A Case Study Of Live Aboard Narrowboat The Lady C

After forty years of working in the USA and South Africa, John and Brenda Rogers purchased a narrowboat rather than a much more expensive house then set off to continuously cruise the inland waterways network.

Who are you? (and your significant other and, of course, your dog if you have one)

John and Brenda Rogers in The Lady Cs galley

John and Brenda Rogers in The Lady Cs galley

My name is John Rogers and my lady wife is Brenda, we have two dogs Rosie a 12 year old Border Collie Tri-Colour and Pip a 10 year old Rough Collie (Lassie Dog), we are both into our retirement years but young at heart and also young in attitude and body both still very active.

Tell me a little about yourself and why you decided to live a life afloat

We have spent the last 40 odd years living in the US, then South Africa then France.  The US and South Africa were career moves (actually I was transferred to the US from the European Head Office then to South Africa to help our distributors establish a stronger market share especially with new products.

In 1964 I joined IBM and have spent the next 40 years in IT directly related roles, primarily marketing related for the last 20. Then I moved into general business management, in the end moving into renewable energies.  Then during Christmas 2013 my wife’s niece who lives in Basle in Switzerland said that a friend of hers was being transferred to the US and had a house just over the border in France wanted a House Sitter.

Brenda was really quite homesick and we always intended to come back to the UK so this was a fairly cost effective way of getting back to Europe and being close to our sons who also live in Switzerland.  This was a great opportunity to be a springboard back to the UK and gave us time with them and our grandchildren so we immediately decided to take the jump.  This amazed our niece as we during the phone conversation said YES.

One big challenge we had was the value of the South African Rand compared to the Pound so we knew we would have quite high challenges to find a house we wanted in our price range.  Also, as we hadn’t been here very often over the previous 50 years we also wanted to see more of the UK before we decided where to settle done.  An option we always considered was a Narrowboat.  While the living costs aren’t any cheaper than living in a house, the purchase price was markedly less so we started looking for a boat in the autumn of 2013.

What is your boat called and why did you decide on that name?

The Lady C on a marina mooring

The Lady C on a marina mooring

Our Boat is “The Lady C”, and we inherited the name but quite like it, nothing to do with our recollections of D H Lawrence.

Do you have a permanent mooring? If so, tell me about it.

No, we purchased the boat thru ABNB at Crick so moored there for a couple of months while we got used to life aboard. We actually moved onto the boat from France in May of 2014, so had the benefit of stunning weather for our indoctrination.

What is you boat length and style?

The Lady C is a 60ft traditional Style

How long have you been a narrowboat owner?

The Lady C is our first boat, but I have been on them before on holidays with my parents also quite au fait with boating in general with yachts etc.

How did you finance your boat?

We were lucky enough to be able to pay cash from our savings and pension nest eggs.

How much time do you spend on your boat each year?

We are currently among the jolly band of Live Aboard Continuous Cruisers, so on board all the time.

Are you still working? (If so, what do you do?)

Not yet but would really like to be able to use my IT experience especially with Microsoft Office products to help others build presentations, business plans with Word and Excel as this was my particular strength in the US and South Africa.

What do you like least about narrowboat life?

Probably the lack of space, which isn’t helped by having two dogs, if we end up staying afloat we would most likely go for a Widebeam.

What do you like most about narrowboat life?

The freedom (especially when cruising) and the ability to be independent of all.

If you could change just one thing about your boat, what would it be?

Probably have a semi trad or cruiser to give space at the back while cruising so it would be easier for us both to experience the glories of the countryside OR change the kitchen to be a U shape, currently we have units each side so walking past each other when one of us is in the Kitchen makes the lack of space more evident.

When you are cruising how do you resupply (How do you get to the supermarket without a car)?

Planning and clever shopping. The bigger issue is Water Points

How do you do your washing when you are cruising?

We have a Candy Washing Machine and a Drier so not a problem, just exacerbates the water situation.

What type of toilet do you have and are you happy with it?

Pump out and much prefer it to those folks we see trooping up and down with their slopping cassettes.

How do you connect to the internet when you are on your boat and are you happy with the service you receive?

We have been quite lucky in this regard, we first asked (on your blogs) which provider we should opt for and went for “3”, unfortunately Crick is one of their weakest areas so initially is was difficult, then I purchased a signal booster, and since then that combined with their MiFi unit we have had god or great reception at least 95% of the time.

What is your favourite canal or section of canal?

Tough question, we have cruised extensively over the last 4 months, covering The GUC Leicester line, the GU up to Coventry, then the Coventry, on to the Ashby, then the T&M up to the Macclesfield including the Cauldon then up across through the Cheshire locks to the Shroppie and back along the Warks to the GUC then back along the T&M to Barton Turns for our wintering.

Given all of this we probably would vote for the Ashby.

How do you generate electricity when you are cruising and how much do you use?

We have the following onboard equipment:-

1. Alternator – Prestoilite 90 Amp
2. Batteries – 4 new 105 AH
3. Inverter – Victron Multiplus 3 KVA
4. Power Management – Battery Monitor

When we were cruising we used about 5 pounds of diesel per day on average and that covered our cruising and power needs, if we stayed in one place then we ran the motor for about 3 hours which gave us enough power for our basic needs, lighting, television, fridge (12 v).

