Join me In My Beautiful Floating Home for a narrowboat training and experience day... and learn all about the live aboard lifestyle

Enjoy a full day's cruise on the tranquil canals of rural Warwickshire where you'll learn how to handle a narrowboat either as part of a crew or on your own. Find out what style narrowboat and what specification will suit you best. Discover what type of mooring you'll need for your own boat and where to find it.

II moved onto my first narrowboat on a cold and frosty morning in April 2010. I knew nothing about the boats or the liveaboard lifestyle. The way everything worked or, as was more often the case, the way things didn’t work was a mystery to me. It all differed so much from the life I was used to in my luxurious bricks and mortar home.

Unlike you, I didn’t make a conscious decision to buy a boat. It was a bit of an accident, really, forced on me by the need to quickly find somewhere to live when my marriage failed. My marriage failed partly because my business failed, so I was in a mess both financially and emotionally.

I moved onto a semi-derelict boat at the marina, where I had started working part-time a few months earlier. I didn’t particularly want to move onto a boat, but it was somewhere cheap for me to stay while I sorted my life out.


James was in a terrible state when I moved on board

James was in a terrible state when I moved on board

I still lived on the same boat five years later, although you wouldn’t recognise it. I needed to invest thousands of pounds to get it from its dilapidated state to a very comfortable floating home. Not only was the boat very comfortable to live on, but it was also very well equipped to stay for weeks or months at a time “off grid”, which was an essential requirement if I wanted to spend any amount of time from the marina where I lived and worked.


James looked far better with a new steel top and a repaint

James looked far better with a new steel top and a repaint

During my first half-decade afloat, I learned an enormous amount about these boats. While I learned, I also shared the knowledge on my website. To tell you the truth, I became a bit obsessed with it. I invested over 6,000 hours creating more than 7,000 posts and pages, wrote a collection of guides, and developed a narrowboat budget calculator available on the site as “Narrowbudget Gold”.

The package proved very popular indeed. Almost every day, I received emails thanking me for the volume of information it contained. Sometimes I thought there’s too much information.

I had a drink with friend and fellow boater Allan Izatt in February 2014. He purchased my Narrowbudget Gold package before he moved onto his boat twelve months earlier. He told me that, although the information had proven invaluable while he was making his plans, he wished that there had been some sort of hands-on advice available, practical as well as theoretical assistance to help him make sense of everything.

The result of both our conversation and useful feedback from hundreds of subscribers to my weekly newsletter was a real-life, hands-on “discovery day” on board my first narrowboat James No 194.

I hosted these hugely popular events for two and a half hectic years. I welcomed hundreds of aspiring narrowboat owners on board, as well as existing narrowboat owners who wanted to hone their helmsmanship skills. I had fun. They learned and had fun. Everyone was happy, so I can’t really understand why I sold my lovely narrowboat in October 2016.

Anyway, I enjoyed a fascinating two years. Cynthia, my American wife, and I drove twenty-seven thousand miles through eleven European countries. We wintered in the south of France and then drove north to the endless Dutch waterways network for the summer months. We discovered the many differences between English waterways cruising on a narrowboat and living afloat on a “posh” Dutch Linssen yacht on the vast network of canals, rivers and lakes in the Netherlands.


Dik Trom Linssen Yacht

Our Dutch Linssen yacht, Dik Trom. I was pleased to return to narrowboat life despite this boat's grandeur

 Our most significant discovery was how much we missed the UK canal network’s shallow and muddy ditches and the funny looking boats on them. Craft often owned by weird and wonderful folk who want to live close to nature. We decided to rejoin them.

We arrived back in England in December 2018. I was devastated when Cynthia lost her ten-year battle with Leukemia in April 2019, but was thankful that I was again part of the inland waterways' supportive community. My boating friends and my lifestyle close to nature helped me recover, as did the like-minded aspiring boaters I continued to meet on my Discovery Day cruises. I used my beautiful new home to host these days.

Orient is just six inches shorter than my old Norton Canes boat. She’s much younger than James No 194 but doesn’t look it. Orient is based on an authentic canal working boat complete with a midship engine room, a 1936 Lister engine, a beautiful boatman’s cabin and two tonnes of hardwood flooring. Probably the most significant difference between the two boats is the steering. James’ engine room sported a Morse control, a simple lever with a push-pull button for gear selection and throttle control. Orient is more traditional than James in that respect. She has a brass handle for gear selection and a speed wheel for determining the throttle. Orient offers the opportunity to enjoy an authentic boat handling experience. You’ll enjoy the novelty of using these controls, but you’ll probably want a Morse control on your own boat. I’ll explain the differences during your time with me.


Orient is a beautiful traditional style narrowboat

Orient is a beautiful traditional style narrowboat

A Discovery Day is your chance to learn how to handle a 61’ 6” narrowboat. If you can manage a boat of this length, you can handle any narrowboat. You’ll steer it along the picturesque waterway through impossibly narrow bridge holes towards the historic waterways village of Braunston. Then you’ll reverse the boat in a more or less straight line, do a three-point turn and moor securely against the bank using piling hooks, chains or pins. You’ll learn the best knots to use and all you need to know about etiquette on the cut and generally gain enough confidence with narrowboat handling to take one out on your own, with or without a crew. During your twelve mile cruise, you’ll gain both experience and confidence. You’ll be ready for the grande finale; three descending locks in the Calcutt flight, an about-face in Calcutt Boats’ marina entrance and then an ascent of the same flight. Going up and down in a lock require different techniques. You’ll be familiar with both by the time we tie up for the final time.

Boat handling is only part of the day, though. Steering your boat is the easy bit. Choosing the right craft is far more difficult. You need to consider the overall boat length and the impact your choice has on the waterways you can use. You’ll need to understand why your floating home’s draft will determine your cruising enjoyment, which stern to choose to suit the craft’s purpose and the pros and cons of both bow and rear deck covers. You need to know how to balance onboard electrics to determine which home appliances you can use on your boat and which ones you should definitely stay away from. You need to understand the pros and cons of the different types of toilet suitable for narrowboats. The subject is a firm favourite on the towpath. You don’t want to feel left out. You need to know how to avoid condensation, which solid fuel stoves and central heating systems to choose and which fuels work best with them. You’ll want to discover the best telephony and broadband solutions and onboard television. And critically, the importance of built-in storage and why you should avoid “open plan” liveaboard narrowboats. And I’ll answer any other boating questions you care to throw at me. The day is yours.

