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 The Cat’s Whiskers

Here’s a twist to the liveaboard case study. Roger and Pat aren’t yet full time liveaboards because their boat is still under construction. If you’re thinking about having your own narrowboat built, you need to read about their experience to date.{{{0}}}

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

Roger and Pat Filler

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

We live in Welwyn Garden City, in Hertfordshire. I (Roger) recently retired after 34 years working for the John Lewis Partnership and Pat works part time in the NHS. Like so many others we have hired narrowboats on numerous occasions over the years. I was going to

Roger and Pat Filler

Roger and Pat Filler

wait until I officially retired at 65 before we took the plunge to live afloat but we are both in relatively good health, had talked it over or over, and decided to proverbially, “put our money where our mouths were” after doing somesums one night. Neither of us are impulsive but we clambered over so many boats that were up for sale because their owners had developed poor health, that we thought if we didn’t do it now we might regret it further down the line.

Our new 60 ft semi-trad, is now in build and we take possession of it late March.

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

I resisted the temptation to call the boat “The Jolly Roger”. She will be “The Cat’s Whiskers”. We are both big cat fans and have shared our lives with dozens of felines over the years, so it’s a bit of a homage to them, and hopefully, it will be just that – “the cat’s whiskers” . We have certainly put our heart and soul into it being so. Unfortunately we will not be taking our two current incumbents on board. They are both very old. We will be renting our house out to a nice family who love cats so they will be staying put.

What is you boat length and style?

“The Cat’s Whiskers” is a 60ft Semi Trad. The steelwork was completed at Narrowboats of Staffordshire in August. She was then dropped into the Erewash Canal, and towed down to Kingfisher Narrowboats at Trent Lock, at the junction of the Soar, the Trent & Mersey and the Erewash, where she is currently being fitted out in the dry dock at Kingfisher Narrowboats. It’s got a reverse layout and is finished in American Oak. The sign writing will be done by Jan Deuchar. We had planned to buy a used boat, but I am six foot four and all the beds we saw were six foot ones.

How long have you been a narrowboat owner?

Our completion date is 1 April (hope that is not an ominous sign). It looks as though it will be early though and I hope to be on board a week or two before that.

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

In 2012 we plan to cruise until the end of October. West initially to do the Llangollen before the season gets really under way, and then we are making our way south for we have to be on the Thames at Marlow in August for a christening. From there we will head back into the Midlands to moor her over winter. We are then travelling to Australia and New Zealand, where our daughter lives for Christmas and the New Year. In year two we plan to continuously cruise.

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

See first answer for this info

What do you like least about narrowboat life?

Living in a pencil case. I’m a big bloke.

What do you like most about narrowboat life?

The ability to move that pencil case about to explore the wonders and beauty of the country’s 3000 miles of waterways.

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

Our boat is constantly changing and rarely a week goes past, without the Kingfisher boys needing a decision made on something or other. Every bulb, fitting, cloth and colour, have been decided by us. If, when we take ownership of it in March, we are disappointed, then we only have ourselves to blame.

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

We will be selling both our cars in the spring. I bought two fold up bikes last summer, a Brompton and a Dahon, an American folding bike, and we are looking at present how we can accommodate them on board. We’ve fitted them out with baskets for the essentials. As a retirement present I got a copy of “Water-Way” a software package, that all the benefits of Nicholson’s, but beefed up. It’s going to be really useful for finding that florist, bakers, dentist or village shop.

How do you do your washing when you are cruising?

We have purchased a small Zanussi washing machine that is going in to the bedroom area at the front of the boat.

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

Now here is a can of worms and I have carried out extensive research on what boaters are doing at the moment and what can be expected to be achieved. The current flavour of the month is definitely “MiFi”, the system from the 3 Network, that is a portable hot spot for Wi Fi, and allows you to connect to several different devices at the same time. It’s about the same size as a phone, and most boaters have found if they blu tack it to one of the windows, they get a good signal in most cases. We will have two laptops on board. It’s about ?15 a month, and we will subscribe in a few weeks, when we know our dates

What is your favourite canal or section of canal?

I really like the Southern Stratford. There is no road traffic buzzing away in the background, and no train lines, so it is really quiet. Best of all is the architecture of the distinctive bridges and barrelled roof homes. It’s just missing some decent pubs.

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

We are taking the plunge and having two solar panels installed on “The Cat’s Whiskers”. That should limit the amount of time we have to run the engines to charge the batteries if we are stationery. We have six leisure batteries as well as a starter battery and one for a bow thruster. There will be a 2K Victron invertor on board.

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

You can find out more about the adventures of narrowboat The Cat’s Whiskers 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 web site.

 

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Entertainment
Summary
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.

Comments
  • Pengalanty Tuesday,7 February, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Hello Roger and Pat,

    I looked at your comments and would like to add a little about *Internet connections* (Including costs and available GBs)

    I have experienced other peoples connections (Different providers) and by far the best buy (Contract) is “My 3”
    I have been using this service for about 2 years now, firstly a PAYG service (If you want to test it first but I wouldn’t bother if I were you, as the service is without doubt the best one available for boaters

    With PAYG you can choose how much up/download GBs you expect to use per month
    1GB is £10
    3 GB is £15
    7GB is £25 per 30 days (Month – anything unused is lost and you have to purchase another 30 days)
    (By the way, if you run out and want more, just make another payment on line (Takes a few minutes) and away you go again

    I used to use 3 GB per month at £15pcm until I changed over to contract

    Since I have become more interested in the Internet and Internet marketing, I have changed over to a much faster dongle,
    still with “My 3” (There Huwai dongle is 40% faster and is almost as good as being hard wired via a landline)

    I purchased the dongle with a 24-month contract and I am allotted a massive 15GB for £15.98pcm. Even when I am seriously downloading software, I rarely reach the available GBs, except on one occasion. On a monthly contract you have to wait until the beginning of the next period before you can use your *Contrcat Sim* THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM – Just buy a PAYG sim and buy 1,3 or 7 GBs on PAYG and cary on using the Internet – easi-peasi –

    As I am so satisfied with their connection and quality of connection, (I don’t like their Indian Call centre though!) I purchased (Again under contract) one of their Smart Phones. This is *unlimited Internet connection*, and all the e-mails and texts you could ever want. This is more expensive and costs me about £35pcm (Not sure of the exact figure)

    I have no personal connection with My3. I have found the staff in the My3 Stores very knowledgeable and helpful

    I would suggest you do have a look at what they have to offer. It the quality of the connect that impresses!

    I hope this information is helpful to you. I have been a 24/7 liveaboard now for over 3 years – I wish I had done this many years earlier!

    Sincere regards, ~Allan~

     
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