2015 05 31 Newsletter – On Board Electrics For Continuous Cruisers

The Grand Union Leicester Line is a wonderful canal if you want quiet and peaceful moorings. Our mooring a mile north of Yelvertoft close to bridge 24 was possibly the quietest we’ve ever experienced. Although a steady stream of boats passed us over the two days we stayed there, only one person walked past on the overgrown towpath. The location was perfect for us to recover from the crowds and claustrophobia of two days at Crick.

Our spot was the perfect retreat, but not particularly useful if returning to civilisation was required. I had agreed to meet new live aboard boat owner Brent Smith, jet lagged after a flight from Australia two days earlier, and show lagged after a couple of days at Crick. The closest suitable meeting place was the Knightly Arms in Yelvertoft, a mile and a half walk back along the towpath then over a single track gated road into the village.

After a few pleasant pints and plenty of boaty chat, much of it about the workings of my new composting toilet, Brent kindly gave me a lift back from the village along the gated road to the canal before heading off to his nearby B & B and then to his new floating home the following day.

I ambled back along the dusk dark grassy towpath to where the boat rested under a canopy of gently waving hawthorn. Sally is still nervous on the boat on her own, especially on remote rural moorings so I had to knock on the door in the right sequence, give the correct answer to her security question, then cross her palm with silver before I could get in.

Tuesday was a busy day for both of us. First of all, we had to tackle the toilet and the final hurdle which stood between us and a more independent off grid lifestyle. The solids tank needed emptying.

This was the last of the three mental barriers we had to overcome. Firstly, we had to overcome our composting toilet preconceptions. Sally didn’t know anything about them but I was aware that they were a not terribly effective or pleasant alternative to either pump out or cassette toilets.

Much of what I had learned was based on articles and blogs I had read about models which mixed but solids and liquids. As far as I could ascertain, they were both bulky and ineffective. Owner intervention was often required to get them to work properly or at all.

All composting toilets are not equal though, and I couldn’t find a bad word either written or said about the Airhead model which was supposedly easy to operate and almost completely odour free.

Hurdle number two was actually forcing ourselves to use one after, for me, half a decade of refusing to use one for anything other than liquids. The reality was that the Airhead is both easy to use and mess free.

The third and final hurdle was overcoming our squeamishness at having to take out what we put in. Daily emptying of the liquids bottle isn’t a problem at all. We’ve been used to doing that with our cassette. Empting the liquids bottle is even easier than a cassette though. It’s lighter because there is less liquid to cart about – just over a day’s use for both of us – but the container is also almost completely odour free, especially now that we add the suggested spoonful or two of sugar to the container after it’s been emptied.

The routine we didn’t look forward to was emptying the solids container. If you’ve ever stood close to a boat when the pump out toilet holding tank is emptied, or ever had the dubious pleasure of standing inches away from a hand held toilet cassette while up to twenty litres of foul smelling lumpy water spews into a fetid open drain, you’ll understand why we weren’t looking forward to the prospect of scooping out a bucket full of mixed faeces and toilet paper.

As with most worries in life, the anticipation was far worse than the event. In fact, in this case, the event was very much a non-event.

Technically, legally in fact, we should have asked the landowner’s permission to bury a bucket full of solids. I have to confess that we didn’t. We didn’t have the first idea who to ask. The lightly wooded area just off the towpath probably belonged to CRT but I wouldn’t know who to contact there in order to make the request.

We didn’t ask permission, but we were very careful. I dug a six inch deep, two feet square hole, then rather nervously looked over Sally’s shoulder as she removed the bucket lid. What an anti-climax!

The liquid and solid separation reduces the amount of liquid in the solids tank in the first place, then the constantly running fan eliminates the rest. The bulk of the bucket’s contents was much reduced and largely odourless toilet tissue. The rest, and there wasn’t much of it, was little more than soil, even after just a week’s use.

After what seemed like an eternity Sally had the cleaned solids bucket back under the toilet. She told me that she could have done the job much quicker with a bigger scoop than the one I gave her. Personally I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. What do you think?

Sally complained that the poo scoop I gave her wasn't big enough

Sally complained that the poo scoop I gave her wasn’t big enough

While Sally was busy putting the toilet back together, I neatly covered what little waste had come out of the tank. There were no chemicals to poison the soil and no unsightly evidence to mar the landscape.

I think, I hope, that now composting toilets actually work, and now models like the Airhead are compact enough to fit in the smallest narrowboat spaces, more and more boat owners will consider this more environmentally friendly and far less smelly alternative to both cassette and pump out toilets.

