Sally and I have been on a rare shopping spree. Neither of our mobile phones were very well. My phone, Sally’s cast off iPhone which I’ve been using for the last year, refused to have anything to do with WiFi after an operating system update six months ago, and Sally’s much loved Galaxy S4 didn’t fare too well after an unscheduled swim when it launched itself from toilet cistern to bowl last week. Apparently, says Sally, the cistern was to blame for not restraining the phone. I don’t think that excuse holds water Sally. Nor did the phone, although it tried very hard.
We tried the usual fix of burying the damaged phone deep in a sack of rice for a few days but the solution didn’t work nor were Samsung or our local EE shop interested in attempting a repair.
So now both of us have shiny new phones. Sally was able to instantly transfer her old number to the new phone as both phones were on the same network. Given that I haven’t once managed to obtain a signal inside the boat over the last two years I’ve been on Three’s network (brilliant on narrowboats for mobile broadband but hopeless for phones), I’ve switched to EE.
Now I can sit at my desk inside the boat and use my phone for voice calls to my heart’s content, especially now that I’ve enabled WiFi calling which allows me to make and receive calls via my Three broadband dongle if I can’t get a signal on my phone.
Because I’ve switched from Three to EE I haven’t taken my number with me. I know it’s possible but, to be honest, there are so few people who call me that I just can’t be bothered.
I’m sure you’re not in the slightest bit interested in phoning me, but just in case you are, the number in my email signature up to and including 17th June 2015 is no longer valid. The new number is 07496 886639.
Our duel phone upgrade has pretty much been the highlight of the week, apart from Thursday afternoon when we really pushed the boat out and teased the dogs.
We sat on the canal-side picnic bench next to our mooring for a couple of hours after lunch watching a steady procession of boats negotiating Calcutt Bottom Lock. Much as we enjoyed the entertainment offered by fellow boaters, and the pleasure we derived from flicking grapes from the bench into the mouths of two happy spaniels, we only stayed in the marina for a single night before ascending the Calcutt flight to enjoy a few days of relative tranquillity before Sally’s reluctant return to work on Monday night.
I say “relative” tranquillity because at this time of the year, especially at the weekend, the stretch of canal between Braunston and Napton junctions is a watery motorway. A steady procession of boats roar past us from dawn until dusk. Fortunately the secure moorings offered by miles of Armco barrier along this section mean that we can resist the pin pulling surges created by dozens of fast moving boats through the course of the day. What we can’t avoid are frequent unwanted and sometimes far too close neighbours.
We actually had one hire boat crew moor so closely to us yesterday on an otherwise boat free stretch that they used the ring on our piling chain to thread their bow rope through. When we set off we had to untie their bow so we could free our chain then secure their rope directly to the Armco.
Of course, we can’t reasonably expect to find a peaceful mooring at this time of the year on a stretch of canal within a few hours’ cruising of more than two thousand marina moorings and hundreds of hire boats. If we want quiet summertime moorings we’ll need to head a little further afield.
Somewhere like the Fens.
The manmade drainage ditches of eastern England have created over two hundred miles of peaceful cruising for solitude loving boat owners. It’s England’s Big Sky country with wide views and stunning sunsets, no noise from busy roads, railways and aircraft flight paths or even other boats. It’s the perfect place to get away from the hectic pace of modern life.
A great place to start if you want to get a feel for the Fens is Fox Narrowboats’ web site. There’s a wealth of information about the area including lists of places to visit, routes and navigational data. The more I drill down into the information they’ve compiled the more impatient I am to visit the area.
I know that Peter Earley, top forum poster and creator of most of the forum’s cruising guides, is exploring the area this year. If I speak to him nicely, I hope he’ll write another painstakingly researched guide ready for our cruise.
The Fens is one of the planned routes for next year, but for the next week we’ll have to endure one or two more boats on the water than we’d like at an otherwise wonderful location for a week before we set off on our next cruise this year.
We’re be heading south this time, along the south Oxford canal on to the Thames and then pottering about between Oxford and Lechlade. We’ll make sure that we spend every minute of the week allocated to us by our seven day £70 EA licence. Next year we’ll upgrade to a Gold licence which includes the EA controlled waterways but we couldn’t resist a spell on the mighty Thames before then.
We’ll stay close to Calcutt for the two discovery days I’m running next Saturday and Sunday before we set off on our three week cruise. I’ll make sure I avoid Brauston on those days because of the historic boat rally but I seized the opportunity yesterday to visit Braunston marina before next weekend’s mayhem to buy two eye wateringly expensive tipcat fenders for the back of the boat.
