2014 12 28 Newsletter – Winter Cruising
Ninety four days to go. Three months and four days before I break the shackles of full time employment for a lifetime’s canal and river exploration. I’m very, very excited, but a little frightened too.
I won’t be retiring. My pension was tied up in my business which went so terribly wrong six years ago. I still have a tiny pension which matures next year but sadly that will just about keep me in toilet roll for the year so, from next April onwards, I will be totally reliant on the income I generate from this site.
Most of the time it’s enough to support me. Just.
We won’t be living in the lap of luxury. Sally is giving up her full time employment working as a senior carer at a local nursing home and I’m giving up my full time employment as a groundsman at Calcutt Boats. We both enjoy our work. Actually, I love the job I do. It’s the only period in my thirty seven year working life when I have worked for someone else but the company give me pretty much a free reign to do what I need to do to keep the site looking as good as it does. I love the freedom and I love working outdoors all year round.
Sally loves her work too but she finds it very fulfilling rather than pleasant. She cares for people with moderate to severe physical and mental conditions which means that she is often subject to very unpleasant physical and verbal abuse. On a daily basis she’s subject to punching, kicking, biting, scratching, spitting, slapping, hair pulling and, of course, shouting and screaming. It’s not pleasant but Sally’s very good at it and finds the work rewarding.
I’m not sure that Sally quite feels she’s ready to retire but she’s moderately enthusiastic about joining me for at least two decades of inland waterways relaxation and exploration.
We’re both giving up our regular full time income. From April next year we’ll have to get by on 36% of our current income. It’s enough but we’ve been used to spending what we want whenever we want so we’re going to have to be very disciplined indeed, and I will have to try very hard not to become totally obsessed with daily sales from the site, or lack of them.
It’s fascinating watching the seasons change and knowing that the outside temperature, the amount of rain and the amount of daylight will have a direct impact on my income. It’s fascinating and slightly worrying. Take this time of the year generally and Christmas in particular as an example. Christmas is a worrying time for most small businesses which don’t offer Christmas related products or services. My old cleaning services business was typical. New enquiries and sales started dropping of towards the end of November, disappeared almost completely over the Christmas period then started to pick up again towards the end of January. For at least a month and a half the phones didn’t ring much at all.
My web site income is similarly affected by the festive period but is also affected by colder weather. People simply aren’t as interested in narrowboats and the live aboard lifestyle when the sun isn’t shining. Visitors to all of the most popular narrowboat web sites plummet in the winter months.The dream for many is of spending lazy days moored in an idyllic spot with panoramic views, sitting on the towpath in the summer sun serenely watching boats drift by. It’s difficult to keep the dream in focus when an east wind is driving icy rain across a drab and cloud capped landscape.
Boat owners aren’t keen either. Most owners of narrowboats used for recreational cruising wrap their boats up for the winter. They have no intention of visiting them again before the following spring. In January and February I see very few moorers visiting their boats. I often spend a full day at work without seeing a soul.
It’s a shame because winter boating is a joy.
Sally and I are out on our Christmas cruise at the moment. We’re having a wonderful time. We cruised for six hours on Saturday and six hours yesterday. In total we’ve seen seven moving boats. There have been no queues at locks and no shortage of spaces at any of the popular mooring spots. We’re on the Grand Union Leicester line. Last June we came this way and had a two hour wait at the Watford flight before we reached the head of the queue. Yesterday we arrived at the bottom of the flight at 9am. The lone lock keeper welcomed us enthusiastically, told us that we were his first and possibly only boat of the day and helped Sally work the locks up the flight. Negotiating the flight took us nearly three hours last June. We did it yesterday in thirty five minutes. The lock keeper told us that the average number of boats per day over the winter is about six, although there are some days when there are no boats at all. It’s boring for the lock keepers but marvelous for boat owners.
