Learn about life afloat the easy way

Life on a narrowboat can be as peaceful as it is idyllic BUT you need to understand the pros, cons, highs, lows, and day to day logistics in living on England's inland waterways. Let me help you find out all you need to know before you commit to what could be a very expensive mistake.


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2015 03 01 Newsletter – Narrowboat Ownership On A Shoestring

The days are racing by. In a month’s time we’ll be off on our travels with nothing to do all day, every day, other than relax, enjoy ourselves and, of course, worry about whether we have enough money to live on. I’m sure that we’ll have no problems. My online income plus the remains of the rental income from Sally’s house after all the property insurance, letting agent fees, furniture storage costs and maintenance bills are paid should suffice. We’re not in a bad place financially but I suppose fear of the unknown is unsettling me a little.

As a belt and braces exercise, from April onwards I will be studying travel writing and journalism in my free time with a view to improving my writing skills which will help improve the quality of this site and also increase the chances of me selling articles to the travel sections of newspapers and magazines across the land. That’s the theory anyway. I’ll let you know how the plan worked in real life at the end of the year.

The worry about making ends meet without a regular income and without the benefit of a pension, state or otherwise, has prompted me to write about boating costs this week and how to keep them as low as possible.

This week at work (only another five to go) has been quite tough. I twisted my back last week doing something very trivial  but I have to work to earn a living so staying off work to nurse my injury wasn’t an option as far as I was concerned. Anyway, the cure for a bad back is often exercise. I think it’s supposed to be gentle exercise rather than brutal hard labour but I’m pretty sure that Calcutt Boats wouldn’t want to pay me for prancing around the garden for hours on end practicing Tai Chi.

Preparing two railway freight carriages for removal was part of my exercise regime. Last week Pat and I stripped the heavy planking from the sides and floor of one of them and used our versatile Merlo fork lift to move the one tonne steel frame into the yard by our wharf. The initial plan was to have the frame taken off site and cashed in for the scrap value. The powers that be decided that it would be of more use sheltering the engineers in an external engine test area next to their workshop so we had to lift the unwieldy frame down a steep slope and over the roof of an adjacent store with the Merlo teetering on the brink of its safe operating limit.

We dropped the frame into place without mishap, which probably came as a surprise to everyone given that I was driving the forklift, then returned to the laborious task of moving tonnes of engine spares from another of the dilapidated carriages. By Wednesday the second carriage had been emptied and taken off site so now we have a clear space for our smart new forty feet long steel container. The new storage container should be with us next week.

Just to make sure that my aching back had all the exercise it needed, I spent Wednesday afternoon removing several hundred paving blocks, two dozen paving slabs and a tonne bag of sand from the walled garden of our lock-side cottage.

I was sentenced to more hard labour on Thursday but this time I had an incentive. Two tonnes of creamy “Cotswold Buff” stone eventually arrived to dress the 100m long path from the north Locks marina access road to the dump barge where I will moor occasionally during the summer months and permanently throughout the winter from April onwards.

To compact the six inch depth of road planings I dumped in the two feet wide clay trench I used to make the path a couple of months ago, the company hired a compacter, a heavy petrol engined Wacker. I collected the Wacker from a small plant hire company on an industrial estate in Southam first thing on Thursday morning then spent a couple of hours compacting the loosely packed road scrapings.

I had to take an hour’s break to run a low temperature resistant “Arctic blue” power cable 100m down to the dump barge from the nearest available meter next to our temporary moorings between Calcutt Bottom and Middle locks. The cable had to be laid in a trench under the path and threaded through heavy duty hose to protect it from the site’s grass cutting equipment and stray spade thrusts.

The stone turned up at 3pm so Pat and I had a couple of hours to wheelbarrow into piles along the path, rake it out to an inch and a half depth and then compact it with the Wacker. Fortunately the driving rain which tormented us all morning had stopped so we didn’t have to overheat in our rather ineffective padded waterproof jackets.

Two tonnes of stone wasn’t nearly enough to finish the job. We now have fifty metres of black footpath leading on to another fifty metres of aesthetically pleasing cream coloured stone. We’re hoping another two tonnes will be delivered early next week so that we can finish the job.

