Life on a narrowboat can be as peaceful as it is idyllic BUT you need to understand the pros, cons, highs, lows, and day to day logistics in living on England's inland waterways. Let me help you find out all you need to know before you commit to what could be a very expensive mistake.
Is work getting you down? Do you fancy a change to something entirely more relaxing, more fulfilling and closer to nature?
You do? Well, how about this?
Imagine waking up on a Monday morning actually looking forward to the week ahead. No lengthy commute along noisy and dangerous motorways breathing in lungfuls of carbon monoxide as you wind the window down to freshen the stale air inside your car. No worry about meetings and schedules, targets and turnover. No unpleasant thoughts about sitting in a claustrophobic office next to coworkers you can’t stand before the second lengthy and unpleasant car journey of the day to get back to a home you’re too tired to enjoy.
If fact, imagine no stress or worries at all.
In your new trouble free life you wake to the sound of water fowl on the lake where you’re boat is moored after being lulled into a deep and tranquil sleep by the hooting of a tawny owl in the seven acre wood a stone’s throw from your boat the night before. It’s early May and you enjoy a leisurely breakfast followed by an equally relaxing stroll along a grassy grassy flower carpeted bank on your two minute commute to your new job just a quarter of a mile away.
Your week begins with a day sitting on a comfortable ride on mower driving sedately through acres of cowslips and ox eye daisies under falling blossom from hundreds of wild cherry trees.
The following day, after yet another tranquil night on your floating home, you spend your working hours moving narrowboats off their winter moorings, out of the marina and up through two gentle locks to their wharf-side summer home. It’s boating at its most pleasant, and you’re getting paid to do it.
The days merge into weeks, the weeks into months, and there’s not a part of your life you have to worry about. You don’t get paid much, but you don’t care. Life’s a dream, and you wouldn’t swap it for the world.
Actually, you would swap it if you were me and you were planning to embark on an exciting new adventure exploring England and Wales from the comfort of your own floating home.
As you know, I’m off on my travels next April. Calcutt Boats will be looking for a replacement for me. I wondered whether you would be interested in applying for the position before it’s advertised officially.
The job is a joy.
The Calcutt Boats site covers 110 acres of some of the most beautiful countryside in rural Warwickshire. Three meadows have been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of the rich variety of flowers and grasses. The main part of the site is forty acres, ten of which is taken by the two marinas where 250+ boats are moored. Within the forty acres are seven acres of woodland containing forty nine (that I know of) species of trees, over 8,000 of them in total.
There’s also another seventy acres of agricultural land to look after. Two years ago I spent eight weeks over the winter cutting a rough track through land which hadn’t been used or visited for more than a decade. At dusk I had the pleasure of seeing barn owls swooping feet above my head and saw both roe and muncjack deer stepping nervously across the path ahead of me.
The job is physically demanding so you need to be pretty fit to do it justice. It isn’t actually just sitting on your backside while you let the equipment do the work. There’s a fair amount of reasonably heavy lifting. Take this week for example;
I spent a couple of days felling and logging oak and ash in the larger of the two woodland areas, then loading the cut logs into our site Nissan pickup for transportation and storage at the marina owner’s house nearby. Over at his house, the log store needed rearranging before offloading the fresh logs.
Yesterday, Pat and I spent the afternoon moving engines. A twenty feet long container where we had refurbished engines stored needed emptying at short notice ready for a moorer to move his things into the following day. The engines were moved with our Merlot fork lift truck but they had to be moved within reach of the forklift in the first place so they had to be dragged into place both ends manually. It’s hard work, but it’s great exercise. I’ll miss it.
One of the grass cutting jobs I won’t miss is the dreaded “steep banks”. One of our car parks was built on a thirty year old mountain of spoil from the canal. There’s a 100m stretch raised thirty feet above the level of our older Locks marina. Between the marina and the car park is a grassed forty five degree slope. The only way we can cut it is with a Flymo on a rope. To cut the full length takes about six hours of very demanding labour.
