It’s been a busy week as always. I can’t believe how quickly the days are flashing by now. Being the sad individual that I am, I installed a countdown on my phone last October to remind me how many days remained before my release from the daily grind. At the time, one hundred and eighty days seemed a lifetime away. Now just twenty four remain. I’m closer than ever to a life on the cut and I’m now physically closer to the canal itself.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been tarting up a little used section of our older Locks marina. The north east finger of land between the marina and the canal has been unused since the marina was built twenty eight years ago. There’s a rusting dump barge sitting in the mud eight feet from the bank. Over the years it’s been used to moor our out of season hire boats to free space on the wharf for passing trade but apart from occasional visits by marina staff to check and move the boats there, this side of the marina entrance is very, very quiet.
Initially, I wanted to return to Calcutt to moor for four months over the winter. The company agreed I could have a mooring, but didn’t know where to put me. The dump barge was jokingly suggested but the more I thought about it the more I liked the idea. I like peace and quiet and solitude. So does Sally. We’re both happy being antisocial together. A brace of marinas crammed with more than two hundred and fifty boats wouldn’t usually be our first choice for the solitude we crave, but the dump barge offers us the best of both worlds. We decided to take the mooring full time so that we have somewhere to call home when we’re not out cruising.
My mooring in Meadows marina is paid until the end of April so the plan was to move to the dump barge then but marina owner Roger Preen suggested that if moving earlier suited me, the move would help them too. A number of other boaters were waiting for me to move before they could switch to new moorings. My move would set the ball rolling. Sally agreed that sooner was definitely much better than later, so we moved house last night as soon as I finished work.
In my previous life I remember all too well the misery involved in moving from one bricks and mortar home to another. Days, sometimes weeks, of careful packing, a long and tense day ferrying unwieldy packages between house and van and then between van and house, the inevitable breakages, arguments and tears, and then weeks before everything was in place in the new home.
We moved house yesterday in ten minutes. We loaded half a dozen bags of coal on to the front deck, disconnected the shore line, untied two ropes, moved the boat three hundred metres from one mooring to the other, tied the boat up, connected the shore line and offloaded the coal. All done, no stress and no tears.
The mooring is in Locks marina but doesn’t feel part of it. To the port side is a hundred and fifty feet of open water to the boats moored opposite us. On the starboard side is a narrow grassy bank and then the Grand Union canal. If I turn away from my laptop and look behind me, I have an unrestricted view of Calcutt Bottom lock. The nearest boats in front of us are one hundred feet away to the north of the marina entrance. It’s a beautiful spot. A picture paints a thousand words so I’ve just popped out to take the four below…
Now the mooring preparation and boat move has been completed I can concentrate on the dozens of jobs remaining on my groundsman to do list.
Late winter and early spring at Calcutt is a time of frantic preparation for the coming season. Our fitters and engineers are working frantically to ensure that our own twelve hire boats and the four we look after for the Royal Navy are working properly and looking good. Pat and I have very little to do with that side of the business other than move the boats from A to B, but there’ still plenty of pre-season site preparation for us to do.
My job isn’t always lazy days sitting on a ride on mower whizzing over grassy banks thick with sun kissed wild flowers. Sometimes I have to get my hands dirty like I did this week. I was on bin painting duty. It’s not a glamorous aspect of my job but it’s very satisfying.
In the yard adjacent to our wharf is a battered blue cubic skip for the site’s non recyclable waste. Our paint supplier made a mistake with the custom green paint we use on the four sixty two feet long narrowboats we maintain for the Royal Navy. The dark green paint wasn’t the right colour green for the boats, but it was just right for tidying the skip. I painted the skip, painted the scrap metal bin beside it and, in a moment of madness, painted the rusting back of our site truck as well.
Another essential but dirty job is removing accumulated oily water from the trap which collects contaminated slurry from engines being worked on inside a brick bund next to the engineering workshop. Pat and I sucked the stinking liquid from the brick lined trap with the site’s man sized “Big Brute” wet vacuum cleaner, hoisted the vacuum cleaner into the air, then drained the contents into forty gallon drums ready for collection by the company’s waste oil collection contractor. It’s not a job I enjoy but given that it’s rarely done more than once a month and I leave in just over three weeks, it’s probably the last time I’ll have to do it.
On Friday another one tonne bag of Cotswold Buff stone was delivered while I was off for the day so on Saturday I had the pleasure of shoveling it into a wheelbarrow, dumping it on to the now very smart path up to the dump barge then raking it level ready for compacting. One more bag will complete the path to our new home.
More containers also arrived on Friday; two for our moorers’ storage area next to the tip and a forty feet long container to store engine parts in the yard next to the wharf. We’re now just waiting for one more container to complete the set in a now very smart wharf-side storage area.
