First of all, I would like to wish you a relaxing and stress free Christmas. I hope that the break from an arduous work regime helps to recharge your batteries ready for the year ahead
Personally, I don’t enjoy this time of the year at all. I find the commercial aspect of the festive period irritating in the extreme. According to an article in The Telegraph earlier in the week, one in three people will go into debt this year because of Christmas. That’s over 1,600 readers of this newsletter suffering stress and its associated health problems trying to conform with what is generally accepted as the right thing to do over Christmas and the New Year. I think it’s disgusting.
I probably feel so strongly about debt because of my own experience. A few years ago I endured the humiliating social stigma which is bankruptcy. It’s not a pleasant experience. I lost my business, the equity in the business which I planned to use to support me in my retirement and, as an indirect result, my marriage failed and I no longer saw my three wonderful children.
I know all about stress caused by debt. For over a year I was at a financial, emotional and physical low which verged on suicidal. The twelve month period was without doubt the worst period of my life. The debt was all related to the business rather than frivolous personal spending but that didn’t make me feel any better about the situation.
For three years I was treated like a leper by banks and financial institutions. The banks didn’t want to know me at all. I didn’t want a credit card, just a simple bank account with a debit card. Financial institutions just weren’t interested. I had to resort to an account with an online division of Mastercard where I was charged £10 for the privilege of banking with them.
These days my situation is very different. I have a regular bank account with just a simple debit card. I don’t have credit cards, an overdraft or debts of any kind. I control my finances with an iron fist. Every single spare penny I’ve earned over the last four and a half years I’ve lived afloat has been invested in the boat. It’s now a very comfortable floating home, it’s equipped very well for long term cruising and it’s all mine.
The key to managing my finances over the last half decade is the wonderful but strangely named You Need A Budget. It’s a low cost personal finance application which works seamlessly with PC, MAC, IOS and Android applications and which works much better than better known programmes such as Quicken and Money. I use it constantly to budget for both regular and occasional expenses so I’m always on top of my boating and my personal expenditure.
Because I’m not a great fan of Christmas at the best of times, and because as a self employed contractor for Calcutt Boats I earn far less than usual because of their ten day closure over the festive period, the end of this year and the beginning of next will be a very low key affair for me.
Sally will be working up until 27th December when she will resign from her position as senior carer at a local nursing home. Then she has to go back to the Philippines for three months to tie up some loose ends. She will fly on 6th January then return in time for the start of our eight month cruise at the beginning of April.
We won’t celebrate Christmas at all in the traditional sense. There’s no tree or decorations on the boat and we won’t have a Christmas dinner. However, we will celebrate.
We’ll leave the marina the minute Sally finishes work then enjoy a leisurely cruise down along the South Oxford for a week. The only money we’ll spend over the Christmas period over and above what we would normally spend will be for diesel for the boat. I can’t imagine that we’ll run the engine for more than forty hours over the seven days we’re out so our total Christmas expenditure will be for fifty litres of fuel. We might even splash out and have a glass of sherry each.
Now that’s what I call a financially stress free Christmas!
Talking of stress, at midday on Thursday I was asked by marina owner Roger Preen, he always asks rather than commands, it’s an endearing trait, if I would like to go on a little trip to fetch an engine from another marina. Given that I was getting myself filthy at the time hauling heavy and very wet paving slabs on and off back of our site truck, I jumped at the chance to swap my day for a little gentle driving.
The marina in question was Tattenhall marina. It’s in a lovely part of the country on the Shropshire Union canal three miles west of Beeston castle and about seven miles south east of Chester. The approach to the marina was all the more pleasant after enduring the M6 for two and a half hours. The sat nav’s circuitous approach to the marina lead me past both Beeston and Peckforton castles which tower above the road.
I’ll be heading this way on the boat next year so I was particularly interested in the Shropshire Union canal, the “Shroppie” and all the attractions within easy walking distance including the stunning thirty four mile long Sandstone Trail. I have a feeling that Sally and I will stay a week or so close to the trail.
