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2015 12 06 Newsletter – Cruising in High Winds

Trying to reach locations for specific times is always a challenge when you’re moving at an average of two miles an hour. When you’re moving so slowly and battling a stiff breeze, getting anywhere on time is quite difficult.

Our destination was Rugby town centre, just twenty minutes away by car, but five hours by boat. With 40mph winds forecast we decided to abandon our plans for the day and head back to our discovery day mooring about the Calcutt flight on the Grand Union canal close to Napton junction.

High winds and ice are the only conditions which stop me. Cruising through even a thin layer of ice quickly removes any protective hull coating, especially along the water line. I was iced in on a towpath mooring on the Leicester Line close to Yelvertoft between Christmas and New Year last year. I waited three days until a rare winter hire boat charged past me smashing through the ice with little regard to the effect the jagged broken pieces were having on the hull. I followed in the hire boat’s wake gently nudging past the half inch thick slabs. Even though I didn’t need to break any ice myself I still lost most of the bitumen protecting the water line before I reached clear water at Norton junction.

High winds, although not nearly so damaging, make cruising equally difficult. My 62’ boat has a four feet high, fifty feet long cabin so I have two hundred square feet of “sail”. Even though my boat has a reasonably deep draught at 2’6”, the amount of sail combined with a flat bottom means that in anything more than a gentle breeze I spend much of my time crabbing along the canal.

Steering becomes very difficult in 40mph winds. You need to be acutely aware of the wind speed and direction at all times, especially when negotiating bridge holes and locks. You have to allow for lateral drift to avoid painful contact with inanimate objects, something which Cynthia is now acutely aware of after trying to cut a chicken with a very sharp knife when we broadsided none too gently into a lock wall.

We had no locks to negotiate on Sunday but plenty of bridges and then a very interesting turn in the entrance to Barby Moorings marina.

Barby Moorings is one of the many marinas with a sign close to the entrance warning boaters not to turn there. I don’t understand why the marina owners object. Boaters aren’t doing any harm. I’ve never paid any attention to these signs, and never had anyone complain when I turn in a marina entrance.

With the wind howling along the mile straight leading to the marina I had to turn aggressively into the entrance to bring the bow around against the wind, and then wait for the stern to be pushed around by the breeze. Unfortunately I couldn’t do anything about a thick section of steel rail running along the offside bank two feet into the marina entrance.

The boat drifted into the rough rail end. I had the pleasure of listening to the sound of steel scraping steel as I watched a ten feet long two inch wide strip of bitumen curl away from the hull. Fortunately after sixteen hundred miles along the inland waterways over the last seven months the scrape was one of many so the loss of a little paint didn’t cause me too much anxiety.

After two and a half very pleasant but windy and often wet hours later we moored for the night on an unusually boat free stretch close to Flecknoe. We settled down for a relaxing evening on a warm and cosy boat out of the weather. Sadly, the evening wasn’t quite as relaxing as Cynthia would have liked.

Basset hounds are intelligent dogs. Tasha and Bromley have adapted very well to boat life after just three weeks on board. Tasha the nine year old bitch is particularly good. After she’s jumped off the boat for a toilet break she comes when called and jumps nimbly through the cratch cover onto the front deck before standing patiently for her paws to be cleaned.

On Sunday night, in the middle of a particularly blustery squall, she bounded up the steps from the cabin onto the deck and then energetically leaped over the gunnel out of the boat. I think she would have preferred to jump onto the towpath rather than into the dark and murky water of the canal but she didn’t tell me what was on her mind so I don’t know.

What I do know is that Cynthia, to put it mildly, wasn’t very happy. To me it was just another silly dog going for a surprise but harmless swim. To Cynthia the event was terrifying. She was sure that Tasha wouldn’t be able to swim, wouldn’t be able to find her way back to the boat if she could swim, wouldn’t be able to climb out of the water, would be too heavy to lift out of the water and would have caught Weil’s disease or, at the very least, pneumonia.

Thanks to the sturdy Roughwear harnesses both dogs wear day and night, by the time Cynthia drew breath for her first mortified scream I had a wet and sneezing Tasha back on the front deck. Both Tasha and Cynthia have recovered now. My little girl is very careful now before she leaps off the boat onto the towpath for a poo. Tasha is more cautious now too.

We arrived back at the water point about the Calcutt flight at midday where we spent an hour cleaning the outside of the boat for the first time in a month. The cream cabin roof and sides look wonderful when they’re clean but they are very difficult to keep that way, especially with a pet hate of mine, my utterly useless but very expensive braid on braid centre lines.

The ropes look good, are wonderfully soft and pliable, but soak up more water than a bath sponge. At this time of the year they are permanently full of water so they leave muddy marks wherever they touch. I hope they wear out soon so I can go back to the less aesthetically pleasing but much more user friendly nylon ropes.

After two very enjoyable discovery days on Tuesday and Wednesday we had two unexpected days free due to postponements. As often the case, frantic work schedules won over a far more relaxing alternative on board James.

Yesterday we were back on track with a very interesting day on the cut. With the 25mph wind gusting to 40mph again we spent much of the cruise to and from Braunston traveling sideways. Fortunately, because of the wind, there were very few other boats moving. In fact, on the outward leg, there weren’t any at all. We had the wind whipped foot high waves to ourselves.

On the way back we met the kindly crews on three Kate Boats craft who tried to stop dead in the water to allow us to pass a line of moored craft. They obviously didn’t realise that stopping on a windy day, or even reducing speed too much, means being blown somewhere you don’t want to go. In their case it was the shallow water close to the offside bank. We left them thrashing ineffectively through mud and white topped waves.

Cruising on open water on windy days isn’t particularly difficult but negotiating locks is a different kettle of fish. We had a few hairy moments trying to line up a very reluctant boat with unforgiving lock gates but finished the day with only a little less bitumen on the hull than when we started.

Today promises to be another challenging cruise on the cut dressed like the Michelin Man. Roll on the summer tee shirt and shorts and lazy days on the towpath reading while the world passes slowly by.

Cynthia Says…

Making adjustments—

This past week has been an interesting one with many twists and turns and has made me see how making such a big move can be a big adjustment on many levels—perhaps more so for me, as I have changed everything about my life to be here and embrace this beautiful tranquil life afloat.  I am happy to have done so, though I do struggle at times.  Tending to a new relationship as well as feeling like I fit into the scheme of things has been easy in some ways, not so easy in others.

Last Sunday was a case in point, as our female Basset, Tasha, took an unexpected dive into the canal.  We had been moored on one side of the canal and she had learned the routine well—when we found ourselves moored on the opposite side, and I wasn’t positioned on the proper side, she found herself taking a surprise swim!  I must admit, I was a bit upset first off and was sort of afraid that she might drown as I don’t believe she had ever experienced deep water before.  Paul was lightening quick plucking her out of the water, and she didn’t seem the least bit fazed.  Thanks to Paul’s experience with these things along with his ability to calm me and reassure me, I am finally able to look back at the incident and chuckle over it.

For those of you about to move to a narrowboat, you too will be facing many adjustments as you downsize your life and possessions.  I was able to get rid of a ton of stuff back in Vermont and I can honestly say I haven’t missed anything I gave away or left behind.

We spent a great deal of time discussing how we want to make small changes here and there to make our life easier and more streamlined on James.  We both love the process of discussing the various changes/enhancements we want to do over time, and I must admit, we made a lot of small but good changes over this past week.  This is an ongoing process which we both embrace.  One of the big projects I would like to do is be able to put in a teak and holly floor.  This would be such a lovely enhancement!  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this rich hued and beautiful floor, take a minute and Google images for it and you will see what I mean. One often sees this kind of floor on traditional sailboats.  Now if I can just sell that house in Vermont……

This has been my first week dealing with Discovery Days and it has been another adjustment, as we don’t have much personal time together except in the evenings.  We are usually exhausted (especially Paul, as he does so much to make these days so successful with no stone left unturned), at the end of the day, and can’t sleep in the next day because we need to do it all over again.  I think I am fitting into the scheme of things pretty well.  I especially enjoy when we only have one guest and I can help out at the locks, which is always a pleasure and a learning experience—Paul teaches me something new all the time, and I love learning.

In summary, for those of you contemplating or actually partaking in living this lifestyle, you will need to make a number of adjustments on many levels.  It is most important to have a sense of humor, look at the big picture and break things down into small daily goals if possible.  And in the personal realm of it all, remember to be respectful and kind to one another, and expect to make mistakes–it’s all part of the deal.  And last but not least, enjoy the process of getting to know one another on a deeper level as you make this wondrous transition to an idyllic life on the waterways.

