Maybe you've searched for this information already. Maybe you've trawled internet forums, looked through the IWA's online library, and searched for narrowboat books both on and off the internet. Maybe you've even resorted to trudging along muddy and slippery towpaths searching for live aboard boaters to question.
If you've explored any of these avenues, you've probably had as little success as I did when I was looking for the same answers as you many years ago.
Finding a definitive guide to the cost of living on a narrowboat has always been difficult... until now.
By the time you've reached the end of this letter you'll know exactly how to get all the information you need about the buying and maintenance costs you're likely to face on your own boat. No more frustrating and ineffective searching, no more guessing about the likely cost of your new lifestyle, and no more financial uncertainty.
Hi there. My name is Paul Smith. When I moved on board my first boat I was in the same position as you. Actually, I wasn't as sensible as you. I didn't do any of the search that you are obviously doing before moving on board. I did plenty in the following months and years, but I'll tell you about that frustrating exercise later.
Back to the disheartening start to my life afloat...
As a knee jerk reaction to a marriage breakdown following the failure and subsequent bankruptcy of my national cleaning company, I moved on board an aged and uncared for, once-beautiful narrowboat. Luckily for me, I was able to rent the leaking shell cheaply at the time rather than buying it outright. Not that I had enough money to buy anything outright then. I barely had enough money to feed myself.
The idea was to live on board until I could find more suitable accommodation. Somewhere, anywhere, with a roof which didn't leak like a sieve was all I wanted.
I wasn't into boating at all, which partly explained my complete ignorance about the the costs involved in living afloat. At the time, I think that if I had known what was in store for me, I would have moved anywhere other than onto the water.
My first six months afloat were a challenge, especially as they coincided with the coldest winter on record. That probably wasn't the best time to move on board a damp boat neglected and unloved for over a decade.
Let me tell you a quick story about one of my very frustrating early experiences.
I earned very little working at the marina where I was moored. I didn't mind too much because I really enjoyed my job. I worked as a groundsman, looking after a hundred acres around Calcutt Boats' two stunning marinas deep in the heart of rural Warwickshire.
I loved my job, but that love didn't help pay the regular and unexpectedly high bills.
I was just recovering from the shock of paying my first waterways license. At the time, I didn't know I even needed a license. I hadn't yet taken my boat out onto the canal network and I foolishly thought that, as long as my boat was moored inside the marina, I didn't need a license at all.
I was wrong.
That first shocking bill came to a little over £800. Paying it used virtually all of my meagre savings but, just a few days later, I also had to pay both my electricity and my gas bills. They came as a nasty shock too.
I didn't know then how much more expensive an electricity supply is in a marina compared with in a bricks and mortar home. Unfortunately, I needed a LOT of electricity to run a dehumidifier twenty four hours a day to combat a decade of accumulated damp.
I also needed to keep my new floating home warm in the five inch sea of ice which locked my poor boat to its marina mooring for six long weeks.
The rear of my narrowboat was heated using two open gas heaters. I ran them twenty four hours a day to dry out my rear cabin which was partially under water when I moved on board. I didn't know at the time, but the gas heating actually caused more damp than it cured, and it cost me an absolute fortune to run.
That month, by the time I had paid for my license, gas and electricity, I had barely enough money left to eat. Trying to find the money to pay my boating bills was proving to be a bit of a problem, but not as much of a problem as not knowing that those bills were heading my way.
I was getting more and more frustrated with mounting costs I didn't know about. Some narrowboat owners I spoke to about the cost of narrowboat life half jokingly explained the B.O.A.T. acronym to me... Bring Out Another Thousand.
I didn't find the joke very funny at all.
You see, at the time, all I really wanted to do was to get my boat out of the marina so that I could cruise at least part of the network. By then, I had become enchanted by the way of life, despite several months of sub zero temperatures. Other than the frustration of trying to guess the mounting cost of maintaining and refurbishing an elderly narrowboat, and an occasional brush with hypothermia when the winter thermometer plummeted, life was as idyllic as it was serene.
But I lived on a boat so I wanted to use it. Surely that wasn't too much to ask?
Unfortunately something else happened to frustrate me and my plans even more:
Everyone who knew anything about boats told me that I had a good engine, an OM636, developed by Mercedes in the late 1940's for their Ponton sedans. It would, I was reliably informed, last far longer than me. That seemed entirely reasonable to me. Because of the stress I was under not knowing how much my lifestyle was costing me, I didn't think I would last long at all.
Those same experts didn't warn me that, despite the engine's renowned reliability, anything perishable connected to it would certainly need replacing after ten years of inactivity. Engine maintenance and its associated costs was another steep learning curve for me.
