In last week’s newsletter I wrote about an idyllic afternoon on our rarely visited mooring, sitting in the sun doing nothing much at all other than feed occasional grapes to our two spaniels, Charlie and Daisy. Grapes are a treat both dogs have enjoyed for years. Both of them are happy and healthy. I want to keep them that way so I won’t be feeding them any more grapes. If you are one of the dozens of newsletter readers who emailed me to warn me about the possible kidney damage suffered by some dogs which eat grapes, thank you.
My front fender fell off again on Monday. Two months ago the chain attached to the top of the fender snapped when Sally let water a little too quickly into the single lock I was in, forcing the boat with considerable force against the front gate.
The front fender is a “V” fender, sometimes called “a button with wings”. My solution at the time was to circle the button with chain then shackle the uppermost part of the circle to the boat. Sally wasn’t entirely happy with my bodge at the time. She thought, quite rightly as it happens, that because of the constant impact of the rope button against solid oak gates, the button would compact and the chain would slip off.
We did things Sally’s way on Tuesday when we attempted a repair. It’s so reassuring to have a proper man on board. After ten minute’s digging with a sharp knife towards the fender’s rubber core, we unearthed an unbroken chain link, attached a joining link, and then fixed the slightly modified fender back to the boat. At £100 for a new front fender, the ten minute low cost fix was very satisfying. It’s such a shame it wasn’t my idea.
The fix took a little longer than ten minutes actually because we popped over to Braunston marina in Sally’s car to buy some joining links from Tradline fenders where I bought two new tipcat fenders last weekend.
The fenders cost me £250 but the owner included the fixings in the price. When we returned on Tuesday to buy some more fixings, he refused to accept payment for the additional link joiners we needed. “Take what you want!” he offered. We did. The additional fixings probably cost no more than a pound or two, but it’s the thought that counts. I’m sure we’ll be using his shop for years to come.
We stayed two nights on our marina mooring before ascending the Calcutt flight again. I needed some welding done but, given that Calcutt Boats are usually too busy to fit me in at short notice, I had to take my business elsewhere.
When I moved on to the boat there was a gas heater fitted against the hull under the port centre hatch. On the roof above it were two ugly plastic vents. The heater was removed along with another similar heater in our back cabin plus our faulty gas water heater in August 2014, but the plastic vents remained.
They’re a real pain. I have two centre lines secured to the cabin roof two or three feet from the vents. Both run through open fairleads fixed to the top of the cabin sides. The port fairlead keeps the centre rope away from the delicate vents most of the time, but the rope often pops out of the fairlead as the boat drops down in a lock. If I don’t keep a very close eye on the boat, the rope snags on the vents.
Inevitably, the snagging rope has now pulled the vents out of their fittings, so over the last week we’ve noticed rainwater flowing into the cabin through what has become two gaping holes. The vents are no longer used so rather than securing them again, they’re going to be removed and then we’re going to cover the holes with a small section of steel plate.
Justin, the guy doing the welding, was expecting us on Thursday so our intention was to moor at one of our favourite local spots, Fox’s Gate at Flecknoe, then cruise half an hour to him at Braunston early Thursday morning. Mooring wasn’t quite as easy as I expected. Although Fox’s Gate is a popular spot, there are usually no more than two or three boats spread over half a mile of Armco lined towpath. On Wednesday there was a solid line of about twenty boats moored nose to tail.
There were a couple of spaces just long enough for us. The first one didn’t work out though. As I tied up, Daisy, our cocker spaniel, jumped from the front deck onto the towpath to say hello to her new friends. The lady on the boat behind us gave Daisy a cream-curdling stare before clicking her knitting needles aggressively in our general direction. Anyway, we were tied up to a curved section of the towpath which meant that I couldn’t secure the boat properly.
We moved a couple of boat lengths closer to Braunston, checked with our new neighbours to make sure that they didn’t object to a spaniel or two, then chained ourselves to the towpath in a willow’s shade.
At 8am we were off again, moving slowly past an unbroken boat line all the way to Braunston Junction, past a row of empty moorings opposite The Boat House reserved for the weekend’s historic boat rally, then past a rather congested section by Braunston marina where beautiful old narrowboats moored four abreast.
We turned in the eastern marina entrance ,then reversed to Braunston Bottom Lock and J G Marine Services where owner Justin Greene was waiting for us.
Justin was recommended to me by Phil Abbot from Wharf House Narrowboats next door. Phil did a wonderful job when he did some carpentry work for me in April so I had equally high hopes for Justin. I wasn’t disappointed.
Within a couple of hours Justin had removed the two unsightly and loose plastic vents, welded a steel plate neatly over the two vent holes, removed two other redundant brackets on the roof, coated all of the exposed metal with primer and removed and replaced a broken fender hanger.
We were so pleased with his work that we’ve booked him for a day in August to do a variety of little jobs on the boat including replacing a split hose between our front deck and the water tank beneath. The split hose was the cause of me almost sinking the boat two days after I moved on board in April 2010.