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Colin Ashby Portraits

My apologies to Colin Ashby who kindly sent me a framed drawing of my boat, James No 194. I promised to mention his service two or three weeks ago but, as ever, I ran out of time.

Colin’s usual focus is pet portraits but he now includes hand drawn sketches of narrowboats. The one he did for me is pictured below. I haven’t done his work any justice with this photo but both Cynthia and I are very pleased with his work. If you would like to contact Colin regarding his service, you can email him here.

James No 194 - A portrait by Colin Ashby

James No 194 – A portrait by Colin Ashby

Discovery Day And Narrowboat Helmsmanship Training

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 run my discovery days roughly on the first ten days or so of April, June August, October and December.  If you are interested in joining me for a fun and information packed discovery day before the end of the year, you can book the single remaining date by viewing the diary here. You may want to stay locally the night before, the night after or both, in which case I highly recommend this B & B. It’s a five minute stroll from the mooring where I begin my discovery days.

In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendee Peter Martin who kindly produced a short video of his discovery day experience for me to use on my site. The video is below followed by his comments.

“With two and half years before I can pick up my work pension, a break up of my marriage, kids now independent and need for downsizing, now seems like the time to plan what I’ve often dreamed about over the years.

Living on the cut seems to fit in very well with my lifestyle. I like the outdoors, love boating, independence and getting back to nature.

Having not spent any length of time with live aboard boaters, the Discovery Day was was really just an opportunity to pick up the vibes that go with life on the inland waterways. I needed to do this before committing myself further in the discovery process. Easier to nip things in the bud now if it didn’t appeal before my imagination runs away with itself!

It was a very enjoyable day. I particularly enjoyed the warm welcome of coming in out of the cold to sit in the heat of a toasty, warm cabin. That sold me the lifestyle straight away. It also confirmed that I definitely need a solid fuel stove as primary heat. I know it means hard work lugging coal etc., but what better way to get some outdoor exercise.  I’m also now sold on composting toilets! I never imagined I’d spend the following  week viewing endless YouTube videos of people’s loos!

The helming and boat handling were great experience. By the end of the day I had got over the intimidation of  controlling  60 feet and 20 tons of metal.  A very worthwhile 10 hours and it has confirmed that I’ll continue along this pathway.

The hard work now begins in downsizing, straightening out the finances and then the enjoyable part of finding the right boat.”

You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here.

I Need Some Help!

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.

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2015 06 21 Newsletter – Common Lock Accidents and How To Avoid Them

Sally and I have been on a rare shopping spree. Neither of our mobile phones were very well. My phone, Sally’s cast off iPhone which I’ve been using for the last year, refused to have anything to do with WiFi after an operating system update six months ago, and Sally’s much loved Galaxy S4 didn’t fare too well after an unscheduled swim when it launched itself from toilet cistern to bowl last week. Apparently, says Sally, the cistern was to blame for not restraining the phone. I don’t think that excuse holds water Sally. Nor did the phone, although it tried very hard.

We tried the usual fix of burying the damaged phone deep in a sack of rice for a few days but the solution didn’t work nor were Samsung or our local EE shop interested in attempting a repair.

So now both of us have shiny new phones. Sally was able to instantly transfer her old number to the new phone as both phones were on the same network. Given that I haven’t once managed to obtain a signal inside the boat over the last two years I’ve been on Three’s network (brilliant on narrowboats for mobile broadband but hopeless for phones), I’ve switched to EE.

Now I can sit at my desk inside the boat and use my phone for voice calls to my heart’s content, especially now that I’ve enabled WiFi calling which allows me to make and receive calls via my Three broadband dongle if I can’t get a signal on my phone.

Because I’ve switched from Three to EE I haven’t taken my number with me. I know it’s possible but, to be honest, there are so few people who call me that I just can’t be bothered.

I’m sure you’re not in the slightest bit interested in phoning me, but just in case you are, the number in my email signature up to and including 17th June 2015 is no longer valid. The new number is 07496 886639.

Our duel phone upgrade has pretty much been the highlight of the week, apart from Thursday afternoon when we really pushed the boat out and teased the dogs.

We sat on the canal-side picnic bench next to our mooring for a couple of hours after lunch watching a steady procession of boats negotiating Calcutt Bottom Lock. Much as we enjoyed the entertainment offered by fellow boaters, and the pleasure we derived from flicking grapes from the bench into the mouths of two happy spaniels, we only stayed in the marina for a single night before ascending the Calcutt flight to enjoy a few days of relative tranquillity before Sally’s reluctant return to work on Monday night.

I say “relative” tranquillity because at this time of the year, especially at the weekend, the stretch of canal between Braunston and Napton junctions is a watery motorway. A steady procession of boats roar past us from dawn until dusk. Fortunately the secure moorings offered by miles of Armco barrier along this section mean that we can resist the pin pulling surges created by dozens of fast moving boats through the course of the day. What we can’t avoid are frequent unwanted and sometimes far too close neighbours.

We actually had one hire boat crew moor so closely to us yesterday on an otherwise boat free stretch that they used the ring on our piling chain to thread their bow rope through. When we set off we had to untie their bow so we could free our chain then secure their rope directly to the Armco.

Of course, we can’t reasonably expect to find a peaceful mooring at this time of the year on a stretch of canal within a few hours’ cruising of more than two thousand marina moorings and hundreds of hire boats. If we want quiet summertime moorings we’ll need to head a little further afield.

Somewhere like the Fens.

The manmade drainage ditches of eastern England have created over two hundred miles of peaceful cruising for solitude loving boat owners. It’s England’s Big Sky country with wide views and stunning sunsets, no noise from busy roads, railways and aircraft flight paths or even other boats. It’s the perfect place to get away from the hectic pace of modern life.

A great place to start if you want to get a feel for the Fens is Fox Narrowboats’ web site. There’s a wealth of information about the area including lists of places to visit, routes and navigational data. The more I drill down into the information they’ve compiled the more impatient I am to visit the area.

I know that Peter Earley, top forum poster and creator of most of the forum’s cruising guides, is exploring the area this year. If I speak to him nicely, I hope he’ll write another painstakingly researched guide ready for our cruise.

The Fens is one of the planned routes for next year, but for the next week we’ll have to endure one or two more boats on the water than we’d like at an otherwise wonderful location for a week before we set off on our next cruise this year.

We’re be heading south this time, along the south Oxford canal on to the Thames and then pottering about between Oxford and Lechlade. We’ll make sure that we spend every minute of the week allocated to us by our seven day £70 EA licence. Next year we’ll upgrade to a Gold licence which includes the EA controlled waterways but we couldn’t resist a spell on the mighty Thames before then.

We’ll stay close to Calcutt for the two discovery days I’m running next Saturday and Sunday before we set off on our three week cruise. I’ll make sure I avoid Brauston on those days because of the historic boat rally but I seized the opportunity yesterday to visit Braunston marina before next weekend’s mayhem to buy two eye wateringly expensive tipcat fenders for the back of the boat.

I had a very smart but completely useless button fender hanging off the stern until yesterday. It was of no use at all because my large rudder extended a foot beyond it. The only way to protect the rudder from impact damage was to fit two tipcat fenders next to the stern and then fix the button fender to the outside.

All three fenders are fitted now, and very smart they look too. All I need to do to test their effectiveness is reverse into a few lock gates. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Lock Accidents and How to Avoid Them

Talking of hitting things in locks, lock accidents is the focus of this week’s newsletter. Last week I detailed a few tips and techniques to help you cruise with confidence and avoid the waterway’s many novice boaters who are more of a risk to you and your boat than your own helmsmanship. In this article, I’ll focus on locks but, rather than repeat the information on lock techniques I included in this newsletter last May with a little help from Peter Earley, I’m going tell you about a few lock accidents caused by carelessness or lack of knowledge.

I don’t want to frighten you but I think a healthy respect for locks is very important. A large volume of water, roughly 40,000 gallons in each of the Grand Union’s double locks, rushing in and out with great force, moss and lichen covered lock walls and sides, steel boats weighing between fifteen and twenty tonnes and inexperienced narrowboat crews, many of whom have had a drink or two, are a potentially lethal combination.

Inexperienced Holiday Boaters Ascending a Narrow Lock

The first accident, on the south Oxford canal a day and a half’s cruising from my base at Calcutt lead to the tragic and brutal death of an inexperienced holiday boater. Here’s the newspaper report.

The novice crew made a few fundamental mistakes in the lock.

The first, although not life threatening, possibly caused an additional problem which distracted the lady at the helm.

She left the rear deck to pull in a hanging fender. The 6’10” wide boat was in a lock only two or three inches wider than the boat. Fenders should only be left in position on a narrowboat when it’s moored. If they’re left down, especially when entering a narrow lock, there’s a good chance they will either be ripped off the boat or will jam the boat in the lock.