A few months after receiving my shocking trio of bills, and only because the boat had a full tank of fuel when I moved on board, as soon as the ice thawed, I decided to leave the marina on a short maiden cruise. I needed a break from the financial uncertainty and a well earned reward for my relentless bill paying.
I didn't realise quite how short my maiden voyage would be at the time. Boating was a very frustrating affair in those early years.
I broke down within an hour. Actually, the boat broke down, but I nearly did too. The fuel filter was blocked, a perished cooling hose also sprang a leak, and a gearbox hose collapsed. Completely frustrated by the breakdown and the expectation of another costly bill, I abandoned my cruising plans and arranged for my expensive broken home to be towed back to the marina.
That little episode upset me, but not half as much as the event which followed, and the resulting abandonment of my cruising plans for another year.
Back on my mooring, before the marina engineers arrived to repair my engine, I thought I would see what I could do myself. Like the rest of the boat, the engine room was in a bit of a state. The engine was covered by a dilapidated coffin-shaped and very heavy marine ply box. I struggled to lift the rickety hinged lid and then hook it to an old ceiling mounted brass catch. As I was lowering my head into the small gap between the warped ply lid and the coffin frame, the brass catch snapped, and the thick ply sheet smashed into the engine block inches from my head.
The engine cover was too dangerous to leave in that condition. I could have been seriously injured. I needed to replace it as a matter of urgency. Again, my ignorance of waterways repair costs meant a nasty surprise. I discovered that the ply engine cover couldn't be repaired. And it couldn't be replaced because there was nothing solid to fix it to.
The only solution was to have a steel frame built around the engine, and then have the frame professionally boarded with new and very expensive marine ply fitted with thick soundproofing. The estimated cost was £1,500. I couldn't take my boat out again until the engine room was safe, and I couldn't afford to have the work done. I was stuck on a boat I couldn't afford to refurbish. I couldn't budget for the refurbishment because I still didn't have a clue how much the rest of my lifestyle was going to cost me each month.
As you can imagine, I was despondent and very, very frustrated by all of the unknown costs.
The problem was that there just wasn't a single source of information which would help me understand the complexities of identifying the cost of running a live aboard narrowboat, especially an elderly boat like mine. Narrowboats aren't like cars. The cost of running a car is easy to establish. As long as you know the manufacturer and the model, you can easily determine the running costs.
Narrowboats are much different.
No two boats, even from the same builder, are usually alike. Running costs are determined by boat length, width, age, condition, insulation, heating system and fuel type, engine size, on board equipment, mooring location and style, and an endless variety of lifestyle choices. To the layman, it's all very confusing.
At first, I tried asking for complete financial breakdowns on popular narrowboat forums. All I got was conflicting information and more than a few insults. Why some experienced narrowboat owners feel the need to ridicule novices on public forums is beyond me. But they often do so, after a few virtual toe-to-toe arguments, I gave up asking for boating advice on the internet for a while.
As posting on forums was neither pleasant nor productive, I tried another approach.
I walked along towpaths asking any live aboard boaters I found probing questions about the cost of their lives afloat. I also quizzed as many boaters as I could when I served them fuel, gas and coal from the company wharf.
Many of the boaters I spoke to were trying to live "under the radar", so you can imagine how receptive they were to my financial questions! Boaters are generally a helpful and friendly breed though, so a few tried to help. The problem was that most didn't keep any personal records at all. At best, they provided me with well meaning guesses. (Through my own diligent record keeping over the next half decade, I discovered that many of them were wrong).
Then I tried returning to the forums, this time asking for a little information at a time. I would ask something like, "How much gas do you use on board each month?" I got answers. Plenty of them (and still a few insults and snide comments, but I learned to live with those). The problem with that was that there were so many variables with just gas consumption alone that I simply didn't understand.
I didn't know that some boats use gas just for cooking, that others also use gas to heat water, or that sometimes gas is used as the boat's primary heat source. The answers were so confusing that they were almost meaningless to me.
My information gathering was time consuming, tedious and very, very frustrating.
Despite long hours of diligent internet research and questioning countless live aboard boaters I met during my working day, I simply couldn't find the financial information I wanted anywhere.
It was all very frustrating, but I had a cunning plan.
I decided to record all of my own expenditure, add it to what I had learned from other sources, and then share that detailed information with other aspiring narrowboat owners.
