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 Lorien

Julie and Jim love life afloat so much they’ve brought a little person into the world to share the adventure with them. Although they both work they constantly cruise the network, never staying longer than two weeks in the same spot.

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

 My name is Julie and my partner is Jim.  We also have a 7 month old baby. We have lived afloat for nearly 5 years.

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

We were looking for somewhere to buy together, started considering boats, decided to ‘try it’ and here we are 🙂  we lived on our first boat for just over 4 years and completely renovated her.  We are making changes to the new boat (moving the kitchen and adding a bedroom) but nothing as major as the last boat.

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

Narrowboat LorienOur boat is called Lorien, she was already named when we purchased her and we quite like the name.  There are also suspicions that it is unlucky to rename boats….

Do you have a permanent mooring?

We choose to continually cruise as we enjoy moving around and seeing different sights. As continual cruisers we are required to move every two weeks.  There is an option to purchase winter moorings as moving around in the ice can damage your hull.

What is your boat style and length

Lorien is a 62ft traditional narrowboat

How long have you been a narrowboat owner?

Nearly 5 years.  Our first boat was a 44ft wooden top.  We had to go bigger when our baby arrived.. We have lived on Lorien for 5 months.

How did you finance your boat?

We used our Savings and profit from selling our homes.

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

Every day all year round … We have never looked back.

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

Yes I am an Area Manager for a charity and my partner has his own business.

What do you like least about narrowboat life?

Holiday boats roaring past and nosey passers by.  People become intrigued and sometimes stare in through the open hatch or the windows, I personally find this quite rude, I would never walk up to a house and gawp in through the window……

What do you like most about narrowboat life?

Everything… The peace and quiet, moving around and seeing different parts of the canal network, the locks, living in close proximity to my family, having a different view out of the window every two weeks …

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

Currently we are re designing and making several changes, part of me wishes this was done and dusted, part of me enjoys the challenge.  We are going to have her repainted soon, so I would probably change her colour.

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

We always have our cars near, we simply moor in places by bridges with spaces to park. Getting out and about has never been a problem.

How do you do your washing when you are cruising?

I bundle it into a big bag, pop it to the laundrette and get the kind lady there to wash, dry and iron it.  I collect it the next day.

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

We have a cassette toilet and are perfectly happy this way.  It is emptied weekly and is easy to manage.

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

I use the iPad and have never suffered from bad signal.  If the phone works, so does the iPad.

What is your favourite canal or section of canal?

To date the Stratford run or the Shropshire union.  Many left to explore though.

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

We run the engine for power, we also have a wind generator which keeps the batteries topped up when it is windy.  The engine runs for around 1 hour per day, this provides approximately 8/9 hours of power and the hot water.

How warm is your narrowboat in the winter?

We have a stove which has gravity fed central heating connected to it, the boat warms through in approximately 20/30 minutes and remains nice and toasty as long as you keep feeding it. Winter is my favourite time of year.

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

If you like boats and peace and quiet go for it. Never do it purely for financial purposes (thinking it’s cheap)….  it is cheap, especially if you cruise as you have no mooring fees, but this requires you to move every two weeks therefore you must enjoy boating and locking.

If you decide to have a permanent mooring as a live board you will still pay council tax etc.  some mornings are leisure mooring that you are not supposed to live on but I guess you could live on the boat or 10 months and cruise for 2 months….. The choice would be yours.

Consider your purchase carefully, has the boat had a survey? Is the hull ok? ??  Don’t worry about smaller issues you will deal with these as they arise. Your main costs are boat license, insurance, diesel and gas but remember that you should have the hull blacked every 3/4 years so consider this cost as well, you may also wish to allocate money to service the engine as this is the heart of the boat and without it your a bit stuck.  You need a boat safety certificate every 4 years.

Don’t listen to the part time live a boards who only live aboard during mild months!!!!  it is not freezing cold in the winter, a good stove will keep your boat toasty and comfortable. We have lived aboard for the past four winters and I look forward to our 5th… During the winter the canal is so beautiful and there are no hire boats roaring past!!

Consider that you will have to take your rubbish away yourself, empty your toilet (or have. Pump out) and fill your boat with water regularly. Ours needs filling every 6 weeks (ish) and obviously the rubbish is taken away weekly when we empty the toilet.  There are various facilities along the canal for boaters to use.

Other than the above general daily activities are the same as in a house.  We have a full sized gas cooker, a 22″ flat screen tv which runs on 12v with built in freeview and DVD player (always buy a dm log aerial and point it at a satellite, don’t buy a satellite dish, they are tetchy and don’t work if you are moored near high trees), we have 12v chargers for our phones, the iPad for Internet, we have not missed the space of a house to date and our little one explores and scoots around just as any baby does.

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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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