With our day’s toilet duties out of the way we focussed on some long overdue boat maintenance.

The first job, one which we should have completed before mooring at the busiest spot of the best attended inland waterways boat show of the year, was to remove part of the clearly displayed adhesive graphic containing the boat’s index number.

The graphic has the index number, 62241, in large white numbers to the right of the CRT swan logo over the lettering “Canal & River Trust”. Suspiciously, the “C” and the “&” had either fallen off or, more likely, been removed by a half-witted passer-by. We spent two days on our extortionately priced mooring next to a towpath used by hundreds of show visitors proudly displaying a licence obtained from the “anal river trust”. Fortunately, no one commented on it.

Next, Sally lightly sanded the chipped and scraped paintwork on the rear hatch surround, the step down into the engine room and the front deck before giving all the prepared surfaces a fresh coat of Toplac Mauritius Blue. While Sally was busy beautifying the cabin I tried to undo some of the damage I did on the roof when I painted the boat three years ago.

Painting the cabin was a laborious process. By the time I started on the roof the novelty had well and truly worn off. I just wanted to finish the job, leave the hot and fume filled paint tent and get on with some paid work. I started to cut corners.

In a moment of carelessness, I inadvertently ran a brush full of cream gloss over the brass base of one of the roof’s four mushroom vents. Rather than clean the wet paint off I just covered the rest of the base, and then painted the other three bases so they matched. They’ve always looked a bit of a mess so their return to brassy brightness was long overdue.

With the aid of a sharp scraper, several sheets of sandpaper, half a tin of Brasso and four hours hard labour, the mushroom vents looked good as new.

The following day, after forty eight hours of welcome solitude, we headed north towards Foxton. The Leicester Line summit pound is twenty miles of tranquility, rarely spoiled by the intrusive roar of roads or railways or the drone of aircraft overhead.

The canal twisted through the agricultural landscape, often beneath a canopy of ash, field maple and hawthorn. Cream coloured hawthorn blossom swirled around the boat and formed a thin carpet over the still water.

I usually leave my 12” high stainless steel chimney upright over its collar when we’re cruising but whenever we cruise along narrow stretches of canal with low hanging foliage, or through tunnels where I’m likely to have to squeeze past passing boats moving the boat and, more importantly, the chimney dangerously close to the tunnel wall, I take the chimney down and store it in the well deck.

The shallow summit pound meant that James, with a draught of two feet six inches, was often dragging his bottom through the canal bottom’s silt. The faster a boat goes, the more its stern digs into the water so the only solution was to ease back on the Morse control, relax and enjoy the scenery.

We turned on to the Welford Arm for the half hour cruise to the water point in Welford. There’s also an Elsan point for those unfortunate enough to have to use one. With our recently adopted regime of emptying the Airhead’s liquid tank every morning, we were able to smile and pass it by.

With the water tank full we turned in the tight winding hole next to the water point, made tighter still by a freshly painted boat moored in the winding hole next to a wet dock on the offside, then pulled over on the nearby visitor moorings before walking half a mile to the village shop to stock up with essentials.

On the way back we sat for half an hour in Welford’s peaceful Pocket Park to eat a shop bought lunch of corned beef and pickle baps washed down with bottles of mineral water.

We left the Welford Arm, turned right towards Foxton, negotiated the fender damaging close confines of Husbands Bosworth tunnel (see below) then pulled over close to bridge 51 with a stunning view of Kicklewell Spinney opposite nestling on the slopes of the Laughton Hills.


The view of Kicklewood Spinney from our mooring

The view of Kicklewood Spinney from our mooring

And that, apart from a two hour cruise to Foxton to fill our water tank, is where we stayed until today.

It’s the perfect spot to moor if you want to get away from it all. In four days just three dog walkers have passed us. There’s another boat two hundred metres away but it’s hidden behind a bend so out of sight is out of mind. We’ve seen the elderly reclusive owner twice a day when he’s taken his equally elderly collie for a run on the hillside opposite.

The hill up to Kicklewell Spinney is perfect for exercising two hyperactive spaniels… if we can reach it without mishap.

Yesterday, as usual, we crossed the bridge using a footpath through waist high grass over bridge 51 before stopping at a stile over a barbed wire fence where the footpath crosses a usually empty field to another stile and then onto the hill next to the spinney.

The field on this occasion had a single and rather unhappy looking cow standing on the footpath facing us two hundred metres away. We could see a herd of thirty cows in the adjacent field. As we stood and watched, the lonely cow walked to the fence close to the herd, tried to jump the barbed wire strands, failed, turned round, then returned to the field centre.

