Living on a Narrowboat News 21st April 2013
I’ve suffered quite badly with wind over the last week. Fortunately for Sally and the dogs not the type of wind that involves a furtive spray up and down the boat with an air freshener. Real wind, the sort of wind that encourages full time boater to stay on mooring rather than cruise.
It’s been a very windy week. On Wednesday night we had gusts of 40mph. Both Sally and I had trouble sleeping. The starboard rear fender hangs close to our bed. In addition to the howling wind, we had the pleasure of the rhythmic squeak of rubber fender on wooden jetty as the boat bobbed on the marina waves.
The following day I had to move several boats around the marina. Calcutt Boats’ Meadows marina is windy at the best of times, but boating on Thursday was a real challenge. Taking boats off their moorings and moving them to the relative calm behind the workshops wasn’t too much of a problem, but returning them to their berths was a real test of nerve.
It’s essential when steering a narrowboat to use the wind rather than fight against it. Because of its flat bottom, a narrowboat doesn’t hold a line, it skates across the surface at the whim of anything more than a gentle breeze. To maintain any kind of control it’s necessary to steer into the wind to slow the boat down rather than with the wind and reduce your ability to stop effectively.
Because the moorings that I needed to get on had the stiff breeze blowing from the port side, I had allow for the wind and steer the boat, with a considerable amount of throttle, towards the rear of the boat on the adjacent mooring and hope that the wind didn’t drop at the wrong moment. Fortunately the wind blew the bow around until, just at the right moment, it was pointing directly into the boat’s own berth. No bumps, no scrapes, and no need to change my underwear.
Identity Theft – The Gift That Keeps On Giving
As you know, a couple of weeks ago I had my laptop hacked and, among many other problems, my bank account compromised. The account was closed immediately, funds transferred to a new account and a new debit card was sent to me in the post. Unfortunately for me, the bank doesn’t appear to have enough fields in whatever application they use to record addresses. When my new card hadn’t arrived after a week I phoned their call centre to discover that the bank had sent my card to an incomplete address. I corrected the address for them, or rather, told them which parts of the address they already had would need displaying on the envelope to stand a chance of reaching me. They promised to send me another card.
The new card arrived yesterday. It didn’t work. I called the bank to ask why. They told me that the first card had been returned to them marked “Address Unknown”. Consequently, they blocked my account “in case the card was interfered with in the post”. They now have to issue a third card, hopefully to the right address, which won’t reach me before the end of next week. Oh the joys of modern banking!
A New Image For The Site – Tell Me What You Think
At enormous personal expense and after months of design, redesign and revisions, I have a new logo for the site. Actually, the whole process took less than a week and cost very little but I’m very pleased with the result. I gave the designer a blank canvas to work with. I told her that I wanted the logo to look professional but informal, both striking and relaxing and to reflect the rural aspect of narrowboat life. Do you think she’s cracked it? Do you like the logo? Please take under a minute to let me know. Before you go to the survey, please look at the logo at the top of the page. Is it too large, too small or just right?
The Trust Target Illegal Moorers
I received an email from site subscriber Roland last week. Like many site visitors he’s considering buying and living on a narrowboat. He’s reached the stage where he’s actively looking for a boat to buy but there’s one thing holding him back; the availability of residential moorings.He sent me an update on the mooring situation in his part of the world. Here’s his email…
“I cycled up the grand union today from the village I live in to Leighton Buzzard. On the way back I saw an old chap painting his boat and stopped to talk with him. What he said was very interesting. I can’t recall where you are based (Midlands ?), but the world of narrowboating in the south is changing and, it appears, becoming a bit of a nightmare unless you can find yourself a proper residential / long term mooring… and that is becoming a very expensive option.
He said that the amount of people on narrowboats now mooring up on the towpath is causing problems.He knows of at least 3 people who work in the city and earn mega bucks but are living on a narrowboat as it’s cheaper than in the city, but whom have little real interest in canal way of life. He went on to say that, because of this growing influx of people mooring up on the towpaths, the people with money enough to have their boats in southern based marinas, costing them a pretty penny, have caused a stink with the CRT as they dislike the idea of them paying big fees when people are mooring up at random along the towpaths.
To combat this the Trust now have inspectors on bikes.They no longer do the old two week check; they are out every 4 days in teams cycling the towpaths and keeping tabs on who’s where and moving people on. You then have to move several miles and you are not allowed back for a couple of months to that spot and you have to move every two weeks. If you don’t move, they will fine you £25 per day and then if you still fail to move they can seize your boat and auction it off.