I had a very smart but completely useless button fender hanging off the stern until yesterday. It was of no use at all because my large rudder extended a foot beyond it. The only way to protect the rudder from impact damage was to fit two tipcat fenders next to the stern and then fix the button fender to the outside.
All three fenders are fitted now, and very smart they look too. All I need to do to test their effectiveness is reverse into a few lock gates. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Talking of hitting things in locks, lock accidents is the focus of this week’s newsletter. Last week I detailed a few tips and techniques to help you cruise with confidence and avoid the waterway’s many novice boaters who are more of a risk to you and your boat than your own helmsmanship. In this article, I’ll focus on locks but, rather than repeat the information on lock techniques I included in this newsletter last May with a little help from Peter Earley, I’m going tell you about a few lock accidents caused by carelessness or lack of knowledge.
I don’t want to frighten you but I think a healthy respect for locks is very important. A large volume of water, roughly 40,000 gallons in each of the Grand Union’s double locks, rushing in and out with great force, moss and lichen covered lock walls and sides, steel boats weighing between fifteen and twenty tonnes and inexperienced narrowboat crews, many of whom have had a drink or two, are a potentially lethal combination.
Inexperienced Holiday Boaters Ascending a Narrow Lock
The first accident, on the south Oxford canal a day and a half’s cruising from my base at Calcutt lead to the tragic and brutal death of an inexperienced holiday boater. Here’s the newspaper report.
The novice crew made a few fundamental mistakes in the lock.
The first, although not life threatening, possibly caused an additional problem which distracted the lady at the helm.
She left the rear deck to pull in a hanging fender. The 6’10” wide boat was in a lock only two or three inches wider than the boat. Fenders should only be left in position on a narrowboat when it’s moored. If they’re left down, especially when entering a narrow lock, there’s a good chance they will either be ripped off the boat or will jam the boat in the lock.
While the lady was away from the stern, the fast flowing water coming into the lock had first flowed to the lock’s rear gates then quickly pushed the boat towards the upstream gates. The boat had been put hard into reverse to counteract the sudden flow.
As the lock filled, the water’s forward force would have decreased allowing the out of control boat to rapidly move backwards. The lady appears to have reached the stern just as the boat hit the back gates, catapulting her into the water as the stern bounced away from the gate, allowing her to fall into the water beneath the boat before the craft with its rapidly spinning propeller, still in reverse, moved back towards her and the gate.
The accident could have been avoided very simply. All she had to do was to move the boat close to the front gate when she entered the lock then instruct her crew to gently raise a single paddle for long enough for the water coming in to the lock to first flow to the back of the chamber then push the boat slowly forward until it was held against the front gate. Once the boat was secured, her crew could raise both paddles fully without fear. Using this technique, she wouldn’t have needed to reverse the boat at all.
The following accidents all happened at Calcutt Top Lock, close to where I used to moor and work at Calcutt Boats on the Grand Union canal half a mile from Napton Junction
An Experienced Boater Approaching a Lock Flight
I wrote about this accident a couple of years ago. I can’t remember everything about the boaters concerned but what little I can recall is enough.
Two experienced boaters were on the maiden voyage aboard their new boat. They had both recently retired and were looking forward to spending the rest of their time afloat gently exploring the inland waterways.
Both had cruised thousands of miles and negotiated hundreds of locks during decades of recreational boating. Calcutt Top Lock was familiar to them, as were the fifty similar locks on the Grand Union canal between Napton Junction and Birmingham.
The lady, who retired from full time employment at the end of the week before the accident.
Without a care in the world, she nimbly stepped from her slow moving boat as it bumped gently against the concrete sided lock landing. With her focus on the lock as her foot landed on the towpath, she failed to see the small metal bollard which tripped her.
She landed awkwardly on the towpath catching both her head and shoulder. The impact knocked her out, fractured her cheek and broke her collar bone.
When the emergency services arrived she was conscious but in a great deal of pain. The paramedics wanted to carry her to the ambulance on the opposite side of the canal on a stretcher but they couldn’t do so safely over the lock gate.
We had to carefully strap the stretcher across her own boat’s bow then float her and her boat over the water.
I understand she made a full recovery but raising heavy lock paddles was out of the question for a number of months.
A Dog Walker Crossing a Lock Gate
A middle aged man walking his German shepherd used the upstream gate of Calcutt Top Lock to cross the canal from Calcutt Boat’s grounds over to the towpath. His dog was on a lead and preceded him over the gate.