Because I used to be a boy scout, and because my eyesight isn’t what it used to be and perhaps because I’m not very bright, I thought I would do the right thing by trying to guide the cow towards a nearby gate leading back into the right field.

Knowing that dogs sometimes anger normally placid cows, I left Sally, Charlie and Daisy behind the safety of the stile, climbed over, then walked towards the cow waving my arms and making my best John Wayne cattle herding noises.

I was about fifty metres from the cow before noticing that, rather than bulging udders nestling between its back legs, it displayed a rather impressive pair of testicles. A few hesitant steps further forward, I noticed that the “cow” had lowered its head and was looking at me rather menacingly.

I used to run competitively but it’s been thirty years since I’ve done any serious training. I wish I had a stopwatch with me though. I think the hundred metre dash back to Sally and the dogs was a personal best.

The dogs had to make do with a trot along the towpath for the rest of the day. Sally’s been back to the hill this morning. When she came back she told me disdainfully that I can now safely leave the boat.

On Board Electrics For Continuous Cruisers

Let me start by admitting that electricity in general and electrical systems on boats completely baffle me. However I know what I need to know to ensure that I have plenty of the precious stuff for weeks or months at a time when I’m disconnected from the national grid. I thought a description of my system and the way we use it might be useful to you.

If you want to gain a good basic knowledge of narrowboat electrical systems, there are two excellent articles already on this site. Both were written by Tim Davis, owner of Onboard Solar, the inland waterway network’s most prolific solar panel system installer. I’ve linked to is articles and to other useful resources at the end of this section.

Let me explain first what we use on board and how often we use it. Then I’ll tell you how many batteries we have on board to store the electricity we generate and how we recharge them.

Charger, MPPT controller and inverter

Charger, MPPT controller and inverter

I think we probably use more power than many boat owners but we have a robust system in place so we’re happy with what we use.

As with all narrowboats, our essential on board electrics are 12v. Essential electrics include all internal and external lights, the water, shower and bilge pumps and, the biggest continuous draw on board, our 12v Shoreline fridge.

Our fridge is on twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year. Some boaters only have their fridge running when they’re cruising, some use them only during the summer months, and some don’t use a fridge at all. We don’t live afloat in order to make our lives as difficult or as miserable as possible so we make sure that life on board is as comfortable as we can make it. A basic requirement for us is having a constantly working fridge.

Another constant draw is my laptop. It’s on every day of the week from 5am to 9pm. Sally also has a laptop which is on for two to three hours each day. We have a 230v television, usually running for three hours a day. The only other appliance we use regularly on the boat is my Magimix Citz Nespresso coffee machine. The coffee pods are expensive and the 1,710w machine is, in theory, too powerful to run through the boat’s inverter, but it makes wonderful cappuccinos and seems to work OK though the inverter. I used to have half a dozen a day when I was working when we were plugged in to the national grid, but now I’m a poor itinerant boat owner, one a day is the limit.

At this time of the year, we don’t have the boat’s cabin lights on at all but all of the lights have now been changed to LEDs so they draw very little power.

We have twelve 230v double sockets inside the boat. There’s often a phone or two, Kindles and camera and torch batteries plugged in to charge during the day.

All of the boat’s 12v electrical items are powered directly from the DC charge stored in the batteries. All 230v devices and appliances need AC so have to be powered through the boat’s 1600w inverter. The inverter draws power itself. Ours is on from 5am to 9pm.

The electricity needed to power everything on the boat is stored in the leisure bank of batteries. There are four 160ah AGM batteries in this bank plus a separate 110ah battery reserved exclusively to start the boat’s engine.

Before the battery bank charge depletes to a level at which the batteries will suffer damage, they need to be charged to top them up.

My boat has two different ways of doing this. The method which all narrowboats use is via the engine’s alternator. My Mercedes has a single 90amp alternator.

When I first ventured out of the marina on my boat I didn’t have a clue when or for how long to charge my batteries. Purely as a result of guesswork I used to run the engine for a couple of hours a day if I wasn’t cruising. I knew I hadn’t run the engine for long enough if the batteries ran down to such a low level that the 12v lights or pumps would fail.

My on board power management regime improved enormously when I had a Smartgauge battery monitor fitted. The digital display on the bedroom side of the bulkhead between the bedroom and engine room shows me at a glance what charge remains in the battery bank. I check the display half a dozen times a day. If the remaining capacity drops too low, I run the engine.

