which is best and which to avoid.

6th October 2013

Managing your boat’s water supply. You can use your water supply as and when you need it when you live in a house with all mod cons. You can pretty much do the same when you’re on a marina mooring with a water supply just a hose length away. It’s a different kettle of fish when you’re on an online mooring.

Liveaboard case study – A prime example of mooring without a water supply on tap.

29th September 2013

The folly of using unseasoned wood as a fuel – Here’s essential information if you plan to use logs you find to heat your boat for free

Creating lasting memories of your cruises – Slightly off topic, but please bear with me. You’ll have some wonderful adventures as you travel throughout the network. They’ll be adventures worth remembering but will you remember them? I have a very poor memory but instant and total recall of all my cruises is just a click away.

22nd September 2013

A tragedy at Calcutt. Sudden Oak Dieback hits our 1,500 twenty year old oak trees

Forum private messaging – Now you can email other forum users from within the site

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

A disaster – I inadvertently deleted this week’s newsletter and there wasn’t a backup on the server. What a shame. It was all about the damage you can do to your boat if you don’t watch what you’re doing in a lock. You would have loved it!

25th August 2013

Effective fly killers for boats

The downside to living on a narrowboat

Liveaboard Case Study – American Richard Varnes has taken a year out from work to cruise the canal network and write about his adventure. Here’s his case study and a few stories from his journey so far.

18th August 2013

CART Guide Approval – The waterways’  governing body is now promoting the information packages available from this site. Yippee!

Narrowboat Insurance – A summary of insurance quotes from the major narrowboat insurers

Liveaboard Case Study – Keith and Nicky downsized their property in Jersey, used the released capital to buy their 57? “go anywhere” narrowboat and now live on their boat full time while they continuously cruise the canal network. They’re ridiculously young to retire, and I’m very, very jealous

Downsizing from a 3 bed semi to a narrowboat – What do you do with a lifetime’s accumulated possessions?

11th August 2013

A free download – Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles

Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How one liveaboard boater manages on a shoestring

4th August 2013

The perfect narrowboat washing machine? – It’s low cost and doesn’t need plumbing in, but does it actually clean clothes?

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How much does living the life of a water gypsy really cost?

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

21st July 2013

Hire boat expectations – Fully understanding what facilities will be available to you is essential if you’re going to enjoy a narrowboat holiday. Here’s what not to do.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

7th July 2013

Anticipating winter weather – You may well be enjoying unusually warm winter weather but the winter will be with us all too soon. Now is the time that you need to plan for the cold weather ahead.

30th June 2013

Keeping your stove glass clean – Maybe you think it’s an odd subject for the summer but you can’t trust the English weather. Late June and the stove was still on now and again. At least now I have a crystal clear view of the fire I shouldn’t need to light.

Traffic chaos caused by Braunston’s historic boat rally – On a day with high winds and a canal full of working boats returning home after the rally, I had the pleasure of taking some very nervous hirers out on the cut.

23rd June 2013 – The cost of a two week cruise. If you live on your own boat, what’s the real cost of taking it away for a two week break?

Case Study – Mary Anne swapped dry land home rental for floating home ownership. Now she loves life afloat and works from home.

Life as a continuous cruiser – The Holy Grail of narrowboat ownership. The ability to travel where and when you like. Peter Early tells all.

16th June 2013

The Ashby canal cruise part two – We spent a bit more time on the Ashby before heading south again, joining the Coventry canal, this time following it into Coventry’s rather depressing and disappointing city centre, then retracing our steps back to Calcutt

Most popular narrowboat names – Here’s the definitive list of the top 200 most popular narrowboat names and a resource you can use to find out if any other boat has the same name as yours

Considerate boating – An article prompted after a near head on collision with another boat trying to avoid a fallen oak.

9th June 2013

I was on holiday for the first two weeks of June. Sally and I cruised from Calcutt to Braunston, north along the north Oxford where we joined the Coventry canal briefly before taking a very sharp right turn onto the Ashby canal. Here’s a daily report of the first week of our holiday.

2nd June 2013

An encounter with two poorly prepared holiday boaters and my own impending two week cruise encouraged me to put together a pre cruise check list

26th May 2013

Laptop hacking – An update on the problems I encountered after buying a brand new laptop which I suspect was tampered with before I bought it.

Diary of a new narrowboat owner – Frequent forum poster “Our Nige” finally moved on to his new floating home. Here’s his story

19th May 2013

My comments about an encounter on the Oxford/GU section between Napton and Braunston sparked a debate about the pros and cons of wide beams on the cut.

Keeping dry – You don’t really need to limit your cruising to sunny summer days. There’s something very special about standing on the back deck in the pouring ran protected by a set of bomb proof waterproofs.

Do you really need a car? Living on a narrowboat is all about enjoying a simple and stress free life. Sally and I had a car each. Mine cost £2,000 to run in the previous 12 months so I decided to get rid of mine to see if I could manage without one.

12th May 2013

An encounter with a wide beam boat and why they aren’t suitable for much of the canal network

An interview with the Trust’s head of boating. Sally Ash talks about the Trust’s approach to the thorny issue of residential moorings

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

Narrowboat blogs – My own first cruise, Our Nige takes his new home on its maiden voyage and a chance for you to have your very own blog section on this site.

21st April 2013

The Trust target illegal moorers but just what does the Trust consider to an illegal mooring?

Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop

RCR engine servicing – River Canal Rescue (RCR) are well known as the waterways equivalent of the AA but did you know that they will also come to your mooring to service your boat?

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

7th April 2013

Narrowboat security – A spate of burglaries from boats and a break in at my former family home encouraged me to write this article

Case study – You need to committed to sell your home to fund the purchase of your narrowboat. That’s what Mick and Marlene have done.

31st March 2013

Case study – Sarah lives on wide beam Antioch on the Leeds Liverpool canal. She can do man things with her hands. Here’s her story.

Be inspired – There are always reasons why you don’t make the move from bricks and mortar to steel and water. Here’s an anecdote which demonstrates once and for all that there really aren’t any worthwhile excuses.

24th March 2013

Here’s an example of what happens when you really don’t understand how your narrowboat works.

Essential boating equipment – Here’s a low cost item which has paid for itself over and over again.

Whilton marina boat sales – Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. This alleged fact about the boat sales at Whilton has come to me from several different sources.

17th March 2013

Where can you find residential moorings? Here’s a great place to start

Getting rid of unwelcome visitors – Geese used to regularly disturb a peaceful night’s sleep where I moor. Not any more. Here’s my solution

Know your narrowboat costs – Detailed costs for my own boat for February 2013

Half a dozen boaters now have access to their own blog section on the site. You can too. Here’s how.

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

3rd March 2013

Stove fuel test – What works best; coal, wood, briquettes or something else entirely – Here’s my own take on a Waterways World test

Essential stove maintenance – Here’s what you need to do to make sure that your stove always performs well.

Internet connectivity – I use the internet four or more hours every day. This is the setup I have on my boat to make sure that I’m always connected.

Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013

20th February 2013

The real cost of going cheap. An in depth look at the cost of my 36 year old boat, and how much I spent (and still need to spend) before it will be a comfortable full time cruising boat.

8th January 2013

Case Studies – I put together 21 of the best case studies and analysed and summarised the data in this low cost guide. If you want ton save yourself hundreds of hours of research and costly mistakes, you need to read this guide.

Case Study – Mike’s circumstances are similar to my own. He moved onto his boat after a failed marriage. He’s upgraded from a 27? GRP cruiser to a 50? narrowboat

24th December

Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis

I asked newsletter subscribers to send me detailed breakdowns of their bricks and mortar expenses so I could compare them with the cost of running a narrowboat. Quite a few subscribers obliged. I added the breakdowns to my narrowboat costs guide and the budgeting application.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

Low cost narrowboat ownership – A low cost solution to the problem of funding your first narrowboat

Solar power – All you need to know about installing solar panels on your boat. Written by the inland waterways most popular solar system installer

Case Study – Mr. Solar Panel Tim Davis writes about life on board his own narrowboat

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

An unscheduled dip in the marina prompted me to write about safety on the waterways

Living on a narrowboat – Through the eyes of a young lady who would clearly prefer to be somewhere else

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

18th September 2012

I published my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat. When this newsletter was published it was only available as a Kindle edition. Now it’s available in both Kindle and PDF format and is bundled with Narrowbudget, the site’s bespoke narrowboat budgeting application.

VAT on narrowboat sales

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

27th  May 2012

How to clean your stove glass – One of the real pleasures of a living fire is watching the flames on a cold winter’s eve. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you can actually see the fire.

Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke

13th May 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I’ve broken down the complete cost of painting your own boat and

Dealing with wind on the river – A guest article from liveaboard narrowboat owner Alan Cazaly

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

15th April 2012

Life on the river Cam – A guest article on the pleasures of river life by wide beam liveaboard Luther Phillips

Case Study – Freelance writer Anne and her South African farmer partner John reveal all

Case Study – Toni cruises constantly with ex husband Allan. They cruise together but they live apart… on separate boats

 1st April 2012

As a result of the article about the downside of living on a narrowboat published in the 18th March newsletter, I asked liveaboard narrowboat owners to complete a survey to give a balanced view of the issues raised by Pauline. Here are the survey results and a much more positive article by liveaboard narrowboat owner and frequent forum contributer Peter Early.

18th March 2012

The downside of living on a narrowboat – This was a very controversial post. Liveaboard Pauline Roberts wrote about the less pleasant aspects of life afloat… and attracted a storm of comments

Case study: The Woodsman – Pauline Roberts again giving an insight into the life that you may think she doesn’t like.

4th March 2012

Reviewed: The Liveaboard Guide by Tony Jones. A great guide to living afloat

eBay Narrowboat scam (and a little bit of flack for me from another forum)

Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat

A review of Debdale Wharf marina

22nd January 2012

Two more case studies. One of them waxed lyrical about life on the waterways and enjoyed every minute of her life afloat. Now (April 2013) she’s selling up to follow another dream in Spain.

8th January 2012

The first four narrowboat case studies published

I’ll start with myself; Paul Smith, living on my own, moored in a marina and working full time. Narrowboat James case study

Meet Peggy. She has a husband and two small children, works full time and cruises the network during the summer months. Narrowboat Violet Mae case study

Fancy spending your retirement cruising the waterways of England and Wales? Meet Barry and Sue Horne. They’re living the dream! Narrowboat Adagio Case Study

Here are another working couple. Lina and Warren cruise the cut with their two cats.Narrowboat Olive Rose case study.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.

Popular Forum Posts

There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.

  • Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
  • Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

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


Useful Information

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Paul Smith

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