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 Xanadu

Mike is a kindred spirit. He moved onto his boat after his marriage failed although his first floating home was far more of a challenge than mine… a 27ft GRP cruiser. His current 50′ widebeam must feel SO spacious after that!

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

My name is Mike, no significant other or pets, unless you count the spiders, I haven’t got around to naming them yet but do talk to them…

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

Same old story, separated after 35 years marriage, (second one at that) and it was all I could afford! I already owned a 27 foot GRP cruiser so I lived on that for well over 3 years, now that’s what you could call challenging…

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

The boat is called Xanadu, it was already named and it seemed appropriate.

Do you have a permanent mooring?

She is moored at Hartford Marina at a permanent berth, a pontoon, with electricity (prepaid card) and water. I look out over the open basin and have my cruiser moored next door (divorce not settled yet so that will probably have to go!!!!)

What is your boat style and length

I admit to being a bit of a fraud here now as it is a 50 foot all steel widebeam, but hey, what’s a widebeam but a stretched narrowboat??

How long have you been a narrowboat owner?

Not withstanding the above confession I have owned it for just over 12 months.

How did you finance your boat?

Cashed in all my sayings whilst I still had the chance!!

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

XanaduMost of the time although I did spend September in Australia.

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

I work as a Lead Internal Verifier at a local FE college (will be 65 next March so hope to retire then)!

What do you like least about narrowboat life?

Condensation and the chilly mornings

What do you like most about narrowboat life?

Freedom to move if I get fed up here!

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

That’s a difficult one, it is an on-going project so couldn’t put my finger on one thing.

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

No problem as I have a permanent mooring and a supermarket within a couple of miles.

How do you do your washing when you are cruising?

Again no problem as I have a washing machine.

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

Now there’s a story! Up until a few months ago I had smart sea toilet. Great piece of kit until the foul water tank under my bed decided to leak in spectacular fashion! The carpet I had just fitted floated out the door closely followed by my socks and slippers. Fortunately for me, if you can call this fortunate, I had worked over 20 years in the water industry and had spent many a happy hour up to my armpits in the smelly stuff so I wasn’t too fazed by that side of the disaster. I spent the whole day mopping, cleaning and disinfecting before I could locate the problem. The tank had rusted through in the bottom corner and was beyond repair without some serious upheaval. I removed the toilet and put a porta potty in its place!

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

I have a 3G PAYG sim in a dongle. The reception can be patchy and slow but it’s ok for emails and browsing the web but not much else.

What is your favourite canal or section of canal?

As I live on the Great Ouse and my cruiser is a widebeam I have only ever used the wide canals but I guess the section of the Trent that uses the Nottingham Canal is OK.

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

I have access to mains electricity but also have a generator, a decent solar panel that keeps the batteries charged up, that is when the sun comes out, and an inverter. Whilst I use power for the washing machine, fridge and freezer plus all the other random equipment that has a plugtop on, I only need to feed the meter with a £5 card once a week!

How warm is your narrowboat in the winter?

Mmm, can be rather cool! I don’t have a stove but rely on an Eberspacher feeding a conventional 5 radiator wet system. It’s ok at the weekends but it is not cheap to run or easy to keep the fuel tank full. When I lived on the cruiser, during that bad winter a couple of years ago, the water pump, filter, shower and pipework froze and split during the night while I lay and shivered in bed!

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

Buy the best you can, trying to carry out major refurbishments whilst living on board can be difficult. Also have a very good relationship with your partner, there aren’t many places to hide on a boat, whether it be narrow or wide!!

What obvious questions have I missed from this list?

Would I change the lifestyle – defiantly not! In can be a pain sometimes but I love waking up in the morning and listening to the wild fowl. On a summers evening (what summer I hear you ask) there’s nothing better than sitting up on deck with a good book and a cold beer, although a good woman…

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 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.