I am weak. I should know better by now, but I don’t seem to learn.
Over the last couple of months I’ve had the occasional request for recommendations for decent local bed and breakfast establishments close to the marina for those travelling to me from far and wide for my discovery days. The one I’ve always suggested first has been Wigram’s Canalside which overlooks Napton Junction and which is literally a five minute walk from the marina along a very pleasant towpath.
The owner, Ben Heaf, emailed me a couple of weeks ago to thank me for the additional customers. I replied telling him that he was more than welcome but, at some stage, he would need to buy me a couple of pints as a token of his gratitude.
The end result was him offering to take me to the King’s Head in Napton so that I could collect my reward, so on Wednesday evening after a quick shower to wash off the working day’s dirt and an even quicker dinner, a banana, I walked a mile and a half along dark country lanes for our 6.30pm appointment.
I arrived fifteen minutes early, searched in vain for a lonely looking man – not something I’m in the habit of doing when I’m out on my own I hasten to add – ordered a pint of of Old Hooky and settled down on a stool in the corner of the bar with a good view of the door.
The scheduled time came and went but no one came into the pub. I was annoyed. I don’t like being late for appointments. I like the people I’m supposed to be meeting being late even less. I sent a quick email to Ben asking if he was on his way, and ordered another pint.
I was just finishing my second drink of the evening when a guy I had seen at the bar earlier, and who I had wrongly assumed was with with a party sitting in an alcove hidden from where I was sitting, rushed up to the bar and asked a guy with long grey hair sitting next to me if he was Paul Smith. I knew I shouldn’t have cut my own hair last week!
Anyway, we had a very pleasant chat for an hour over another couple of pints and then, much to my disappointment, Ben told me he had to go.
Was it something I said?
This is where I made a huge mistake. The sensible thing to do was to leave at the same time as him, but I wasn’t quite ready to go back to the boat. I don’t get out often, so when I’m out I like to make the most of the occasion.
I plonked myself down at the bar again and ordered myself a glass of merlot, a large one of course. I pulled out my wallet to pay and realised that I didn’t have any cash No problem, I thought, I’ll pay with a debit card.
“There’s a ten pounds minimum if you want to use plastic”, the barman gleefully told me.
So, an hour and a half later, and with £18.98 less in my bank account thanks to my lack of willpower, another large glass of merlot and a few single malts from the top shelf, I rather unsteadily made my way out of the pub and back along the pitch black lane to the marina.
It’s was a lovely walk home. I talked to the trees, barked back at the two unseen but ferocious sounding dogs guarding a farm house, mooed back at the cows and baa’d in tune with the sheep. I sang as I walked and sat on the hump backed bridge over the Oxford canal to admire the boats I couldn’t see in the darkness below.
I had a great time.
Thursday morning wasn’t so pleasant though. My recovery time after a night out isn’t what it used to be. I went to work with a thumping head forgetting that thumping things was what the day had in store for me. I had 40 three feet long oak posts to install. Most of them were to block off the grass car parking area which is used by holiday hirers in the drier summer months. Over the winter the ground softens but is often used by unsuspecting winter visitors to our chandlery. They get on to the grass easily enough thanks to a slight downhill slope, but getting off again invariably involves plenty of wheel spinning, sliding across the grass and ultimately being towed off.
I spent the day driving a mooring stake into the ground to make holes for the posts’ metal spikes, synchronising thumping stakes with my thumping head. Still, post fitting was preferable to the job Pat and I have to do over the coming couple of weeks.
At this time of the year, everything is damp. The sun spends much of the time hidden behind thick grey cloud and even when the clouds break for long enough to allow the sun to brighten the landscape, there isn’t enough heat in it to dry the wet ground. The grass is fine. Soggy, but not a problem.
The wooden walkways around the marina are a different kettle of fish.
There are nine mooring bays on Meadows marina, the newest of the two marinas at Calcutt. Each has a wooden walkway parallel with the bank and a number of fingers at right angle to the bank out into the marina. There are nine main walkways and seventy fingers, all wooden, all slippery and all needing pressure washing. The walkways’ total length is just over 5,000 feet or almost exactly one mile.