The job on occasion can also be less than pleasant.
The work is 100% outside. You’ll work when there’s thick snow on the ground and ice on the marina, when there’s a howling gale blowing, when there’s hail and driving rain lashing your face (you won’t actually work in heavy rain. You’ll find something, anything, to do to get you out of it, but don’t tell the management that), and you’ll work in the searing heat of the midday sun at the height of summer. Obviously I like the last bit more than other stuff. I get to wear shorts and a tee shirt for work for at least six months of the year. In fact, Pat still has his shorts on now, but he certainly doesn’t look warm.
Pat and I, the grounds team, are also the rubbish and sewage team. We have to manage the rubbish on site which means emptying the bins and jumping on them to compress the rubbish when the bins are too full. Pat is better at this than I am as he can provide an additional two stone of compression.
Our site processes its own human waste. All of the sewage from the site’s two pump out machines, the two Elsan points, the shower block and the toilets by reception and in the main building, flows four hundred metres to our reed bed filtration plant. The solids remain in two large holding tanks ready for removal by a contractor once a month. The liquids continue through the reed beds where the water is purified before entering the area’s field drainage system.
Several times a year, there’s a blockage somewhere between the highest point at the wharf and the reed beds. Pat or I, sometimes both of us, don elbow length rubber gloves and chest waders, collect an armful of metre length rods and set off in search of the blockage. The cause is usually a cassette cap which has been inadvertently dropped down the Elsan point. The endurance record is currently held by me for a seven hour session standing thigh deep in the brown stuff trying to remove what predictably turned out to be a cassette cap from a difficult to reach section of pipe in our tip area. I had a lonnnng shower after that little adventure.
Sewage days are few and far between though and the smell is something you get used to very quickly after a couple of dozen narrowboat pump outs on the wharf.
In April this mainly exceptionally enjoyable position will be vacant. Just about every aspect of the job will make you smile, including the rate of pay, but that will be more a smile of disbelief rather than one of pleasure. It’s a lifestyle choice rather than a job you do to put money in the bank so if your current lifestyle is causing you pain then maybe you’ll be interested.
The position may come with a mooring. I have what I consider to be one of the best moorings on either of the two marinas but this one wouldn’t be available. I think there are already one or two boaters who have their beady eyes on it. There may be an alternative mooring, but you’ll have to ask.
If you think the position would suit you, please email me and I’ll give you more details.
Back on the boat, as ever, I’ve been spending a not so small fortune fine tuning the boat ready for a lifetime’s cruising. My Mercedes engine, I recently discovered, is one of the most reliable and durable engines ever made. They’re often used in African taxis where cars which have done 500,000 miles are common and ones which have done 1,000,000 miles are not unheard of. Of course, a boat engine isn’t described by the number of miles it’s done, but rather by the number of hours. Mine has done 4,600 hours in the last thirty seven years although the ridiculously expensive (£37 per hour) marine engineer who spent the day with me yesterday tells me that the engine has probably only done 80% of that because the odometer is wired to the ignition rather than the engine itself.
He told me, and he is the second marine engineer to tell me the same thing, that my engine should be good for 100,000 hours. Given that it has done an average of just 124 hours a year for the last thirty seven years, at the same average, it will last another 653 years. I think it will probably be the only engine I ever need.
While he was with me yesterday, the engineer fitted a powerful halogen headlight for tunnels and night time cruising, fixed the instrument display lights so that I can actually see them when I’m cruising in the dark, adjusted the alternator to increase the output and to reduce wear and tear, and finally presented me with a bill to make my eyes water.
Still, that’s another job ticked off the list. All that remains to be done now is to get some remedial carpentry done to the rear hatch to improve safety and security, and have a central heating system installed to supplement the solid fuel stove. Both of those jobs will be done early next year.
Early next year is going to be a busy time for me.
