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 Lucy Lowther

Alan had a choice to make. He could either do nothing but feel sorry for himself when his wife sadly passed away, or he could seize life with both hands and move ahead with his plans to buy a liveaboard narrowboat. A year later he’s continuously cruising the inland waterways network with his rescue border collie.

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

I am Alan and I live on the boat with my best friend, James – a rescue border collie about a year old, who I have had for 3 months.

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

After my wife died last year I had a choice.  I could sit at home feeling sorry for myself or decide to get on with the rest of my life.  I chose the latter and started my search for a live-aboard boat.  The research, searching for a boat and buying it are what kept me going through the first few months. We had been on many boating holidays and I knew I would love the life.

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

NB Lucy LowtherLucy Lowther, already the name when I bought her. I was going to  rename her after my late wife but, if I take to the boating life, I suspect I will want to upgrade when I sell the house – an extra few feet, a larger shower and maybe not a cross bed.  I will rename the   new boat or this one, if I keep her, when next repainting but in my mind she  will always be “The Lovely Lisa”.

Do you have a permanent mooring?

No mooring, although I have just booked a winter mooring. to enable me to get my house ready for sale next Spring.  I will buy  a  smaller property and may or may not live on the boat in the winter months.

What is your boat style and length

54 ft cruiser.

How long have you been a narrowboat owner?

I bought the boat in December last year and moved on board in March.

How did you finance your boat?

Mortgage on the house

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

All the time since March, apart from the occasional few days checking on the house.

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

Retired.  Previously in finance, then a village shop and post office.

What do you like least about narrowboat life?

The inability to “jump in the car” to pop to the shop for something you need. My worst experience so far was nothing horrendous but the section from Wigan to Burnley  was not enjoyable.  From empty pounds to too much water threatening to  engulf the boat and lots of local youths hanging about, including two  on the stern to snort a line of cocaine (I engaged with them all and  had no problems and several helped with gates).

What do you like most about narrowboat life?

Being able to just turn the key and move my home to a new place to explore, with new views and experiences and seeing the country at 3 mph.  That may be three things! I love the scenery, the camaraderie and friendship too.

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

The shower – it is tiny.

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

A shopping trolley, a rucksack and very occasionally the bike.

How do you do your washing when you are cruising?

I have a compact Candy washing machine.  Works great.

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

Dump-through pump out and I would not swap for anything else.  If I live onboard in the winter I may buy a porta-potti or similar as back up in case the canals are iced in.

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

Usually tethering with 3 on my iPhone.  Unlimited download for £18    per month, as well as 2000 minutes and 5000 texts.  Service generally very good.  I have a back-up dongle, also on 3, which I can hang on my 10ft aerial mast if reception is poor but will probably change this to a different provider to avoid the duplicate coverage.

What is your favourite canal or section of canal?

Well, I have not covered them all, by any means.  So far, it has to  be the Leeds & Liverpool. from Foulridge to Skipton.  Oh, and the  Llangollen.  Or perhaps the Weaver.  And what about the Montgomery? Yes, it has to be the Monty but perhaps only because I had some fantastic dawn cruises on there.

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

Obviously mostly from the engine.  But when I am not moving I have   400w of solar panels.  On a sunny day I do not need to start the   engine.  If it is cloudy the panels will supply my needs but not   replace the previous nights use.  I am a heavy electric user.

How warm is your narrowboat in the winter?

The boat did not have a stove when I bought it.  The gas central   heating only just kept the boat warm enough when it was not very cold – and used a bottle every 3 days.  The 4kw stove I had fitted kept the boat plenty warm in a very cold March.

What are the things you miss most compared to living in a house?

The power shower, opening the back door to let the dog out  and being able to walk from one room to another.

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

Do it.  But if you are a couple or a family you have to be sure you can live with each other in close confines with little escape –   maybe try a few weeks in a caravan first.

You can read Alan’s excellent blog here. He updates it regularly and adds plenty of photo’s. It’s well worth a read.

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 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.