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2015 07 12 Newsletter – River Thames Cruising

Our sedate journey continues. We’ve been on our Oxford and Thames cruise for two weeks now and are now forty miles from our starting point as the crow flies. By boat the journey is a little more arduous. We’ve totalled an impressive sixty five miles and thirty seven locks during thirty nine engine running hours. Our cruise isn’t quick, but it’s plenty quick enough. There’s just so much to do other than boating. On Sunday we had to dodge frequent heavy showers to walk a mile and a half into Banbury town centre for a basket of fiery chicken wings in Ye Old Auctioneer in Parson St. I left Sally to her own devices while I marched through pouring rain to B & Q to the north of the town. Given my recent engine room mishap I thought some proactive care was required to prevent my knob from falling off. My Morse control should have three bolts holding it in place. One had fallen off and another was missing a nut. So much maintenance to do when you’re home spends most of the time vibrating everything on board apart. With a packet of bolts for me and a complete new wardrobe for Sally, we left a too hectic town centre for the tranquillity of our rural mooring. Or so we thought. We were moored on the outskirts of Banbury on a long and mainly empty stretch of easy to moor against Armco barrier. Another boat was moored sixty two feet in front of us. I know the distance was exactly sixty two feet because I measured the distance when, at 8pm, a single male boat owner took great pains to ignore miles of spacious moorings before ramming his boat into the space between us and the boat in front. He actually had to push the fenders of my boat and the boat in front away so he could get his boat in. Once settled, at about quarter past eight, he lifted the oldest and smokiest generator in the world off the front of his boat and then, without acknowledging either Sally or I who were sitting on our front deck, carried it to his stern, plugged it in and fired it up. The generator was then running until 10pm when I came out of our cabin, where I had to hide from its billowing smoke, and threw it in the cut. Only kidding. We went to bed and left him to it. We left Mr. Smoky Generator behind the following morning and crept slowly towards Oxford through locks both deep and shallow. Nine feet six inch deep Grants lock was followed by twelve inch deeper Kings Sutton lock. Then, just as I was coming to terms with the boat sinking into a bottomless rectangular pit, we came to diamond shaped Aynho weir lock. At just 8” deep Aynho weir lock isn’t going to break any depth records, but it might just qualify as one of the most annoying locks on the Oxford canal. Because of its odd shape it’s not possible to secure a boat in the lock, or even get on or off it easily. The boat just sits untidily at an angle as it’s buffeted by the river Cherwell’s current as the sometimes lively river crosses the lock. We stopped at Aynho Wharf at the water point, slightly confused by the “customer moorings only” signs plastered all around the single tap next to the shop. Just to make sure, I asked the lady behind the counter if the tap was a CRT service point. Her reply surprised me. “I suppose it is, but I’m sure if you’re moored outside my shop, you’ll buy something from me!” We didn’t. We stopped for the night on a single boat length of Armco next to pleasantly short grass on a towpath otherwise obscured by dense waist high stands of rhubarb-like butterbur. We wandered along the towpath kissed by the evening sun, stopping to help the crew of a poorly boat who were trying to pull their sixty feet long craft past the impenetrable butterbur to a more convenient mooring. They were hoping a passing boater would tow them to Ayno Wharf where an engineer from Tooley’s Boatyard in Banbury had arranged to meet them to repair or replace their broken starter motor. After we left them, Sally and I discussed turning our boat at the winding hole before Somerton Deep lock so we could tow their boat but, by the time we returned, an inexperienced but very willing and helpful hire boat crew had beaten us to it. We spent a pleasant evening lulled to sleep by the sound of a single industrious tractor driving farm hand who baled ten acres of hay before we woke the next morning.

An industrious farm hand bales a field of hay overnight

An industrious farm hand bales a field of hay overnight

Wednesday was a day of high drama. Somerton lock, at twelve feet deep one of the deepest on the canal network, was just a hop, skip and a jump from our previous night’s mooring. We arrived on the lock landing to find NB Yelvertoft obviously moored but rather in the way of boats queueing for the lock. The blustery wind caught me as I pulled in behind him so I nudged him gently. “Oops,” I thought, “I didn’t mean that, but serves him right for mooring in such a stupid spot!” And then I felt a real idiot when a charming and very flustered gentle man shot out of his boat to apologise for being in the way. He was in the way because his wife was having a suspected heart attack and he was waiting for an ambulance. A contractor working in the cottage garden told us that Somerton lock cottage doesn’t have suitable access for anything other than four wheel drive vehicles, so the emergency services operator informed the anxious husband that they would send a helicopter. Sally and I were just leaving the empty lock when the helicopter arrived. One of the paramedics asked us to wait so that we could help carry the loaded stretcher over the nearby field’s high fence to where the air ambulance was waiting, so we pulled over on to the lock landing beneath the lock. More haste, less speed. As I leaped off the stern to help, I knocked one of our two windlasses in the water, told Sally what I had done, then left to help the paramedics. As I ran back up the towpath towards NB Yelvertoft, the helicopter pilot vaulted the fence, tripped over a protruding lock path brick, and measured his length on the grass. As I ran past I asked him if he wanted me to call the emergency services. Apparently, air ambulance pilots don’t need a sense of humour. By the time I returned to the boat, Sally had tied the boat to the lock landing and was fishing for the missing windlass with our superb, tiny and very expensive recovery magnet. Great idea, but I must teach her to tie knots. If you’re passing Summerton lock, there’s a very good quality magnet stuck to the bottom of one of the pilings beneath the lock, no doubt next to a shiny windlass. While we were mourning the double loss, just to compound our misery, a boater waiting to come up, who stood with his arms crossed watching the helicopter landing and the scurrying medics, complained bitterly that we were inconveniencing him and his progress through the lock. Sally said something to him in Tegalo. I’m fairly sure she wasn’t wishing him a good day. We cruised gently through Upper and Lower Heyford, stopping briefly for water and a chat with David and Marilyn on NB Waka Huia. We hoped to spend an hour or two and a bottle of wine with the pair but as they had two grandchildren on board we decided to run for the hills and leave the socialising for another day. Our evening’s stop was another peaceful rural mooring, apart from the occasional train thundering past on the railway which follows the canal route quite closely from Fenny Compton down to Oxford. The following day was filled with variety. We passed Kirtlington quarry with moorings for three or four boats. We’ll stop there on the way back to explore the wooded trails around the quarry and to visit nearby Jane’s Enchanted Tea Garden. The odd café’s tables nestle among the trees next to the canal. I asked a boater at Pigeon’s lock if he could tell me anything about the café. His eyes lit up as he told me about the marvellous cakes Jane makes with ingredients from her smallholding next to the wooded café. The business is open on just fourteen days each year between April and October. Saturday 18th July will be our day. We plan on having The Big High Tea. For £10 each we can have a selection of sandwiches, a slice of any one of the ten homemade cakes on display, a scone with jam and cream, a tea or coffee and then, hopefully, a space to lay down in the shade while we recover. Just six days to go. We’re both very excited. After Pigeon’s lock, we passed Kirtlington golf course then Baker’s lock and our first taste of river cruising in this boa since I moved on board in April 2010. The waterway joins the river Cherwell for half a mile before returning to placid canal at Shipton Weir lock. According to my Pearson’s guide the cement works next to Baker’s lock is derelict so I was surprised to see the trees and the solitary narrowboat moored close to the lock covered in a thick layer of cement dust. We held our collective breath and enjoyed the brief river interlude with plenty of sharp bends. We reached the right angled turn into the electrified lift bridge at Thrupp as a rain filled squall pinned us against the towpath. Of course, as soon as we were through the bridge, the windy rain was replaced by calm sun. We managed to find a mooring in the long line of moored boats between Thrupp and Kidlington next to The Jolly Boatman. We picked up our backpacks for the mile walk into Kiddlington High Street to top up our dwindling food and wine supply, then popped in to The Jolly Boatman at 6pm to top up our tummies. We both ordered their delicious pulled pork with sweet potato chips. After our main course we looked at the desert menu. Sally decided on the sticky toffee pudding. I pointed on the menu to my choice: A selection of cheeses with oatcakes and the day’s chutney. Served with a slug of port. Sally burst out laughing. I asked her what she was laughing at. “Just don’t look at her when she brings it!” she tittered. “Look at who?” “The SLUG!” In fits of giggles she almost fell off her chair. Poor girl. I think she’s spent too long reading steamy novels. She’d mistaken slug for slag. She thought my desert was going to be served by a lady of the night, no doubt dressed in a basque, fishnet stockings and red stilettoes. Come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea. Before we left the following morning I took Charlie and Daisy for a walk. We crossed the canal bridge next to the pub and walked away from the busy road running parallel with the canal through a series of fields close to the Cherwell. The path skirted a sea or knee high yellow wheat, speckled with scarlet poppies and bordered by masses of bright blue cornflowers. We stopped for water by Duke’s lock, then quickly passed through Duke’s and Duke’s Cut locks before head west along Duke’s cut and onto the Thames. What a joy to be on the open river with plenty of water under and around us!

The empty Thames soon after joining the river from Duke's Cut

The empty Thames soon after joining the river from Duke’s Cut

We cruised serenely upstream for an hour without seeing another moving boat. At Aynsham lock I parted with £70.50 for a week’s short term licence and listened closely to the lockkeeper’s advice. The best advice he offered was about mooring availability. He described the best, and free, spots to moor immediately upstream in the next field to where a farmer was charging £10 a night. The most dubious advice was a warning about a spate of attacks on recent boats and damage costing some boat owners thousands of pounds. The assailants weren’t the expected good for nothing layabouts from local estates, but herds of cows. He told me, with a very straight face, that at this time of the year, cows are increasingly likely to try to climb onto boats to reach tasty flowers. He said that one cruiser owner reported that his rear deck cover had been destroyed by an enthusiastic bullock trying to climb on board. He glanced at Sally’s three feet wide flower filled pot sitting on our bow gas locker before suggesting that we keep our flowers inside the boat when we reach Lechlade with its cow filled fields. I’ll bear his advice in mind, but I have a feeling he was feeding us a load of old bull. Some of his suggestions may have been suspect, but his mooring advice was spot on. Once through the lock we found a vacant spot between two live aboard boats then settled down for a couple of days of doing very little. The couple from the boat in front of us returned to their boat at 5pm to be greeted very loudly by their lurcher which had been tethered next to his bankside kennel all day. They fed him by emptying a tin of dog food onto the grass. Why bother with a bowl which needs to be washed? We stayed in the same spot the following day. We packed sandwiches, a flask of coffee and two litres of water for the dogs into rucksacks, then set off on a day’s strenuous walk along the river on the Thames Path. We didn’t get very far.

Pinkhill Lock Cottage garden

Pinkhill Lock Cottage garden

We strolled along the river past Anglo Welsh’s hire boat base, crossed Pinkhill lock then stopped for a drink in the shade of a gnarled oak close to Skinner’s Island opposite fourteen million litre Farmoor reservoir. We stayed there all day listening to the excited screaming from swimmers in the icy reservoir water and the occasional burbling from passing boats. While I examined the inside of my eyelids, Sally packed her rucksack with dry twigs fallen from the tree above. I think she’s collecting kindling for the long, cold winter ahead.

A cruiser, one of the more common river craft

A cruiser, one of the more common river craft

Such variety on the Thames

Such variety on the Thames

We managed two out of three unmanned locks on Saturday without mishap, which I suppose isn’t bad for a pair of Thames virgins. The first, Pinkhill Lock, was uneventful. In fact, nothing happened at all until we realised that the very nice man who closed the gate after we entered the lock had nothing to do with the EA. He was simply a helpful Gongoozler doing his bit to further boater/walker relations by helping with the gate before continuing his dog walking. Once through the lock we enjoyed the adrenalin rush of taking hairpin bends at the dizzy speed of four miles an hour, dodging rowers, canoeists and stark raving mad swimmers before reaching Northmoor lock, the scene of the great wine glass disaster. The lock keeper’s father was on duty. His son was trying his hardest to man both Northmoor and Pinkhill locks but, courtesy of a bike tyre puncture, was stuck somewhere in between manning nothing other than his increasingly sore feet. I climbed off the boat with a centre line, looped it around a convenient bollard, and then stared vacantly at the sky with its fluffy cotton wool clouds while Sally helped the temporary keeper set the lock. I wasn’t paying attention at all, so I was a little confused when a passing cyclist looked past me, pointed at the boat and casually mentioned that something looked amiss. I looked behind me, then in a strangled squeak asked Sally and the lock keeper to drop the paddles as quickly as possible. My centre line’s loop around the bollard had jammed, holding the boat’s starboard side down as the water continued to rise. By the time I’d raced to the downstream end to let water out of the lock, the cabin was at thirty degrees and anything inside the boat not bolted down had fallen on the floor, including five of the six wine glasses from a stainless steel rack fixed to the cabin roof in the galley. We lost five cheap Tesco wine glasses and a couple of plant pots. All in all, and inexpensive lesson on the importance of constant vigilance at the fast filling Thames locks. Looking on the bright side of things, we still have one wine glass left. Sally can use it. I’ll make do with one of our coffee mugs. They hold more. We stopped very briefly on the landing beneath the lock so I could check the bilge. I had a vision of the engine being partially submerged as a result of river water flooding through an open vent as the boat was held down at an unnatural angle. The bilge was dry. With a sigh of relief we headed upstream again. The blind lead the blind at Shifford lock. Once moor the lock keeper was missing so I lead a motley group of boats into the lock: one narrowboat, two GRP cruisers, an outboard powered inflatable dingy and two rowing boats. I’ll take the opportunity now to apologise to the rowing boat crews. They were behind me in the lock so probably didn’t appreciate the diesel fumes from the engine I forgot to turn off. Sally appeared to be the most experienced Thames lock user of the half a dozen assorted boat crew gathered around the two upstream lock wheels. Given that this was the fourth Thames lock she’d seen and the first she’d tried to negotiate on her own, this turn of events was a little worrying. I daren’t offer any advice though. She still hadn’t forgiven me for trying to do a barrel roll with the boat at Northmoor. Once through the lock we had our first taste of water points Thames style. No feeble CRT water point dribble here. Thames users are busy people. They can’t afford to wait half an hour or more while their water tank slowly fills. They need a fire hose with enough pressure to lift you off your feet. In five minutes flat we had filled our tiny 350 litre tank, and most of the rest of the boat, so we escaped the withering stares of the haughty cruiser owners waiting to use the lock landing to look for a suitable mooring. Oh boy, have we found one. Nestled between two sharp bends a stone’s throw from both Chimney Meadows nature reserve and Buckland marsh we found a boat length stretch of ruler straight bank next to deep water far away from passing traffic. Not that there’s much traffic to worry about. Before we joined the Thames, I imagined a steady stream of different style and length boats jostling for space on one of the country’s busiest rivers. The reality is very different. No more than half a dozen boats have passed us in the eighteen hours we’ve been here. Most have been GRP cruisers. One was a small dingy with a powerful outboard crewed by two mischievous teenagers skipping over the choppy water at three or four times the speed limit. Fast moving boats don’t result is as much teeth gritting or fist waving as they do on the canals. The river is wide and deep so a passing boat’s wake just results in a gentle bobbing rather than a mooring stake loosening wrench. Our mooring is possibly the most peaceful spot we’ve stayed in three and a half months we’ve been cruising this year. There are no artificial sounds at all. No roads, no aircraft or even quiet conversation from passing walkers to break the hypnotic spell cast by a warm and lively breeze rustling the long grass around the camp chair where I sat quietly reading for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon. I’m going to finish this newsletter and sit there again for the rest of the day. How useful and/or entertaining was this post? Please help me continue to improve this site by casting your vote below.

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Our remote mooring close to Chimney Meadows nature reserve

Our remote mooring close to Chimney Meadows nature reserve

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’m running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still 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. Update 12th July 2015 I discovered an error on my availability calendars. Two dates weren’t showing. There are currently four dates remaining before October for shared single days,  24th, 26th, 29th and 30th July, and just 26th & 29th July and 4th August for couples and exclusive singles. If you want to book one of these dates, or see the available dates for October onwards click here. In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendees David & Geoff… “Geoff and I have had the grand dream of downsizing to the live-aboard dream for a few years. We seriously looked into it a couple of years back (when we first bought Paul’s eBook, joined his ‘Living on a Narrowboat’ site, and helped beta-test his Narrow-budget software). Paul was great at talking us through the early stages, and we even started looking at potential boats – but then Geoff’s elderly Mum moved up to live near us for additional help and support, and we had to put our plans on hold. I’ve had some experience with boats (albeit 30 years ago, on a couple of family holidays on the Kennet and Avon, and the Thames), but Geoff has only ever been on a few of our friend’s boats, and those only when moored up. It seemed a good idea therefore to spend a bit of time on a boat whist underway, before we are at a point were we can take things seriously again – and preferably with someone who knows what they’re doing as both Helmsman and an experienced liveaboarder. Both Paul and Sally were great hosts: Paul welcoming us with a cup of coffee which we sipped whilst taking an easy but incredibly useful walk through his boat – Paul sharing his experiences (good and bad) of living aboard, and showing us the very many improvements that he has made to Narrowboat James to make it an almost perfect liveaboarder. I couldn’t get over how much space and storage he’s been able to cram into a mere 48 foot cabin – and how comfortable a living space he’s created. We even got to discus the eternal boating obsessions of having enough power and water ‘off-grid’ – and the best choice of toilet whilst continuously cruising (I am totally now sold on the idea of a composter: I’ve never used a boat-loo that was so simple and pleasant!) The initial tour and live aboard advice delivered, Paul then took us out to the Helm, had us help untie, and then we headed off for a day of tuition and experience. Paul was a clear but wonderfully relaxed teacher (amazing, since he’s putting his home and his livelihood in your hands!); everything was explained in straight forward and simple terms, and we were both soon taking the tiller – safe in the knowledge that Paul was right beside us to guide and nudge us in our waterways first steps. In the first part of the day Paul covered everything you could need to know in safely handling a boat: from steering at slow speeds, judging the correct lines to take through turns and bridges, making tight turns, and passing boats and other travellers with courtesy and safety. All whilst the perfect Warwickshire countryside floated by at a sedate 2 miles an hour… After lunch, we got to spend yet more time at the tiller, honing our skills until everything began to feel almost natural – by which time we were ready to try our hands at navigating the three locks back at Calcut boats. I can’t praise Paul enough for his patience and good humoured teaching. Everything was taken at a gentle pace, and we were allowed to take the time we needed to get the real ‘feel’ of handling a boat. We both almost felt like ‘proper’ boaters by the end of the day…! If you’re thinking of buying a boat – whether as a simple weekend breakaway, or to pursue the liveaboard dream – then nothing can beat the level of experience you can gain in a whole day of sailing  with someone like Paul, who not only knows exactly what he’s doing, but is totally free and open in ensuring that knowledge is passed on. We learnt so much in our eight hours – and certainly feel a lot more confident that any future boating plans will be based on sound advice and personal experience. But the day itself was also just so much *fun* too – even aside from all that wisdom-shared; hell, we even ‘enjoyed’ the nice bit of ‘English summer’ rain that we had… 😉 Thank you Paul, and Sally – and James too. It was an honour to get such a detailed glimpse of an almost ideal life.” You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here.

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. 5th July 2015 Narrowboat spares – Why you should always carry often needed spare parts on board 28th June 2015 Narrowboat sign writing – The pros and cons of using the services of a professional sign writer compared with self applied self adhesive signs. 21st June 2015 Common lock accidents and how to avoid them – This newsletter was written in the hope that you will treat the waterways and the boats which use them with the respect they deserve. The accidents I’ve detailed were caused by lack of knowledge, lack of attention, or plain stupidity. 14th June 2015 Narowboat handling techniques for beginners – Here’s some basic advice for those new to boating 7th June 2015 Wide beam cruising restrictions – If you’re thinking of buying a bigger boat, read this article first to make sure that the restricted cruising range isn’t going to drive you mad. 31st May 2015 On board electrics for continuous cruisers – This is a breakdown of my own electrical system which works wonderfully to provide two fairly high electricity users with plenty of power for extended periods off grid. I’ve also written about the downside of having your boat’s cabin over plated. My comments are based on the work I had done in November 2011. 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.

