2014 08 31 Newsletter – Route Finding For Narrowboat Owners
What a difference a day makes. Last Sunday I took two single soon-to-be narrowboat owners out for a gentle cruise across a marina as flat as polished glass, up through the the three locks of the Calcutt Flight and along an M25-busy canal kissed by mid summer sun. There was so much traffic on the canal because it was the busiest weekend of the year on one of the most popular sections of the canal network.
We saw literally hundreds of boats on our eight hour cruise including one dilapidated project boat moored, if the term moored can be used for the practice of loosely tying a boat with a couple of pieces of frayed garden twine somewhere in the region of the towpath, right next to a bridge and right on a blind bend. A Trust official has slapped a notice on the boat but the plastic covered note had been there so long that it was in a similar condition to the boat it was stuck to.
We managed the tricky manouver past the floating wreck without ploughing head on into an oncoming boat. The inexperienced crew on the hire boat behind us weren’t so lucky. Still, once they had extracted their bow and two of their crew from the offside hawthorn they managed to squeeze past the badly moored wreck and continue with no harm done.
After stopping for lunch on the towpath near Flecknoe, we turned round at Braunston and headed back to the marina. Both the cruise and the weather were thoroughly enjoyable.
Bank Holiday Monday was totally different. The day was a holiday for most people but a normal working day for me, and what a miserable one it was too. I walked to work in the morning in rain, I spent all day sitting on my little Husqvarna mower in continuous rain, and I came home in rain. It was a very wet and chilly day.
On Sunday I wore a polo shirt and shorts for our cruise. On Monday I started off wearing my usual work lumberjack padded shirt and shorts but after a few minutes I put on my Calcutt Boats “waterproof” coat which is about as waterproof as a sponge. After the coat had collected about a gallon of rainwater, I drove back to the boat and swapped it for my Guy Cotten deep sea fishermen’s waterproof bib and braces trousers and jacket, fur lined rigger boots, a fleece hat and my Sealskinz Ultra Grip Weatherproof Gloves. With that natty little summer combination I stayed reasonably warm and completely dry all day, but what a strange way to dress in August.
The weather improved slightly as the week progressed but the improvement was a double edged sword. Better weather meant that I could drive out truck onto the grass bank around Meadows marina and carry on collecting the reeds Pat had cut. On Friday when I collected my 40th load the novelty of working next to the six acre lake was wearing a bit thin. Oh, the joys of being a groundsman!
A Lock Disaster Averted
Ian Roberts has been living on his narrowboat since April this year. I met him when he came to visit Calcutt Boats to look at one or two narrowboats he thought would suit him. They didn’t tick all his boxes so he ended up buying elsewhere. He’s kindly kept me updated on his progress since spring. I though that his latest anecdote would be of interest to you if you are a potential solo boater. Here’s his story.
“My only potential serious issue was traversing Whilton locks in July. I happened to pick up with a fellow single handed boatman obviously more experienced than me and so shared the locks on our way south. I choose to pull Alchemy in and out mostly by hand using the centre rope. My fellow traveller stayed aboard his smaller 45 footer.
The Buckby top lock gate is very leaky at the centre with a good water fall appearing as the lock level fell. Both boats were forward against the downhill gate. As I opened the gate I had left the center rope and as my compatriot accelerated out, alchemy started to move rapidly rearward and suddenly I noticed the waterfall approaching the stern so I quickly slid then fell down the lock ladder between the slimy wall and Alchemy’s cabin side, frantically rushing along the gunnels and onto the stern, the cockpit I like to call it, just as the waterfall swept across the deck toward the open cabin doors.
In controlled panic I slammed throttle into forward and closed the doors at the same time, just managing to keep the flood from entering. Then to make matter worse, my front starboard fender snagged the lock gate and snapped the brass bracket holding onto the cabin side. I just managed to retrieve the fender. My traveling companion was completely unaware of my predicament and proceeded on to set the next lock leaving me to stop Alchemy and reset the top lock. My shirt and jeans covered in slime. We progressed down the flight and worked well together until finally we said goodbye and he proceeded on his way south.
I tied up at Whilton marina, got changed and went into the chandlery to pay £5.99 for a new fender bracket and a spare just in case. Later on my journey I stopped to fit the bracket on the towpath, trying carefully not to slip off the gunnel or to drop precious screws or bracket into the cut, only to find the holes in the new bracket didn’t match the old screw holes. Ggrrrrhhhhh!!!!.
I decided to work on it on the return journey a few days later when it was on the towpath side, and spent time with drill and rat tail file opening up the new holes and varnishing the bracket to prevent tarnishing. Learning the hard way is sometimes the only way. Close the cabin doors and take up fenders before locking!”