By then, I had started my own boating blog. An increasing number of emails landed in my inbox every day, many from aspiring boat owners wanting to know how much the lifestyle would cost them if they committed to selling their bricks and mortar homes and moved afloat. I knew that I was in the perfect position to help. I lived the lifestyle they aspired to, worked at one of the waterways network's most prestigious marinas with some of the industry's leading experts... and I was obsessive about keeping accurate financial records.
I knew very little about the cost of boating at the time. However, the few snippets of financial information picked up from other boaters, added to the sorry details of my own painful bill paying experiences, were very helpful to the many aspiring boaters who contacted me. They were yet to plunge into the murky waters of narrowboat ownership so they were grateful for any new information at all.
I decided that, if I couldn't find all the information I wanted from any one source, I would compile a comprehensive guide to the costs of living afloat myself from all the sources available to me.
It was a labour of love which lasted many years.
Discovering the real answers to my questions took a long time. The problem is that there are so many boating misconceptions, it's sometimes difficult to pin down the truth.
Some boaters told me that I could moor where I wanted for as long as I liked without charge. Others said that I could heat my boat for next to nothing if I used the stove fuel left on the towpath by well meaning CRT contractors. A few suggested that living afloat in winter on the inland waterways network was a cold, damp and unpleasant affair regardless of what I was prepared to pay for heating fuel. I was also told that mooring in basins and marinas away from the canals themselves were exempt from CRT licensing. What many told me was completely wrong.
Separating fact from fiction took me years, but I got there.
After two years of data entry, relentless live aboard boater quizzing, endless internet research, and with enthusiastic contributions from many of the five hundred plus narrowboat owners on my five thousand strong narrowboat newsletter mailing list, I accumulated enough information, and enough of an understanding of all the variables, to be able to create a very useful package to anyone thinking of moving on to the water.
I called it my "Narrowbudget Gold" package. The project was a huge success.
Those who used it were delighted. They told me that...
Here's what a few of them told me at the time...
"I read your guide last night and thought it was great. Your honesty and openness about yourself and your expenses puts this guide above anything else I've read on the subject.
The lifestyle is much more expensive than I thought, but thanks to you I can look at things realistically."
"Please let me assure you I can't believe there is a more comprehensive, honest (and amusing) resource, for potential (and current) narrowboat owners available. I'm delighted with the level of detail/information. It's been compulsive reading since I received it."
"I'm pleased that you decided to inform prospective houseboat buyers about costs etc of owning a boat. I'm looking at it seriously and need all the information I can find. Your book and other materials have been very constructive additions to my thought processes."
I didn't realise it at the time, but not only was my package very useful to waterway enthusiasts who eventually made the successful transition from land to water, it also saved many aspiring boat owners from financial catastrophe!
Here's what two wannabe narrowboat owners told me...
"Paul, you saved me from making a stupid mistake. That's enough!"
"Phew! Thank you VERY MUCH for providing this package Paul. You've saved me a huge amount of money. I thought that living on a boat was going to save me a load of cash. Oh boy, was I wrong! I don't have much in the way of savings, so I would have bought a boat at the bottom end of the market, tried to moor on the canal close to my job in London, and then eventually - I'm clearly not very bright - I would have learned I simply can't afford the lifestyle. Of course I'm disappointed, but your package has saved me a lot of heartache and a great deal of money I can't afford to lose. Thank you SO much!"
Much as I enjoyed reading the glowing testimonials I received, even those telling me that my information had scuppered their boat buying plans, I also valued all constructive criticism.
One user said...
"Thank you for providing so much information. It's too much information really. I don't know where to start, and I don't really have time to sit down and absorb it all. My life is so stressful at the moment, I can't fit in things which will make a big difference to me (like researching a simpler way of life so I'm not constantly stressed out!). Your package has helped me understand the costs tremendously, but I wished I could dip into it now and then when I have time and know where I am am up to..."
I recognised a recurring theme.
Purchasers agreed that my Narrowbudget Gold package was an enormously useful tool, but they were sometimes overwhelmed by the huge volume of facts and figures. I knew I needed to break the information down into small and easy to understand chunks. I needed to explain more clearly how the costs related to lifestyle choices, boat size, width and age, and on board equipment and configuration. I needed to make the information more accessible to aspiring narrowboat owners.
The solution was to create a cross referenced resource encompassing all of the facts, figures, explanations, comparisons and conclusions amassed during my own six years afloat, and the combined experiences of the thriving waterways community around me.
The result is a truly comprehensive online course, Living Afloat on England's Waterways. The course is broken down into twelve information packed modules. Each one is further divided into easy to use course units. Each unit takes no longer than ten minutes to read, so is ideal for the many aspiring narrowboat owners who live frantic lives with too little time for the things which really matter. Users can also add notes to course units for future reference, track their progress using a course module sidebar menu, and test their newfound knowledge using multiple choice quizzes.