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2015 07 05 Newsletter – Broken Belts and Emergency Repairs

We certainly aren’t going to break any records on this trip. After a late start on Monday we cruised from our mooring above Calcut Top Lock for half an hour before finding a piece of Armco just long enough for one boat which was within an easy walk of The Folly at the bottom of the Napton flight of nine locks.

I left Sally to her own devices for the evening, then strolled to the pub where I met drinking buddies Bangkok Tim and his pal Dale. We enjoyed a pint or two, maybe more, before buying a bottle of red from the pub, pausing briefly to whimper at the price, then sat on Tim’s cruiser stern enjoying the tropical evening sun and my bottle of wine, followed by a carton of methylated spirit, or “Tesco Value Rosé” as Tim preferred to call it.

Consequently I wasn’t feeling my brightest at 8am the following day when Sally, bright eyed and bushy tailed after an evening of abstinence, insisted that we fix our new vinyl graphics in place.

In all honesty, I can’t say I contributed much to the proceedings. Sally took the graphics, masking tape, credit card squeegee, Stanley knife and spray bottle of soapy water outside before carefully measuring both graphics and boat to ensure perfect placement. Meanwhile I made myself a mug of coffee, tripped over one of the dogs spilling the lot, cleaned both dog and floor, made myself another coffee and then joined Sally outside.

Sally held the graphics in place while I held my head, then she tacked the boat name in place, peeled off the backing paper and then smoothed it in place with the squeegee. My contribution was holding an empty plastic bag for the backing paper.

Sally fitting our vinyl graphics in the early morning sun

Sally fitting our vinyl graphics in the early morning sun

Twenty minutes later we, Sally, had the name and web site address in place and secure. I think we work very well as a team. I’m not sure Sally would agree.

Of course we needed to add similar graphics to the boat’s port side but we knew that the first opportunity would be once we passed Fenny Compton where the towpath switches from one side of the canal to the other.

By 10am our work for the day was done. We knew from the previous few days’ weather forecast that the temperature was going to rival the continent so we decided to do as little as humanly possible for the rest of the day.

We cruised just half a mile before finding a space among a long line of boats on the visitor moorings beneath Napton Bottom Lock. We needed an internet connection so Sally could Skype her sister, Cora, on Negros in the Philippines. I’m always in awe of the technology which allows Sally sit at our dinette inside the boat, click an icon on her laptop screen then, seconds later, start speaking to Cora six and a half thousand miles away on a tropical island in a bamboo hut at the base of an active volcano.

With the essential call made – gossip is so important – we strolled over the canal and into Napton village. Have I mentioned Napton village post office before? Even if I have, they’re worth giving another plug.

They’ve transformed a little visited village store with half empty shelves offering second rate service into a wonderful example of what can be achieved with a little character, intelligence and willingness to please. The now combined post office, grocery store, café, takeaway and village focal point is always a pleasure to visit.

We sat on a shaded bench outside the store to eat our freshly baked baguettes stuffed with local ham and tangy cheese smothered in English mustard, and sat a while longer to enjoy an ice cream each. Then, armed with a large bottle of Strongbow cider to help me endure the difficult evening ahead, ambled back to our mooring.

And that was pretty much it for the day. Once back at the boat we set up our two folding camp chairs and table under a tree on the towpath and read for the rest of the day. I roasted a Piri Piri spatchcock chicken for dinner. We eat it with thick slabs of buttered farmhouse bread washed down with pints of chilled cider.

The following morning we set off at 6am to climb Napton’s flight of nine locks in the early morning’s relative cool. By 9am we were moored above the flight under a shady ash. I spent the day reading Tom Rolt’s Narrowboat, thankful that the waterways are cleaner and more accessible these days and that the agricultural land close to the waterways is better maintained than it was in the summer of 1939 when the book was written.

After another lazy day avoiding the very welcome but unusual continental heat we were off again at 6am the next day along the south Oxford’s tortuous route between Napton and Fenny Compton.

We reached The Wharf by 9am, stopping briefly for water but too early to enjoy the popular pub’s hospitality. Not that the pub looked very inviting at that time of the morning. They had obviously enjoyed a very busy night the day before, obviously busy because of the large number of garden tables still cluttered by dirty plates and glasses.

We continued through Fenny Compton, through the village’s now roofless tunnel where the towpath switched from right to left, then moored on a straight stretch of Armco close to the head of the Claydon flight perfect for fixing the boat’s port side graphics.

Because I wasn’t in the same hungover state as Tuesday morning when Sally fixed the graphics to the starboard side, she left me to fix the remaining boat name and web site address while she cleaned the boat roof.

She came to my rescue ten minutes later when she noticed that I’d managed to crease one of the letters. She took over and left me to do what I do best, standing behind her dribbling and looking gormless.

We set off at 6am on Friday. Every day’s cruise starts with the same routine. We both have our own parts to play and function very well as a team. On a cruising day we’re both up at 6am at the latest. I make myself a mug of coffee then take it to the back of the boat with me while I prepare for travelling. I check both water and oil and top up the oil if necessary. My engine burns a little oil so I probably add half a pint for every twenty hours cruising.

Once those checks are done, and before I start the engine, I open the sea cock for my raw water cooling. As soon as that’s done I start the engine, check to make sure that the light on the control panel has gone out which indicates that the alternator has kicked in, wait for a second or two for a reassuring surge of water from the exhaust, then make sure that I have all of my cruising essentials within reach. These include the appropriate Pearson’s guide, my phone, for unnecessary email checking while I should be concentrating on the beauty of the surrounding countryside, my camera and my padded cushion for rooftop steering. I also make sure that my tiller is in place before I untie my mooring ropes. There’s nothing more embarrassing than casting off and realising I have no means of steering the boat.

Next I make sure that both centre lines are within reach of my steering position ready for when I need them. Finally, I untie bow and stern lines, make sure that the bow line is safely coiled on the bow, remove both mooring stakes or chains and then remove the stern mooring line, coil and hang it in the engine room where it’s safe from a propeller fouling accident.

By the time I’ve cast off, Sally has usually made my second coffee of the day and a plate full of breakfast toast smothered in honey. She brings both to the back of the boat where I enjoy an alfresco early morning meal, sometimes eaten as quickly as possible before the toast absorbs too much rain.

On Saturday the engine, as usual, started first time, the control panel light disappeared and I could hear a rhythmic surge of exhaust water. However, by the time I cast off I noticed that the panel light was on again.

“Strange,” I thought to myself, “I must investigate the cause some time in the very distant future.” Then, as is usual, I buried my head in the sand and forgot all about the light and any possible problems it might indicate.

Forty minutes later after negotiating the Claydon flight’s first four locks, I had to remove my head from the sand and accept that I had an immediate and pressing problem.

My boat has a very useful feature. There’s a dummy pigeon box on the roof a few feet forward of the rear hatch. Three gauges are set in the rear face, tachometer, oil pressure and temperature.

The oil pressure gauge has never worked and, to be honest, I don’t understand what oil pressure is. The other two working gauges are very useful though. After testing my speed along the canal with a couple of different phone apps and comparing the speed with the tachometer, I can use this gauge to tell how fast I’m going. The temperature gauge is even more useful.

My engine runs at seventy degrees all day long. Usually a temperature increase is an indication that I have something fouling the propeller. The temperature increase will normally be accompanied by other signs; vibration through the tiller, dark exhaust smoke, loss of steering or altered wake.

I check the gauges constantly as I’m cruising. On other boats these gauges, if the boat has them at all, are out of sight on a side panel. Having them positioned where they can be easily seen is very useful if, as was the case on Friday morning, the temperature begins to suddenly increase.

Fortunately I was able to moor between the locks without getting in the way of passing boats. I turned off the engine, then lifted a couple of deck boards to try and identify the problem. The frayed and broken belt hanging limply between water pump and alternator was a bit of a giveaway.

I considered my options. I could join RCR, but I have mixed feelings about their service. I found the one to one engine service their senior engineer, Kerry, did for me in February incredibly useful, but the office admin prior to his arrival could have been handled much better by a partially trained and not particularly bright monkey. Anyway, one of RCR’s conditions is that you can’t call them out until you’ve been a member for seventy two hours. Neither of us fancied waiting that long.

My first port of call, as usual, was Calcutt Boats. They’ve never failed to accommodate me when I’m faced with something I can’t fix myself which, as you probably know by now, is just about everything.

Calcutt Boats provided a first class service yet again. Within an hour of my call, engineer Dave Evans was with me carrying a range of belts, hoping that one of them would at least get me moving. At 17mm, my belts are larger than anything they hold in stock.

My engine isn’t the easiest of engines to work on. The front, where the belts are fitted, is just inches away from the bulkhead separating the engine room from our bedroom. Access to the belts is made even more of a challenge by the immovable steel frame I had fitted around the engine a couple of years ago to accommodate the deck boards.

Dave, slippery as an eel, easily slipped over and around all the obstacles and had the outer belt removed, the broken inner belt replaced and the outer belt refitted in under twenty minutes. He told me that the belt’s demise had been caused mainly because the water pump pulley was correctly sized at 17mm but the 17mm belt then ran onto a 13mm pulley on the alternator. I don’t know why a too small pulley has been fitted but it’s now on my very small boat rectification list.

I’ve learned another valuable lesson. I need to keep more spares on board. In addition to spare Morse cables and sections of engine hose I need to have spares for both belts. I think that with the right belts at hand, even with my very limited practical skills, I would have had a fighting chance of replacing a broken belt. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for Calcutt Boats’ swift and effective action, but calling out an engineer costing £45 an hour isn’t an effective use of my limited boating budget.

With the boat functioning perfectly again we continued our journey. Down through Claydon bottom lock, past Clattercote Wharf, through Elckington’s, Varney’s and Broadmoor locks, past Cropedy marina, built since my last cruise down here, my first ever cruise in August 2010, and then into Cropedy. We stopped for half an hour on the water point to top up, and for a quick dash to nearby Bridge Stores for a lunchtime sandwich and ice cream, eaten on the front deck in the hot early afternoon sun.

We stopped for the day half a mile south of Cropedy, well away from the long lines of moored boats on the outskirts of the village, many of them in a poor state of repair and unlicensed.

Our tranquil mooring was enhanced by a heard of forty strapping bullocks cavorting in the water twenty feet away from the boat. We hoped they wouldn’t get close enough to where we sat at our table on the front deck tucking in to a tasty beef salad.

The next morning we finally reached Banbury. The journey from Calcutt to Banbury by car usually takes twenty five minutes. Our rather more leisurely cruise took six days.

Memories of the south Oxford canal from my first ever cruise five years ago are bitter sweet. I remember the peace, tranquillity and glorious countryside, but I can’t forget the stress and anxiety I often felt navigating on a narrow and unfamiliar canal in an unfamiliar boat.

I lost the boat at the first lock I came to. I “secured” the boat with my best wrap-the-rope-several-times-around-the-bollard knot then left the boat while I set the lock. Thousands of gallons of fast flowing water from the rapidly emptying lock made short work of my knot. The boat was washed across the canal to the water point on the opposite side. Two laughing and obviously experienced boaters brought it back for me.

All the bridge holes seemed too narrow to get the boat through, I was constantly using my pole to push the boat away from reeds where I had drifted after stopping to allow boats to pass. Banbury was particularly traumatic.

There’s a lift bridge in the middle of Castle Quays, the shopping mall which runs alongside the canal. In full view of hundreds of scurrying shoppers you have to stop your boat, open the bridge, placate the impatient pedestrians who think their world will end if they don’t use the bridge that very instant, take your boat through, apologise to the pedestrians once more and then, watched by the same group of shoppers, successfully line your boat up with a lock on a difficult and often windy corner. The memory of my last visit is quite painful.

Saturday’s experience was very different. The channel through two lines of moored boats was just as narrow as last time, the weather conditions were similar, and there were just as many people watching. The difference this time was that I had a little experience to draw on.

A hire boat crew kindly raised the lift bridge for me allowing me to cruise serenely through the narrow gap, then turn to watch their own novice helmsman doing what I did half a decade ago. He completely misjudged his line in to the narrow gap, nor did he realise the wind’s effect. He missed by a mile but managed to get his bow through the gap then, with much scraping of steel on concrete, levered the rest of the craft through, aided by two guys on the front deck who tried to push fifteen tonnes of boat away from the unforgiving stone.

Entering the lock was similarly anti climatic for me. On my first trip I managed to get pinned by the wind on the offside. This time, knowing the wind was pushing me away, I simply turned my bow a little earlier so had no problems at all.

Many new boaters suffer the same stress and anxiety as I did when I first started cruising but, with the benefit of a little experience and the knowledge that narrowboats are built like tanks so won’t break if you touch lightly against an inanimate object, they soon realise cruising is far more pleasure than pain.

Taking boats in and out of locks appears to be a pet hate with many boater, especially ladies. If there’s a couple on board a boat, most of the time, the man stands at the helm doing very little while his poor wife wears herself out doing battle with heavy paddle gear. She doesn’t particularly want to work the locks, but she thinks trying to lift impossibly heavy paddles is infinitely preferable to steering a 6’10” wide boat through a 7’ wide gap.

Sally has always felt the same but, for the last couple of days, she’s been at the helm at each lock on our route.

Sally has been very comfortable at the helm for years. She has to stand on a box to see over the front of the boat but once on her platform she’s very comfortable and very competent. She’s just had a mental block about some of the finer steering and the constant use of forward and reverse gears necessary for lock work.

Surprise, surprise, she now realises that negotiating locks is no big deal at all. In fact, I can’t prise her off the tiller. Her enthusiasm at the helm is possibly something to do with her inability to budge many of the south Oxford’s stiff paddles.

We stopped for the night far enough away from Banbury to enjoy a scenic mooring but close enough to hear the constant wailing of ambulance sirens as the emergency vehicles rushed to Banbury’s Horton hospital.

We’re still there now. This afternoon we’re going to stroll back into the market town. I need a bolt to replace one missing from my Morse control and Sally wants to get some photos printed. I think the main reason though is to pop into the Thai Orchid for an all you can eat buffet lunch. Neither of us has mentioned the Thai Orchid yet but I think, quite by chance, we’ll be walking past their front door very soon.

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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’me running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still 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.

Update 5th July 2015

I discovered an error on my availability calendars. Two dates weren’t showing. There are currently four dates remaining before October for shared single days,  24th, 26th, 29th and 30th July, and just 26th & 29th July for couples and exclusive singles. If you want to book one of these dates, or see the available dates for October onwards click here.

In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendees David & Geoff…

“Geoff and I have had the grand dream of downsizing to the live-aboard dream for a few years. We seriously looked into it a couple of years back (when we first bought Paul’s eBook, joined his ‘Living on a Narrowboat’ site, and helped beta-test his Narrow-budget software). Paul was great at talking us through the early stages, and we even started looking at potential boats – but then Geoff’s elderly Mum moved up to live near us for additional help and support, and we had to put our plans on hold.

I’ve had some experience with boats (albeit 30 years ago, on a couple of family holidays on the Kennet and Avon, and the Thames), but Geoff has only ever been on a few of our friend’s boats, and those only when moored up. It seemed a good idea therefore to spend a bit of time on a boat whist underway, before we are at a point were we can take things seriously again – and preferably with someone who knows what they’re doing as both Helmsman and an experienced liveaboarder.

Both Paul and Sally were great hosts: Paul welcoming us with a cup of coffee which we sipped whilst taking an easy but incredibly useful walk through his boat – Paul sharing his experiences (good and bad) of living aboard, and showing us the very many improvements that he has made to Narrowboat James to make it an almost perfect liveaboarder. I couldn’t get over how much space and storage he’s been able to cram into a mere 48 foot cabin – and how comfortable a living space he’s created. We even got to discus the eternal boating obsessions of having enough power and water ‘off-grid’ – and the best choice of toilet whilst continuously cruising (I am totally now sold on the idea of a composter: I’ve never used a boat-loo that was so simple and pleasant!)

The initial tour and live aboard advice delivered, Paul then took us out to the Helm, had us help untie, and then we headed off for a day of tuition and experience. Paul was a clear but wonderfully relaxed teacher (amazing, since he’s putting his home and his livelihood in your hands!); everything was explained in straight forward and simple terms, and we were both soon taking the tiller – safe in the knowledge that Paul was right beside us to guide and nudge us in our waterways first steps.

In the first part of the day Paul covered everything you could need to know in safely handling a boat: from steering at slow speeds, judging the correct lines to take through turns and bridges, making tight turns, and passing boats and other travellers with courtesy and safety. All whilst the perfect Warwickshire countryside floated by at a sedate 2 miles an hour…

After lunch, we got to spend yet more time at the tiller, honing our skills until everything began to feel almost natural – by which time we were ready to try our hands at navigating the three locks back at Calcut boats.

I can’t praise Paul enough for his patience and good humoured teaching. Everything was taken at a gentle pace, and we were allowed to take the time we needed to get the real ‘feel’ of handling a boat. We both almost felt like ‘proper’ boaters by the end of the day…!

If you’re thinking of buying a boat – whether as a simple weekend breakaway, or to pursue the liveaboard dream – then nothing can beat the level of experience you can gain in a whole day of sailing  with someone like Paul, who not only knows exactly what he’s doing, but is totally free and open in ensuring that knowledge is passed on. We learnt so much in our eight hours – and certainly feel a lot more confident that any future boating plans will be based on sound advice and personal experience.

But the day itself was also just so much *fun* too – even aside from all that wisdom-shared; hell, we even ‘enjoyed’ the nice bit of ‘English summer’ rain that we had… 😉

Thank you Paul, and Sally – and James too. It was an honour to get such a detailed glimpse of an almost ideal life.”

You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here.

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.

28th June 2015

Narrowboat sign writing – The pros and cons of using the services of a professional sign writer compared with self applied self adhesive signs.

21st June 2015

Common lock accidents and how to avoid them – This newsletter was written in the hope that you will treat the waterways and the boats which use them with the respect they deserve. The accidents I’ve detailed were caused by lack of knowledge, lack of attention, or plain stupidity.

14th June 2015

Narowboat handling techniques for beginners – Here’s some basic advice for those new to boating

7th June 2015

Wide beam cruising restrictions – If you’re thinking of buying a bigger boat, read this article first to make sure that the restricted cruising range isn’t going to drive you mad.

31st May 2015

On board electrics for continuous cruisers – This is a breakdown of my own electrical system which works wonderfully to provide two fairly high electricity users with plenty of power for extended periods off grid. I’ve also written about the downside of having your boat’s cabin over plated. My comments are based on the work I had done in November 2011.

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
Entertainment
Summary
1

2015 06 29 Newsletter – Narrowboat Sign Writing

In last week’s newsletter I wrote about an idyllic afternoon on our rarely visited mooring, sitting in the sun doing nothing much at all other than feed occasional grapes to our two spaniels, Charlie and Daisy. Grapes are a treat both dogs have enjoyed for years. Both of them are happy and healthy. I want to keep them that way so I won’t be feeding them any more grapes. If you are one of the dozens of newsletter readers who emailed me to warn me about the possible kidney damage suffered by some dogs which eat grapes, thank you.

My front fender fell off again on Monday. Two months ago the chain attached to the top of the fender snapped when Sally let water a little too quickly into the single lock I was in, forcing the boat with considerable force against the front gate.

The front fender is a “V” fender, sometimes called “a button with wings”. My solution at the time was to circle the button with chain then shackle the uppermost part of the circle to the boat. Sally wasn’t entirely happy with my bodge at the time. She thought, quite rightly as it happens, that because of the constant impact of the rope button against solid oak gates, the button would compact and the chain would slip off.

We did things Sally’s way on Tuesday when we attempted a repair. It’s so reassuring to have a proper man on board. After ten minute’s digging with a sharp knife towards the fender’s rubber core, we unearthed an unbroken chain link, attached a joining link, and then fixed the slightly modified fender back to the boat. At £100 for a new front fender, the ten minute low cost fix was very satisfying. It’s such a shame it wasn’t my idea.