We have Diesel Central Heating that we didn’t really need too often.  At the Marina for Winter we are using about 0.46 pounds a day for our electricity, not yet sure how much diesel, but we have a calorifier with three coils so have multiple ways of generating hot water.

How warm is your narrowboat in the winter?

We are used to the cold, in the States we used to sleep with our windows open and the year we left (1994) it never rose above zero day or night from late December until early March so quite hardy souls Too warm, as yet we haven’t fired up the Morso Squirrel and turn on the central heating several times a day to top up the warmth.

What advice can you offer someone considering living on a narrowboat?

Make sure you can live without life’s luxuries most of the time and are happy with your own company, especially if planning to be continuous cruisers. You also need to be quite practical as you will most likely have to some general maintenance.


Are you one of the lucky few who lives the dream on board your own narrowboat full time? Would you like to share your experience with some of the thousands of potential floating home owners who visit this site? If you can spare the time to answer a few simple questions, I would love to hear from you. Just let me know so I can email the questions to you. I’ll create a post like the one above complete with a link back to your own blog or website.


Useful Information
Paul Smith

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

Francis ESmith - Thursday,21 May, 2015


I was delighted when we found this story last night.  We have never met John and Brenda, but they bought “The Lady C” from us through ABNB.  She is a beautiful boat and we miss her still, but we can see that she has been well looked after.

My wife and I are Australian, and long had dreamed of an extended canal cruise, starting from my happening on the Caen Hill flight in total disrepair in the ’70’s, and our first cruise in 1984 from Alvechurch.  In late February 2013 we found “The Lady C” on the ABNB website and thought she was just right.  We arrived in the UK on 21 March and on 3 April  she was ours.  “The Lady C” had been based in Banbury, and the previous owner had been living aboard and generously included most of the crockery and linen and all those necessities it would have taken time assembling.  With only 6 months, time saved was gold.  We untied and locked down through Banbury Lock, past Tooleys Yard, on 8 April.

From then on it was balancing two essentials – seeing as much as possible in 6 months, and enjoying the waterways essential quality of not hurrying.

And so our cruise commenced.  From Banbury to Dukes Cut then up the Thames to Lechlade and back.  Oxford, then down the Thames to Reading and onto the K&A, a steaming night at Crofton, down Caen Hill marvelously restored, Bath from a totally different perspective, and down the tidal Avon to Bristol’s Floating Harbour.  After a few days to explore, back to Bath and the K&A to Reading, just as enjoyable in reverse. Down the Thames to Brentford including stops such as Henley, Windsor, Hampton Court (who would ever want to find a car park again to visit the Palace after mooring up at the bottom of the palace garden?), Teddington.  Into the Grand Union then at Bulls Bridge right onto the Paddington arm to Limehouse Basin.  On the way, the cheapest nights’ accommodation in central London you will ever find near Kensal Green, Little Venice, Kings Cross.  Then two days of adventure with The St Pancras Cruising Club, Saturday down through the Barrier to stem the tide at Margaretness, Sunday Limehouse to Brentford through the heart of London, Tower Bridge and countless other bridges, Houses of Parliament,…. .  What a day.  At Brentford I am sure “The Lady C” was glad to be back in the more sedate world of canals.  Now up the Grand Union, North Oxford, Coventry, and Trent and Mersey Canals stopping where we wanted until reaching the Anderton Lift.  Down in the lift for a couple of days on the Weaver, then back up and the Bridgewater Canal to Manchester.  Then The Ashton, Peak Forest, Macclesfield Canals back to Kidsgrove, then the Trent and Mersey back to Middlewich and onto the Middlewich Branch to the Shropshire Union Canal. At Autherley Junction we joined the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal to Stourport.  At Stourport we locked down to the Severn and after a night in Worcester arrived in Tewkesbury.  From Tewkesbury it is up the Avon River to Stratford where we moored in the heart of the town. The Stratford-on-Avon Canal takes us to Kingswood Junction where we joined the Grand Union Canal to Warwick and then on to Calcutt where we spend a week getting “The Lady C” blacked and a new tiller bearing and start preparing her for sale.  The final days were beautiful, but sad that it was coming to an end.  Back onto the Grand Union to Braunston and the Braunston Tunnel trying not to scratch our newly blacked boat.  Left into the Leicester Section, the Watford Staircase as a final locking exercise and Crick Tunnel as a final steering test.  A few days at Crick Wharf to pack up and it is time to hand her to ABNB.  It was already Early October.  Over so soon.  

( I have never actually written it all down before, and it came out much longer than I imagined it would.  I hope it is not too long.  I logged every day, but have never added up the locks and miles, but it is hundreds of both and miles of tunnels, but thousands of memories, city and country, grand houses, old churches, cows, sheep, swans, ducks, a kingfisher or two, cultivated land, pastures, forests. Spring, late with winter trying to return and the canal with a crusty top, Summer, the best for some time, and Autumn with all those colours.  Brilliant.)

“The Lady C” performed like a lady.  The alternator and inverter failed and were replaced, and a noisy drive plate was also replaced.  But the engine never missed a beat and she handled as well as a narrowboat can, considering steering a 13 ton flat bottomed steel box with tiller attached to a steel plate 60 foot from the bow is a bit like pushing a pencil across a desk.  We still miss her, as indicated by our finding this blog.

If John and Brenda have had as much fun as we did, they have had a great year.  We hope they have.

Frank & Jenny.

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