I am now working part time for the Canal & River Trust as a volunteer groundsman, working hard to ensure that the landscaping next to their locks stay rubbish free and aesthetically pleasing. They haven’t thanked me for the work I do probably because they don’t know I’m doing it yet.
As you approach Calcutt Boats from Napton Junction your first view of the business is as you slow down ready to negotiate Calcutt Top Lock. Last winter I spent a week taming what used to be the lock keeper’s cottage garden. When Calcutt Boats opened for business forty years ago, owner Roger Preen lived in the dilapidated cottage with his wife Rosemary and two small children Matthew and Catherine. In more recent years, the cottage has been home to marina manager Martyn and his wife Sue. Neither of them were very interested in the garden so the Calcutt grounds team, Pat and I, have added the garden to the areas we tend.
The cottage garden is Calcutt’s responsibility but the landscaping the other side of the garden’s black and white painted iron railings is looked after by the Canal & River Trust.
Unfortunately, they haven’t been looking after it very well. We see the Trust’s landscaping contractors maybe once a month. Once a month, at a time of the year when we cutting the grass around the site every five or six days, is not often enough to keep the area looking smart. Even on their monthly visits, the time spent in any one area is very brief. It’s not the fault of the guys driving the nippy mowers or scarily powerful strimmers. They have a huge amount of ground to cover each day so they can’t spend the time I’m sure they would like on the areas they cut. Sadly, if we want to give a good first impression of Calcutt Boats to visitors who arrive here by boat, we will have to do the work ourselves.
At 8am on Tuesday, a beautiful morning under a cloudless sky, I loaded one of our two 150lb three-wheeled mowers onto the rear deck of a moored hire boat to transport it a hundred feet onto the towpath side of the canal.
By the time I had unloaded the mower and temporarily moored our hire boat on the bollards close to Calcutt Top Lock’s entrance, masses of bruised purple clouds hung over me, lightening their load by dropping enough water on the grass I was cutting to make my grass cutter look more like a boat than a mower. I didn’t want my boat to obstruct the lock entrance for long so I battled through the deluge for half an hour until the cutting was complete. Of course, the minute I finished, the rain stopped and the sky returned to its cloudless blue. Don’t you just love the English weather?
Wednesday was yet another grass cutting day followed by Thursday, the first day of my “weekend” Sally and I spent most of Thursday eating. We drove into Leamington Spa using the excuse that we needed to visit the EE store to unlock Sally’s old iPhone and visit Homebase to get some tools. We could have sent the unlock request via the EE web site, and we didn’t really need the tools. What we really wanted to do in Leamington Spa was visit Nandos. We love Nandos fiery chicken and Mediterranean salads so we shared a whole chicken, finished off with an ice cream each and then wandered back to the car, stopping for an hour in Leamington’s beautiful and tranquil Jephson Gardens,where we had another ice cream each to finish off our gluttonous outing.
Sally was back at work on Friday. For me, the day should have been spent newsletter writing, but I’m afraid that the weather was too tempting. I’ve gone into more detail below.
I was back at work on Saturday and, unusually, I wasn’t working on the wharf. We had a full compliment of wharf staff and instructors and only four boats scheduled to go out in the afternoon. As we had eight boats due back in though I decided to hang around to give them a hand to take the boats down through the lock and reverse them onto the wharf.
Our hire boats are due back at Calcutt at 9am but they can arrive at the lock waiting to be taken down any time between 8am and 9.30am. While I waited for the boats to arrive at the lock, I raked the grass which I had cut at the beginning of the week next to the towpath.
Greeting the happy hirers at the end of their holiday is always a pleasure. In most cases they have had a wonderful time. Many are complete novices when they begin their cruise and are often very nervous boat handlers. Usually a week on the water has transformed them completely. Yesterday’s batch were particularly interesting to talk to as they had set out with the wind blowing hard enough to deter even experienced boat owners. As the week progressed, the weather improved. When they arrived at the lock yesterday the sun was blazing from a cloudless sky and the windless water was mirror-smooth.