A new figurehead for the boat? Sally suggested that she might be able to enjoy some peace and quiet inside the boat if I stay here

A new figurehead for the boat? Sally suggested that she might be able to enjoy some peace and quiet inside the boat if I stay here

The fix took a little longer than ten minutes actually because we popped over to Braunston marina in Sally’s car to buy some joining links from Tradline fenders where I bought two new tipcat fenders last weekend.

The fenders cost me £250 but the owner included the fixings in the price. When we returned on Tuesday to buy some more fixings, he refused to accept payment for the additional link joiners we needed. “Take what you want!” he offered. We did. The additional fixings probably cost no more than a pound or two, but it’s the thought that counts. I’m sure we’ll be using his shop for years to come.

We stayed two nights on our marina mooring before ascending the Calcutt flight again. I needed some welding done but, given that Calcutt Boats are usually too busy to fit me in at short notice, I had to take my business elsewhere.

When I moved on to the boat there was a gas heater fitted against the hull under the port centre hatch. On the roof above it were two ugly plastic vents. The heater was removed along with another similar heater in our back cabin plus our faulty gas water heater in August 2014, but the plastic vents remained.

They’re a real pain. I have two centre lines secured to the cabin roof two or three feet from the vents. Both run through open fairleads fixed to the top of the cabin sides. The port fairlead keeps the centre rope away from the delicate vents most of the time, but the rope often pops out of the fairlead as the boat drops down in a lock. If I don’t keep a very close eye on the boat, the rope snags on the vents.

Inevitably, the snagging rope has now pulled the vents out of their fittings, so over the last week we’ve noticed rainwater flowing into the cabin through what has become two gaping holes. The vents are no longer used so rather than securing them again, they’re going to be removed and then we’re going to cover the holes with a small section of steel plate.

Justin, the guy doing the welding, was expecting us on Thursday so our intention was to moor at one of our favourite local spots, Fox’s Gate at Flecknoe, then cruise half an hour to him at Braunston early Thursday morning. Mooring wasn’t quite as easy as I expected. Although Fox’s Gate is a popular spot, there are usually no more than two or three boats spread over half a mile of Armco lined towpath. On Wednesday there was a solid line of about twenty boats moored nose to tail.

There were a couple of spaces just long enough for us. The first one didn’t work out though. As I tied up, Daisy, our cocker spaniel, jumped from the front deck onto the towpath to say hello to her new friends. The lady on the boat behind us gave Daisy a cream-curdling stare before clicking her knitting needles aggressively in our general direction. Anyway, we were tied up to a curved section of the towpath which meant that I couldn’t secure the boat properly.

We moved a couple of boat lengths closer to Braunston, checked with our new neighbours to make sure that they didn’t object to a spaniel or two, then chained ourselves to the towpath in a willow’s shade.

At 8am we were off again, moving slowly past an unbroken boat line all the way to Braunston Junction, past a row of empty moorings opposite The Boat House reserved for the weekend’s historic boat rally, then past a rather congested section by Braunston marina where beautiful old narrowboats moored four abreast.

We turned in the eastern marina entrance ,then reversed to Braunston Bottom Lock and J G Marine Services where owner Justin Greene was waiting for us.

Justin was recommended to me by Phil Abbot from Wharf House Narrowboats next door. Phil did a wonderful job when he did some carpentry work for me in April so I had equally high hopes for Justin. I wasn’t disappointed.

Within a couple of hours Justin had removed the two unsightly and loose plastic vents, welded a steel plate neatly over the two vent holes, removed two other redundant brackets on the roof, coated all of the exposed metal with primer and removed and replaced a broken fender hanger.

We were so pleased with his work that we’ve booked him for a day in August to do a variety of little jobs on the boat including replacing a split hose between our front deck and the water tank beneath. The split hose was the cause of me almost sinking the boat two days after I moved on board in April 2010.

I knew absolutely nothing about boats then but when I ran out of water I knew enough to remove the filler cap on the front deck, insert a hose and turn on the water supply. After half an hour I was marvelling at the tank’s capacity. After three quarters of an hour of water apparently still gushing into the bottomless tank I was in awe. Five minutes later I was rushing around like a headless chicken.

Quite by chance I walked through the boat to our bedroom in the stern. I opened the door to the bedroom to find that the engine room bilge had filled with water then overflowed on to the bedroom carpet. The boat was filling with drinking water from the stern.

Unknown to me, my little 350 litre water tank should only have taken fifteen minutes to fill, so for half an hour water had been pouring from the split filler hose, draining in to the cabin bilge and flowing steadily under the cabin floor to the back of the boat. Removing the excess water with an industrial wet vac took two hours. Drying the affected areas with a dehumidifier took a couple of weeks.

For the last five years I have watched the tank’s water level like a hawk to prevent another catastrophe. Sally made the same mistake as me soon after she moved on board but after enduring me sulking for a couple of days she learned her lesson.

We left Justin mid-afternoon. The canal was much more congested than it had been in the morning, especially at the water point next to the Gongoozler’s Rest café where a hire boat was moored two abreast leaving a gap of no more than seven feet to squeeze through. Consequently they were looking a little stressed as I passed after suffering a tirade of abuse from exasperated passing boaters.

We left the long line of moored boats at Flecknoe behind in favour of a peaceful and isolated spot a mile further on in the shade of a towering ash. After an al fresco early evening meal and a glass or two of Australian red, I lay on my back in the ash’s shade, idly watching the changing shape of cotton wool clouds through wind rustled leaves.

I was woken from a light sleep by fat rain drops falling on my face. Odd, I thought, remembering the clear blue sky minutes earlier. I opened my eyes to find, rather than angry grey clouds above me, a very happy but dribbling spaniel.

After a leisurely breakfast on Friday morning I began my normal pre cruise routine for the hour’s cruise back to the Calcutt flight ready for two weekend discovery days. I opened the engine’s raw water cooling gate valve, checked both oil and water, and then opened the two back doors ready for cruising. One of the door hinge welds snapped as I swung the starboard door open. Sod’s law that it should happen just hours after we said goodbye to a very good welder, but that’s the way of the world.

I said earlier that Calcutt Boats have often been able to accommodate me for routine jobs. It’s true, but they have always been able to help me out with emergency repairs. As soon as we reached Calcutt I spoke to engineer Ian to ask him, plead with him really, to fit me in, given that I couldn’t secure the boat effectively with a broken door hinge.

An hour later the boat was down through the locks and moored close to the engineering workshop. Fifteen minutes later the hinge was repaired and all was well with the world again. In fact we though we would celebrate by buying Sally a garden.

Sally loves her gardening. The garden in her house is immaculate and a riot of colour. She spent many happy hours pottering among her plants, but I’ve forced her away from her simple pleasures. Now she has to endure months of tedious cruising through rural England looking but not touching the vast array of plants we see on our travels.

Sally's bow garden: good for the soul, rubbish for practical boating

Sally’s bow garden: good for the soul, rubbish for practical boating

This is her new garden. It’s not the largest in the world, but she tells me she’s delighted with it. The fact that I now have to straddle the pot with a geranium up my bottom every time I want to moor the boat, and I’ll have to hold a torch between my teeth to see where I’m going in tunnels, doesn’t seem to bother her at all.

At least one of us is happy now.

The weekend’s discovery days were both fun and eventful. Novice hire boat crews were out in force. One large group were cruising in three boats, all cruising at a reasonable speed, but far too close together. I met the first boat on a tight bend. The helmsman did what many do and slammed his boat into reverse to stop it. Unfortunately as he was turning at the time, his action resulted in him flipping the boat broadside across the canal into the path of the two following boats. They both hit the leading craft then slewed off I into the undergrowth. They soon sorted out the mess though and as they passed me I noticed several of the front deck crew removing sprigs of sharp pointed hawthorn from each other after their unexpected trip into the offside undergrowth.

This morning is just as busy as yesterday, but mainly with historic boats heading home after the Braunston Rally. A steam powered narrowboat has just past me complete with its flat capped, red neckerchiefed crew, clouds of steam and piercing whistles.

We’ll be off shortly too, heading south towards the Thames on the tranquil south Oxford, hoping that our supply of food and, more importantly, my dwindling stock of red wine, lasts until we reach Banbury on Wednesday.

Sign writing

When I moved on to this boat five years ago the name, James No 194, was displayed on both sides. The sign writing was beautifully done but the paint had either faded so much or peeled off the Masonite cabin so the letters were barely legible.

I painted the cabin myself shortly after the original cabin was over plated in November 2011. I really stretched myself to apply basic colours to the cabin in anything like a professional fashion, so doing highly skilled sign writing was out of the question.

Displaying boat’s name on both sides of your boat, plus index number and license, is a CRT licensing requirement. Both my license and index number are clearly displayed, but my boat name isn’t. My boat is just one of a huge number of inland waterways craft without clearly visible name, but that knowledge doesn’t make me feel any better.

I asked a number of sign writers for a price to paint my boat’s name, my web site address and my site logo on both sides of the cabin. Quotes ranged from £450 – £600. I didn’t have the work done because I wasn’t completely happy with quality of the paintwork to be used as a base by a professional sign writer and, to be honest, I had more pressing needs for my limited boat budget.

I painted the cabin three years ago. It still looks OK to the untrained or uncritical eye, but I think the boat is starting to look tatty. Sally does too.

We considered having the boat completely repainted by professionals, but came to the conclusion that a lottery win would be the only way of funding the work. Debdale Wharf’s popular boat painter John Barnard quoted £8,500 which, given that that the process involves taking the boat back to bare steel, removing all windows and every external cabin fitting and then applying ten coats over a six week period in a temperature controlled building, is probably quite a reasonable price, but it’s too much for us.

We toyed with the idea of just repainting the cabin’s cream side panels ourselves. Sally is itching to have a go. To paint them properly though, we would need to remove the red coach lines between the panels and the blue surround, which would damage the blue so that would need repainting too. If we went that far, we might as well repaint the roof as well. We’d be tackling a full repaint, six week’s paint tent hire and possibly six week’s alternative accommodation for the dogs and us.

We’ve come to the conclusion that we would rather spend most of the year cruising than use nearly all of our budget on having a slightly shinier boat. Now that major refurbishment isn’t on the cards, we need to bite the bullet and add the boat’s name to the cabin.

We haven’t completely ruled out doing something with the cabin sides so spending £500+ on signwriting we may have to remove shortly afterwards isn’t sensible. We’ve decided to use vinyl graphics and support the waterways community by buying them from The Graphics Boat.

Our new graphics laid out for twenty four hours prior to fitting

Our new graphics laid out for twenty four hours prior to fitting

The graphics, two boat names and two web site addresses costing £110, arrived mid last week. We’ll stick them on next week.

Airhead Composting Toilet One Month On

Our new composting toilet was fitted at Hillmorton Wharf on 21st May. The new toilet replaced a Porta Potti cassette toilet I used on the boat since I moved on board just over five years ago. I wrote about why we decided to switch from cassette to composting here and detailed the toilet’s fitting and first impressions here.

A month has passed, the dust has settled and normal life has continued. So has £1,000 spent on a boat toilet been a worthwhile investment?

The answer is a resounding “YES!” The new toilet has transformed our lives on board and saved us a small fortune.

Contrary to my expectations, a toilet which uses no water at all actually smells less than the much more popular pump out or cassette toilets. In fact, it doesn’t smell at all.

Sally was forever subjecting our cassette toilet to more frequent and more intensive cleaning to try and eliminate the unpleasant constant odour. The composting toilet is much easier to keep smell free. She empties the liquid tank every morning, adds a spoonful of sugar and then replaces the tank in its slot beneath the toilet. The whole process takes a couple of minutes.

On Thursday evening we emptied the solids tank for the second time. The only occasion it was emptied before that was done after a week, partly because we used too bulky quilted toilet tissue and partly because we wanted discover just how unpleasant the task of emptying our collected faeces really was.

The first solids emptying exercise was a real anti-climax. The toilet’s continuously running 12v fan removed most of the solid’s moisture and all of the smell. I didn’t find the process unpleasant at all, possibly because Sally did the emptying rather than me.

The task was no more unpleasant on Thursday than it was the first time. While Sally lifted the toilet off the solids tank and carried the tank off the boat, I used my folding army spade to dig a two feet square six inch deep hole. Within ten minutes, the contents were buried neatly and the tank was scrubbed clean with canal water and back in place on the boat.

The Airhead toilet is simple, effective and hassle and smell free. We both love it.

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Summary

 

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’me running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still 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.

Update 29th June 2015

There are now just three dates remaining before October,  24th & 39th July and 5th August, If you want to book one of these dates, or see the available dates for October onwards click here.

In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendees Carl and Jane Britt…

Since taking a short holiday on the cut recently we have flirted with the idea of becoming live aboards, if not full time then at least for part of the year around work requirements. Armed with some existing engineering knowledge and lots of research we felt we had a plan of how to make our dream a reality. I guess we just wanted to hang out with some canal folk to give us the confidence to make the leap and also to make sure that we’re fully prepared for the lifestyle and that there’s nothing glaring that we’ve not considered.

Directions were amazing, very detailed and accurate. Presumably I must conclude that the list of kit wasn’t emphasised enough to make a plonker like me remember to bring everything (or anything at all!). Probably a lot to do with our running around like mad things for the past few days but an emailed “don’t forget” list a day or two prior to the day might be an idea.

The discovery day was everything we wanted it to be. We’re still discussing the conversations we had with you throughout the day and the salient points. We were particularly pleased that you provided us answers to questions we didn’t yet know we had! Having had a canal boat holiday and done lots of research we didn’t feel like scared rabbits in the headlights anymore and it was great that you didn’t dwell too much on the basics and that we were able to just discuss canal related matters with you and then relate these back to potentially living aboard when necessary.

We’d recommend it to anyone even considering a holiday afloat to be honest. The experience is well worth the price. We would’ve been much more confident on our first holiday if we had done this day first. For potential live aboards, the opportunity to discuss future plans with someone of your experience is a real bonus as you inspire confidence and provoke thought on the subject.”

You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here.

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.

21st June 2015

Common lock accidents and how to avoid them – This newsletter was written in the hope that you will treat the waterways and the boats which use them with the respect they deserve. The accidents I’ve detailed were caused by lack of knowledge, lack of attention, or plain stupidity.

14th June 2015

Narowboat handling techniques for beginners – Here’s some basic advice for those new to boating

7th June 2015

Wide beam cruising restrictions – If you’re thinking of buying a bigger boat, read this article first to make sure that the restricted cruising range isn’t going to drive you mad.

31st May 2015

On board electrics for continuous cruisers – This is a breakdown of my own electrical system which works wonderfully to provide two fairly high electricity users with plenty of power for extended periods off grid. I’ve also written about the downside of having your boat’s cabin over plated. My comments are based on the work I had done in November 2011.

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
Entertainment
Summary
2

2015 06 21 Newsletter – Common Lock Accidents and How To Avoid Them

Sally and I have been on a rare shopping spree. Neither of our mobile phones were very well. My phone, Sally’s cast off iPhone which I’ve been using for the last year, refused to have anything to do with WiFi after an operating system update six months ago, and Sally’s much loved Galaxy S4 didn’t fare too well after an unscheduled swim when it launched itself from toilet cistern to bowl last week. Apparently, says Sally, the cistern was to blame for not restraining the phone. I don’t think that excuse holds water Sally. Nor did the phone, although it tried very hard.

We tried the usual fix of burying the damaged phone deep in a sack of rice for a few days but the solution didn’t work nor were Samsung or our local EE shop interested in attempting a repair.

So now both of us have shiny new phones. Sally was able to instantly transfer her old number to the new phone as both phones were on the same network. Given that I haven’t once managed to obtain a signal inside the boat over the last two years I’ve been on Three’s network (brilliant on narrowboats for mobile broadband but hopeless for phones), I’ve switched to EE.

Now I can sit at my desk inside the boat and use my phone for voice calls to my heart’s content, especially now that I’ve enabled WiFi calling which allows me to make and receive calls via my Three broadband dongle if I can’t get a signal on my phone.

Because I’ve switched from Three to EE I haven’t taken my number with me. I know it’s possible but, to be honest, there are so few people who call me that I just can’t be bothered.

I’m sure you’re not in the slightest bit interested in phoning me, but just in case you are, the number in my email signature up to and including 17th June 2015 is no longer valid. The new number is 07496 886639.

Our duel phone upgrade has pretty much been the highlight of the week, apart from Thursday afternoon when we really pushed the boat out and teased the dogs.

We sat on the canal-side picnic bench next to our mooring for a couple of hours after lunch watching a steady procession of boats negotiating Calcutt Bottom Lock. Much as we enjoyed the entertainment offered by fellow boaters, and the pleasure we derived from flicking grapes from the bench into the mouths of two happy spaniels, we only stayed in the marina for a single night before ascending the Calcutt flight to enjoy a few days of relative tranquillity before Sally’s reluctant return to work on Monday night.

I say “relative” tranquillity because at this time of the year, especially at the weekend, the stretch of canal between Braunston and Napton junctions is a watery motorway. A steady procession of boats roar past us from dawn until dusk. Fortunately the secure moorings offered by miles of Armco barrier along this section mean that we can resist the pin pulling surges created by dozens of fast moving boats through the course of the day. What we can’t avoid are frequent unwanted and sometimes far too close neighbours.

We actually had one hire boat crew moor so closely to us yesterday on an otherwise boat free stretch that they used the ring on our piling chain to thread their bow rope through. When we set off we had to untie their bow so we could free our chain then secure their rope directly to the Armco.

Of course, we can’t reasonably expect to find a peaceful mooring at this time of the year on a stretch of canal within a few hours’ cruising of more than two thousand marina moorings and hundreds of hire boats. If we want quiet summertime moorings we’ll need to head a little further afield.

Somewhere like the Fens.

The manmade drainage ditches of eastern England have created over two hundred miles of peaceful cruising for solitude loving boat owners. It’s England’s Big Sky country with wide views and stunning sunsets, no noise from busy roads, railways and aircraft flight paths or even other boats. It’s the perfect place to get away from the hectic pace of modern life.

A great place to start if you want to get a feel for the Fens is Fox Narrowboats’ web site. There’s a wealth of information about the area including lists of places to visit, routes and navigational data. The more I drill down into the information they’ve compiled the more impatient I am to visit the area.

I know that Peter Earley, top forum poster and creator of most of the forum’s cruising guides, is exploring the area this year. If I speak to him nicely, I hope he’ll write another painstakingly researched guide ready for our cruise.

The Fens is one of the planned routes for next year, but for the next week we’ll have to endure one or two more boats on the water than we’d like at an otherwise wonderful location for a week before we set off on our next cruise this year.

We’re be heading south this time, along the south Oxford canal on to the Thames and then pottering about between Oxford and Lechlade. We’ll make sure that we spend every minute of the week allocated to us by our seven day £70 EA licence. Next year we’ll upgrade to a Gold licence which includes the EA controlled waterways but we couldn’t resist a spell on the mighty Thames before then.

We’ll stay close to Calcutt for the two discovery days I’m running next Saturday and Sunday before we set off on our three week cruise. I’ll make sure I avoid Brauston on those days because of the historic boat rally but I seized the opportunity yesterday to visit Braunston marina before next weekend’s mayhem to buy two eye wateringly expensive tipcat fenders for the back of the boat.

I had a very smart but completely useless button fender hanging off the stern until yesterday. It was of no use at all because my large rudder extended a foot beyond it. The only way to protect the rudder from impact damage was to fit two tipcat fenders next to the stern and then fix the button fender to the outside.

All three fenders are fitted now, and very smart they look too. All I need to do to test their effectiveness is reverse into a few lock gates. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Lock Accidents and How to Avoid Them

Talking of hitting things in locks, lock accidents is the focus of this week’s newsletter. Last week I detailed a few tips and techniques to help you cruise with confidence and avoid the waterway’s many novice boaters who are more of a risk to you and your boat than your own helmsmanship. In this article, I’ll focus on locks but, rather than repeat the information on lock techniques I included in this newsletter last May with a little help from Peter Earley, I’m going tell you about a few lock accidents caused by carelessness or lack of knowledge.