Pat and I will take turns using fairly low power pressure washer to clean the accumulated algae and lichen off the wooden piers. Each of the nine bays will take about two days to complete and will include a quick wash down of all the moored boats to remove any dirt splashed against them by the pressure washer.
It’s not going to be a pleasant week or two.
I booked a one to one service with River Canal Rescue on Friday. I’ve used their service twice before. Once two years ago for James’ first proper engine service and then again last year for another. On both occasions the office administration was awful. I had to phone three times for the first service before they finally confirmed that they had booked me in. They have the strangest system. It went something like this…
I phoned in to tell them that I wanted to book a service. They reluctantly agreed that they could accommodate me, a non member, and took my details. Rather than book me in while I was on the phone, they promised to call me back. Now, to me, that appears to be a difficult way of completing a simple task. Surely the engineer’s appointments are computerised so it should be a simple process to go through the available slots on the phone with a customer who has a boat,who is possibly on his boat, and who is probably in an area with a poor phone reception. I’m not running the office though, so what do I know?
Anyway, I waited eagerly for the return call to tell me when the engineer was scheduled.
I didn’t get a return call.
I phoned them again to establish my service date. They had no record of me on their system. I gave my details again, told them that they were unlikely to reach me by phone, but that they could leave me a voice mail message if I didn’t answer, gave them my email address too so that they could still contact me if phoning me or leaving me a message didn’t work and once more waited for them to contact me.
On my third call I insisted that I waited on the phone until they unearthed the engineer’s schedule and fitted me in.
The engineer they sent out, Kerry, was excellent. He turned up on time, did an excellent job of explaining the workings of my engine, speaking slowly and very clearly as he knew that what he was saying wasn’t sinking in, and quickly and effectively serviced my engine.
In spite of the lack of the organisation in the office, I booked another service last year purely because of Kerry. This time I only needed to phone twice to book the work in. I wasn’t terribly surprised to discover that they didn’t have any record of me for the previous year’s service and, as expected, they failed to call me back, but we got there in the end.
Kerry once more arrived when he should, but this time he wouldn’t service my engine. He had a quick look at it, asked how many hours it had run since his last minute, then decided that the service didn’t need doing. It’s this kind of service at the sharp end of the business which more than makes up for the poor office admin.
I’m going use the engine more in the next year than it’s been used for the last twenty years so I need to make sure that it’s well maintained. Next year’s discovery days alone will necessitate running it for up to four hundred hours and then, there’s also eight months continuous cruising to fit in.
I need to be able to service my own engine so I’ve booked the one to one service this year so Kerry can tell me what to do then watch me as I do it. It might not seem a big deal for you, but for someone who isn’t sure which end of a screwdriver to hold, it’s a little bit scary.
Of course, the lady from RCR didn’t call back on Friday, or Saturday or today. I’ll call them again on Monday expecting them to have lost my details once more. It’s all very frustrating but I should be getting used to it by now. On the canals, nothing happens quickly.
In last week’s newsletter I mentioned that my fuel consumption over the course of this year has been 1.24 litres per hour. Three boat owners emailed me with their own figures. I’ve included the details below so that you get a more balanced idea of fuel consumption. Ian and Tim have also shared some thoughts on single handed locking.
“Couple of things might interest you regarding your latest newsletter:
My fuel consumption works out at about 3/4 litre per hour. I do not have diesel heating.
I find the easiest way to deal with locks single handed is to pull the boat in and out of locks using the centre line. I am too old to dance around on the roof and those lock ladders are too close to the wall to be able to get more than my toes on them which makes them dangerous, especially in winter. I find that I can usually pull lock gate closed behind me with one hand while holding centre line with other.”
“Hi Paul I’m just lying on the bed at 2.30 pm in our lodging in Jakarta, outside temperature is 30C. I’m enjoying your latest newsletter on fuel consumption and single handed locking. I carried out my own consumption survey and get about the same as you about 1.3 ltrs/ hr.