Then there’s choosing a mooring. Finding the right mooring for your boat is arguably as important as your choice of boat. You’ll meet me on my own mooring at one of the most beautiful marinas in the UK. I’ll talk to your about different types of mooring, the importance of access, location, proximity to busy roads, access to your own vehicle, facilities you’ll need and facilities you’ll want, hidden charges to look out for and restrictions to avoid. You may be able to avoid taking on a permanent mooring at all, but you’ll have to be sure of your facts.

I’ve seen hundreds of new boat owners here at the marina soon after they’ve parted with a substantial sum for their own boat. Often they could have avoided some very costly mistakes by going on a discovery day.

UNCONDITIONAL MONEY BACK GUARANTEE

I don't mess about. I know how hard you've had to work to earn your money. I want you to have complete confidence when you spend it. I expect you to thoroughly enjoy your day out with me. Everyone does. However if, in the unlikely event that you aren't thrilled in every way with the service I've offered before, during or after your Discovery Day, please let me know. I will refund everything you've paid in full and without hesitation. This is a cast iron guarantee.

The Folly Of Unprepared Buyers

A couple arrived at Calcutt Boats to get some remedial work done after they purchased their 60' long live aboard narrowboat. One of the first questions I ask new boat owners when I meet them is how much boating experience they had before they made their purchase.

The answer, which once would have shocked me but which now I almost expect, is that they hadn't set foot on board a narrowboat before they parted with just over £40,000. I once stood slack jawed on the back deck of a brand new £120,000 bespoke narrowboat with the new owner. He appeared a little nervous as I moved the boat into the middle of a large marina and offered him the tiller. "Can you show me how to steer?" he implored. "This is the first time I've ever stood on a narrowboat!"

This couple had a rough idea how to handle their boat but some aspects of living on board their floating home came as quite a shock to them. The first was that they couldn't get any electrical appliances to work on the boat. Just a quick glance by one of our fitters was all that was needed to identify the problem.

When they viewed the boat it had been connected to the national grid via a shore line. The boat was fine when it was on a mooring with a handy electricity supply but no good for them to use to continuously cruise the network. Their bank of five large leisure batteries were completely flat. 

The solution was easy enough, but it came at a price. They wanted to be able to use some pretty heavy duty appliances so they needed to have a generator fitted in the boat. They didn't want the generator running all of the time so they had to have the existing batteries replaced. They also needed 3KW inverter and a better alternator. They didn't get much change from £7,000.

Their expenses didn't stop there though.

They had bought the boat after simply walking through it on a beautiful summer's day on a mooring in a marina. They hadn't taken the boat out for a test drive. In fact, they hadn't even asked for the engine to be started.

If they had taken the boat out for a short cruise they would have discovered that (A) the starter battery needed replacing, (B) the boat handled terribly and (C) the drive shaft was squealing like a stuck pig. The repairs cost them another £1,500.


An engine bay filled with water and rust

An engine bay filled with water and rust



If they had come out with me on a Discovery Day before they started looking seriously at boats to buy, they wouldn't have made the mistakes which cost them so much money. They probably wouldn't have purchased that particular boat at all.

The on board electrics would have been a deal breaker for them but there were so many other aspects of living afloat which didn't suit them.

The husband had a bad back so found bending and lifting both difficult and painful, which was a bit of a problem in the winter with so much coal to lift in and out of the boat, and equally heavy gas cylinders to lift in and out of a difficult to reach bow locker.

Considering the practicalities of living afloat, and gaining the knowledge needed to avoid making a costly mistake like this unfortunate couple, is an important part of the Discovery Day.

You'll spend a full day, ten hours, with me on board my 61'6" Steve Hudson narrowboat. It's completely different to the last boat I used to host my Discovery Days. That craft was barely habitable when I moved on board with my single rucksack on a spring morning April 2010. It was a very steep learning curve but living and working at a well staffed marina with experienced fitters and engineers, there were plenty of people to steer me in the right direction. I was very happy with my boat eventually. It was very well equipped both as a static home and as a long term cruiser. The new boat, Orient, is very well specified from day one. It's not yet perfect. I still need to make a number of improvements before we're completely self sufficient. I'll tell you what they are when I walk through the boat with you.


Discovery Day guest Sue Quirke negotiates a Grand Union lock

Discovery Day guest Sue Quirke negotiates a Grand Union lock

You will be able to compare this boat with the features, facilities and equipment you have on your list for the boat you hope to buy. This part of the day alone will help you to avoid many expensive mistakes made by new narrowboat owners who don't do enough research.


But don't just take my word for it. Read what Three Happy Discovery Day Guests have to say...

I'm not one to blow my own trumpet, but you probably don't know me from Adam. Maybe you don't know Adam either. You may be a newsletter subscriber and know a little about me. You may not. In case you don't I'll just say this; My wife, Cynthia, tells me that I'm not as confident as I should be in many aspects of my life. But she also says that when I talk about the canals, the people on them and the funny long boats so many call home that I change completely. I am passionate about the waterways. I love life afloat in general and narrowboats on England's inland waterways in particular. More importantly for you, I appear to have a natural ability to painlessly share my knowledge and skills with aspiring boat owners. I have received literally hundreds of glowing Discovery Day testimonials since I welcomed my first guest on board on 3rd July 2014. They have all been overwhelmingly positive.


I'm English so I'm not comfortable telling you how good I am. I'll leave it to these three guests below. If you want to bore yourself senseless and read all my testimonials. all you have to do is ask.