While the lady was away from the stern, the fast flowing water coming into the lock had first flowed to the lock’s rear gates then quickly pushed the boat towards the upstream gates. The boat had been put hard into reverse to counteract the sudden flow.

As the lock filled, the water’s forward force would have decreased allowing the out of control boat to rapidly move backwards. The lady appears to have reached the stern just as the boat hit the back gates, catapulting her into the water as the stern bounced away from the gate, allowing her to fall into the water beneath the boat before the craft with its rapidly spinning propeller, still in reverse, moved back towards her and the gate.

The accident could have been avoided very simply. All she had to do was to move the boat close to the front gate when she entered the lock then instruct her crew to gently raise a single paddle for long enough for the water coming in to the lock to first flow to the back of the chamber then push the boat slowly forward until it was held against the front gate. Once the boat was secured, her crew could raise both paddles fully without fear. Using this technique, she wouldn’t have needed to reverse the boat at all.

The following accidents all happened at Calcutt Top Lock, close to where I used to moor and work at Calcutt Boats on the Grand Union canal half a mile from Napton Junction

An Experienced Boater Approaching a Lock Flight

I wrote about this accident a couple of years ago. I can’t remember everything about the boaters concerned but what little I can recall is enough.

Two experienced boaters were on the maiden voyage aboard their new boat. They had both recently retired and were looking forward to spending the rest of their time afloat gently exploring the inland waterways.

Both had cruised thousands of miles and negotiated hundreds of locks during decades of recreational boating. Calcutt Top Lock was familiar to them, as were the fifty similar locks on the Grand Union canal between Napton Junction and Birmingham.

The lady, who retired from full time employment at the end of the week before the accident.

Without a care in the world, she nimbly stepped from her slow moving boat as it bumped gently against the concrete sided lock landing. With her focus on the lock as her foot landed on the towpath, she failed to see the small metal bollard which tripped her.

She landed awkwardly on the towpath catching both her head and shoulder. The impact knocked her out, fractured her cheek and broke her collar bone.

When the emergency services arrived she was conscious but in a great deal of pain. The paramedics wanted to carry her to the ambulance on the opposite side of the canal on a stretcher but they couldn’t do so safely over the lock gate.

We had to carefully strap the stretcher across her own boat’s bow then float her and her boat over the water.

I understand she made a full recovery but raising heavy lock paddles was out of the question for a number of months.

A Dog Walker Crossing a Lock Gate

A middle aged man walking his German shepherd used the upstream gate of Calcutt Top Lock to cross the canal from Calcutt Boat’s grounds over to the towpath. His dog was on a lead and preceded him over the gate.

The sure footed dog raced ahead so his owner checked him with the lead a little too enthusiastically. He pulled the big dog off the gate into the empty lock.

The 100lb plus dog hung by its neck as his owner tried to hold on to the lead which scorched the skin on the inside of his arm before slipping through his fingers. His beloved pet dropped eighteen inches to the exposed concrete cill where it stood shivering in fear.

A novice helmsman on a hire boat entering the lock saw the dog fall and, in a well-meaning but ill though out attempt to go to the dog’s aid, surged towards the front gate and the stranded animal.

The hire boat hit the concrete cill with enough force to lift its stern and almost catapult from the front deck onto the concrete ledge beside the dog.

One of Calcutt Boats’ wharf staff and I managed to stop the panicking boaters by shouting at them loudly. We then closed the bottom gates, shutting both boat and dog into the lock together. Then we slowly let water into the lock to float the hire boat above the cill so that it could move closer to the stranded shepherd.

With the placid animal lifted safely on to the boat’s front deck, we were then able to float the boat up and reunite tearful owner and shivering dog.

A Novice Boater Reversing

I know that an accident caused when reversing a boat shouldn’t be in this week’s lock section, but I forgot to include reversing last week. Anyway, our wharf is in the middle of a lock flight, so there’s the connection if I need one.

As you will see, a heavy bronze propeller spinning more than 1,000 times a minute while you stand on an unprotected and often slippery deck less than two feet above it is a potentially dangerous and sometimes lethal combination.

The owner of a recently purchased private boat pulled in to Calcutt Boats for fuel. Mooring against the wharf is often a challenge for inexperienced boaters, especially if they want fuel. In the rather congested pound between Calcutt Middle and Top locks they have to turn their boats away from the wharf then reverse onto it. It’s not a manoeuvre many narrowboat owners have to attempt very often.

This particular guy made two very silly mistakes. One of them nearly cost him his life.

He managed to turn away from the wharf and then reverse towards it without too much fuss but then, when he was within twenty feet of one of the wharf staff, threw his stern rope away from the boat towards him. That was mistake number one.

The trailing rope fell into the water in front of the advancing boat with its thrashing propeller. A bystander warned him that the propeller was likely to catch the rapidly sinking rope so the boater, panicking slightly at the thought of fouling his propeller, quickly stepped on to the back edge of his deck to reach the training rope… and slipped from his boat in front of the now out of control boat moving towards him.

The propeller caught his leg, slashed through clothing and flesh and severed his femoral artery.

Quick thinking by Calcutt staff saved his life. He was quickly hauled from the water where one of the wharf staff stemmed the gushing blood flow by pinching the wound together until the air ambulance arrived.

The boater made a full recovery after months of conversance, unlike the unfortunate boater who died in this tragic accident.

An Inebriated Solo Boater Descending a Lock

Many boating accidents are caused by carelessness, sometimes enhanced as a result of enjoying a relaxing waterways break slightly too much.

I’ve lost count of the number of, usually male, boaters jumping on and off their boat roof while it’s in a lock, often trying to steady a hand held can of beer as they lead gazelle like from steel to stone.

This particular boater’s relaxant was inhaled rather than imbibed. The scruffy boater’s suspiciously long hand rolled cigarette gave the game away as he more floated than walked along the side of the lock next to his dilapidated GRP cruiser.

He emptied the first of the three locks in the Calcutt flight as he enjoyed a very mellow cruise towards Stockton. With the lock empty he walked to the lock side to climb down to his boat, misjudged the edge, slipped in to the lock and fell heavily on his boat roof.

Fellow boaters rushed to his aid but he climbed unsteadily to his feet before declaring that he was uninjured and continuing through the flight.

By the time he pulled his cruiser out of the bottom lock he was complaining of severe chest pains. Our office called emergency services and within minutes the first response paramedic arrived shortly followed by an ambulance and a helicopter.

Once more, the ambulance crews struggled because the boat owners was on the towpath on the opposite side of the canal to the paramedics and their fleet of vehicles. The “injured” boater was asked to walk a hundred metres back along the towpath to the top lock and cross the top lock to the waiting vehicles.

This boater escaped with bruised ribs and, possibly, an aversion to smoking while he cruised.

An Elderly Solo Boater Ascending a Lock

It’s the Calcutt flight again. This time a very experienced solo make boater in his sixties taking his boat from one of Calcutt Boats two marinas up through the flight.

He employed one of two techniques used by solo boaters to take their boat up through a lock.

He pulled on to the lock landing, secured his boat using his centre line, set the lock then returned to his boat take his boat in. As long as the lock entrance isn’t obstructed by a bridge, it’s usually possible to steer your boat slowly into a lock then step off holding the centre line, walk swiftly up the lock steps flicking the centre line over the gate then, with a quick turn around the bollard closest to the downstream gate, bring your boat gently to a halt.

On this occasion used the alternative method. He brought his boat into the lock then, as he was about to climb onto his roof and then out of the lock, slipped into the icy lock water.

He clung to his gunnel but, weighed down by clothes and advancing years, he was unable to climb back on to his boat. Nor was he able to move around his boat and into the gap between his boat and the lock wall to reach the slippery rungs of the escape ladder fifty feet away.

He shouted for help for fifteen minutes before another boat owner in the marina heard his cries and managed to drag him out of the lock on to the towpath.

Calcutt Boats’ first aiders arrived quickly but couldn’t warm him up. An ambulance arrived. They failed too, so he was whisked off to hospital.

I can’t remember what time of year the accident occurred but I don’t think it was during the winter. Longer immersion at a different time of the year could have been fatal. Fortunately the boater suffered no ill effects. Unfortunately, the experience put him off boating so much that he sold his boat soon after the accident.

Hire Boat Stag Crew Descending

Capsized narrow boat stuck on a lock cill

Capsized narrow boat stuck on a lock cill

The most often talked about lock danger is getting your boat caught on the cill.

For the uninitiated, the dreaded cill is a concrete ledge inside a lock close to the upstream gates. You must, at all times, keep your boat in front of the cill marker which will always be behind your boat when you’re going down in a lock.