Three years ago I had my wooden cabin over plated with steel. A couple of coats of primer were applied to the bare steel when the boat was returned to Calcutt Boats then, six months later in April 2012, I spent three weeks painting the cabin “properly”. Apparently, not properly enough though.
The boat is getting a fair amount of use at the moment. Apart from living on board full time here at the marina, I’m taking my floating home for a cruise on average one day a week. There are often people climbing on and off the stern or using any of the four ropes to moor the boat or to control it while we are traveling. There are low hanging oak, ash and willow branches brushing against the roof, or brambles, hawthorn and blackthorn scouring the cabin sides. And then there’s the occasional inevitable brush with another boat, some of them fenderless and a real danger to paintwork.
As a result of this expected wear and tear and my own inability to apply the paint as well as I should, there are numerous chips, flakes and abrasions in the cabin paint and two substantial four feet long scratches, one on the port and one on the starboard side.
The scratches in particular need attending to. Both are down to bare metal in places. The chips and flakes aren’t going to do the boat any harm at the moment but as I’ve spent a considerable amount of money to make the boat look as good as it does, I want to keep it in the best condition I can.
The original plan for April next year was to head up to Llangollen as soon as I’ve finished my early April discovery days. I want to touch up the cabin pain though and I want to have some sign writing done at the same time. I’ve booked one of Calcutt Boats’ paint tents for ten days in April. Once that’s done, I’ll have the boat taken out of the water so I can spend a couple of days blacking the hull and repainting the tunnel flashes. While it’s out of the water, a worn rudder bearing and all four anodes will be replaced.
Once all of that is done, we’ll have a month to potter about before the Crick boat show at the end of May. After the boat show, we’ll be back at Calcutt for another ten day’s discovery day training sessions. Then we’ll go to Llangollen.
Last week I published some responses I received to the previous week’s article on cruising the capital’s waterways. Neither the original article or the comments which followed it cast either the London canal network or any of the boat owners who live there in a particularly favourable light. Here are a couple of comments to help redress the balance.
“I felt obliged to reply about the London narrow boat views expressed in the newsletter.
I have read the coverage of the London narrowboats / continuous cruisers at http://london.lecool.com/inspirations/continuous-cruisers-onboard-mark-walton/
I don’t own a narrow boat, but I do commute into London. I would like to live in London, but costs are too much.
I think this perspective needs to be highlighted. People live on boats as it is cost effective. There is very little allowance for this situation. One one hand people visiting need to moore, but people also need a place to live.
It is a classic situation, where something needs to be done, but nobody has done it.
My view is that the London continuous cruisers are doing the best they can.”
” I was disappointed that nobody had written to say anything positive about the canals in London. I have moored in Paddington Basin 4 times in the last six months and haven’t had a problem finding a mooring. CRT do check the moorings pretty regularly. It’s a terrific place, remarkably quiet for it’s location, clean and secure. The same is true of Limehouse basin. The main issue can be finding moorings in between but provided you’re prepared to breast up I haven’t found a problem. If you don’t venture further than Paddington basin you’re missing out. It’s fascinating to thread your way through London’s back door. Camden market can be really buzzing and a detour into Battlebridge basin to the canal museum is well worth the effort of squeezing into the tight mooring space.
Next cruising season the waterways in the Olympic park should be open to everyone too. And if you don’t cruise through London from the GU you’ll miss out on the Lee and Stort navigations, and they’re lovely, particularly the latter. I hope people haven’t been put off from visiting London by some of the negative comments. They should explore it themselves and make up their own minds.”
Narrowboat ownership is an expensive hobby. The purchase of the boat itself is the second largest purchase that most people will ever make after that of the house they live in. Expenditure doesn’t stop with the cost of the boat. There are mooring and license fees and general running costs and repairs and maintenance. For many aspiring narrowboat owners, the initial purchase price and the regular cost to keep the boat licensed and it good condition is just too much.