Deanna Sharratt

 Somewhere on the canal network


"We both wanted to slow down and bit and get out of the rat race. We had built up a fair bit of equity in our house and were considering downsizing to a cottage or enjoying the liveaboard lifestyle. Attending the Discovery Day enabled us to decide that  life on a narrow boat was definitely for us.

The day was brilliant. The best anniversary present I've had in 24 years!! After a tour of Narrowboat James 194 we got to try every aspect of Helmsmanship. Despite the very poor weather we had lots of fun chatting with Paul and learning how to be polite and friendly (and dare I say it semi competent) boaters.

We would definitely recommend a Discovery Day to anyone considering the liveaboard lifestyle to prevent expensive mistakes.  Just the advice alone was worth the cost of the day and we had the added bonus of getting to 'play' with Paul's home. Thank you Paul. It's a day we will remember for a long time!"

?

(Deanna and her husband, Rob, enjoyed their time out with me so much that they bought my first boat, James No 194, from me when I temporarily moved overseas in October 2016.)



"Searching the internet I came across Paul's Discovery Day web site for all aspects of living on a canal boat. I thought, "Wow, that would be ideal for me even though I've been living on a canal boat for 18 months but no experience in cruising the cut"..so i booked a Discovery Day with Paul to gain some experience in cruising. With Paul's experience my confidence grew during the day. Now I'm ready to to cruise the canals.

My son and me had a brilliant Discovery Day. Paul answered all questions regarding living aboard and full instruction cruising the canals. We came away at the end of the day with a lot more experience and confidence.

My Discovery Day showed me a different way of life living aboard. Paul was there to answer any questions regarding all aspects of living aboard and instruction with cruising the cut. I would recommend Paul's Discovery Day who is thinking about buying a canal boat."

Graham Davies

Kingswinford, West Midland

 Dave Gibson

 Pudsey, West Yorkshire


"I have always had an interest in boats and boating – mainly sailing and canoeing so far. When my divorce started, the idea of living on board seemed so much more appealing than living in a flat in the suburbs of Leeds and Bradford. Despite needing to keep costs to a minimum, I wasn’t naïve enough to think it would be a cheaper option, but the idea of downsizing; getting rid of clutter; having a smaller footprint/imprint on the environment and living on water and closer to nature has a great appeal. I booked the discovery day, to find answers to many questions about costs and various practical issues. The helmsmanship side of things was more of a bonus!

The day was fantastic! Despite being a little nervous beforehand, I really enjoyed all aspects of the day. A lovely cruise through beautiful countryside with very relaxing and stress-free instruction from Paul. The amount of information was great, although it was really up to me to think of the right questions to ask, so it is definitely worth putting some thought into what you need to know beforehand.

I would thoroughly recommend the discovery day. Apart from being a great day afloat, it was hugely informative and put my mind at ease over a lot of issues that I couldn’t get straight, clear answers to over the internet."


Here's A Reminder of what you get...

A unique experience day designed to teach you how to handle a narrowboat and answer all the burning questions you have about all aspects of life afloat including...


Financial Considerations...


  • Boat purchase and associated costs.
  • Mooring fees and when you can legitimately avoid paying them.
  • Waterways licensing. You can reduce this cost too if you're not living on board full time.
  • Boat Safety Scheme certificate renewal costs and why you should NEVER buy a narrowboat without a current certificate.
  • Insurance costs for your boat AND your contents. Not all insurers will cover your possessions if you live on board full time.
  • Gas, electric, diesel and solid fuel costs - all broken down and carefully explained.
  • Engine fuel consumption - Narrowboat owners quote litres per hour rather than miles per gallon. What's the average? How much should you budget for propelling your floating home?
  • Shared ownership costs - How to own slice of heaven for a fraction of the cost of outright purchase.
  • Boating on a budget - Find out how you can slash the cost of living afloat... without compromising on comfort.
  • The reality of living afloat - It's not all summer sunshine and gin and tonics. I won't hold any punches with the bad stuff.


...The Practicalities Of Living Afloat...


  • Essential on board equipment, features and fittings - These lists will save you a great deal of time researching what you need and money buying stuff you later realise is pretty much worthless on board.
  • Toilets; cassette, pump out or these peculiar New Age composting things - You'll learn which works best and which smells least. The answer may surprise you.
  • Electrical considerations - Did you know that managing your off-grid power supply is one of the most difficult aspects of living afloat?
  • Gas versus electric cooking - Which is best?
  • Waterways maps and guides - How to easily find your way around the network's connected 2,000 miles, and where to learn about potential delays on your route.


...Helmsmanship...


  • Steering on the straight and narrow and, more importantly, steering around the blind bends and tight bridge holes on every boater's route.
  • Reversing and three point turns - How do you turn a long boat on a narrow canal?
  • Painless mooring - Learn how to stop for the day without damaging your boat.
  • Single handed boating - Even if you intend boating with someone else there may be times when you need to go it alone. I'll show you the easy and safe way to handle your boat solo.
  • Knot tying - You don't need to know many knots, but the knots you use need to be easy to tie and untie with cold hands, and they need to be able to hold a twenty tonne boat securely to its mooring. I'll show you the best knots to use and a smartphone app to help you tie them.
  • Lock negotiation - If you sit at a summertime lock for longer than half an hour there's a good chance you'll see an inexperienced boater and his crew making a lock passage look like very hard work. I'll show you tips and tricks to handle any lock, on your own if necessary, with ease.
  • The dreaded weed hatch - This hole in the bottom of your boat is a necessary evil. I'll tell you what you need to know to prevent catastrophic mismanagement. 
  • Boating Etiquette  - The unspoken code of waterway conduct. Ignore these guidelines at your peril


...And, Last But Not Least, A Fun Day Out


Even on the coldest and wettest days my guests have told me how much they've enjoyed themselves. Boaters are kindred spirits. They have a sense of fun and adventure. Your day with me will be spent in a relaxing atmosphere on board an extremely comfortable narrowboat cruising along one of the network's most beautiful contour canals. You'll be a million miles away from the stress and strain of the "real" world. What's not to like?

Invest in your Idyllic Boating future tODAY!

