I heard many people complaining about the hot weather over the last week or two but I loved every minute of it. OK, I found sleeping a bit of a challenge on some nights when the temperature in our bedroom hovered at the twenty five degree mark even with all the doors and windows open and maybe it was a little warm for work, but the evenings were heaven.
Take last Monday evening for example: As usual I finished work at 5.30. By 5.35 I was back at the boat or, more accurately, by the side of the boat. Sally had two camp chairs set up in the shade of the cockspur thorn tree on the peninsula next to James. We enjoyed a salmon salad overlooking the marina island then rested for half an hour while I enjoyed my evening bottle of Theakston’s Old Peculiar. Then we went to collect our desert.
We have dozens of wild cherry on the site. Unfortunately their brightly coloured fruit are small and bitter so they don’t make good eating. However, there are two exceptions. There’s a 20 year old cherry tree – don’t ask me what type – bowed under the weight of ripe black cherries. There’s another six year old tree which, for the first time this year, has produced a wonderful crop of fat juicy and very sweet red cherries.
Within half and hour we collected at least 2KG of mixed red and black cherries, washed them, put a couple of handfuls for each of us in bowl and added a scoop of Tesco Finest vanilla ice cream. We took our freshly picked desert out to the shade of the cockspur thorn where we sat until dusk.
You can keep your big houses, fancy cars and exotic foreign holidays. Give me a bowl of freshly picked fruit enjoyed in a stunning rural setting any day!
Did you read this article in the Daily Mail last week? I don’t actually read the Daily Mail, or any other newspaper for that matter- they’re too depressing – but this particular article was brought to my attention because it paints a far too rosy and none too accurate picture of life on a narrowboat.
Anyone who currently lives on board will notice the inaccuracies immediately. Probably the most glaring error is the claim that the owners don’t need to pay mooring fees or council tax because they are continuous cruisers. They aren’t. They’re moored in Stratford upon Avon where she works in a cafe and the kids go to school. They claim that they don’t need a mooring because they are continuous cruisers and move their boat every few days. A continuous cruiser has to be on a progressive journey. Clearly they aren’t if they have to be close to both work and to schools.
They claim to have reduced their household expenses from £11,000 a year to £3,000. The waterways license and mooring fees, which so far they have avoided (but I suggest not for long once the Trust read this article) would total £3,000. Then there’s the cost of their heating. They claim that they spend just £60 each month on diesel for both their heating and propulsion. Given that they didn’t decide so sell up until February this year, they probably didn’t move onto their boat until April or May. They haven’t actually experienced any cold weather yet so probably haven’t needed the heating on very often. They’ll get a shock later on this year.
There’s no mention of expenditure on gas so maybe they have an electric cooker which may well account for the high electricity cost and the need for a generator. They couldn’t run an electric cooker without one.
There’s no mention of the cost of running the solid fuel stove (I spent nearly £900 last autumn, winter and spring) or repairs and maintenance. I don’t know how long they intend to stay on the boat or how often they are going to carry out essential maintenance such as blacking, painting and essential engine and equipment servicing but they need to budget for them.
Another inaccuracy in the article about their life on a narrowboat is Mrs Lawrence’s claim that “It’s freezing in winter” How does she know? The article states that the final straw for them was in February this year when they were faced with huge fuel bills following a “harsh” winter. They probably didn’t move onto their boat until at least April so they haven’t experienced a winter on the boat yet.
For starters, last winter wasn’t particularly cold. It dragged on a bit, but there weren’t that many really cold spells. Secondly, life on a narrowboat doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Admittedly my first winter, the winter of 2010/11, was decidedly chilly. It was the coldest December since records began in 1908.
The marina was covered by five or six inches of ice for six weeks. We had a few consecutive days with highs of minus six and one night when the thermometer dropped to minus eighteen. That night the temperature in my bedroom was minus two. I woke the following morning to fine a quarter of an inch of frost on the cladding inside the engine room.
That winter I was cold. I hadn’t yet over plated the perished wooden top with steel – and sandwiched another layer of insulation between the two. I often needed to wear an additional fleece top and a hat when I was sitting at my laptop in my office area towards the rear of the boat. And I was still cold.
I was cold on my boat, but then so where thousands of other people in their bricks and mortar homes. The weather was as unusual as it was extreme.