Life on the boat has been equally busy.
At the end of last week I noticed that the underside of the rubber mat on the cabin floor at the bottom of the steps leading up to the front deck was soaking wet. I pulled the steps out to look under the front deck and saw water seeping in to the cabin from a damp area under a jumble of pipes leading from the water tank.
There was a possibility that the damp patch had been caused by an overflow from the deck above after an enthusiastic deck cleaning session by Sally a couple of days previously. She didn’t think much of my habit of emptying the stove’s ash pan into our galvanised ash bucket in the covered well deck while she was away. The ash pan is normally emptied in to the bucket on the jetty rather than inside the enclosed front deck space, but I chose the easiest option when left to my own devices. An option which resulted in a thin grey film of ash on the blue plastic deck matting.
Sally had spent an hour spring cleaning the front deck with some vigorous scrubbing and a steady stream of icy water from our hose attached to the marina water supply. The water on the cabin floor could possibly have been an overspill from the deck above’s liberal drenching so I mopped everything dry and, as is usual for me, tried to hide the problem and forget about it. Unproductive denial in this particular case was easily achieved by pushing the wooden steps back into place so they hid the damp patch in front of the water tank.
Of course, the water under the mat wasn’t Sally’s doing. It was back again Thursday morning, pulsing from the water tank’s pressure pump each time a tap inside the boat was turned on. I did what I always do when common sense and the use of the most basic tools is required. I panicked and called for help.
Russ, our underpants-on-the-outside plumbing super hero, arrived just before 5pm to diagnose the problem. Using my own DIY problem solving abilities as a benchmark, I expected him to need half a day and much head scratching and teeth sucking before he had found a solution. He didn’t. Within twenty minutes he had replaced my old pump with a new one I collected for him from our chandlery.
Russ told me that a pressure pump on a narrowboat usually lasts a maximum of three years, providing the boat has been winterised to protect sensitive water bearing parts from freezing over the cold winter months. My boat had been pretty much left to its own devices on one mooring or another on the two marinas here for thirteen years before I moved on board in April 2010.
Russ suspected that my pump had been in place for much longer than three years. He was right. The date stamp on the dusty pump indicated that it was twenty five years old. The date wasn’t necessarily indicative of the pump’s fitting date but it was certainly installed before the boat came to Calcutt full time in 1997. I don’t expect the new pump to fair nearly so well but I live in hope.
On Thursday I also had a visit from marine electrician Dave Reynolds and his ever-smiling wife Alex. They’ve worked on the boat half a dozen times now and I really look forward to their scheduled visits. I know they’re going to turn up when they should, I know they’re always going to be cheerful and I know the work will be done to the highest standard.
They replaced three defunct and unattractive ceiling lights with smart seven inch LED domes, installed two new 240v sockets in a cupboard to hide a rat’s nest of wiring behind the TV mounted on the shelving built in to the front starboard bulkhead and installed a 12v ceiling fan inside the cabin and a key safe next to the front doors on the front deck.
The ceiling fan is a solution to the problem I have pushing the warm air from my stove down towards the back of the boat. Those fortunate enough to have a Morso Squirrel stove on their boats simply stand an Ecofan on the stove’s top plate then wait for the stove’s heat to turn the fan blades so rapidly it’s in danger or taking off. My own stove has a double skin on the top plate so even if there’s a raging inferno inside, I can still rest the palm of my hand on the stove without discomfort. An Ecofan simply wouldn’t work on it.
The new 1 watt duel speed 12v fan is a success. It’s not as quiet as the silent Ecofan but the gentle hum is bearable, as is the cabin temperature at the far end of the boat now that the fan has increased it by four degrees. I’m hoping that the multi directional fan will also provide us with a cooling breeze in the (hopefully) hot summer months ahead.
The key safe – here’s the one I purchased from Screwfix – was an idea I picked up from a forum thread I read about a guy who had been locked out of his boat. He’d stepped outside for a moment when an excited dog had jumped up at the front doors, pushing them shut and engaging the Yale lock. He spent a few anxious hours and a considerable amount of money before he could get back into his floating home. The least expensive option had been to ask a local locksmith to break into the boat for him.
We don’t have the same problem as this unfortunate boater. Our doors are secured from the outside by a padlock or by four bolts when we’re inside the boat, which is just as well because we certainly have two excitable dogs. Our main problem is my inability to keep hold of my key ring as I step on and off the boat. I’ve dropped my bunch of keys in to the water twice now. On both occasions we were fortunate because either Sally had her keys with her or we had access to the back of the boat where I keep my recovery magnet and reel of Paracord.