I urge you to act now. I love the inland waterways. I've loved every minute since my first night onboard in April 2010. I wouldn't change any of it, but not everyone feels the same as me. Not everyone understands how much the lifestyle costs and the reality of living a nomadic off-grid lifestyle. 


Years of experience, mistakes, disasters and triumphs helped me create a truly unique experience for aspiring boaters. Hundreds of guests since my first Discovery Day back in 2014 have helped me hone and tweak the service into its current form. Here are a few more comments from delighted Discovery Day guests.


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The practical hands on approach 'not classroom based' is very refreshing

My family was lucky enough to inherit a 45ft Springer narrowboat, which we are planning on renovating in the weeks ahead. I found you during one of my many online sessions researching renovating and living on a narrowboat. Thought your day looked very interesting and booked it immediately.

...there is plentiful information, very practical and obviosly from experience. Some very valuable deep & knowledgeable insights into 'living afloat'. It's a big day with a lot of information to absorb.... much of the little gems given at the helm as you guided us through steering the craft through the water. The day is relaxed and flows naturally, which was great for Lorna, Al and me as we are all pretty relaxed people.

[I would recommend your Discovery Day cruises] for many many reasons ..... some listed above.....the 'insider knowledge from experience' is really valuable. The practical hands-on approach 'not classroom based' is very refreshing. Just spending the day on the canal, using the facilities on the boat, toilet, kitchen, feet up on the front deck, sense of closeness to nature, etc etc, the pace of life.... ..... all of that gives a deep insight into how it 'feels' to be on the water.

Jon de Rule
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We left on a high and haven't stopped talking about the day!

We wanted to see if living on a narrowboat was for us in the future and saw Paul had lots of good reviews. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and have realised that this was something that really could be an option for us. We are now thinking about where we'd want to be based - whether to be cruising or try for a residential mooring, to be in Wales or England and the logistics of downsizing radically to a boat.

We left on a high and haven't stopped talking about the day! So much was covered - it felt like an in-depth immersive experience and an essential if you want to test whether living on a narrowboat is a good idea. Even if we decide it's not possible for us we left feeling we'd learnt a lot about another way of living in a very enjoyable way and started to acquire a new skill. Whatever we do with this experience it was a fantastic and memorable way to spend a summer's day.

We would definitely recommend this day. It's a great way to begin or continue your research if you are considering living on a narrowboat for any length of time. Being able to question Paul on every aspect of canal living and learn about the negative as well as the positive side to this life has given us the confidence to think we really could do this if we want to.

Alison Griffiths
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would thoroughly recommend a Discovery Day to anyone considering spending time on a narrowboat

At the moment I'm considering buying a narrowboat and living aboard as a continuous cruiser but had never previously set foot on a narrowboat but have always wanted to live a more remote and eco-friendly lifestyle.

The reason for booking the discovery day was to gain more information about the practicalities of buying and living aboard a narrowboat as well as gaining some basic boat handling knowledge.

I thoroughly enjoyed the discovery day and thought it was highly informative and practical throughout the day. All my questions were answered and the amount of information and instruction from start to finish was very good.

?I would thoroughly recommend a Discovery Day to anyone considering spending time on a narrowboat. In fact, I am planning to book another discovery day to include my partner as she was unable to attend this time around. I'm confident she will find the day equally as enjoyable and informative as I did.

Paul Goodey
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Paul’s approach was calm, precise and practical

We’re just starting out with our new boat, with plans to continually cruise having taken early retirement. With little experience, we were quite apprehensive and wanted some expert guidance.

The communications, prior to our training day, were informative, easy to follow and comprehensive. As we requested the training to be on our own boat, Paul even gave us some advice re the equipment and preparation needed.

The day out with Paul has boosted our confidence and Paul made a point of including certain aspects that we’d raised beforehand and that we were unsure of. Paul’s approach was calm, precise and practical. We can’t think of anything that wasn’t covered.

We would recommend Paul's Discovery Day service to anyone considering living afloat, especially having seen some of the predicaments that people had got themselves into on the cut. Paul gave us some invaluable advice about how to react to other peoples behaviour and assess/predict what to do. Paul’s discovery day would suit boaters with varying experience and even people wanting a refresher. It was relaxed, informative and very enjoyable, not to mention tiring! We’re so glad that we managed to get booked in with Paul and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him, or to use him again ourselves if we felt the need.

Tracey & Richard Elvin
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Paul's "Discovery Days" are a unique introduction to a hidden way of life

We anticipate including a narrowboat in our lifestyle; not as liveaboards, but more as a comfortable way to combine "glamping", boating, and exploring in one big adventure.

We didn't get two vital bits of information - how much the narrowboating lifestyle exceeded our expectations, even as seasoned sailors - and how effectively Paul's infectious enthusiasm has converted Kim and I to full-blooded narrowboat enthusiasts! Everything about our "Discovery Day" was handled very professionally and the amount of detail and planning was impressive. Right from the driving directions through to the end-of-day "wash-up" conducted over a convivial dinner, everything was top-flight.

As a former sailing instructor, I feel that Paul has a winning recipe whereby an encyclopaedic volume of information is delivered extremely effectively. Aboard Paul's lovely home "Orient", critical tasks were taught, rehearsed, performed and evaluated in a wholly non-judgemental way, and the depth of experience we gained has left us eagerly planning our next adventure on the cut. Paul "teaches" very unobtrusively and at no time did either Kim or I feel we were out of our depth. The amount of information which Paul managed to cram into a single day has left us with weeks of conversation and discussion, unpacking and reviewing what we learned.

Paul's "Discovery Days" are a unique introduction to a hidden way of life. All the information you ever wanted to know, and more, is at his fingertips, and his broad experience with narrowboat living enables him to advise and gently steer aspirant boaters in the right direction. He never "tells"; instead he quietly "recommends", or sometimes gently coaxes the conversation away from ideas which won't prove their worth. It's like getting the Oxford Notes Study-Guide for every issue of every narrowboating magazine delivered by a personal tutor in an unimaginably lovely classroom, and the Grand Union Canal certainly delivers in spades when it comes to beauty!