Last weekend was a real treat for me. I had the pleasure of taking four very different people out on James for a day of discovery and training. On Friday I took a brace of Andys onto the South Oxford and up the Napton flight. There’s a wonderful view from the top of the flight including the famous 200 strong herd of water buffalo.
I was asked, not for the first time, whether there were many single lady boaters on the cut. I told either Andy or Andy, I can’t remember which one posed the question but I think they were both interested, that there were quite a few about. Within minutes we passed a steady procession of lovely ladies including a trio of Bohemians taking a recently purchased vintage engined seventy footer down on to the Thames. I made the mistake of mentioning to one of them how sweet the engine sounded. She then launched enthusiastically into the pros and cons of two cylinder engines. I feel inadequate enough talking to a scruffy bloke about engines but having a pretty woman in a rather fetching billowing dress quoting chapter and verse didn’t do my self esteem any good at all!
The icing on the day’s cake was when Keith and Nicky Renouard off NB Badger Sett casually tossed a bag of six freshly baked scones at us as we sat on the towpath having lunch. It was an act of kindness often seen on the cut but one which is all too rare in “normal” society.
I ask for feedback from all discovery day participants. Here’s what Andy (Max) Wall had to say about his day out, the scones and my apparently inadequate narrowboat horn…
“Firstly, Thank you for a fantastic day and every time someone says “mind my chimney” I will think of the Discovery Day (although I can’t think of many situations in life where that phrase will be used!!)
Secondly, can you pass my thanks to the lady who gave us the scones. That was such a kind gesture and sums up the lifestyle afloat. Such simple acts of kindness don’t happen anymore on the “High Street”, much the shame, which is why I (and probably the vast majority of likeminded folk) move to the “Cut”. (However, next time jam and cream would also be nice).
The communication, via email, was very comprehensive and the drive from “Down South” was very uneventful. The SatNav lead me straight to the gates, which unfortunately were locked closed when I arrived, before 0730. Yes this was my fault as I set of early that morning (0430) from Portsmouth (SatNav said about two and a half hours) but I set out early anticipating traffic and coffee/cigarette stops. I think this locked gate may need to be advertised for any other “early birds” as it did give me a momentary “Oh Flip” moment. Fortunately the gates opened at 0730 and the drive to the nominated car park was just as the email stated. I parked the car and was greeted by my Discovery Day partner in crime, “Andy the Fireman”, we were instantly recognisable as boating novices by our mutual look of fear and anticipation on our faces!!
Quick introductions made, we then started to look for NB JAMES. The description I decided to look for was the wooden mast as I thought this would be an easy indicator as the marina was quite full of vessels. Off we walked, my new friend for the day and I. Once around the marina and no wooden mast! So off we went to high ground (the bridge at the bottom of the marina) to see if we could spot JAMES from our new high vantage point. That’s when I saw a lone figure walking at the far end of the marina. The man of the day? It had to be Paul?? So off we walked hoping it was him, or if not he may know where JAMES was moored. It was Paul! Let the Discovery Day commence!! Paul then guided us to JAMES (Paul had dropped the mast as he was not using the Marina Wi-Fi) Doh!!
A warm welcome (from the dogs) and a “posh coffee” (from Paul). A good start in my books! A guided tour of JAMES and a discussion as to why things were done with regard to the layout of the boat. It was obvious that Paul has done his homework and this is the main reason to attend the Discovery Day. Once things were explained, it is quite obvious for doing the things as Paul suggests. JAMES’ layout is very functional and Paul has optomised the space well, but it still felt homely. A quick chat about what we wanted to gain from the day then a quick walk to the Marina to “book in” and then we were off. Both Andy and I were interested the single handed boating, so we both were after the same things (which made the day flow well).
Initiation by fire as I was interested in reversing the boat and “winding”, so under Paul’s instructions I took the helm and reversed out of the mooring! Paul’s explanations were easy to follow and he seemed so calm as he handed over his home to a total stranger. He’s a braver man than me, as I wont even let anyone drive my car, let alone drive my home!
Straight into the first Lock at the bottom of Calcutt then off down towards the Oxford canal. It was then that I let out my guilty secret that this was not my first time afloat. I’ve been in the Royal Navy for the past 30 years and I’m more at home at the Helm of a 636 foot, 26000 ton Aircraft Carrier!! One of my last jobs at sea was “Driving” HMS ILLUSTRIOUS, but handling a Narrowboat is totally different without the aid of a full crew and four very responsive gas turbine engines, twin propellers and hydraulic rudder controls!! As we approached the junction to turn right onto the Oxford, Paul sounded JAMES’ horn to alert any approaching craft and I foolishly compared it to the twin mighty deafening sirens on board HMS ILLUSTRIOUS. However, JAMES’ “Quack was more than sufficient to warn of our approach as a narrowboat was patiently waiting for us to make the turn. It just goes to prove that size isn’t everything!!!!!