I knew absolutely nothing about boats then but when I ran out of water I knew enough to remove the filler cap on the front deck, insert a hose and turn on the water supply. After half an hour I was marvelling at the tank’s capacity. After three quarters of an hour of water apparently still gushing into the bottomless tank I was in awe. Five minutes later I was rushing around like a headless chicken.
Quite by chance I walked through the boat to our bedroom in the stern. I opened the door to the bedroom to find that the engine room bilge had filled with water then overflowed on to the bedroom carpet. The boat was filling with drinking water from the stern.
Unknown to me, my little 350 litre water tank should only have taken fifteen minutes to fill, so for half an hour water had been pouring from the split filler hose, draining in to the cabin bilge and flowing steadily under the cabin floor to the back of the boat. Removing the excess water with an industrial wet vac took two hours. Drying the affected areas with a dehumidifier took a couple of weeks.
For the last five years I have watched the tank’s water level like a hawk to prevent another catastrophe. Sally made the same mistake as me soon after she moved on board but after enduring me sulking for a couple of days she learned her lesson.
We left Justin mid-afternoon. The canal was much more congested than it had been in the morning, especially at the water point next to the Gongoozler’s Rest café where a hire boat was moored two abreast leaving a gap of no more than seven feet to squeeze through. Consequently they were looking a little stressed as I passed after suffering a tirade of abuse from exasperated passing boaters.
We left the long line of moored boats at Flecknoe behind in favour of a peaceful and isolated spot a mile further on in the shade of a towering ash. After an al fresco early evening meal and a glass or two of Australian red, I lay on my back in the ash’s shade, idly watching the changing shape of cotton wool clouds through wind rustled leaves.
I was woken from a light sleep by fat rain drops falling on my face. Odd, I thought, remembering the clear blue sky minutes earlier. I opened my eyes to find, rather than angry grey clouds above me, a very happy but dribbling spaniel.
After a leisurely breakfast on Friday morning I began my normal pre cruise routine for the hour’s cruise back to the Calcutt flight ready for two weekend discovery days. I opened the engine’s raw water cooling gate valve, checked both oil and water, and then opened the two back doors ready for cruising. One of the door hinge welds snapped as I swung the starboard door open. Sod’s law that it should happen just hours after we said goodbye to a very good welder, but that’s the way of the world.
I said earlier that Calcutt Boats have often been able to accommodate me for routine jobs. It’s true, but they have always been able to help me out with emergency repairs. As soon as we reached Calcutt I spoke to engineer Ian to ask him, plead with him really, to fit me in, given that I couldn’t secure the boat effectively with a broken door hinge.
An hour later the boat was down through the locks and moored close to the engineering workshop. Fifteen minutes later the hinge was repaired and all was well with the world again. In fact we though we would celebrate by buying Sally a garden.
Sally loves her gardening. The garden in her house is immaculate and a riot of colour. She spent many happy hours pottering among her plants, but I’ve forced her away from her simple pleasures. Now she has to endure months of tedious cruising through rural England looking but not touching the vast array of plants we see on our travels.
This is her new garden. It’s not the largest in the world, but she tells me she’s delighted with it. The fact that I now have to straddle the pot with a geranium up my bottom every time I want to moor the boat, and I’ll have to hold a torch between my teeth to see where I’m going in tunnels, doesn’t seem to bother her at all.
At least one of us is happy now.
The weekend’s discovery days were both fun and eventful. Novice hire boat crews were out in force. One large group were cruising in three boats, all cruising at a reasonable speed, but far too close together. I met the first boat on a tight bend. The helmsman did what many do and slammed his boat into reverse to stop it. Unfortunately as he was turning at the time, his action resulted in him flipping the boat broadside across the canal into the path of the two following boats. They both hit the leading craft then slewed off I into the undergrowth. They soon sorted out the mess though and as they passed me I noticed several of the front deck crew removing sprigs of sharp pointed hawthorn from each other after their unexpected trip into the offside undergrowth.
This morning is just as busy as yesterday, but mainly with historic boats heading home after the Braunston Rally. A steam powered narrowboat has just past me complete with its flat capped, red neckerchiefed crew, clouds of steam and piercing whistles.
We’ll be off shortly too, heading south towards the Thames on the tranquil south Oxford, hoping that our supply of food and, more importantly, my dwindling stock of red wine, lasts until we reach Banbury on Wednesday.
When I moved on to this boat five years ago the name, James No 194, was displayed on both sides. The sign writing was beautifully done but the paint had either faded so much or peeled off the Masonite cabin so the letters were barely legible.
I painted the cabin myself shortly after the original cabin was over plated in November 2011. I really stretched myself to apply basic colours to the cabin in anything like a professional fashion, so doing highly skilled sign writing was out of the question.
Displaying boat’s name on both sides of your boat, plus index number and license, is a CRT licensing requirement. Both my license and index number are clearly displayed, but my boat name isn’t. My boat is just one of a huge number of inland waterways craft without clearly visible name, but that knowledge doesn’t make me feel any better.
I asked a number of sign writers for a price to paint my boat’s name, my web site address and my site logo on both sides of the cabin. Quotes ranged from £450 – £600. I didn’t have the work done because I wasn’t completely happy with quality of the paintwork to be used as a base by a professional sign writer and, to be honest, I had more pressing needs for my limited boat budget.