Neil Cramb
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Honestly, the day was bloody fantastic!

When we booked the experience day, it was with the intention of one day (hopefully soon) becoming a liveaboard although we aspired to this and knew, in theory, everything we needed to, we had no practical experience. So rather than booking a hire boat for a holiday with no tuition, we wanted to actually learn something and be guided and leave feeling more confident in ourselves and our plans.

Honestly, the day was bloody fantastic, me and Isaac really enjoyed ourselves and left feeling invigorated to find our liveaboard with a newfound confidence for our life choice.

We learnt everything we needed too, had good conversation and laughs along the way.

Anyone who wants the lifestyle, it's amazing for learning everything you need too and gives a head start in handling a narrowboat.

For anyone wanting an amazing day out, you are surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery and travelling down some idyllic canal routes, even if just for fun, what a different and great way to spend your day!

We will be keeping in touch with Paul and will keep him updated on our journey and hopefully will be down south again one day, in our own boat seeing him in person again!

Brilliant, recommend 10/10

Millie Brierley & Isaac
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Some people splash out a fortune on something totally unsuited, and can’t even steer the thing away from the mooring.  Don’t be that guy- book a day with Paul

After a series of unexpected life changes, I found myself starting again- open to new ideas, but wary of the default option of house/office job/ city life. I considered camper vans for a while, but then when sitting in a pub garden by the canal, a narrowboat cruised past and I realised that the life I was looking for was more likely to be on the water than the road.

Buying a boat to live on is a major step, and I was hesitant to take the step without talking to someone who had lived it and knew what they were talking about. Paul has lived it, and knows what he is talking about!

At this stage, I am looking into boat finance, armed with the wealth of knowledge with which Paul provided me. I’m hoping to be fully afloat and off-grid early next year.

The day was fantastic. Tiring, yes- but that’s mainly due to the amount of information I was processing. I got a real flavour for life on the water and Paul was happy to answer all my questions- his passion for the lifestyle is infectious.

Absolutely, yes. In fact, I cannot really understand why anyone who is considering such a life would not do a day like this, especially if they had no previous experience. When you consider the outlay for a narrowboat, the cost of the day is tiny, and will almost certainly pay for itself in terms of the numerous purchasing decisions you have ahead of you. These can range from the enormous (narrowboat vs. wide beam) down to the every day (type of fridge, coal vs wood fire) and everything in between (engine type, insulation, painting). And that’s just the purchasing; on the practical side, the ability to confidently steer the thing, to navigate locks safely/ without making a fool of yourself….I could go on. Some people splash out a fortune on something totally unsuited, and can’t even steer the thing away from the mooring. Don’t be that guy- book a day with Paul.

Ian Bennett
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You don’t need to be into boats, considering getting a boat or wanting to hire a boat to enjoy this

I’m not in a position to buy anything at the moment but I have a weekend hire booked and am likely to carry on hiring until I could/want to buy. I booked simply for a taste of what it feels like and to gain some skills before hiring.

The day was everything I wanted and needed and more. To be steering the boat within a few minutes of setting off was quite an experience. I never felt out of my comfort zone knowing you were there to help if needed, you made me feel at ease which built my confidence as the day went on. The only thing I would have liked adding was the bacon buttie you had for lunch

Highly recommended. You don’t need to be into boats, considering getting a boat or wanting to hire a boat to enjoy this, it was a mini adventure regardless! It's amazing to feel the British built 1936 engine bring the whole boat to life and experience the feel of past generations. It was a bonus that I now know the basics of operating a canal boat and locks which was all presented just at the right level and intertwined with some very funny banter!

Mark Wallis
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The day exceeded my expectations by a country mile

Firstly the day exceeded my expectations by a country mile. I needed a non-sales pitch view of life afloat and an understanding of the compromises that would be needed to make the move. The discovery-day has prevented me from buying a barge that would have been totally unsuitable. Thanks to Paul, I'm going to hold off jumping into a regret purchase and will look to spend more time on the water before deciding on a complete life change.

The day totally suited my needs; I saw enough to come away and decide if a life on the water was for me. I appreciated the honesty and had loads of fun. Paul is great company.

The day is fun, but also informative. it's a very wise investment.

Jem Birrell
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Orient is a lovely boat and Paul should be justly proud of the quality of his home

We are currently looking to purchase a narrowboat for extended summer leisure cruising, probably within the next 18 months after the current spike in the market calms down. Given the minefield that seems to exist of options for propulsion, heating, length, draft, water storage, location, winterisation and the ever-popular toilet discussion we booked the day with Paul to discuss these points and also to boost our handling confidence.

We thought the day was excellent and we did get to both cover off all our questions and improve our handling confidence. We were particularly impressed with Paul’s freestyle backflip into the canal at our first stop !!! If we had to be really picky and I mean really picky I think as far as the handling skills side of things it would be more relevant in Orient had the more modern morse controls for those looking to boost their confidence of boat handling as the majority of narrowboats now have these type of controls.

Our Discovery Day definitely resolved a lot of questions we had been mulling over as to boat type, length, layout and facilities, and even identified some that we hadn’t previously thought of. The discovery day does give you the opportunity to really understand the benefits and disadvantages of many facets of the narrowboat and not only learn which type of water tank for example is preferable but also why and what to consider when making your choice. Paul is a great sounding board so that you can formalise your thinking of what type of boat, layout, stern, etc., you would prefer and also freely points out the compromises/disadvantages of his home. Orient is a lovely boat and Paul should be justly proud of the quality of his home.

Colin Sharp
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The information and training are invaluable not only for the help and advice but will give you the confidence to ask the right questions when looking to buy (or rent) your own boat.

My son and I had been looking to buy a boat for the past 12 months but were not sure of what we should be looking for, what questions we should be asking, or more importantly what we actually wanted. After 10 hours with Paul on his beautiful boat we now know exactly what to look for, and in fact, have just put an offer on our ideal boat. Without the discovery day, we would still be spending hours searching the Internet and listening to bad advice. Thanks, Paul.