Although the battery monitor told me the state of charge when I had it fitted, I couldn’t understand why I was running the engine sometimes for four or five hours in order to get the batteries anywhere near the maximum capacity.

I asked Dave Renolds, Calcutt Boats’ resident marine electrician to identify the problem.

He increased the size of the cable carrying the charge from the alternator to the batteries, rerouted it so that the cable didn’t circle the engine bay a couple of times before reaching the batteries, and also removed three or four unnecessary joins. Finally, he tested everything to see how much of a charge my 90amp alternator was producing. Here are the results;

Engine       Battery        Alternator

Revs            Voltage       Amps

500                13.6            2

700                13.1            20

1000              13.1            31

1200              13.0            42

1400             12.9             52 

1500             12.9            57


Alternator control voltage 14.3V

wiring voltage drop 280mA @ 58A


Even with the improvements he made, at idle, on my engine idle is 500rpm, the alternator produces just 2amps. Given that my fridge draws more power than that I was running the engine for no benefit at all. At the other end of the scale 1500rpm, my normal cruising speed, produces 57amps.

If I want to charge my batteries now when I’m moored I always make sure that my engine is running at 1500 rpm. This is rarely an issue but it caused me some difficulty at Crick when I was moored nose to tail with other boats. My engine is quite smoky so the owner of the boat behind me complained that I was filling his boat with fumes. I had to stop the engine. Fortunately we weren’t moored there for long enough to cause a problem,

Thankfully, the alternator isn’t the only string to my battery charging bow. I also have a 300w solar array fitted by Tim Davis of Onboard Solar two years ago. The three 100w solar panels plus an MPPT controller work their magic all year round tirelessly harvesting free electricity. They allow me to stay on pleasant moorings for days at a time with little assistance from the engine to keep the batteries topped up. In fact, I often only have to run the engine for long enough to produce hot enough hot water for a couple of quick showers and a bowl full of water for the dishes.

We’ve been off grid now for two months. The lowest the leisure bank’s capacity has fallen in that time was this afternoon when it dropped to 92% after a day moored against a tree shaded towpath in continuous heavy rain. The solar panels are very good, but they aren’t miracle workers. They had a day off.

There you are. This is a far from technical guide to narrowboat electrics but maybe now that you know more about our electrical usage, storage capacity and charging regime, you’ll have more of an idea what you need when the time comes to buy or upgrade your own boat.

Useful Resources

Waterways World electrical audit – Calculate how much power you will need on your own boat.

Narrowboat Electrics – Batteries

Narrowboat Electrics – Generators and Inverters

Narrowboat Electrics – Solar Power

The Downside of Over Plating Your Boat

I had a little accident on Wednesday. It was just one of those things which happen all the time when you’re cruising, but which happen more often if, like me, you have an over plated cabin.

In November 2011 I had a new steel cabin fitted over the top of the original leaking and partially rotten wooden top. I wanted to keep the cabin’s beautiful internal Parana pine cladding, so over plating was the best option if I wanted to weatherproof the cabin without disturbing the inside too much.

The over plating was very successful, but there have been a few drawbacks.

  1. I now effectively have two cabins, one on top of the other. After the new steel was fitted I had to have the windows, which had been removed prior to the boat being taken away to have the steel work done, refitted in the new steel. Once the windows were fitted, I then needed to bridge the gap between the original cabin window frames and the windows in their new steel frames. A two inch hardwood frame was built around each window to hide the gap.The new frames look neat and tidy but they prevent my hopper windows from opening. We now can’t have any windows open at all.We’re considering replacing all of the windows. They are thirty eight years old and very draughty. However, because of the potential additional fitting and remedial work caused by the internal frames installed three years ago, I think the cost might be prohibitive.
  2. The new steel, weighing somewhere between one and a half and two tonnes, has unbalanced the boat. The centre of gravity is now much higher than it should be so the boat rocks much more than it used to when walking along the gunwale.
  3. The new cabin has reduced the width of the gunwale by 50%. The original 5” wide “path” around the outside of the boat was quite easy to walk along and useful to use to get from one end of the boat to the other without having to go through the cabin. Now, the gunwale is half the width, I have to make sure that I grip the cabin’s top rail firmly with both hands to prevent an unwanted bath.
  4. Because the cabin now extends a couple of inches closer to the gunwale’s outside edge, the cabin is more at risk of catching solid objects when squeezing through tunnels with uneven walls.On Tuesday as I was making my way through Husband Bosworth’s 1,170 yard tunnel I had to pull over to squeeze past an approaching boat. Although I always slow down to tick over whenever passing a boat in such a tight space, the boat was still moving enough to snap my starboard rear fender hanger as it caught a protruding brick. An extra couple of inches would have saved the day. It’s the story of my life.
  5. Because of the additional weight, the boat now has a slightly deeper draught than before. I don’t know how much exactly, but I think the hull is now sitting two inches further in the water. I’ve been able to rectify the problem slightly at the rear of the boat by removing over two hundred pounds of ballast bars from the engine room bilge but there’s not much I can do about the ballast in the cabin bilge.
  6. The additional layer over the cabin means that if I have any work done necessitating cutting through the roof, the work generally takes longer so is more expensive.