Alchemy is a 60 ft Colcraft with beta 42hp. It has an Invicta square bladed prop ( i think that’s the name.). Most of my cruising is at very leisurely 1200 rpm. I rarely see a wake at all and I can hold conversations with folks walking dogs for 15 minutes or so before they pull away from me so i assume i,m doing about 2 -3 mph. I regularly do Braunston to Barby moorings in 1.5 hours. I only do emergency sprints at 1800 rpm to beat oncoming boats to bridge holes on rare occasions of bloody mindedness. I really don’t like to hear a high revving engine on the cut, i believe its a sign of poor anticipation. If I’m not mobile I would run the engine for 2 hours to charge batteries and heat water. I have 1 starter battery and 3 leisure batteries.
On the subject of single handed locking, I gained some experience over last summer. Mostly I walk “Alchemy ” into locks with the centre rope, always open one plate slowly to control water flow and boat stability, pull her out by hand, tie up, reset lock, climb aboard and motor away. I really don’t enjoy climbing up n down the slimy slippery ladder and negotiating the cabin roof, and at 60, with a bad back, climbing into the cockpit is a pain. I think I told you before, on one occasion heading south at whilton, in my haste i slipped down the ladder and between the cabin side and slimy wall onto the gunwhale. Could have been dangerous but was more messy from sliming my faded jeans and sky blue shirt . That slime has impregnated the cloth and is still visible.. But still reminded me on the return journey north I was leading her in by the centre rope at the top lock when suddenly realised there was a slim steel footbridge over the lock gate !! “Alechemy ” had inertial way on and I frantically tried to pass the rope under the bridge but impossible. I had no option but to drop the rope onto the roof and watch helplessly as she slowed but impacted the cill with her bow. I climbed down quickly and retrieved the rope to the top again. Not a nice experience. I must pay attention to every eventuality. I seem to be able to do a lock single handed in about 25 minutes. Unless I’m pushed by traffic I have no intention of breaking speed records or breaking my neck in the attempt. Canal cruising should be leisurely and safe.
“We averaged 1.48 litres per hour during 2013 over 480 hours of engine running. Over half of that would be with the washing machine running. Joanie M is 58 ft long with a Beta 43, PRM 150 with 2:1 reduction driving an 18 x 12 prop.”
Peter and Tim are continuous cruisers who are out on the cut all year round. Ian, as he reminds me frequently, prefers the much warmer weather of Indonesia during the English winter. He leaves his boat at a marina close to Caluctt while he’s away.
Peter Earley has provided an enormous amount of information for this site and after twenty years of hiring, six years of shared ownership and the last seven years continuous cruising on his own boat Joanie M, Pete has a great deal of experience to share.
Pete sent me the following article earlier in the week. It’s an important topic to cover because of the enormous number of potential boat owners who are considering living aboard and working in the capital. At least once a week this year I have met new boat owners who were on their way down to London where they intended to find a new canal-side home, often with little or no research into the availability of long term moorings. Several times a week this year I also received emails from potential London live aboard boater, many stating that they didn’t really have an interest in boat ownership but rather in a cheap way to live in the capital.
This is a subject which I haven’t written about before, simply because I don’t know enough. Pete does though, so if you’re considering a life afloat close to the city, or if you are thinking about adding a cruise through the capital to next year’s itinerary, you’ll find Pete’s information very useful.
“So, having read the articles in the Guardian, Independent, et al, or you’ve heard the Radio 4 programme extolling the cheap way you can live in London on the canals, you think you might join them. After all, you can pick up a boat for a few thousand pounds and a license is only another few hundred quid. I could say, ‘don’t do it’, but you won’t take any notice of me so instead I’ll give you some advice that you might take notice of.
You may be an experienced boater but you will still have a steep learning curve to climb. If you’re inexperienced then its a mountain so my first bit of advice is don’t start your new life in the winter. Why? Because everything takes twice as long and is twice as hard. Wait for the Spring when things get easier. Read on and you will see why.