If your boat is behind the cill marker as the water empties from the lock, your rudder may catch on the cill, holding the back of your boat at a higher level while the front continues to drop with the water level. If the lock is deep enough, the bow will continue to drop until it pierces the surface and the bow floods, shortly followed by the cabin.

Narrowboats, usually but not always hire boats, sink or are damaged in cill related accidents every year. You need to be constantly aware of lock cills and their danger, but you don’t need to worry about them. Cills are easily avoided.

The trick is to leave your throttle alone once you’ve brought your boat to rest in a lock. That’s all there is to it.

Move your boat forward until the bow is close to the downstream gates. As you raise the downstream paddles to empty the lock, water leaving the chamber will pull your boat forward away from the cill.

The mistake made by many novice boaters is to reverse the boat away from the downstream gates and towards the dangers of the cill behind. Do not reverse your boat.

Once the lock is empty you need to be aware that your boat may drift backwards towards the exposed cill but the only risk you now face is banging your rudder against the exposed concrete if your rear fender isn’t long enough to protect it. If the lock is empty you won’t snag your boat on the cill and sink it.

Even if your boat drifts behind the cill marker and catches the cill, all is not lost. Immediately drop the downstream paddles to prevent any more water leaving the lock, then open the upstream paddles to allow more water to flow into the lock and raise your boat away from the cill. Work quickly but don’t panic and always make sure that the downstream paddles are closed before you open the upstream paddles.

Here’s the Daily Mail’s account of the stag part accident. Cill accident aren’t just the domain of drunken revellers. Here’s another account of a cill sinking. This time the hirers are a middle aged couple.

I hope the above examples have made you realise that although boating on the inland waterways is one of the most relaxing methods of travel imaginable, you need to have a healthy respect for the potential problems you face if you aren’t careful, especially in locks.

 

Discovery Day And Narrowboat Helmsmanship Training

If you’re new to this site you might not know about the service I launched in June 2014. I host narrowboat experience days on board my own 62′ long narrowboat James No 194. The ten hour days are a combination of discussion about the pros and cons of living on board, narrowboat designs and the best equipment for live aboard boaters, and a six to eight hour helmsmanship training cruise along the Oxford and/or Grand Union Canals.

I’me running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still available. August onwards is still relatively free. If you are interested in joining me for a fun and information packed discovery day please check the diary before it’s too late.

Update 15th June 2015

I’ve just added a few more dates to the calendar. Now 22nd, 23rd, 24th & 25th June are free, as are 24th & 25th July. If would like to find out more or book a date, click here.

In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendee Roy Griffiths…

 “The main reason for booking a discovery day, was to pick up some tips on solo boat handling and to see if it would be something I would be confidently able to do, and also to get a better insight in to the layout of a narrowboat that was geared towards full time live aboard.

My plans for the future in the short term include hiring, shared ownership, and then ultimately narrowboat ownership.

The pre-event information was clear and concise and very well written with clear directions to the boat. Of the emails I did send with questions, they were always answered in a friendly and timely manner.

I had a great day Paul, and you were so easy to get along with and take instruction from. It was just like spending time with a friend.

It was a very well thought out day to cover the things I requested when you gave me the chance to tell you what I wanted from my day on board the boat. I had all my questions answered with patience and understanding.

I would definitely recommend the day to anyone looking to consider living afloat, but also to anyone looking to hire a boat because you can get real “ hands on “ experience. There is only so much you can learn from reading the books, or watching the videos.  Yes, I would go again!!”

You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here.

I Need Some Help!

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.

Newsletter Index

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.

14th June 2015

Narowboat handling techniques for beginners – Here’s some basic advice for those new to boating

7th June 2015

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.

31st May 2015

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.

24th May 2015

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.

17th May 2015

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

10th May 2015

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

3rd May 2015

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

26th April 2015

Kingswood Junction to Hopwas – Week two of the journey as we head through squallid Birmingham into beautiful and wooded Staffordshire

19th April 2015

A cruise from Braunston to Kingswood Junction – My account of the route, the sights and the occasional problem along the way

8th April 2015

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.

29th March 2015

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.

22nd March 2015

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.

15th March 2015

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

8th March 2015

Water pumps and security – Bits and bobs from a life afloat

1st March 2015

Narrowboat ownership on a shoestring – How to cut your boat ownership costs

22nd February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 2 – More great advice on choosing and buying your first boat

15th February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 1 – Some great advice on choosing and buying your first boat

8th February 2015

Routine engine servicing – The basic stuff every narrowboat owner should know

1st February 2015

Running a boating business – How to earn a living on the cut.

25th January 2015

A detailed breakdown of my own narrowboat running costs for December 2014

18th January 2015

An unexpected cruise – A surprise cruise to Braunston, secondary double glazing panel fitting, and why dogs and laminate flooring don’t go well together

11th January 2015

Battery Banks – The pros and cons of lead acid and AGM batteries

4th January 2015

More winter cruising – The tail end of my Christmas break afloat

28th December 2014

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

21st December 2014

Cooking on the cut – Here are some gourmet festive recipes suitable for a narrowboat’s small galley

14th December 2014

A Cautionary Tale – Canals and narrowboats offer all the ingredients for some pretty nasty accidents. Here’s one which could have been much worse.

7th December 2014

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.

30th November 2014

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.

23rd November 2014

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.

16th November 2014

Narrowboat fuel consumption – How many miles to the gallon can you get out of your floating home?

9th November 2014

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.

2nd November 2014

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.

26th October 2014

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.

19th October 2014

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.

12th October 2014

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?

5th October 2014

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.

28th September 2014

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.

21st September 2014

Cruising in adverse weather conditions part two – A continuation of the previous week’s newsletter.

14th September 2014

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.

7th September 2014

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.

31st August 2014

Route finding for narrowboat owners – Here are the popular paper and digital route finders to help make navigating the network child’s play

24th August 2014

Long term narrowboat hire – Is hiring a boat long term a realistic alternative to buying one?

17th August 2014

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.

10th August 2014

Narrowboat heating, electrics and engine specifications – How is the perfect live aboard narrowboat configured? Here are a few suggestions

3rd August 2014

Essential boating equipment – Here’s the stuff every boater should carry on board

27th July 2014

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?

20th July 2014

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.

13th July 2014

Digital aids for narrowboat owners – Digital applications and maps for inland waterways boaters

6th July 2014

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.

29th June 2014

Extending your boat’s storage space – The pros and cons of fitting covers to your front and rear decks

22nd June 2014

Naming your boat – The legal requirements when naming, renaming and displaying your boat plus the inland waterways’ two hundred most popular boat names

15th June 2014

Speeding boats – Are rocking stationary boats the fault of speeding passing boats or the fault of boat owners who can’t moor securely?

8th June 2014

Boat Handling – lock and paddle gear types.

1st June 2014

Boat handling – Swing and lift bridges

25th May 2014

Single handed boating – Negotiating locks.

18th May 2014

Single handed boating – Choosing the right type of boat for single handed cruising and equipment to make your solo journeys safer and more enjoyable.

 11th May 2014

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.

4th May 2014

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.

27th April 2014

What makes a perfect live aboard narrowboat. Two experienced boaters discuss layout, size and essential equipment

20th April 2014

A cautionary tale if you are considering buying a wide beam boat to live on.

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

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.

30th March 2014

How do you continue to earn money to support your boating lifestyle as you cruise the network?

23rd March 2014

Sharing your narrowboat space – The practicalities of sharing living accommodation the same size as a large shed.

16th March 2014

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?

9th March 2014

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.

2nd March 2014

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.

23rd February 2014

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

16th February 2014

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.

9th February 2014

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.

2nd February 2014

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.

26th January 2014

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.

19th January 2014

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?

12th January 2014

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)

5th January 2014

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.

29th December 2013

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.

22nd December 2013

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.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

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

1st December 2013

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.

24th November 2013

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.

17th November 2013

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.

10th November 2013

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

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

27th October 2013

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

13th October 2013

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.

6th October 2013

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.

29th September 2013

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.

22nd September 2013

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

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

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!

25th August 2013

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.

18th August 2013

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?

11th August 2013

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

4th August 2013

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?

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

21st July 2013

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.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

7th July 2013

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.

30th June 2013

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.

16th June 2013

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.

9th June 2013

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.

2nd June 2013

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

26th May 2013

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

19th May 2013

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.

12th May 2013

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

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

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.

21st April 2013

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?

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

7th April 2013

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.

31st March 2013

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.

24th March 2013

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.

17th March 2013

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.

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

3rd March 2013

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

20th February 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.

8th January 2013

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

24th December

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.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

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

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

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

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

18th September 2012

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

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

27th  May 2012

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

13th May 2012

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

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

15th April 2012

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

 1st April 2012

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.

18th March 2012

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.

