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


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A Case Study Of Liveaboard Narrowboat Badger Sett

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.

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

Happily retired KeithWe’re Keith and Nicky from Jersey and live on our narrowboat with our two Hungarian Vizsla’s called Binks and Benji.

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

Over the years we’d talked about retiring before fifty, but it was more a ‘what if’ sort of dream. Changes at work though, that also happened to coincide with our sons leaving home, caused us to bring our dream out of the cupboard and dust it off. We’ve also enjoyed a number of boating holidays over the years (only one on a narrowboat though) and the two elements merged.

So at 48 and 46 we retired, moved aboard and haven’t regretted it for a second.

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

The narrowboat we brought was called Badger Sett and liked it along with its picture so kept it the same.

Do you have a permanent mooring?

No, we plan to continuously cruise the network and so are of ‘no fixed abode’.

What is your boat style and length

It is a 57’ cruiser stern.

57’ because we want to get around as much of the network as possible. That said though, I believe it is possible for slightly longer boatsNB Badger Sett to make it although this may require taking off front and rear fenders, going into locks diagonally and getting a bit wet if you’re hard up against the cill in the lock and all seems to be a bit of hassle.

A cruiser stern so we’ve got somewhere ‘comfortable’ to sit outside with proper chairs in the summer (!) whilst having the ease and privacy of being off the tow path.

Our choice won’t necessarily suit everyone, but it suits us and that’s what matters.

How long have you been a narrowboat owner?

Eighteen months, ten of which we’ve been living aboard and six months as actual continuous cruisers.

How did you finance your boat?

Downsized our property and used some of the money.

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

Last year it was just holiday’s so about six weeks or so, now we are aboard full time.

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

No, we are retired.

What do you like least about narrowboat life?

Nothing yet, but I’m sure if we try really really hard, we might manage to come up with something !

What do you like most about narrowboat life?

The flexibility and benefits of being continuous cruisers.

Nicky at the helm of Badger SettIf you could change just one thing about your boat, what would it be?

Nothing, it really does suit us perfectly.

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

We look out for / plan around main supermarkets and get the shop back to the boat using rucksacks. Can be a bit of a trudge sometimes, 45 minutes each way has been the worst yet so far, but we still lived to tell the tale.

We’ve done a couple of shops using Tesco and Sainsbury Online when main supermarkets have not been convenient to our location or travel plans and found them to be very useful in these cases.

How do you do your washing when you are cruising?

We were thinking of getting a washing machine, but decided to see how we got on using launderettes and so far we’re getting on okay. It’s one of those trade off’s and considering the power usage, water usage and the space it would take up we were planning to stay as we are. We recently spoke to someone who had a small twin tub though and they were very pleased with it so we’re thinking of this as an option.

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

We’d initially decided that a pump out would be our preference, but changed our minds whilst looking at boats and now have a cassette toilet. We also brought two spare cassettes so our cruising wouldn’t be dictated by having to get to an Elsan point. The other huge benefit we’ve found is that not having a waste tank under the bed provides for a lot of extra storage space.

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

Initially with a Three dongle and balancing the laptop on a pile of books by the window or hanging the dongle out the window when the signal wasn’t good. Ended up getting a Three Mi-Fi and found that it works very well, even inside the boat. If the signal is a bit poor then it goes out in the cratch. The other benefit is that you can then use the laptop, plus other WiFi devices, where you want in the boat without consideration to the signal.

What is your favourite canal or section of canal?

Early days for us, but The Langollen has to take pride of place so far.

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

We had some solar panels fitted in December ( 3 x 195w ) and since the beginning of February we haven’t run the engine other than for travelling. We very rarely travel every day, normally every other day and in February we only clocked up 26 hours on the engine. We’ve recently stayed put in the same place for four weeks (June) and only ran the engine for one hour during that time to move the boat to comply with mooring/cruising regulations.

We are considerate about the power we use though and have fitted LED lights throughout, had some 12v plug sockets and car charger sockets installed and use these for power whenever possible. Even came across a car charger with just a USB socket in the end of it and brought ourselves a USB cable and selection of adaptors. We leave the inverter switched off and when we do have to turn it on, we try and do so when we’re travelling.

The darker months of November, December and January will be the telling time for us though and we’ll no doubt have to scale back our power usage or give consideration to running the engine, but we’ll cross that bridge (or travel that canal) when we get there.

NB Badger Sett on the cutHow warm is your narrowboat in the winter?

Warmest house we’ve ever lived in.

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

Be ready to make compromises as you’ll need to adapt your lifestyle to the boat and not the other way round.

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.

 

 

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Summary
Paul Smith
 

After six and a half years living on a narrowboat on England's inland waterways, Paul and his wife Cynthia now wander Europe by motorhome during the winter, and on the Dutch and French waterways in the warmer months on their 32' Dutch motor cruiser.

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