A recovery magnet is an essential piece of boating equipment. So far I’ve used ours to retrieve keys, shackles, a length of fender chain and a couple of windlasses. It’s more than paid for itself but it’s no use at all if it’s locked in the boat.
Our new key safe is now fixed firmly to the steel bulkhead and contains spare keys for the front and the rear padlocks. I don’t know whether we’ll ever need it but the relatively low cost contingency measure has afforded us a great deal of peace of mind.
In last week’s newsletter I mentioned the prohibitively high cost of gas central heating and the fact that gas heating increases the humidity inside the boat. On the forum GM kindly pointed out that my statement wasn’t quite correct. You can read his post here. Boat owner Steve Carter also emailed me regarding the cost of running gas central heating. Here’s his email…
“Not sure I can agree with you on the gas central heating . . . we run ours for 1 to 2 hours in winter and that’s enough to warm the radiators (2 in the saloon, one in bedroom and a towel rail) and give us hot water.
Our boiler is an Alde compact, no increase in humidity in the boat and it uses at worst 0.5 kg gas an hour so on this regime, a 13 kg bottle will last 26 days. The boiler is thermostatically controlled – I installed a wireless and portable gadget and this will knock off the boiler if the cabin is at the right temp. With the Squirrel going, we only need the CH on in the mornings. Friends with diesel CH do the same and spend exactly the same, in money terms on their fuel. The gas boiler never needs servicing unlike the diesel ones plus it’s near silent and doesn’t stink of diesel . . . just my views!
I pointed out to Steve that he was using his gas central heating to supplement the heat from his stove rather than use it as the only source of heat on board and that if he used the gas central heating for just one or two hours a day without the stove on, he would have a very cold boat.
He mentioned that his gas central heating uses 0.5kg an hour when it’s on its highest setting. A 13kg cylinder costs £27 here at Calcutt so his heating would cost £1.04 an hour to run at this setting. My stove isn’t a particularly good model but a 25kg bag of coal briquettes lasts me for two and a half days on average or roughly £5 a day. Coal briquettes offer much more cost effective heating than gas.
I’m not always right, and I’m wrong again. Former professional boat painter Graham Kennison emailed me regarding protecting boats long term using primer…
“I’m part way through reading, and enjoying, your latest newsletter and I’ve got to the bit about painting.
I’m very concerned about your idea of multiple coats of the same colour primer being a cheap way of keeping a boat painted. The primer coat, on anything, is designed to give a good key between the material being painted and the subsequent coats of paint. It is the critical coat of paint in any system, get the primer wrong and the top coats will not do their job properly and the paint film will break down prematurely Worse still, water will get behind the paint and invisibly rust the boat away.
Primer is not waterproof, it’s not designed to be and that is not its function. Any steel left for long periods in primer will start to rust. Even the best holding primers have only a limited life. Primer must be overcoated with the appropriate top coats if the material beneath is to be properly protected. When I was involved with boat painting, good practice dictated that, in order to ensure that we got a full paint film over the entire area being painted, that we should use paints of a different colour for each of the base coats. A simple but very effective way of ensuring that the job was done correctly.”
I replied to Graham telling him that my view was based on advice from an inland waterways boatyard painter and the dozens of primer painted boats I regularly see on the cut. I also asked his opinion on the effectiveness of Danboline and bitumen as a protective cabin paint. Here’s his very useful reply…
“I think that I would be brave to counter the information you have been given, as my experience is slightly different from yours.
The boats I was working on were sea going so we were using appropriate coatings. However, I see the same paints by manufacturers such as International and Jotun being used on the canal, so I can’t imagine that the primers used on the cut would be any different. I was always told, by the paint company reps and the marine superintendent who advised us, that primer ( we usually used International Interprime 198 above the water) should only be considered a holding coat as essentially it was porous. If you can think back to the times when cars used to rust much more than now. You would often see cars where the owner had started enthusiastically, usually just as winter was about to set in with dark nights and bad weather. The rust was removed and a coat of primer applied but then the enthusiasm waned and the top coats were never applied. The result was that the rust not only came back but accelerated. I suspect that the boats you have seen in primer might be the consequence of the same syndrome with the owners saying that they really must get and finish the job – sometime.
The golden rule with any paint job is, as you know, preparation. I was working on heritage craft and we used to go back to bare metal, on the inside as well as the outside of the hull, as boats rot from both sides! On a typical narrow boat, I admit, that would be difficult to achieve with all the fitted accommodation.
I’ve never used bitumen or Danboline so can’t comment. I have often wondered what I would use should I ever get my own boat. I know that bitumen for underwater is traditional but I think I would consider a two-part epoxy, as that would give better protection to the bottom plate for longer.”
I suspect that Graham’s advice is more accurate than the advice I was given so I am grateful for his contribution.