We received numerous emails from Paul full of advice on what to expect, what to wear, how to get to his boat (easy) and general information about what we would be doing during the day. Paul also asked us to send him a list of questions beforehand which meant we could spend some time beforehand and send him a (long) list of questions we had been building up over the past few months. Paul even phoned us to make sure we were ok when we were late due to traffic. We couldn’t have asked for more.

It was a wonderful day and Paul was the ideal host. There was a lot to take in and his friendly manner and calm instruction (even when we nearly hit another boat) made it an enjoyable and stress-free day. We covered everything and more that we could think of during the day and we came away with all the information and answers we needed. We learned how to navigate, work locks, moor the boat, tie knots etc. as well as what to look for in a boat e.g. types of stern, toilets, engines, electrics and much more. Last, but not least, Paul made a great cup of tea!

We would highly recommend the Narrowboat discovery day; if you are considering buying a boat, or simply renting one for a holiday, then you really should get yourself onboard. The information and training are invaluable not only for the help and advice but will give you the confidence to ask the right questions when looking to buy (or rent) your own boat.

Kevin Farrow
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All in all my experience was a very informative hands-on day set in beautifully scenic and tranquil Warwickshire, all done with a great sense of humour from Paul to boot!

At the moment I'm still making a decision on living a life afloat on a narrowboat. First, I needed to experience a day in control of a vessel and to have a closer inspection of the workings and life aboard. After looking at boats on eBay to get an idea of prices I found Paul's discovery day which I knew I knew I needed to do before making any decisions.

On the day I received adequate information on the walkthrough of the boat and during the helmsmanship tuition. All questions were answered clearly and concisely.

I would definitely recommend a day with Paul who has had years of experience living aboard and can tell you the pros and cons and would save you from making uninformed decisions when buying a boat.

All in all my experience was a very informative hands-on day set in beautifully scenic and tranquil Warwickshire, all done with a great sense of humour from Paul to boot!

Tony Blyth
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For anyone considering buying a narrow boat I would say booking a discovery day with Paul is an absolute must.

I am currently considering buying a narrowboat however have never spent the day on one & know little about the day to day tasks.

We had a great day & it gave a real eye-opener of what a typical day out been on the canal. The knowledge with Paul has is extremely extensive which is explained & demonstrated in a calm safe environment where you can learn a lot.

For anyone considering buying a narrowboat, I would say booking a discovery day with Paul is an absolute must

Lewis Rawles
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All in all my experience was a very informative hands-on day set in beautifully scenic and tranquil Warwickshire, all done with a great sense of humour from Paul to boot!

At the moment I'm still making a decision on living a life afloat on a narrowboat. First, I needed to experience a day in control of a vessel and to have a closer inspection of the workings and life aboard. After looking at boats on eBay to get an idea of prices I found Paul's discovery day which I knew I knew I needed to do before making any decisions.

On the day I received adequate information on the walkthrough of the boat and during the helmsmanship tuition. All questions were answered clearly and concisely.

I would definitely recommend a day with Paul who has had years of experience living aboard and can tell you the pros and cons and would save you from making uninformed decisions when buying a boat.

All in all my experience was a very informative hands-on day set in beautifully scenic and tranquil Warwickshire, all done with a great sense of humour from Paul to boot!

Tony Blyth
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The day was truly amazing both epic and relaxing in equal measures

Having placed a deposit on a wide beam I felt I need to get some hands-on experience and talk to someone that lives the liveaboard lifestyle. This is when I found Paul's listing on eBay which led me to his informative website.

The day was truly amazing both epic and relaxing in equal measures, Paul is a great teacher, guiding you along the canal answering all your questions and the ones you wish you had thought of.

Even if you just like the idea of cruising down the canal I would urge you to book a discovery day with Paul, however, if you are considering purchasing or hiring a Narrowboat/Widebeam I would say it's a necessity!

It's hard to put into words just how much value you will receive on the day, only to say I will be booking another day before my boat is completed, Paul's knowledge will pay back the cost tenfold.

Daniel Golding
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We would recommend anyone who is thinking about buying a canal boat to get some hands-on experience as reading books and watching videos are not as good as the real thing.

We are doing a project boat and wanted some hands-on experience with a working boat which was very useful with you.

we found the day to be very helpful had a lot of information from you about moving around the canals and doing the locks and the best way to get the boat in without opening both gates and roping off.

We would recommend anyone who is thinking about buying a canal boat to get some hands-on experience as reading books and watching videos are not as good as the real thing.

Alan Cook
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Paul can answer almost any question you have on boat ownership and life on the cut

We have been considering purchasing a narrowboat for some time, given we both live near canals and have an interest in them. Our intention would be to purchase a boat that we could use individually or for family and friends, but also hire out to the public. We saw an advert for Paul's Discovery Days and booked one as a way for us to find out more information on boat ownership and operation.

The information provided by Paul was very thorough, particularly the directions taking you to what seems like the middle of nowhere. His website gives thorough information about what we had to expect from our day and (importantly) about the man himself!

We both left the boat to travel home and as we got in the car we agreed that we had got everything we expected (and more) from the day. Paul is a very interesting guy and great company, which is important given you are to spend 10 hours with him in close confinement! He is very patient - though direct - with his instructions and imparting of knowledge, which makes for a no-nonsense and quick way of learning. The best way!

Paul can answer almost any question you have on boat ownership and life on the cut. The experience of spending a day on his boat and listening to his advice/knowledge/opinions is an excellent way of determining whether to make the next move and purchase a boat.

David Hopps (and friend, Jeff)
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A thoroughly enjoyable day that made us realise we were too old and knackered to physically be able to do justice to owning our own boat.

The discovery day was just what we needed before we blindly jumped into buying a narrowboat.

A thoroughly enjoyable day that made us realise we were too old and knackered to physically be able to do justice to owning our own boat. Can’t wait for a holiday in one though with our newfound knowledge.

