Monday 9th September marked the passing of summer and the onset of autumn. Monday marked the onset of autumn as far as Sally and I were concerned anyway. We lit the stove for the first time since, I think, 8th June. Last winter and spring weren’t particularly cold compared with previous years but they were cold enough to warrant having the stove burning much of the time.
The stove will be on now intermittently until the end of September when it will roar into life full time for six or seven months. The boat won’t be cold even in the depths of winter. At least it won’t be cold at the front of the boat. The stove has a back boiler which feeds three radiators down the starboard side. The radiators are gravity fed. There’s not much of a fall between the front of the boat where the stove is and the last radiator in the rear cabin so by the time the scalding hot water from the back boiler has reached the bedroom it’s lost most of its ability to heat the bedroom.
We have an electric radiator in our bedroom but with the marina power charged at 20p a unit it prohibitively expensive to run. However, we need effective heating in the bedroom. There’s a ply bulkhead separating it from the poorly insulated engine room. Actually, that’s not quite correct, the engine room is insulated as well as the rest of the boat, but the insulation isn’t much good when there’s a howling wind blowing through the gaps in the poorly fitted rear doors.
The steel doors were fitted when the cabin was overplated. Generally I was very pleased with the work done, but the door fitting, both front and rear, was very poor quality. Consequently there are gaps between the doors and the front and rear bulkhead I can almost fit my finger in. It’s not so bad at the front of the boat because the cratch cover protects the entrance from the elements. The back doors are open to the elements though so when an icy east wind is blowing it quickly chills the engine room and then the bedroom beyond.
We often wake on a winter morning to a bedroom temperature of six or seven degrees (before I had the cabin overplated and an additional layer of insulation sandwiched between the old cabin and the new, the bedroom temperature was often just above freezing). Although we’re warm enough in bed with a winter duvet and blanket to protect us, it’s decidedly chilly getting in and out of bed.
In the fullness of time, I’ll have to get the rear doors either refitted or replaced. In the meantime I’ll temporarily plug the gap with insulation to keep the worst of the winter wind out. I also need to try and improve the heating in the bedroom.
I’ll be taking James in to the gloomy double dock at Calcutt shortly to have some work done on the heating. I don’t know when the system was last flushed, but it certainly hasn’t been done in the three and a half years I’ve been on board. I’ve been advised to have the system thoroughly flushed and, while it’s devoid of water, to have a 12v pump fitted to help the hot water reach the far and of the boat.
James will go in to the dock in the next week or two so we’ll have the pleasure of spending a couple of days and nights looking out of the windows at a room full of dusty tools rather the nodding reeds and lapping water we enjoy at the moment.
I also need to buy some coal for the winter. I’ve been offered 30 bags of Pureheat at last year’s price. Thirty bags will last me about three months so I’ll take all thirty bags. Paying for it is painful enough but carrying 750kg of coal 150 feet up to the top of a twenty feet high bank is very painful indeed. I’ll try to get Sally to help. Then she wouldn’t need to go to the gym.
One of my favourite stories about those new to boating is one told to me by a boat owner when he stopped at Calcutt for diesel. He told me that he had been on a mooring at a marina. He had a had a hose attached to the pontoon tap and was just inserting it in his boat’s water tank when the lady owner from a brand new and recently arrived boat moored next to him wandered over to ask what he was doing.
“I’m filling my water tank” he told her, “I have to fill it every five or six days”. She looked at him in horror, “I’m SO pleased I don’t have an old boat” she exclaimed, “I don’t have to do what you’re doing. I just turn the taps on inside and the water comes out!”
There are very few new boaters as naive as this lady but there are many who don’t really think about their water supply and its management until they’ve run out a few times. The lesson is usually all the more memorable when the water runs out when they are in the shower and miles away from the nearest water point. You only need to experience standing in a rapidly cooling shower tray covered in soap suds once before the importance of monitoring your water supply sinks home.
I’ve been on James now for three and a half years. I’ve not been able to find out what the water tank capacity is and there’s no easy way to do so. James has a very odd configuration. There’s a galvanised tank which feeds two smaller odd shaped plastic tanks. If there was just one regular shaped tank I could measure the dimensions and work out the capacity. I can’t so, in the interest of providing you with as much information as possible and to satisfy my own curiosity, I’m going to work out the capacity now… the hard way.
I’m just filling the water tank to the brim. I have to be careful. Unlike most modern narrowboats, James’ water inlet isn’t sealed. If I overfill the tank it overflows into the bottom of the boat, runs the full length of the cabin under the floor, reappears in the engine room, fills the engine bay and then floods the cabin.
he newsletter may be an hour or two late today. The tank is now full. I’m just about to empty it via the galley cold water tap and a litre jug.
I’m back again after just over an hour of filling the tank to capacity and then emptying it out again. I measured the capacity of the washing up bowl and counted the bowls I emptied. There were thirty two of them at eleven litres a bowl or 352 litres in total which works out at just over 78 gallons.
A 78 gallon water tank is quite small. If you look at any of the 1,000 plus narrowboats for sale on Apolloduck you will see water tank capacities, where listed, usually between one hundred and one hundred and fifty gallons. Although our tank is quite small, its capacity isn’t really an issue for us as we have a water supply close by. I don’t think the capacity would bother us if we were continuous cruisers either. The tank lasts us three or four days usually, less if Sally is using the washing machine.