Our winter trip began on Saturday a little later than I hoped. Sally had to work a twelve hour shift on Friday night. She arrived back at the boat at 8.30am, tired but eager to set off, but we had to do our food shopping shopping for the trip first. After that we had to drop off a belated Christmas present to Sally’s tenants in Woodford Halse before returning to the boat.
Sally unpacked the shopping then made me a coffee before heading off to bed for a well earned sleep as I headed out of the marina. I only saw three moving boats on Saturday. Luckily one of them was a neighbour of mine who was also heading up the Calcutt flight on a day trip to Braunston. They had two very eager teenagers with them so I didn’t need to get off the boat as we sped through the three locks at 11am. I knew the time because I knew how far away our intended mooring for the evening was and how unlikely it was we would reach it given the limited daylight in December. I’m sure that I’ll relax next year and not be so focused on achieving goals but I definitely had a goal for Saturday.
Sally was still asleep so I pulled over just before Braunston for long enough to make a coffee and have a wee, and be overtaken by my marina neighbour, then set off again. I passed my neighbour moored outside The Boathouse. They gave me a cheery wave from their cosy table by a canal-side window and raised a mocking glass to me.
I had a spot of good luck at the Braunston flight too. A boat owning dog walker helped me up the first three. I am always very pleased when I see a dog walker carrying a windlasss. Thank you Tom! Just as he left to ferry his wife to the shops Sally appeared with a windlass and a steaming mug of coffee. She had only allowed herself three hours sleep. Any more and she wouldn’t have been able to sleep when we both went to bed that evening.
Sally returned to the warmth of the cabin and the reassuring drone of her washing machine as we entered Braunston tunnel allowing me to play with my new tunnel light and super powerful 5,000,000 candle power engine room torch. Both were wonderful even if I was a little disappointed in the cumulative effect of a small city’s worth of candle light. Effective tunnel lighting makes a huge difference. I didn’t touch the sides once.
I emerged from the east end of the tunnel into twilight and realised that I wouldn’t reach my goal of Welton Haven marina before dark. We were close enough though so I pulled over at the least muddy looking spot I could find, couldn’t get close to the bank because of my 2’6″ draught, tried another spot a hundred metres further on, failed again and then succeeded on my third attempt.
We squelched along the towpath for half an hour with the dogs before battening down the hatches for the evening, stoking up the fire and tucking in to a pot of beef stew.I’m delighted to say that we couldn’t manage to get any television signal at all so we settled down for a slightly frustrating evening of card playing. Sally introduced me to a game which she says is very popular in the Philippines. I’m not saying that she cheated but it appeared to me to be a very complicated game made even more difficult by a constant changing of the rules, usually when I had the upper hand. Still, a bottle of honey infused Jack Daniels helped ease the pain.
I was up bright and early on Sunday morning ready and eager – well, ready anyway – for a full day’s sub zero cruising.The thermometer read minus four when I reluctantly eased myself out of bed at 6am and made a dash for the coal box next to the stove. I still haven’t found anyone to fit my central heating system so I’m completely reliant on the stove to heat the boat. Thank you to those of you who recommended reliable and competent tradesmen to do the job. I’ve tried them all. Unfortunately, because they are reliable and competent they appear to have work coming out of their ears. Non of them can accommodate me.
The stove’s not doing a bad job but it’s a little painful for the first hour or so before the boat heats up in the morning. I’ve been up since 5.30am this morning. It’s 7.30am now and I’ve only just taken my fleece hat off. The boat should be much warmer when I’ve finally fitted my secondary double glazing panels. It’s been almost a year since they arrived but I think I might be close to actually getting them on the windows.
The initial problem I had was with the magnetic fixing kit. The magnetised strips simply weren’t powerful enough to hold the weight of the relatively light 4mm panels. Every one of the six I fitted slid off the windows within forty eight hours. I didn’t bother looking for an alternative way of securing them at the time because (A) March and warmer weather had arrived and (B) I despise and consequently am not very good at DIY of any kind.