By 9.30am all the boats were safely back on the wharf so I abandoned my raking for a while to cut the grassed car parking area in front of reception. Then I abandoned the car park grass cutting when one of the ride-on mower’s drive belts snapped. It’s lasted two years so I can’t complain. Unfortunately I won’t be able to get a replacement now until Tuesday or Wednesday. At the rate of growth at the moment it will be waist high by then.
I went back to my lock-side raking at a now very busy lock. Hire boats were out in force including some early starters from Black Prince at Wigram’s Turn marina. I watched one novice crew try unsuccessfully to lower the water level in the lock by raising the upstream paddles. After five minutes I pointed out their error. They thanked me before nervously heading for the next lock.
And then we had some excitement. I told you about an accident at the lock recently and wrote about the dangers of boating in general and the potential for accidents in locks in particular. Yesterday’s accident was in the lock.
New live board boaters Janet and Andrew Ledbetter had moored their boat on the towpath above Calcutt Top Lock half an hour earlier so that they could visit our chandlery. Andrew was concerned that their three year old rescue German Shepherd, Lucky, had been a little too enthusiastic crossing the lock gate on the way to the chandlery so to protect him, so he put the dog on a lead for the return journey.
Half way across the gate, Lucky lunged forward, so Andrew pulled on his lead to check him and pulled Lucky off the gate and into the lock where he hung, still attached to the lead and Andrew’s hand, until the pain from the lead handle stripping skin from his hand caused Andrew to drop the heavy dog and his lead into the empty lock and onto the sill.
The boat entering the lock nosed forward so that the teenaged boy on the front deck could reach Lucky where he stood trembling ankle deep on the concrete platform. The boat couldn’t get close enough to the dog because the bow hit the sill so we decided to close the gate and slowly raise a single paddle to gently introduce water in the lock to float the boat’s bow over the sill and closer to the frightened and shivering Alsatian.
By the time there was enough water in the lock to allow the boat’s bow to move forward towards the dog, the water had risen to a depth over the sill too deep for the dog to stand, which panicked him into thrashing about in the water looking for a way to escape.
Lucky was a heavy dog and too difficult for the teenager to pull on board from where he lay across the bow. He wasn’t doing the dog any favours either by trying to pull him on board by his collar. All he succeeded in doing was choking the terrified animal.
I climbed down into the lock and onto the boat’s front deck, reached down into the water, grabbed Lucky by the scruff of the neck and hauled him on board. It was fortunate for both me and for the dog that Lucky had a very placid nature and didn’t once complain about the rough treatment he received from two complete strangers.
We filled the lock until Lucky could safely jump off the front deck into the waiting arms of a tearful and thankful Andrew.
Thankfully Lucky suffered nothing more than an unwanted cold shower from the leaking lock gate. Andrew vowed to let Lucky make his own way across lock gates in the future rather than try to protect him and actually put him in a more risky situation. He talked about getting a harness with a carry handle for Lucky but acknowledged that it would be pointless as he wouldn’t be able to lift him anyway.
It’s that time of the year again. The meadows at Calcutt are a riot of colour, the site’s fifty species of trees and shrubs are bursting with spring buds of the freshest green and our car parks are full as boaters make the most of the early season sun. The weather’s looking good for next weekend, which might come as a bit of a surprise to the tens of thousands of boating enthusiasts who have visited the Crick boat show in previous years.
Historically, the weather during the three day show is a little damp. Last year was the exception to the rule. Three days of glorious sunshine swelled the crowds and helped to make the 2013 show one of the most successful to date. The late May bank holiday weather forecasts is looking just as good this year though so the Northamptonshire marina is worth a visit on at least one of the three show days.
I’ll probably be there as usual on the final day of the show hoping for a bargain but expecting just to empty the contents of my wallet into the pockets of the exhibitors offering products to help me improve my boat’s appearance and functionality.
One of the many exhibitors worth paying a visit is Martin Lambert and his MaxMon boat monitoring equipment on stand Kingfisher 57 (sensibly under cover in case there’s rain on any of the three days).
Martin installed a test unit on James just before I escaped the English winter for a month in the Philippines. The daily reports I received via email were very reassuring. My main concern at the time was the temperature on board. I’ve seen some disasters at the marina when boats suffered substantial damage because of inadequate heating during very cold spells. The MaxMon emails included graphs of the temperature on board every hour for the previous day so I didn’t have to worry about returning to burst pipes or, as happened just a month ago to one boat at the marina, finding out that the boat had sunk.
