I’ve been driven to distraction over the last two weeks. As I sit quietly in my office area, minding my own business, typing and trying to concentrate on what I’m writing trying ever so hard to ignore the distractions around me, two new friends have been clamouring for my attention. They’re flies and they’re threatening my sanity.
I’ve started to twitch and shake and shout and scream, anything to get rid of them. Nothing works. I’ve resorted to an extreme solution. I’ve spent some money.
I bought the best rated fly killer I could find on Amazon… and I’ve completely wasted my hard earned cash.
My super effective fly destroyer arrived a few days ago. The ExecutionerTM Fly Swat Wasp Bug Mosquito Swatter Zapper (they’ve certainly covered all the bases with that catchy little name), is like a badminton racket with electrified strings. Its operation is simple. You swat offending bugs with it and electrocute them. It’s child’s play. Nothing could be easier… unless you live on a narrowboat.
I’ve written extensively about the lack of space on a narrowboat so why I didn’t consider the practicality of a device such as this is beyond me. I’ll put it down to advancing old age or the fact that I’ve been very tired recently.
I’ve tried it out. Of course, the first thing I did, being male and not terribly bright, was to make sure that the centre of the fly swat really was electrified. I can now assure all and sundry that it is, and I can also assure anyone who is the slightest bit interested that the third degree burn on the end of my finger is getting better, that the damage done to the window frame when the shock hurled me against the side of the boat is repairable and that Sally didn’t actually die laughing despite indications to the contrary.
Sadly, I am the fly swat’s only victim so far. There’s just no room to use it on the boat. I can’t swing my empty arms around let alone with a three foot electrified bat clutched in my hand. Anyway, even if there was room to use it, the flies have now mysteriously disappeared. Maybe they were watching when I tried it out on myself. Maybe just the sight of the OTT fly swatter has scared them off. I suspect that the zapper will eventually find its way into a drawer and never see the light of day again. Either that or Sally will include it in one of her regular giant parcels back to her not so well off relatives in the Philippines. I don’t think they’ll use it either but at least it will keep them entertained for hours talking about the stupid man their Aunty Sally is now living with in far away England.
This site is all about living on a narrowboat. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words on the subject and, I’m frequently told, my unbridled enthusiasm for the lifestyle is evident in everything I write. It’s true. I love the lifestyle and genuinely can’t see myself moving back in to a bricks and mortar home. However life on the water, even though I write about it so enthusiastically, isn’t all a bed of roses and certainly isn’t for everyone.
Last year, we had a liveaboard boat in for repair. It was in the spring when the nights were cold and the days were slow to warm up. It was a time of the year when effective heating on board was essential. The couple on the boat were freezing. Their Hurricane diesel central heating wasn’t working and it was the only source of heat they had on the boat (BIG mistake – If you don’t have a solid fuel stove on board in addition to a central heating system, you’re asking for trouble).
The couple weren’t with us for very long. The solution to their problem was quick and simple. The boat had a cruiser stern. The Hurricane heater was under the deck boards in the engine bay. So were many other items the couple couldn’t find room for in the boat. A hose reel they had dropped in to the engine bay next to the Hurricane had caught a switch and turned the heater off. All the engineers had to do was turn it back on again.
As they were about to leave I wished them a pleasant cruise now that their heating problem was cured. She said something like, “How can we have a pleasant trip? We live on a boat. There’s nothing pleasant about it!”
She went on to tell me, all in one breath and at an ever increasing volume, just how unpleasant her life on board really was. She moaned about the lack of space, the cold, the heat, rain, muddy footpaths, inconsiderate boaters, dog poo on towpaths, bikes on towpaths, the problems she has getting to the shops, the bigger problem she has getting back from the shops with a full load of groceries, the disadvantages of having to use a launderette, the bad back her husband suffers after trying to carry coal and gas onto the boat, the frustration she feels when she (often) runs out of water in the middle of nowhere. Her list of complaints was endless.
I tried to cheer her up by pointing out that the summer was almost upon us and that she could enjoy long lazy days on a tranquil canal-side mooring. “You must be joking” she exclaimed, “The boat gets too bloody hot and there’s no way to keep it cool. We have to sleep with the doors and windows open all night which is a real problem because of the thugs that hand around the towpath.”