`Boating On A Tight Budget

Living afloat is a wonderful lifestyle, but it isn’t particularly cheap. The cost of buying a boat to live on is far less than that of a home on dry land but the cost to run and maintain a “fully loaded” live aboard narrowboat is comparable to that of a small family home.

Many live aboard boaters buy fairly large boats to live on then struggle to maintain the lifestyle as the bills mount up.  A smaller boat and a simpler way of life means smaller bills and more time spent enjoying the lifestyle rather than worrying how to afford it.

The feature which will have the most impact on the ongoing running and maintenance costs is the length of your boat. The boat’s length will have a direct impact on the cost of license fees, mooring and heating costs, cabin painting and blacking expenditure and, indirectly, your electricity generating costs because of the number of power hungry appliances you can cram on board.

Here’s a breakdown of your boat’s areas of expenditure and what you can do to reduce the cost.

License – The cost of your annual waterways license is determined by the length of your boat. The longest boat you can buy for the inland waterways is seventy feet. The maximum usable length is determined by the length of the locks on the network. A seventy feet long narrowboat will allow you to travel widely but you won’t be able to cruise on some canals with short locks. The current cost for a boat of this length is £1,056 with £100 discount for prompt settlement.

The most common length for a live aboard narrowboat is between fifty and sixty feet but there are quite a few boaters living aboard narrowboats as short as thirty feet. A boat of this length will cost you £641.89 for a year with a £70 discount for prompt payment.

Mooring Fees and Moorings – Mooring fees are often but not always determined by the length of your boat. We have two different marinas with two different pricing structures at Calcutt Boats. Moorings on thirty year old Locks marina are charged at £35.46 per foot per year. A thirty feet long boat would cost £1,063pa rising to £2,482 for a seventy footer. On the newer Meadows marina moorings are charged according to the lengths of the piers rather than the length of the boats. The majority of moorings have sixty feet long piers costing £2,346pa. There are a dozen seventy feet long piers costing £2,737pa.

I’m concentrating on narrowboats rather than wide beams in this article but if you wanted a mooring on one of our seventy feet piers for a wide beam, because you would need two narrowboat moorings you would be charged £5,474 to moor in Meadows marina.

In addition to the basic mooring fees, you need to be aware that some marinas also charge a joining or reservation fee, high usage fees and electricity infrastructure charges.

It’s possible to avoid mooring fees completely by continuously cruising all year round but you need to be mindful of cruising restrictions due to essential canal and lock repairs, getting stuck in ice for brief spells during the winter months and the logistics of spending extended periods negotiating extremely muddy and unpleasant towpaths, again, usually over the winter months.

Blacking – Your boat needs to be lifted out of the water roughly every three years to have the hull repainted. There’s usually a flat fee for removing the boat from the water, £200 at Calcutt Boats, plus a cost per foot for the combined pressure washing, wire brushing and hull painting. The current rate  (I think) is £5 per foot so a seventy feet long boat would cost £350 to paint plus £200 for lifting in and out. The total cost for a thirty feet long boat would be £350.

You can rent a slipway or a wet dock so that you can do the work yourself but by the time you have factored in the cost of the dock/slipway hire and the cost to hire a pressure washer and industrial wire brush you probably won’t have saved much money, but at least you would know that an important job was done thoroughly.

Painting – Getting your boat professionally painted it very expensive. As a guide, you should budget £100 per foot. You don’t have to have your boat painted by professionals, but you do need to make sure that the steel is always protected by a good layer of paint.

I painted my own 62′ long boat in April 2012. The finish was far from perfect but doing the work myself saved £4,000 after materials paint tent and equipment hire was taken into consideration. Now, after three years, I need to spend some time touching up numerous scratches, scrapes and flakes but I’m still quite pleased with the work overall.

Sally and I are considering repainting the cabin sides but I don’t think that the ten days we’ve booked a tent for April will be long enough to do everything. Painting your own boat is quite time consuming and there’s a fairly steep learning curve but like everything in life, the more you practice, the better you get.

You don’t have to paint your boat in a variety of colours or adorn it with fancy sign writing. Just paying a professional sign writer to add my boat name, James No 194, and this web site address to both sides of the cabin is going to cost me £500. I could buy adhesive vinyl lettering for much less than that.