A sensor can be attached to the unit which monitors the water level. If last month’s sunken boat had been fitted with one of these monitors, the owner would have been alerted to excess water in the engine room. He could have called us and we would have been able to immediately assess the situation and pull the boat out of the water before water entered the cabin.
It’s a great bit of kit. You can see it in action at the Crick Boat Show Stand Kingfisher 57.
The thought of single-handedly managing a fifteen to twenty tonne boat measuring up to seventy feet in length as it travels along narrow canals and even narrower locks fills many potential boat owners with dread. Many existing boat owners too would rather spend an afternoon with Piers Morgan than take their boats out without a crew.
If you are a potential boat owner and you subscribe to this view, you’ll be pleased to hear that single handed boating is much easier than you think. It’s true that certain aspects of negotiating the inland waterways in a narrowboat are easier with an extra pair of hands but generally you just need to be a little more organised when you are on your own.
Choosing The Right Boat
I prefer traditional “trad” stern narrowboats for a number or reasons; I like the additional living space available in a trad stern boat rather than a cruiser stern, I think they look better, and I think they are far better designed for the single boater.
A cruiser stern is designed to accommodate a group of people standing at the rear of the boat keeping the helmsman company during a cruise. If there is a group to help you, the helmsman, then a cruiser stern narrowboat is perfectly OK. However, if you remove the convenience of an extra pair of hands, the cruiser stern’s additional space becomes a bit of a pain.
When you’re cruising on your own, you will want to have everything you need close at hand; a waterways guide to check your location, water points, refuse stations, junctions and moorings, maybe a notebook and pen to record sights and sounds as you cruise, a pair of binoculars to zoom in on an elusive kingfisher perched on a bull rush, a camera to capture a moment forever and a set of waterproofs to protect you from the inevitable rain. On a cruiser stern narrowboat you can’t easily keep these things both accessible and dry.
On a trad stern boat, the cabin is just a couple of feet in front of you. In fact, you’ll probably spend much of your cruising time standing inside the doorway to the engine room, immersing your lower half in the comforting heat rising from the engine. You’ll be able to lay the tools of your trade within easy reach on the roof when it’s dry or on a shelf inside the engine room when the rain falls.
I also find a trad stern boat more comfortable during long spells at the tiller. A cruiser stern boat may well offer somewhere to sit, but sitting down often involves peering over the roof at the half-seen canal ahead. I can stand at the tiller on my own boat and enjoy a marvelous unobstructed view in front of me, but take the weight off my legs by leaning against the hatch.
Think carefully about your boat’s stern if you know you’re going to be cruising alone most of the time.
Your Best Friend On Board – The Centre Rope
If you don’t have a centre rope on board, buy one. Or better still, buy two. A centre line helps you easily control your boat when you step off it to either moor or to negotiate locks or swing or lift bridges. Having two centre ropes means that whichever side of the boat you step off, you can always take a rope with you which isn’t going to get caught on roof obstacles.
One of the most often seen mistakes made by inexperienced hire boat crews is their rope handling. You often see them try to hold the boat into the side by either the bow or the stern rope. The end result is that the end of the boat they aren’t holding often swings away from the bank into the centre of the canal.
With a centre rope you can easily step off the boat and retain complete control, confidently and quickly secure the boat to the side before doing what you need to do.
When you select your centre ropes, make sure that they will reach from where you secure them on the roof to about three metres past the boat’s stern. This extra length comes in very handy, for example, if you want to step off the back of the boat to pull parallel to a wharf to have it pumped out or to change the gas bottles in a bow locker.
Proper Preparation Prevents P*** Poor Performance
Remember your scouting days before you were thrown out for being a bad influence on the other scouts? Was that just me? Be prepared!
When you are on your own you don’t have the get-out-of-jail-free card that you have when you have crew on board. You need to think ahead to make sure that everything you need once you leave your mooring is close at hand.
Centre line: One of the first things to check is the location of your centre rope. It’s no good coiled up neatly on the roof if you can’t reach it when you need it. Always make sure that the centre rope(s) are within reach from where you stand at the helm.