The rest of the day was filled with locks, winding and beautiful scenery and a herd of water buffalo!! A stop along the way for lunch then back down the Napton Flight before arriving back at Calcutt.
The Discovery Day is just that! With Paul’s insight and knowledge you soon realise if this is the lifestyle for you. Paul tells it how it is without being self righteous. His style of instruction and guidance is spot on.
I’ve not met someone so easy to talk to in a long time. Obviously he suits this lifestyle. The day was over 10 hours long, but the time flew by as we chatted about anything and everything from what we have done in life to where we hope to be in the future, (that’s not us being together in the future!!!) topics from the sublime to the ridiculous – watch out for the narrowboat dating site!!! I felt like I was visiting an old friend rather than meeting someone for the first time. A top day out and very informative too. Well done Paul.”
Thanks for that Max. You can find out more about my discovery days here. I’ve had quite a few emails over the last week or two from people who intend to book a date “a bit closer to the time”. If you are considering coming on a discovery day, don’t wait too long before you book, Please remember that I shoe horn the discovery days in to what’s left of my free time after my full time commitments to Calcutt Boats and the work I have to do on this site. There are currently just nineteen dates remaining for next year. You can check availability by clicking on any of the yellow book now links on this page.
Planning Your Boating Trips
I am an armchair traveller. I sit for hours with a table sized map of the waterways open in front of me. Waterways World give one away with their annual each year. I have four. The map has been reproduced on the IWA web site and can be downloaded here.
Because of my current work commitments I don’t do nearly as much cruising as I want. What I want to do, what I will do in no more than eighteen months’ time, is set off on a never ending cruise along the 2,200 miles of connected navigable rivers and canals in England and Wales. The Waterways World map is a wonderful aid to my daydreaming.
I can see where the canals and rivers are in relation to my current location at Calcutt Boats on the Grand Union near Napton Junction, and which routes to take to reach a desired destination. I can see the difference between rural and urban areas so I can choose between a day spent cruising through reed lined banks and under majestic ash, oak and weeping willows or trying to avoid underwater islands of shopping trollies and discarded bikes as I pass under graffiti adorned bridges.
I can clearly see the extent of the waterways and see the tiny distance I have explored so far and the considerable number of virgin waterways which await me. I often sit with Sally at our table suggesting intended routes, sights to see, countryside to explore, places to linger and spots to avoid. The map gives us a very useful overview of our intended journeys, but doesn’t offer much in the way of detail.
A very useful free tool, and one which provides masses of additional detail is the route planner on the CanalPlanAC web site. It’s always my
first port of call when I’m thinking of cruising a new route. At the beginning of the year Sally and I decided to spend two weeks on a slow return cruise to Market Harborough. We knew that we had plenty of time to do the trip on our two week break because of the route finder. We entered our start and stop points and instantly discovered the following…
Total distance is 38 miles, 7 furlongs and 26 locks. There are at least 2 moveable bridges; 5 small aqueducts or underbridges and 3 tunnels (Braunston Tunnel (2042 yards long), Crick Tunnel (1528 yards long) and Husband’s Bosworth Tunnel (1166 yards long)).
This is made up of 28 miles, 5 furlongs of narrow canals; 10 miles, 2 furlongs of broad canals; 17 narrow locks; 9 broad locks.
This will take 19 hours, 33 minutes which is 2 days, 5 hours and 33 minutes at 7 hours per day. For calculation purposes this is taken as 3 days.
Overnight stopping places
This is calculated based on 3 full days travelling starting at Calcutt Marina.
On average each full day will be approximately 6 hours and 31 minutes travelling but some overnight stops have been moved to avoid unsuitable stopping places and this has affected the lengths of the days. The shortest day is 6 hours and 17 minutes and the longest is 6 hours and 45 minutes (the maximum day-length is set at 10 hours).
First day of trip
On the Grand Union Canal (Leicester Section – Old Grand Union), at Watford Gap M1 Bridge No 6 (to avoid stopping in a flight of locks) (half way between Watford Top Lock No 7 and Crick Tunnel (South end)). This is 12 miles, 5¾ furlongs and 16 locks and will take 6 hours 45 minutes.
