My discovery day cruises are always fascinating. The route from Napton to Braunston junction snakes through beautiful Warwickshire countryside passing under fifteen bridges, some wide, most narrow, many with blind entrances and exits then on to an exciting turn at Braunston Junction with its central triangular grass covered island and narrow channel on two sides wide enough for just one boat to turn without any idea what’s around the bend at one of the network’s busiest bottlenecks.
In the middle of Braunston, often negotiating a steady stream of boats moving in both directions, we turn the boat around in the entrance to Braunston marina before retracing our steps back to Napon Junction where we turn on to the Grand Union canal for half a mile before reaching what is often the most fascinating part of the day where we negotiate the Calcutt flight of three locks twice.
Locks are potentially dangerous places, especially for boaters who don’t know what they’re doing. Unfortunately, especially during the summer months when the 100+ hire boats available locally are out and about, there are large numbers of boaters making understandable but often hazardous mistakes.
Take one day this week for example; we set Calcutt Bottom Lock and brought my boat in when a hire boat appeared around the bend heading for the lock. One of the crew with me opened the offside gate then waved to the hire boat crew to let them know they should come in with us.
The boat approached us painfully slowly. All of the crew appeared elderly, particularly the man at the helm, who appeared to be in his mid-eighties. He stood motionless, bowed over the tiller, occasionally twitching it from side to side although the boat was out of gear.
His equally frail wife stood on the front deck, stick like arm extended to push the fifteen tonne boat away from the lock wall as the craft drifted through the open gate at an angle.
Their son, in his early sixties and clearly a novice boater, jumped off the boat as it entered the lock with the stern line in his hand. He tripped, almost fell, regained his footing, and then hauled their boat against the lock wall with all his might.
Meanwhile, his mother grabbed one of the slippery chains hanging from the lock wall and attempted to bring the boat to a halt. Unfortunately she was dragged into the cabin’s front bulkhead by the advancing boat.
The son dropped the stern line to go to his mother’s aid. The rope slithered into the water beside the fortunately still propeller as he ran alongside the lock in a blind panic.
By now his mother had regained her feet, apparently none the worse for wear, and was trying to throw the bow rope four feet above her head around a bollard. In her weakened state all she managed to do was throw the rope over the side of the boat into the lock.
She retrieved the rope to make another attempt. “Don’t throw the rope Mum!” he screamed. “That’s what I’m trying to do”, she quavered. “I’m just going to have another go!”
“I said DON’T throw the rope!!” he shouted even louder. “That’s what I’m trying to do”, she squeaked back, “I’ll get it there in a minute.”
In the meantime, the son raced back towards the open gate the boat had just come through and furiously wound up the paddle.
“What are you doing?” I asked. “I’m getting the lock ready” he shouted.
I told him that he was opening the paddle at the wrong end of the lock. He pulled his windless off the paddle gear, letting it crash to the bottom, then sprinted to the gate in front of his boat with the intention of raising the paddle there, pausing briefly once at the rear of the boat to tell his father to leave the throttle alone and pausing again to shout at his mother who was still busy throwing the bow rope into the water.
I told him to stop, then pointed out that he couldn’t open the upstream paddle because the bottom gate was still open. I then suggested that he left the setting of the lock to my crew while he kept an eye on his aged parents.
The hire boat stayed with us as we negotiated the three flight lock. We set the locks to enable a slightly calmer son to stay on board to look after his bewildered mother and father.
We came to the conclusion that the elderly parents had some boating experience and that the kind hearted but novice son had offered to take them on a trip down memory lane. Unfortunately his parents needed more supervision than he was able to provide as he attempted to negotiate an unfamiliar lock on his own.
Our encounter with the elderly boaters wasn’t an isolated case of boating technique ignorance. Every day on the discovery day cruises between Brauston and Napton junctions and then during the time we spend descending the Calcutt flight, turning in the marina entrance then ascending the same flight again, I meet boaters handling either boats or locks in a fashion likely to cause damage or injury to boats or crew.
My experiences on the lock flight and along the canals over the last ten days prompted me to write the following. This week’s subject is cruising and mooring tips. I’ll discuss lock dangers and techniques next week.
One of the most common mistakes made by novice boaters is not pulling away from the towpath correctly. Although not dangerous, adopting the incorrect procedure causes inconvenience and stress for the helmsman and damage to the boat.