Most definitely (recommend a Discovery Day cruise). It’s the sensible thing to do because you will get to know the pitfalls as well as the attractions. Good to do this sort of thing even if you’re thinking of a holiday afloat.

Ruth & Allen Smith
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What could be better than taking a day out of your life and exchanging it for a taster day of the life you desire?

Having decided that living on a narrowboat was a serious option for me, it was important that I get enough concise and accurate information and also spend time on a narrowboat with my plans in mind.

My discovery day with you Paul has massively helped to fulfill much of this.

My next step is to take a boating break as soon as possible.

I am much clearer on the type of vessel I am looking for and will begin my search in earnest now.

My cruise with you was a great day, quiet and peaceful, with lots of experience driving, and navigating through locks. During that time the information provided about the lifestyle, the waterways, the benefits and the pitfalls was considerable and delivered with candour and good humour.

What could be better than taking a day out of your life and exchanging it for a taster day of the life you desire? To be guided by someone passionate about their lifestyle who has put so much time and effort into providing the information you need to know.

Helen Hurmson
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For those wanting to learn all things Narrowboat and Cut culture and have a lot of fun, Paul is your man!

We booked the discovery to learn more about narrowboat life and how to handle the boat. Since booking, we have bought a 45ft Narrowboat the day before attending and the discovery day more than met our needs.

We had a day of proper fun. Paul put us at ease. He was flexible as we were late. we learned a huge amount. Paul has a kind and patient manner and made us laugh. We were totally happy with the whole package.

For those wanting to learn all things Narrowboat and Cut culture and have a lot of fun, Paul is your man!

Jo Phillips
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I thought it was the perfect way to find out about the lifestyle before committing myself

Having found the discovery day on eBay and having never even been on a narrowboat I thought it was the perfect way to see if I liked it before committing my self going any further and spending money on hiring or buying one. My day with you was very informative and I learned a lot and has given me the confidence to give it a go so my next step will be to hire one for a week and if I feel the same after that I would look at buying my own boat which is a big step and your discovery day has pointed me in the right direction. Thanks, Paul

Trevor Hartley
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Like the best driving instructors, Paul gave us confidence while we were at the helm and only intervened when it became apparent that our skills were not quite sufficient to meet particular challenges

We are looking to downsize and have been researching narrowboat living for the last year or so as one of our options. Having limited narrowboat experience between us, the sum total being Harriette's two narrowboat holidays more than thirty years ago, we decided that your discovery day would be an ideal opportunity to learn more about what's involved when living on the canals.

The information provided before the event was more than ample, with opportunities to highlight any areas of particular interest. We had a clear itinerary, guidance concerning clothing and eating arrangements were explained so that we arrived properly prepared. Before the day started, Paul contacted us to clarify directions to make sure that we knew exactly where we were supposed to go.

The day was fantastic. Paul made us feel at ease from the start, welcoming us onto his boat 'Orient' with its classic Lister diesel engine. Although the idea of ten hours for a discovery day seemed a bit daunting, the reality was that time flew by. There was a good mix of narrowboat chat where Paul told us about the way he does things and we asked questions, the obligatory boat tour and a good deal of practical experience where we got to manoeuvre the boat, operate locks and handle ropes. Like the best driving instructors, Paul gave us confidence while we were at the helm and only intervened when it became apparent that our skills were not quite sufficient to meet particular challenges. The day contained everything that we had hoped and Paul has clearly put a lot of work into providing the best experience that he can.

If you are considering living afloat then this discovery day would be a very sound investment. A good teacher is essential when trying to learn effectively and there is no substitute for hands-on experience when it comes to acquiring practical skills. Paul is a great teacher and we're sure that the information and skills acquired during the day will prove invaluable to us as well as to any aspiring boater.

Chris & Hariette Duncan
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Without a doubt this introduction to living aboard is vital for anyone considering this way of life

The day was exceptional, more information and advice would have been difficult to assimilate.

Without a doubt this introduction to living aboard is vital for anyone considering this way of life. In fact DO NOT consider it seriously without first spending a day with Paul.

Wayne & Hilary Hardman
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Paul is easy company, forthright, friendly, amusing yet professional, and always has his eye on the situation.

As a recent member of the widower club, I thought I'd indulge my curiosity about a life afloat, something for which my late wife had no affinity.

I've been following a number of Narrowboat Blogs and Vlogs over the past couple of years, and I came across Paul's 'Living on a Narrowboat' website.

His Discovery Day package seemed an ideal opportunity to begin my hands-on research. It's fine watching others on Youtube, but I felt it had to be experienced to be appreciated.

I had the best day! Paul is easy company, forthright, friendly, amusing yet professional, and always has his eye on the situation.

He reminded me of my motor-cycle test instructor, in the way that your powers of observation and anticipation of hazards should be foremost when driving the boat: not like a car, like a motorbike. Drive for everyone around and you won't go wrong!

I had wondered about stopping for fuel and water to see how it is done, and using the CRT keys at the relevant points, etc., but Paul is always prepared (as is his home, Orient) and these issues would have sucked time out of the day.

Would you recommend a Discovery Day cruise to anyone else considering living afloat?

Good God, yes! (Sorry to sound so enthusiastic!)

This has to be the quickest way to understand how to use a section of the British canal system in a single day. It's only 12 miles there and back, but a great opportunity to negotiate locks, bridges, other boaters, a marina entrance as a winding hole, to experience the changing British weather and to enjoy nature at first hand. It is easy to overlook how beautiful our countryside is. Ridiculous though this sounds, I'm likely to do another before I make my decision to get a boat, although I might pack a better lunch next time!

Michael Hunt
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I booked the day to gain some confidence to be able to cruise solo.

I've already bought my boat....out of necessity but in haste! I booked the day to gain some confidence to be able to cruise solo. So, helmsmanship, negotiating locks and mooring from a solo perspective. Also to gain some general advice about living on a boat outside of the comfort of permanent marina mains electricity! I plan to move my boat later this year from its current mooring in Harefield, via the River Thames to a new marina in south Warwickshire.