You may be one of these people and you may have considered a more cost effective option to help you get afloat, at least for part of the year. Shared ownership allows you to enjoy the benefits of narrowboat ownership but at a fraction of the cost. I wrote about the subject two years ago in this article but I’m adding to it now courtesy of the ever helpful Peter Earley.
Peter has been a continuous cruiser for the last seven years but after two decades of regular narrowboat hire and before he invested in his own live aboard narrowboat, Peter and his wife purchased a share in a boat. He’s kindly sent me the following article for consideration by those considering doing the same.
“We bought the 11th share of 12 in the, then new, narrowboat Sundowner in October 1999. This was in a shared ownership scheme run by Ownerships. It wasn’t something we went into lightly, after all we were paying out £6000, but we read all the paperwork carefully and the fact that we actually owned our bit of boat and a holiday on a horrible boat hired from one of the largest UK hire companies decided it for us.
Our dates for using the boat were decided by the list system. The owners are listed in a set sequence which rotates two places each year. For this year, the first choice of weeks goes to the owners at the top of the list and then in order down the list. At the end of the year, the two owners at the top of the list drop to the bottom and everyone else moves up. We were able to choose 2 weeks in the summer period and 2 in the winter. The remaining free weeks were up for grabs, with the priority from the bottom of the list this time around. In our case on the two occasions we were in the bottom two, the owner beneath us grabbed them so if you buy a share in a boat using this system, try to get an even numbered share!
In the original Ownership scheme it was possible for some owners to pay a higher amount, which meant that the others paid a lower amount, to guarantee weeks during the school holidays. This meant that they always had the first pick regardless of where they were in the share listing.
It was quite common for two or more owners to agree to remote changeovers which meant they didn’t have to do out and back cruises but were able to extend the cruising range. It obviously meant agreeing on a place with car access and the ability to fill the diesel tank and empty the toilet tanks. It also meant you had to spend most of the first day, or the last day, moving cars around.
We have friends in an ex-Challenger boat. Here the owners pick their weeks out of the hat meaning quite a bit of horse trading has to go on after the draw.
I can’t recall our annual costs now but Sundowner is still in operation as a share boat, now administered by BCBM. The costs they list for Sundowner are:
ENGINE SERVICING £400
BREAKDOWNS & REPAIRS £500
CALL OUTS – EMERGENCIES £300
INVENTORY & REPLACEMENTS £300
ADDITIONAL FIGURE £900
TOTAL BUDGETED EXPENDITURE £7,200
So split amongst 12 owners it will cost each one £600 plus a management charge of £436 plus their diesel, gas and pumpouts costs. So for about the cost of a weeks hire you have use of Sundowner for 4 weeks. A bargain, with the added bonus of it being your boat. Something that you have had input into, whether it be touching up the paintwork or choosing the curtain design or floor covering.
Each year, the owners get together and decide where the boat will be based for the coming year, what maintenance or repairs are needed and what changes or improvements are required. Of course you don’t actually have to do any of these things. You just direct the management company, in this case BCBM, what you want doing. They will cost it and agree it with you and send you the bill. But of course you are only paying a twelfth of the total cost. You will also agree how much money each owner should have to put into the ‘sinking fund’. This is not to refloat the boat after an accident but is to build up a fund for emergencies or for replacing major components such as engine or gearbox. When buying a used share you might want to check how old some of these components are to enable you to assess what major expenses are likely to arise in the near future.
If you want a cheaper deal and are prepared to be involved with the running of the boat then go for a private syndicate. Our friends with the ex-Challenger boat do exactly that. They elect a Chairman and Treasurer each year and decide what needs doing when, just as they did when Challenger were involved. It is said that managed boats can make savings on some costs due to economy of scale but our friends have found it much cheaper running it themselves, not just in the saving of management fees but the ability to haggle or do some of the work themselves.
There is a share in Sundowner currently for sale at £2500 giving the boat a value of £30000. I would think it unlikely that the value drops much lower meaning a secondhand share bought now could be sold in 5 or 6 years time without much loss.
