2015 02 01 Newsletter – Running A Boat Based Business

The ongoing saga of booking a simple service with RCR continues. I’ve now had to phone them eight times. At the end of last week I was still waiting for a telephone call from them to confirm that they had amended an incorrectly scheduled visit from the wrong engineer. I was both surprised and delighted when they called to let me know that the right engineer, Kerry, had been scheduled to visit me on 3rd February. The only fly in the ointment was that the lady who called finished off with “Thank you Mr. Dawson.” My name is Smith, not Dawson. I told her so. There was much shuffling of paper while she promised to correct their records. I though that was the end of it.

On Tuesday, coincidentally, at work I was asked to deliver a letter which had arrived at our reception, sent by RCR, addressed to a Mr. Dawson at Calcutt Boats. The boat name wasn’t on the letter so I delivered the letter to the only moorer with that name on our database.

Later in the day I was told that a confused Mr. Dawson had called in to the office. The letter from RCR was to confirm a booking for a one to one service call with their engineer Kerry on 3rd February. He said he wasn’t a member of RCR and didn’t want them to service his engine. He claimed to know nothing at all about the appointment. I wasn’t surprised. It was my appointment.

I phoned RCR on Wednesday. They said that they didn’t have a clue why Mr. Dawson was on their records but confirmed that Kerry is scheduled to visit me on 3rd February. I’m not completely convinced.

I’ve also been having problems for quite a while now trying to find a carpenter who is interested in doing some work for me. I want the hatch surround to the engine room rebuilding so that the hatch fits properly and so that the rear doors can be locked from the inside. At the moment the rear doors have to locked from the outside so we can’t use the back of the boat as an emergency exit. If, heaven forbid, we had a fire in either our bathroom or the second bedroom/office area next to it during the night while we were sleeping, we would be trapped in our bedroom without a way out of the boat other than breaking one of the bedroom windows.

They guy who fitted the soundproofing around my engine was scheduled to do the job, but he had a better offer so reneged on his promise in favour of an imminent full boat fit out. The name of another carpenter was given to me. I was told that the Crick based tradesman was first class so I gave him a call, and gave him a call and gave him a call. I finally managed to speak to him on the fifth attempt, but was still no further forward with my plans. He told me that the seventeen mile journey between Crick and Calcutt Boats was too much for him.

I’m back to square one. Surely there’s a competent carpenter close to me who’s interested in a couple of days work? Do you know one? I’m not difficult to work for, honestly! I don’t interfere, supply unlimited coffee (or tea if it’s really necessary) and I pay my bills the minute the work is finished. If you can think of anyone who can help, please let me know.

When I haven’t been sorting out problems on the boat, I’ve been trying to help Sally sort out one or two problems somewhere in the tropics. Modern technology seems like magic to me sometimes. I sit in front of my laptop on a boat in a rural English marina, press a button, and a mobile phone rings in a bamboo hut in the middle of a field of sugar cane six and a half thousand miles away. How does that happen?

The quality of the call sometimes leaves a lot to be desired, but most of the time it’s more than adequate. We have a Skype subscription to calls to the Philippines so internet telephone calls cost just 6.7p per minute. It’s a wonderful service which allows me to speak to Sally quite easily every two or three days while she is away and so much easier than trying to find a signal for my mobile phone.

Sally left her car here at the marina. I sold mine a couple of years ago so it’s handy having hers to use. Unfortunately I don’t have it at the moment. The car was collected from me by a Daventry body repair company which is going to remove the substantial dent Sally put in the front of her car when she inadvertently drove it into the back of my work truck.

I pointed out to the repairer that I needed the car to fetch my weekly groceries so we arranged for the vehicle to collected after I stocked up on essentials. I didn’t go mad because they promised to deliver the repaired car back to me on Friday, four days after they collected it. I called them on Friday to find out what times they would bring it back. They told me that they were short staffed so would need the car for a further four or five days.