The day was hugely enjoyable. You shared a lot of information and expertise that I will find invaluable when moving my boat and spending some time cruising solo out on the cut. It's a long day but the pace of the day was just about right and you broke it up with breaks at the right time. No, it's marketed as a discovery day and for people who haven't taken the plunge and bought a boat. It's perfect for that market. I think they could be an opportunity to also market different 'days; for people like me who already have a boat but need help/confidence in more specific areas.

Buying a boat is a huge commitment and there is a lot of 'romance' attached to the lifestyle. It's not going to suit everyone and getting a flavour of boat life will help people make more informed decisions. So, I would thoroughly recommend spending a day with you!

James Moore
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This is a great way to see if living afloat could work for you

I am a complete beginner, spending time actually on a boat on the waterways was a great way to begin to firm up exactly what i want to do. As I’m very interested in exploring, I really appreciated all of the advice you gave me on the best options for boats etc. I think I’m about a year and a bit away from buying a boat. I’m getting my plans together for restructuring my life to make it work, this will not be that difficult really as most of what I do is Internet based anyway. I booked the discovery day as I am interested in making some major changes to my life and it was the perfect way to see if a life afloat would be workable.

The directions and information received before the day were perfect. The information made it very easy for me to find you and get the most out of the day.

The amount of information and instruction was pitched exactly right for what I needed. It made it very easy for me to get both some experience with a boat and to ask questions.

I would definitely recommend a discovery day to anyone thinking of giving narrowboat life a try. This is a great way to see if living afloat could work for you.

Thanks again for all your advice, it will be really useful moving forward. I’ll keep you informed of my progress :-) First thing I need to remember is to not steer into bridges :-)

Roger Bretayne
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We heartily recommend Paul's Narrowboat Discovery Day to anyone looking to own and even live aboard a narrowboat

Carol and I bought a 55-foot narrowboat on the Lancaster canal in Spring 2021 and began to live and work aboard full-time at the beginning of May. There were three main reasons we booked onto Paul's Narrowboat Discovery Day: Firstly, we had never driven a narrowboat before (and still hadn't until we were under Paul's instruction on the Discovery Day, in spite of living aboard our own boat) - we wanted to make sure we both knew how to drive our floating home safely, both for us and for other canal users. Naturally, we want to take the best care possible of our home - we reasoned that we wouldn't go out on the road without expert driving instruction, so why would we operate a far more valuable vehicle based on 'trial and error' (especially one that is our everyday home)? Secondly, being on the Lancaster, we need to cross tidal water (the Ribble Link) to access the main canal network. As new boaters, our insurance company insisted we be competent to operate the boat on tidal waters. Uninsured loss of everything we owned was not an option for us, so our insurers reviewed Paul's Discovery Day as a helmsmanship course and were satisfied that if we completed the course successfully they would extend our insurance to include UK tidal waters as well as the canal network. Thirdly, there are no locks on the Lancaster canal but hundreds on the main canal network. We would have no way of gaining experience operating locks ahead of crossing the Ribble - we knew that Paul's course would give us training in safe operation and use of locks. In fact, that was a particularly enjoyable feature of our Discovery Day!

We really enjoyed the day with Paul. He's a friendly, welcoming and, of course, extremely experienced live-aboard boater. Orient is a classic 62-foot traditional stern narrowboat with a 1920's Lister engine that is a joy to experience. Setting out we were immediately in control of Orient, under the close and attentive guidance of Paul, who was always ready to step in to prevent any disasters! There are bends, shallows, bridges, locks and towpath moorings to negotiate, with my wife and I taking turns at the helm to ensure we both gained the knowledge and confidence we were seeking. We learned essential mooring knots, how to choose and use bow, stern and centre lines and how to position the boat for greatest safety of ourselves and others. Paul's training style is very relaxed and the day is very much 'hands-on', which is exactly what we were looking for. Two days later we needed to move our own narrowboat for the first time, taking her to a neighbouring marina for new paint - without the Discovery Day this would have been a very anxious event, but we were so much more confident and the move went without a hitch. On the Discovery Day, we watched brand new, never-before-boaters take out local hire boats and get into all kinds of trouble (and not know how to get out of it). Thanks to Paul, we were not among them!

We heartily recommend Paul's Narrowboat Discovery Day to anyone looking to own and even live aboard a narrowboat. It's a day of valuable practical experience in a busy, winding stretch of canal, with many of the obstacles you're likely to encounter on the cut, so it demands concentration and care but is hugely enjoyable. We believe this is the very best way to gain confidence at the helm of your own boat and it will set you up for a lifetime of contented cruising.

Rob & Carol Stuthridge
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Thanks for a first class day out on Friday

Thanks for a first class day out on Friday, I loved every minute of it although I’m not sure where all the time went!

As we spoke about, we are considering living on a narrowboat probably no earlier than next year. Much depends on my work situation over the coming months. I booked a discovery day with you after searching the net for information on liveaboard narrowboating and finding what you offer to be pretty much unique.

Information provided before the event was comprehensive with excellent guidance and directions.

I enjoyed a very full day on your boat with first class tuition in many aspects of boat handling as well as the opportunity to pick your brains on all aspects of the liveaboard lifestyle.

I would certainly recommend a discovery day with you to anyone considering a narrowboat liveaboard as it is an opportunity to not only learn from someone who has lived the lifestyle for many years but has also put a great deal of thought and effort into passing on the skills and practicalities involved.

Thanks again for a great day, hope to see you again in the near future.

Robin Tomes

Imagine a care free life on england's inland waterways...

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 these benign summer months. As you watch water reflections dancing across your pine clad cabin roof, you remember the joy of sitting in front of the stove in cold winter days, 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.

I live 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 the the lifestyle wasn't for them. That was good too. They learned this lesson before they invested tens of thousands of pounds in a lifestyle they didn't want.


You can discover everything you need to know about life afloat, before making a life changing decision you may regret.


Enjoying life afloat on my first narrowboat James in 2013

Enjoying life afloat on my first narrowboat James in 2013. Maybe this is what the future has in store for you.