I don’t want to frighten you but I think a healthy respect for locks is very important. A large volume of water, roughly 40,000 gallons in each of the Grand Union’s double locks, rushing in and out with great force, moss and lichen covered lock walls and sides, steel boats weighing between fifteen and twenty tonnes and inexperienced narrowboat crews, many of whom have had a drink or two, are a potentially lethal combination.

Inexperienced Holiday Boaters Ascending a Narrow Lock

The first accident, on the south Oxford canal a day and a half’s cruising from my base at Calcutt lead to the tragic and brutal death of an inexperienced holiday boater. Here’s the newspaper report.

The novice crew made a few fundamental mistakes in the lock.

The first, although not life threatening, possibly caused an additional problem which distracted the lady at the helm.

She left the rear deck to pull in a hanging fender. The 6’10” wide boat was in a lock only two or three inches wider than the boat. Fenders should only be left in position on a narrowboat when it’s moored. If they’re left down, especially when entering a narrow lock, there’s a good chance they will either be ripped off the boat or will jam the boat in the lock.

While the lady was away from the stern, the fast flowing water coming into the lock had first flowed to the lock’s rear gates then quickly pushed the boat towards the upstream gates. The boat had been put hard into reverse to counteract the sudden flow.

As the lock filled, the water’s forward force would have decreased allowing the out of control boat to rapidly move backwards. The lady appears to have reached the stern just as the boat hit the back gates, catapulting her into the water as the stern bounced away from the gate, allowing her to fall into the water beneath the boat before the craft with its rapidly spinning propeller, still in reverse, moved back towards her and the gate.

The accident could have been avoided very simply. All she had to do was to move the boat close to the front gate when she entered the lock then instruct her crew to gently raise a single paddle for long enough for the water coming in to the lock to first flow to the back of the chamber then push the boat slowly forward until it was held against the front gate. Once the boat was secured, her crew could raise both paddles fully without fear. Using this technique, she wouldn’t have needed to reverse the boat at all.

The following accidents all happened at Calcutt Top Lock, close to where I used to moor and work at Calcutt Boats on the Grand Union canal half a mile from Napton Junction

An Experienced Boater Approaching a Lock Flight

I wrote about this accident a couple of years ago. I can’t remember everything about the boaters concerned but what little I can recall is enough.

Two experienced boaters were on the maiden voyage aboard their new boat. They had both recently retired and were looking forward to spending the rest of their time afloat gently exploring the inland waterways.

Both had cruised thousands of miles and negotiated hundreds of locks during decades of recreational boating. Calcutt Top Lock was familiar to them, as were the fifty similar locks on the Grand Union canal between Napton Junction and Birmingham.

The lady, who retired from full time employment at the end of the week before the accident.

Without a care in the world, she nimbly stepped from her slow moving boat as it bumped gently against the concrete sided lock landing. With her focus on the lock as her foot landed on the towpath, she failed to see the small metal bollard which tripped her.

She landed awkwardly on the towpath catching both her head and shoulder. The impact knocked her out, fractured her cheek and broke her collar bone.

When the emergency services arrived she was conscious but in a great deal of pain. The paramedics wanted to carry her to the ambulance on the opposite side of the canal on a stretcher but they couldn’t do so safely over the lock gate.

We had to carefully strap the stretcher across her own boat’s bow then float her and her boat over the water.

I understand she made a full recovery but raising heavy lock paddles was out of the question for a number of months.

A Dog Walker Crossing a Lock Gate

A middle aged man walking his German shepherd used the upstream gate of Calcutt Top Lock to cross the canal from Calcutt Boat’s grounds over to the towpath. His dog was on a lead and preceded him over the gate.

The sure footed dog raced ahead so his owner checked him with the lead a little too enthusiastically. He pulled the big dog off the gate into the empty lock.

The 100lb plus dog hung by its neck as his owner tried to hold on to the lead which scorched the skin on the inside of his arm before slipping through his fingers. His beloved pet dropped eighteen inches to the exposed concrete cill where it stood shivering in fear.

A novice helmsman on a hire boat entering the lock saw the dog fall and, in a well-meaning but ill though out attempt to go to the dog’s aid, surged towards the front gate and the stranded animal.

The hire boat hit the concrete cill with enough force to lift its stern and almost catapult from the front deck onto the concrete ledge beside the dog.

One of Calcutt Boats’ wharf staff and I managed to stop the panicking boaters by shouting at them loudly. We then closed the bottom gates, shutting both boat and dog into the lock together. Then we slowly let water into the lock to float the hire boat above the cill so that it could move closer to the stranded shepherd.

With the placid animal lifted safely on to the boat’s front deck, we were then able to float the boat up and reunite tearful owner and shivering dog.

A Novice Boater Reversing

I know that an accident caused when reversing a boat shouldn’t be in this week’s lock section, but I forgot to include reversing last week. Anyway, our wharf is in the middle of a lock flight, so there’s the connection if I need one.

As you will see, a heavy bronze propeller spinning more than 1,000 times a minute while you stand on an unprotected and often slippery deck less than two feet above it is a potentially dangerous and sometimes lethal combination.

The owner of a recently purchased private boat pulled in to Calcutt Boats for fuel. Mooring against the wharf is often a challenge for inexperienced boaters, especially if they want fuel. In the rather congested pound between Calcutt Middle and Top locks they have to turn their boats away from the wharf then reverse onto it. It’s not a manoeuvre many narrowboat owners have to attempt very often.

This particular guy made two very silly mistakes. One of them nearly cost him his life.

He managed to turn away from the wharf and then reverse towards it without too much fuss but then, when he was within twenty feet of one of the wharf staff, threw his stern rope away from the boat towards him. That was mistake number one.

The trailing rope fell into the water in front of the advancing boat with its thrashing propeller. A bystander warned him that the propeller was likely to catch the rapidly sinking rope so the boater, panicking slightly at the thought of fouling his propeller, quickly stepped on to the back edge of his deck to reach the training rope… and slipped from his boat in front of the now out of control boat moving towards him.

The propeller caught his leg, slashed through clothing and flesh and severed his femoral artery.

Quick thinking by Calcutt staff saved his life. He was quickly hauled from the water where one of the wharf staff stemmed the gushing blood flow by pinching the wound together until the air ambulance arrived.

The boater made a full recovery after months of conversance, unlike the unfortunate boater who died in this tragic accident.

An Inebriated Solo Boater Descending a Lock

Many boating accidents are caused by carelessness, sometimes enhanced as a result of enjoying a relaxing waterways break slightly too much.

I’ve lost count of the number of, usually male, boaters jumping on and off their boat roof while it’s in a lock, often trying to steady a hand held can of beer as they lead gazelle like from steel to stone.

This particular boater’s relaxant was inhaled rather than imbibed. The scruffy boater’s suspiciously long hand rolled cigarette gave the game away as he more floated than walked along the side of the lock next to his dilapidated GRP cruiser.

He emptied the first of the three locks in the Calcutt flight as he enjoyed a very mellow cruise towards Stockton. With the lock empty he walked to the lock side to climb down to his boat, misjudged the edge, slipped in to the lock and fell heavily on his boat roof.

Fellow boaters rushed to his aid but he climbed unsteadily to his feet before declaring that he was uninjured and continuing through the flight.

By the time he pulled his cruiser out of the bottom lock he was complaining of severe chest pains. Our office called emergency services and within minutes the first response paramedic arrived shortly followed by an ambulance and a helicopter.

Once more, the ambulance crews struggled because the boat owners was on the towpath on the opposite side of the canal to the paramedics and their fleet of vehicles. The “injured” boater was asked to walk a hundred metres back along the towpath to the top lock and cross the top lock to the waiting vehicles.

This boater escaped with bruised ribs and, possibly, an aversion to smoking while he cruised.

An Elderly Solo Boater Ascending a Lock

It’s the Calcutt flight again. This time a very experienced solo make boater in his sixties taking his boat from one of Calcutt Boats two marinas up through the flight.

He employed one of two techniques used by solo boaters to take their boat up through a lock.

He pulled on to the lock landing, secured his boat using his centre line, set the lock then returned to his boat take his boat in. As long as the lock entrance isn’t obstructed by a bridge, it’s usually possible to steer your boat slowly into a lock then step off holding the centre line, walk swiftly up the lock steps flicking the centre line over the gate then, with a quick turn around the bollard closest to the downstream gate, bring your boat gently to a halt.

On this occasion used the alternative method. He brought his boat into the lock then, as he was about to climb onto his roof and then out of the lock, slipped into the icy lock water.

He clung to his gunnel but, weighed down by clothes and advancing years, he was unable to climb back on to his boat. Nor was he able to move around his boat and into the gap between his boat and the lock wall to reach the slippery rungs of the escape ladder fifty feet away.

He shouted for help for fifteen minutes before another boat owner in the marina heard his cries and managed to drag him out of the lock on to the towpath.

Calcutt Boats’ first aiders arrived quickly but couldn’t warm him up. An ambulance arrived. They failed too, so he was whisked off to hospital.

I can’t remember what time of year the accident occurred but I don’t think it was during the winter. Longer immersion at a different time of the year could have been fatal. Fortunately the boater suffered no ill effects. Unfortunately, the experience put him off boating so much that he sold his boat soon after the accident.

Hire Boat Stag Crew Descending

Capsized narrow boat stuck on a lock cill

Capsized narrow boat stuck on a lock cill

The most often talked about lock danger is getting your boat caught on the cill.

For the uninitiated, the dreaded cill is a concrete ledge inside a lock close to the upstream gates. You must, at all times, keep your boat in front of the cill marker which will always be behind your boat when you’re going down in a lock.

If your boat is behind the cill marker as the water empties from the lock, your rudder may catch on the cill, holding the back of your boat at a higher level while the front continues to drop with the water level. If the lock is deep enough, the bow will continue to drop until it pierces the surface and the bow floods, shortly followed by the cabin.

Narrowboats, usually but not always hire boats, sink or are damaged in cill related accidents every year. You need to be constantly aware of lock cills and their danger, but you don’t need to worry about them. Cills are easily avoided.

The trick is to leave your throttle alone once you’ve brought your boat to rest in a lock. That’s all there is to it.

Move your boat forward until the bow is close to the downstream gates. As you raise the downstream paddles to empty the lock, water leaving the chamber will pull your boat forward away from the cill.

The mistake made by many novice boaters is to reverse the boat away from the downstream gates and towards the dangers of the cill behind. Do not reverse your boat.

Once the lock is empty you need to be aware that your boat may drift backwards towards the exposed cill but the only risk you now face is banging your rudder against the exposed concrete if your rear fender isn’t long enough to protect it. If the lock is empty you won’t snag your boat on the cill and sink it.

Even if your boat drifts behind the cill marker and catches the cill, all is not lost. Immediately drop the downstream paddles to prevent any more water leaving the lock, then open the upstream paddles to allow more water to flow into the lock and raise your boat away from the cill. Work quickly but don’t panic and always make sure that the downstream paddles are closed before you open the upstream paddles.

Here’s the Daily Mail’s account of the stag part accident. Cill accident aren’t just the domain of drunken revellers. Here’s another account of a cill sinking. This time the hirers are a middle aged couple.

I hope the above examples have made you realise that although boating on the inland waterways is one of the most relaxing methods of travel imaginable, you need to have a healthy respect for the potential problems you face if you aren’t careful, especially in locks.

 

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’me running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still 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.

Update 15th June 2015

I’ve just added a few more dates to the calendar. Now 22nd, 23rd, 24th & 25th June are free, as are 24th & 25th July. If would like to find out more or book a date, click here.

In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendee Roy Griffiths…

 “The main reason for booking a discovery day, was to pick up some tips on solo boat handling and to see if it would be something I would be confidently able to do, and also to get a better insight in to the layout of a narrowboat that was geared towards full time live aboard.

My plans for the future in the short term include hiring, shared ownership, and then ultimately narrowboat ownership.

The pre-event information was clear and concise and very well written with clear directions to the boat. Of the emails I did send with questions, they were always answered in a friendly and timely manner.

I had a great day Paul, and you were so easy to get along with and take instruction from. It was just like spending time with a friend.

It was a very well thought out day to cover the things I requested when you gave me the chance to tell you what I wanted from my day on board the boat. I had all my questions answered with patience and understanding.

I would definitely recommend the day to anyone looking to consider living afloat, but also to anyone looking to hire a boat because you can get real “ hands on “ experience. There is only so much you can learn from reading the books, or watching the videos.  Yes, I would go again!!”

You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here.

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.

14th June 2015

Narowboat handling techniques for beginners – Here’s some basic advice for those new to boating

7th June 2015

Wide beam cruising restrictions – If you’re thinking of buying a bigger boat, read this article first to make sure that the restricted cruising range isn’t going to drive you mad.

31st May 2015

On board electrics for continuous cruisers – This is a breakdown of my own electrical system which works wonderfully to provide two fairly high electricity users with plenty of power for extended periods off grid. I’ve also written about the downside of having your boat’s cabin over plated. My comments are based on the work I had done in November 2011.

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
Entertainment
Summary

2015 06 14 Newsletter – Boating Basics For Beginners

My discovery day cruises are always fascinating. The route from Napton to Braunston junction snakes through beautiful Warwickshire countryside passing under fifteen bridges, some wide, most narrow, many with blind entrances and exits then on to an exciting turn at Braunston Junction with its central triangular grass covered island and narrow channel on two sides wide enough for just one boat to turn without any idea what’s around the bend at one of the network’s busiest bottlenecks.

In the middle of Braunston, often negotiating a steady stream of boats moving in both directions, we turn the boat around in the entrance to Braunston marina before retracing our steps back to Napon Junction where we turn on to the Grand Union canal for half a mile before reaching what is often the most fascinating part of the day where we negotiate the Calcutt flight of three locks twice.

Locks are potentially dangerous places, especially for boaters who don’t know what they’re doing. Unfortunately, especially during the summer months when the 100+ hire boats available locally are out and about, there are large numbers of boaters making understandable but often hazardous mistakes.

Take one day this week for example; we set Calcutt Bottom Lock and brought my boat in when a hire boat appeared around the bend heading for the lock. One of the crew with me opened the offside gate then waved to the hire boat crew to let them know they should come in with us.

The boat approached us painfully slowly. All of the crew appeared elderly, particularly the man at the helm, who appeared to be in his mid-eighties. He stood motionless, bowed over the tiller, occasionally twitching it from side to side although the boat was out of gear.

His equally frail wife stood on the front deck, stick like arm extended to push the fifteen tonne boat away from the lock wall as the craft drifted through the open gate at an angle.

Their son, in his early sixties and clearly a novice boater, jumped off the boat as it entered the lock with the stern line in his hand. He tripped, almost fell, regained his footing, and then hauled their boat against the lock wall with all his might.

Meanwhile, his mother grabbed one of the slippery chains hanging from the lock wall and attempted to bring the boat to a halt. Unfortunately she was dragged into the cabin’s front bulkhead by the advancing boat.

The son dropped the stern line to go to his mother’s aid. The rope slithered into the water beside the fortunately still propeller as he ran alongside the lock in a blind panic.

By now his mother had regained her feet, apparently none the worse for wear, and was trying to throw the bow rope four feet above her head around a bollard. In her weakened state all she managed to do was throw the rope over the side of the boat into the lock.

She retrieved the rope to make another attempt. “Don’t throw the rope Mum!” he screamed. “That’s what I’m trying to do”, she quavered. “I’m just going to have another go!”

“I said DON’T throw the rope!!” he shouted even louder. “That’s what I’m trying to do”, she squeaked back, “I’ll get it there in a minute.”

In the meantime, the son raced back towards the open gate the boat had just come through and furiously wound up the paddle.

“What are you doing?” I asked. “I’m getting the lock ready” he shouted.

I told him that he was opening the paddle at the wrong end of the lock. He pulled his windless off the paddle gear, letting it crash to the bottom, then sprinted to the gate in front of his boat with the intention of raising the paddle there, pausing briefly once at the rear of the boat to tell his father to leave the throttle alone and pausing again to shout at his mother who was still busy throwing the bow rope into the water.

I told him to stop, then pointed out that he couldn’t open the upstream paddle because the bottom gate was still open. I then suggested that he left the setting of the lock to my crew while he kept an eye on his aged parents.

The hire boat stayed with us as we negotiated the three flight lock. We set the locks to enable a slightly calmer son to stay on board to look after his bewildered mother and father.

We came to the conclusion that the elderly parents had some boating experience and that the kind hearted but novice son had offered to take them on a trip down memory lane. Unfortunately his parents needed more supervision than he was able to provide as he attempted to negotiate an unfamiliar lock on his own.

Our encounter with the elderly boaters wasn’t an isolated case of boating technique ignorance. Every day on the discovery day cruises between Brauston and Napton junctions and then during the time we spend descending the Calcutt flight, turning in the marina entrance then ascending the same flight again, I meet boaters handling either boats or locks in a fashion likely to cause damage or injury to boats or crew.

My experiences on the lock flight and along the canals over the last ten days prompted me to write the following. This week’s subject is cruising and mooring tips. I’ll discuss lock dangers and techniques next week.

Setting Off

One of the most common mistakes made by novice boaters is not pulling away from the towpath correctly. Although not dangerous, adopting the incorrect procedure causes inconvenience and stress for the helmsman and damage to the boat.

A narrowboat turns from the centre so if the boat is hard against the bank, if you want to turn the front of the boat towards the middle of the canal, the back of the boat, in theory, would need to turn over the towpath. Of course the boat can’t do that, so all that happens if you try to use the tiller to move your boat away from the bank is that you grind your boat along the canal side, which is normally concrete near the entrance to locks.

From my mooring at Calcutt I can see boats entering and exiting Calcutt Bottom Lock. If I hear an engine being thrashed on the canal I can pretty much guarantee that it’s an unexperienced helmsman grating backwards and forwards along the concrete canal edging trying in vain to move away from the bank.

The solution is simple. You step off your boat, ensuring that you have access to your centre line, walk to the pointy end, then push against the front of the cabin to move the boat’s bow away from the bank until it’s facing the middle of the canal. Then you calmly walk back to rear and steer in a straight line away from the bank.

Centre Lines

You must have a centre line on your boat. You can’t control the craft effectively without one. I have two. Each one in long enough to reach from the reinforced ring on the roof where it is secured towards the back of the boat so that it is within reach from the steering position. One leads from the centre down the left hand side of the roof, and one is down the right hand side. With two ropes I don’t have to worry about trying to flick a single rope from one side of the roof to the other trying to avoid my solar panels, vents and pole and plank rack.

My ropes both extend about four feet beyond the back of the boat. The extra length allows me to step off the back of the boat with one of my centre lines if I’m moored stern in then pull the boat alongside. I don’t have to do this very often but using a centre line is far easier than trying to manoeuvre the boat in tight spaces.

The only problem with having such a long centre line is that, if the rope falls off the roof when the boat is in motion, there’s a pretty good chance it will fall beneath the boat and wrap itself around the propeller. Some boaters prefer a shorter centre line to eliminate the chance of this happening.

Steering Your Boat

Once your boat is safely away from the bank, all you have to do is keep it away from both banks and from other boats.

The fundamental requirement is that you “drive foreign”. You drive on the right, passing other boats port to port, just as you would on rivers or the open sea. It’s a basic requirement which appears to be an unattainable goal for some novice boaters.

You steer on the right if there is another boat coming towards you. If you are on your own on the canal, which you are more often than not, you stick to the centre. Canals are often very shallow. My own boat has a draught, the distance from the water line to the deepest part of the boat under water, of 2’ 6”. It’s not unusual for me to spend much of my time on some waterways scraping along the silt filled canal bed. The deepest water and therefore the easiest part of the canal to navigate is in the centre where the constant passage of boats keeps the channel clear.

Taking a racing line at bends is not a good idea. On a race track, taking a racing line allows you to minimise distance travelled and to maintain a higher speed. Taking a racing line in a narrowboat cruising at 3mph just guarantees that you’ll lose control or steer your boat into the path of oncoming craft.

