Learn about life afloat the easy way

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

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A Case Study Of Liveaboard Narrowboat Festina Lente

After a brush with bowel cancer, Andy and his wife Sue decided to live life to the full, retire early and continuously cruise the canal network. They now have no fixed abode and love every minute of their new lifestyle.

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

 My name is Andy and I am married to Sue

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

I suppose we have been planning getting a narrowboat since our 20’s. for when we retire but last year I had cancer of the bowel so we decided to retire early and live on smaller pensions.

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

‘Festina Lente’ it’s latin for ‘make haste slowly’ The boat was already named.

Do you have a permanent mooring?

Festina LenteWe haven’t a mooring yet but will have a winter berth in a marina.

What is your boat style and length

58 foot Trad

How long have you been a narrowboat owner?

Since April, this is our first year on her.

How did you finance your boat?


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

All year so far.

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

Early retirees

What do you like least about narrowboat life?

Inconsiderate people who moor at water points.

What do you like most about narrowboat life?

Absolutely everything, life at this pace gives your eyes time to see.

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

A bigger cratch area maybe and I’d love a bow thruster.

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

ina Lente on a river mooringWe moor near supermarkets or get them to deliver the heavy stuff, we use farm shops and local butchers which are a little more expensive but far superior quality. If we need a car to visit relatives we use Enterprise who collect us from the boat.

How do you do your washing when you are cruising?

We have a full size domestic appliance on board.

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

Cassette with 3 tanks. We can go a couple of weeks if we really needed too. We haven’t found Elsan services hard to find.

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

MiFi  contract with 3 , very happy, the coverage for the data is much better than their mobile phone coverage for some reason.

What is your favourite canal or section of canal?

Thames is our favourite waterway but the South Oxford is nice and we are on the Ashby as I write which is beuatifully rural although shallow in places.

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

Twin alternators and 5 leisure batteries plus 250 watt solar panels. The summer we have had we haven’t needed to run the engine to top the bank up. We are not big electric uses mainly recharging stuff like laptops. We have a TV but don’t use it much. The biggest user is the washing machine which we have to run the engine to use.

How warm is your narrowboat in the winter?

We haven’t been through a winter yet, but April was cool and we had the Epping stove lit which warms the boat nicely.We also have diesel central heating to 5 rads if we need it.

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

Know your budget. Look at loads and loads of boats on the internet to get a feel for prices.  Some brokers seem to chance their arm with the price probably to get the vendor to sell through them, then the price  suddenly drops by as much as £10,000, so don’t get caught out. Make a list of everything you must have on your boat and another list of would be nice to have aboard. You can use this list to whittle down the boats to view. Then spend time driving around marinas viewing as many boats as you can and speak to boaters, sit by a lock and ask them questions , they are a chatty bunch. A full Survey is a must.

You can read Andy’s excellent and often updated blog here.


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.