All a tad scary and I guess the need to ensure you have proper residential moorings is now even more important than ever. The problem with that is that there just aren’t enough proper moorings and when they do become available, there is this auction system here (which I mentioned previously) where people bid for a place and the price gets silly. The last one I witnessed ended up more than my flat rental for the year! I’d love to live on a narrowboat, and to get involved in the way of life completely. I’m the kind of person who would get involved properly and help out with the canal and land etc, but I’d have to be balmy to pay more for a mooring alone, than my rent on quiet little two bed one up one down in a sleepy village.
He also mentioned that where people used to have ‘end of garden’ mooring rights, since the Trust took over, they are now making them pay 50% of the standard fees. In fact he works for a farmer who owns fields along the canal. The farmer offered him free mooring on his field side (even though there is no water, electricity or path) but the CRT said no and wanted to charge him £1000 for the right.
The old chap now plans to sell up, get a 55 ft steel boat to replace his current boat and move up north where he used to live. He said up there the authorities generally leave you alone and don’t bother as much as they do down here.I guess it’s because we are in the London commuter area in a way. prices go up and no doubt even though there are a lot of real people on the narrowboats down here there appear to be too many wealthy people “playing” at being boaters. What a shame!”
I speak to many boaters either through this site or when they pull into Calcutt for services. The Trust appear to be tightening up on their mooring policy throughout the network. I want the information I share with you to be 100% accurate though so next week I hope to speak to the Trust’s head of boating .
RCR Engine Servicing
You’ve probably heard about River Canal Rescue or RCR as they’re more often known. They’re the inland waterways’ equivalent of the AA/RAC. With my limited practical skills and with a narrowboat engine which is far from standard, membership is essential. I asked them to carry out a service on my Mercedes OM 636. I don’t know when it was last serviced properly but it’s been many years. My boat, James, came to Calcutt Boats in 1997 after being lovingly maintained and used for twenty years by the London based Illiffe family. After reaching Calcutt, James was rarely used or serviced.
I moved onto James in 2010 and treated the boat as a floating house. As finances allowed I slowly improved the boat . I want to do some proper cruising this year. I understand that my engine is a very good engine but it is thirty six years old and hasn’t been well looked after for the latter part of its long life. It needs some TLC.
One of RCR’s longest serving engineers, Kerry, arrived last Wednesday at 10.30am to carry out the service. From the moment I met him I was confident that he knew his stuff. He couldn’t have been more helpful, even though there was a considerable amount of quiet swearing when he tried to remove the very badly positioned fuel filter.
The expected hour long service actually took Kerry three and a half hours. He was very helpful throughout and explained some basic engine maintenance that I wasn’t even aware of. In addition to being a slightly unusual engine, my Mercedes is also raw water cooled. This means that the engine, rather than using its own water as a coolant, draws water from the canal or river. The water passes through a weed trap before continuing to the engine. I didn’t know the boat had a weed trap, let alone the need to clear it out on a daily basis when cruising!
Kerry also identified several areas where I need to have remedial work carried out. I had been experiencing problems with the engine dropping in and out of drive. I knew that this is a symptom of having low or no oil in the gearbox. I’d had the gearbox oil topped up a few weeks previously but I still had the same problem afterwards. I thought I was going to have to get the PRM gearbox refurbished at great expense. Kerry identified that one of the two gearbox cooler pipes had perished and that the gearbox oil was bubbling out through it when the engine was on. I needed one or both of the cooler pipes changing, and not the gearbox. What a relief.
He found an injector pipe with a minor leak and strongly suggested that the engine’s fuel lines were rerouted. They currently run under the engine and under the engine room ballast. It’s not a good place to route delicate copper fuel pipes. The rerouted fuel pipes would also allow a pre-filter to be fitted somewhere more accessible than the current position where it is almost impossible to change even for an experienced engineer.
Kerry’s summary of my engine was very reassuring. With just over 4,000 hours on the clock – an average of just 111 hours a year over the last 36 years – my Mercedes is still a baby. It’s good for 20,000 hours so there’s a lot of life left in it yet. At £145 for the service, which included an additional £15 for genuine parts, I think I received real value for money. For many of you, the opportunity to spend hours tinkering with your engine will please you no end. For me, with very little aptitude in that direction, RCR’s assistance was invaluable.
Comprehensive Site Article Listing
There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.
Popular Forum Posts
There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.
- Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
- Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
- My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
- Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
- Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
- The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
- Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
- Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
- Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
- Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
- A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
- Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
- Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
- Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
- Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
- Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
- Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
- Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
- Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
- Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
- Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
- Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
- Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
- Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
- Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
- Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
- Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
- Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
- Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
- Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
- Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
- Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
- Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
- Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
- 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
Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat – Narrowboat costs explained in detail. My own maintenance and living cost on narrowboat James for a full year. Use this information to work out your own costs.
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.
Newsletter Archive – Browse through a wealth of useful content in the newsletters over the last year.