On the whole I am delighted with the over plating. The boat now looks much younger than thirty eight and I’m now much warmer and dryer than I was when I moved on board in 2010. However, none of the problems caused by the additional steel occurred to me when I thought of having it done. If you are considering doing something similar to your own boat, you’re now a step ahead of me.



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 June, August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still available. In June just Friday 5th and Tuesday 9th are available. August onwards is still relatively free. 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 recent discovery day attendees Steve and Kathy Hammond…

“Paul provided all the information we needed – what to bring, how to find the marina etc. I would emphasise the need for waterproofs – if it is raining there is no escape!

We are considering whether a narrowboat would be right for us as a holiday/touring base in a couple of years and Paul helped us with just about everything we needed to know in making our decision – selecting, purchasing, maintaining, costs, regulations, driving, etiquette and much more. Having never been on a narrowboat before we started the day with some trepidation; we both ended the day driving his 62’ boat in with reasonable skill and confidence whilst tackling strong winds, locks, tight bends, and a fair amount of traffic in some places. This says much about Paul’s calm instruction and willingness to help, especially when the inevitable mistakes happened.

A great day; as well as learning lots it really brought home to us the main reason for buying a boat – either to live on or escape to – being able to put away the stresses of daily life and travel and stay in beautiful, peaceful countryside where relaxation is pretty much compulsory.

We would definitely recommend an instruction day with Paul to anyone thinking of owning a narrowboat, whether for leisure or as a home. Anyone thinking of buying a boat should take one of his courses – you will learn so much and could avoid making a costly mistake.”

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.

24th May 2015

Upgrading an elderly narrowboat – If you’re thinking of buying an older boat, this comprehensive list of what I’ve done to my thirty eight year old floating home may give you some ideas.

17th May 2015

Composting toilets – The eco friendly method of disposing of your on board waste is now becoming a viable alternative to cassette and pump out toilets

10th May 2015

Engine room leaks – My winning battle against leaks at the back end of the boat and more tales from our leisurely cruise of the Warwick Ring

3rd May 2015

Engine room storage space – If you haven’t decided which style stern narrowboat is right for you, look at the tools and equipment I can shoehorn in to my traditional stern engine room

26th April 2015

Kingswood Junction to Hopwas – Week two of the journey as we head through squallid Birmingham into beautiful and wooded Staffordshire

19th April 2015

A cruise from Braunston to Kingswood Junction – My account of the route, the sights and the occasional problem along the way

8th April 2015

Following on from last week’s newsletter, here’s a guide for you if you are thinking of continuously cruising the network. This is information you need to know if you don’t plan to have a home mooring.

29th March 2015

You need a licence to cruise the waterways of England and Wales but with a number of different licences and options which do you choose? This post tells you what you need to know.

22nd March 2015

Three years since we last painted our hull so this week we had the dubious pleasure of taking the boat out of the water to do it again.

15th March 2015

Five live aboard case studies – I added four new case studies to the site and updated my own which I had written three years previously

8th March 2015

Water pumps and security – Bits and bobs from a life afloat

1st March 2015

Narrowboat ownership on a shoestring – How to cut your boat ownership costs

22nd February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 2 – More great 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.



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.

pearley - Monday,1 June, 2015


I see you have a single alternator so presumably have some sort of split charge system. There is no mention of the voltage drop across this. Some blocking diode systems can be quite high resulting in your batteries never receiving a proper charge. Do you have any form of advanced charging regulator?


Paul Smith - Tuesday,2 June, 2015

You should know better than to ask me questions like that Pete. You might as well have asked me a question in Mandarin. I know that I have a split charge system which works pretty well but the rest of it is a mystery to me. All I know is that it works!


Stanley - Saturday,13 June, 2015

pearley said

I see you have a single alternator so presumably have some sort of split charge system. There is no mention of the voltage drop across this. Some blocking diode systems can be quite high resulting in your batteries never receiving a proper charge. Do you have any form of advanced charging regulator? 