The sure footed dog raced ahead so his owner checked him with the lead a little too enthusiastically. He pulled the big dog off the gate into the empty lock.
The 100lb plus dog hung by its neck as his owner tried to hold on to the lead which scorched the skin on the inside of his arm before slipping through his fingers. His beloved pet dropped eighteen inches to the exposed concrete cill where it stood shivering in fear.
A novice helmsman on a hire boat entering the lock saw the dog fall and, in a well-meaning but ill though out attempt to go to the dog’s aid, surged towards the front gate and the stranded animal.
The hire boat hit the concrete cill with enough force to lift its stern and almost catapult from the front deck onto the concrete ledge beside the dog.
One of Calcutt Boats’ wharf staff and I managed to stop the panicking boaters by shouting at them loudly. We then closed the bottom gates, shutting both boat and dog into the lock together. Then we slowly let water into the lock to float the hire boat above the cill so that it could move closer to the stranded shepherd.
With the placid animal lifted safely on to the boat’s front deck, we were then able to float the boat up and reunite tearful owner and shivering dog.
A Novice Boater Reversing
I know that an accident caused when reversing a boat shouldn’t be in this week’s lock section, but I forgot to include reversing last week. Anyway, our wharf is in the middle of a lock flight, so there’s the connection if I need one.
As you will see, a heavy bronze propeller spinning more than 1,000 times a minute while you stand on an unprotected and often slippery deck less than two feet above it is a potentially dangerous and sometimes lethal combination.
The owner of a recently purchased private boat pulled in to Calcutt Boats for fuel. Mooring against the wharf is often a challenge for inexperienced boaters, especially if they want fuel. In the rather congested pound between Calcutt Middle and Top locks they have to turn their boats away from the wharf then reverse onto it. It’s not a manoeuvre many narrowboat owners have to attempt very often.
This particular guy made two very silly mistakes. One of them nearly cost him his life.
He managed to turn away from the wharf and then reverse towards it without too much fuss but then, when he was within twenty feet of one of the wharf staff, threw his stern rope away from the boat towards him. That was mistake number one.
The trailing rope fell into the water in front of the advancing boat with its thrashing propeller. A bystander warned him that the propeller was likely to catch the rapidly sinking rope so the boater, panicking slightly at the thought of fouling his propeller, quickly stepped on to the back edge of his deck to reach the training rope… and slipped from his boat in front of the now out of control boat moving towards him.
The propeller caught his leg, slashed through clothing and flesh and severed his femoral artery.
Quick thinking by Calcutt staff saved his life. He was quickly hauled from the water where one of the wharf staff stemmed the gushing blood flow by pinching the wound together until the air ambulance arrived.
The boater made a full recovery after months of conversance, unlike the unfortunate boater who died in this tragic accident.
An Inebriated Solo Boater Descending a Lock
Many boating accidents are caused by carelessness, sometimes enhanced as a result of enjoying a relaxing waterways break slightly too much.
I’ve lost count of the number of, usually male, boaters jumping on and off their boat roof while it’s in a lock, often trying to steady a hand held can of beer as they lead gazelle like from steel to stone.
This particular boater’s relaxant was inhaled rather than imbibed. The scruffy boater’s suspiciously long hand rolled cigarette gave the game away as he more floated than walked along the side of the lock next to his dilapidated GRP cruiser.
He emptied the first of the three locks in the Calcutt flight as he enjoyed a very mellow cruise towards Stockton. With the lock empty he walked to the lock side to climb down to his boat, misjudged the edge, slipped in to the lock and fell heavily on his boat roof.
Fellow boaters rushed to his aid but he climbed unsteadily to his feet before declaring that he was uninjured and continuing through the flight.
By the time he pulled his cruiser out of the bottom lock he was complaining of severe chest pains. Our office called emergency services and within minutes the first response paramedic arrived shortly followed by an ambulance and a helicopter.
Once more, the ambulance crews struggled because the boat owners was on the towpath on the opposite side of the canal to the paramedics and their fleet of vehicles. The “injured” boater was asked to walk a hundred metres back along the towpath to the top lock and cross the top lock to the waiting vehicles.
This boater escaped with bruised ribs and, possibly, an aversion to smoking while he cruised.
An Elderly Solo Boater Ascending a Lock
It’s the Calcutt flight again. This time a very experienced solo make boater in his sixties taking his boat from one of Calcutt Boats two marinas up through the flight.
He employed one of two techniques used by solo boaters to take their boat up through a lock.