4th March 2012

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

22nd January 2012

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.

8th January 2012

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.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

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.

Popular Forum Posts

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.

  • Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
  • Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

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.

 

 

Useful Information
Entertainment
Summary

2015 06 14 Newsletter – Boating Basics For Beginners

My discovery day cruises are always fascinating. The route from Napton to Braunston junction snakes through beautiful Warwickshire countryside passing under fifteen bridges, some wide, most narrow, many with blind entrances and exits then on to an exciting turn at Braunston Junction with its central triangular grass covered island and narrow channel on two sides wide enough for just one boat to turn without any idea what’s around the bend at one of the network’s busiest bottlenecks.

In the middle of Braunston, often negotiating a steady stream of boats moving in both directions, we turn the boat around in the entrance to Braunston marina before retracing our steps back to Napon Junction where we turn on to the Grand Union canal for half a mile before reaching what is often the most fascinating part of the day where we negotiate the Calcutt flight of three locks twice.

Locks are potentially dangerous places, especially for boaters who don’t know what they’re doing. Unfortunately, especially during the summer months when the 100+ hire boats available locally are out and about, there are large numbers of boaters making understandable but often hazardous mistakes.

Take one day this week for example; we set Calcutt Bottom Lock and brought my boat in when a hire boat appeared around the bend heading for the lock. One of the crew with me opened the offside gate then waved to the hire boat crew to let them know they should come in with us.

The boat approached us painfully slowly. All of the crew appeared elderly, particularly the man at the helm, who appeared to be in his mid-eighties. He stood motionless, bowed over the tiller, occasionally twitching it from side to side although the boat was out of gear.

His equally frail wife stood on the front deck, stick like arm extended to push the fifteen tonne boat away from the lock wall as the craft drifted through the open gate at an angle.

Their son, in his early sixties and clearly a novice boater, jumped off the boat as it entered the lock with the stern line in his hand. He tripped, almost fell, regained his footing, and then hauled their boat against the lock wall with all his might.

Meanwhile, his mother grabbed one of the slippery chains hanging from the lock wall and attempted to bring the boat to a halt. Unfortunately she was dragged into the cabin’s front bulkhead by the advancing boat.

The son dropped the stern line to go to his mother’s aid. The rope slithered into the water beside the fortunately still propeller as he ran alongside the lock in a blind panic.

By now his mother had regained her feet, apparently none the worse for wear, and was trying to throw the bow rope four feet above her head around a bollard. In her weakened state all she managed to do was throw the rope over the side of the boat into the lock.

She retrieved the rope to make another attempt. “Don’t throw the rope Mum!” he screamed. “That’s what I’m trying to do”, she quavered. “I’m just going to have another go!”

“I said DON’T throw the rope!!” he shouted even louder. “That’s what I’m trying to do”, she squeaked back, “I’ll get it there in a minute.”

In the meantime, the son raced back towards the open gate the boat had just come through and furiously wound up the paddle.

“What are you doing?” I asked. “I’m getting the lock ready” he shouted.

I told him that he was opening the paddle at the wrong end of the lock. He pulled his windless off the paddle gear, letting it crash to the bottom, then sprinted to the gate in front of his boat with the intention of raising the paddle there, pausing briefly once at the rear of the boat to tell his father to leave the throttle alone and pausing again to shout at his mother who was still busy throwing the bow rope into the water.

I told him to stop, then pointed out that he couldn’t open the upstream paddle because the bottom gate was still open. I then suggested that he left the setting of the lock to my crew while he kept an eye on his aged parents.

The hire boat stayed with us as we negotiated the three flight lock. We set the locks to enable a slightly calmer son to stay on board to look after his bewildered mother and father.

We came to the conclusion that the elderly parents had some boating experience and that the kind hearted but novice son had offered to take them on a trip down memory lane. Unfortunately his parents needed more supervision than he was able to provide as he attempted to negotiate an unfamiliar lock on his own.

Our encounter with the elderly boaters wasn’t an isolated case of boating technique ignorance. Every day on the discovery day cruises between Brauston and Napton junctions and then during the time we spend descending the Calcutt flight, turning in the marina entrance then ascending the same flight again, I meet boaters handling either boats or locks in a fashion likely to cause damage or injury to boats or crew.

My experiences on the lock flight and along the canals over the last ten days prompted me to write the following. This week’s subject is cruising and mooring tips. I’ll discuss lock dangers and techniques next week.

Setting Off

One of the most common mistakes made by novice boaters is not pulling away from the towpath correctly. Although not dangerous, adopting the incorrect procedure causes inconvenience and stress for the helmsman and damage to the boat.

A narrowboat turns from the centre so if the boat is hard against the bank, if you want to turn the front of the boat towards the middle of the canal, the back of the boat, in theory, would need to turn over the towpath. Of course the boat can’t do that, so all that happens if you try to use the tiller to move your boat away from the bank is that you grind your boat along the canal side, which is normally concrete near the entrance to locks.

From my mooring at Calcutt I can see boats entering and exiting Calcutt Bottom Lock. If I hear an engine being thrashed on the canal I can pretty much guarantee that it’s an unexperienced helmsman grating backwards and forwards along the concrete canal edging trying in vain to move away from the bank.

The solution is simple. You step off your boat, ensuring that you have access to your centre line, walk to the pointy end, then push against the front of the cabin to move the boat’s bow away from the bank until it’s facing the middle of the canal. Then you calmly walk back to rear and steer in a straight line away from the bank.

Centre Lines

You must have a centre line on your boat. You can’t control the craft effectively without one. I have two. Each one in long enough to reach from the reinforced ring on the roof where it is secured towards the back of the boat so that it is within reach from the steering position. One leads from the centre down the left hand side of the roof, and one is down the right hand side. With two ropes I don’t have to worry about trying to flick a single rope from one side of the roof to the other trying to avoid my solar panels, vents and pole and plank rack.

My ropes both extend about four feet beyond the back of the boat. The extra length allows me to step off the back of the boat with one of my centre lines if I’m moored stern in then pull the boat alongside. I don’t have to do this very often but using a centre line is far easier than trying to manoeuvre the boat in tight spaces.

The only problem with having such a long centre line is that, if the rope falls off the roof when the boat is in motion, there’s a pretty good chance it will fall beneath the boat and wrap itself around the propeller. Some boaters prefer a shorter centre line to eliminate the chance of this happening.

Steering Your Boat

Once your boat is safely away from the bank, all you have to do is keep it away from both banks and from other boats.

The fundamental requirement is that you “drive foreign”. You drive on the right, passing other boats port to port, just as you would on rivers or the open sea. It’s a basic requirement which appears to be an unattainable goal for some novice boaters.

You steer on the right if there is another boat coming towards you. If you are on your own on the canal, which you are more often than not, you stick to the centre. Canals are often very shallow. My own boat has a draught, the distance from the water line to the deepest part of the boat under water, of 2’ 6”. It’s not unusual for me to spend much of my time on some waterways scraping along the silt filled canal bed. The deepest water and therefore the easiest part of the canal to navigate is in the centre where the constant passage of boats keeps the channel clear.

Taking a racing line at bends is not a good idea. On a race track, taking a racing line allows you to minimise distance travelled and to maintain a higher speed. Taking a racing line in a narrowboat cruising at 3mph just guarantees that you’ll lose control or steer your boat into the path of oncoming craft.

The part of your boat deepest in the water is the skeg, a horizontal steel bar running from the boat’s base plate under the propeller to the rudder post. Water is often shallow next to the bank on the inside of a bend so if you take a racing line, there’s a good chance the front of your boat will pass over the shallows before dragging briefly on the bottom. If this happens you probably won’t get your boat stuck but if the bow is free and the stern’s progress is hindered, the bow is likely swing wildly out of control, often into the path of oncoming boats.

The best way to approach a bend is to take the long way around, but still ensure that you’re not so close to the bank to turn your boat. Taking the long way round gives you two advantages; you have more of a chance of seeing what’s coming towards you around the bend and, if there is a boat coming, you can gently turn your bow inside that of the oncoming craft so that you can move away from it and still negotiate the bend effectively.

Some boaters sound their horn to warn oncoming boats when they come to a blind bend or bridge entrance but they are very much in the minority. If you get into the habit of expecting a boat’s bow to suddenly appear around a bend or through a bridge, you won’t go far wrong.

Of course, there will be times when there’s simply no room to pass an oncoming boat, so one of the boats has to stop to allow the other to pass. Stopping your boat dead in the water is not simply a matter of reversing to kill your forward momentum.

If you reverse your boat to stop it while you are turning, you will slow your boat down but accelerate the rate at which the bow turns. The sharper your turn and the faster you’re going, the faster the bow will whip across the canal, often into the path of an oncoming boat.

