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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Introducing Your New Narrowboat Budgeting Software

The application is almost ready for release. I know you’re going to love it. It’ll remove all the mystery from planning your great escape. You’ll be able to see at a glance whether you can afford to buy and maintain your dream narrowboat or whether you need to rethink your options. The application will work equally as well for you if you want to buy your boat for living on full time or just for leisure cruising during your weekends and holidays.

All that’s left to do is to test it in the real world. Maybe you can help me do that. I’ll explain what I’m looking for at the end of this post.

Here’s how the application works.

You’ll be progress through a number of different categories entering information as you go before arriving at the summary section which will show you in a number of different ways whether buying and maintaining a narrowboat is a realistic option for you. The first data entry category is…

Capital and Income

Narrowboat Budgeting Software - Capital and Income

Narrowboat Budgeting Software – Capital and Income

You need to be able to buy your boat, and you need to be able to pay for the associated monthly costs. In this section you can add the amount of capital you have available to buy the boat and what regular monthly income you expect to receive in the future.

Car Details

Narrowboat Budget Software - Car Details

Narrowboat Budget Software – Car Details

Expenditure for your car is possibly not something that you’ve considered when you’ve thought about living a life on the waterways. The fact is that most liveaboard narrowboat owners have a car or two. Even some of those who cruise constantly throughout the network have a car. They cruise for a day, moor the boat, get a bike off the roof then, pedal back to the day’s starting point to collect their car. Whatever you plan to do with you boat, you can still do it and keep your car close at hand, but can you afford to?

Use this section to add all of the outgoings for your car or cars. You’ll be able to see on one of the summary pages exactly how much you have to pay for the luxury of motorised transport.

Boat Details

Narrowboat Budget Software - Boat Details

Narrowboat Budget Software – Boat Details

You can add your initial investment here; the cost of your boat, any remedial work required, out of water survey cost and, if you need to get your new boat moved from one part of the country to another, the cost of transporting it by road

You can also begin to enter your ongoing expenses starting with monthly repayments if you’ve had to take out a loan to fund all or part of the cost of your boat. In this section you can also add the cost of your four yearly BSS certificate, waterways license and boat insurance.

Mooring Costs

 

Narrowboat Budgeting Software - Mooring Details

Narrowboat Budgeting Software – Mooring Details

Unless you plan to cruise the network continuously, you will need either a leisure or a residential mooring. Even if you are a continuous cruiser, you may wish to secure a temporary mooring during the winter months or if you want to leave your boat for a while when you go on holiday. In this section you can cater for both eventualities.

Diesel

Narrowboat budget software - Diesel

Narrowboat budget software – Diesel

This was a really interesting area to try to quantify. Many boats use diesel for both heating and propulsion. More often than not the fuel for both is drawn from the same tank. In order to determine how much diesel you need you have to know how much diesel your engine uses per hour, how many hours you will have the engine running, the cost of propulsion diesel, the cost of heating diesel and how much fuel your heating system is likely to use. You can add all the variations here and use the information that will be available separately to determine the most accurate figures to use.

Utilities

Narrowboat Budget Software - Utilities

Narrowboat Budget Software – Utilities

This is the section to enter the cost of heating your boat if you’re going to have a solid fuel stove (I sincerely hope you do otherwise you’ll miss out on one of the real pleasures of living on a narrowboat and you’ll put yourself at risk of freezing in the winter if you’re gong to depend on a mechanical central heating system). You can also add the cost of your gas for cooking and maybe for heating your boat to.

You can also add the cost of communicating when you’re on the boat either by phone or via the internet. Finally, there’s an opportunity to add both TV license and council tax. Again, I’ll provide separate notes to let you know if you need to include these two expenses.

Repairs and Maintenance

Narrowboat Budget Software - Repairs and Maintenance

Narrowboat Budget Software – Repairs and Maintenance

In order to protect your boat’s steelwork, you need to ensure that both top and bottom are painted often enough to prevent rust. In this section you can determine how often you want the painting to be done, whether you intend to do the work yourself or let the professionals do it for you and how much you expect it to cost. Again, the application notes will steer you in the right direction.

You can add other elements of repair and maintenance here too; cratch and rear deck cover replacements and cabin interior and engine repair and maintenance jobs too.

Dashboard

Narrowboat Budget Software - Net Income

Narrowboat Budget Software – Net Income

 

Here’s where all of your hard work pays off. You can now see whether you can afford to buy and maintain your boat based on the information you’ve added in the preceding pages. The annual net income chart shows all of your income by category and all of your expenses, also by category. The grand total at the bottom deducts your total expenses from your total income. If there’s a negative figure here, you can’t afford to maintain your boat.

Boat Purchase Chart

Narrowboat Budget Software - Boat Purchase

Narrowboat Budget Software – Boat Purchase

On the Capital and Boat pages you enter the savings that you want to invest in your boat plus the details of a loan if you intend to take one out. The Boat Purchase section displays whether your savings and/or loan are sufficient to cover the price of your new boat, any remedial work required, the cost of having an out of water survey done and transportation if you need it.

If you don’t have enough for your initial expenses, the Remaining Capital line will display a negative amount. Here’s an opportunity to return to the preceding pages and fine tune your entries.

The budgeting application is almost ready for release but before I make it available to download, I need four or five site visitors to thoroughly test it for me. I want to make sure that it’s easy to use and that all of the calculations are correct. If you would like to take it for a spin, please let me know. Tell me what stage you are at with your plans. Are you a narrowboat owner already? Do you just want to get your hands on the application to confirm what you already know, to see whether the Dashboard reflects your current expenditure? Fantastic! I would love to send you a copy. On the other hand, if you are in the very early stages of considering life on a narrowboat, I would love to hear from you too. I want to make sure that the process of adding data to the various categories is a simple task even if you aren’t familiar with narrowboat at all.

Whatever your circumstances, please get in touch, tell me what your situation is and why you want to test the application. Maybe you can help me put the finishing touches to a really useful narrowboat budgeting tool. Please hurry though if you’re interested in helping with the trial. I’m only looking for a maximum of five testers.

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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 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.

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