The part of your boat deepest in the water is the skeg, a horizontal steel bar running from the boat’s base plate under the propeller to the rudder post. Water is often shallow next to the bank on the inside of a bend so if you take a racing line, there’s a good chance the front of your boat will pass over the shallows before dragging briefly on the bottom. If this happens you probably won’t get your boat stuck but if the bow is free and the stern’s progress is hindered, the bow is likely swing wildly out of control, often into the path of oncoming boats.

The best way to approach a bend is to take the long way around, but still ensure that you’re not so close to the bank to turn your boat. Taking the long way round gives you two advantages; you have more of a chance of seeing what’s coming towards you around the bend and, if there is a boat coming, you can gently turn your bow inside that of the oncoming craft so that you can move away from it and still negotiate the bend effectively.

Some boaters sound their horn to warn oncoming boats when they come to a blind bend or bridge entrance but they are very much in the minority. If you get into the habit of expecting a boat’s bow to suddenly appear around a bend or through a bridge, you won’t go far wrong.

Of course, there will be times when there’s simply no room to pass an oncoming boat, so one of the boats has to stop to allow the other to pass. Stopping your boat dead in the water is not simply a matter of reversing to kill your forward momentum.

If you reverse your boat to stop it while you are turning, you will slow your boat down but accelerate the rate at which the bow turns. The sharper your turn and the faster you’re going, the faster the bow will whip across the canal, often into the path of an oncoming boat.

To ensure that this doesn’t happen firstly make sure that you slow down if you can’t see through a bridge or around a bend. If you have to stop your boat, try to make sure that you straighten it up before going into reverse.

If possible try not to stop your boat completely if you need to wait for another craft to pass. Unless there’s no wind at all, your boat will drift out of control. Try to anticipate any problem areas so that you can slow down enough to allow an oncoming boat to pass but not enough that you stop completely.

If you are stationary and your bow starts to drift across the canal, you can correct the swing by turning your rudder as though you are going to steer to correct the swing but rather than increasing the throttle gradually, you simply apply a quick burst. This will kick the bow around without moving the boat forward.

To reduce the chance of a surprise encounter with an oncoming boat, while you are at the helm, don’t just focus on the canal in front of you. Examine the fields, tree and hedge lines to either side as well. As you approach a bend or bridge you can often see the canal over nearby fields or through hedge gaps and spot moored or moving boats which you will soon need to avoid.

Also look behind you from time to time.

Overtaking other boats

The accepted speed limit on the canals of England and Wales is 4mph. Your boat won’t have a speedometer but you can judge your speed fairly accurately. A brisk walk is 4mph so if you regularly overtake speed walkers or joggers you’re going too fast. You’re also going to fast if you create breaking wash against the bank.

Your maximum speed is 4mph, but the purpose of cruising is not to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. You’ll probably want to take your time so that you can enjoy the scenery. Going slowly is perfectly acceptable. Going so slowly that you have a long string of boats behind you is not. Some boaters bring their “everything at high speed” mentality with them. Your barely moving pace will annoy some and actually enrage one or two, especially if you continue at your snail-like pace totally oblivious to the traffic jam behind.

The accepted etiquette is not to overtake a slowly moving boat until the helmsman in front waves you on. If you are that helmsman in the slowly moving boat, glance behind you from time to time to check for approaching boats.

You’ll know if a boat wants to pass you. It will close in quite quickly and often stay close to your stern.

Look ahead of you to make sure that canal is clear and wide enough for a boat to pass. Move as close to the bank as you can without risk of grounding, slow down to tick over, then wave the following boat on.

The overtaking helmsman will usually be very grateful so you’ll win a friendly smile and a wave in return for your consideration for other boaters.

When moving boats pass you, they will suck you into their wash which is actually very helpful. If you’ve moved over to let a faster boat overtake you or moved over to let an oncoming boat pass, you don’t usually have to turn your boat to regain the centre of the canal. The passing boat will pull you laterally. The faster and larger the passing boat, the more you will be pulled sideways. Often you actually have to turn away from the passing boat to stop your craft from being pulled too far over.

Passing Moored Boats

If you want to enrage the owner of a moored boat, all you have to do is pass him at your normal cruising speed. You can pretty much guarantee a scowl, a clenched fist at a window, or a hatch or door suddenly opening so that the owner can wave at you more vigorously, often with just a couple of fingers.

The moored boat owner doesn’t want you to pass quickly because of the effect your boat has on his. The faster you pass him, the more you will rock his boat and possibly even pull out his stakes if he’s using them to secure his boat.

Your speed past a boat isn’t the only factor determining how much it moves though.

A boat moored on a shallow bank will move more as you pass than one moored in deep water. If the moorings are shallow, take extra care as you pass.

The design of your own boat will also determine how much you rock moored boats. If your boat “swims” well through the water creating little wash it will have correspondingly little effect on the boats you pass. A scary example of a boat which doesn’t move well through the water is one of the CRT work boats which almost frightened one of my discovery day crews at the beginning of the week.

We were cruising serenely around a tight bend through a dismantled railway bridge. A not so small wave approaching us was almost immediately followed by the head high dustbin sized excavation bucket on the extended arm of a CRT work boat being driven at top speed towards us. The boat was probably doing no more than 4mph but because of the work boat’s square front, the craft was creating a considerable amount of breaking wash continuously on the offside as it travelled. Fortunately we had taken the correct line around the bend so we were able to keep my boat’s cabin away from the mechanical arm, but it was a buttock clenching moment for all of us.

Last but far from least, the amount the moored boats move will be determined by how well the owners have secured their craft.

All too often an irate owner will pop his head out of a side hatch, shake his fist and complain that you are rocking his boat when, in fact, the movement is entirely his own fault. If a boat is moored on slack lines it will move considerable even if you crawl past it.

The easiest and one of the most secure ways to moor your boat is to use the Armco style horizontal metal rails you often see along the towpath. Along popular stretches of canal these rails are used regularly to moor and because they are used regularly the water close to the towpath is kept silt free by the boats which use them, guaranteeing that you can get close to the bank.

The two most frequently used methods to secure your boat on these rails are piling hooks, or “nappy pins” as they are sometimes called, and chains.

Piling hooks are a bit of a pain. They are “C” shaped with a ring at one end to tie your rope to. You turn them so that they are parallel with the rail, slip them behind the rail and then turn them ninety degrees to lock them in place.

Unfortunately they aren’t locked in place very securely. They can work free if you’re unlucky and they’re often quite noisy. They don’t fit the rail snugly so if you pass a boat moored with hooks you often hear a metallic crack as you pass as the hook pulls taught against the rail.

Chains are much better. There’s a small ring at one end of the chain and a slightly larger ring at the other. You simply pass one end of the chain behind the rail and thread the smaller ring through the larger one. You now have a secure anchor point for your boat.

To moor your boat securely you need your mooring ropes taught and at a forty five degree angle away from your boat so, once you have one chain secured and either bow or stern line secured to it, you move to the other end, pull your boat away from the secured end until the rope is taught, then position your second chain so the rope at this end will also be at forty five degrees.

Securing your boat to a rail using chains shouldn’t take even a single handed boater more than five minutes and should remain firmly in place for as long as you stay there.

If you are mooring single handed, you should carry three chains with you. If the day is windy, or if there are boats regularly passing you as you stop to moor, your boat may be pulled away from you as you attempt to tie up.

In situations like this, fix the first chain on the rail as close as you can to your centre line then tie your centre line to the chain. The boat is now secure enough for you to deal with the bow and stern chains without having to constantly fight against the boat’s movement.

Once the front and back of your boat are secure, you should then untie your centre line and remove the third chain. If you leave it in place you’ll notice that your boat rocks considerably more than it does if you just tie up with your bow and stern lines.

That’s your lot for this week. Next week I’ll let you know how to negotiate locks easily and without stress.

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’me running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still 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.

Update 15th June 2015

I’ve just added a few more dates to the calendar. Now 22nd, 23rd, 24th & 25th June are free, as are 24th & 25th July. If would like to find out more or book a date, click here.

In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendee David Johns…

“I am looking to chuck in my job, buy a boat and go pottering gently around the canals, mainly in the Midlands. Having only boated as a child before and being a narrowboat novice it seemed sensible to gather some more information before rushing headlong into anything.

On the day there was plenty of information with any and all questions answered comprehensively (indeed an almost terrifying determination by the host to extract queries from me when all my mind had run dry). Excellent dogs on board too.

The day was a great opportunity to learn some piloting skills taking the boat round bends, through bridges and past other boats as well as lock skills and finding out about all the highs and lows of living afloat. If you are a novice narrowboater, you need to do this day.”

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.

31st May 2015

On board electrics for continuous cruisers – This is a breakdown of my own electrical system which works wonderfully to provide two fairly high electricity users with plenty of power for extended periods off grid. I’ve also written about the downside of having your boat’s cabin over plated. My comments are based on the work I had done in November 2011.

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
Entertainment
Summary

2015 06 07 Newsletter – Wide Beam Cruising Restrictions

After nearly two months of doing very little other than enjoy ourselves tremendously, on Monday we had to head back to civilization. Sally wanted to make herself feel better by subjecting herself to a series of twelve hour night shifts at the care home in Daventry where she now occasionally works managing a team of multinational carers.

“Wet” would be the best way of describing the four hour thirteen mile cruise from our mooring from Kicklewell Spinney to our overnight stop close to Yelvertoft marina. Thankfully, with my Guy Cotton thick yellow plastic oilskins protecting me from the elements I remained bone dry. Cold, but dry.

If you’re new to boating and imagine that at this time of the year a tee shirt and shorts is the perfect gear for standing still for hours at the tiller, you’re in for a bit of a shock.

Over the last two months of cruising anywhere between one and nine hours a day my normal uniform has been trousers rather than shorts, a tee shirt, fleece mid layer and thick fleece outer layer, a fleece hat and gloves. On rainy days I also have my heavy duty waterproofs over the top.

The number of times I’ve been able to cruise wearing tee shirt and shorts have been few and far between. You don’t generate much heat standing still and standing still is what you do most of the time when you’re cruising. A twitch of your wrist now and then to correct your steering or a bend at the elbow to tilt another steaming coffee towards parched lips hardly counts as strenuous exercise.

The following morning we set off for an eight hour cruising day on the penultimate leg of our journey back to Calcutt. We reached the head of the Watford flight of three standard and four staircase narrow locks to find just one boat booked in ahead of us. After twenty minutes helping a hire boat crew retrieve their windblown craft from the shallow off side of an exposed pound beneath the staircase flight, we flew down the seven locks and away from the roar of cars, lorries and trains on the M1, A5 and West Coast Main Line which squeeze through the Watford gap close to the canal.

After a slow passage through Braunston tunnel thanks to the blinding headlights on a series of oncoming boats – I’m sure my own light must be equally as bright – we plodded down the Braunston flight dodging heavy showers, fighting a strengthening wind and trying to avoid freshly painted balance beams on three of the locks.

We moored for the night close to bridge 100 near Flecknoe then set off the following morning for the final hour to Calcutt in the gale force wind ravaging much of the country, but doing little more in rural Warwickshire than blow my flat bottomed boat sideways.

We moored above the Calcutt flight for the evening knowing that turning into the marina on such a windy day and then maneuvering onto our exposed mooring would be a bit of a pain.

At 7am on Thursday morning the world was still and calm once more. Back in the marina, I knuckled down to some “work” after Sally returned from an arduous twelve hour night shift and stumbled into bed.

Unfortunately the weather was against me. The sun blazed from a clear sky. I couldn’t resist sitting at the picnic bench close to the boat with a token reporter’s note book and pen in front of me. The note pad remained closed for two hours while I daydreamed or watched the gentle activity on the sun soaked marina.

On Friday I had the first of eleven consecutive discovery days booked. For the last year I’ve met attendees on my mooring in the marina then, as soon as we were ready for the cruising part of the day, handed the tiller over to an often virgin helmsman and asked him to reverse my boat off the mooring, make a tight turn past Meadows marina island followed by an even tighter turn through the exit onto the Grand Union then, to complete the baptism of fire, immediately take the 6’10” boat through a 7’ wide opening into an empty lock. The task was unfair given the level of experience of many people out with me for the day. My introduction to boating is now much gentler.

I start the day’s instruction above the flight of three locks so the helmsman is able to guide the boat for ten minutes along a half mile section of straight canal before tackling their first turn and then the series of tight bends and bridges along the combined Oxford and Grand Union canals as the waterway weaves its way gently to Braunston.

By the time we reach the head of the Calcutt flight on the return journey six hours later, the now confident helmsman is much better equipped to handle lock entry and exit.

I spent a very pleasant half hour taking the boat up through three locks on my own then tied up to the water point above the flight to fill up while I waited for my single guest for the day, David.

What a wonderful day we enjoyed together. If you aren’t smitten by narrowboating and the live aboard lifestyle on a hot June day cooled by a gentle breeze, there’s no hope for you.

David was enchanted by the experience. We stopped for lunch at one of my favourite spots near Flecknoe, quickly set up a pair of camp chairs on the towpath then quietly eat lunch while we enjoyed the tranquility.

“This is possibly the most peaceful place I’ve visited… ever!” David told me dreamily.

I have good news for you David. There are an almost unlimited number of spots to moor on the inland waterways network equally as tranquil.

We dropped David off at the head of the Calcutt flight after he successfully negotiated six locks to finish the day, then cruised for ten minutes to the closest available mooring at Napton junction.

Then I set off on a brisk six mile walk to collect Sally’s car.

Sally’s springer spaniel, Charlie, had been walking on three legs for two days. We could see anything wrong with the leg he wouldn’t use so decided that he needed to see a vet, which wasn’t a particularly easy task given that I had to take the boat out for the day.

The only way we could manage Charlie’s vet visit was for Sally to take Charlie to her car before I left for our cruise to Braunston, drive to the vet in Southam, then drive to Braunston after the appointment where she would join me on the boat for much needed sleep after another tiring night shift as we took the boat back to Calcutt. Of course, that would mean one of us having to collect the car later in the day.

After a very pleasant and uneventful walk I met Sally and the dogs back in the marina grounds before walking along the towpath back to the boat and a couple of problems.

The first difficulty was two swans with six cygnets camped on the towpath between us and the boat.

The male, the cob, wasn’t a happy chap, especially when he saw the restrained dogs. I did the manly thing. I told Sally to stand back and keep the dogs with her, then slowly walked towards the increasingly agitated bird hoping to drive him off the narrow path.

The cob’s response was to hiss menacingly, stand up until his head was level with mine, then step towards me with his wings spread. With a mouse like squeak, and a tut of exasperation from Sally behind me, I stepped back, pulled a hawthorn twig out of the nearby hedge and then waved it halfheartedly at the cob.

The huge bird responded by lunging at me, wings spread wider and his head high beak ready to strike. I retreated to a safe distance and whimpered quietly.

I heard a sigh of exasperation behind me as Sally pushed me none too gently out of the way. The swan hissed loudly and took a step forward. Sally hissed twice as loud. The swan took a step back. Sally walked quickly past the puzzled bird and stepped into the safety of the front deck.

Sally asked me for my keys to unlock the front door padlock. I had left my boat keys inside the boat. So had Sally.

We weren’t particularly worried. We keep an emergency front door key in a key safe bolted to the steel cabin side next to front doors. It’s an infallible backup, absolutely foolproof… unless you’re a certain age and you’ve also left your glasses inside the boat.

Neither of us could see the key safe’s four tumblers in the failing light. We took turns squinting at it with the aid of my phone’s torch app for twenty minutes, turning the tumblers at random hoping that the blurrily seen numbers were in the correct sequence.

After half an hour we chanced on the correct code but not before we’d threatened to throw each other in a couple of times and called the dogs names they didn’t deserve. In future the infallible get-into-the-boat kit will include a torch and a spare pair of glasses, and maybe a battery powered angle grinder.

Saturday and today were two more wonderful summery days on the cut. If you’re considering joining me on a discovery day, please don’t book a date for this time of the year. You run a real risk of stepping off the boat at the end of the day, smiling contentedly to yourself and silently reaching for your boat buying cheque book.

Carl and Jane, the couple who joined me today, left with smiles like Cheshire cats. Actually Jane left looking like a cross between a Cheshire cat and a very hot panda. Sunglasses, fair skin and a hot June day are an unfortunate combination. Funny, but unfortunate.

Wide beam restrictions

I have sometimes been accused of casting wide beam boats in an unnecessarily bad light. I have absolutely nothing against wide beam craft or their owners. I welcome the many knowledgeable contributions on the forum made by owners of wider craft so I certainly don’t want to offend you if you’re one of them. I’m simply trying to provide enough information to allow aspiring live aboard and recreational boaters to make an informed decision before parting with a significant amount of cash to buy a boat.

Wide beams offer much more valuable living space than narrowboats and are a sensible choice if you intend to treat your boat as little more than a floating flat which you can use as a base to commute to and from work.

However, if your intention is to use your wide beam as a vehicle to help you explore over 2,000 miles of connected canals and rivers of the inland waterways network, you need to realise that a wide craft is far from ideal.

The network consists of many different connected waterways with locks of varying sizea. At 6’10” wide, a narrowboat is narrow enough to fit through all of them. The boat’s length is still a consideration as some of the northern waterways have short locks. A narrowboat no more than 57’ long – 60’ if you’re prepared to shoehorn your boat into a lock diagonally, sometimes backwards and occasionally with the bow and stern fenders removed – will allow you access to all of the network.

A wide beam boat is far more restrictive. For a start, you can’t cruise in your boat from the northern to the southern section of the network and vice versa. The routes through the Midlands via the Grand Union Leicester Line, the Oxford, Coventry and Trent & Mersey canals, the Birmingham Canal Navigations and the Shropshire Union Canal all have locks roughly seven feet wide.

If you want to move your boat from one section of the network to the other, you will have to do so by road. And then you’ll have to lay down in a dark room for a while to recover from the transport costs.

You can download a detailed map of the network from the Inland Waterways Association here. The map will give you an overview of the network’s extent and which canals you won’t be able to visit if you choose a wide beam boat. The pale blue lines with thin blue edging are the narrow canals. You can’t visit these in a wide beam. The pale blue lines with slightly thicker blue edging are the broad canals. You should be OK on these subject to length restrictions.

The map’s different waterways aren’t immediately apparent so here are some examples for you.

Assuming that you’ve downloaded the map, open it and then find Birmingham. Slightly below Birmingham is Warwick. The waterway underneath Warwick is the Grand Union canal which is a broad canal wide enough for a wide beam. Follow the waterway to the right away from Warwick until you come to Napton Junction.

The waterway extending vertically from Napton Junction down to Oxford is the south Oxford canal. This is a narrow canal which you can’t cruise on in a wide beam boat. At Oxford the thicker blue wiggly line is a river, the mighty Thames. You can cruise on many but not all of the rivers.

If you follow the Thames to the left from Lechlade you will see that the river becomes a white, blue edged line. This denotes a waterway which isn’t currently accessible by any boats from the main network, although you may be able to cruise on some sections of it if you have a trail boat which you can tow behind a car (definitely not a wide beam boat!).

To give you a fuller picture of wide beam restrictions, I have listed the inaccessible canals and their lengths below.

Birmingham Canal Navigations – 100 miles

Oxford canal north and south – 78 miles

Grand Union Leicester line – 41 miles

Coventry canal – 38 miles

Ashby canal – 31 miles

Trent & Mersey canal – 93 miles

Staffordshire & Worcestershire canal – 46 miles

Shropshire Union canal – 66 miles

Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch – 10 miles

Caldon canal – 18 miles

Worcester and Birmingham canal – 29 miles

Stratford canal – 26 miles

Macclesfield canal – 26 miles

Peak Forest canal – 15 miles

Ashton canal – 7 miles

Huddersfield Narrow canal – 20 miles

Llangollen canal – 89 miles

Montgomery canal – 33 miles

Chesterfield canal – 46 miles

Grand Union Aylesbury Branch – 6 miles

Grand Union Market Harborough Branch – 5 miles

Grand Union Northampton Branch – 5 miles

Grand Union Welford Branch – 2 miles

Stourbridge canal – 5 miles

Total 835 miles

As you can see, there are 835 miles or 42% of the network which you can’t visit at all on a wide beam, but you are also further restricted because of your inability to cruise between the northern and southern sections, and restricted even more depending on the width of your wide beam.