Once upon a time such news would have sent me into a blind panic and would had me reaching for my hiking boots and rucksack before a time wasting and tiring nine mile round walk to the Tesco store in Southam. There’s a bus service from the main road a mile and a half away from the marina, but as it runs about once every six months, I wouldn’t have seriously considered it. These days I don’t need to consider walking at all. I have technology on my side.

In the dim and distant past, as a time poor, highly stressed business owner, I looked for any opportunity which would enable me to spend more time sticking frantic fingers in the leaking dam of my failing business. Tesco’s home delivery was one such opportunity.

I hadn’t used the service for over five years so I thought ordering from them for delivery to the marina was an option, but I expected it to be a slow and painful process. It wasn’t at all. The process was very quick… and painful.

I didn’t realise that every time I handed the cashier my club card, my transactions were automagically stored in my online account. At the press of a button I was able to see everything that I’ve ordered from Tesco since the beginning of time, and with the press of another button schedule all of it for delivery at the marina.

On Saturday afternoon a fleet of Tesco box vans arrived at our reception with enough to feed everyone at the marina for the rest of the year. Of course, I’ve exaggerated slightly, but the bill for my shopping was far more than I expected. I thought that I would actually save money because I wouldn’t be tempted to make all those impulse purchases which make food shopping such a pleasure. The clever marketing buggers at Tesco have thought about that though so a combination of easy to repeat previous purchases and constant notifications of current not to be missed deals, I arrived a the virtual checkout and a bill 50% higher than my normal in store total. Never mind, I now have enough food to last me another week or even two at a push. Just as well really. I think I’ll need another two weeks before I can afford to go shopping again.

I wasn’t really worried on the food front. Sally and I have more cupboards and drawers on the boat than we can shake a stick at and three of them are full of emergency provisions for when we fancy staying on an idyllic mooring without having to stress over the location of the nearest supermarket. We have dozens of tins of fish, meat, fruit and vegetables and powdered milk, jars of coffee, jams and honey, and a sealed 10kg bucket of rice. There’s also at least a dozen bottles of red on the boat at all times for essential canal-side R & R. A few days without a car wasn’t much of a problem but fresh food is always preferable if it’s available.

I’ve just looked out of the window to rest my weary eyes. The horrible magpies are back again. Two of them started regularly visiting the extremely popular feeder I hung on the cockspur thorn tree in July last year. The small tree now regularly has at least a dozen birds flitting between the lower branches and the feeder, and another dozen waiting on the bare earth underneath for dropped seeds.

One of the magpies, or maybe both of them because I can’t tell them apart, has worked out a system for raiding the feeder. It perches on the nearest branch to the plastic food tube, leans across to grab the bottom of the feeder with its beak and then lets go with its feet and uses the momentum of its swing to tip seeds out of the tube onto the ground beneath. It then drops from the feeder into the milling coots, moorhens, mallards and crows and snatches what it can before repeating the process.

The bird is a pain because it’s technique is very effective. A full feeder used to take two or three days to empty. Four hours was all the bird needed today. I’ve just ordered another 13kg bag of seed. I’m not sure whether to use it to fill the feeder or throw at the magpie!

Over the last few days we’ve had a dusting of short lived snow at the marina. One minute snow, the next slush then nothing at all a few hours later. The wintery weather this week hasn’t been much of a problem, but I’m not particularly looking forward to the coming week. The thermometer’s dropped and there’s a cold north westerly blowing. I’ve just spent half an hour outside with the dogs and come back to the boat chilled to the bone. The wind chill has reduced the apparent temperature to minus eight. Sub zero nights and days just above freezing over the coming week mean that we should see constant ice over the water for the next week at least.

I’m not normally bothered about a little ice on either marina or canal but two weeks today I’m hosting the first discovery day of the year for a couple who want to experience cruising at the coldest time of the year. I’m hoping that we will be able to enjoy the day without doing too much ice breaking.

A cold and lively wind used to chill the inside of the boat very quickly indeed but now, courtesy of my new secondary double glazing panels, the cabin is warm and draught free. The panels have made a huge difference inside the boat. All the hassle I had getting the panels in the first place and then fitting them has been worthwhile.