Tiller: If you have a detachable tiller, make sure that you bring it out of the boat and fit it before you undo your mooring lines. It’s very embarrassing to find yourself drifting out from the canal bank into the face of oncoming traffic without means of steering
Anchor: If you are on or are about to join a river, make sure that you have an anchor ready, already attached to the boat and ready to deploy from where you stand at the helm. If your engine stops when on the river and you are being carried along by a strong current, you want to be able to bring the boat safely to rest as quickly as possible.
Life Jacket: Essential for rivers, recommended for single handed lock work.
Phone: You will be on your own probably somewhere in the countryside, often where others are not. If you hurt yourself, your phone may be your only means of calling for help. Make sure that your phone is within reach and fully charged.
Waterways Guide: A good quality guide showing bridge numbers and facilities along the way is a must. Make sure you can reach it from the helm.
Glasses: If, like me, you are a boat owner of a certain age, there’s a good chance that your youthful 20/20 vision has taken a bit of a battering. There’s no point in having a guide handy if you can’t actually read it.
Location: If you do have an accident and need to let the emergency services know where you are, make sure that you can give them an accurate location. Make sure that you have your waterways guide to hand while you cruise and make a mental note of the bridge numbers as you pass them.
Note Book: Are you keeping a record of your journey? A note book and pen within reach make the job so much easier
Camera and binoculars: Ditto above.
Waterproofs, Hat & Sunglasses: Whatever the weather, make sure you don’t get caught out.
A Hot Drink: You might not want the hassle of mooring up when you’re ready for your hourly brew. Fill a thermos before you start in anticipation of your hectic cruising schedule and solo coffee breaks
What Goes In Must Come Out: If you don’t have the time or the inclination to moor up before you visit the loo to get rid of all that coffee you’ve been drinking and you find yourself on an unpopulated stretch of river or canal, you can use a pee bottle (Much easier to use if you have the privacy of a trad stern to hide behind).
I have an apology to make. I wrote the section above on Friday, the second of my two days off this week. I was trying to make sure that nothing was missing from the list above. I glanced for the umpteenth time out of the window at the clear sky and glorious sunshine and decided that the only sure way of including everything on the list was by refreshing my memory with a short cruise.
Within minutes I was untying my mooring ropes and heading out of the marina. I planned to spend an hour out of the marina, two at the very most, but I’m very weak.
Because I didn’t have much time, I turned left out of the marina entrance and headed north west along the Grand Union towards the Stockton flight. There are a couple of lock free miles before reaching a new place to turn just before the flight. Turning used to be possible in the entrance to Kate Boats’ marina but they weren’t very happy with boats turning there and often left boats moored close to the entrance to discourage the practice.
The latest option is the recently developed Nelson’s Wharf which last saw activity in 1968 when the army’s trainee demolition engineers blew up the old cement works buildings to practice their fledgling pyrotechnical skills. The new wharf has been built by Willow Wren Training. The recently cleared short section of the old cement works arm makes a very easy to use winding hole. I don’t know what their official position is on boats turning there, but I received an enthusiastic wave from a talking on the phone in the doorway of the new all timber office as I nosed into the arm, so we’re off to a good start.
I left the marina at 1pm. I should have been back by 2pm but as normally happens when I’m out on the boat I completely lost the will to complete the day’s routine tasks ahead of me. Instead, on the return journey and only about half a mile from the marina, I moored against the towpath, made myself a cup of coffee, grabbed my Kindle, rolled back the cratch cover and sat down to read. I don’t think I read more than a page before I was seduced by the gentle art of people watching as a stream of happy boaters cruised gently by.
In between smiles and casual waves to happy cruisers, I tried to do a little work. I sat with my laptop across my legs with twitching fingers poised above the keyboard, but I couldn’t do it. I closed the lid and watched a mallard with her seven little balls of fluff, surfing over the wash from passing boats. I watched a crested grebe duck beneath the brown water in search of afternoon tea. I watched a flight of Canada geese wheel across the sky towards the marina. I watched and I sunbathed and I watched some more. I climbed off the boat to clean the windows on the towpath side, and I watched the world go by.