Perhaps I can help with that question, you are correct pearley, there can be more than a one volt drop across a diode and they do vary in quality so if using a diode split charge system it is important to make sure that the engine is running with enough revs to produce a high enough voltage (and current) from the alternator. My boat has an old slow revving two cylinder engine so I have two alternators, the one serving the starter battery is a 75 amp and the one serving the domestic batteries is a 160 amp. In order to achieve good charge voltages at tick over which is a chuggy 250 revs (ish) I have a nine inch pulley on the crank for the starter alternator belt and a fourteen inch pulley for the larger domestic battery alternator. Pulley sizes can be changed on either the engine crank or the alternator itself to help as required (small pulley on the alternator and large on the engine crank) but in my experience twin alternators along with an Adverc charge management unit offer the best all round solution. Adverc battery management units are not cheap but are very effective and extremely reliable although I must admit I’m not actually using one at the moment. As for monitoring, I have a Victron battery monitor installed which allows me to view the voltages and also the charge/discharge current on the system which permits the non-technical boater to sleep safe in the knowledge that the fridge will not stagger to a halt overnight thereby causing a situation involving either warm beer or soured milk for the morning tea.


pearley - Saturday,13 June, 2015

Stanley, the point I was getting too was that Paul’s electric system is OK for the summer months when he is getting a healthy dose of free solar to charge his batteries but I suspect that they may be undercharged during the winter months if he continued to live off grid. As he is going to be plugged in for the worst part of the winter things will probably be OK but, should he bite the bullet and cut his line with dry land, he should!d this k about improving his charging system.

Whilst advanced charge regulators may have a part to play in this, they are not suitable for a lot of modern, high output alternators. My Beta 43 has a 175 amp which regulates between 14.4 and 14.8 volts. I imagine that many other engine manufacturers have similar setups. Using an advanced charge  regulator ould be rather pointless on these.


Stanley - Sunday,14 June, 2015

Winter months definitely neccesitate an increase in ‘engine time’ in my experience, as for charge voltage and alternator outputs I think a lot depends on the particular batteries in use and would be inclined to defer to the manufacturer’s recomendations. My personal experience is limited to my own system and those used by a few friends, one of them swears by his adverc and 2 volt traction batteries which require 15 volts to charge. Horses for courses ? 🙂 


Paul B - Sunday,14 June, 2015

Wouldn’t it be great if one of the canal mags did a proper ‘bench test’ of battery charging methods? I mean real life stuff !!

Our share boat Beta 43 operation notes said you should run for 6 (yes six) hours a day to charge up. Yet we trashed a set of batteries in the first year!

When spec’ing my own boat I took the trouble to check with Beta … they said a charge controller (I mentioned Sterling A2B or alternator controller) is not necessary as ‘modern’ alternators regulate as per Pete’s post above. Two hours should do it to fully charge. Oh, and BTW if you modify the alternator then say goodbye to your warranty !

But as I’m an ex-engineer… I took the trouble to check the charging output.

Imagine my frustration when I have a 65% state of charge (sat on a offline mooring on the lower GU) and the alternator is only putting out 35A at 800rpm. Increase the revs to 1500 … no difference. So a 175A alternator on a 35% discharged bank (of 720Ahr) runs at 20% efficiency. There has to be something to address this without overheating the batteries?

Does anyone out there have a modern(ish) setup that uses a advanced regulator (or not) and achieves better efficiencies in charging?

I believe this is a serious matter … many many boats are running engines just to charge their batteries. Much wasted energy, money and noise.



GM - Monday,15 June, 2015

Paul B said
Wouldn’t it be great if one of the canal mags did a proper ‘bench test’ of battery charging methods? I mean real life stuff !!

Our share boat Beta 43 operation notes said you should run for 6 (yes six) hours a day to charge up. Yet we trashed a set of batteries in the first year!

When spec’ing my own boat I took the trouble to check with Beta … they said a charge controller (I mentioned Sterling A2B or alternator controller) is not necessary as ‘modern’ alternators regulate as per Pete’s post above. Two hours should do it to fully charge. Oh, and BTW if you modify the alternator then say goodbye to your warranty !

But as I’m an ex-engineer… I took the trouble to check the charging output.

Imagine my frustration when I have a 65% state of charge (sat on a offline mooring on the lower GU) and the alternator is only putting out 35A at 800rpm. Increase the revs to 1500 … no difference. So a 175A alternator on a 35% discharged bank (of 720Ahr) runs at 20% efficiency. There has to be something to address this without overheating the batteries?