Another worthwhile expenditure has been my new AGM battery bank. When they were installed eight days ago I turned off the charger which keeps the battery bank topped up via the shore supply. I’ve been totally reliant on my solar panels to keep the batteries charged. They’ve done a magnificent job. One day last week I was getting 14amps from the panels. Even today with a lightly clouded sky I’m getting 3amps. The bank’s capacity hasn’t dropped below 94% since they were installed.

I have to stress that the bank isn’t currently meeting all of my electrical needs. The shore supply is currently powering my 240v devices but the solar panels and batteries are providing power for all my lighting, shower and water pumps and, the biggest constant drain on my batteries, my 12v fridge. I’m absolutely delighted so far.

I’m still fine tuning my preparations for most of the year around the marina. We keep most of the stuff we need on the boat with us all the time but we also have a 20′ storage container where we keep odds and end we either don’t need or can’t fit on the boat. I would like to get rid of the container and save ourselves nine hundred pounds a year, but most of the contents is furniture from Sally’s house, so she has to make the decision to either give it away or sell it.

There are a few things still on the boat which I don’t think it’s really sensible to keep. One of them is my comprehensive high end camera kit. I have a full frame Nikon D700 camera, four lenses to go with it including the highly regarded Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8, a flash gun, spare batteries, memory cards, filters and a sturdy tripod. It’s not a terribly bulky kit but it’s too bulky really to keep on board, and too much of a risk if we’re out on the cut all of the time. I’ve reluctantly decided to sell it all on eBay and get myself a good pocket sized point and shoot camera. If you are in to photography and want a comprehensive, high spec complete kit, please let me know.

Last week I included my December boating expenditure in the newsletter.  I received the following email from fellow live aboard boat owner Sarah-May Matthews AKA Baddie The Pirate

“I reckon on a bag of coal lasting me 5 days, so cost of keeping warm is approx £2/day (average cost of bag of coat £10).

It would be interesting to know if your new double glazing cuts the cost of heating your boat?  Sounds like it will.

My boat is 53ft, all portholes and very well insulated.  I have a Morso Squirrel stove.

I do regular maintenance on the stove, ie replacing the rope around the doors if the soot pattern on the glass shows that air is leaking in.  If I close the 2 vents my stove is airtight enought that it will go out.  Keeping it well looked after means it is easier to regulate.

A while ago I removed the dished part (sorry don’t know what it is called) that bolts onto the bottom of the chimney, in the top of the stove.  It kept blocking up and made the chimney difficult to clean out.  I also put in double fire bricks at each side of my stove so I could have a smaller fire.  Once the fire bricks have heated up they keep giving out heat into the cabin for ages, even if the fire goes out.  They also serve another purpose…I can balance a metal skewer above the hot coals.  If you cook foil wrapped spuds this way the metal skewer helps to cook the centre of your spud.  Delicious!

My fire has stayed in for up to 14 hrs on low before.

My boat club sent this info today about burning wood:

I think the ‘acidic tars’ mentioned in the above article can eventually eat their way through your stove chimney?  Not a great thing to happen.

It might be a good idea to ask for people’s experiences of different stoves on the market, and how to pick one that will throw out enough heat to warm up the space you have?

I discovered this winter that the more expensive bag of Excel produces more heat and less ash than the cheaper Supertherm.  Every winter I try different types of coal available, and every winter end up having a different favourite.  Possibly another subject for your newsletter to explore?  And topical at this time of year…”

Sarah-May’s economic use of coal is something which I fear is beyond me. As she pointed out, her boat is very well insulated. Mine is not. I’ve managed to reduce the heat loss through the windows but there isn’t much I can do about my rather poor polystyrene insulation. At one bag every two and a half days I don’t think I’m a million miles away from many other live aboard boat owners though, given fact that my stove has to heat a 48′ long cabin.