I spent so much time watching that I didn’t get back on to my mooring until 6pm, just in time to get our evening meal ready, but far too late to make a significant impact on the newsletter. What I have been able to include though are the answers to some general boating questions which were included in an email I recently received asking me for information about lone boating. The email I received and my answers to the questions are below..
Simply keep your tank full. Most narrowboat hold enough diesel to allow you to cruise and to heat your boat for many days at a time. Mine holds 350 litres which, I once spent half an hour on a cold and wet Sunday afternoon calculating, would allow me to travel from Calcutt to Braunston, turn left up the north Oxford before joining the Coventy, then the Trent & Mersey canals, hold my breath while I negotiated the Ribble link, explore the length of the Lancaster canal before turning round at Tewitfield then retracing my steps to arrive back at Calcutt a month later. All without stopping for fuel. But my not stopping for fuel odyssey wouldn’t necessarily be over. I could then cruise down the south Oxford to Oxford, join the Thames for forty exhilarating downstream miles to Kennet Mouth before spending the final eight days of my six week journey carefully steering around a profusion of live aboard boaters on the Kennet and Avon as I headed towards Avonmouth while I waited, at last, for my diesel tank to run dry.
As you can see, you have to work very hard at running out of fuel. However, if you want to make absolutely sure that there is no danger of emptying your tank, make a dipstick for your tank. Buy yourself a 3′ – 4′ length of dowel, fill the tank up, push the dowel down to the bottom of your tank, mark the diesel level on the dowel as your “full” mark and then measure your half and quarter marks from there.
Of course you may well forget to dip your tank on a regular basis so the simple solution is to keep it topped up. Topping the tank up also helps to reduce the risk of getting condensation forming inside the tank.
I use gas for cooking and for water heating. We do a fair amount of each (especially since we’ve installed the twin tub washing machine on the boat and washing everything we own, virtually every day, has become a bit of an obsession with Sally). A 13kg cylinder lasts us about three weeks. Those who use gas just for cooking will tell you that a 13kg cylinder will last them for 3-4 months or more.
We always have two cylinders in the bow gas locker. As soon as one runs out I switch to the other full cylinder and make sure I buy a replacement ASAP. I’ve never run out of gas.
If you buy a boat with a gas water heater, you will probably waste a huge amount of gas. You will probably want hot water either end of the day for a shower and/or for washing dishes. For the rest of the day and night, maybe twenty three and a half hours out of every twenty four, your gas heater is unused but the pilot light is still burning rather expensive propane. By turning your pilot light off when you don’t need hot water can double the life of a single cylinder and cut your gas expenditure in half. I’m embarrassed to have to tell you that I only discovered this money saving tip fairly recently, and even more embarrassed to report that I haven’t yet done anything about it.
When you’re out cruising, don’t miss an opportunity to top up your water tank. Of course you’ll have your trusty Pearson or Nicholson guide to hand to identify the water points along your route. If you have a boat and don’t use one of these guides, you’re missing a great deal.
Personally, I prefer Pearson’s Canal Companions. They tell me a huge amount about the route I plan to cruise including quiet places to moor, places to empty our toilet cassette, pubs and shops close to the canal, winding holes and the lengths of the boats which can use them, bridges, roads and railways and the average cruising time along the illustrated sections. The guides also show the location of the water points along the route too.
I’ve scanned page twelve of the Pearson’s Canal Companion: East Midlands to demonstrate what I’m talking about (with permission from Michael Pearson of course. Thank you Michael). Two weeks ago I mentioned that Sally and I are taking the boat out for a couple of weeks at the beginning of June. I didn’t need to, but just out of interest, I plotted the route on the excellent CanalPlan web site. Using the default settings, the route planner advised me to stop by bridge 6 on the first night. However, a quick glance at my Pearson’s guide persuaded me to ignore the suggestion.
If you had to choose a place to moor on the network to guarantee a sleepless night, you would be hard pressed to pick a better spot than this with the suggested mooring’s close proximity to the thundering traffic on the M1 supplemented by more noise on the A5, the roar of trains speeding between London and Rugby and the hectic Watford Gap motorway service station relieving thousands of weary travellers of vast amounts of money for food of dubious quality. Instead, we’ll have a peaceful night at Braunston followed by five or six hours cruising the following day to get past the traffic noise to the tranquility of the open countryside after Crick marina.