Tatenhall marina was a joy. I don’t come across many marinas which are as tranquil as Calcutt Boats, but this one comes close. It’s miles away from busy and noisy roads and railways and the business employs some particularly friendly and accommodating engineers. Thanks for helping my load the engine lads, and thanks for the very welcome coffee.
Back in Warwickshire mt working week flashed by. On Saturday I had the pleasure of taking a couple out for a test drive on one of the boats for sale on our brokerage. They moored here earlier in the year but sold their boat to move to something with a little more space. I spent an hour with them and watched with interest as they fell in love with the well built boat with an exceptionally quiet engine. They almost sprinted into the office as soon as we moored to put a deposit on the boat.
This morning I should have started early so that I could finish the newsletter at a reasonable time then take Sally into town so that she could do a little last minute Christmas shopping. Fortunately I managed to persuade her that a far more pressing need was to take James up to our wharf to top up with fuel and to give the engine bay a clean. As you can imagine, I was bitterly disappointed when, three hours later, we arrived back on our mooring and realised that I didn’t have time to go shopping with her. She’s now gone to fight through the crowds while I tap away at my keyboard. Rather her than me.
I love to cook but sadly I haven’t done much of it over the last couple of years. Sally has had more free time than me so, as she also loves to cook, she’s been doing nearly all of it.
There’s not a huge amount of space on board for food preparation, the equipment needed for gourmet recipes or for the cooking itself. Aspiring narrowboat owner Alan Cranford realised the limitations when searching for his own boat and kindly suggested using his own extensive experience in the kitchen to put together some recipes for exceptionally tasty meals which can be prepared and cooked on a moderately well equipped boat.
Alan is American so there’s a trans continental slant to them but most of the ingredients can be found in UK supermarkets. I’ve copied Alan’s introduction below, then a recipe for a Christmas dinner, some Christmas chocolates, and some rather tempting and very alcoholic festive deserts.
I’ll hand you over to Alan…
Let me introduce myself… I am Alan Cranford, a “wanna be” narrow boater who lives in Mexicali, Mexico with my wife of 35 years. I am a former executive chef, working in hotels and restaurants in Canada, the USA and Mexico, and was once Fleet Chef for the Canadian Fisheries and Environment [ a combination of the US Coast Guard and Drug Enforcement with a little Canadian Mountie thrown in for good measure]. My wife and I hope to soon purchase a narrowboat to tour the UK via canal and river for a two year period.
Cooking… GOURMET cooking on a boat is a difficult task. I have looked at photos of hundreds of narrowboats “for sale” in trying to find OUR boat… and I noticed that many ONLY have two burners, oven and grill. Now being from the “more burners the better” school, and working in professional kitchens with every gizmo and gadget you can think of, the typical narrowboat kitchen is a bit “cramped” for gourmet cooking…. These recipes are developed and designed to be easy on your “two-burner”!
CHRISTMAS DINNER FOR TWO – NARROW BOAT STYLE
Cooking for two can be a difficult task… even if you have done it for years. It seems NOTHING is truly packaged for two people! What would your butcher say if you asked for a Christmas Goose big enough for two people? He would laugh you out of his shop! Most narrow boats have very small galley’s [kitchen to those of you with one foot still on dry land] with limited counter space, a small refrigerator and, often, a smaller than home size stove and oven. This is why you’re only going to cook for two people! Now all of this MIGHT sound hard to do… It is possibly the easiest Christmas dinner ever! You have some choices… use fresh or canned. Fresh is going to give the best taste… but frozen or canned will work out perfectly acceptable when it comes time for dinner… and is faster and easier!
OUR CHRISTMAS DINNER MENU
Baked Brie topped with Your Choice of Topping
Endive Salad with Blue Cheese and Pecans
Duck with Raspberries
Oven Roast Baby Potatoes
APPITIZER: Baked Brie
Purchase a small whole Brie wheel 8-12 ounces. Using a sharp knife cut off the rind from the TOP of the cheese. Place in an oven safe baking dish. Top the cheese with one of the toppings below to about ¼ inch from the edge. Bake in a medium hot oven 12 -15 minutes until heated all the way through. Serve with your favorite crackers or bread [French, naturally]
• Canned cranberry sauce – the whole berry type not the cranberry sauce that looks like jelly. Grate the peel of one orange into the sauce, mix and spread over the top of the cheese.