Sarah-May cooks jacket potatoes by balancing skewers on her fire bricks. I can’t do that, because I don’t have any fire bricks to balance the skewers on, so my method is to put the foil wrapped potatoes in the ash tray beneath the stove. I throw them in at 11am. By the time I finish work at 5.30pm they’re perfectly cooked. I have them at least once a week at this time of the year.

Cruising In London

I’ve published material on the subject of London moorings, or lack of them, in previous newsletters. The mooring situation around the capital probably deters many boaters from visiting the congested waterways, but where there is a will, there is a way. Regular forum contributor Peter Earley (Pearley on the forum) has just added a very useful post to the cruising section of the forum to help you plan your London cruise. It’s a wonderful source of information and very much appreciated. Here it is.

New Forum Recipe Section

Talking of the forum, I’ve just added a new section to it to allow users to add recipes which are easy to cook in the little space available to you on board a boat. Former professional chef Alan Cranford has added some content to the section already. Alan is an aspiring narrowboat owner born in the USA but now enjoying all year round pleasant weather in Mexico. Many of the recipes have a transatlantic flavour (or should I say flavor?) but they will all work here. The new section is here. I welcome any contributions from site visitors.

Boating Businesses

There’s an interesting article about roving traders in February’s edition of Waterways World. It details a number of boat owners who sell products and services from the boats they live on along the banks of canals and rivers on the inland waterways network.

I regularly receive emails from potential boat owners who want to live afloat but who can’t afford to do so without working. Some of them consider starting their own boat based business to solve the problem.

Running a business afloat is just as difficult as running one on dry land. More so if you have to rely on passing trade in order to make sales. Stretches of canal which are a hive of activity in the warmer, kinder summer months are often silent, deserted spaces in the winter.

There are four different styles you can consider if you want to earn a living afloat; creating or providing physical products at physical locations such as the roving traders featured in the Waterways World article, creating or providing physical products from a location of your choosing which you then dispatch to customers, providing services which you take orders for wherever you happen to be on the network and then deliver by visiting your customers and best of all if you want total freedom, providing services which you can deliver remotely from wherever you are.

Physical Products/Physical Location

In effect, your boat becomes a shop. You either invite customers on board to sample your wares or display your goods for sale on or near your boat. Businesses include coal boats, fender makers, tiller pin sellers, jewelery makers, gift sellers and floating cafes. One of the roving traders featured in WW was Alison Tuck on board narrowboat da Vinci. I emailed her to ask if she would be interested in answering some questions for this site’s case study section. She agreed. The link to her case study is below. Here’s a little additional information she’s provided about starting a floating business.

“We have a get started page on the RCTA website and CRTs pages have loads of info about trade license.

We also have a Facebook group if you want to talk to other traders.

I always tell any one considering a business on the cut, its the same as on land to set up and run. Being on the canal offers a great livestyle and we have many who are part time traders who use it as a supplement to their income and are not reliant on it.

The traders (like me) who its their only income. The successfully ones you will find have a business model that would work just as well on land as on the water. The thing to remember the trading season on the canal is a very short and weather dependant. It is essential to have other sales outlets be that internet or land based Markets/craft fairs if you want to make a living from it. “

Here’s Alison’s case study

Physical Products/Virtual Location

With this type of business you either make or source products which you then dispatch to your customers. Disruption to your boat will depend on the equipment you need to make your products and/or the amount of stock you need on board. I’m struggling to think of many businesses in this category but an eBay seller is one of them and so is the business belonging to Illia Price, although hers is quite unique. Here’s what she has to say about running a business while living afloat.

“I’m lucky enough to have built up a specialist business supplying engraved botanical labels to gardens and arboretums throughout the UK and beyond. It only requires a small space, internet connection for receiving orders, communication and banking. An occasional stock up on materials and a Post Office for sending out orders. I use what would be bedroom space for my office/ workshop. To build up this business I’ve obviously put in many hours over the years, invested in good and costly equipment and software and learned how to use it all, as well as becoming an expert at botanical Latin spelling, presentation and CAM/ CAD.