Returning to the subject of water though, we intend to spend a few days enjoying the remote and lock free summit pound so, thanks to our Pearson’s guide, I can see that after ensuring that our water tank is full when we leave Calcutt we can either top up at Braunston or briefly stop beneath the Watford lock flight. Braunston is too soon, and isn’t the best place to stop for water. We’ll make the quickest stop we can at Watford gap to top up before moving on. Without a waterways guide, the location of facilities such as water points would be a mystery.
Back to the waterways guides again. They show locations of supermarkets close to the canals and rivers and also have a section giving further details on the stores available. Please note though that however good you are at planning your route, sometimes circumstances will get the better of you. Always make sure you have enough dry provisions to get you out of trouble. We have enough rice and tinned fish and vegetables on board to keep us going for a week if necessary.
That’s it for part one of the two part lone boating newsletter. Next week I’ll discuss negotiating locks and lift and swing bridges.
Each time I write a newsletter, I tick another subject off the list of things which those new to boating have told me that they want to read about. The hardest part of the process isn’t the writing itself, it’s constantly thinking of new content for each issue. The trouble is, I don’t know what you want to read. I think I keep the newsletters reasonably interesting but I don’t know for sure. That’s where I need your help.
Can you let me know what you would like to read in the future? Are there any areas of narrowboat life you don’t think I’ve covered enough or areas which I’ve missed completely? Please let me know what you want to read about. Thanks for your help.
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.
How to avoid common narrowboat accidents. They happen far more often than you might think. Here’s what you need to keep yourself out of harm’s way.
If you want to live on your boat and don’t want to, or can’t, cruise full time, you must have a residential mooring. Here’s how to find one.
What makes a perfect live aboard narrowboat. Two experienced boaters discuss layout, size and essential equipment
A cautionary tale if you are considering buying a wide beam boat to live on.
A further update to the site content index.
The A -Z of everything narrowboat – With over 5,500 posts and pages on the site now, quickly finding exactly what you want can sometimes be a problem. For this newsletter I started creating and A-Z index of all the site content.
How do you continue to earn money to support your boating lifestyle as you cruise the network?
Sharing your narrowboat space – The practicalities of sharing living accommodation the same size as a large shed.
Paying for a narrowboat – What practical steps can you take to ensure you’ve established legal ownership and how do you deal with the transfer of monies between buyer and seller?
Narrowboat Knots – At my first lock on my first cruise I watched my boat drift into the centre of the canal along with my twelve year old son. If you want to avoid the same embarrassment and potential damage to both your boat and your self esteem, you need to know how to tie your boat securely in a number of different situations.
Toilets is a subject often discussed by narrowboat owners but they usually talk about either pump out or cassette toilets. There is a third type though and it’s one which is both environmentally friendly and cheap to run. Here’s all you need to know about composting toilets.
Boat owners who live on board are considered to have a pretty simple and basic life by many living in bricks and mortar homes. Compared with the lifestyle of the farmers I’ve been staying with in the Philippines though, my UK life seems overly materialistic and expensive. Cou
Here’s an account of my very first winter on board and that of one of the site’s subscribers, Nigel Buttery. They’re very different experiences. My first winter was the coldest on record. Nigel’s is one of the mildest winters we’ve had for a long time.
I’ve also included to links to my Philippines blog. I spent the whole of February living in a rural farming community on the island of Negros.
Have you ever wondered how a narowboat is built. Here are the first two parts of a very detailed account of the building of a Sea Otter aluminium narrowboat. You’ll be particularly interested in Sea Otters if you don’t fancy the constant battle with rust that you have with traditional steel narrowboats.
Condensation is something all boat owners have to deal with. Here’s an explanation of why it occurs and what to do about it. I also tested a remote boat monitoring application in this issue.
Cold floors, cold air above the floors and cold hull sides. It’s a combination which can cause your bottom half quite a bit of discomfort. Here’s what I do to deal with the problem.
Weil’s disease – It’s an often talked about and often feared aspect of living, working or playing close to inland waterways but just how dangerous is it and what can you do to keep yourself safe?