• Sautéed mushrooms with garlic
• Any flavor of preserves you enjoy… like Orange Marmalade
• Canned Blueberry or Apple pie fill
• Almost anything you can think of ….
SALAD: Endive Salad with Blue Cheese and Pecans
• Roast ½ cup pecan pieces in a single layer for about 8-10 minutes on an ungreased baking sheet. After the pecans have cooled you want to break them up. You can chop them but the chopping often breaks them into pieces that are to small.. so I use a rolling pen and gently break them.
• Now Wisk two tablespoons of White Wine Vinegar, two tablespoons of Olive Oil with salt and pepper to taste.
• Trim off the very base of the head of endive with a knife. Carefully remove 10 or so outer leaves one at a time. You’ll probably need to slice off more of the base as you go along. If any leaves break or are less than visually perfect, reserve them to chop up for the blue cheese/walnut mixture. Rinse leaves and carefully pat dry with paper towel. Arrange in a radial pattern on plate.
• Mix ½ cup firm Blue Cheese pieces [or other strong cheese to your taste] with the chopped endive and the vinaigrette dressing we made along with the pecan bits and pieces. Mound in the center of your endive leaves.
o You use the endive leaves to scoop up a bit of the Blue Cheese mix and enjoy.. when you run out of endive leaves, grab a fork and finish off the cheese!
o Keep in the refrigerator or someplace cool until dinner time…
MAIN COURSE: Duck with Raspberries
• TWO boneless Duck Breast halves with skin ON
• 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
• Salt & Pepper to taste
• 1 garlic clove – chopped
• 1 Tablespoon sugar
• 2 Tablespoons Raspberry Balsamic vinegar
• ½ cup demi-glace [can be purchased as a concentrate at a good grocery store] • 1 ½ cups raspberries FRESH if possible – whole frozen if not…
• ½ Tablespoon of butter
Preheat oven to 200ºC. Pat duck dry and trim off any excess fat. Score skin in a crosshatch pattern at 1/2-inch intervals with a sharp knife; this will allow duck fat to escape as the breasts cook. Season with salt and black pepper on both sides, but don’t go overboard; the demi-glace will add a fair amount of saltiness. Heat a 12-inch ovenproof sauté pan over medium-low heat. Place duck breasts, skin side down, in the hot, dry skillet. No oil or other fat is needed—the duck will produce plenty. Cook the breast until the skin is crispy and most of the fat has rendered, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Transfer breasts to plate and pour off the fat from the pan, reserving 1 tablespoon [actually, save it all—what you don’t use in the sauce can be used for making delicious roasted potatoes]. Return duck breasts to the pan, skin side up, and place in the hot oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted diagonally into center registers 50°C for medium rare [unlike chicken, this is perfectly safe—and delicious]. Remove from the oven. Transfer breasts to cutting board, tent with foil and allow to rest.
While duck rests, add 1 tablespoon reserved duck fat to the sauté pan, then add shallots and garlic and sauté over medium heat until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and cook, stirring, until dissolved—a minute or so. Stir in vinegar, scraping up brown bits. Add demi-glace and bring to a simmer. Stir in half of raspberries.
If you have to use frozen raspberries… allow to completely defrost in the bag in your refrigerator. Strain and retain any juice. When you add the half of the berries to the sauce, add the saved juice also.
After cooking the sauce for about 20 minutes gently, not boiling… force sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a small saucepan, discarding solids. Over low heat, swirl in butter. Remove from heat and add remaining raspberries.
Slice duck breasts, fan on individual plates and top with sauce. Serve accompanied by steamed green asparagus , green beans or kale. For roasted potatoes you can purchase fresh baby potatoes, quarter and toss with a bit of oil and seasonings and bake before you bake your duck or use a can of whole baby potatoes for a faster “baked baby potato”.