I tried to stop her from working herself into a frenzy. “Why don’t you moor in the shade of a tree? That will keep your boat cool”. She looked at me as if I had just grown a second head. “Moor under a tree? Are you MAD! It’s hard enough keeping the boat clean as it is without leaves and bird poo dropping all over it. And then there’s the sap from willows staining the paintwork. No, it’s not pleasant at all. I hate living on the boat in the summer, and I hate it even more in the cold, dark winter. I wish we hadn’t sold the house. I hate boats!”
This was a lady who had clearly made a mistake moving on to the water in the first place. The lifestyle didn’t appear to suit her at all. Maybe, as is sometimes the case, her husband was the narrowboat enthusiast and she had reluctantly agreed to his plans. I don’t know how much research either she or her husband did before the two of them decided to burn their bridges and sell their home. I suspect it was very little. It certainly wasn’t enough.
Living on a narrowboat is very different from the convenience you enjoy living in a static home. You have to work quite hard for the pleasure of living close to nature. As far as I’m concerned the hard work is a small price to pay for the pleasure I get from my life on board. I’ve just given my eyes a break from staring at my laptop screen and glanced out of the window.
The reeds are nodding in the early morning breeze. A pair of mallards have just drifted past the boat and now there’s a crested grebe with its spear shaped head searching for a fishy breakfast. One, two, three dives under the water without success and then the fourth time it appears with a small roach flapping frantically in its beak. It’s a wonderful sight and one which never bores me.
I’ve always loved the great outdoors so there was a pretty good chance that this lifestyle was going to suit me. It does, and I’m very happy here on James. In an ideal world Sally and I would cruise full time but, for at least the next couple of years, both of us need to work. A marina mooring doesn’t suit everyone but as far as marina moorings go, my mooring is pretty much unbeatable. The six acre marina is spacious and beautifully landscaped. There are few marina moorings as pretty as this and very few indeed where you can live on your boat. Finding a boat to live on is the easy part. Finding somewhere suitable to live is far more difficult.
The unhappy lady with the Hurricane heater had a residential mooring about ten miles from Calcutt. I think if I was forced to moor she was, I would have been unhappy with living on a boat too. Her boat was on a pier hemmed in by other boats. Her only view from inside was the sides of other narrowboats. They were packed into the marina like sardines. There was no feeling of space and no sense of privacy. Such a mooring would suit some people but it would be my idea of hell.
There are three articles on the site which I think you’ll find very useful if you’re considering the lifestyle. The first is a post I wrote three years ago about the downside of living on a narrowboat. The next is a guest article from liveaboard narrowboat owner Pauline Roberts. Her post “It’s Not All Roses And Castles” was controversial to say the least. She finished off the article by saying that she enjoyed her life on board but, having just read her article again, I think she must have been talking about a masochistic kind of pleasure. She certainly doesn’t appear to love her life afloat. The third post is the result of a survey I asked boat owning site subscribers to complete. I created the survey to find out how many boaters felt the same about issues Pauline raised in her post. If you’ve read Pauline’s article and now think that life on a narrowboat is some kind of living hell, the survey will reassure you that all is not doom and gloom in narrowboat world. Here’s the survey.
Richard Varnes and wife Valerie have sold their home in Colarado to fund a very different floating home on the inland waterways of England and Wales. Professional photographer Valerie takes photo’s to add to Richard’s written account of their travels. Richard has kindly supplied a few of his articles for me to use on the site. You’ll find links to them at the bottom of his case study. There are just two there at the moment, but there are plenty more to come.
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.
The perfect narrowboat washing machine? – It’s low cost and doesn’t need plumbing in, but does it actually clean clothes?
The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How much does living the life of a water gypsy really cost?
A free download – Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles
Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners
The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How one liveaboard boater manages on a shoestring
CART Guide Approval – The waterways’ governing body is now promoting the information packages available from this site. Yippee!
Narrowboat Insurance – A summary of insurance quotes from the major narrowboat insurers
Liveaboard Case Study – Keith and Nicky downsized their property in Jersey, used the released capital to buy their 57? “go anywhere” narrowboat and now live on their boat full time while they continuously cruise the canal network. They’re ridiculously young to retire, and I’m very, very jealous
Downsizing from a 3 bed semi to a narrowboat – What do you do with a lifetime’s accumulated possessions?
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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