The days are racing by. In a month’s time we’ll be off on our travels with nothing to do all day, every day, other than relax, enjoy ourselves and, of course, worry about whether we have enough money to live on. I’m sure that we’ll have no problems. My online income plus the remains of the rental income from Sally’s house after all the property insurance, letting agent fees, furniture storage costs and maintenance bills are paid should suffice. We’re not in a bad place financially but I suppose fear of the unknown is unsettling me a little.
As a belt and braces exercise, from April onwards I will be studying travel writing and journalism in my free time with a view to improving my writing skills which will help improve the quality of this site and also increase the chances of me selling articles to the travel sections of newspapers and magazines across the land. That’s the theory anyway. I’ll let you know how the plan worked in real life at the end of the year.
The worry about making ends meet without a regular income and without the benefit of a pension, state or otherwise, has prompted me to write about boating costs this week and how to keep them as low as possible.
This week at work (only another five to go) has been quite tough. I twisted my back last week doing something very trivial but I have to work to earn a living so staying off work to nurse my injury wasn’t an option as far as I was concerned. Anyway, the cure for a bad back is often exercise. I think it’s supposed to be gentle exercise rather than brutal hard labour but I’m pretty sure that Calcutt Boats wouldn’t want to pay me for prancing around the garden for hours on end practicing Tai Chi.
Preparing two railway freight carriages for removal was part of my exercise regime. Last week Pat and I stripped the heavy planking from the sides and floor of one of them and used our versatile Merlo fork lift to move the one tonne steel frame into the yard by our wharf. The initial plan was to have the frame taken off site and cashed in for the scrap value. The powers that be decided that it would be of more use sheltering the engineers in an external engine test area next to their workshop so we had to lift the unwieldy frame down a steep slope and over the roof of an adjacent store with the Merlo teetering on the brink of its safe operating limit.
We dropped the frame into place without mishap, which probably came as a surprise to everyone given that I was driving the forklift, then returned to the laborious task of moving tonnes of engine spares from another of the dilapidated carriages. By Wednesday the second carriage had been emptied and taken off site so now we have a clear space for our smart new forty feet long steel container. The new storage container should be with us next week.
Just to make sure that my aching back had all the exercise it needed, I spent Wednesday afternoon removing several hundred paving blocks, two dozen paving slabs and a tonne bag of sand from the walled garden of our lock-side cottage.
I was sentenced to more hard labour on Thursday but this time I had an incentive. Two tonnes of creamy “Cotswold Buff” stone eventually arrived to dress the 100m long path from the north Locks marina access road to the dump barge where I will moor occasionally during the summer months and permanently throughout the winter from April onwards.
To compact the six inch depth of road planings I dumped in the two feet wide clay trench I used to make the path a couple of months ago, the company hired a compacter, a heavy petrol engined Wacker. I collected the Wacker from a small plant hire company on an industrial estate in Southam first thing on Thursday morning then spent a couple of hours compacting the loosely packed road scrapings.
I had to take an hour’s break to run a low temperature resistant “Arctic blue” power cable 100m down to the dump barge from the nearest available meter next to our temporary moorings between Calcutt Bottom and Middle locks. The cable had to be laid in a trench under the path and threaded through heavy duty hose to protect it from the site’s grass cutting equipment and stray spade thrusts.
The stone turned up at 3pm so Pat and I had a couple of hours to wheelbarrow into piles along the path, rake it out to an inch and a half depth and then compact it with the Wacker. Fortunately the driving rain which tormented us all morning had stopped so we didn’t have to overheat in our rather ineffective padded waterproof jackets.
Two tonnes of stone wasn’t nearly enough to finish the job. We now have fifty metres of black footpath leading on to another fifty metres of aesthetically pleasing cream coloured stone. We’re hoping another two tonnes will be delivered early next week so that we can finish the job.
Living afloat is a wonderful lifestyle, but it isn’t particularly cheap. The cost of buying a boat to live on is far less than that of a home on dry land but the cost to run and maintain a “fully loaded” live aboard narrowboat is comparable to that of a small family home.
Many live aboard boaters buy fairly large boats to live on then struggle to maintain the lifestyle as the bills mount up. A smaller boat and a simpler way of life means smaller bills and more time spent enjoying the lifestyle rather than worrying how to afford it.
The feature which will have the most impact on the ongoing running and maintenance costs is the length of your boat. The boat’s length will have a direct impact on the cost of license fees, mooring and heating costs, cabin painting and blacking expenditure and, indirectly, your electricity generating costs because of the number of power hungry appliances you can cram on board.