EASY CANDY RECIPES FOR NATURALLY LAZY PEOPLE
With Christmas almost upon us, a Saturday afternoon of candy-making fits right in. Friends and family will love to receive one of these offerings! These are the easiest candy recipes ever! Wrap some selections in fancy cellophane wrap and fill a nice coffee mug for an easy, much appreciated gift. These recipes are not for diabetics. Those who suffer from diabetes should use care and manage their “Christmas Candy intake!”
SMOKEY ALMOND CHOCOLATE BARK
• 8 ounces Dark Chocolate Baking Bar, broken into small pieces
• 1/2 cup coarsely chopped smoke-flavored almonds, divided
• 1/8 teaspoon sea salt (preferably large crystal)
Line an 8” baking pan with waxed paper or lightly greased aluminum foil.
Put the broken chocolate into a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for about 45 seconds. If the chocolate has not melted when you stir it… tray another 15 seconds or so.
Once the chocolate has melted, put in about ½ the Almonds and mix. Now pour into your prepared wax paper lined backing pan. Sprinkle the remaining almonds on top – press in a bit to make them “stick”. Sprinkle with your sea salt and pop into the refrigerator to sit and rest for about half an hour.
Take the Bark out of the baking pan and break it up into mouth size pieces. Store in an air tight container. Makes about ½ pound of delicious easy candy!
PEPPERMENT PATTY BARK
• 12 ounce bag of white chocolate wafers or “melters”
• 1 bag on unwrapped peppermint hard candies
Using a meat mallet or the side of a cleaver, or rolling pin… beat the bag of peppermint candies to break them up. Best put the bag of candy into a heavy plastic baggie… or you will have candy all over your kitchen!
Melt the white chocolate wafers in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Stir. Add another 15 seconds if not melted [OR you can heat them gently over hot water, stirring as they melt. They like to melt gently… to much heat and you will get a funny taste… burned chocolate!] Using a strainer, hold the strainer over the melted chocolate and pour in the peppermint candy pieces. Shake the strainer so the smaller bits fall into the chocolate. Mix well – saving the larger peppermint bits and pieces. Now spread your chocolate-peppermint mixture on a baking sheet that you have lined with wax paper [or Saran Wrap] After you have spread the chocolate [ work kind of quickly so the candy will spread!!] sprinkle with the remaining peppermint bits and pieces – press into the chocolate gently… refrigerate for 30 minutes or so then break up… White Chocolate Peppermint Bark DONE!
CHEERFUL CHERRY BARK
• 1 pound white chocolate wafers
• ¾ cup chopped red maraschino cherries
• ½ cup unblanched whole almonds
Melt the white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl [ or over warm water] …. Stir in the chopped cherries and the almonds. Spread on a backing sheet lined with aluminum foil or wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or so and break into pieces….
DOUBLE TROUBLE PEANUT BAR
• 1 pound white chocolate wafers [or white vanilla wafers] • ½ cup peanut butter – I prefer creamy… but you can use crunchy just as well
• 1 milk chocolate plain candy bar – or dark chocolate bar….
Melt the white chocolate or vanilla wafers and the peanut butter together. Mix well. Spread on a prepared baking sheet. Now freeze for about 15 minutes
Melt the milk chocolate [break into bite size pieces to melt] and pop into microwave for about 45 seconds. Stir. Drizzle over the peanut-chocolate mix. Get creative and make a design with your milk chocolate – na… just kidding! IT’s DONE!
MICROWAVE ROCKY ROAD FUDGE
• 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels or Chocolate Chips
• 1 can (14 oz.) Sweetened Condensed Milk NOT ordinary “canned milk” but the thick, sweet type.
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract – Use REAL vanilla if at all possible… the taste is far superior.
• 3 cups miniature marshmallows
• 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts OR Pecans
1. LINE 13 x 9-inch baking pan with foil; grease lightly.
2. MICROWAVE morsels and sweetened condensed milk in large, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on HIGH (100%) power for 1 minute; STIR.