If you really want to save yourself money, and you’re not bothered about aesthetics, you can simply keep your boat protected by several coats of the same coloured primer. If you want to save even more money you can do what the owner of two boats featured in many of the national boating magazines has done.

He had a boat built to his own design and high specification. The first boat, Valhalla, looked like a stealth bomber, especially he painted everything, including the cabin, with bitumen hull paint. Several years later, he had a wide beam boat built, also along the stealth bomber lines, and also totally protected by bitumen. He told me that he repainted his boat every year at a total cost of under £200.

Cabin size/heating – The cabin of my 62′ traditional stern narrowboat is forty eight feet long. It’s heated by a single solid fuel stove located on the starboard side four feet from the forward bulkhead. Three gravity fed radiators are heated by the stove’s back boiler. The cabin is always warm at the front of the boat but can be ten or fifteen degrees colder in the back cabin because of the distance from the stove.

If I had a typical boat stove such as the Morso Squirrel, I could use the very popular Ecofan to push warm air further down the cabin. Unfortunately an Ecofan won’t work on my stove because the stove’s double top plate doesn’t allow the top of the stove to get hot enough to power the fan.

As far as I’m concerned, and I’ve not met any live aboard boaters who disagree with me, every live aboard boat should use a solid fuel stove as its primary heat source. Central heating systems are often far more convenient to use, especially during spring and autumn periods with warm days and cold nights when you just need a quick burst of heat at either end of the day to take the chill off the boat, but mechanical systems can and do go wrong, usually when you need them most. My stove has been in my boat since it was built in 1977. The flue has been replaced several times and the glass changed quite often but, apart from that, it has been providing a reliable heat source now for thirty eight years.

I use coal briquettes in my stove. It’s a more effective fuel than unseasoned wood which is often used on boats and easier to light and keep alight than coal. I use about two tonnes of the stuff each year but, partly because of the size and layout of the cabin and partly because of the boat’s insulation, the boat is rarely hot.

Having effective insulation, a central stove, draught proof windows and a smaller cabin will drastically reduce your annual heating bill. My insulation is polystyrene which isn’t very effective. Spray foam insulation is used these days. It’s far more effective than mine.

I also used to lose a great deal of cabin heat because of the wind which whistled through the poorly fitting hopper windows. I’ve completely resolved the problem now by fitting secondary double glazing panels. I used to dread windy winter days on our exposed mooring because I knew we’d be living in a wind tunnel. Today, I can see banks of grey cloud scudding across the pale blue sky propelled by a 30mph south westerly, but not a breath of it is sneaking into our cabin to steal the heat.

A small solid fuel stove is all you need to heat a narrowboat with a small cabin. Even with the stove on its lowest setting, you’ll have the front doors open on the coldest days to prevent the cabin from overheating.

Another cost cutting benefit of a solid fuel stove is your ability to use it for cooking. Foil wrapped potatoes placed in the ash tray beneath the stove will bake to crispy perfection in a few hours and the hot top plate will allow you to slow cook casseroles or keep water hot for drinks or washing up.

If you are going to rely on a central heating system on board, try to steer clear of gas. Gas central heating has two disadvantages. Firstly, it is prohibitively expensive to run if you are going to use it for extended periods. I know several people who have purchased ex hire boats to live on. They have been horrified to discover that they needed to replace a 13kg cylinder every three days at £27 a time.

The other disadvantage is that unlike a solid fuel stove which removes moisture from the air and so helps reduce condensation, gas heating actually adds moisture to the air so increases your chances of having problems with damp.

I’ve just about exhausted my boat heating knowledge now but here’s some additional information for you if you want to know more.

On board electrics/battery bank/charging regime – This is a very important aspect of your floating lifestyle to get right. If you’re going to be on a static mooring with a shore power supply permanently plugged in, you can ignore this section and pretty much run the same equipment on your boat as you would in a house. However, as soon as you unplug your shore supply and start cruising you need to be very careful what electrical appliances you use and how often you use them.

A narrowboat’s on board electrical capabilities range from a basic setup with two or three batteries to accommodate a simple 12v supply to a combination of built in generators and large battery banks to allow a wide range of appliances to be used on board, including electric cookers.

