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 Song of the Waterways

Living on a narrowboat named by a folk singer, watching sunrises and sunsets and practicing a bit of canal side crafting. It’s a simple life for Christine and Anton. Would it suit you?

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

Christine & Anton

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

We decided after having a boat that we wanted to live on one full time as we love the concept of narrowboat living.

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

Song of the Waterways. It was called that when we bought it and it belonged to the late folk singer, Jeff Dennison who had named it that.

What is your boat style and length

60 foot traditional with back cabin, Lister JP2M in engine room and long front hold under canvas.
Narrowboat Song of the Waterways

Narrowboat Song of the Waterways

How long have you been a narrowboat owner?

4 years with our first boat called Alcantara and 9 years with Song of the Waterways

How did you finance your boat?

Deposit and then Boat Mortgage and a loan to do renovations.

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

40 weeks.

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

We both retired in April 2011

What do you like least about narrowboat life?

It can be tough sometimes, when it is quite a long walk along the towpath with heavy gear, we were on the cut during the very bad weather and we were needing to run the engine or generator to provide enough electricity to run pumps,lights, tv, laptops. Needing to be able to get water, emptying the toilet when frozen in.

What do you like most about narrowboat life?

Travelling to different areas, meeting like minded people, living so close to nature and the seasons, seeing beautiful sunrises, sunsets, watching the rain on the canal. Being in the open.

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

We are happy with the boat, we did a lot of research, went to Crick boat show looked at a lot of boat layouts and talked to lots of people who lived on their boats, before we bought our boat and it had exactly the layout we would have had built.

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

Anton walks to nearby shops, this can involve several trips with heavy items (beer or wine) or use bikes.

How do you do your washing when you are cruising?

We have a washer/dryer on board which we run when we are travelling. We can dry things in the hold or in the engine room if we have travelled. In the boatmans cabin if the back fire is lit.

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

We had a macerator toilet fitted in 2011, with a holding tank which we can use as self pump out. It was great for about 6 months but then started to smell. We’ve been back to the fitter who has put new pipes on to rectify things.

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

Answer here… We have a 3 mobile dongle, yes happy with the service most of the time but signal can be iffy in places.

What is your favourite canal or section of canal?

We love the Macclesfield Canal, where we moored both of our boats for a long time. We have moved round onto the Shropshire Union and were based in a marina for the winter. We also have been down to Stratford and loved that too, in fact we really love it all with the challenges different canals bring.

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

Engine and gas powered generator. We have a Victron inverter/charger. We have to generate enough for all pumps, including our Webasto heating system when we need to run that. In the winter it is more of a challenge if we are in all day, as we need lights on as we have portholes. We also like our tv or listening to music and both use laptops, so the system can be thirsty for power. I cannot use a high wattage hairdryer or iron on the boat unless we are plugged into the mains.

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

Have a holiday on one first, not only in the summer when it looks idyllic, but also other seasons of the year. Read website articles like this one, talk to people who live on their boats. When we had our first boat we used to spend weekends on it and spent several Christmas ‘s on it through the snow, so we had a good idea what it was like in cold wet weather.

How warm is your narrowboat in the winter?

Warm. We have diesel fired central heating, with radiators. We have used electric heaters to boost the warmth when we have been in marinas with electric, in the very cold weather. We did have a coal fire in the saloon but removed it as it was not reliable (it would go out if we had been out all day). When we first moved on the boat we were both working

Christine is a cardmaker and crafter, so her blog includes crafty things. You can read it here. Anton has many leisure interests as well as canals – which you can read about on his blogsite – http://nbsongofthewaterways.blogspot.co.uk/

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 web site.


the late folk singer, Jeff Dennison who had named it that

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.

  • Pengalanty Friday,1 June, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Hello Christine and Anon,

    I have had a lot of experience and a fair knowledge about various types of toilets, and problems associated with toilets and I am sure I can help you, (Maybe even solve your problem for you???)

    I have a couple of days “Hard Cruising” to get back to my boat, then I will post some suggestions in the “Comments” of your Article for you. You are most welcome to e-mail me direct if you have any more information for me but I am pretty sure I know the reason for your “Smell”, as you say.

    Please “Hang in” there for a couple of days and give me a reminder if there sin’t a post by Monday next!

    Happy cruising, from another boater with similar views to yourself!

    Sincere regards, ~Allan~ (nb.Pengalanty)

  • pantramp Friday,8 June, 2012 at 10:26 am

    regarding your waste tank smell i too have a macerator type which had some smells. This is how i cured mine. firstly make sure all your connections are tight.
    I then applied clear silcoset around the tank fittings and pipework joints.
    make sure you have a one way valve fitted near your toilet outlet pipe
    make sure you have 2 vents fitted to the tank so air can freely pass through the tank.
    I found that if you only had one vent pipe fitted the wind would blow into the tank creating a pressure inside which would then seep through the tank fitting points.
    hope this helps