3. Morsels may retain some of their original shape. If necessary, microwave at additional 10-to 15-second intervals, stirring just until morsels are melted.
4. Stir in vanilla extract. Fold in marshmallows and nuts.
5. PRESS mixture into prepared baking pan. Refrigerate until ready to serve. About 15 minutes is all I have ever managed to wait!!
6. Lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into pieces.
SPECTACULARLY SINFULL DESERTS
A number of years ago, when I was still a real “working Chef”, I operated an upscale restaurant that had lost most of their clientele…. Which means I got pretty much of a “free hand” to experiment and bring in enough customers to pay the bills. We had live music and had more of a “late night dinner” crowd than your normal restaurant. One of my ideas was “Sinful – A list of Deserts for Adults ONLY!” Here are some of the favorites:
TEXAS KISS ME QUICK PIE
[CHOCOLATE AND PECAN PIE] INGREDIENTS:
1. 1 pre-made graham cracker pie crust
2. 3 eggs
3. 3/4 cup white sugar
4. 3/4 cup light corn syrup
5. 1/4 cup butter, melted
6. 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips [OR “Bittersweet” chocolate chips] 7. 1/2 cup chopped pecans
8. ¼ to 1/2 cup DARK RUM or AMERICAN BOURBON [Sorry but all of the alcohol will cook out during baking and just live flavor]
• Combine the eggs and the sugar, light corn syrup and melted butter in a bowl and mix well.
• Sprinkle the bottom of your pre-made pie shell with the chocolate chips and pecans. I prefer the Bittersweet chocolate chips – with the booze it seems to give an overall better flavor
• Add your DARK RUM or American Bourbon to the mix… stir in well and pour over the chocolate chips and pecans.
• Bake at 175C about 35 minutes
• Enjoy warm with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream on top, or cold and crunchy.
Guys used to order this next dessert for their girlfriends under the belief that the young lady became “more willing…..” [Let me know if it works for you….] CHOCOLATE EXPLOSION
[NO SMOKING OR BURNING OBJECTS WITH IN 10 FEET WARNING: THE ALCOHOL DOES NOT “COOK OUT”!!!] INGREDIENTS:
• 21/4 tsps. baking powder
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 2 sticks unsalted butter [*** IF YOU USE SALTED BUTTER – LEAVE OUT THE ½ TSP SALT ABOVE!!!
• 288 grams brown sugar (firmly packed)
• 4 large eggs
• 118 ml Jack Daniel’s ( Tennessee Whiskey)
• 146 grams pecans (chopped)
• 126 grams chocolate chips
• 256 grams confectioners’ sugar
• 3 tbsps. Jack Daniel’s (Tennessee Whiskey)
• 1 tsp vanilla extract [I use pure real vanilla – makes a big difference] • 281 grams all-purpose flour
• 4 tbsps. unsalted butter
• ANOTHER SHOT OR TWO OF JACK DANIEL’S!!!
It is my understanding that Jack Daniel’s pure Tennessee Sippin’ Whiskey IS available in the UK… but if you don’t happen to have any handy, can’t find it in the store closest to the canal… You can use Dark Rum or Brandy as a substitute… but you don’t get the REAL effect!
You want to use a Bunt pan , tube pan or an Angel food cake pan for this cake….Some Angel Food pans are “two part” so the cake with the center cone comes out of the outer ring/shell – BEST!!!
For the cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 325°.
2. Grease a 10-inch tube pan. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat.
4. Remove from the heat and stir in the brown sugar, eggs, flour mixture, and whiskey, stirring well after each addition. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
5. Sprinkle evenly with the pecans and chocolate chips. Bake about 1 hour, until the center of the cake is firm and the edges begin to pull away from the side of the pan.
6. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
7. After the cake as cooled somewhat – not stone cold but not oven hot – use a long tine meat fork or a bamboo skewer and poke holes all over the top of the cake.
1. Using a teaspoon as a “shower head” pour the extra whiskey in the cake, little by little going all around the cake. Maximum amount is NOT MORE than 1/4th cup!