Here’s a breakdown of your boat’s areas of expenditure and what you can do to reduce the cost.
License – The cost of your annual waterways license is determined by the length of your boat. The longest boat you can buy for the inland waterways is seventy feet. The maximum usable length is determined by the length of the locks on the network. A seventy feet long narrowboat will allow you to travel widely but you won’t be able to cruise on some canals with short locks. The current cost for a boat of this length is £1,056 with £100 discount for prompt settlement.
The most common length for a live aboard narrowboat is between fifty and sixty feet but there are quite a few boaters living aboard narrowboats as short as thirty feet. A boat of this length will cost you £641.89 for a year with a £70 discount for prompt payment.
Mooring Fees and Moorings – Mooring fees are often but not always determined by the length of your boat. We have two different marinas with two different pricing structures at Calcutt Boats. Moorings on thirty year old Locks marina are charged at £35.46 per foot per year. A thirty feet long boat would cost £1,063pa rising to £2,482 for a seventy footer. On the newer Meadows marina moorings are charged according to the lengths of the piers rather than the length of the boats. The majority of moorings have sixty feet long piers costing £2,346pa. There are a dozen seventy feet long piers costing £2,737pa.
I’m concentrating on narrowboats rather than wide beams in this article but if you wanted a mooring on one of our seventy feet piers for a wide beam, because you would need two narrowboat moorings you would be charged £5,474 to moor in Meadows marina.
In addition to the basic mooring fees, you need to be aware that some marinas also charge a joining or reservation fee, high usage fees and electricity infrastructure charges.
It’s possible to avoid mooring fees completely by continuously cruising all year round but you need to be mindful of cruising restrictions due to essential canal and lock repairs, getting stuck in ice for brief spells during the winter months and the logistics of spending extended periods negotiating extremely muddy and unpleasant towpaths, again, usually over the winter months.
Blacking – Your boat needs to be lifted out of the water roughly every three years to have the hull repainted. There’s usually a flat fee for removing the boat from the water, £200 at Calcutt Boats, plus a cost per foot for the combined pressure washing, wire brushing and hull painting. The current rate (I think) is £5 per foot so a seventy feet long boat would cost £350 to paint plus £200 for lifting in and out. The total cost for a thirty feet long boat would be £350.
You can rent a slipway or a wet dock so that you can do the work yourself but by the time you have factored in the cost of the dock/slipway hire and the cost to hire a pressure washer and industrial wire brush you probably won’t have saved much money, but at least you would know that an important job was done thoroughly.
Painting – Getting your boat professionally painted it very expensive. As a guide, you should budget £100 per foot. You don’t have to have your boat painted by professionals, but you do need to make sure that the steel is always protected by a good layer of paint.
I painted my own 62′ long boat in April 2012. The finish was far from perfect but doing the work myself saved £4,000 after materials paint tent and equipment hire was taken into consideration. Now, after three years, I need to spend some time touching up numerous scratches, scrapes and flakes but I’m still quite pleased with the work overall.
Sally and I are considering repainting the cabin sides but I don’t think that the ten days we’ve booked a tent for April will be long enough to do everything. Painting your own boat is quite time consuming and there’s a fairly steep learning curve but like everything in life, the more you practice, the better you get.
You don’t have to paint your boat in a variety of colours or adorn it with fancy sign writing. Just paying a professional sign writer to add my boat name, James No 194, and this web site address to both sides of the cabin is going to cost me £500. I could buy adhesive vinyl lettering for much less than that.
If you really want to save yourself money, and you’re not bothered about aesthetics, you can simply keep your boat protected by several coats of the same coloured primer. If you want to save even more money you can do what the owner of two boats featured in many of the national boating magazines has done.
He had a boat built to his own design and high specification. The first boat, Valhalla, looked like a stealth bomber, especially he painted everything, including the cabin, with bitumen hull paint. Several years later, he had a wide beam boat built, also along the stealth bomber lines, and also totally protected by bitumen. He told me that he repainted his boat every year at a total cost of under £200.
Cabin size/heating – The cabin of my 62′ traditional stern narrowboat is forty eight feet long. It’s heated by a single solid fuel stove located on the starboard side four feet from the forward bulkhead. Three gravity fed radiators are heated by the stove’s back boiler. The cabin is always warm at the front of the boat but can be ten or fifteen degrees colder in the back cabin because of the distance from the stove.