The Canal & River Trust estimate there to be 1100 continuous cruisers in the London area. This is assumed to be within the M25. Doesn’t sound too bad for the amount of waterway that covers but the National Bargee Travellers Association reckon that 800 of these are in Central London. The reason is easy to understand, it’s because this lies within Zone 1 and 2 so cheaper travel. And you are dependent in public transport because, even if you have a car, where are you going to park it. All the areas near to the canal are resident parking only.
Being a continuous cruiser you have to move every 14 days. That doesn’t mean from Little Venice to Camden and back to Little Venice. It means from Little Venice to Camden to Kings Cross to Broadway Market to Mile End and so on. And, to make sure you get the message, CRT will text you when your 14 days are up to remind you to move. In practice, because the working week for most people is Monday to Friday, it means most of these 800 boats are all trying to change location at the weekend meaning queues everywhere and everyone is jostling around to get a space. Large lengths of the towpath in Central London are concreted over to protect the high voltage cables underneath. You could try hammer a pin in the cracks but it is not recommended. But it means you will have to moor alongside another boat, or even two boats.
Then, of course there are the basic needs of water and toilet disposal. You may use it sparingly and make use of facilities at work or the pub but at some point you have to get water. In the whole of London there are, I think, 13 water and 7 elsan points. With everyone trying to make use of them at weekends I am sure you can imagine the congestion this causes. This is made worse by the poor positioning of some of these where boaters using the facilities have to block lock access because otherwise their hoses wouldn’t reach.
Most liveaboard boaters will use some 10 to 20% if their battery capacity each night which needs to be replaced by recharging, either from your engine, generator or solar. Fine if you work nights and can run your engine during the day otherwise, you leave for work at 8am, arrive back home by 6pm giving you just 2 hours in which you can charge. That’s probably OK, with your batteries getting a long charge at the weekend to bring back to full charge. Failure to do this though, because you have to go home to see Mum, visit the launderette (that’s if Mum isn’t going to do it) or a hot date, means your batteries will enter a downward spiral from which there is no recovery. Of course, I’ve forgotten solar but then I’m writing this in November when the charge for most of us is fairly negligible.
London cruising is sort of split into 3 areas. Hanwell/Uxbridge to Kensal Green is about 16 miles of lock free cruising and has plenty of mooring space with easy access to Underground or railway stations and easy parking for a car. But you have to balance the extra travel cost and time of being in the outer zones against the freedom to moor wherever you want.
You know when you are approaching Zone 2 at Kensal Green as that’s when the long line of moored boats starts. From here until Victoria Park or Mile End, every possible place where it is possible to tie up, whether it be rings, bollards or fencing, is occupied by a boat, often 3 deep. Don’t be too concerned about mooring next to another boat. Provided you are not causing an obstruction, and remember this is a wide canal, it is the accepted thing to do. Make your number with the person you’re moored against as soon as you can. Find out when he is moving next. You don’t want to return home to find your boat floating free because he’s gone and he shouldn’t have the worry of having to secure your boat. If you’re sharing his mooring pins it’s important to ensure he can take his pins and still leave you moored.
Moving onto the Lee Navigation you might think that the mooring situation hasn’t improved much. But at least these boats are only moored singly and there are some spaces if you look. The mooring gets easier the further you go upriver. In fact, the area around the only sanitary, or rather insanitary, station at Stonebridge, has plenty of space and it’s still in Zones 3 or 4, again with opportunities to park a car.
I’ve mentioned water but sooner or later you will need diesel and coal. This needs a lot of forward planning or foresight and quite a bit of luck. There are several coal and diesel boats that operate in the area. I would urge you to join the London Boaters Facebook page which will give you contact details and some idea of which boat is what area and when. However, these boats don’t operate to any sort of timetable, of necessity they will be around when you are at work meaning you may have to leave cash hidden in an agreed place, and from my short experience, they don’t answer phones or texts often because they are too busy. Often, they will have run out before they get to you and then there is ICE.