I spent February 2014 in the Philippines with Sally. While spending the coldest month of the year on a tropical island in a bamboo hut at the base of an active volcano was both a welcome change and a wonderful adventure, I was slightly worried about my floating boat being unattended in sub zero temperatures.
Fortunately, even though I was over six thousand miles away I was able to check the temperature and humidity inside the cabin and the boat’s precise location thanks to a new remote boat monitoring system, Maxmon.
Earlier in the week Maxmon’s developer Martin Lambert emailed me the press release below. When I tested the system my only reservation was that the device needed a constant 240v supply, something which many narrowboats don’t have access to when owners are away. Maxmon can now be powered by the boat’s 12v supply so it will now work wherever you are providing your batteries aren’t flat. Here’s the press release…
PRESS RELEASE BEGINS
UK startup transforms cheap Android phones into affordable boat monitors
Oxfordshire, UK – March 2015 – Worried about water ingress when away from your boat? Or strangers on board? Or the state of your batteries?
By adding a custom app, a little ‘black box’ and sensors to a low-cost Android phone Oxford engineer (and boat owner), Dr. Martin Lambert, has come up with a new and affordable way of watching over the security and condition of your boat while you’re not there.
For prices from £0-£360 you can receive daily email or text reports, or immediate alerts, providing you a raft of information about what’s happening on your boat. The app is free and you can install it yourself on a spare Android phone or he can supply you with a pre-configured phone.
“When my own boat suffered water damage I searched for boat monitoring systems,” said Dr. Lambert, “but as with many ‘marine’ products I was put off by their high cost. In this age of the Internet and smart phones I thought remote boat monitoring should be more affordable.”
His MaxMon app tells you whether your boat has been moved, or has visitors, whether water is getting in, the state of your batteries and shore power, and can even email you pictures of your boat’s interior. Add the appropriate module and you can turn battery- or shore-powered equipment on and off remotely. It’s all there, and more besides. And it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
PRESS RELEASE ENDS
I found Maxmon very useful indeed. We don’t have any immediate plans for spending an extended period away from the boat but if we did I think Maxmon would be on our shopping list.
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 approximately on the first ten days of April, June, August, October and December this year. As spring approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still available. April is now fully booked apart for one date for a single person, and just four of the thirteen June dates remain. August onwards is still relatively free. 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 attendee Justin Parrish.
“I thought the day was splendid. As you know I am planning to buy a canal boat and live on board cruising permanently. Although I have plenty of holidaying on boats experience I had gaps in knowledge and was particularly after information/tips on buying a boat and preferred specs, some explanations on technical aspects and to gain some experience with solo boating.
I thought you covered everything I was after. The walk round your boat explaining systems and talking about relative merits of different types of heating etc was great and will help me greatly with buying a boat. I enjoyed the cruise and was grateful to learn how to solo lock with someone about to help or fish me out of the canal if needed. The way you get information across is very good with your knowledge, patience and enthusiasm for the subject always coming through. I can not think of anything else I needed on the day, I think the merit of your day is that it covers pretty much everything with enough time to still be tailored to the needs of those who attend.
Yes. If anyone is thinking of canal boating and has any doubts in their mind about any aspect then the day is well worthwhile. I’m sure novices and veterans could all learn something and you were great company throughout.
Thanks again Paul for a great day. I enjoyed myself and learned lots, which I know will give me the confidence to make my dream happen. “
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.
Narrowboat ownership on a shoestring – How to cut your boat ownership costs
Buying a narrowboat Part 2 – More great 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”
I sympathise with Paul’s problems with his water pump. Ours failed just before Christmas after 3 1/2 years, the second time this has happened at roughly the same age, so I can confirm that 3 years is about all you can expect from a pump in continuous use. Like Paul, the only warning that something is wrong is when water appears where you don’t expect it.
Our pump is under the front well deck so any leakage flows under the floor and in to the dry bilge, which we don’t check that often, so the first we knew was 2 inches of water under the floor. And, of course, most of the stuff stored under the we!l deck was soaking. Like Paul’s electrician, changing the pump (we had a spare) is only a few minutes work but a new pump is about £130. So, I thought to save money I would buy a repair kit this time.
Meanwhile, I put the old pump u der the deck to repair when I got the kit and had some time. This was today. Getting the pump apart was no problem but only to find that the water had leaked into the motor and after nearly 3 months the permanent magnet motor had seized solid. So, a new pump it is and a vow to replace the pump at 3 years, or less, and repair it straightaway.
I’ll let you know in 2017 if it happens!
Living retirement in the slow lane.
20 years hiring, 6 years of shared ownership and a Continuous Cruiser since 2007 but still learning!
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