He pulled on to the lock landing, secured his boat using his centre line, set the lock then returned to his boat take his boat in. As long as the lock entrance isn’t obstructed by a bridge, it’s usually possible to steer your boat slowly into a lock then step off holding the centre line, walk swiftly up the lock steps flicking the centre line over the gate then, with a quick turn around the bollard closest to the downstream gate, bring your boat gently to a halt.
On this occasion used the alternative method. He brought his boat into the lock then, as he was about to climb onto his roof and then out of the lock, slipped into the icy lock water.
He clung to his gunnel but, weighed down by clothes and advancing years, he was unable to climb back on to his boat. Nor was he able to move around his boat and into the gap between his boat and the lock wall to reach the slippery rungs of the escape ladder fifty feet away.
He shouted for help for fifteen minutes before another boat owner in the marina heard his cries and managed to drag him out of the lock on to the towpath.
Calcutt Boats’ first aiders arrived quickly but couldn’t warm him up. An ambulance arrived. They failed too, so he was whisked off to hospital.
I can’t remember what time of year the accident occurred but I don’t think it was during the winter. Longer immersion at a different time of the year could have been fatal. Fortunately the boater suffered no ill effects. Unfortunately, the experience put him off boating so much that he sold his boat soon after the accident.
Hire Boat Stag Crew Descending
The most often talked about lock danger is getting your boat caught on the cill.
For the uninitiated, the dreaded cill is a concrete ledge inside a lock close to the upstream gates. You must, at all times, keep your boat in front of the cill marker which will always be behind your boat when you’re going down in a lock.
If your boat is behind the cill marker as the water empties from the lock, your rudder may catch on the cill, holding the back of your boat at a higher level while the front continues to drop with the water level. If the lock is deep enough, the bow will continue to drop until it pierces the surface and the bow floods, shortly followed by the cabin.
Narrowboats, usually but not always hire boats, sink or are damaged in cill related accidents every year. You need to be constantly aware of lock cills and their danger, but you don’t need to worry about them. Cills are easily avoided.
The trick is to leave your throttle alone once you’ve brought your boat to rest in a lock. That’s all there is to it.
Move your boat forward until the bow is close to the downstream gates. As you raise the downstream paddles to empty the lock, water leaving the chamber will pull your boat forward away from the cill.
The mistake made by many novice boaters is to reverse the boat away from the downstream gates and towards the dangers of the cill behind. Do not reverse your boat.
Once the lock is empty you need to be aware that your boat may drift backwards towards the exposed cill but the only risk you now face is banging your rudder against the exposed concrete if your rear fender isn’t long enough to protect it. If the lock is empty you won’t snag your boat on the cill and sink it.
Even if your boat drifts behind the cill marker and catches the cill, all is not lost. Immediately drop the downstream paddles to prevent any more water leaving the lock, then open the upstream paddles to allow more water to flow into the lock and raise your boat away from the cill. Work quickly but don’t panic and always make sure that the downstream paddles are closed before you open the upstream paddles.
Here’s the Daily Mail’s account of the stag part accident. Cill accident aren’t just the domain of drunken revellers. Here’s another account of a cill sinking. This time the hirers are a middle aged couple.
I hope the above examples have made you realise that although boating on the inland waterways is one of the most relaxing methods of travel imaginable, you need to have a healthy respect for the potential problems you face if you aren’t careful, especially in locks.
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 Roy Griffiths…
“The main reason for booking a discovery day, was to pick up some tips on solo boat handling and to see if it would be something I would be confidently able to do, and also to get a better insight in to the layout of a narrowboat that was geared towards full time live aboard.
My plans for the future in the short term include hiring, shared ownership, and then ultimately narrowboat ownership.
The pre-event information was clear and concise and very well written with clear directions to the boat. Of the emails I did send with questions, they were always answered in a friendly and timely manner.
I had a great day Paul, and you were so easy to get along with and take instruction from. It was just like spending time with a friend.
It was a very well thought out day to cover the things I requested when you gave me the chance to tell you what I wanted from my day on board the boat. I had all my questions answered with patience and understanding.
I would definitely recommend the day to anyone looking to consider living afloat, but also to anyone looking to hire a boat because you can get real “ hands on “ experience. There is only so much you can learn from reading the books, or watching the videos. Yes, I would go again!!”
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.
Narowboat handling techniques for beginners – Here’s some basic advice for those new to boating
Wide beam cruising restrictions – If you’re thinking of buying a bigger boat, read this article first to make sure that the restricted cruising range isn’t going to drive you mad.
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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