A narrowboat is easily defined. It’s 6’10” wide. A wide beam is much more difficult to pin down. It’s wider than a narrowboat and less than 14’ wide. The closer you edge towards 14’ the less cruising you will be able to do.

A classic case of a restricted boat is one that has been moored at Calcutt for the last year or so. Since it’s been in the water, it’s cruised a total of four miles, three of which were its maiden voyage from Kate Boats at the head of the Stockton flight on the Grand Union canal to its current mooring between Calcutt Bottom and Middle locks.

The boat, seventy feet long, 13’6” wide and thirty seven tonnes is, according to the owner, simply too wide to take much further according to the owner. The original intention was to take it to Weltonfield Hythe near Norton Junction on the Grand Union Leicester Line.

I don’t know how scientific the owner’s assessment of the route has been as he now appears to be quite settled where he is, but there are several narrow and low bridges on the route between Napton and Braunston junctions which look impassable for a craft of those dimensions.

Here are some of the width restrictions on the waterways in the Fens.

Middle Level navigations – 11’ 6” on many stretches

River Great Ouse – 10’ 4”

Little Ouse – 12’

Witham Navigable Drains – 10’

The northern section offers you the widest scope for both cruising and mooring. The southern section around London and towards the western end of the Kennet and Avon is congested by live aboard boaters who need to stay close to work so navigation may be possible but tricky.

The northern section has more and less busy waterways for wide craft. You can cruise from Leicester at the southern tip of the northern section north and west as far as Tewitfield on the Lancester canal three hundred miles away or turn right off the Trent towards Lincoln and then onwards to the east coast.

Once you reach Boston you can gaze wistfully across the Wash towards your gateway to the Middle Level Navigations. If you’re very brave, and if your boat’s up to spec and your insurance company will cover you for the crossing, you can risk tidal waters to add a few more miles to your cruising possibilities.

Of course, if you’re cruising in a narrowboat, you can go everywhere. You just won’t have as much quite as much living space as those in wide beam boats. You won’t mind though, You’ll be too busy exploring over 2,000 miles of connected inland waterways accessible to owners of skinny craft.

Useful resources

Far and Wide (Canal Boat magazine)

Craft and Lock Dimensions Jim Shead

Wide Beam Guide Waterways World Magazine (Page 19)

The Pros And Cons Of A Wide Beam Home

Wide Beam Mooring Problems

 

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.

31st May 2015

On board electrics for continuous cruisers – This is a breakdown of my own electrical system which works wonderfully to provide two fairly high electricity users with plenty of power for extended periods off grid. I’ve also written about the downside of having your boat’s cabin over plated. My comments are based on the work I had done in November 2011.

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
Entertainment
Summary
15

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
Entertainment
Summary

2015 05 24 Newsletter – Upgrading An Elderly Narrowboat

I’m afraid I haven’t written much at all about my travels over the last week. I started writing about the improvements I’ve made to my boat since I moved on board half a decade ago. Time waits for no man. I am certainly no exception. I’ve run out of time again to write anything else, so I hope you’re happy with my lengthy digital scribbling about the refurbishment of James No 194. Before I begin that section though, I thought you would like to know how I’m getting on with my loo.

Composing Toilets

Last week I mentioned that we were about to take the plunge and invest just over £1,000 in a compost toilet. On Thursday we set off from our Flecknoe mooring at 6am hoping to reach Hillmorton Wharf for nine. We did, just.

Before you read any more, I need to make you aware that I’m going to explain quite graphically about our experiences with the new loo, so please skip this section if composting toilets don’t interest you or if detailed descriptions of boaters’ bowel movements has you reaching for a paper bag.

The toilets are normally fitted by business owner Richard but recent composting toilet sales have been brisk so new guy Mark’s first day working for Richard was spent in our tiny walk through bathroom.

“Fitting an Airhead is simple, “Richard told me last week when we popped in to see him. “All you have to do is screw the brackets for the solids bin to your bathroom floor and drill through your roof or the cabin side then fit a small 12v fan then connect it to your boat’s electrics.”

I started to glaze over when he mentioned fitting the tank brackets. There was no chance at all of me doing the rest of it right so I was very happy to book myself in with Mark for the expected four hour installation. I was extremely pleased I did.

Of course the fitting wasn’t as easy as they thought. They had to cut a hole through my bathroom roof cladding, then through the boat’s original wooden top and finally through the steel roof I had fitted over the wooden one in 2011. Mark hit one of the steel roof support struts on the way through so, after a brief chat with Richard, fitted a dog’s leg into the extraction hose.

The four hour job took eight hours but both Sally and I were more than happy to spend a few extra hours tied up to the wharf. Mark’s work was both thorough and neat.

We left Hillmorton Wharf at 5pm, cruised for an hour to a quiet mooring with expansive views a mile outside Braunston then moored for the night, delighted that we no longer need to consider how far away we were from the nearest public loo.

I know that must sound pathetic to you knowing that I’ve been living afloat for half a decade, but I was never happy with the cassette toilet so using public facilities has become an ingrained habit.

Anyway, I’m determined that the substantial investment is going to work but I’ve had to change the way I approach our new toilet. Literally.

The Airhead composting toilet only works effectively if liquids and solids are stored separately. A common cause of solid tank contamination is men standing to wee, not aiming in the right direction, then sending jets of urine into the solids tank.

The only solution is to follow the ladies’ lead and sit to wee. The sight of me walking toward the toilet unbuttoning my trousers just to have a quick pee amuses Sally no end. She’s easily pleased.

Making the first solid contribution to our new independent lifestyle took a while. We were both hesitant to use the new waterless toilet but we entered into the spirit of things the following day with a little unplanned teamwork.

Sally sometimes steers our boat, often for an hour or more at a time. She’s very good at the helm but not very confident. Consequently, she usually wants me close at hand in case we unexpectedly meet another boat or a situation where she isn’t really sure what to do.

On Friday we pulled away from our mooring at 6am to cruise to the bottom of the Napton flight to our storage container so that we could remove our now redundant Porta Potti. From there we had ten hours cruising to the three day zone 1 mooring I booked for the Crick Boat Show six months ago.

Sally took over from me after an hour so that I could christen the loo.

I approached the procedure with some trepidation. Everything is so much easier and cleaner in a bricks and mortar loo. You make your deposit into a liquid filled bowl then flush it away with gallons of water. Even a boat’s dump through or cassette toilet has a chemical or eco-friendly slurry beneath you to help mask the inevitable unpleasant odours.

The Airhead toilet bowl has a watertight flap at the bottom and a hole towards the front of the bowl which directs wee into the liquids bottle. You wee first, then open the bottom flap with a lever on the side of the toilet, strain and hopefully drop your solids neatly through the open flap into the tank beneath.

If you aren’t sure of your aim, there’s a pack of extra-large coffee filters provided with the toilet. You leave the flap closed, place a coffee filter in the bottom of the pan, drop your solids into the paper cup, then depress the lever to drop paper and solids into the tank. The whole process feels very strange after a lifetime of conventional toilet use.

With Sally at the helm, I was contemplating the meaning of life while I waited for what normally would have happened pretty quickly when Sally helped me along. The steady engine throb changed to a mighty roar as she thrust the Morse control backwards when she saw the bow of an oncoming boat appear suddenly through a bridge hole, then there was a bump and a scrape as our bow hit the concrete clad towpath.

Spurred on by the sudden excitement I quickly finished the task in hand before dashing to the back of the boat to make sure both Sally and the boat were OK.

The toilet design is amazingly effective. Using the coffee filter, there was no mess at all. The was a slightly unpleasant smell in the bathroom for an hour after the toilet’s first use for solids but today after half a dozen uses there’s no smell at all.

The toilet’s 12v extractor fan runs twenty four hours a day, constantly removing moisture from the solids tank. Because the fan is drawing both moisture and odour from the tank, I have discovered that standing at the helm when the boat is in the close confines of a tunnel is not the most pleasant place in the world to be when a solid deposit is made. I don’t think I’ll ever think fondly of Crick tunnel again.

We’ve only been using the new loo for four days but, so far, we’re delighted with the way it works. I had a little mishap this morning but it was all part of the learning curve. We were told that the liquids tank needs to be emptied roughly every two days. We emptied it on Saturday so were expecting to empty it again later today.

I woke this morning at 5am, sat down in my new girly way for a pre coffee wee, then felt an unfamiliar warmth under my bare feet. The liquids bottle doesn’t hold as much as I thought. After clearing up a set of yellow footprints created with my own urine, I quickly emptied the overflowing bottle in a nearby hedge (Remember, this method of disposal is EA approved). It’s a much easier way of getting rid of your waste than trying to find an Elsan point at Crick.

The real test now that we’ve established that putting stuff in it isn’t at all unpleasant will be to see how we get on with removing what we’ve added to it. I’ll let you know how I get on with that when the time comes.

We’re having a good experience with our first composting toilet, but we’re not alone. After writing about the Airhead toilet last week, I received the following emails from other happy composting toilet users.

EMAIL 1 – JOHN ANDREWS

Hi Paul,

Glad to see you are going composting!

I bought one last summer. I got the much cheaper but very similar ‘http://natureshead.net’ Natures Head from a UK stockist Black Bear Leisure.

Here are my experiences with this composting head:

There is just me on board, and then just for 4 nights (average) a week. It works very well – I have only emptied its solids tank twice since September and I do not use pub or other public toilets. It is amazing how much the physical size of the compost heap reduces by over a weekend while the loo is not being used. In my experience at the point where the tank seemed to be getting full, it is very noticeable that recent supplies into the tank still retain there as contributed appearance! I’d hesitate to put them in general household / CRT waste until fully composted. As the solids had not all composted right down I am keeping them in a compost bin to finish them off.

With two of you full time I think that you will definitely need to set up a compost bin somewhere where you can empty the solids into to finish off – or of course, bury them. The solids tank contents with well over twice the demand you two full time on board will put it to, will not compost fast enough to keep up. I’d love to hear your friends’ views on this – does theirs keep up with their lifestyle? Maybe, I am not using the right compost to get things going fast enough?

The main thing I have experienced is that the composting process needs 15 Deg C or more to keep going so during the winter, with my boat empty for 50% of the time, the composting was not happening fast enough – the tank got damp and smelly then. I do not yet know how I will deal with that next winter. Since it has warmed up the composting process is fine.

You will need an external air vent for the 12V fan to pump out to – and you will notice that the air coming out smells of compost. Not unpleasant – a bit musty – not at all ‘cessy’ if I can put it like that. Anyhow – as you must have numerous roof vents on a narrowboat for air safety reasons, you will find the exhaust air does get back in if the wind is blowing direct from your exit vent towards an open roof vent. I’m thinking about how to add a chimney to the top of my outlet to get the air up and away.

I am using a solar roof vent to exhaust the air which runs 24/7 since late spring. In the winter I also ran a 12V fan (supplied with the loo) from the boat supply as overnight the solar vent would stop on flat batteries.

Overall – much less smelly and much less unpleasant to deal with than my previous Elsan chemical toilet. Glad I switched!!

EMAIL 1 ENDS

EMAIL 2 – STEVE FREEAR

We have had our airhead composting toilet for 8 months now and find it really good and it saves you even more water. Please be aware though that the cocoa shells used in the solids tank are now becoming very hard to get hold of. The problem is when used as a mulch on the garden, if dogs eat it, the mulch can poison them. John Innes was the normal brand and you could get it at garden centres but I tried 6 around us and none sold it any more.

Canalshop also ran out but now has it in stock but I don’t know where he sources it and only sells it in small bags, rather than the 75 litre bags that you could buy for about £12.

We got what we thought was cocoa husks from Amazon but it’s actually the fibres and looks more like a compost. We have found it works OK though.

I also did a review on my blog of the airhead

EMAIL 2 ENDS

EMAIL 3 – MARILYN MCDONALD

We too have ordered a composting loo and are picking it up from Richard and Susanne on our way to the boat (Barby Moorings) tomorrow hopefully. I see I will have to follow your example and get a folding spade and some tea tree oil so I’m ready for cleaning action …

With luck we will be able to catch up in person – that would be lovely and I will get some Aussie red in the shopping so I am prepared.

You may like to read or refer people to Jaq and Les Biggs’ post about the Airhead on the nb Valerie blog – It was reading that, meeting them last year and seeing their toilet that convinced us it was the way to go. We have a drop through currently, and our process is the reverse of yours – we don’t use it for peeing as that fills the tank too quickly, and we do use to for solids. Our Cost Benefit Analysis won’t bring such a speedy return on investment as yours will with the cost of coffee, beer and cakes on the debit side – ours was based on the cost of pump outs over the five months we are on the boat. So our payback period is about 4 years. Still we thought it was worth it.

I was also interested in your water saving and timing of usage techniques – we too shower while filling with water and do washing on the way to the water point. When rinsing dishes we put the plug in the sink instead of letting that water rinse just one thing. I remember reading on the forum a post by Peter Earley in which he said that they capture the water that runs while waiting for the hot water to come through, and get a bucket or so for odd jobs throughout the day. That will take a bit more discipline for us but if we got a couple of jugs that we could slip under the taps I am sure we would get into the habit. I’d quite like to do it so I could have a bucket of ‘free’ water to wash my Tiva sandals in each evening – they do get smelly – and it would be good to have it for random bits of external boat washing or filling the kettle …

FEEDBACK 3 ENDS MARILYN MCDONALD

 Refurbishing A Thirty Eight Year Old Narrowboat

Because I’ve written extensively about my experience on board a boat needing fair amount of TLC, I’ve received a few emails over the years asking for advice about refurbishing an old boat. I don’t have any practical skills at all so none of the refurbishment has been done by me. Because of that, I can’t offer any practical advice. However, I’m not bad at project management and, thanks to the team of very knowledgeable staff at Calcutt Boats, I’ve been able to determine the best way to equip my own boat for very comfortable living for long periods off grid.

I spent the first five years of my on board life on a marina mooring, so being able to function off grid wasn’t an issue, but I knew that, eventually, I wanted to spend weeks or months at a time exploring the network.

That dream has now become reality. We’ve been off grid now for seven weeks. I’m delighted that the boat has performed as well in practice as I thought it would in theory.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve done to the boat and how much the improvements have cost me. I know these improvements are particular to my own boat but my account may help you if you’re considering upgrading your own craft.

I moved on board James No 194 on 2nd April 2010. I had been working part time at Calcutt Boats part time for six months after the collapse of my business and subsequent bankruptcy, then the collapse of my marriage and subsequent emotional bankruptcy.

I moved on to the then thirty three year old boat because I needed somewhere cheap to live. The lifestyle wasn’t a consideration. I had no experience of boats and no interest in living on one. The old and leaking boat simply offered me a more attractive but less comfortable alternative to my unhappy family home.

The boat was far from palatial. After thirteen unused and unloved years on an exposed marina mooring the once lovely boat had seen far better days. Thick rust flakes covered both gunnels, paint hung in ribbons from the boat’s windward port side, the tattered cratch cover was covered in algae and moss, water poured in to the cabin from a dozen leaks in the perished wooden roof and the engine bilge had filled and overflowed on to the bedroom floor.

Thick cobwebs covered every window, door frame and hatch, the mattress on the back cabin’s double bed was water stained and the seat upholstery in the saloon and dining area was mildewed, as were the dirty curtains covering the boat’s ten windows. An old and reliable gas heater provided hot water for the tiny bathroom with its equally tiny bath. There was an empty space for a toilet but no toilet on board.

The solid fuel stove had a cracked flue and broken glass so couldn’t be used, the starter battery and single 110ah lead acid battery in the leisure bank were both dead so wouldn’t hold a charge and there was no shore line to connect the boat to the marina mains supply. The engine’s perished hoses prevented it from being used to generate any on board power.

Not that I particularly wanted to start the engine. The insulated coffin like box covering the engine had fallen apart so had to be removed which then exposed the helmsman and any guests to the considerable engine noise and clouds of billowing smoke.

At first, life on board was far from comfortable. Every time I heard rain drumming on the thin wooden roof I reached into the galley cupboard for my small collection of pans ready to catch the soon expected drips through the ceiling’s pine cladding. Wind whistled through gaps in the hopper windows, through gaps in two warped centre hatches, through an equally decayed rear hatch and ill-fitting front, side and rear doors. The boat was cold and very draughty.

The owner Roger Preen, Calcutt Boats’ founder, asked his fitters to make the boat habitable. They had to replace the stove flue and glass, replace the tiny bath with a shower cubicle and install a charger so the two batteries could be charged via the shore supply. An old Porta Potti toilet was found for me to use until I could find something better.

An industrial dehumidifier was wedged into the back cabin to help remove years of accumulated damp. I needed to run it for twelve hours a day to fight the damp.

Within a week I could use the stove, keep myself clean, use an on board toilet and walk through the boat to my bedroom in the rear cabin without getting my feet wet.

Despite the boat’s sorry state, my first six months on board were a delight. With my basic needs satisfied I did very little to the boat for the first year other than relax and begin to recover from a very stressful few years.

Coming “home” from work was a joy. With no television on board I spent all my free time reading. I finished work at 5.30pm. Two minutes later I was back at the boat after a pleasant commute along the flower covered marina embankment. I would sit for hours on the comfortable wooden bench seat on my front deck with a good book, a bowl of olives and a glass or two of Australian red. It was heaven.

The summer passed, then autumn, quickly followed by the coldest winter on record. For six weeks the marina was covered by four inches of ice. One night the thermometer dropped to a decidedly chilly minus eighteen. The temperature in my bedroom was often below freezing. A quarter of an inch of frost on the internal engine room cladding just feet from my sleeping head wasn’t unusual. I spent more than one evening sitting as close as possible to my fire wearing two fleece tops, a fleece hat and gloves.

The following spring I met Sally. The basic and often rather uncomfortable lifestyle was bearable for me but I didn’t want her to suffer if, as seemed increasingly likely, she was going to move on board with me.

I didn’t want either of us to have to endure another desperately cold winter on board with rainwater pouring through the roof. The only sensible solution was to have the original wooden cabin completely over plated with steel.

In November 2011 I kick started the boat’s refurbishment by paying £1,100 to have the boat shipped eight miles by road to have the steelwork done. The price included the hire of the crane needed to offload the boat at Reeves boatyard in Bishops Itchington then loaded back onto the lorry to bring it back.

The cost of the new cabin was a very reasonable £6,500. The work included the cabin sides, roof, front and rear bulkheads, a pair of doors at the front, another pair at the back and two more either side half way down the boat, plus hatches above both pairs of side doors and the rear doors, a refurbished pigeon box, a reinforced half roof ring for my centre lines and brackets for poles and planks.

Before the new steel was added, I asked Reeves to fix additional polystyrene insulation over the original cabin. In hindsight, I think this was a mistake. I should have had the old cabin covered in a layer of far more effective spray foam insulation.

The boat came back to Calcutt after ten days away. The first job was to protect the bare steel with a couple of coats of primer for the winter before my planned repaint the following spring, then the boat had to be put back together.

Before the steel was fitted, all windows and external fitting had to be removed including the chimney collar, roof vents, the pigeon box and all the wiring to the three gauges in it and the navigation lights.

Once the windows were refitted in the new steel, a hardwood frame had to be made for each window to bridge the gap between the old and new cabins.

Back on the mooring, we spent another couple of days cleaning up the incredible amount of dust created by both steel fitting and remedial work before settling down for a warmer and dryer winter.

Next on the hit list was replacing the tatty and stained cratch cover. Most suppliers charge in excess of £1,000 for a cratch (front deck) cover. Mine cost £450 from a one man band in Coventry. Three and a half years later, it’s as good as new.

Thanks to the new watertight and better insulated cabin, and much milder weather, that winter was much more pleasant. In fact, settling down on a cold night to a good book in front of a roaring fire on a warm and dry boat on a frosty winter’s eve is a real pleasure.

Over the winter I replaced all eighteen lights on board with LEDs at a cost of about £18 each. The initial cost was high but the new lights should last longer than me and use very little power.

In April 2012 we resumed the refurbishment programme when I took three weeks off work to first black the hull then paint everything else. I saved myself a fortune by not employing someone to do the work for me.