I need a decent sized screen, mouse and keyboard, also serial ports to run my engraving tables so use a PC. I run a portable generator which powers this, the engraving tables, printer, drill, cutter grinder and swarf extractor.

Generating electricity for work is relatively expensive compared to a mains supply. About £1 per kw/ hour with my LPG generator. Doesn’t sound much but it adds up. It’s a real nuisance if the generator stops mid way through a job. Save often when working on the PC is my motto. Also simple things like my mono laser printer and swarf extractor suck a huge amount of power on start up and my 1kw generator struggles. I have to turn other things off to switch them on. A bigger generator would cope better but is heavy to move around and more costly to run. I will look into converting my PC to 12v or using a small inverter when I’ve more solar panels.

Working aboard one has to be fairly tidy with little spare space. My total indoor space is only around 30′ x 6′ 6″. Office/ workshop takes up about a quarter of this. Dust from the stove gets everywhere and a lot of dusting is done to ensure orders go out looking neat and tidy.

The basics of living can take up a surprising amount of time and as a CC I would be pretty rushed if I had to work an 8 hour day. My aim is to make enough to live on. I don’t hanker after an extravagant lifestyle so 4-6 hours is generally sufficient and as I’m an early riser work is normally done by lunchtime.

Stocking up on materials could be tricky without a land based delivery address though I’m sure a friendly boatyard would take deliveries. I buy in bulk and get stuff delivered to my daughter’s house. I also use this as my official address and have a garden shed for storage. Mostly my customers pay by BACS. I post the odd cheque l get to my bank.

Insurance for expensive equipment kept aboard seems hard to come by and would most likely be rather costly. I am generally in. I have an early warning system in the form of dog. I keep the the blinds down on the towpath side so office space looks like a bedroom and I don’t moor in dodgy locations. My generator and gas bottle are always chained and padlocked and my PC and engraving tables locked down. I also have a tv simulator (Thanks Paul) which is on if I’m out after dark, along with a light and radio.

Running one’s own business requires a lot of dedication. It’s sometimes tempting to put off work in favour of leisurely pursuits but personally I can’t relax if there’s jobs waiting. I’m a perfectionist and will always do the best I can which has brought success in several fields over the years. Repeat custom is precious and doesn’t need to be sought. Word of mouth is the best advertisement you can get and it’s free! One needs to be realistic in pricing jobs – cost of materials/ stock and time taken to carry out, but also factor in workspace running costs, heating etc. Time taken quoting, invoicing, bookkeeping, banking. Equipment repairs and replacement. On the other hand I don’t believe one should be too greedy, prices need to be realistic. I have an hourly rate I aim to achieve and calculate output per hour and base my prices on that.

Luckily most of my work comes from organisations rather than individuals and I invoice when I send the goods out. I almost always get paid within 30 days and very rarely need to send out statements. However, I had a signmaking business in a past life. Most work was for individuals or small local businesses and I used to spend as long chasing debt as I did doing the work. Would have been much better to stipulate payment in advance or upon collection/ delivery.

Creating one’s own website and doing one’s own accounting is not difficult and will save a fortune. I use Frontpage express for website creation and Quickbooks for accounting. I fill my own tax return online. I bought my domain name years ago so my only cost is £4.80 a month for web hosting.”

Illia’s case study is here. There’s some great advice if you are thinking of living afloat and links to some wonderful posts detailing her first weeks afloat.

Virtual location/Physical Products And Services

These are the tradesmen who are so much in demand. They can live where they like on their boats providing they can drive to their customers. They are carpenters, heating specialists marine electricians and engineers and a very popular solar panel installer.

Tim Davis is the solar panel installer. Unfortunately he’s become the victim of his own success. Tim quit his hectic and stressful life for a leisurely and stress free existence on the cut. He’s very competent around boats after building and fitting a few out himself. Soon after he moved on board he decided that he wanted to enhance his boat’s off grid capabilities by adding solar power. He sourced the best components he could find and then fitted them to his own high standard. A friend saw his installation and asked Tim if he could fit a system on his boat. Onboard Solar was born.