Batteries are consumables so you need to budget for their replacement. Lead acid batteries will last you two to three years. AGM batteries cost about 50% more but will last up to three times as long. AGM batteries also need no maintenance at all because, unlike lead acid batteries, you don’t have to check them regularly to ensure that the distilled water is kept at the right level.

It’s possible to live a simple life with just two or three fairly low capacity batteries. One is usually reserved exclusively for starting the engine while the rest will supply your 12v needs. The basic 12v electrics on your boat will probably be the fridge, internal and external lights and the water and shower pump.

With a basic setup like this you won’t be able to run any 230v mains appliances, but you can buy a 12v television which will run directly from the battery bank and you can purchase an adapter so that you can charge your laptop.

Our own electrical needs fall somewhere in the middle. When I first moved on board, the boat had a very basic 12v supply with just two 110ah batteries. There were also 230v sockets throughout the boat but they could only be used if the boat was plugged in to a shore supply.

Over the last four years I’ve enhanced the electrical setup considerably with the long term goal of making the boat fit for long term fairly high electrical use off grid.

I started off by having a battery charger fitted so that I could keep the batteries topped up when plugged into the shore supply. The I replaced the single 110ah battery in the domestic bank with two larger capacity 135ah batteries. About eighteen months later I realised that the two batteries weren’t enough so increased the domestic bank to four.

I also added a 1600w pure sine inverter so that I could use mains appliances while we were cruising. Then I had three 100w solar panels fitted. I am delighted with the solar panels. Even on a chilly but sunny late winter day like today, the panels are generating 10-15amps which is enough to keep my 12v supply topped up. If you’re interested in solar power, here’s an excellent guide.

Last month I decided to replace the four 135ah lead acid batteries in my domestic bank with long life AGM batteries. With careful management, the new batteries should last me seven to ten years.

Careful management is the key. An essential tool for keeping your batteries healthy is a battery monitor. If you are away from a shore supply, you will usually top up your batteries by running your engine. Running your engine to top up your batteries is a very expensive way of generating electricity. Unless you have a battery monitor, you don’t know how long to run your engine before the battery bank is adequately charged. Run the engine too little and the batteries will be insufficiently charged which will shorten their life and increase your maintenance costs. If you run the engine for too long, your batteries will be fully charged but you will be wasting expensive diesel.

My battery monitor is a Smartgauge. It’s been fitted into the bulkhead between the engine room and our bedroom with the digital display facing into the bedroom. The display shows me the number of volts going in to the battery bank which, to be quite honest, I don’t understand, and the battery bank’s current state of charge expressed as a percentage which, thankfully, is a figure which I do understand.

I check the display twice a day, first thing in the morning and late in the afternoon. I have to run the engine twice a day anyway when we are away from a shore supply to replenish the hot water stored in the calorifier (immersion tank) under our bed. An hour is enough to heat the 55l tank and usually more than enough to top the batteries up but, thanks to the monitor, I know whether I need to run the engine longer.

The final weapon in our electrical arsenal is a suitcase generator. The 1,600w inverter we have isn’t powerful enough to run four of Sally’s essential appliances;her hair dryer, hair straighteners, vacuum cleaner and iron. Personally, I could do without all of them but that’s probably because (A) I have very short, easy to manage hair and (B) I’m a typical male slob.

It’s misleadingly called a suitcase generator because it’s supposed to be portable. However, the 35kg dead weight isn’t something I would like to haul around with me on holiday. Getting it out of the engine room on to the towpath to run it is as far as I ever want to carry it.

The generator is rated at 2,600w so it will run all of the appliances Sally wants plus my own personal power hungry weakness, my Nespresso coffee machine.

I could spend hours talking about boat electrics if I had the time and knowledge to do it justice. I have neither. Fortunately for both you and I, someone who has probably forgotten more about on board power use than I could ever hope to learn has written comprehensively about the subject here. It’s a subject you need to get your head around regardless of whether you use a boat for recreational cruising or as a primary home and the article I’ve linked to is possibly the clearest and most easy to understand explanation I’ve read. I know you’ll find it useful.

Engine maintenance – Your engine is the heart of your boat. It needs looking after and looking after your engine means regular servicing.