The following two winters weren’t a problem. I haven’t been cold at all and James isn’t really what you could call a warm boat. I know many boaters, with better insulation and heating systems than I have, who leave their front doors open in the winter to let some of the heat out. Russ, our fitter, says that he can remember many a winter when he had his boat sitting sweating in his underpants (not a pleasant thought) with the front doors wide open and snow thick on the ground outside.
There really isn’t any need for this family to be cold in the winter. Maybe they’ve only used their central heating so far and not fired up the solid fuel stove as well. Anyway, the heating is the least of their problems.
Not many families live on narrowboats. There just isn’t the room. Most liveaboard narrowboaters are either singles, mainly men but quite a few women too, and older couples. The few liveaboard children are mainly pre school.
Teenagers need space. This family have a son and a daughter with bunks in the same “bedroom”. There’s very little space for clothes, toys and possessions, and absolutely no privacy. Twelve year old Phoebe will go through puberty with seven year old Jake for company. In five year’s time, Phoebe’s raging hormones will have Jake’s to contend with when he goes through the same changes.
At the moment, the family has all the space they need. The days are both warm and long. They can spend as much time as they like outside, returning to the boat just to eat or to sleep. All too soon the nights will draw in, the thermometer will drop and long evenings on the boat, enjoyed by adults who can appreciate the simple pleasure of reading a book sitting by a living coal fire, will have to be endured by energetic children.
Children can immerse themselves for hours or days in the virtual worlds available to them through their gaming consoles. However, and increasing number of these games rely on fast internet connectivity. Fast and internet aren’t two words you can often use together when you live on a boat. Very rarely is the boat’s internet connection fast. Sometimes there’s no connection at all.
An alternative to gaming is watching the infinite number of television channels available to couch potatoes everywhere. Everywhere that is apart from on boats some or all 0f the time.
I hope that this family make a go of it. I really do. But I don’t think they have either understood or budgeted for all of the costs involved in running and maintaining a narrowboat long term. They certainly haven’t understood the continuous cruising rules and the need to pay £2,000 – £3,000 for a residential mooring (if they can find one) so that they can stay close to work and to schools in Stratford.
I don’t think that they have considered the implications of housing two increasingly volatile youngsters in a very small space with little or no privacy, no room for their material possessions or access to their digital worlds. There are very few older children living with parents on narrowboats for some very good reasons. In years to come, I hope Phoebe and Jake can remember predominantly happy memories from the latter part of their childhood spent on a narrowboat. Somehow I doubt it.
There’s a thread on the forum dedicated to this article if you would like to offer your point of view.
Everyone has their favourite boat builder. Mine is Steve Hudson. Some say he is too set in his ways, normally as a result of asking him to build a concept boat or to stray too far from his very successful formula. Steve Hudson builds traditional style narrowboats, usually with a boatman’s cabin, sometimes without, but always with a traditional stern.
Every summer S. M. Hudson hold an open weekend at their Glascote Basin premises near Tamworth. They usually have three or four of boats on show at different stages of construction. They also have an army of evangelistic Hudson narrowboat owners showing off their own boats.
Sally and I spent a very pleasant hour or two there last year looking at boats we couldn’t afford. We enjoyed the frustration so much we’re going again this afternoon. There was one 62′ bespoke liveaboard on show last year which we absolutely loved.
The boat was typically Hudson; classic lines, a glistening engine visible through the side hatches,chunky and plentiful woodwork inside, acres of storage space and every convenience neccessary to make life on board a real pleasure. We very nearly paid Steve Hudson £500 there and then to reserve a build slot for our own bespoke liveaboard.
There was just one small detail which encouraged me to leave my wallet in my pocket… We didn’t have the remaining £149,500 for the full price of the boat. Maybe next year, we said. Here we are. Next year is now this year. Sadly we’re not much closer to the total. We’ll carry on dreaming as we window shop this afternoon.
I created the site just over three years ago to provide a source of information for anyone interested in narrowboats and the possibility of living on one full time. The site has grown to encompass a comprehensive listing of inland marinas in England and Wales, dozens of articles, a forum and regular newsletters. I’ve already created (below) indexes of the site articles and the more popular forum posts. I thought it was about time I created an easy to use index of the newsletter content. Here’s the index so far. I’ve managed to reach the end of 2012. I’ll add the rest next week.
Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners
Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter
The first four narrowboat case studies published
I’ll start with myself; Paul Smith, living on my own, moored in a marina and working full time. Narrowboat James case study
Meet Peggy. She has a husband and two small children, works full time and cruises the network during the summer months. Narrowboat Violet Mae case study
Fancy spending your retirement cruising the waterways of England and Wales? Meet Barry and Sue Horne. They’re living the dream! Narrowboat Adagio Case Study
Here are another working couple. Lina and Warren cruise the cut with their two cats.Narrowboat Olive Rose case study.
Two more case studies. One of them waxed lyrical about life on the waterways. Now, just a year and a half later, she’s had enough. Her boat’s up for sale and she’s living in sunny Spain
Reviewed: The Liveaboard Guide by Tony Jones. A great guide to living afloat
eBay Narrowboat scam (and a little bit of flack for me from another forum)
Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat
A review of Debdale Wharf marina
The downside of living on a narrowboat – This was a very controversial post. Liveaboard Pauline Roberts wrote about the less pleasant aspects of life afloat… and attracted a storm of comments
Case study: The Woodsman – Pauline Roberts again giving an insight into the life that you may think she doesn’t like.
As a result of the article about the downside of living on a narrowboat published in the 18th March newsletter, I asked liveaboard narrowboat owners to complete a survey to give a balanced view of the issues raised by Pauline. Here are the survey results and a much more positive article by liveaboard narrowboat owner and frequent forum contributer Peter Early.
Life on the river Cam – A guest article on the pleasures of river life by wide beam liveaboard Luther Phillips
Case Study – Freelance writer Anne and her South African farmer partner John reveal all
Case Study – Toni cruises constantly with ex husband Allan. They cruise together but they live apart… on separate boats
DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports
DIY narrowboat painting – I’ve broken down the complete cost of painting your own boat and
Dealing with wind on the river – A guest article from liveaboard narrowboat owner Alan Cazaly
How to clean your stove glass – One of the real pleasures of a living fire is watching the flames on a cold winter’s eve. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you can actually see the fire.
Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke
Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)
Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels
Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans
Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson
I published my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat. When this newsletter was published it was only available as a Kindle edition. Now it’s available in both Kindle and PDF format and is bundled with Narrowbudget, the site’s bespoke narrowboat budgeting application.
VAT on narrowboat sales
The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners
Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs
Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home
I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date
An unscheduled dip in the marina prompted me to write about safety on the waterways
Living on a narrowboat – Through the eyes of a young lady who would clearly prefer to be somewhere else
The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application
First tests and reviews of the budgeting application
The best aerial for a narrowboat television
Low cost narrowboat ownership – A low cost solution to the problem of funding your first narrowboat
Solar power – All you need to know about installing solar panels on your boat. Written by the inland waterways most popular solar system installer
Case Study – Mr. Solar Panel Tim Davis writes about life on board his own narrowboat
Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis
Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer
Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis
I asked newsletter subscribers to send me detailed breakdowns of their bricks and mortar expenses so I could compare them with the cost of running a narrowboat. Quite a few subscribers obliged. I added the breakdowns to my narrowboat costs guide and the budgeting application.
Case Studies – I put together 21 of the best case studies and analysed and summarised the data in this low cost guide. If you want ton save yourself hundreds of hours of research and costly mistakes, you need to read this guide.
Case Study – Mike’s circumstances are similar to my own. He moved onto his boat after a failed marriage. He’s upgraded from a 27′ GRP cruiser to a 50′ narrowboat
The real cost of going cheap. An in depth look at the cost of my 36 year old boat, and how much I spent (and still need to spend) before it will be a comfortable full time cruising boat.
Stove fuel test – What works best; coal, wood, briquettes or something else entirely – Here’s my own take on a Waterways World test
Essential stove maintenance – Here’s what you need to do to make sure that your stove always performs well.
Internet connectivity – I use the internet four or more hours every day. This is the setup I have on my boat to make sure that I’m always connected.
Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013
James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring
Where can you find residential moorings? Here’s a great place to start
Getting rid of unwelcome visitors – Geese used to regularly disturb a peaceful night’s sleep where I moor. Not any more. Here’s my solution
Know your narrowboat costs – Detailed costs for my own boat for February 2013
Half a dozen boaters now have access to their own blog section on the site. You can too. Here’s how.