To ensure that this doesn’t happen firstly make sure that you slow down if you can’t see through a bridge or around a bend. If you have to stop your boat, try to make sure that you straighten it up before going into reverse.

If possible try not to stop your boat completely if you need to wait for another craft to pass. Unless there’s no wind at all, your boat will drift out of control. Try to anticipate any problem areas so that you can slow down enough to allow an oncoming boat to pass but not enough that you stop completely.

If you are stationary and your bow starts to drift across the canal, you can correct the swing by turning your rudder as though you are going to steer to correct the swing but rather than increasing the throttle gradually, you simply apply a quick burst. This will kick the bow around without moving the boat forward.

To reduce the chance of a surprise encounter with an oncoming boat, while you are at the helm, don’t just focus on the canal in front of you. Examine the fields, tree and hedge lines to either side as well. As you approach a bend or bridge you can often see the canal over nearby fields or through hedge gaps and spot moored or moving boats which you will soon need to avoid.

Also look behind you from time to time.

Overtaking other boats

The accepted speed limit on the canals of England and Wales is 4mph. Your boat won’t have a speedometer but you can judge your speed fairly accurately. A brisk walk is 4mph so if you regularly overtake speed walkers or joggers you’re going too fast. You’re also going to fast if you create breaking wash against the bank.

Your maximum speed is 4mph, but the purpose of cruising is not to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. You’ll probably want to take your time so that you can enjoy the scenery. Going slowly is perfectly acceptable. Going so slowly that you have a long string of boats behind you is not. Some boaters bring their “everything at high speed” mentality with them. Your barely moving pace will annoy some and actually enrage one or two, especially if you continue at your snail-like pace totally oblivious to the traffic jam behind.

The accepted etiquette is not to overtake a slowly moving boat until the helmsman in front waves you on. If you are that helmsman in the slowly moving boat, glance behind you from time to time to check for approaching boats.

You’ll know if a boat wants to pass you. It will close in quite quickly and often stay close to your stern.

Look ahead of you to make sure that canal is clear and wide enough for a boat to pass. Move as close to the bank as you can without risk of grounding, slow down to tick over, then wave the following boat on.

The overtaking helmsman will usually be very grateful so you’ll win a friendly smile and a wave in return for your consideration for other boaters.

When moving boats pass you, they will suck you into their wash which is actually very helpful. If you’ve moved over to let a faster boat overtake you or moved over to let an oncoming boat pass, you don’t usually have to turn your boat to regain the centre of the canal. The passing boat will pull you laterally. The faster and larger the passing boat, the more you will be pulled sideways. Often you actually have to turn away from the passing boat to stop your craft from being pulled too far over.

Passing Moored Boats

If you want to enrage the owner of a moored boat, all you have to do is pass him at your normal cruising speed. You can pretty much guarantee a scowl, a clenched fist at a window, or a hatch or door suddenly opening so that the owner can wave at you more vigorously, often with just a couple of fingers.

The moored boat owner doesn’t want you to pass quickly because of the effect your boat has on his. The faster you pass him, the more you will rock his boat and possibly even pull out his stakes if he’s using them to secure his boat.

Your speed past a boat isn’t the only factor determining how much it moves though.

A boat moored on a shallow bank will move more as you pass than one moored in deep water. If the moorings are shallow, take extra care as you pass.

The design of your own boat will also determine how much you rock moored boats. If your boat “swims” well through the water creating little wash it will have correspondingly little effect on the boats you pass. A scary example of a boat which doesn’t move well through the water is one of the CRT work boats which almost frightened one of my discovery day crews at the beginning of the week.

We were cruising serenely around a tight bend through a dismantled railway bridge. A not so small wave approaching us was almost immediately followed by the head high dustbin sized excavation bucket on the extended arm of a CRT work boat being driven at top speed towards us. The boat was probably doing no more than 4mph but because of the work boat’s square front, the craft was creating a considerable amount of breaking wash continuously on the offside as it travelled. Fortunately we had taken the correct line around the bend so we were able to keep my boat’s cabin away from the mechanical arm, but it was a buttock clenching moment for all of us.

Last but far from least, the amount the moored boats move will be determined by how well the owners have secured their craft.

All too often an irate owner will pop his head out of a side hatch, shake his fist and complain that you are rocking his boat when, in fact, the movement is entirely his own fault. If a boat is moored on slack lines it will move considerable even if you crawl past it.

The easiest and one of the most secure ways to moor your boat is to use the Armco style horizontal metal rails you often see along the towpath. Along popular stretches of canal these rails are used regularly to moor and because they are used regularly the water close to the towpath is kept silt free by the boats which use them, guaranteeing that you can get close to the bank.

The two most frequently used methods to secure your boat on these rails are piling hooks, or “nappy pins” as they are sometimes called, and chains.

Piling hooks are a bit of a pain. They are “C” shaped with a ring at one end to tie your rope to. You turn them so that they are parallel with the rail, slip them behind the rail and then turn them ninety degrees to lock them in place.

Unfortunately they aren’t locked in place very securely. They can work free if you’re unlucky and they’re often quite noisy. They don’t fit the rail snugly so if you pass a boat moored with hooks you often hear a metallic crack as you pass as the hook pulls taught against the rail.

Chains are much better. There’s a small ring at one end of the chain and a slightly larger ring at the other. You simply pass one end of the chain behind the rail and thread the smaller ring through the larger one. You now have a secure anchor point for your boat.

To moor your boat securely you need your mooring ropes taught and at a forty five degree angle away from your boat so, once you have one chain secured and either bow or stern line secured to it, you move to the other end, pull your boat away from the secured end until the rope is taught, then position your second chain so the rope at this end will also be at forty five degrees.

Securing your boat to a rail using chains shouldn’t take even a single handed boater more than five minutes and should remain firmly in place for as long as you stay there.

If you are mooring single handed, you should carry three chains with you. If the day is windy, or if there are boats regularly passing you as you stop to moor, your boat may be pulled away from you as you attempt to tie up.

In situations like this, fix the first chain on the rail as close as you can to your centre line then tie your centre line to the chain. The boat is now secure enough for you to deal with the bow and stern chains without having to constantly fight against the boat’s movement.

Once the front and back of your boat are secure, you should then untie your centre line and remove the third chain. If you leave it in place you’ll notice that your boat rocks considerably more than it does if you just tie up with your bow and stern lines.

That’s your lot for this week. Next week I’ll let you know how to negotiate locks easily and without stress.

Discovery Day And Narrowboat Helmsmanship Training

If you’re new to this site you might not know about the service I launched in June 2014. I host narrowboat experience days on board my own 62′ long narrowboat James No 194. The ten hour days are a combination of discussion about the pros and cons of living on board, narrowboat designs and the best equipment for live aboard boaters, and a six to eight hour helmsmanship training cruise along the Oxford and/or Grand Union Canals.

I’me running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still available. August onwards is still relatively free. If you are interested in joining me for a fun and information packed discovery day please check the diary before it’s too late.

Update 15th June 2015

I’ve just added a few more dates to the calendar. Now 22nd, 23rd, 24th & 25th June are free, as are 24th & 25th July. If would like to find out more or book a date, click here.

In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendee David Johns…

“I am looking to chuck in my job, buy a boat and go pottering gently around the canals, mainly in the Midlands. Having only boated as a child before and being a narrowboat novice it seemed sensible to gather some more information before rushing headlong into anything.

On the day there was plenty of information with any and all questions answered comprehensively (indeed an almost terrifying determination by the host to extract queries from me when all my mind had run dry). Excellent dogs on board too.

The day was a great opportunity to learn some piloting skills taking the boat round bends, through bridges and past other boats as well as lock skills and finding out about all the highs and lows of living afloat. If you are a novice narrowboater, you need to do this day.”

You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here. Don’t forget that there’s just one date for a single person remaining for April now so if you want to spend a spring day out with me you need to book quickly.

I Need Some Help!

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.

Newsletter Index

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.

31st May 2015

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.

24th May 2015

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.

17th May 2015

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

10th May 2015

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

3rd May 2015

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

26th April 2015

Kingswood Junction to Hopwas – Week two of the journey as we head through squallid Birmingham into beautiful and wooded Staffordshire

19th April 2015

A cruise from Braunston to Kingswood Junction – My account of the route, the sights and the occasional problem along the way

8th April 2015

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.

29th March 2015

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.

22nd March 2015

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.

15th March 2015

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

8th March 2015

Water pumps and security – Bits and bobs from a life afloat

1st March 2015

Narrowboat ownership on a shoestring – How to cut your boat ownership costs

22nd February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 2 – More great advice on choosing and buying your first boat

15th February 2015

Buying a narrowboat Part 1 – Some great advice on choosing and buying your first boat

8th February 2015

Routine engine servicing – The basic stuff every narrowboat owner should know

1st February 2015

Running a boating business – How to earn a living on the cut.