The hull needs painting roughly every three years if you use bitumen as most boat owners do. The cost for a 62’ boat like mine is normally £500 – £600. Some boat yards allow DIY blacking but by the time you total the cost of lifting your boat in and out of the water, hiring a pressure washer, industrial wire brush, renting the slipway or dry dock to do the work and then buying paint and rollers, you don’t save very much. Fortunately, working at the marina at the time, I was able to take advantage of staff rates.

Blacking my own boat saved me a little money but painting the cabin saved me a fortune. As a rule of thumb, you can budget £100 a foot to have your boat professionally painted. In fact, I had a quote yesterday (24th May 2015) for £8,500 from top notch narrowboat painter John Barnard at the Crick Boat Show.

After John helped me to my feet after he told me the price he said. “Over eight thousand pounds to paint your boat might sound like a lot of money but doing the job properly takes a long time. First of all we take everything off your boat; all vents, solar panels, roof furniture, navigation lights and any other additions to the cabin. Then we take your windows out, take the boat back to bare metal then slowly and carefully apply ten layers of paint. The devil is in the detail.”

Of course I didn’t do as thorough a job as John, as is evident by the end result. By the time I applied my final coat at the end of the third week, I was starting to get the hang of applying a streak, drip and sag free coat. Unfortunately the final coat was applied over the top of five others which hadn’t been so well applied.

Still, people who meet me now, three years after I did the work, tell me that the boat looks pretty good. I paid just under £1,000 for paint and consumables. Then there was the cost of hiring a paint tent for three weeks at £30 a day and the income I lost by taking three weeks off work.

The boat now looked pretty good, and it was fine as a floating flat, but it wasn’t much good for getting me from A to B. I ran the engine for a few minutes a week for no other reason than to see if it was still working. Being plugged into the shore supply took care of all my electrical needs and any hot water I needed was provided by a temperamental gas water heater. I didn’t take the boat cruising because I had no faith in the old engine with its perished hoses sitting over bilge full of water.

I didn’t actually take the boat out of the marina for the first time until December 2011, twenty months after moving on board.

Sally’s two children, Maricar and Michael were visiting us for Christmas. Sally suggested taking them on a cruise to Braunston. To be honest, the thought terrified me but, not being one to back away from a challenge, I fired up the engine, crossed my fingers and set off on the nerve-wracking trip up three locks then along the twisting six mile route to Braunston.

We couldn’t stay out on the cut overnight. The single domestic battery wasn’t holding a charge so we only had lights and water pumps while the engine running, and no hot water because the engine fed calorifier didn’t appear to be working.

We popped in to The Boat House in Braunston for a lunch time drink, then headed quickly back to the boat for the return trip. The engine spluttered into life, coughed a few times, then died. I started it again half a dozen times with the same result before it struggled to life.

We managed to limp to Wolfhamcote half a mile away before the engine died for good. There was nothing I could do to sort it out so I left Michael and his mother sitting in front of the fire for a damp six miles walk back to the marina to collect the car.

The following day I returned with one of our fitters and an out of season Calcutt hire boat. We towed my boat back to the marina where fitter Russ spent several hours cleaning my solidly caked fuel filter then bleeding the fuel lines so he could start the engine.

I tried taking the boat out again a couple of weeks later. Again I had problems. The engine kept dropping out of gear. I managed to crawl back to the marina this time. The problem was easily resolved. A hose on my PRM gearbox had perished allowing the oil to escape.

To ensure that I didn’t have any further problems, I had all the perished engine and gearbox hoses replaced.

I ran out of money then so apart from a few smaller improvements such as buying a condensation preventing ventilation mat to fit under our mattress (£66), some interlocking plastic mats for the front deck (£57), and carpeting for our bedroom (£40) to replace the mouldy and threadbare beige carpet in situ when I moved on board, we saved our pennies for the next year.

In March 2013 we replaced the existing 110ah starter battery and upgraded the single 110ah battery in the leisure bank to two, and then soon after, four 135ah. We also added a 1600w pure sine inverter. That little lot cost just over £800.

A week later we had all the boat’s carpet ripped out and replaced with smart looking and easy to clean oak effect laminate flooring. Carpet just wasn’t practical with two hair shedding and muddy pawed spaniels on board. The new laminate flooring was easy to keep clean. The downside was that Charlie, the hyperactive springer spaniel, now drives us mad with his constant clickity click as he marches relentlessly up and down the boat.

Just to ensure that we emptied our savings account completely, the following day we had a 300w solar array fitted by Tim Davis of Onboard Solar. The three panels with their MPPT controller (£1,000 including fitting) have made a significant difference to life on board.

We use a fair amount of electricity. The inverter tends to run for much of the day, we relax for a couple of mindless hours each evening in front of our 240v television, my laptop is on all day, every day, and Sally and I also regularly have a range of power hungry smart phones, tablets and Kindles charging.

With the solar panels installed, after I identified one or two inefficiencies in my electrical setup generally, now if we aren’t cruising during the day, running the engine for no more than an hour is enough to bring the batteries up to full charge.

In March we also tackled our fire safety shortfalls by installing a carbon monoxide monitor, a fire blanket and three new fire extinguishers (£80) and, in case we dropped any metal objects overboard, a bijou recovery magnet.

The tiny magnet is as wide as a 2p piece and about two inches long. It’s small but it will lift 50lb. Attached to a 100m length of Paracord I keep in the engine room, I’ve used it so far to retrieve two bunches of keys, three shackles, two windlasses and a screwdriver. The owner of the boat in front of me yesterday used his to almost instantly retrieve a borrowed pair of mole grips. The £26 investment is an essential bit of boating kit.

In April we were at it again. I had a fuel pre filter installed rather than having to try to reach the fuel filter on the engine which was jammed almost inaccessibly between the front of the engine and the bulkhead between the engine room and our bedroom, and I had a steel frame installed around the engine so it could be boarded and insulated. Then I booked River Canal Rescue for a full engine service. Cost £630.

I also had some deck boards quickly fitted above the engine to allow me to climb over the engine to get to the stairs into the cabin. The engine wasn’t boarded at the side nor were any of the boards soundproofed so the engine room was more usable but still very noisy. Cost £200.

At the Crick Boat Show in May we invested £125 in a new front and a new rear fender to replace the disintegrating and embarrassing objects hanging off the boat.

I’m trawling through my records listing the major expenses but there are many smaller purchases which add significantly to the total. For example, in the first six months of 2013, I also bought gearbox oil, grease, fairleads, grippy pads to allow us to step onto the front and the back of the boat without slipping, inverter wiring, a 25m shore line, mooring chains, weed hatch tools, battery leads, spring clips and hooks for the engine room, a consumer until and switch, stove paint, paint brushes, stove glass, drill bits, fender hangers and side fenders, Carnuba wax, a coolie hat and door mats. The total for these items is £720.

In August my bilge pump stopped working so I had to buy a new one. One of our fitters, Russ Fincham, suggested a way of improving the way the bilge pump works in my engine room. Normally the pump simply sits in the bilge, the lowest point in the engine bay. Water finding its way into the bilge, in my case at the time from any one of half a dozen different directions, is sucked up by the pump and expelled via a hose into the canal. There were a number of different leaks causing the accumulation in my bilge but the main one was via the stern gland. Russ suggested placing a washing up bowl beneath the stern gland and gluing a float switch to the bowl bottom. The bowl would confine the incoming water to a small area, the float switch would trigger the pump as the water level rose in the bowl then quickly expel any excess water from the boat. The system works really well. I now know that any water in the bilge isn’t coming from the stern gland so I can then look elsewhere for the leak. Bilge pump and float switch £33.

In November I invested £369 in a secondary double glazing kit which comprised ten polycarbonate panels and enough magnetic and steel tape to secure them to the cladding around the leaky windows inside the cabin. The Irish supplier sent the white rather than brown magnetic tape, then said he couldn’t supply the brown tape I had ordered so eventually agreed to refund the full purchase price but allowed me to keep the plastic panels. I eventually managed to secure the panels with Velcro. They do a marvellous job of keeping the cabin warm by preventing wind whistling through the gaps in the old windows. They also stop condensation completely.

I kicked off the refurbishment programme in 2014 with the purchase of a Webasto central heating kit and a Surecal 55l calorifier to replace the broken one under our bed. Cost £1,500.

I wanted central heating on board to supplement our solid fuel stove. The rear of the boat has always been quiet cold. The stove is at the front of the boat. It has a gravity fed back boiler which feeds three radiators down the starboard side. By the time the hot stove water has trickled forty feet to the radiator in our bedroom it’s luke warm. I wanted to be able to heat the bedroom properly and allow us more flexibility when heating the boat during spring and autumn when we just need a quick burst of heat at either end of the day.

However, trying to find someone to fit the central heating system was a nightmare. I couldn’t get the work done at Calcutt because of politics and all the other heating engineers we contacted appeared to be too busy.

Maybe the fitting problems were a blessing in disguise. Although we still struggle to balance the stove’s output with milder spring and autumn weather, we’re managed to resolve the back cabin problems. I’ll cover the improvements we’ve made to achieve that shortly.

In March I purchased a Smartgauge battery monitor. It’s one of the smartest purchases I’ve made for the boat. Prior to its installation, charging the battery bank was purely guesswork. I knew I needed to run the engine to charge the batteries, but I didn’t know how often or for how long. I knew that the bank desperately needed charging if the boat’s 12v system failed but letting the batteries run flat didn’t do them any good at all.

Now I can press a button to check the bank’s capacity then run the engine for as long as necessary to bring them up to full charge. No more wasted fuel when running the engine to charge batteries which don’t need charging, and no more reducing the battery bank’s lifespan by allowing them to drain. Cost £155.

I’m absolutely hopeless with the simplest DIY tasks on board. In March I asked a handyman to do some jobs for me including fitting the new battery monitor and curing a leak in the bathroom which had resulted in shower water trickling along some trunking running through the shower cubicle then pouring on to our bed in the rear cabin. Labour plus materials for two days £273.

In March we also replaced the bathroom shower curtain with a shower door designed to fit the lower than usual shower cubicles you find on boats. The new shower door meant that we didn’t spend most of our time in the shower trying to unwrap ourselves from a difficult to clean shower curtain.

In April we recovered all eight seats and backs in the L shaped saloon and in the Pullman’s dinette. Sally, clever girl, also made ten pairs of matching curtains. The seats cost £650 to recover. Material for the curtains brought the total to £800. I also had to pay an eye watering £114 for a new thermostat for my Mercedes engine.

The following month we asked The Little Chimney Co to manufacture a stainless steel chimney to provide us with a durable alternative to the off the shelf steel ones which fell apart every year. Cost £150.

In June we had the new calorifier fitted and a new relay fitted to ensure that both battery banks charged properly. We also purchased a folding trolley for transporting toilet cassettes, gas and coal, some new fenders, shackles and engine oil. Total £450. Oh, and another £1.60 for a pack of three tennis balls from Amazon to put on the end of our mooring stakes.

In July we purchased a first aid kit, two CRT style lifejacket and a new 12v fridge. We also removed the carpet we had foolishly left in our bedroom when the laminate flooring was installed and replaced it with more laminate flooring. Total £795.

The next month we paid a deposit to a carpenter to secure his services for boarding and insulating the engine properly and had the engine’s head gasket replaced and a faulty bleed valve replaced on my mud box. I also had the boat’s original fuse board replaced with one which was neater, more modern and easier to understand and access, had the new shower door fitted, new sockets installed in the front of the boat, a new LED headlamp fitted and the alternator wiring improved, bought a 2.6KW suitcase generator for heavy duty electrical items when cruising which, surprisingly we’ve only used for ten minutes in the last eight weeks, a Jerry can and petrol and oil for the generator, and a 10m shoreline, also for the generator. Total cost £2,700.

In October, now running out of steam, money and the will to live, we paid the balance due for the first class engine boxing and soundproofing work then had some more electrical work done in the cabin. Total cost £1,300.

The next month I purchased an LPG conversion kit for the generator and a motion sensor battery powered light for the engine room costing me another £200.

To finish the year off, and ensure we couldn’t afford a holiday for a very long time, I had the alternator adjusted, some more wiring replaced inside and the oil, temperature and tachometer gauges rewired in my pigeon box. Cost £400.

In January with my retirement from full time employment and the start of our grand adventure just four months away, I pushed the boat out and replaced my failed bank of four 135ah lead acid batteries with larger capacity maintenance free 160ah AGM batteries.

In February, knowing that I was likely to run the engine for 1,000 hours a year once I started cruising in earnest, I spent £190 for a one to one engine service tuition from RCR’s senior engineer, Kerry. Now rather than have to spend £150 every 250 hours for someone else to service my engine, I can do it myself at no cost other than £25 for oil and filters. That’s the theory anyway. I’ve yet to actually do one myself but the next service is due within the next two weeks.

Remember I mentioned that my stove struggles to push the heat it generates to the far end of our cabin? To overcome this, most boat owners simply invest most of their savings in an Ecofan. These fans so a marvellous job of pushing heat away from the stove. They use the stove’s heat to power the fan, providing the stove has a single skinned, and therefore hot, top plate. I bought an Ecofan and couldn’t understand why it wouldn’t work until I realised that my stove has a double skin on top which means that you can rest the palm of your hand on top without burning it.

My solution, which works very well indeed, was to install a 12v ceiling fan close to the stove in line with the two bulkhead doorways either side of our walk through bathroom. Now, if we want the back of the boat warm, we simply make sure that the bathroom doors are open then turn on the fan. Within half an hour the temperature at the back of the boat increases by six or seven degrees.

I purchased the fan in February then had it fitted in March along with three more LED ceiling lights and a key safe.

I had the key safe fitted after hearing horror stories about boaters who managed to lock themselves out of their floating homes then pay a small fortune to someone to break in for them. I’ve come close to locking myself out twice before when I dropped my key ring in the cut.

The key safe offers us wonderful peace of mind. It’s bolted through the bulkhead by our front door so can’t be removed. We keep a spare key for the front door in it. Total cost £400.

That was our refurbishment pretty much done apart from a couple of largish purchases last month and this.

Last month I had my rear hatch surround tidied up and improved. There was a gap between the top of the doors and the hatch large enough to fit my shore line without squashing it so, of course, the gap also allowed the wind to whistle through into the cabin when it was blowing from the stern. The gap was removed curing the draught problem but causing another problem because there was nowhere for the shoreline to go. I had a socket installed on the rear bulkhead next to the doors. Cost £350.

Earlier this month I managed to wear a hole in my exhaust waterlock. This could have been disastrous because the water drawn from the canal and passed around the engine which then should have been expelled from the back of the boat via the exhaust was now able to leak into the bilge. I could possibly have sunk the boat.

Fortunately I was able to spot and address the problem before any damage was done to anything other than my bank balance. The cost of a new waterlock, a steel basket to secure it away from the gearbox coupling which had done the damage, the waterlock fitting and the replacement of my stern gland packing while the engineer was with me cost £300.

Last but far from least, we had our cheap and cheerful Porta Potti replaced last week with a composting toilet. The toilet was very expensive compared to the stand alone cassette I’ve been used to for the last five years but, oh boy, what a difference. We now have an effective and pretty much odour free toilet on board which doesn’t involve either moving the boat to a pump out station or lugging a heavy and foul smelling cassette full of human waste to an equally foul smelling and often inoperable Elsan waste disposal point.

Today the boat is very different from the basic craft I moved on to five years ago. It’s a very comfortable, warm and dry floating home fully equipped for weeks or months cruising off grid.

I’m delighted with the boat now. The cabin paint could look smarter but we’re considering which way to go with that at the moment. A professional paint job will cost us roughly £100 a foot or in excess of £6,000 (£8,500 was the price given to me verbally at Crick yesterday) and we would have to find alternative accommodation for a month and a half while it was done. We could do the work ourselves for about a third of the price but we would need to spend six weeks doing it. I don’t really think that’s an option as neither of us has the skills needed to do a first class job.

The only other improvement on the cards is replacing all of the windows. They’re old, tatty looking, and very draughty. The polycarbonate secondary double glazing does a great job eliminating the draughts but with them in place, Sally can’t easily get into the space between plastic and glass to do any cleaning.

The problem I think we’ll have if we want new windows fitted is with the hardwood surrounds fitted to bridge the gap between the old wooden and the new steel cabins. If these have to be taken out to allow new windows to be fitted then replaced afterwards, the cost of replacing the windows is likely to be prohibitive.

I’ve worn myself out now. I hope you’ve found this much longer than usual newsletter useful. As I pointed out at the beginning of this section, all of these improvements are specific to my boat and the way I wanted to improve it. However, if you’re buying a boat with a view to using it for extended cruising, you might be guided in the right direction by reading about what I’ve done over the last few years.

That’s it. We left our boat show mooring this morning at 9am after two days of none existent phone signals and internet connections. It’s 3.30pm now. We’re going to take the dogs for a long walk on a very peaceful stretch of canal far, far away from the crowds of Crick.

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.

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
Entertainment
Summary

2015 05 17 Newsletter – Composting Toilets And Off Grid Power Saving Tips

Since Sally and I left our beautiful mooring on the northern fringe of Locks marina at Calcutt Boats just over a month ago, I’ve received a steady stream of emails from site subscribers asking whether our cruise to date has been as enjoyable and relaxing as we hoped when we began planning our semi-retirement cruise nearly a year ago.

Let me describe two days at the beginning of this week and show you just two photo’s. You can draw your own conclusions.

We were moored close to Hopwas village opposite Hopwas Hayes wood. Wood bridge, one of two foot bridges over the canal into the woods, was a hundred metres behind us. On the towpath side of the boat, a wooded hillside fell a hundred gentle feet down to the equally gentle and appropriately named river Tame.

Free to do as we please all day, every day. What's not to like about our new lifestyle?

Free to do as we please all day, every day. What’s not to like about our new lifestyle?

Hopwas wood is a dog walker’s and nature lover’s paradise. A network of well used, mainly dry footpaths snake through four hundred acres of ancient woodland, up and down steep hills, around a small long disused canal-side quarry and around the perimeter of the woods with sweeping views over miles of Staffordshire countryside.

There’s stands of towering beech, a jungle of dark and impenetrable spindly birch, towering pine and magnificent twisted oak shading carpets of bracken. The woods is a wonderful place to take two energetic dogs to let off steam while we sit on a fallen trunk enjoying a tasty packed lunch.

Enjoying a stress free life continuously cruising England's waterways

Enjoying a stress free life continuously cruising England’s waterways

Even though my life has been far from stressful in recent years, spending time in this environment is as close as I’ve ever been to complete relaxation and peace. Both Sally and I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time in these woods but, with appointments to keep, we moved on again on Wednesday.

If I’m on my own at the helm, which I am most of the time, my favourite steering positon is sitting on the starboard side of the cabin roof with my heels braced against the left hand side of the cabin hatch frame, my right foot ready to dip beneath the hatch to gently tweak the Morse control. I invested in a Midland Chandlers waterproof knee kneeler to cushion my bony behind. Seventeen pounds fifty very well spent. I can sit there for hours now in complete comfort.

After leaving Hopwas we stopped close to Asda on the outskirts of Tamworth for shopping, then Fazeley Junction for water, rubbish disposal and to empty the cassette, then re-joined the Coventry canal and passed the first graffiti since Birmingham three weeks earlier.

It’s interesting watching the interaction between footpath users and passing boaters. Dog walkers, often helmeted leisure cyclists, joggers and anglers usually turn their heads, smile or wave or both. Those simply using the towpath as a shortcut between two points in their busy lives walk or ride with heads down, uninterested either in the people or the scenery around them. Quite a few of these insular towpath users passed me as we moved through Tamworth.

Onwards and upwards we cruised through the slow filling pair of Glascote locks, past an empty basin now devoid of boats, once home to Steve Hudson and his band of evangelic boat owners, now occupied by just two primer painted shells.

A spindly grey heron floated into the air from a canal-side garden suspiciously close to a carp filled pond.

Minutes later, there was sudden tap on my leg and an olive wood board appeared through the hatch, plate for my working lunch of chilli cheese and garlic chutney of Jacob’s cream crackers. The hand disappeared, then appeared once more holding a steaming mug of coffee.