I mentioned at the start, don’t move to London at the beginning of winter, wait for spring. You have a lot to learn and winter only adds more problems. It is colder, the days are shorter and the canal will, at some time, freeze. That is not the time to run out of water, have full toilet cassettes or run out of coal or diesel.
There is an added problem during the winter in that a large proportion of the moorings are sold off as Winter Moorings. These are of two types. Either a specific location, at a high cost, such as Paddington Basin, where you are guaranteed a space. Or a General Towpath Mooring where the payment of £100 a month relieves you of the necessity of moving every 14 days. However, as none of the designated places have their own water points you will have to move at some point anyway!”
Within a couple of days of receiving this article from Pete, I also received an email asking me about the availability of visitor moorings in and around London. I didn’t know, so I turned to Pete again. Here’s what he had to say…
“There are no sensible visitor moorings.
Paddington Basin is 7 days and is heavily policed by the security staff of Merchant Square aka M & S who own the bank side. There are about 20 narrowboat moorings there so should find a space in the summer months. It is all winter moorings until April. You can book a mooring at the London Canal Museum for £8 a night inc electricity. Then there is a policed 24 hour mooring at Limehouse.
If I was visiting for the summer I would aim to be at Kensal Green overnight so as to arrived at Paddington mid morning when other boats might have moved. The moor at the museum which would give an easy run to Limehouse. Limehouse to Tottenham Hale is an easy days run in the summer.
There is also the chance that he could book the moorings at Rembrandt Gardens at Little Venice for £10 a night. I’m assured by CRT that the scheme will be up and running for next year.
London is further compromised at present by large chunks of the towpath being fenced off at Kings Cross because of redevelopment and also by the Olympic Park. Two years after the Olympics and you still can’t moor there or explore the back waterways!“
If you are one of the estimated thousand plus live aboard boat owners somewhere inside the M25, I would love to hear from you. I received an email from one London boater last week. He said that I was beginning to annoy him – he put it rather more strongly than that – with my rose tinted view of the live aboard lifestyle. He said that living on a boat in London is all about survival and that the problem is getting worse every day. He said that, over the previous four weeks, he had personally seen at least half a dozen new live aboard boat owners a day heading into the city. If you would like to comment on the situation as you see it, please email me. I’ll include your response in next week’s newsletter.
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.
Discovery Day And Narrowboat Helmsmanship Training
If you’re new to this site you might not know about the service I launched in June 2014. I host narrowboat experience days on board my own 62′ long narrowboat James No 194. The ten hour days are a combination of discussion about the pros and cons of living on board, narrowboat designs and the best equipment for live aboard boaters, and a six to eight hour helmsmanship training cruise along the Oxford and/or Grand Union Canals. Here’s what a recent participant had to say…
“Firstly, I must apologise for taking so long to get back to you with this feedback after doing the Discovery Day with you, but unfortunately I have been extremely busy since I arrived back off shore and don’t seem to have had five minutes to myself.
Secondly, I would like to thank you for fitting me in at such short notice, and the coffee, gloves, etc. that you supplied. Greatly appreciated!
The day itself, being a little windy, and rainy (I’m so glad your checklist of items to bring with me included wet weather gear), gave me a real insight (as a complete novice) into what living and travelling on a narrowboat is about. Exactly what I was wanting. I feel that if it had been a calm and sunny day, although also highly enjoyable, I would not have learned anywhere near as much as I did.
My initial apprehension at being let loose with your home soon disappeared, thanks to your clear and easily understood instruction, and, by the end of the day, I was feeling a growing confidence in my ability to handle James.
There was a lot of patiently presented information to take in about bridges, locks, lines around bends, cross and tail winds, etc., but I think that I managed to take most, if not all of it, on board.
All the information, tips, and advice you gave me about solar panels, solid fuel stoves, cooking aboard, layout, etc., etc., was extremely useful, and has been stored away for future reference for when I come to purchase my own boat, hopefully saving me a lot of unnecessary mistakes and expense.
It was a pleasure to meet Sally, and I loved the feeling of tranquility that I experienced whilst we were heading back in the rain, with just the rhythmic sounds of the engine and the water lapping against the hull, watching the countryside passing slowly by, whilst the smell of Sally’s cooking wafting up from below.