Does anyone out there have a modern(ish) setup that uses a advanced regulator (or not) and achieves better efficiencies in charging?

I believe this is a serious matter … many many boats are running engines just to charge their batteries. Much wasted energy, money and noise.


There is this mythical idea that batteries will take as much charge as you can give them. That is untrue, the process of recharging is a chemical process that if you rush it will rip bits off the plates and overheat the batteries, boil. Having a 175Amp alternator when the batteries are only capable of safely taking a charge rate of say 35A does not make sense. If you have true deep drain batteries, ie traction type batteries they will initially take a high charge rate, but will still slow down as the level of charge increases. As for a full charge in two hours it could be possible but would very much depend on the battery type and size but unlikely with a sealed battery. My opinion for what it is worth.


NB Badger Sett - Monday,15 June, 2015

Hi Paul

Slightly off the alternator topic, but relevant to the last part of your post where you said I believe this is a serious matter … many many boats are running engines just to charge their batteries. Much wasted energy, money and noise’

I don’t post all that often, but do pop up occasionally when topics get towards solar panels. Yes I’m a bit biased as they work so well for us, but I’m surprised I don’t see more about with panels and add to that a decent amount of panels rather than what I’d consider a token amount where there is some benefit, but could do better. (Those last few words remind me of my old school reports). Anyway I digress and will move on.

Prior to getting our solar panels we ran the engine for three hours a day that may have been as part of cruising, moored up or a combination of the two. We are continuous cruisers and average an hour a day cruising throughout the year that could see us do one hour a day, or seven hours and moor up for a week or somewhere in between. So I consider my saving for having our solar panels to be the three hours a day that we used to run the engine minus our average one hour cruising so a cost of two hours engine running. I work on our engine using 1.5 ltrs an hour and a diesel cost of £1.10 and whilst it works for us all year round the better months for the panels are March to September so I’ll just use this period of time as whilst we’re happy to adapt our lifestyle in the low light months others may not. So, 2 hours engine running a day x 1.5 ltrs of diesel an hour x a diesel cost of £1.10 per ltr x 213 days (roughly seven months) equals an engine running cost of £702.90. Now remember, our saving is larger than this as we live with them year round. So a saving of £700 a year, more than likely more, with solar panels.

As to our setup, we’ve got 3 x 195w panels that with mppt controller and fitting cost us £2,200. (In a recent post another site user had just been quoted about £1,500 for a 600w setup so there are cheaper options out there than what we went for) We’ve been living aboard full time now for two and a half years so getting towards a point where they will have paid for themselves. For us in our situation, it was a no brainer that has actually worked better than we actually expected. Battery wise, we’ve got 4x110amp standard leisure batteries that are about three years old. In 2014 we only ran the engine in addition to our cruising for about 27 hours (battery charging/washing machine) that would have been in November/January and maybe a few more if we hadn’t gone home in December.

Personally for ourselves, I wouldn’t want less than 600w of panels as it wouldn’t provide a year round solution, but power usage is very much a personal preference and as such this type of setup may not work for others. Whilst very biased towards solar panels, I’ve tried to be fair in how I’ve presented our setup and reasonings and hope it is of use to some.




GM - Monday,15 June, 2015

It does surprise me that more boats CC & Leisure do not have solar panels.

I have 300 watts which during the summer supplies all I need when out. However the more important time is the winter when Clarence sits for six months on her mooring, the solar panels are sufficient to keep the batteries fully charged and healthy without having to pay shoreline prices for electricity and go up to make sure the meter has not used it all.


John456 - Sunday,19 July, 2015

A contentious topic and am yet to fully understand the way the systems on our boat are controlled. 

A Beta 43 with two standard alternators small for starter and large 175amp for house and bow thruster with some connection between them. 

Have, had well still have but not now connected, an Adverc regulator and that was said to be the cause of burning out the original 5 year old 175 amp alternator after only 300hrs of operation. Also in talking around since, Adverc do not get a good recommendation said to be to be cause of a number of problems.

We also have an automatic fire extinguisher system in the engine bay but as the charging alarm went we stopped before any fire, just lots of smoke.  Of course stopped in the middle of the canal with no immediate access to the tow path to tie up.  Was able to pole a bit and a kind person then gave us a tow to a suitable spot.  Just as well were not on a river. 

Adverc not now connected and assured if reconnected would invalidate any warranty on the new alternator.

Of course as not the starter alternator not covered by RCR, and they were just not interested in providing any assistance apart from giving the name of an engineer who we had already used who was able to help as still in his coverage area.