If I had a typical boat stove such as the Morso Squirrel, I could use the very popular Ecofan to push warm air further down the cabin. Unfortunately an Ecofan won’t work on my stove because the stove’s double top plate doesn’t allow the top of the stove to get hot enough to power the fan.
As far as I’m concerned, and I’ve not met any live aboard boaters who disagree with me, every live aboard boat should use a solid fuel stove as its primary heat source. Central heating systems are often far more convenient to use, especially during spring and autumn periods with warm days and cold nights when you just need a quick burst of heat at either end of the day to take the chill off the boat, but mechanical systems can and do go wrong, usually when you need them most. My stove has been in my boat since it was built in 1977. The flue has been replaced several times and the glass changed quite often but, apart from that, it has been providing a reliable heat source now for thirty eight years.
I use coal briquettes in my stove. It’s a more effective fuel than unseasoned wood which is often used on boats and easier to light and keep alight than coal. I use about two tonnes of the stuff each year but, partly because of the size and layout of the cabin and partly because of the boat’s insulation, the boat is rarely hot.
Having effective insulation, a central stove, draught proof windows and a smaller cabin will drastically reduce your annual heating bill. My insulation is polystyrene which isn’t very effective. Spray foam insulation is used these days. It’s far more effective than mine.
I also used to lose a great deal of cabin heat because of the wind which whistled through the poorly fitting hopper windows. I’ve completely resolved the problem now by fitting secondary double glazing panels. I used to dread windy winter days on our exposed mooring because I knew we’d be living in a wind tunnel. Today, I can see banks of grey cloud scudding across the pale blue sky propelled by a 30mph south westerly, but not a breath of it is sneaking into our cabin to steal the heat.
A small solid fuel stove is all you need to heat a narrowboat with a small cabin. Even with the stove on its lowest setting, you’ll have the front doors open on the coldest days to prevent the cabin from overheating.
Another cost cutting benefit of a solid fuel stove is your ability to use it for cooking. Foil wrapped potatoes placed in the ash tray beneath the stove will bake to crispy perfection in a few hours and the hot top plate will allow you to slow cook casseroles or keep water hot for drinks or washing up.
If you are going to rely on a central heating system on board, try to steer clear of gas. Gas central heating has two disadvantages. Firstly, it is prohibitively expensive to run if you are going to use it for extended periods. I know several people who have purchased ex hire boats to live on. They have been horrified to discover that they needed to replace a 13kg cylinder every three days at £27 a time.
The other disadvantage is that unlike a solid fuel stove which removes moisture from the air and so helps reduce condensation, gas heating actually adds moisture to the air so increases your chances of having problems with damp.
I’ve just about exhausted my boat heating knowledge now but here’s some additional information for you if you want to know more.
On board electrics/battery bank/charging regime – This is a very important aspect of your floating lifestyle to get right. If you’re going to be on a static mooring with a shore power supply permanently plugged in, you can ignore this section and pretty much run the same equipment on your boat as you would in a house. However, as soon as you unplug your shore supply and start cruising you need to be very careful what electrical appliances you use and how often you use them.
A narrowboat’s on board electrical capabilities range from a basic setup with two or three batteries to accommodate a simple 12v supply to a combination of built in generators and large battery banks to allow a wide range of appliances to be used on board, including electric cookers.
Batteries are consumables so you need to budget for their replacement. Lead acid batteries will last you two to three years. AGM batteries cost about 50% more but will last up to three times as long. AGM batteries also need no maintenance at all because, unlike lead acid batteries, you don’t have to check them regularly to ensure that the distilled water is kept at the right level.
It’s possible to live a simple life with just two or three fairly low capacity batteries. One is usually reserved exclusively for starting the engine while the rest will supply your 12v needs. The basic 12v electrics on your boat will probably be the fridge, internal and external lights and the water and shower pump.
With a basic setup like this you won’t be able to run any 230v mains appliances, but you can buy a 12v television which will run directly from the battery bank and you can purchase an adapter so that you can charge your laptop.
Our own electrical needs fall somewhere in the middle. When I first moved on board, the boat had a very basic 12v supply with just two 110ah batteries. There were also 230v sockets throughout the boat but they could only be used if the boat was plugged in to a shore supply.
Over the last four years I’ve enhanced the electrical setup considerably with the long term goal of making the boat fit for long term fairly high electrical use off grid.