Several months ago, I asked my site subscribers which of the dozen planned modules they would like me to release first. The clear winner was the one, like my Narrowbudget Gold package, detailing and explaining the full cost of living afloat.
Here it is.
I've named it simply The Real Cost of Living Afloat.
This module details every one of my boat related expenses for a full five year period. The whole course is a distillation of everything I've written and experienced on the English waterways since moving afloat in April 2010. I've sifted through all 600,000 words of my 192 newsletters, 9,000 forum posts and thousands of emails from aspiring and current boat owners. It's been an epic undertaking which has resulted in what I've been told is THE most comprehensive, easy to understand and useful resource for anyone considering living on the UK canal and river network. One user, a creator of online courses himself, said...
"I have been a “Living on a Narrowboat” reader for several years. Paul has never been too busy to fail to take the time to answer my sometimes DUMB QUESTIONS with solid, well thought out answers. I had the privilege of being a “beta” tester on his new, soon-to-be released course, “Living Afloat on England's Waterways". It is jam-packed full of thought provoking comments and ideas. A definite “MUST HAVE”…. if you are at all considering living afloat!"
This module, the first to be released, includes the details of every single narrowboat related penny spent and meticulously recorded over a five year period. I've left nothing out. All of the costs covered in the original Narrowbudget Gold package are included, but they are organised and explained far more thoroughly so that even a complete boating novice can understand them.
If you're buying a used boat, this information will alert you to areas of expenditure that you perhaps hadn't even considered. If you're able to afford a new boat, all of the costs you will face are included.
It's a truly comprehensive and easy to use and understand resource which will allow you to accurately budget for your own life afloat with ease. No more searching for reference books on and off line. No more frustrating forum posting and searching, braving unhelpful replies and spending endless hours trying to sort the wheat from the chaff. No more trudging along muddy towpaths searching for live aboard boaters to question and then puzzling over conflicting answers.
No more uncertainty at all.
Everything you need to know about the true cost of living afloat is in this one low cost module.
"I'm very impressed with the product(s) and for the fantastic support from your good self!"
"I am new to the whole narrow boat idea, I am just starting to begin thinking about the process and what's involved. After a little googling I found you and what you have to offer.
I am slowly reading the information to take in as much as I can without missing anything important. I must say everything is very easy to read and follow.
I was surprised at how much it actually costs to live this lifestyle.
I did just have a browse on the forum but didn't want to be distracted from reading the books and taking pages of notes.
But overall, I am very impressed and think the whole package you offer is awesome really. As a complete novice I am unaware of anything that would be missing, but it seems you clearly know what's what and have covered all bases."
" I have found your course amazingly informative. You have obviously worked extremely hard in amassing all the information. The ability to add notes to sections within the course units is particularly useful.
Because of you, I am no longer worried if I can afford the lifestyle when I retire. Thank you!"
You can get instant access to this truly comprehensive module, The Real Cost of Living Afloat for less than the cost of a gut busting McDonald's meal for two. You can have all the information you need about the actual cost of living afloat. A couple of thousand empty and harmful calories, or an important step towards your own idyllic life afloat.
Studying this low priced course module is THE easiest way to quickly understand the true cost of living afloat on England's inland waterways. Just click on the button below to get started.
A comprehensive, thoroughly researched and recorded eighteen unit online study course including...
I created these sessions following the introduction of my enormously popular Discovery Day service. Aspiring boat owners joined me for a ten hour day on board my own narrowboat James No 194. The service offered an opportunity for those interested in the lifestyle to spend the day handling my boat on a twelve mile, six lock route while discussing all aspects of living afloat.
Not everyone could join me afloat, so I offered my "Armchair Discovery" sessions, telephone consultations, to allow waterways enthusiasts who couldn't travel to my Warwickshire mooring a quick and easy way to answer any questions they have about life on England's canals.
These sessions have been a resounding success. Many wannabe live aboard boaters use their telephone time with me to help overcome the steep learning curve as they research the transition from bricks and mortar to steel and water.
You can use this 30 minute taster session to discover the answers to all the burning boating questions you have or to simply dispel the many popular misconceptions. "Is life afloat cold in the winter months? Can I live on the canals for next to nothing? Can I choose my own towpath mooring and live there for as long as I like" Ask me what you like. My time is yours.
I spent over four hundred hours writing and compiling this information packed two hundred and fifty page digital book from my onboard office desk in front of a picture window in my cosy floating home. In it, you'll read about the highs and lows of life afloat. I've covered many subjects including...