Before long, Tim had to give up his nomadic existence, rent a storage unit to keep his stock in and work seven days a week to keep up with demand. All of his business comes through word of mouth. Tim fitted a system for me which I’m delighted with. You can read his case study here where you will also find a link to his web site.

Virtual Products/Virtual Location

Some of the boat owners who feature in the case studies on this site fall into this category. They provide digital services so their location doesn’t matter, as long as they have an internet connection and enough power for on board equipment. Graphic designers, programmers, writers and those providing remote secretarial services are among those who need to work bit can do so almost anywhere they like.

I fall between the last category and this one as I have to return to a physical location to host my training and discovery days. I created my “business” with a long term goal in mind. I lost everything when my business failed in 2009 so I knew that I would have to work for quite some time to come. However, I wanted to lead a less stressful life than the one I had endured for most of my working life. I moved onto my boat out of desperation rather than a desire to live afloat but almost immediately I was smitten by the boating bug. I loved the lifestyle and loved the canals. I wanted to spend my time cruising the network and taking it easy. Unfortunately I still had to earn a living.

Soon after I moved on board I created this site. I realised what a steep learning curve buying an living on a boat required so I though my incidents and adventures as I tried to cope with a completely new way of life would benefit others. I became aware that, although there is a huge amount of information available on the internet about living afloat and the costs involved and the practicalities of living afloat, it’s quite difficult to put together.

I published a few guides to help people out and to provide me with a very modest additional income to that of my relatively low paid but enjoyable and stress free full time job working at a marina as a groundsman, then added another revenue stream to the site in the form of a bespoke narrowboat budget calculator.

The additional income was OK but only just covered the considerable costs of maintaining the site and the software I use to manage site subscribers and to promote the site in the search engines.

In July last year I dropped the final jigsaw piece in place. I added my training and discovery days. Now I can take things easy and reduce my current 80+ hours a week workload.

Building this new revenue stream has taken me nearly five years. I earned nothing from the site for the first two and a half years but spent at least forty hours a week, every week, adding content to the site. The site has consumed nearly all of my free time, but it’s worked which I’ve enjoyed doing, and it’s been a means to an end.

Working from home is difficult and the best of times, but when your home is boat with a limited amount of space, it’s quite a challenge.

I’m lucky, I don’t need to carry stock, and I don’t need fancy and bulky equipment. However, given that I’m male and can’t multi task, I need peace and quiet so that I can focus on what I’m doing. As my home is nothing more than a glorified hallway and one which I share with another person and two dogs, getting the peace and quiet I need isn’t easy.

If I was starting from scratch and had a big enough wedge of the folding green stuff, I would have a boat with a boatman’s cabin, a cabin separated from the rest of the boat by the engine room. I would have the boatman’s cabin altered to allow me to sit comfortably at a desk with enough room to hold my printer/scanner/copier and, of course, my Nespresso coffee machine.

Even in the perfect environment, working from home, from the boat in this case, requires a fair degree of self discipline. There’s a window in front of me where I sit and work. In the summer I can see inviting grassy banks and tree shaded towpaths. I can often see Sally sitting in the shade reading quietly or just watching the world go by. The temptation is to join her and do my work “later”. Sometimes the temptation is too much.

I’ve invested thousands of hours of my time, and just as many pounds, to get where I am now. The missed leisure days and nights were painful at the time, but the sacrifice has been worthwhile. I have been very lucky having Sally as a partner. She has accepted that our free time on the rare days off we have had together has been limited to the occasional walk or shopping trip. She realised, I think, that I was working towards a goal which would allow us to have all the free time together we wanted.

Living where you work has its advantages, but it has its disadvantages too. It’s very difficult to switch off for some people. I am one of them.

I don’t have the problem of people knocking on my door, or with my phone constantly ringing or, for that matter, ever ringing at all. My problem is with email.