When we’re out cruising the longest we stop in any one spot is two days. As these are only holiday breaks though we want to cruise most days so we can see more of the system. If we were cruising full time with no agenda to adhere to, we would be tempted to stay longer on idyllic rural moorings but the cassette toilet capacity rather then the water tank capacity would dictate how often we moved.
The only scenario when our current water tank capacity would be a real inconvenience would be if we had an online mooring without a water point. There are many liveaboards on moorings without water so they have to travel to the nearest BW water point to fill up. Replenishing the water supply on a boat with a normal 150 gallon tank would be an inconvenience but with James’ capacity so much smaller, trips to a water point to fill up after a hard day’s work would be a real pain.
How do we use our 78 gallons? We aren’t as frugal as some, but we don’t consider we waste much water. For example, we don’t ever leave the tap running while we are brushing our teeth, just a quick tap open and close to wet the toothbrush beforehand, another quick burst to rinse afterwards and a final burst of water at the end to fill a cup to gargle with.
Our water heater causes us to waste more than we would like though. The on demand water heater is in the bathroom which is about fifteen feet away from the galley. The hot water takes a couple of minutes to reach the galley after the tap is opened. That water is wasted. Some boaters collect this water to use later. I don’t know what they store it in our where they find the room to keep it but, quite frankly, we can’t be bothered with the hassle.
Our shower is another source of waste. It’s a bit of a pig to get the temperature right. I understand it’s something to do with the water pressure and the flow of water around the heater but it’s beyond me. All I know is that I have to fiddle around for a minute or two before I think I have the temperature right. Sometimes I have the pleasure of showering under jets of alternating jets of scalding and freezing water.
Some boaters use the “submarine” method of showering to save water. They turn the water in briefly to wet themselves, turn it off while they give themselves a good soaping, then turn the water back on just as briefly to rinse the soap off. I’m afraid the submarine method isn’t for me. I’m not tough enough. Our bathroom is unheated to in all but the warmest of weather we would be standing in an icy shower tray in a freezing cold bathroom spraying ourselves with frigid water. Just the thought is enough to make me want to climb into a warm bed and pull a heavy quilt over my head.
On a daily basis we each have a shower – less than five minutes – and fill and rinse out a washing up bowl morning and evening to wash the dishes. I also half fill the kettle six or seven times a day for a mug of coffee (I know I drink two much coffee. It’s my only vice, so please don’t lecture me!).
A five minute shower uses about sixty litres according to the South Staffs Water web site. We probably shower for a little less than five minutes but two showers at forty litres each plus the washing up water would use 100 litres a day which is about right if we’re refilling our 352 litre tank every three to four days.
Liveaboard narrowboat owner Julie reported in a recent case study that she only fills the tank of her narrowboat Lorien every six weeks. She’s explained how careful she is with water but I still don’t know how she does it. I don’t know how big her tank is but I think it must fill the front half of her boat and double as a swimming pool.
Regardless of the size of the tank on your own boat, you’re still going to have to be far more careful than you are at the moment with the water in your bricks and mortar home so as you look out of your window today at the solid sheets of rain falling from leaden skies onto our green and pleasant land, please remember that there’s not a lot of this precious stuff about.
A few weeks ago I published the case study of narrowboat Stardust. Owner Richard Varnes kindly sent me a few of the articles he’s written on his travels. I published two at the same time as the case study. Now I’ve added three more. Richard doesn’t just write about the canals he cruises on. He also writes about the people he meets on his travels. I think his articles are fascinating. I hope you do too. You’ll find links to his stories at the bottom of his case study here.
In the last few newsletters I’ve mentioned my new guide Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles. It’s a free download as a PDF here. It’s also no available on Amazon as a Kindle download. I’ve tried to make it available free of charge but I can’t work out how to do it so it’s been published at the lowest price setting of £1.99. The Kindle edition is here.
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 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?
Effective fly killers for boats
The downside to living on a narrowboat
Liveaboard Case Study – American Richard Varnes has taken a year out from work to cruise the canal network and write about his adventure. Here’s his case study and a few stories from his journey so far.
Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube
All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller
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”
With reference to water tank capacity. I emptied my tank through the various taps (galley, bathroom); I counted how long the particular hose and tap I was using filled 5 lts in a marked bucket. I then started to fill my tank with the same hose and tap and timed the process until the filler was overflowing. Divide the time it took to fill 5 lts into the time it took to fill the tank, multiply by 5 and hey presto you have the tank capacity (roughly!!!).
In my case it took 1 minute to fill 5 lts. It took around 1 hour 40 minutes (100 minutes) to fill the tank; 100 x 5 = 500 lts or around 100 gallons.
I thought about doing it that way. I decided not to though as there are five other taps on my mooring section serving about twenty boats. All of the taps are fed by the same source. If anyone else uses another tap while I am filling – which is likely at the weekend when there are more boaters about – the water pressure, and therefore the time to fill the tank, would drop significantly and give me a figure which was way out.
Click here to get a FREE copy of “Living On A Narrowboat:101 Essential Narrowboat Articles”
The problem with any electric radiator is that I can’t run them off the inverter/battery bank. I’m trying to live “off grid” as much as possible so I want to find a solution which doesn’t involve plugging the shore line in. Thanks for the suggestion though.
Click here to get a FREE copy of “Living On A Narrowboat:101 Essential Narrowboat Articles”
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