A narrowboat turns from the centre so if the boat is hard against the bank, if you want to turn the front of the boat towards the middle of the canal, the back of the boat, in theory, would need to turn over the towpath. Of course the boat can’t do that, so all that happens if you try to use the tiller to move your boat away from the bank is that you grind your boat along the canal side, which is normally concrete near the entrance to locks.
From my mooring at Calcutt I can see boats entering and exiting Calcutt Bottom Lock. If I hear an engine being thrashed on the canal I can pretty much guarantee that it’s an unexperienced helmsman grating backwards and forwards along the concrete canal edging trying in vain to move away from the bank.
The solution is simple. You step off your boat, ensuring that you have access to your centre line, walk to the pointy end, then push against the front of the cabin to move the boat’s bow away from the bank until it’s facing the middle of the canal. Then you calmly walk back to rear and steer in a straight line away from the bank.
You must have a centre line on your boat. You can’t control the craft effectively without one. I have two. Each one in long enough to reach from the reinforced ring on the roof where it is secured towards the back of the boat so that it is within reach from the steering position. One leads from the centre down the left hand side of the roof, and one is down the right hand side. With two ropes I don’t have to worry about trying to flick a single rope from one side of the roof to the other trying to avoid my solar panels, vents and pole and plank rack.
My ropes both extend about four feet beyond the back of the boat. The extra length allows me to step off the back of the boat with one of my centre lines if I’m moored stern in then pull the boat alongside. I don’t have to do this very often but using a centre line is far easier than trying to manoeuvre the boat in tight spaces.
The only problem with having such a long centre line is that, if the rope falls off the roof when the boat is in motion, there’s a pretty good chance it will fall beneath the boat and wrap itself around the propeller. Some boaters prefer a shorter centre line to eliminate the chance of this happening.
Steering Your Boat
Once your boat is safely away from the bank, all you have to do is keep it away from both banks and from other boats.
The fundamental requirement is that you “drive foreign”. You drive on the right, passing other boats port to port, just as you would on rivers or the open sea. It’s a basic requirement which appears to be an unattainable goal for some novice boaters.
You steer on the right if there is another boat coming towards you. If you are on your own on the canal, which you are more often than not, you stick to the centre. Canals are often very shallow. My own boat has a draught, the distance from the water line to the deepest part of the boat under water, of 2’ 6”. It’s not unusual for me to spend much of my time on some waterways scraping along the silt filled canal bed. The deepest water and therefore the easiest part of the canal to navigate is in the centre where the constant passage of boats keeps the channel clear.
Taking a racing line at bends is not a good idea. On a race track, taking a racing line allows you to minimise distance travelled and to maintain a higher speed. Taking a racing line in a narrowboat cruising at 3mph just guarantees that you’ll lose control or steer your boat into the path of oncoming craft.
The part of your boat deepest in the water is the skeg, a horizontal steel bar running from the boat’s base plate under the propeller to the rudder post. Water is often shallow next to the bank on the inside of a bend so if you take a racing line, there’s a good chance the front of your boat will pass over the shallows before dragging briefly on the bottom. If this happens you probably won’t get your boat stuck but if the bow is free and the stern’s progress is hindered, the bow is likely swing wildly out of control, often into the path of oncoming boats.
The best way to approach a bend is to take the long way around, but still ensure that you’re not so close to the bank to turn your boat. Taking the long way round gives you two advantages; you have more of a chance of seeing what’s coming towards you around the bend and, if there is a boat coming, you can gently turn your bow inside that of the oncoming craft so that you can move away from it and still negotiate the bend effectively.
Some boaters sound their horn to warn oncoming boats when they come to a blind bend or bridge entrance but they are very much in the minority. If you get into the habit of expecting a boat’s bow to suddenly appear around a bend or through a bridge, you won’t go far wrong.
Of course, there will be times when there’s simply no room to pass an oncoming boat, so one of the boats has to stop to allow the other to pass. Stopping your boat dead in the water is not simply a matter of reversing to kill your forward momentum.
If you reverse your boat to stop it while you are turning, you will slow your boat down but accelerate the rate at which the bow turns. The sharper your turn and the faster you’re going, the faster the bow will whip across the canal, often into the path of an oncoming boat.
To ensure that this doesn’t happen firstly make sure that you slow down if you can’t see through a bridge or around a bend. If you have to stop your boat, try to make sure that you straighten it up before going into reverse.