Here’s an example of what happens when you really don’t understand how your narrowboat works.
Essential boating equipment – Here’s a low cost item which has paid for itself over and over again.
Whilton marina boat sales – Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. This alleged fact about the boat sales at Whilton has come to me from several different sources.
Case study – Sarah lives on wide beam Antioch on the Leeds Liverpool canal. She can do man things with her hands. Here’s her story.
Be inspired – There are always reasons why you don’t make the move from bricks and mortar to steel and water. Here’s an anecdote which demonstrates once and for all that there really aren’t any worthwhile excuses.
Narrowboat security – A spate of burglaries from boats and a break in at my former family home encouraged me to write this article
Case study – You need to committed to sell your home to fund the purchase of your narrowboat. That’s what Mick and Marlene have done.
The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.
The Trust target illegal moorers but just what does the Trust consider to an illegal mooring?
Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop
RCR engine servicing – River Canal Rescue (RCR) are well known as the waterways equivelent of the AA but did you know that they will also come to your mooring to service your boat?
Narrowboat blogs – My own first cruise, Our Nige takes his new home on its maiden voyage and a chance for you to have your very own blog section on this site.
Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold
Meet one of your legless canal side companions
The canal network’s largest floating hotel
An encounter with a wide beam boat and why they aren’t suitable for much of the canal network
An interview with the Trust’s head of boating. Sally Ash talks about the Trust’s approach to the thorny issue of residential moorings
My comments about an encounter on the Oxford/GU section between Napton and Braunston sparked a debate about the pros and cons of wide beams on the cut.
Keeping dry – You don’t really need to limit your cruising to sunny summer days. There’s something very special about standing on the back deck in the pouring ran protected by a set of bomb proof waterproofs.
Do you really need a car? Living on a narrowboat is all about enjoying a simple and stress free life. Sally and I had a car each. Mine cost £2,000 to run in the previous 12 months so I decided to get rid of mine to see if I could manage without one.
Laptop hacking – An update on the problems I encountered after buying a brand new laptop which I suspect was tampered with before I bought it.
Diary of a new narrowboat owner – Frequent forum poster “Our Nige” finally moved on to his new floating home. Here’s his story
An encounter with two poorly prepared holiday boaters and my own impending two week cruise encouraged me to put together a pre cruise check list
I was on holiday for the first two weeks of June. Sally and I cruised from Calcutt to Braunston, north along the north Oxford where we joined the Coventry canal briefly before taking a very sharp right turn onto the Ashby canal. Here’s a daily report of the first week of our holiday.
The Ashby canal cruise part two – We spent a bit more time on the Ashby before heading south again, joining the Coventry canal, this time following it into Coventry’s rather depressing and disappointing city centre, then retracing our steps back to Calcutt
Most popular narrowboat names – Here’s the definitive list of the top 200 most popular narrowboat names and a resource you can use to find out if any other boat has the same name as yours
Considerate boating – An article prompted after a near head on collision with another boat trying to avoid a fallen oak.
23rd June 2013 – The cost of a two week cruise. If you live on your own boat, what’s the real cost of taking it away for a two week break?
Case Study – Mary Anne swapped dry land home rental for floating home ownership. Now she loves life afloat and works from home.
Life as a continuous cruiser – The Holy Grail of narrowboat ownership. The ability to travel where and when you like. Peter Early tells all.
Keeping your stove glass clean – Maybe you think it’s an odd subject for the summer but you can’t trust the English weather. Late June and the stove was still on now and again. At least now I have a crystal clear view of the fire I shouldn’t need to light.
Traffic chaos caused by Braunston’s historic boat rally – On a day with high winds and a canal full of working boats returning home after the rally, I had the pleasure of taking some very nervous hirers out on the cut.
Anticipating winter weather – You may well be enjoying unusually warm winter weather but the winter will be with us all too soon. Now is the time that you need to plan for the cold weather ahead.
Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.
Hire boat expectations – Fully understanding what facilities will be available to you is essential if you’re going to enjoy a narrowboat holiday. Here’s what not to do.
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.
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.
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.
Click here to get a FREE copy of “Living On A Narrowboat:101 Essential Narrowboat Articles”
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