I painted the cabin three years ago. It still looks OK to the untrained or uncritical eye, but I think the boat is starting to look tatty. Sally does too.
We considered having the boat completely repainted by professionals, but came to the conclusion that a lottery win would be the only way of funding the work. Debdale Wharf’s popular boat painter John Barnard quoted £8,500 which, given that that the process involves taking the boat back to bare steel, removing all windows and every external cabin fitting and then applying ten coats over a six week period in a temperature controlled building, is probably quite a reasonable price, but it’s too much for us.
We toyed with the idea of just repainting the cabin’s cream side panels ourselves. Sally is itching to have a go. To paint them properly though, we would need to remove the red coach lines between the panels and the blue surround, which would damage the blue so that would need repainting too. If we went that far, we might as well repaint the roof as well. We’d be tackling a full repaint, six week’s paint tent hire and possibly six week’s alternative accommodation for the dogs and us.
We’ve come to the conclusion that we would rather spend most of the year cruising than use nearly all of our budget on having a slightly shinier boat. Now that major refurbishment isn’t on the cards, we need to bite the bullet and add the boat’s name to the cabin.
We haven’t completely ruled out doing something with the cabin sides so spending £500+ on signwriting we may have to remove shortly afterwards isn’t sensible. We’ve decided to use vinyl graphics and support the waterways community by buying them from The Graphics Boat.
The graphics, two boat names and two web site addresses costing £110, arrived mid last week. We’ll stick them on next week.
Our new composting toilet was fitted at Hillmorton Wharf on 21st May. The new toilet replaced a Porta Potti cassette toilet I used on the boat since I moved on board just over five years ago. I wrote about why we decided to switch from cassette to composting here and detailed the toilet’s fitting and first impressions here.
A month has passed, the dust has settled and normal life has continued. So has £1,000 spent on a boat toilet been a worthwhile investment?
The answer is a resounding “YES!” The new toilet has transformed our lives on board and saved us a small fortune.
Contrary to my expectations, a toilet which uses no water at all actually smells less than the much more popular pump out or cassette toilets. In fact, it doesn’t smell at all.
Sally was forever subjecting our cassette toilet to more frequent and more intensive cleaning to try and eliminate the unpleasant constant odour. The composting toilet is much easier to keep smell free. She empties the liquid tank every morning, adds a spoonful of sugar and then replaces the tank in its slot beneath the toilet. The whole process takes a couple of minutes.
On Thursday evening we emptied the solids tank for the second time. The only occasion it was emptied before that was done after a week, partly because we used too bulky quilted toilet tissue and partly because we wanted discover just how unpleasant the task of emptying our collected faeces really was.
The first solids emptying exercise was a real anti-climax. The toilet’s continuously running 12v fan removed most of the solid’s moisture and all of the smell. I didn’t find the process unpleasant at all, possibly because Sally did the emptying rather than me.
The task was no more unpleasant on Thursday than it was the first time. While Sally lifted the toilet off the solids tank and carried the tank off the boat, I used my folding army spade to dig a two feet square six inch deep hole. Within ten minutes, the contents were buried neatly and the tank was scrubbed clean with canal water and back in place on the boat.
The Airhead toilet is simple, effective and hassle and smell free. We both love it.
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 29th June 2015
There are now just three dates remaining before October, 24th & 39th July and 5th August, If you want to book one of these dates, or see the available dates for October onwards click here.
In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendees Carl and Jane Britt…
Since taking a short holiday on the cut recently we have flirted with the idea of becoming live aboards, if not full time then at least for part of the year around work requirements. Armed with some existing engineering knowledge and lots of research we felt we had a plan of how to make our dream a reality. I guess we just wanted to hang out with some canal folk to give us the confidence to make the leap and also to make sure that we’re fully prepared for the lifestyle and that there’s nothing glaring that we’ve not considered.
Directions were amazing, very detailed and accurate. Presumably I must conclude that the list of kit wasn’t emphasised enough to make a plonker like me remember to bring everything (or anything at all!). Probably a lot to do with our running around like mad things for the past few days but an emailed “don’t forget” list a day or two prior to the day might be an idea.
The discovery day was everything we wanted it to be. We’re still discussing the conversations we had with you throughout the day and the salient points. We were particularly pleased that you provided us answers to questions we didn’t yet know we had! Having had a canal boat holiday and done lots of research we didn’t feel like scared rabbits in the headlights anymore and it was great that you didn’t dwell too much on the basics and that we were able to just discuss canal related matters with you and then relate these back to potentially living aboard when necessary.
We’d recommend it to anyone even considering a holiday afloat to be honest. The experience is well worth the price. We would’ve been much more confident on our first holiday if we had done this day first. For potential live aboards, the opportunity to discuss future plans with someone of your experience is a real bonus as you inspire confidence and provoke thought on the subject.”
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.
Common lock accidents and how to avoid them – This newsletter was written in the hope that you will treat the waterways and the boats which use them with the respect they deserve. The accidents I’ve detailed were caused by lack of knowledge, lack of attention, or plain stupidity.
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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