25th January 2015

A detailed breakdown of my own narrowboat running costs for December 2014

18th January 2015

An unexpected cruise – A surprise cruise to Braunston, secondary double glazing panel fitting, and why dogs and laminate flooring don’t go well together

11th January 2015

Battery Banks – The pros and cons of lead acid and AGM batteries

4th January 2015

More winter cruising – The tail end of my Christmas break afloat

28th December 2014

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

21st December 2014

Cooking on the cut – Here are some gourmet festive recipes suitable for a narrowboat’s small galley

14th December 2014

A Cautionary Tale – Canals and narrowboats offer all the ingredients for some pretty nasty accidents. Here’s one which could have been much worse.

7th December 2014

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.

30th November 2014

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.

23rd November 2014

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.

16th November 2014

Narrowboat fuel consumption – How many miles to the gallon can you get out of your floating home?

9th November 2014

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.

2nd November 2014

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.

26th October 2014

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.

19th October 2014

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.

12th October 2014

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?

5th October 2014

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.

28th September 2014

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.

21st September 2014

Cruising in adverse weather conditions part two – A continuation of the previous week’s newsletter.

14th September 2014

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.

7th September 2014

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.

31st August 2014

Route finding for narrowboat owners – Here are the popular paper and digital route finders to help make navigating the network child’s play

24th August 2014

Long term narrowboat hire – Is hiring a boat long term a realistic alternative to buying one?

17th August 2014

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.

10th August 2014

Narrowboat heating, electrics and engine specifications – How is the perfect live aboard narrowboat configured? Here are a few suggestions

3rd August 2014

Essential boating equipment – Here’s the stuff every boater should carry on board

27th July 2014

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?

20th July 2014

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.

13th July 2014

Digital aids for narrowboat owners – Digital applications and maps for inland waterways boaters

6th July 2014

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.

29th June 2014

Extending your boat’s storage space – The pros and cons of fitting covers to your front and rear decks

22nd June 2014

Naming your boat – The legal requirements when naming, renaming and displaying your boat plus the inland waterways’ two hundred most popular boat names

15th June 2014

Speeding boats – Are rocking stationary boats the fault of speeding passing boats or the fault of boat owners who can’t moor securely?

8th June 2014

Boat Handling – lock and paddle gear types.

1st June 2014

Boat handling – Swing and lift bridges

25th May 2014

Single handed boating – Negotiating locks.

18th May 2014

Single handed boating – Choosing the right type of boat for single handed cruising and equipment to make your solo journeys safer and more enjoyable.

 11th May 2014

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.

4th May 2014

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.

27th April 2014

What makes a perfect live aboard narrowboat. Two experienced boaters discuss layout, size and essential equipment

20th April 2014

A cautionary tale if you are considering buying a wide beam boat to live on.

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

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.

30th March 2014

How do you continue to earn money to support your boating lifestyle as you cruise the network?

23rd March 2014

Sharing your narrowboat space – The practicalities of sharing living accommodation the same size as a large shed.

16th March 2014

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?

9th March 2014

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.

2nd March 2014

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.

23rd February 2014

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

16th February 2014

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.

9th February 2014

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.

2nd February 2014

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.

26th January 2014

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.

19th January 2014

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?

12th January 2014

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)

5th January 2014

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.

29th December 2013

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.

22nd December 2013

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.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

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

1st December 2013

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.

24th November 2013

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.

17th November 2013

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.

10th November 2013

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

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

27th October 2013

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

13th October 2013

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.

6th October 2013

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.

29th September 2013

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.

22nd September 2013

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

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

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!

25th August 2013

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.

18th August 2013

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?

11th August 2013

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

4th August 2013

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?

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

21st July 2013

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.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

7th July 2013

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.

30th June 2013

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.

16th June 2013

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.

9th June 2013

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.

2nd June 2013

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

26th May 2013

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

19th May 2013

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.

12th May 2013

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

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

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.

21st April 2013

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?

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

7th April 2013

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.

31st March 2013

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.

24th March 2013

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.

17th March 2013

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.

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

3rd March 2013

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

20th February 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.

8th January 2013

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

24th December

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.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

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

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

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

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

18th September 2012

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

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

27th  May 2012

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

13th May 2012

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

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

15th April 2012

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

 1st April 2012

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.

18th March 2012

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.

4th March 2012

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

22nd January 2012

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.

8th January 2012

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.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

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.

Popular Forum Posts

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.

  • Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
  • Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

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.

 

 

Useful Information
Entertainment
Summary

2014 09 21 Newsletter – Cruising In Adverse Weather Conditions Part 2

I fired my new Kipor generator up for the first time on Sunday evening. I have to admit that the 35kg dead weight now the petrol tank is full is something I won’t be moving very far.

My original plan was to carry it from the engine room to the front of the boat each time I wanted to use it so that I could plug it into the shore line which we have running from the back of the boat along the roof and under the cratch cover to where the plug is coiled neatly on top of the bow locker. Then I remembered that I won’t need to.

When we set sail next April we won’t be using the national grid very often so the boat length shore line will be coiled neatly out of sight in the engine room. I’ll just get another much shorter cable made up to reach from the generator on the towpath near the back of the boat to the socket in the engine room.

Wherever I use the generator it will be chained to something immovable but I’m considering running it on my tiny back deck rather than off the boat. Chained or not, if I have it running on the towpath it’s much more accessible to potential thieves if it’s off the boat. I don’t intend using the machine when both Sally and I are away from the boat so if it’s running on the back deck, anyone with an unhealthy interest in it will have to step on board to get at it. Anyone stepping on to the boat is very noticeable from inside.

I’ve decided to run the generator on propane rather than petrol. I’ll always have propane on board to cook with and there’s plenty of spare space in the bow gas locker for additional cylinders. I have two 13kg in there for cooking; one in use and a full spare.

I’ve just purchased two 6kg cylinders to use exclusively for the generator. I had to sit down after I was presented with the bill. Because I wasn’t exchanging an empty cylinder for either of the new bottles I had to purchase a license for each. Each license cost me £32 . The total cost of the two licenses and two 6kg cylinders was £110.

I also needed to purchase an LPG conversion kit for £150 which I wasn’t terribly happy about but the expenditure makes sense in the long term. The generator is 30% cheaper to run on propane than on petrol, propane is readily available at boat yards up and down the cut and it’s safer to store on board than petrol.

Thank you Dave Bradshaw for pointing out that there’s sometimes an issue running generators on propane once the pressure in the cylinder drops. I’ve taken that into consideration but reached the conclusion that I’ll still be able to use the partial cylinders which won’t work on the generators for cooking instead.

Talking of cooking on gas, I changed one of my 13kg propane cylinders on Tuesday. The fact that I changed a gas cylinder wasn’t unusual. The fact that I last changed one before that back in June is very unusual indeed. In June I had my gas water heater taken out and had a calorifier installed to heat my boat’s water.

When the gas heater was installed I changed my gas on average every twenty one days. With the heater removed, the gas lasted me ninety days. I don’t know how much propane there was in the cylinder when the heater was taken out but I don’t think it was quite full. The current cylinder should last even longer. The cost of our gas per day was £1.28. Now it’s 30p. The yearly cost of my gas before was just under £500. Now that I’m just using gas for cooking, the cost will drop to just over £100. The saving will pay for half of my waterways license. I’m very happy.

Poor Weather Boating Part 2

Now where was I when time beat me again last week? Oh, that’s right, I was talking about the dangers of walking along the gunnel or roof of a snow or ice covered boat. The frozen stuff makes the outside of the boat very slippery, but so does summer rain and even early morning dew.

I see hundreds of hire boats passing through the Calcutt flight of three locks. For many of the hirers coming from Black Prince at Wigram’s Turn marina or Napton Narrowboats at Napton marina, Calcutt Top Lock is their first ever lock. Many of the boats have teenagers or younger children on board. Many of them spend much of their time in the lock jumping to and from the boat roof and the lock side.

This practice is dangerous at the best of times. I’ve seen several dogs in the lock as a result of slipping from the lock side or the gate and one boater slip from the lock side six feet on to the roof of his boat in the empty lock. All of the accidents were on dry days when surfaces were relatively slip free.

As soon as there’s any moisture on the boat roof it changes from a relatively slip free platform to a skating rink. The lock sides often have moss or lichen growing on them so a little rain or dew on the organic growth makes it equally as slippery. Wet surfaces make locking quite a hazardous affair, but not nearly as much challenge as when there’s a stiff breeze blowing.

Windy days and narrowboat cruises are not good companions.