If you’re on a budget maybe a self fit our sailaway is the way to go for you. Here’s the story of a wide beam self fit out to give you inspiration (or put you off completely)
Planning for the year ahead – Written plans and goals have always been important to me. They help me see into the future. Here’s what we’ve planned for our lovely floating home in 2014.
The practicality of hosting Christmas afloat – How do you achieve a floating festive event (and do you really want to)?
Liveaboard case study, The Pearl – Tony and Jane Robinson believe in forward planning. They stated their narrowboat fund thirty years before buying their own boat. Now the two retired education workers moor in a marina for the winter then explore the waterways during the warmer months.
Narrowboat Storage Space – How much space is there to store your worldly goods on board a narrowboat? Here’s a video walk-through of my own boat James.
Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?
Fitting secondary double glazing – Fitting the panels is a simple operation for those with the most basic DIY skills, something which I sadly haven’t developed. As you might expect then, the fitting didn’t go as well as it should.
Narrowboat videos – I launched the Living On A Narrowboat YouTube channel
Secondary double glazing for your boat – The pros and cons of double glazing on a boat and why secondary double glazing is a much better bet and a fraction of the cost.
Living on a narrowboat vidoes – My first hesitant steps into the world of video production for site content
Can you either live or holiday on a narrowboat if you have a disability? – Here’s what you need to know.
Winter fuel allowance – Do you qualify for one if you live on a boat?
Case Study – NB Progress. Kim Wainwright recorded her journey on the forum from nervous anticipation to current liveaboard boat owner. Here’s her story.
Narrowboat central heating – I don’t have any. All that is about to change. Here’s the system I’m going to install and why I’ve chosen it.
Narrowboat running costs – I compare my own running costs to those of a prominent YouTube video blogger and detail my exact costs for October 2013
Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.
The wind chill factor – How strong the wind is blowing and which direction it’s coming from can determine how difficult it is to heat your boat. Here’s what you need to know.
Case study – Another couple from down under living the dream on the inland waterways.
20th October 2013Condensation. It’s a common problem on boats. Here are a few suggestions how to keep your boat’s interior dry.
A new organisation for liveaboard boaters
On demand water heater problems – Discover a common fault with these water heaters and what you can do to resolve the problem.
Know your firewood – Not all timber burns well. Find out which is best and which to avoid.
Managing your boat’s water supply. You can use your water supply as and when you need it when you live in a house with all mod cons. You can pretty much do the same when you’re on a marina mooring with a water supply just a hose length away. It’s a different kettle of fish when you’re on an online mooring.
Liveaboard case study – A prime example of mooring without a water supply on tap.
The folly of using unseasoned wood as a fuel – Here’s essential information if you plan to use logs you find to heat your boat for free
Creating lasting memories of your cruises – Slightly off topic, but please bear with me. You’ll have some wonderful adventures as you travel throughout the network. They’ll be adventures worth remembering but will you remember them? I have a very poor memory but instant and total recall of all my cruises is just a click away.
A tragedy at Calcutt. Sudden Oak Dieback hits our 1,500 twenty year old oak trees
Forum private messaging – Now you can email other forum users from within the site
Managing your water supply
An American blogs about his travels
Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube
All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller
A disaster – I inadvertently deleted this week’s newsletter and there wasn’t a backup on the server. What a shame. It was all about the damage you can do to your boat if you don’t watch what you’re doing in a lock. You would have loved it!
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.
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?
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
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?
The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.
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.
Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold
Meet one of your legless canal side companions
The canal network’s largest floating hotel
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.
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 equivalent of the AA but did you know that they will also come to your mooring to service your boat?
The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring
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
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.
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
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.
Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis
Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer
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
First tests and reviews of the budgeting application
The best aerial for a narrowboat television
The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application
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
I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date
Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs
Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home
The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners
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
Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans
Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson
Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels
Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)
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
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
DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter
Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners
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.
CRT (Canal & River Trust) maintain the waterways. Here’s their site.
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.
Find out more about narrowboat central heating costs here.
Click here to get a FREE copy of “Living On A Narrowboat:101 Essential Narrowboat Articles”
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