When we get back to the boat will be having the complex electrics looked at again!  We have most things at 230v so we use quite a bit of electric power and are gas free, use diesel for cooking which is good.



GM - Sunday,19 July, 2015

John456 said
A contentious topic and am yet to fully understand the way the systems on our boat are controlled. 

A Beta 43 with two standard alternators small for starter and large 175amp for house and bow thruster with some connection between them. 

Have, had well still have but not now connected, an Adverc regulator and that was said to be the cause of burning out the original 5 year old 175 amp alternator after only 300hrs of operation. Also in talking around since, Adverc do not get a good recommendation said to be to be cause of a number of problems.

We also have an automatic fire extinguisher system in the engine bay but as the charging alarm went we stopped before any fire, just lots of smoke.  Of course stopped in the middle of the canal with no immediate access to the tow path to tie up.  Was able to pole a bit and a kind person then gave us a tow to a suitable spot.  Just as well were not on a river. 

Adverc not now connected and assured if reconnected would invalidate any warranty on the new alternator.

Of course as not the starter alternator not covered by RCR, and they were just not interested in providing any assistance apart from giving the name of an engineer who we had already used who was able to help as still in his coverage area.

When we get back to the boat will be having the complex electrics looked at again!  We have most things at 230v so we use quite a bit of electric power and are gas free, use diesel for cooking which is good.


Hi John,


I am sorry to hear of the problems and glad you and family came out unscathed.

I gather the boat is a newish build, and that the Adverc was added to the original installation. Who installed the Adverc and set it up?


pearley - Monday,20 July, 2015

Surprised that your engineer fitted an Adverc to the Beta 175 amp alternator. Beta state it is not necessary as the alternator already charges at up to 14.8 volts. They don’t even recommend their own advanced regulator.


richardhula - Monday,20 July, 2015

pearley said
Surprised that your engineer fitted an Adverc to the Beta 175 amp alternator. Beta state it is not necessary as the alternator already charges at up to 14.8 volts. They don’t even recommend their own advanced regulator.

Adding an external regulator such as Adverc or Sterling has other advantages as well as being able to customise absorb charge voltage. They provide a float mode when batteries are fully charged to save excessive gassing and stresses so caused on long cruises. Alternator and battery temp monitoring and control is an option as well.


GM - Monday,20 July, 2015

To often bits are added to electrical systems without considering the whole system and that can lead to problems. Beta tend to provide a complete package and have a good name so like Pete I am surprised that an engineer added an Adverc or any other external regulator.


Price - Tuesday,21 July, 2015

I’m coming out in support of solar and generator. I’ve 3x 110ah batteries at the back of the boat which are charged by 2x 100w semi flexible solar panels and a good charger when I’m running the LPG generator for work – probably 4 hours most days. My biggest drain was the fridge. It’s only 40w but drawing that 24/7 used half of two of the batteries a day, and when one doesn’t want them to drop much below 50% that’s a lot. Running my engine is not an option as it’s a Massey Ferguson engine and sounds like, funnily enough, a tractor. Also the alternator is pathetic and would take most of the day to fully charge the batteries.

The two solar panels can have the batteries fully charged by mid morning on a sunny day, but the fridge can have drained them below 50% by the next morning if I’m not careful about other usage. There’s no space for more batteries out back without a major refit of the lockers and deck (a job for another year).

So I’ve just implemented my solution. A new 100w semi flexible solar panel on the roof at the front, feeding a new 110ah battery in a front locker via a basic controller, and a relocated fridge feeding off just that battery. It appears to work a treat at present. It was a doddle to install, just connect panel to controller, controller and fridge to battery, 15amp inline fuse to fridge. Only drawback is having the fridge in the office but needs must. The voltage drop on the cable was too great leaving it up the other end in the galley. I could always use thicker cable one day – need to look into that.

I can always put the portable charger onto that battery if I need to, or there’s space for another battery. In winter I’ll most likely use a cool box outside again as an £1 bag of ice in it lasts for days when it’s cooler out.

Cost around £220, Solar panel £120, battery £80, controller £10 plus some cable. A couple of hours to run cables through the roof, wire it all up etc. A lot just to keep things cold but it’s nice to have ice for the odd G&T.

I’m confident that I will barely need the generator to top up the batteries during summer months. I’ve now fitted LED lights throughout the boat, have a 12v tv and 600w inverter used occasionally to run the pc when I don’t need the rest of the engraving machinery going. They seem to draw very little.


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