I get an awful lot of email. Much of it is unwanted advice on how to improve some of my bodily dimensions in exchange for a modest fee, but many are either the result of newsletters, Narrowbudget Gold purchases or Discovery Day bookings. I answer all of them as quickly as I can but answering the emails quickly means spotting them in my inbox in the first place so I’ve become obsessed with checking for new messages day and night. I’m getting better. I no longer check for messages when I wake up in the early hours of the morning but I think that may have something to do with Sally snatching my phone off me and throwing it on the floor on two occasions. I’m learning, but very slowly.

Getting to where I am now has been a long and sometimes painful process, but it’s been worth it. There’s no real difference from the work you need to do to start a business on dry land. In my own particular case, and in the case of many of the boat owners I know, the businesses they run are there to earn them a modest income they need to sustain and enviable lifestyle rather than as a means to accrue substantial material wealth.

In my own case, being able to earn a living while staying close to nature is all the reward I need. My own slightly outdated case study is here.

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.

I’ll be running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of April, June, August, October and December next year. There is now just one date remaining for April. There’s space on 12th April for either two singles, an exclusive single, or a couple. 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. I have just started advertising the service on eBay which has significantly increased the volume and frequency of bookings so you will need to act quickly if you want to book a date in the first half of the year. I’m receiving bookings at the rate of one or two each week at the moment so the available dates won’t be there for long.

In the meantime, meet discovery day attendee John Lord.

John Lord joins me on a July discovery day

John Lord joins me on a July discovery day

“First of all we would like to thank you for such a brilliant day on James, we both really enjoyed it along with your company. It was great to spend the day with such a knowledgeable and super guy, you were a fantastic, calm and patient instructor, a real pleasure to spend the day with.

Yes my shoulders did ache, and I have never felt so exhausted in my life, but a deep bath soon sorted that out!
The sun sparkling on the wind ruffled water is etched on my brain forever.

The amount of information that you shared with us was excellent and answered all of our questions, and more, about living aboard and maintaining the boat. Your instructions on boat handling were delivered in a very calm, patient, clear and confidence building way, it was an absolute pleasure to learn from you and you put at ease right from your greeting, by your two loveable dogs, the best, latte I have had for a long time, and the wonderful cups of tea. We don’t think you could of added any more to the day as you covered all of our questions regarding live aboard, boat handling and canal etiquette.”


You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here. Please note that there are limited dates remaining for April now so if you want to spend a spring day out with me you need to book quickly.

I Need Some Help!

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

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

Newsletter Index

I created the site just over four years ago to provide a source of information for anyone interested in narrowboats and the possibility of living on one full time.  The site has grown to encompass a comprehensive listing of inland marinas in England and Wales, dozens of articles, a forum and regular newsletters. I’ve already created (below) indexes of the site articles and the more popular forum posts. I thought it was about time I created an easy to use index of the newsletter content. Here’s the index so far.

25th January 2015

A detailed breakdown of my own narrowboat running costs for December 2014

18th January 2015

An unexpected cruise – A surprise cruise to Braunston, secondary double glazing panel fitting, and why dogs and laminate flooring don’t go well together

11th January 2015

Battery Banks – The pros and cons of lead acid and AGM batteries

4th January 2015

More winter cruising – The tail end of my Christmas break afloat

28th December 2014

Winter cruising – A narrowboat isn’t just for the summer months. Winter cruising is a joy. Here’s my account of a week on the cut over the Christmas break

21st December 2014

Cooking on the cut – Here are some gourmet festive recipes suitable for a narrowboat’s small galley

14th December 2014

A Cautionary Tale – Canals and narrowboats offer all the ingredients for some pretty nasty accidents. Here’s one which could have been much worse.

7th December 2014

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.

30th November 2014

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.

23rd November 2014

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.

16th November 2014

Narrowboat fuel consumption – How many miles to the gallon can you get out of your floating home?

9th November 2014

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.

2nd November 2014

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.

26th October 2014

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.