Second day of trip
On the Grand Union Canal (Leicester Section – Old Grand Union), at Honey Pot Farm Bridge No 46 (just past Husband’s Bosworth Tunnel (Northeast end)). This is 15 miles, 3 furlongs and 0 locks and will take 6 hours 17 minutes.
Third day of trip
On the Grand Union Canal (Leicester Section – Market Harborough Branch), at Market Harborough. This is 10 miles, 6¼ furlongs and 10 locks and will take 6 hours 31 minutes.
The route planner instantly gave us some very useful information. The distances are accurate and the suggested total time for the cruise is pretty close but the suggested overnight moorings need treating with suspicion. The first suggested overnight stop is next to bridge 6. What the route planner can’t tell you is that bridge six is literally a stone’s throw from the lorry park on the M1’s Watford Gap service station on one side and the West Coast Main Line and the busy A5 on the other. I don’t think there’s a noisier place to moor within fifty miles. I can use one of the widely available printed guides to show me this level of detail and more suitable places to moor.
The two most popular printed guides are Pearson’s and Nicholson’s. I have reproduced the Watford Gap section of my route from both guides above. Click on the images to show their full size. I prefer Pearson’s guides. I think they’re easier to read than Nickolson’s ordnance survey based maps but they both offer a wealth of information including water points, refuse disposal, Elsan points, showers, laundry facilities, winding holes, visitor and private moorings, mile posts, standard, swing and lift bridges, locks and their rise and fall and a wealth of other useful information including supermarkets, newsagents, post offices, butchers, pubs and pharmacies.
For the techies among you, there are a number of digital guides. Nicholson have made some of their guides available on the Kindle. Pearson’s have not. I’ve tried on Nickolson’s Kindle editions and found it quite difficult to use.
Navvygator is a free GPS mapping application which allows you to track your cruise in real time. The application is free but you will need a GPS device to make it work. The device including delivery will cost you about £50
Mike and Marion Kelly based at Braunston marina have produced two different digital applications for inland waterways boat owners. More information on both applications is here on their web site. The first was Water-Way which is Windows based and costs £130 for the Great Britain edition. I was give a copy of the application by Mike and Marion a few years ago but I renewed my laptop and haven’t been able to install it again. I’ve just had a look at their web site to refresh my memory and I have to say that the experience hasn’t been user friendly. The Water-Way demonstration requires a plugin which won’t install in my Firefox browser and the order process is far from easy. You have to email Mike and Marion via the site’s contact form to express an interest in making a purchase. That alone is enough to put me off. If it’s digital I want to download and pay for it instantly.
Their other digital application is much more user friendly. It’s e-canalmapp. The application runs on Android and Apple devices. There are eight regions costing £5.99 each. There’s a staggering amount of information available for each region but because there’s so much data you need plenty of free space on your device and a very good internet connection to download the data files. Each data file is approximately 1.5GB.
I love technology but I don’t enjoy using the digital canal guides. They’re designed to be used as you’re cruising which means having them close at hand while you stand on at the back of your boat close to water, often in pouring rain. It’s not the easiest or safest place to operate an expensive smart phone, tablet or laptop. It’s not just the rain that’s a problem. On days blessed by bright sunlight you can’t actually see the information displayed. It’s very frustrating.
Bright sunlight might not be a problem with a Kindle which allows you to read whatever’s on the screen regardless of the light, but as Pearson don’t offer their guides at all in Kindle format yet and Nicholson only have two of their guides available, I’ll be sticking with paper maps for a while yet.
The problem with paper maps of course is they don’t like getting wet. Fortunately there are some very durable waterproof map cases available. The one I’ve linked to isn’t cheap, but it’s going to stand the test of time so as far as I’m concerned it’s money well spent.
One final thought on route planning; always be aware of potential restrictions on your route. The Canal & River Trust schedule as much routine maintenance work as possible during the quieter winter months but routes can also restricted at other times of the year because of emergency work. A full list of stoppages is on the Trust’s site here. Always check current stoppages before you set off on a journey.
I’m going to make a cup of coffee now and sit down to do a little more daydreaming with the network map in front of me. North, south, east or west, where will I go?
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.
Long term narrowboat hire – Is hiring a boat long term a realistic alternative to buying one?
living on board in the winter, the cost of living afloat generally and where you can moor your floating home are all subjects which are misunderstood by many aspiring narrowboat owners. Here’s what you need to know.
Narrowboat heating, electrics and engine specifications – How is the perfect live aboard narrowboat configured? Here are a few suggestions
Essential boating equipment – Here’s the stuff every boater should carry on board
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.