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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2012 12 24 Newsletter – Merry Christmas and a happy New Year (on the waterways)

Living On A Narrowboat News 24th December 2012Living on a narrowboat: The Real Cost of a Life AfloatIf you’re thinking of buying a narrowboat, especially one to live on, you need to know how much the boat is likely to cost you to buy and to maintain. This useful guide details all the costs I’ve incurred during the two and a half years that I’ve lived on my own narrowboat. You’ll discover the hidden costs when you buy a narrowboat, mooring fees, utility costs, propulsion fuel costs, repair and maintenance expenses and much, much more. Download your copy here.

“This is an extremely useful booklet for anyone considering living afloat. The author has covered all of the outlay that you are likely to face in an easy and straight forward manner. I have been considering living on a narrowboat for years but was put off by the unknown. Having read this I am more likely to make the dream come true.” Tigs, Amazon Kindle Review

I know you’re busy getting ready for the big day tomorrow so I won’t keep you long. I just wanted to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. If your goals include buying a narrowboat or just to get out more on the one you own already, I hope you achieve all that you set out to do.

Last week’s newsletter included the first part of an excellent article about narrowboat electrics written by full time liveaboard and solar panel installer Tim Davis. I’ve now published the second and concluding part of his article. He talks about generators and invertors and what he considers the Holy Grail of onboard electrical systems. Tim is also thinking about writing further articles for the site. If you’ve enjoyed reading the two he’s written so far there’s an option for you tosuggest which of several subjects he addresses next.

House V Boat

I know exactly how much utilities cost me on the boat, but I’ve lost touch with the cost of water, heating and electricity in a bricks and mortar home. I’ve spoken to Sally about the difference between maintaining a house and maintaining a boat. She still has a house which she now rents out and she has kept her utility bills from the last year or so. I’ve found the costs very interesting but I would like some additional information from other house owners too so that I can compare the costs for an aticle I’m writing. Are you able to help me? If you own a bricks and mortar home, and you keep records of your utility paypemts, would you mind sharing them with me?

All I need to know are typical monthly water, electricity, gas or diesel costs in the winter and in the summer and the size of the property. This information will help site visitors determine whether a life on the waterways is something they can afford. Many wannabe narrowboat owners think that narrowboat ownership is a very low cost alternative to a home on dry land. Hard facts will allow them to determine the true difference. If you can help, and I really hope you can, please email me with your details.

Treat Yourself At Christmas

This is a shameless plug for my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost Of A Life Afloat. Of course, I earn a few pennies from the sale of the guide which helps with the running costs of the site, but it’s not just that. You’ve sibscribed to the site and this newsletter because you want to find out more about living on a narrowboat, possibly with a view to living on a narrowboat yourself. You need to find out all the costs involved before you commit  to the purchase of a very expensive boat and the running costs that go with it. The guide will tell you all of the costs you’re likely to face.

I ask everyone who buys the PDF version of the guide (Amazon doesn’t share purchase information from Kindle sales) for constructive feedback, both good and bad. I’ve only received one negative comment to date and that was from a guy who said that he didn’t feel that he’d learned much from the guide, but that was probably because he’d been living on a narrowboat for the last six years!

Here’s what some of the other readers said…

“Excellent book – easy to read and very informative. Not expensive and gives so much information for and against. Highly recommended.J. Moon (Amazon Kindle Review)

“I have found the structured breakdown of costs with practical data particularly useful in allowing me to calculate possible ongoing costs. Thanks for the time and effort you have put into the guide.” Dudley Pexton

“Hi Paul, have downloaded and read your book about living on a narrowboat, I’m so pleased I did, it hold a mine of information.” Sally Owen

“I purchased this book because my wife and I plan to return to the U.K. In about a year from now.I have read this book and played around with the figures, even going a little bit crazy and adding a few more percent interest on what I expect the costs to be around a year or so from now and I am very impressed with what I found out. The links supplied are amazing for further research and ideas. I really recommend this book to anyone considering living afloat as It is money very well spent.” Alan MacLellan (Amazon Kindle review)

“Hi Paul,  Firstly, I found it very useful and although I had already put together a spreadsheet of my own to try and establish likely costs of owning and running a narrowboat, that one day I hope to own, it certainly either filled in some of the blanks or made me aware of expenditure I had not thought of.  As computer/internet literate as I am, I would very much like a hard copy of the Guide that I could easily reach for as a reference or memory jogger. Printing off the pdf version wouldn’t quite be the same somehow. I suspect however, that this would dramatically increase the cost of the guide?

I liked;

  • that you gave the background as to how you came to own James and the trials and tribulations you encountered in the early months
  • the layout of the guide
  • that it concludes with a summary and a breakdown of the annual costs.

 I didn’t like

  • Very little really and certainly nothing worth mentioning, informative and written with a personal touch.”

Gavin Clark

The guide on it’s own is a great way for you to determine whether you can afford to buy and maintain your dream boat, but shorly you’ll be able to plug the costs detailed in the guide directly into the new narrowboat budget calculator on the site. It’s nearly ready for release, it will be free for you to use and I know you’re going to love it. You’ll be able to enter every cost you’re likely to incur including those that aren’t directly boat related such as food and drink, medical expenses, clothing and entertainment and pretty much anything else you can think of. And if you do think of an expense that you’d like to include that isn’t already there, you can add your own category. It’s a very powerful tool… especially when the guide is used for reference. Make sure that you understand all the cost you’ll face afloat and download your copy of the guide here.

Popular Forum Posts

Here are some more forum posts for you. If you can’t find an answer to your narrowboat questions on the site or in the forum, please post it on the forum. It’s easy to do. All you have to do is to make sure that you’re logged in before you post. There’s no such thing as a silly question, so go ahead and ask.

  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

What’s Missing?

I want the site to be a comprehensive guide to anyone who is thinking about living on a narrowboat. I’m sure that there’s plenty of stuff missing, so I need your help. In general terms, what do you think is missing from the site? What would you like to see more of? What would you like to see less of. And, specifically, what can’t you find the answer to? Is there a specific question about life on board that you need answering? I’m not talking about specific technical aspects that will be of use to you, but of no interest to other readers but subjects that will be of use and of interest to the majority of visitors to the site. Please help by completing this very short survey. You don’t have to leave your details so you can say what you like.

Newsletter Archive

Useful Links

Find out what parts of the canal are closed and for how long. Essential cruising information for you.
Do you need to find a home for your boat? Here’s a comprehensive list of the narrowboat friendly marinas in the UK
Do you want to see where these marinas are on a map? Here it is.
Here’s a map of all the canals on the system to help you plan your route.


If you’re wondering why you are receiving this newsletter it’s because you subscribed to my site (Living On A Narrowboat). I hope that the information I send you from time to time is useful. After all, the site is all about narrowboats and you probably found the site from doing a narrowboat related search through a search engine. However, I don’t want you to receive emails that you really have no interest in. I know from personal experience how annoying they can be. If you really don’t want to receive information about living on a narrowboat and updates on the on-line, offline and marina moorings in England and Wales you can unsubscribe using the link at the bottom of this email. I hope you stay. I sincerely hope you find the information useful.

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.