All in all a memorable day, and I would recommend the Discovery Day to anyone who is thinking of buying their own boat. It gives an excellent base of knowledge and hands on experience to build on.”
Davie was unusual in that he had driven down from Inverness to learn more about life afloat, but with a view to buying and living on a boat close to where he works in Scotland. The majority of attendees intend to explore the English and Welsh canal network.
I created the site just over four 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.
Narrowboat fuel consumption – How many miles to the gallon can you get out of your floating home?
How to spot bogus narrowboat adverts – Beware narrowboats for sale at bargain basement prices. Here’s a cautionary tale to make you think twice about reaching for your wallet.
Narrowboat CO2 emissions – Is living on a boat a green alternative to a home on dry land? You’ll have to read this newsletter to find out.
Finding reliable tradesmen on the cut – They are out there but it’s not always easy to sort the wheat from the chaff. Here’s a new service on the site which is going to make the job much easier for you.
Anti social behaviour on the cut – How common are the unpleasant incidents you sometimes hear about on the canal network and who are the worst offenders? You’ll probably be surprised.
The pros and cons of buying an ex hire boat to live on – How suitable are ex hire boats for living on board full time?
I ran short of time during this week and couldn’t think of much to write about anyway, so I just detailed an idyllic week we spent away from the marina, pottering about for a few days in Braunston and then finishing off the week on the south Oxford canal down as far as Fenny Compton. Six months before the start of our continuous cruising lifestyle, it was just what we needed to whet our appetites.
Emergency food on board – Some of the most pleasant places to moor are a long way from the nearest supermarket. Here are some suggestions to ensure that you’re never short of a tasty meal on your idyllic canal-side retreat.
Cruising in adverse weather conditions part two – A continuation of the previous week’s newsletter.
Cruising in adverse weather conditions – Steering a narrowboat over the glassy surface of a placid canal on windless day in the middle of summer is child’s play. Here’s what you need to do on a “normal” day’s cruise.
Following your dream – Is your goal to some day spend a life of leisure out on the canal network? This article might encourage you to make a move sooner rather than later.
Route finding for narrowboat owners – Here are the popular paper and digital route finders to help make navigating the network child’s play
Long term narrowboat hire – Is hiring a boat long term a realistic alternative to buying one?
living on board in the winter, the cost of living afloat generally and where you can moor your floating home are all subjects which are misunderstood by many aspiring narrowboat owners. Here’s what you need to know.
Narrowboat heating, electrics and engine specifications – How is the perfect live aboard narrowboat configured? Here are a few suggestions
Essential boating equipment – Here’s the stuff every boater should carry on board
The pros and cons of a wide beam boat – More and more wannabe boaters are considering more spacious wide beams rather than narrowboat. There is clearly more living space on board but how practical are wide beam boats on the inland waterways?
The dreaded weed hatch – Sooner or later your engine will start to overheat, you’ll lose propulsion and you’ll know that you need to dive down your weed hatch to free an obstacle or two from the propeller. Here’s how to do it properly and a list of the tools you’ll need.
Digital aids for narrowboat owners – Digital applications and maps for inland waterways boaters
Practical experience for lone boaters. Here’s an account of a day’s cruise with a nervous single boater. He wanted enough confidence to deal with locks on his own. I spent the day with him, designed a route to include twenty six locks and spent ten hours helping him hone his locking skills.
Extending your boat’s storage space – The pros and cons of fitting covers to your front and rear decks
Naming your boat – The legal requirements when naming, renaming and displaying your boat plus the inland waterways’ two hundred most popular boat names
Speeding boats – Are rocking stationary boats the fault of speeding passing boats or the fault of boat owners who can’t moor securely?
Boat Handling – lock and paddle gear types.
Boat handling – Swing and lift bridges
Single handed boating – Negotiating locks.
Single handed boating – Choosing the right type of boat for single handed cruising and equipment to make your solo journeys safer and more enjoyable.
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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