8. Drizzle with the glaze. [See below] 9. With the alcohol, this cake will stay moist [guess what?] and fresh for DAYS… IF someone does not eat it all….
For the glaze:
1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. While still on the burner, stir in the sugar, whiskey, and vanilla.
2. Whisk until well blended and heated through – whiskey in last so you save a bit of the alcohol…
You can also cheat and use a cake mix… just add the chocolate chips and pecans… AND OF COURSE THE BOOZE! – reduce the amount of water called for in the cake mix instructions a bit to allow for the alcohol. Our alcohol will cook off… so IF you add ¼ cup alcohol ONLY reduce water by 1/8th cup. Make sense???
HAWIAAIAN PINEAPPLE CAKE
1/2 medium pineapple, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored
3/4 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
2 tablespoons dark rum for sprinkling over cake + ¼ cup for cake….
Special equipment: A well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet. If you lack a cast-iron skillet of this size, make the caramel in a small pot and scrape it into the bottom of a similarly-sized cake pan.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
• Cut pineapple crosswise into 3/8-inch-thick pieces.
• Melt butter in skillet.
• Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, four minutes.
• Remove from heat.
• Arrange pineapple on top of sugar mixture in concentric circles, overlapping pieces slightly. IF fresh pineapple is NOT available used canned pineapple that has been canned in it’s own juice. SAVE the juice for the recipe…..
• Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
• Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in granulated sugar.
• Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
• Beat in vanilla and rum.
• Add half of flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended.
• Beat in pineapple juice, then add remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended. (Batter may appear slightly curdled.)
• Spoon batter over pineapple topping and spread evenly. Bake cake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
• Let cake stand in skillet five minutes. Poke holes in cake using meat fork or bamboo skewer and pour additional rum over cake.
• Invert a plate over skillet and invert cake onto plate (keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together). Replace any pineapple stuck to bottom of skillet.
• Sprinkle rum over cake and cool on plate on a rack.
Serve cake just warm or at room temperature.
Well… I hope you enjoy these ADULT deserts… they make interesting conversation happen on the stern deck when visiting with friends….more than two slices and a Captain may have problems navigating!
Hope you enjoy these Christmas recipes… if you have questions or comments you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org until then, I am wishing one and all a very merry and safe Christmas holiday season!
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.
Meet recent discovery day attendee Estelle Lomax…
“I am well on the way to having my own narrowboat built from scratch, I live on a borrowed boat but it is very small and cramped and I am soooo looking forward to living on my own – it takes ages, though, to get anything done so I grab every opportunity to go on someone else’s…………yours in this case! Wanted to be sure I can handle mine single handedly when she is ready because to me she looks huge at 57ft…….”
“Thanks for the day out “on the cut” am now getting on with my fitting out as fast as I can so I can get up there on the canal system and enjoy many more. I had a wonderful day thank you – I was anxious at first but it was very calming and I never felt under any pressure. Of course we were blessed with a gorgeous day for the end of November and thanks to our successful trip I can hardly wait to get going by myself. I think everything needed was there for the taking….I had read all your newsletters before so didn’t have too many questions that needed answering- love your boat BTW. Yes I would recommend the day. It worked for me as I learned a few things that will be essential for me in the future and also I think you have learned a lot of lessons the hard way and so can help others to bypass the many pitfalls involved in Living on a Narrowboat”
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 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.
A Cautionary Tale – Canals and narrowboats offer all the ingredients for some pretty nasty accidents. Here’s one which could have been much worse.
Shared ownership – If you can’t afford a whole boat, why not buy part of one? Here’s how you can enjoy narrowboat ownership but at a fraction of the normal cost.
Here’s a live aboard narrowboat fully equipped for long term cruising. It’s my own boat James No 194. There’s a five minute video tour of the boat and a summary of the pros and cons of the boat’s design and equipment.
London cruising – Every week I receive emails from potential boat owners who want to live on board in London or who want to visit the capital as part of a holiday cruise. This advice from a very experienced boater will be of great interest to you if you’re one of them.
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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