So, what happens when you want leave the scheme to buy your own boat or that villa in the Algarve. In our case it was easy. At that time Ownerships ran a ‘Guaranteed Buy-Back Scheme. Those owners that wished to, could pay a small sum each year and when they wanted out, Ownership would buy the share at a previously agreed price. The price was a slight bone of contention as most of us thought it too low but, knowing we intended to buy our own boat, it was an easy way out. Otherwise, you decide how much you want for your share and the management company will try and sell it. Being your property, you can also advertise it on eBay, Gumtree, Apolloduck or whatever. Many put a sign in the boat window whilst they are cruising. One couple on Sundowner that we keep in touch with did just that and sold it within a few days. But, of course, it is a question of getting the price right and here your management company can advise you. I’ve mentioned the sinking fund and if this has accumulated a large amount you might wish to take this into account when setting the sale price.
Both Challenger and Ownerships are no more, both due to major fraud on the part of their founders, with many owners losing money, fortunately long after we had sold You can read about this on the internet but it does highlight the need to read the contract carefully and to enquire how all those various sums of money are held for you. I am sure that those companies currently offering shared ownership have learned from the previous failures and, in order to retain the trust of their customers, run their schemes with the utmost probity.”
Following this article’s publication Ian Bull emailed me the following…
“Good article on shared ownership which is how we got our feet wet before buying our own boat. Still hanging on to our share in fact, but many of our group have sold quickly through boatshare, http://www.boatshare.co.uk/
After a chance meeting on a cycling holiday in Jordan, Aileen and Mike can now cycle together along the towpath next to their beautiful floating home as they continuously cruises the connected waterways of England and Wales. Here’s their story.
2014 hasn’t been a good year for quality narrowboat builders. Sea Otter ceased trading in June. Their high quality aluminium narrowboats were very popular but not popular enough to keep the company solvent.
Another boat builder of distinction ceased trading this week. Steve Hudson of S M Hudson boat builders died last Tuesday after a short illness at the tender age of fifty five. The owners of his boats have always been evangelists. His summer open days at Glascote basin were always attended by dozens of current Hudson boat owners and their boats. It’s always sad to hear of anyone passing away at such a tender age but particularly so when they contributed so much to the inland waterways.
He will be missed.
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.
Meet recent discovery day attendee Richard Bavin…
“Recently divorced and re-evaluating my life, I have been looking at what I want to do and where I wish to live. My ex hated anything to do with boating, camping etc whilst I love the outdoors life, and the idea of living on a narrow boat, and exploring this fascinating country appeals hugely. I am very practical and am happy to tackle any of the DIY problems and am very keen to investigate the most efficient use of a large array of solar panels together with a wind turbine, to be as much ‘off grid’ as possible. The challenge is fascinating. The discovery day helped me to make up my mind to go ahead with my plans, as it confirmed that running a narrow boat single handed is for me a very practical idea. Lots more research to do so that I am fully up to speed with all things technical. Looking forward to living my own personal dream!”
“The day was great – from the friendly warm welcome and cup of hot tea, to the exploration of James in detail. You managed to answer all of my questions on many varied topics patiently and in a succinct and easy to understand fashion. I like your calm approach to everything. I threw loads of questions at you from heating through condensation to usage of water, lights, washing machine, toilets, usage of gas and diesel, and lots more and you answered them all for me.
I was particularly keen to get down to the real nitty gritty details, and you have certainly cleared my mind on all of the issues I raised. And then off we set on a journey through apparently beautiful countryside, somewhat hidden in the murk. I felt instantly at ease controlling the boat under your guidance and again I praise you for your calm approach and direction. I also feel much happier about negotiating locks single handed.
All in all the day was a brilliant success for me, most enjoyable and informative and made me confident that I will be able to make the change in my lifestyle successfully. I would most certainly recommend this to anyone who was thinking about buying a narrow boat. It will enable people to really understand what is involved, in great detail, and with a friendly informative and calm teacher!
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.
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.