The current cold weather has focused me on finding a solution. I’ve found one. I’ve ordered some wood to metal double ended screws. One end will go into the window frame then I’ll drill a hole in each corner of the plastic panel to take the protruding metal thread. The panels will be secured with wing nuts which will be hidden by the curtains. Each panel will have draught excluder fitted around the edges. It should work fine, but what do I know?
The half hour cruise to the Watford flight was accompanied by the tinkling of breaking ice on the canal, less than an eighth of an inch in most places, none at all in some, but nearly half an inch at Norton Junction. Nothing to worry about at the moment and if the weather forecast is accurate for the latter part of next week, nothing to worry about on the return journey. With two or three very cold days to come though, the ice is going to get much thicker before it disappears.
The trip to the Watford flight was a bit painful for me. Sally was at the helm. Unfortunately she’s still at the stage where she’s quite confident steering along the straight, around bends and through all but the tightest bridge holes, but as soon as something unexpected happens, she freezes and looks to me for instruction. This level of confidence and competence means that I need to be on hand in case of emergencies but I’m not actually doing anything to generate any heat. I tried dancing on the spot for a while but my complete lack of rhythm depressed me so I stopped very quickly.
We moored on the landing beneath Watford Bottom Lock. Sally bolted for the cabin to thaw out her frozen hands. I bolted back along the towpath to Watford Gap service station to take advantage clean and capacious toilets with an unlimited water supply. They’re much more pleasant to use than a cassette toilet.
Entering the service station grounds from the staff access road next to the canal was like entering a different world. Peace and tranquility was replaced by stress and noise as cars jockeyed for tight parking spaces inches away from the service station entrance. Inside, harassed motorists queued for overpriced food and drink. As I passed the head of a Costa Coffee queue on my way to the toilets I heard a cashier ask a suited traveller for £27 for three coffees and three slivers of cake. The same amount would keep me in wine for a month.
Back at the boat the lock keeper had the lock ready for us and Sally was throwing sticks for his very noisy but happy collie. Once through the flight, Sally took advantage of a set of batteries and unlimited supply of hot water courtesy of the engine to catch up on the washing and, I suspect, to keep out of the cold while I cruised gently through the thinning ice to the water point at Yelvertoft.
We had seen nothing moving along the canal in either direction for the last two hours so once the tank was full we popped into the village for a toilet stop for Sally and a quick brandy at the bar for me.
My target for the day was Welford junction but as we only had an hour of daylight left but two and a half hours to the junction and no real need to get there for any particular time, I pulled over about a mile out of Yelvertoft on a stretch of dry Armco lined bank away from traffic and any risk to the dogs.
That’s where we are now. We dined on Sally’s chilli fish cakes, lowered the level in the Jack Daniels bottle by another couple of inches, watched a bit of telly, then retired for a night’s tranquil rest.
As I mentioned, the boat was quite chilly when I woke this morning. I realised why when I popped outside with the dogs. There’s an inch of ice on the canal and a thick white coating of frost over the fields. The temperature isn’t expected to rise much above zero today so we won’t be going anywhere today, or tomorrow for that matter. The temperature isn’t forecast to rise before Wednesday so I think we’re stuck here for a couple of days.
Being stuck here for a day or two isn’t a problem. At least, I don’t think it is. The Smartgauge alarm was flashing this morning. The leisure batteries were down to 42% from 100% when we stopped yesterday afternoon. I’m hoping the drop is due to Sally’s inadvertent use of the washing machine after we moored and while I was out with the dogs. I’m hoping that’s the cause, but I don’t really expect it to be. Two of the batteries in my bank of four are now three years old. I suspect they’re on their way out which will mean that I’ll have to keep a very close eye on them over the coming five days and then replace the lot when I get back to the marina.
B.O.A.T. Bring Out Another Thousand!
Discovery Day And Narrowboat Helmsmanship Training
If you’re new to this site you might not know about the service I launched in June 2014. I host narrowboat experience days on board my own 62′ long narrowboat James No 194. The ten hour days are a combination of discussion about the pros and cons of living on board, narrowboat designs and the best equipment for live aboard boaters, and a six to eight hour helmsmanship training cruise along the Oxford and/or Grand Union Canals.