I passed two attentive swans with seven cygnets, rows of empty pontoons at Alvecote marina, then Pooley nature reserve dissected by the busy M42 overhead.

Two hours into the journey we caught up with CRT’s towpath maintenance contractors close to Polesworth. We had been following them since they passed us at Hopwas the previous afternoon, ploughing through a thin waterborne carpet of cut grass.

We moved slowly past a continuous line of live aboard boats between bridge 49 and the start of the Atherstone flight.

We reached the head of the flight at 5pm, helped by a Birmingham couple on NB Romany Girl. They were behind us on the flight but each time we reached a lock, the lady hurried along the towpath from the previous lock to close the upstream gate for us as we left. How kind.

As we left Atherstone I frightened the life out of Sally. I rounded a very shallow bend, moving closer to the offside to avoid some long term moorers, and pushed the starboard side of the boat on to a steeply shelving mud flat causing us to list by twenty degrees for a minute before I slip back into deeper water again. Sally popped her head through the rear hatch looking like she was about to abandon ship. She thought we were sinking.

Over the next half hour I tried to moor five times on a suspiciously empty west facing sun soaked and wind protected stretch of towpath. Frustratingly I couldn’t get the stern closer than six feet to the bank so we finally stopped after the next bend, in the shade but close to the bank.

A grey and cold start at 7.30am for another full day’s cruise. Past CRT’s Heartshill depot, then a six feet high concrete bank on the offside in front of long neglected quarries, followed by more former quarries, the spoil heaps now pleasingly grassed, on past CRT’s Mount Jud long term moorings, empty apart from three dilapidated cruisers and then half an hour of urban cruising through less than expected floating plastic and under occasional graffiti covered bridges.

We saw, or rather, felt, the day’s first moving boat on the outskirts of Nuneaton. We rounded a tight bend straight into the bow of Royal Navy owned Calcutt Boats maintained narrowboat Trafalgar. Some swift evasive manoeuvring from both boats, a brief encounter with the Armco for them, and a little unexpected offside undergrowth clearing from me, then we were both on our way.

Just past Marston Junction and the start of the Ashby canal we crawled slowly past Charity Dock with its collection of old and unloved GRP cruisers and nearby silently staring manikins.

A silent manakin at Charity Dock

A silent manakin at Charity Dock

We moored above the stop lock at Hawkesbury Junction for lunch at The Greyhound. An hour and a half later we set off in heavy rain. I didn’t mind. I look forward to heavy rain. The £250 I invested in a set of Guy Cotton deep sea fishermen’s yellow plastic waterproofs was money very well spent indeed.

They don’t look trendy and they immediately soak you from the inside if you do any physical exercise such as opening and closing lock gates. But for standing motionless for hours on end at the back of a narrowboat, they are perfect.

I stood exposed to the elements for four hours in torrential rain as we trundled alongside the M6, ducked under the M69, swung around Ansty then cruised above its picturesque golf course on the right and the West Coast Main Line a handful of feet away on the left.

We paused briefly to negotiate Rose Narrowboat’s swing bridge then veered away from the railway to the comparative peace near Brinklow marina where I hoped to moor for the night. My mind was playing games with me again. I was sure we moored close to the marina a couple of years ago when we passed this way but all the banks were shallow and inaccessible.

After hoping for a quiet and peaceful mooring, we ended up sandwiched between a rail and a road bridge close to Lime Farm marina, but it was either there or hoping to find a free spot on the always popular Newbold visitor moorings.

We moved from our rather soggy spot on Friday morning, passing a solid rank of boats on the Newbold moorings, then on to much drier but very shallow moorings close to Tesco in Rugby. The moorings are handy for shopping but a pain to use especially if, like me, you leap gazelle like four feet from the boat straight into a pile of muck left by either a small horse or a very large dog.

Securing the boat took me five minutes. Cleaning the foul smelling dog dirt off my new trainers took quarter of an hour. Nipping to Tesco to pick up everything we need didn’t take much longer.

While Sally unpacked our groceries, I cruised gently away from noisy central Rugby to a far more peaceful setting at the tandem flight of three locks at Hillmorton.

A pair of gentle swans at Hillmorton Bottom Lock

A pair of gentle swans at Hillmorton Bottom Lock

While we stopped at the water point below the flight, I made friends with three very gentle adolescent swans dozing on the grass close to our stern. All three crowded around me gently nipping my tee shirt with shoulder high beaks, trying to reach four slices of wholegrain bread I held out for them.

Above the bottom lock we pulled over again so that I could lug our full cassette over the road bridge to the Elsan point on the opposite bank. I didn’t mind. Cassette carrying should be a thing of the past in less than a week. See the composting section below to find out what I’m talking about.

Once through the locks and after an hour’s stop at Hillmorton Wharf to talk toilets (see below) we trundled along the canal for another half hour before mooring on a short length of Armco on an otherwise shallow bank ensuring that we had no guests for the rest of the evening. Or so we thought.

At 8pm we heard the sound of ever louder singing and shouting, then a racing engine, then an almighty bang as a Union Canal Carriers hire boat smashed into our bow, then scraped the full length of our port side.

The four beer swilling thirty somethings on the front deck smiled and raised half apologetic hands. The three morons on the rear deck simply laughed then jammed the throttle forward, thankfully speeding them and their idiocy far, far away from us.

Since we joined the Oxford canal at Hawkesbury junction there had been a significant increase in the number of boats on the move, both privately owned and hire boats. Fortunately most of the helmsmen knew what they were doing and treated their own boats and those around them with respect.

Another hour at the tiller the following morning brought us to a familiar and thankfully deserted stretch of Armco opposite sheep filled fields a mile from Braunston Junction.

After wandering into Braunston to visit Midland Chandlers to buy a tin of Toplac Mauritius Blue to replace the concrete hard tin in the engine room, we sat in our camp chairs in the warm sun trying not to notice the icy wind.

Our solitude came to an end when a hire boat slowly cruised past the 300m stretch of boat free Armco either side of us then, with a great deal of determined effort, managed to reverse their boat on to their night-time mooring two feet from our bow.

We’re still there now. The hire boat has gone. Sally’s unloaded everything off the front deck, then removed the cratch cover. Now she’s rubbing down the cratch board woodwork ready for touching up. I suppose I’ll have to go and do my bit in a minute.

Managing your life off grid

Sally and I have been living off grid for a month now. It’s not long in the grand scheme of things but four weeks is long enough to discover that we can manage our lives on board much more efficiently and cheaply than we used to.

Take our water supply for example. We have a very modestly sized tank. At three hundred and fifty litres it is less than half the size of most narrowboats, so initially the limited supply caused us some issues.

Sally didn’t realise quite how small the tank was until we ran out a few times miles from the nearest water point, especially after her eyes glazed over and she began one of her marathon washing sessions.

Our twin tub washing machine’s wash tub hold forty litres, so if Sally washes a load, then empties and refills the tub a couple of times to rinse the clothes through, she’s used a third of our water tank. Three loads of washing in a day and, hey presto, we’re out of water.

Sally also used to enthusiastically turn the taps on full to rinse a couple of plates, wash the dog’s bowls, fill a bucket to clean the floor, or any one of the dozens of tasks on board requiring water. I was almost as bad.

The problem was that both of us were used to having an unlimited amount of water almost on tap. On our old mooring at Calcutt Boats, the pontoon mounted water supply was just ten feet from our bow. We often left the hose connected to the tap with the nozzle jammed into our tank filler. Whenever we needed water, which was often, we simply walked to the front of the boat to twist the hose nozzle.

Once we moved to our new mooring at the marina at the beginning of April, refilling our tank wasn’t quite so easy. The nearest tap was 100m away so we had to buy two new Hozelock reels each with fifty metres of hose then wheel into position and reel out both of them whenever we wanted to refill the tank. We soon developed a routine though so we reverted to our wasteful ways.

Over the last month, we’ve slowly reduced the water we use and refined the way we use it.

Forward planning is the key to a happy life on board. Now, Sally does the washing while we are cruising, as long as we are cruising past a water point. She tries to get as much done before we reach the water point so that when we top the tank up we can use it for showering and washing dishes only and so stay longer in rural moorings.

Providing there isn’t a queue at the water point, we also both try to have a shower while we are filling, especially if Sally needs to wash her several feet of hair.

With the washing done by the time we reach the water point, while the tank is filling Sally fills the twin tub with water too so we have an additional forty litres of clean water which she has available to use for floor or dog washing without having to deplete the tank.

To save more water, and because of the more efficient way we’re managing the contents of our diesel tank, I only shower every other day. Sally showers every day but because we don’t have hot water every second day, her showers tend to be both brief and very vocal.

We don’t have hot water every day because to heat water when we’re off grid I need to run the engine for an hour. I don’t want to run the engine and use one and a half litres of diesel if I don’t need to charge my battery bank.

I’m delighted to say that I don’t need to top the batteries up daily because (A) my new bank of four 160ah AGM batteries is performing much better than my old bank of four 135ah lead acid batteries and (B) we don’t waste our electricity so much these days.

We bought a 2.6kw Kippor suitcase generator to allow us to use high power mains appliances when off grid. These appliances included a vacuum cleaner, iron, hair dryer and straighteners and my Nespresso coffee machine. I had very little interest in the vacuum cleaner and none at all in the other appliances apart from the coffee machine but Sally seemed to think they were important.

I was both delighted and surprised to discover that the coffee machine would just about run via the inverter and battery bank.

In the last month the hair dryer, hair straighteners or iron haven’t been used at all. The vacuum cleaner has been used twice for a total of ten minutes; once when Sally cleaned our mattress properly and once when I have the engine room a spring clean. We could have managed without the vacuum cleaner on both occasions.

Coincidentally, I received the following email on the subject of vacuum cleaners from narrowboat enthusiast Richard Genner while I was writing this section.

“picking up on the references on your website about 240V appliances on narrowboats, and knowing that cleanliness is next to Godliness, and that many narrowboat users will like to swing their feet out of bed onto carpet in the morning, and maybe in the summer months toddle along bare-footed on carpet to the kitchen, kettle and first coffee of the day, a vacuum cleaner is something of an essential on a boat, but they are quite 240V power hungry appliances.

But how many narrowboaters have twigged to the potential of the new generation of battery powered vacuum cleaners? My wife bought one before Christmas 2014, and I am impressed, it’s light, powerful, effective and easy to empty, and of course doesn’t have the dreaded power lead. And it’s quite slim-line, so on a narrow boat, it could easily be put away/hidden away at the back of a wardrobe, and therefore, of course, not sit there glowering ‘use me’ every time you pass it! There is a down side, of course, it wasn’t particularly cheap. But my wife firmly believes you get what you pay for, ours is a Bosch and is effective and well made, and courtesy of the internet, we paid the lowest available price, but everyone can make their own choice.

The beauty is that is powered by a rechargeable battery, so for boaters, use it when moored at the canal/riverside, waiting to get into a lock, etc. and charge it from the alternator on the engine when travelling, or from the shore-line when moored against the pontoon in a marina. I can’t find a power-rating for the charger but it is no bigger than my laptop charger, and it takes 3 – 6 hours to charge from flat to full the 25.2V lithium battery, so the draw on a 240V must, I believe, be well with in VA rating of any inverter worth having on a boat.

So that’s another option for domestic 240V appliances, but I’m not sure yet that there is a market for lithium battery powered irons or kettles!”

I have to disagree with Richard with regards to carpets. Dogs, boats and carpets are not a happy combination. We replaced the boat’s threadbare carpet with oak effect laminate flooring. It’s much more practical because it’s so much easier to keep clean.

I toyed with the idea of using a cordless vacuum cleaner before I invested in the generator. In fact, I actually bought one. It’s was a well thought of, rather expensive Phillips hand held vacuum. It didn’t hold a great deal but I thought it would be ideal for whizzing around the boat picking up dust and dog hairs on a daily basis. I bought it while Sally was away in the Philippines. When she returned, after I had been enthusiastically using it for three or four weeks, I proudly handed it to her and told her how much easier her life would be with this handy little appliance.

She did a very good Elvis impression as she curled her top lip then grabbed the vacuum off me and waved it at the floor for a few seconds before handing it back and walking off. She’s not touched it since.

I considered investing most of my savings in a Dyson Animal cordless vacuum cleaner. Dyson claim that it’s as powerful as a mains powered vacuum. I know a couple of boaters who use them and agree that they’re more than powerful enough to do the job.

I don’t think we’ll be going down that route though. Now Sally is used to not having an immediately accessible vacuum cleaner, she’s more than happy to do without. She simply uses a dustpan and brush to sweep up the loose dirt and dog hairs before cleaning the floor with a mop.

Ironing has been dispensed with completely. That’s not because we (Sally) have let our standards slip. We both still look as neat and tidy as we’ve ever done, but without the aid of a power hungry device.

Sally’s solution is simple. Once she’s taken a load out of the twin tub spin tub, she hangs the washing on a rail above the washing machine until it’s dry and most of the creases have fallen out, then folds everything neatly and stacks it on three shelves I had fitted last year when our terminally ill gas heater was removed from the bathroom. Sally, who is ever critical about our appearance, can’t tell the difference between clothes she has painstakingly ironed and garments which have been hung, dried, folded and stacked.

Hair drying has become a thing of the past too. Not that my own half inch long hair has ever been a problem but Sally has much more of a logistical issue with nearly two feet of the stuff.

Since we’ve been off grid full time, Sally is far more relaxed. She isn’t in a hurry to go anywhere so she’s more than happy to allow her hair to dry naturally. It’s a change which I’m sure is better for her hair. It’s certainly better for our battery bank.

Because we’ve been moving most days, I haven’t had to be too careful with the battery bank’s charge but on two occasions we’ve stopped for three or four days in one spot with little or no engine running. During those periods, I made sure that the inverter was only running long enough to power our devices before switching it off thereby minimising the inverter’s drain on the bank.

Most frugal live aboard boat owners would still find us wasteful but we’re happy with the savings we’ve achieved. Our intention is to use our resources carefully but not to live without life’s creature comforts.

Composting Toilets

I think I’m turning green. Maybe you will too after reading this, so skip this article if you’re about to have lunch or are of a delicate disposition.

After a month living off grid, Sally and I are seriously considering swapping our Porta Potti Elegance cassette in favour of a composting toilet. I’ve spent the last week researching the subject. In the process, I’ve learned far more than I really wanted to know about other people’s bodily waste.

Airhead Composting Toilet

Airhead Composting Toilet

I know one or two boaters who use composting toilets but they are very much in the minority. I’ve been put off using them in the past after hearing too many tales of compost toilet users having to take mechanisms apart so that they can dive into their festering solids to try to get the thing working properly.

Many of the conventional composting toilets struggle to compost waste effectively. The problem is that both liquids and solids are deposited in one tank which means that the composting process, which requires the waste to be dried, involves additional heat and ventilation if it is to work properly or even at all.

The most effective composting toilets separate liquids from solids allowing the liquid reservoir to be removed and emptied every two to three days. The solids are stored in another part of the toilet where the composting process takes place.

The smallest and one of the most effective composting toilets available is the Airhead Compact. It’s slightly smaller than the Porta Potti Elegance we have at the moment.

I’ve researched effectiveness of composting toilets in general and the Airhead model in particular. I looked for reviews online, both good and bad. I’ve found a number of positive Airhead reviews but nothing bad at all.

At £800 + fitting, the toilet is a sizeable investment, but Sally and I think it will pay for itself quite quickly.

Our problem is that we tend to use our current Porta Potti just for liquids because we’ve always found the toilet both ineffective and smelly if we use it for the more serious business.

Because we only use the on board toilet for liquids, we have to use public conveniences for everything else. The public conveniences available to us on the canal are usually pubs or canal-side cafes.

We don’t like to take liberties so we usually buy at least a drink and maybe a cake or two in the cafes. Sometimes we go a little over the top and have drinks and a meal.

Over the last four weeks, we’ve spent over £100 in pubs and cafes, all because we want to use their toilets. If we waste a similar amount over the rest of the year, the cost of an effective odour free loo on board to use instead would soon pay for itself.

Earlier in the week I swapped a few emails with Richard, owner of The Canal Shop at Hillmorton Wharf. On Friday we moored there then spent an hour talking to his wife Susanne. Susanne and her husband Richard live on their boat moored close to the shop. They’ve been using a composting toilet on board for the last two years. Susanne told us that not having to flush the toilet after she’d finished was the hardest part of switching to a composting model. Apart from that, the transition was surprisingly easy.

The most important aspect of composting loos to remember is that the composting process will only work if there’s a healthy colony of aerobic bacteria in your toilet. The bacteria is within all of us. When you pass solids into the loo, you pass healthy bacteria too.

The bacteria is aerobic which means that it needs oxygen to survive. If there’s too little oxygen, too much moisture or any chemicals present, the bacteria dies, the composting process stops and you have a smelly toilet.

Removing excess moisture is achieved initially by separating solids and liquids. Once the solids are deposited in their own holding tank they are kept dry by drawing excess moisture away with a small 12v fan and aerated with a little human help.

There’s a crank handle on the side of the toilet which you turn a couple of times every time you use the loo. The handle turns paddles inside the solids container which stirs the solids and toilet paper within.

It’s essential to keep liquids and solids apart so a flap is kept closed unless you want to make a deposit so that all liquids are directed into the urine tank. To minimise the chance of liquids entering the solids receptacle, male users are required to sit to wee.

Cleaning and maintenance Is minimal but any cleaning must be done using eco products. Chemical use of any kind is disastrous. The urine container is kept odour free by adding a spoonful or two of sugar when required. Cleaning is done with a mixture of water, vinegar and tea tree oil.

Emptying the loo is simple. The liquid reservoir is easily accessible at the front of the toilet. You unclip it, take it outside and empty it into the nearest hedgerow. This method of disposal is EA approved.

The solids container is a little more difficult to get to, but no harder than getting at the cassette on our Porta Potti Elegance. The whole unit weighs just 15kg so lifting the toilet off the solids container on the base isn’t an issue.

Once released, the solids container can be emptied into a bag for disposal at one of CRT’s general waste facilities or, if there are no bins nearby, with the landowner’s permission, in a hole in the ground. Again, this method of disposal is EA approved.

The Airhead is solidly built with few moving parts to maintain or to go wrong. It’s been tested in the most difficult marine environments over the last fifteen years and, last but not least, it will fit into the smallest narrowboat spaces, including our tiny walk through bathroom.

After a quick chat with Sally, I ordered one while we were with Susanne. We’ve scheduled the half day installation for Thursday next week, so we’ll be able to try the new toilet out while we’re eating and drinking to excess for three days at the Crick Boat Show.

In the meantime, I’ve ordered a compact folding spade from eBay and a bottle of tea tree oil from Amazon. We’re ready to go green.

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 attendee Chris Cole…

“At present my plans are not properly established.  I will buy a narrow boat sometime later this year and would like it to be a ‘live aboard’…… but I do not think I will be happy as a continuous cruiser.   That presents the problem of moorings which we know are difficult to find especially if you want to be in a particular area.  Perhaps I might get an ordinary mooring and just spend a great deal of time on the boat  …… although that isn’t overly attractive.

As for booking a Discovery Day the reason(s) were simple …. I needed to get the feel of the water again and I needed to see how the other half lives.  The hope was to gain an insight into not only of the pleasures of, but more importantly the problems of, living day to day on the water. It doesn’t matter how much you read on the subject or listen to the view of others you need you be there.

Well the day generally was everything I had hoped for, except perhaps for the weather …… it was much too kind.

Information ?  plenty of it ….  all questions asked were answered as were many that I didn’t ask.  Tips on boat purchase, etiquette, steering, maintenance, day to day problems and chores, IT, home management e.g. storage, fuel and power, and so on, were all extremely helpful (even if I didn’t write them all down).

Instruction ?  your patience was commendable and your instruction fine …… narrow boats have unique characteristics and the amount of handling you gave to your student (that’s me) enabled them to be understood.  I promise to do better.”

What to add ?  I have given this thought but can’t think of anything missing.”

 

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.

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 –