I started off by having a battery charger fitted so that I could keep the batteries topped up when plugged into the shore supply. The I replaced the single 110ah battery in the domestic bank with two larger capacity 135ah batteries. About eighteen months later I realised that the two batteries weren’t enough so increased the domestic bank to four.
I also added a 1600w pure sine inverter so that I could use mains appliances while we were cruising. Then I had three 100w solar panels fitted. I am delighted with the solar panels. Even on a chilly but sunny late winter day like today, the panels are generating 10-15amps which is enough to keep my 12v supply topped up. If you’re interested in solar power, here’s an excellent guide.
Last month I decided to replace the four 135ah lead acid batteries in my domestic bank with long life AGM batteries. With careful management, the new batteries should last me seven to ten years.
Careful management is the key. An essential tool for keeping your batteries healthy is a battery monitor. If you are away from a shore supply, you will usually top up your batteries by running your engine. Running your engine to top up your batteries is a very expensive way of generating electricity. Unless you have a battery monitor, you don’t know how long to run your engine before the battery bank is adequately charged. Run the engine too little and the batteries will be insufficiently charged which will shorten their life and increase your maintenance costs. If you run the engine for too long, your batteries will be fully charged but you will be wasting expensive diesel.
My battery monitor is a Smartgauge. It’s been fitted into the bulkhead between the engine room and our bedroom with the digital display facing into the bedroom. The display shows me the number of volts going in to the battery bank which, to be quite honest, I don’t understand, and the battery bank’s current state of charge expressed as a percentage which, thankfully, is a figure which I do understand.
I check the display twice a day, first thing in the morning and late in the afternoon. I have to run the engine twice a day anyway when we are away from a shore supply to replenish the hot water stored in the calorifier (immersion tank) under our bed. An hour is enough to heat the 55l tank and usually more than enough to top the batteries up but, thanks to the monitor, I know whether I need to run the engine longer.
The final weapon in our electrical arsenal is a suitcase generator. The 1,600w inverter we have isn’t powerful enough to run four of Sally’s essential appliances;her hair dryer, hair straighteners, vacuum cleaner and iron. Personally, I could do without all of them but that’s probably because (A) I have very short, easy to manage hair and (B) I’m a typical male slob.
It’s misleadingly called a suitcase generator because it’s supposed to be portable. However, the 35kg dead weight isn’t something I would like to haul around with me on holiday. Getting it out of the engine room on to the towpath to run it is as far as I ever want to carry it.
The generator is rated at 2,600w so it will run all of the appliances Sally wants plus my own personal power hungry weakness, my Nespresso coffee machine.
I could spend hours talking about boat electrics if I had the time and knowledge to do it justice. I have neither. Fortunately for both you and I, someone who has probably forgotten more about on board power use than I could ever hope to learn has written comprehensively about the subject here. It’s a subject you need to get your head around regardless of whether you use a boat for recreational cruising or as a primary home and the article I’ve linked to is possibly the clearest and most easy to understand explanation I’ve read. I know you’ll find it useful.
Engine maintenance – Your engine is the heart of your boat. It needs looking after and looking after your engine means regular servicing.
I’m going to be running my engine this year much more than I have in previous years. The 50+ discovery days scheduled for this year will account for at least four hundred and fifty hours. When I’m not hosting the training days we’ll be cruising continuously from April until the end of November. I realistically expect to run the engine for 1,000 hours or more in total this year.
With a recommended service interval of two hundred and fifty hours I will require four or five services before the end of the year. If I ask a boatyard or River Canal Rescue to do them for me, I will need to find £500-£600 for the labour plus the additional cost of any parts required.
At the beginning of last month I paid RCR £175 for a “one to one” engine service. The engineer spent five hours with me explaining how to do a full service. At the end of the service, he gave me a comprehensive list of tools and engine spares to keep on board. I’m not the most practical person in the world, but I now realise that servicing my engine isn’t rocket science. I now have the confidence to do all the basic engine servicing myself and save a sizable chunk of money each year.
If I can do it, I have no doubt that you will find servicing your own engine a piece of cake
Toilet costs – There are three different types of narrowboat toilets; pump out, cassette and composting toilets. Composting toilets are the least popular because they require you to get much closer to your processed food than you probably want and because they usually need adapting to make them work in our humid island climate. Normally, you’ll find either a pump out or cassette toilet on board your boat or, for those adopting the belt and braces approach to on board waste management, both.