Over the last couple of weeks I mentioned that I was considering offering an option to book a discovery day but rather than pay for it at the time of booking, pay 25% at the time of booking and then the balance over three months. I asked for anyone who was interested in the scheme to click on a link to let me know.
I’m delighted to report that there are enough people interested to make the time needed to set up the option worthwhile. I’ve been working on it for the last week so everything’s just about in place. I need to test the system out though so I’m looking for a guinea pig or two before I make the option available on the site. Are you interested in attending a discovery day but would rather pay in installments rather than in one up front fee? If you are, please let me know. I’ll be running the discovery days aproximately on the first ten days of April, June, August, October and December next year. Half of April’s dates and some of the dates in June are already taken so if you are considering a place next year, please check the diary before it’s too late.
In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendee Paul Trotter…
“I am extremely interested in buying a liveaboard in the next 3-9 month. I booked the discovery day to get my first helmsman experience under guidance and to start to fill in the gaps in my knowledge in a range of areas.”
“I was very pleased with the day. The information and instruction and its delivery was excellent. I would definately recommend the discover day to somebody else who was considering getting a narrowboat. It was a great day. In addition to the helmsman experience, I found it was invaluble to ask so many questions about the requirements of a liveaboard lifestyle.”
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.
Cooking on the cut – Here are some gourmet festive recipes suitable for a narrowboat’s small galley
A Cautionary Tale – Canals and narrowboats offer all the ingredients for some pretty nasty accidents. Here’s one which could have been much worse.
Shared ownership – If you can’t afford a whole boat, why not buy part of one? Here’s how you can enjoy narrowboat ownership but at a fraction of the normal cost.
Here’s a live aboard narrowboat fully equipped for long term cruising. It’s my own boat James No 194. There’s a five minute video tour of the boat and a summary of the pros and cons of the boat’s design and equipment.
London cruising – Every week I receive emails from potential boat owners who want to live on board in London or who want to visit the capital as part of a holiday cruise. This advice from a very experienced boater will be of great interest to you if you’re one of them.
Narrowboat fuel consumption – How many miles to the gallon can you get out of your floating home?
How to spot bogus narrowboat adverts – Beware narrowboats for sale at bargain basement prices. Here’s a cautionary tale to make you think twice about reaching for your wallet.
Narrowboat CO2 emissions – Is living on a boat a green alternative to a home on dry land? You’ll have to read this newsletter to find out.
Finding reliable tradesmen on the cut – They are out there but it’s not always easy to sort the wheat from the chaff. Here’s a new service on the site which is going to make the job much easier for you.
Anti social behaviour on the cut – How common are the unpleasant incidents you sometimes hear about on the canal network and who are the worst offenders? You’ll probably be surprised.
The pros and cons of buying an ex hire boat to live on – How suitable are ex hire boats for living on board full time?
I ran short of time during this week and couldn’t think of much to write about anyway, so I just detailed an idyllic week we spent away from the marina, pottering about for a few days in Braunston and then finishing off the week on the south Oxford canal down as far as Fenny Compton. Six months before the start of our continuous cruising lifestyle, it was just what we needed to whet our appetites.
Emergency food on board – Some of the most pleasant places to moor are a long way from the nearest supermarket. Here are some suggestions to ensure that you’re never short of a tasty meal on your idyllic canal-side retreat.
Cruising in adverse weather conditions part two – A continuation of the previous week’s newsletter.
Cruising in adverse weather conditions – Steering a narrowboat over the glassy surface of a placid canal on windless day in the middle of summer is child’s play. Here’s what you need to do on a “normal” day’s cruise.
Following your dream – Is your goal to some day spend a life of leisure out on the canal network? This article might encourage you to make a move sooner rather than later.
Route finding for narrowboat owners – Here are the popular paper and digital route finders to help make navigating the network child’s play
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.