Phew! There's a LOT of information in this guide, all of it recorded following first hand experience as I cruised the canal and river network, often single handed, on my sixty two feet long, twenty tonne steel boat.
This priceless publication is yours completely free of charge.
There's so much more than financial information here, but If all this package did was show you how to move afloat without any financial uncertainties, would it be worth it? If all this did was help you remove any financial uncertainty BEFORE you buy your boat, would it be worth the modest investment?
Of course it would!
Right now, you're probably dipping a figurative toe into the murky waters of life on England's inland waterways network. You may have done some research already. If you're like me, you'll find the information gathering process a hit and miss and confusing affair.
Life afloat can be a real joy - it always has been for me - but it can be a nightmare financial catastrophe if you get it wrong. If you're going to invest £30,000, £40,000, or even £100,000 or more in a complete lifestyle change, you need to make sure that you have ALL the information you need at your finger tips.
This course module provides you with everything you need to know about the costs involved. Thanks to the bonuses, you'll also learn a huge amount about the lifestyle too. It's a practical, user friendly package which will reveal the true cost of living afloat in just a few short minutes. What's more, it's backed by the same guarantee I offer on all my products and services.
If this course module, "The Real Cost Of Living Afloat", doesn't show you exactly how to understand the true cost of life on England's inland waterways, if it doesn't take you by the hand, step-by-step, to discover all areas of expenditure, or if it fails to help you determine if you can afford the lifestyle, then you will receive a full refund, NO QUESTIONS ASKED!
I urge you to act now. I love the inland waterways. I've loved every minute of my six and a half years living on it. I wouldn't change any of it, but not everyone feels the same as me. Not everyone understands how much living afloat really costs.
I've dedicated countless hours to compiling, writing, organising and editing this course. To be perfectly honest, if I divided the income I expect to receive from course sales by the number of hours I've invested in its creation, I would arrive at an hourly rate which would make a McDonald's burger flipper appear rich. But that's OK. My major goal is make sure that people like you have all the information they need before investing their life savings in a lifestyle they possibly can't afford.
If you don't understand the costs involved before you buy your boat, you could make a very expensive mistake. Boaters living lifestyles beyond their means on rapidly rusting, damp and squalid boats are a common site on England's canals. I don't want you to join them. I want you to enjoy life afloat as much as me.
Just imagine what life could be like a year from now, maybe even in just a few short months...
You walk along a grassy towpath enjoying the peace and quiet as you watch mallards and coots squabbling in the shallows. A grey heron floats effortlessly into the air as you approach, and then resumes its waterside vigil on the muddy bank opposite your boat. Your boat. Your floating home, your haven from the stresses and strains of your former hectic life.
Your home rocks gently in the wash from a passing narrowboat. The smiling helmsman waves as he passes. You return his enthusiastic greeting, marvelling at the friendliness of the boating community and how different they are from people in the area where you used to live.
You climb onto your front deck, and step down into your cosy saloon complete with its coal burning stove. The stove is cold now. There's no need for it in the summer. As you watch water reflections dancing across your pine clad cabin roof, you remember the joy of sitting in front of the stove in the winter months, watching the coal's flickering flames as the wind howled outside and rain rattled against the windows.
The lifestyle brings you a sense of peace you always craved, and knowing the cost of buying and maintaining a floating home removed the fear and uncertainty before you moved afloat.
I've lived that life. I've shown it to hundreds of aspiring narrowboat owners on my discovery days. Most of them fell in love with inland waterways boating as soon as they stepped on board. Sadly, some, during their time with me, discovered that they simply couldn't afford to live afloat at all.
You can discover the costs now, before making a life changing decision you may regret.
The time to act is NOW! As soon as you've added your payment details, you'll be taken to a secure members' area where you can access "Module 6: The Real Cost of Living Afloat", even if it's 2:00 a.m.! All you need to do is click the button below...
WARNING! Let's be blunt: If you pass on this offer, will you be able to establish the true cost of life on the inland waterways network?
You'll keep sifting through hundreds or thousands of forum posts trying to piece snippets of conflicting information together, or carry on questioning well meaning live aboard boaters who, because they don't keep financial records, don't actually know the answers themselves. You may give up on your boating dreams or, even worse, buy a boat which you can't afford to maintain.
What you really need right now is instruction and encouragement from someone who has successfully "been there and done that!" on the canal and river network.
Get this Online Study Course NOW and get the essential financial information you need!
So as a reminder, here's what you're going to get with "Module 6: The Real Cost Of Living Afloat"...