If possible try not to stop your boat completely if you need to wait for another craft to pass. Unless there’s no wind at all, your boat will drift out of control. Try to anticipate any problem areas so that you can slow down enough to allow an oncoming boat to pass but not enough that you stop completely.
If you are stationary and your bow starts to drift across the canal, you can correct the swing by turning your rudder as though you are going to steer to correct the swing but rather than increasing the throttle gradually, you simply apply a quick burst. This will kick the bow around without moving the boat forward.
To reduce the chance of a surprise encounter with an oncoming boat, while you are at the helm, don’t just focus on the canal in front of you. Examine the fields, tree and hedge lines to either side as well. As you approach a bend or bridge you can often see the canal over nearby fields or through hedge gaps and spot moored or moving boats which you will soon need to avoid.
Also look behind you from time to time.
Overtaking other boats
The accepted speed limit on the canals of England and Wales is 4mph. Your boat won’t have a speedometer but you can judge your speed fairly accurately. A brisk walk is 4mph so if you regularly overtake speed walkers or joggers you’re going too fast. You’re also going to fast if you create breaking wash against the bank.
Your maximum speed is 4mph, but the purpose of cruising is not to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. You’ll probably want to take your time so that you can enjoy the scenery. Going slowly is perfectly acceptable. Going so slowly that you have a long string of boats behind you is not. Some boaters bring their “everything at high speed” mentality with them. Your barely moving pace will annoy some and actually enrage one or two, especially if you continue at your snail-like pace totally oblivious to the traffic jam behind.
The accepted etiquette is not to overtake a slowly moving boat until the helmsman in front waves you on. If you are that helmsman in the slowly moving boat, glance behind you from time to time to check for approaching boats.
You’ll know if a boat wants to pass you. It will close in quite quickly and often stay close to your stern.
Look ahead of you to make sure that canal is clear and wide enough for a boat to pass. Move as close to the bank as you can without risk of grounding, slow down to tick over, then wave the following boat on.
The overtaking helmsman will usually be very grateful so you’ll win a friendly smile and a wave in return for your consideration for other boaters.
When moving boats pass you, they will suck you into their wash which is actually very helpful. If you’ve moved over to let a faster boat overtake you or moved over to let an oncoming boat pass, you don’t usually have to turn your boat to regain the centre of the canal. The passing boat will pull you laterally. The faster and larger the passing boat, the more you will be pulled sideways. Often you actually have to turn away from the passing boat to stop your craft from being pulled too far over.
Passing Moored Boats
If you want to enrage the owner of a moored boat, all you have to do is pass him at your normal cruising speed. You can pretty much guarantee a scowl, a clenched fist at a window, or a hatch or door suddenly opening so that the owner can wave at you more vigorously, often with just a couple of fingers.
The moored boat owner doesn’t want you to pass quickly because of the effect your boat has on his. The faster you pass him, the more you will rock his boat and possibly even pull out his stakes if he’s using them to secure his boat.
Your speed past a boat isn’t the only factor determining how much it moves though.
A boat moored on a shallow bank will move more as you pass than one moored in deep water. If the moorings are shallow, take extra care as you pass.
The design of your own boat will also determine how much you rock moored boats. If your boat “swims” well through the water creating little wash it will have correspondingly little effect on the boats you pass. A scary example of a boat which doesn’t move well through the water is one of the CRT work boats which almost frightened one of my discovery day crews at the beginning of the week.
We were cruising serenely around a tight bend through a dismantled railway bridge. A not so small wave approaching us was almost immediately followed by the head high dustbin sized excavation bucket on the extended arm of a CRT work boat being driven at top speed towards us. The boat was probably doing no more than 4mph but because of the work boat’s square front, the craft was creating a considerable amount of breaking wash continuously on the offside as it travelled. Fortunately we had taken the correct line around the bend so we were able to keep my boat’s cabin away from the mechanical arm, but it was a buttock clenching moment for all of us.
Last but far from least, the amount the moored boats move will be determined by how well the owners have secured their craft.
All too often an irate owner will pop his head out of a side hatch, shake his fist and complain that you are rocking his boat when, in fact, the movement is entirely his own fault. If a boat is moored on slack lines it will move considerable even if you crawl past it.
The easiest and one of the most secure ways to moor your boat is to use the Armco style horizontal metal rails you often see along the towpath. Along popular stretches of canal these rails are used regularly to moor and because they are used regularly the water close to the towpath is kept silt free by the boats which use them, guaranteeing that you can get close to the bank.
