I love working at the marina. Every day is different. There I was on Thursday, minding my own business cutting the reeds around the moorings on Meadows marina, when I was called upon to do a bit of rescue work.
Both marinas are generally quite windy. Meadows marina is always the windier of the two as the prevailing south westerly hits the newer marina first. Thursday was rather breezy and possibly not the best of days for a new moorer to attempt to get his shiny new boat onto his mooring for the first time.
Tim and Alison on their rather fetching narrowboat Kalabash No 5 had done all of the right things. They’d approached the mooring steering into the wind and had steered close to the island to allow for the drift when they turned into their mooring. Unfortunately they didn’t know that the island shelves quite gently into the water. They grounded themselves very convincingly onto the mud.
No amount of engine revving and pole thrusting would move them off during twenty minutes of trying so they were quite desperate by the time they managed to shout loud enough to get my attention.
We didn’t have any of our own boats available down in the marina so I offered to pull them off with James. I enjoy any opportunity to take James off the mooring, although Sally wasn’t too impressed when I cast off as she was trying to do some washing at the time. She was even less impressed when, due to my haste to do my knight in shining armour impression, I kicked the steel shovel we use for scooping up the dog’s mess into the marina.
A quick cruise around the marina to line up James’ stern to their bow, a quickly tied none slip clove hitch – keeping fingers out of the way when the boats moved apart and tightened under the pressure generated by two fifteen tonne plus loads – 2,500 revolutions from my Mercedes engine and both boats moved away from the island.
I untied the rope quickly before the wind pushed me into a pontoon of moored boats, reversed away from Kalabash No 5 and headed back to my mooring…. to discover that they were stuck again. The second time they came off the mud and stayed off.
Back on my mooring, Time came to say thank you, and to give me a bottle of Chateau Mont Milan Corbieres. Not only did I have the pleasure of breaking my already enjoyable day with a little adventure, but I was rewarded for it too. What a life!
For the last three years I’ve managed without a washing machine on James. There are two washing machines and a dryer in the site’s shower block so I’ve used those. In the main, it’s been a satisfactory way of washing my clothes but there have been a few drawbacks.
The machines are quite expensive to run. Tokens are available at reception costing £1 each. Each token runs the selected washing machine or the dryer for forty five minutes. A decent wash and dry cycle costs £5 most of the time. However, sometimes other boaters who aren’t used to the machines take their washing out and turn the power off before the cycle has finished. Consequently we sometimes find a machine half full of water so we have to use tokens to power the washing machine in order to finish the cycle.
There aren’t many people on site using the machines regularly but there are enough to necessitate removing the washing as quickly as possible to prevent another boater doing it for us. Sally isn’t keen on other people sorting through her smalls. While I’m not concerned that another lady has had her hands on my underpants, I see her point.
The washing machines aren’t always working either which means that we either have to wait until they are fixed, or take our washing to the nearest launderette ten miles away in Daventry. We’ve never been keen on washing our dirty linen in public so we’ve always waited a day or two for the repairs to be done.
I’ve been reluctant to have a washing machine on James because of the cost but also because of the work which needed to be done to plumb it in and because of the power it would need. The two most popular models with boaters, the Candy and Zanussi compacts, both use about 1600w. My inverter is 1600w so it would run the washing machine at a push with no other electrical appliances plugged in when the washing was being done.
I didn’t want the hassle of making sure everything else was turned off and then possibly having to run the engine to back up the inverter every time we wanted to wash our clothes.
The possible solution was a low cost, low power consumption twin tub washing machine. Midland Chandlers used to sell one but their supplier went out of business. I tried Amazon. I bought this one because of the positive revues.
Sally loves it.
It’s cheap (£99), light (13kg) and fits beautifully in the alcove next to one of our two side hatches. It’s 58.5cm wide, 36cm deep and 67cm high. And it’s low power. The machine uses 180w on the wash cycle and 120w on the spin cycle.
It’s important to point out that is isn’t an automatic washing machine. There’s no pressing a single button and leaving the machine for an hour or so while it does all the hard work.
There are two tubs; one for 3kg of washing, and another for spinning the water out of a 2kg load.
Setting the washing machine up is simple. Find somewhere out of the way to keep the machine (that’s the hard part on a narrowboat), plug it in to a 230v supply and you’re ready to go.
The twin tub comes with a filler hose, although filler hose is a rather ambitious name for the tiny, weedy bit of plastic. I haven’t used it. I have no intention of using it. The hose is rubbish.
I could make up another more substantial filler hose for it, but there really isn’t any need. We’ve had no trouble at all filling the wash tub with a couple of bowls of hot water from the sink in the galley (You need to fill it with hot water as the twin tub won’t heat the water you add to it). To drain both the wash and the spin tubs, we just place the drain hose in the same washing up bowl then empty the water in the sink or, on a dry day, throw it out of the side hatch.
There is a 15 minute timer which is used to start the washing machine. Fifteen minutes isn’t long enough so we do two or three fifteen minutes wash cycles. After the clothes are washed, we drain the wash tub and fill it with hot water again, but without detergent, to rinse the clothes. Then we drain the wash tub again, tansfer half of the washing to the spin tub, set the five minute spin timer for two or three minutes – the spin cycle is amazingly quick and efficient – take the nearly dry clean washing out, spin the remaining wet washing, Et voilá, you’re done!
So it’s not an automatic washing machine. You need to be there to help it out. That aside, it’s a marvellous little machine. As I said, Sally loves it. She’s now washed everything on the boat – at least twice – including the sheets and duvet covers I thought it would struggle with.
The twin tub has brought us yet another step closer to a sustainable off grid continuous cruising lifestyle. The twin tub runs of our 1600w pure sine Sterling inverter without a problem. All I need to do now is find an acceptable alternative to Sally’s other beloved appliances; the vacuum cleaner, iron, hair dryer and straighteners…
If you’ve browsed through the threads on the forum you will already know that it’s a great source of information on the liveaboard narrowboat lifestyle. One subject which is never far from people’s minds is what it’s going to cost them. Here’s a question posed on the forum a few days ago…
“Hi this is a difficult one to get answers for I know but here goes. As a potential C/C next year I was wondering what other C/Cs budget for, either a month or the year. I know there will be unexpected costs ie mechanical faults ect but i wonder what costs are incurred in general day to day living, How far do you travel, how long for, how do you find Tesco’s, Sainsburys on the canal is there an app for phones you use.
The reason I ask is we are intending to take a gap year or two ( bit late in life 52) for a gap year with the intention of after that time becoming proper live-aboarders with moorings.
Any advice will be very much appreciated”
As usual there’s been plenty of advice. Here are the replies.
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 and enjoyed every minute of her life afloat. Now (April 2013) she’s selling up to follow another dream in 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.
The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.
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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