Each toilet type has its pros and cons. The pump out toilet is the closest you’ll get to a toilet in a house. The big difference is that boat toilets don’t have the same volume of water available when you flush them to get rid of any residue. I’m afraid, this is something you just have to live with on board but a pump out loo is best if you want a normal toilet experience. Another advantage of the pump out toilet is that, with a coffin sized holding tank, you can last a month or more before you need to empty it. The two main disadvantages of this type of toilet is that you have to take your boat to a pump out station to empty the holding tank, which can be very difficult or impossible if the canal is frozen, and each time you have the tank emptied, you have to part with £15-£20.
Many boat owners with pump out toilets also keep a cassette toilet on board. Cassette toilets are usually free to empty. The downside is that you have to carry a holding tank weighing up to 20kg through your boat’s narrow walkway then hold the upturned tank quite close to you while yesterday’s meals gush into an open sewer, and you have to do it two or three times a week.
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.
I’ll be running the discovery days on the first ten days of April, June, August, October and December next year. As spring approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still available. In the last week alone, four dates for June and two for August have been reserved. April is now fully booked apart for one date for a single person, and just five of the thirteen June dates remain. If you are interested in joining me for a fun and information packed discovery day please check the diary before it’s too late.
In the meantime, meet September 2013 discovery day attendees Katrina and Mark Urch.
“We purchased our boat during the summer last year and plan to travel the canal network for a year starting end of March this year. Apart from a very hurried couple of days when we hired a boat for the first time last Easter and a maiden voyage on our own when we first bought it, we had no experience of boating. We realised we didn’t know very much at all and thought some tuition and guidance before we set off would be a good idea.
Despite it being a cold winter’s day we received a lovely warm welcome (and coffee). Your boat gave us a few pointers on how we should maybe change some things on ours and some food for thought.
Both Mark and I said how patient you were and your instruction were very clear (even if I did still keep steering the wrong way). I am more confident now that in time I will relax and enjoy our journey and the “step” is definitely on the list to purchase/make.
The day was definitely worth doing. Your knowledge and expertise were very welcome and seeing how you have adapted your boat to living aboard was extremely useful. The hands on experience on the day has set straight a few things we were doing wrong and given us some information to take forward with us.
Thank you once again for a very enjoyable day and the use of Sally’s step. The weather was definitely on our side, even the hailstones and snow didn’t last too long. You never know we may see you on our travels this summer!”
You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here. Don’t forget that there’s just one date for a single person remaining for April now so if you want to spend a spring day out with me you need to book quickly.
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.
Buying a narrowboat Part 2 – Some more advice on choosing and buying your first boat
Buying a narrowboat Part 1 – Some great advice on choosing and buying your first boat
Routine engine servicing – The basic stuff every narrowboat owner should know
Running a boating business – How to earn a living on the cut.
A detailed breakdown of my own narrowboat running costs for December 2014
An unexpected cruise – A surprise cruise to Braunston, secondary double glazing panel fitting, and why dogs and laminate flooring don’t go well together
Battery Banks – The pros and cons of lead acid and AGM batteries
More winter cruising – The tail end of my Christmas break afloat
Winter cruising – A narrowboat isn’t just for the summer months. Winter cruising is a joy. Here’s my account of a week on the cut over the Christmas break
Cooking on the cut – Here are some gourmet festive recipes suitable for a narrowboat’s small galley
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”
In the newletter you write “If you are going to rely on a central heating system on board, try to steer clear of gas. Gas central heating has two disadvantages. Firstly, it is prohibitively expensive to run if you are going to use it for extended periods. I know several people who have purchased ex hire boats to live on. They have been horrified to discover that they needed to replace a 13kg cylinder every three days at £27 a time.
The other disadvantage is that unlike a solid fuel stove which removes moisture from the air and so helps reduce condensation, gas heating actually adds moisture to the air so increases your chances of having problems with damp.”
One of the waste produces from the combustion of gas is water. However while what you say is correct with open gas heaters it is not correct with flues gas central heating systems. The water produced by the combustion of the gas is ejected externally via the flue with the flue gases, it does not get into the cabin. Therefore a gas central heating system on a boat has the same drying effect as any other flued heating system.
Of course one of the major disadvantages of a solid fuel stove is that it draws cold air into the cabin because it needs a copious quantity of air for the solid fuel to burn. Thus the cold air has to be heated. A central heating boiler being fitted in the engine room or similar draws cold air from either outside or from the bilges/engine area.
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