The two most frequently used methods to secure your boat on these rails are piling hooks, or “nappy pins” as they are sometimes called, and chains.
Piling hooks are a bit of a pain. They are “C” shaped with a ring at one end to tie your rope to. You turn them so that they are parallel with the rail, slip them behind the rail and then turn them ninety degrees to lock them in place.
Unfortunately they aren’t locked in place very securely. They can work free if you’re unlucky and they’re often quite noisy. They don’t fit the rail snugly so if you pass a boat moored with hooks you often hear a metallic crack as you pass as the hook pulls taught against the rail.
Chains are much better. There’s a small ring at one end of the chain and a slightly larger ring at the other. You simply pass one end of the chain behind the rail and thread the smaller ring through the larger one. You now have a secure anchor point for your boat.
To moor your boat securely you need your mooring ropes taught and at a forty five degree angle away from your boat so, once you have one chain secured and either bow or stern line secured to it, you move to the other end, pull your boat away from the secured end until the rope is taught, then position your second chain so the rope at this end will also be at forty five degrees.
Securing your boat to a rail using chains shouldn’t take even a single handed boater more than five minutes and should remain firmly in place for as long as you stay there.
If you are mooring single handed, you should carry three chains with you. If the day is windy, or if there are boats regularly passing you as you stop to moor, your boat may be pulled away from you as you attempt to tie up.
In situations like this, fix the first chain on the rail as close as you can to your centre line then tie your centre line to the chain. The boat is now secure enough for you to deal with the bow and stern chains without having to constantly fight against the boat’s movement.
Once the front and back of your boat are secure, you should then untie your centre line and remove the third chain. If you leave it in place you’ll notice that your boat rocks considerably more than it does if you just tie up with your bow and stern lines.
That’s your lot for this week. Next week I’ll let you know how to negotiate locks easily and without stress.
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’me running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still available. 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.
Update 15th June 2015
I’ve just added a few more dates to the calendar. Now 22nd, 23rd, 24th & 25th June are free, as are 24th & 25th July. If would like to find out more or book a date, click here.
In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendee David Johns…
“I am looking to chuck in my job, buy a boat and go pottering gently around the canals, mainly in the Midlands. Having only boated as a child before and being a narrowboat novice it seemed sensible to gather some more information before rushing headlong into anything.
On the day there was plenty of information with any and all questions answered comprehensively (indeed an almost terrifying determination by the host to extract queries from me when all my mind had run dry). Excellent dogs on board too.
The day was a great opportunity to learn some piloting skills taking the boat round bends, through bridges and past other boats as well as lock skills and finding out about all the highs and lows of living afloat. If you are a novice narrowboater, you need to do this day.”
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.
On board electrics for continuous cruisers – This is a breakdown of my own electrical system which works wonderfully to provide two fairly high electricity users with plenty of power for extended periods off grid. I’ve also written about the downside of having your boat’s cabin over plated. My comments are based on the work I had done in November 2011.
Upgrading an elderly narrowboat – If you’re thinking of buying an older boat, this comprehensive list of what I’ve done to my thirty eight year old floating home may give you some ideas.
Composting toilets – The eco friendly method of disposing of your on board waste is now becoming a viable alternative to cassette and pump out toilets
Engine room leaks – My winning battle against leaks at the back end of the boat and more tales from our leisurely cruise of the Warwick Ring
Engine room storage space – If you haven’t decided which style stern narrowboat is right for you, look at the tools and equipment I can shoehorn in to my traditional stern engine room
Kingswood Junction to Hopwas – Week two of the journey as we head through squallid Birmingham into beautiful and wooded Staffordshire
A cruise from Braunston to Kingswood Junction – My account of the route, the sights and the occasional problem along the way
Following on from last week’s newsletter, here’s a guide for you if you are thinking of continuously cruising the network. This is information you need to know if you don’t plan to have a home mooring.
You need a licence to cruise the waterways of England and Wales but with a number of different licences and options which do you choose? This post tells you what you need to know.
Three years since we last painted our hull so this week we had the dubious pleasure of taking the boat out of the water to do it again.
Five live aboard case studies – I added four new case studies to the site and updated my own which I had written three years previously
Water pumps and security – Bits and bobs from a life afloat
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”
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