I’m going to be running my engine this year much more than I have in previous years. The 50+ discovery days scheduled for this year will account for at least four hundred and fifty hours. When I’m not hosting the training days we’ll be cruising continuously from April until the end of November. I realistically expect to run the engine for 1,000 hours or more in total this year.

With a recommended service interval of two hundred and fifty hours I will require four or five services before the end of the year. If I ask a boatyard or River Canal Rescue to do them for me, I will need to find £500-£600 for the labour plus the additional cost of any parts required.

At the beginning of last month I paid RCR £175 for a “one to one” engine service. The engineer spent five hours with me explaining how to do a full service. At the end of the service, he gave me a comprehensive list of tools and engine spares to keep on board. I’m not the most practical person in the world, but I now realise that servicing my engine isn’t rocket science. I now have the confidence to do all the basic engine servicing myself and save a sizable chunk of money each year.

If I can do it, I have no doubt that you will find servicing your own engine a piece of cake

Toilet costs – There are three different types of narrowboat toilets; pump out, cassette and composting toilets. Composting toilets are the least popular because they require you to get much closer to your processed food than you probably want and because they usually need adapting to make them work in our humid island climate. Normally, you’ll find either a pump out or cassette toilet on board your boat or, for those adopting the belt and braces approach to on board waste management, both.

Each toilet type has its pros and cons. The pump out toilet is the closest you’ll get to a toilet in a house. The big difference is that boat toilets don’t have the same volume of water available when you flush them to get rid of any residue. I’m afraid, this is something you just have to live with on board but a pump out loo is best if you want a normal toilet experience. Another advantage of the pump out toilet is that, with a coffin sized holding tank, you can last a month or more before you need to empty it. The two main disadvantages of this type of toilet is that you have to take your boat to a pump out station to empty the holding tank, which can be very difficult or impossible if the canal is frozen, and each time you have the tank emptied, you have to part with £15-£20.

Many boat owners with pump out toilets also keep a cassette toilet on board. Cassette toilets are usually free to empty. The downside is that you have to carry a holding tank weighing up to 20kg through your boat’s narrow walkway then hold the upturned tank quite close to you while yesterday’s meals gush into an open sewer, and you have to do it two or three times a week.

Foraging

 

 

Deck covers

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 on the first ten days of April, June, August, October and December next year. As spring approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still available. In the last week alone, four dates for June and two for August have been reserved. April is now fully booked apart for one date for a single person, and just five of the thirteen June dates remain. If you are interested in joining me for a fun and information packed discovery day please check the diary before it’s too late.

In the meantime, meet September 2013 discovery day attendees Katrina and Mark Urch.

A narrowboat training day in February 2015

Mark and Katrina on an enjoyable but rather chilly February discovery day

“We purchased our boat during the summer last year and plan to travel the canal network for a year starting end of March this year. Apart from a very hurried couple of days when we hired a boat for the first time last Easter and a maiden voyage on our own when we first bought it, we had no experience of boating.  We realised we didn’t know very much at all and thought some tuition and guidance before we set off would be a good idea.

Despite it being a cold winter’s day we received a lovely warm welcome (and coffee).  Your boat gave us a few pointers on how we should maybe change some things on ours and some food for thought.

Both Mark and I said how patient you were and your instruction were very clear (even if I did still keep steering the wrong way).  I am more confident now that in time I will relax and enjoy our journey and the “step” is definitely on the list to purchase/make.

The day was definitely worth doing. Your knowledge and expertise were very welcome and seeing how you have adapted your boat to living aboard was extremely useful.  The hands on experience on the day has set straight a few things we were doing wrong and given us some information to take forward with us.

Thank you once again for a very enjoyable day and the use of Sally’s step.   The weather was definitely on our side, even the hailstones and snow didn’t last too long.   You never know we may see you on our travels this summer!”

You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here. Don’t forget that there’s just one date for a single person 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.

22nd February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 2 – Some more advice on choosing and buying your first boat

15th February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 1 – Some great advice on choosing and buying your first boat

8th February 2015

Routine engine servicing – The basic stuff every narrowboat owner should know

1st February 2015

Running a boating business – How to earn a living on the cut.

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.

 

 

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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 now wander Europe by motorhome during the winter, and on the Dutch and French waterways in the warmer months on their 32' Dutch motor cruiser.

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