19th October 2014

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.

12th October 2014

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?

5th October 2014

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.

28th September 2014

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.

21st September 2014

Cruising in adverse weather conditions part two – A continuation of the previous week’s newsletter.

14th September 2014

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.

7th September 2014

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.

31st August 2014

Route finding for narrowboat owners – Here are the popular paper and digital route finders to help make navigating the network child’s play

24th August 2014

Long term narrowboat hire – Is hiring a boat long term a realistic alternative to buying one?

17th August 2014

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.

10th August 2014

Narrowboat heating, electrics and engine specifications – How is the perfect live aboard narrowboat configured? Here are a few suggestions

3rd August 2014

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

27th July 2014

The pros and cons of a wide beam boat – More and more wannabe boaters are considering more spacious wide beams rather than narrowboat. There is clearly more living space on board but how practical are wide beam boats on the inland waterways?

20th July 2014

The dreaded weed hatch – Sooner or later your engine will start to overheat, you’ll lose propulsion and you’ll know that you need to dive down your weed hatch to free an obstacle or two from the propeller. Here’s how to do it properly and a list of the tools you’ll need.

13th July 2014

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

6th July 2014

Practical experience for lone boaters. Here’s an account of a day’s cruise with a nervous single boater. He wanted enough confidence to deal with locks on his own. I spent the day with him, designed a route to include twenty six locks and spent ten hours helping him hone his locking skills.

29th June 2014

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

22nd June 2014

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

15th June 2014

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

8th June 2014

Boat Handling – lock and paddle gear types.

1st June 2014

Boat handling – Swing and lift bridges

25th May 2014

Single handed boating – Negotiating locks.

18th May 2014

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

 11th May 2014

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

4th May 2014

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

27th April 2014

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

20th April 2014

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

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

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

30th March 2014

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

23rd March 2014

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

16th March 2014

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

9th March 2014

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

2nd March 2014

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

23rd February 2014

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

16th February 2014

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

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

9th February 2014

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

2nd February 2014

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

26th January 2014

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

19th January 2014

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

12th January 2014

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

5th January 2014

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

29th December 2013

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

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

22nd December 2013

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

15th December 2013

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

8th December 2013

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

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

1st December 2013

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

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

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

24th November 2013

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

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

17th November 2013

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

10th November 2013

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

3rd November 2013

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

27th October 2013

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

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

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

A new organisation for liveaboard boaters

13th October 2013

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

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

6th October 2013

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

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

29th September 2013

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

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

22nd September 2013

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

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

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

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

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

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

25th August 2013

Effective fly killers for boats

The downside to living on a narrowboat

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

18th August 2013

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

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

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

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

11th August 2013

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

Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners

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

4th August 2013

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

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

28th July 2013

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

21st July 2013

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

14th July 2013

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

7th July 2013

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

30th June 2013

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

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

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

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

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

16th June 2013

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

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

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

9th June 2013

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

2nd June 2013

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

26th May 2013

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

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

19th May 2013

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

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

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

12th May 2013

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

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

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

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

21st April 2013

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

Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop

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

14th April 2013

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

7th April 2013

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

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

31st March 2013

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

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

24th March 2013

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

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

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

17th March 2013

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

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

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

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

11th March 2013

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

3rd March 2013

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

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

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

Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013

20th February 2013

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

8th January 2013

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

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

24th December

Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis

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

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

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

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

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

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

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

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

17th October 2012

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

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

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

30th September 2012

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

18th September 2012

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

VAT on narrowboat sales

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

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

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

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

27th  May 2012

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

Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke

13th May 2012

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

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

29th April 2012

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

15th April 2012

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

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

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

 1st April 2012

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

18th March 2012

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

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

4th March 2012

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

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

Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat

A review of Debdale Wharf marina

22nd January 2012

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

8th January 2012

The first four narrowboat case studies published

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

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

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

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

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

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

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

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

Popular Forum Posts

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

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

Useful Links

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



Useful Information

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Paul Smith

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