Throughout the spring, summer and autumn, every Saturday we have groups of hirers coming to Calcutt to take one of our boats out. Regardless of the weather the boats go out. We don’t have to worry about ice or snow at that time of the year. Sometimes there’s a little early morning frost to make climbing over the boats in the morning a little more of a challenge as we prepare them for the afternoon but the frost has gone long before the first hirers arrive. Rain, although a little inconvenient, doesn’t prevent us instructing the hirers and sending them on their week or two week long cruises, but strong wind makes things very interesting indeed.

The majority of narrowboats are flat bottomed. They don’t have a keel and they don’t sit very deep in the water.  James is considered to be quite a deep drafted boat these days. My 2′ 6″ draft is nothing compared to the four or five feet common in the working boats two hundred years ago but there was much more water and much less silt beneath the craft then. The deeper the boat’s draft, the less the wind will push it across the surface in directions other than the one you want it to go in. The bigger the boat, the more the wind has to push against. On James the cabin is 48′ long and about four feet high above the gunnel. The cabin alone provides one hundred and ninety two square feet of “sail” for the wind to push.

Steering a narrowboat on windy days is a challenge for even seasoned narrowboat owners so at Calcutt we’re always a little nervous when we take first time boaters out for their half hour helmsmanship tuition.

The wharf where we moor our hire fleet is directly beneath Calcutt Top Lock. Our boats are moored stern in at right angles to the lock. Each has another hire boat tied either side. On a calm day it’s a tricky operation to get the new hirers off the wharf. There’s about fifty feet of clear water in front of the boats to allow passing traffic a clear channel along the canal but there isn’t enough space to turn the boats to get into either the top or the middle lock.

Our technique is to get the novice boater to start the engine while we untie the four or five ropes holding the boat in place and then put the boat into gear before very cautiously edging forward towards the concrete lined towpath ahead of us. The instructor stands on the bow indicating to the helmsman how far the boat is from the concrete. We use hand signals because the person steering can rarely hear what’s being said from the front of the boat over the engine noise.

If we time the manouver correctly, if the helmsman is watching attentively and if the attentive helmsman actually understands the hand signals, we ask him to stop the boat just before the bow touches the concrete and then leap gazelle like from the bow onto the towpath and then push the bow around until the boat is parallel with the towpath which allows the helmsman  (it’s nearly always a helmsman. I ask the hirers to nominate one person to steer the boat and one or more people to work the locks for this part of the instruction. If there’s a lady present I can almost guarantee that she’ll look like a startled rabbit and instantly offer the services of her husband or boyfriend to do the steering) to step off and hold the boat while I take the nominated crew up to the lock to demonstrate its operation.

It’s a tricky manouver made even more interesting on a windy day. The prevailing south westerly blows from the wharf side towards the towpath so the slow moving boat is given a bit of assistance which that isn’t really welcomed at this stage. Added to that, a novice hirer’s idea of moving forward very slowly isn’t quite the same as mine. What they haven’t learned at this stage is that one of our hire boats, weighing between ten and fifteen tonnes depending on the length, takes a bit of an effort to get moving and then once it’s moving an equal amount of effort to stop it. Because the boat doesn’t move forward instantly when they apply throttle, they push the Morse control forward until the wind assisted boat is moving towards the concrete bank opposite at a speed Usain Bolt would have problems matching.

Once I’ve helped the crew set the lock I then get back onto the hire boat to help the helmsman guide the boat in. If the prevailing wind is reasonably strong it pushes the boat against the bank so we have to compensate for the wind by giving the leading edge of the cabin a very hard push, hoping that by the time we get on to the back of the boat ready to move forward that that wind hasn’t pushed the bow back in again.

At this stage the helmsman has often had no more experience handling a boat than the fifty feet charge from the wharf to the towpath. Now he has to move the boat from the towpath and line it up with the lock just twenty or thirty feet away. I usually suggest that he goes as slowly as possible to reduce the force of the impact if he gets it wrong. Unfortunately, the slower the speed the poorer the steering and the greater the effect of the cross wind. It’s often a fine balance between moving forward slowly to reduce the likelihood of any damage occurring and moving quickly enough to maintain any kind of control at all against the wind.

Once the boat is through the lock, usually with a little bump on the way in, I stay on the boat for 450 metres (I’ve just measured the distance on Google Maps) to where we step off at a point where the canal narrows by the base of a dismantled railway bridge. It’s a short distance but long enough to establish whether the helmsman is comfortable handling the boat and to give some last minute advice about speed limits and how to pass moving and moored boats.

The short stretch of canal passes the exposed forty acre Napton reservoir. If the wind is buffeting the boat when we leave the lock I know we’re going to have to do a bit of crabbing when we reach the exposed bank next to the forty acres of reservoir water next to our grounds. I try to assume a nonchalant air as the wind whipped water on the canal in front of me draws ever closer. I casually point out the small waves marching ahead of our bow and mention that a little corrective steering is needed on gusty days.

I encourage the novice helmsmen to steer into the wind as we surge up the canal past the reservoir at forty five degrees. I laugh and joke but all of the time I’m thinking, “I’m really glad this isn’t my boat!”.

Many boat owners with plenty of time on their hands simply stay put in strong winds and heavy rain. They don’t often have appointments to keep so if it’s not pleasant cruising weather, they simply don’t cruise.

Not everyone has so much time on their hands though so sometimes they have to set off in inclement weather.

I quite like rainy day cruises. I have a Guy Cotten 100% waterproof jacket and trousers. They’re bright yellow. You see deep sea fishermen using them to keep dry at sea. They’re bomb proof. I can stand all day on the back of the boat in the heaviest rain without a drop getting through to me. They’re great for standing immobile for hours on end but not very good if I do anything involving physical exercise. Five minutes of lock wheeling would have me dripping in sweat. If wet weather lock work is required I can switch to my more breathable but not quite as waterproof Kakadu drovers coat and hat.

Wet weather is just an inconvenience but windy days are a pain. On a still day you can pass moored boats and enter and exit locks at a slow and careful pace. If you try the same manuouvers on a day with a strong cross wind, you’ll end up missing lock entrances and crashing into parked boats. With moored boats it’s Hobson’s choice. You can pass them at the recommended tickover and accept that the cross wind is going to blow your boat into them, in which case you’ll be subjected to cursing from inside the moored boats, or you can increase your pace to maintain some steerage, in which case you’ll be subjected to cursing from inside the moored boats. You choose.

By increasing your speed when entering locks you’re less likely to be blown away from the entrance, but you have to be confident that you have the right line going into the lock. If you get it wrong you’re going to hit an inanimate object harder than you would if you’d been going slower and then blown off course by the wind.

The same applies to getting into a mooring on a windy marina. It’s easier to maintain your line if you increase your speed but you have to be accurate in the first place, and you have to be able to stop quickly once you enter your mooring space. A boat here at Calcutt came to a very sudden stop last year when the owner adopted this approach. He judged his line correctly and accurately entered his mooring at speed then threw the boat into reverse to stop it quickly… just as the Morse control came off in his hand. The fifteen tonne boat didn’t do the wooden walkway any good at all.

Getting into our marina is interesting on a windy day. The prevailing wind usually blows out of the marina entrance so turning the boat into the wind can often be a challenge, especially if you’re coming out of Calcutt Bottom lock towards the entrance. As soon as you come out of the lock, the wind pushes the boat’s bow away from the marina entrance towards the towpath. A occasionally effective solution is to reverse the boat back into the lock mouth, use the lock landing to pivot on until the boat is lined up with the lock wall, then charge out of the lock before the wind pushes the bow in the wrong direction.

Sometimes the bow just won’t come round. It’s often easier to work with the wind rather than fight against it so if the wind pushes the bow into the towpath it’s possible to kick the stern around into the marina entrance and reverse through.

I was discussing handling narrowboats generally and handling them in challenging weather specifically with a guy who came on a discovery day a couple of weeks ago. He had owned a GRP cruiser for a number of years and was horrified at the though of so much contact between the boat and immovable objects, especially intentionally making contact with them to help turn or straighten the boat’s line. That’s the difference between the two types of craft. A narrowboat doesn’t handle very well in challenging weather but it’s usually solidly built so can shrug off light contact below the gunnel. A plastic cruiser is far more manouverable but it has to be handled as though it’s made of glass.

I would rather have the reassuring weight and substance of a narrowboat any day but given a choice I will always try to avoid taking one out in particularly bad weather.

I Need Some Help!

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.

Newsletter Index

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.

14th September 2014

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.

7th September 2014

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.

31st August 2014

Route finding for narrowboat owners – Here are the popular paper and digital route finders to help make navigating the network child’s play

24th August 2014

Long term narrowboat hire – Is hiring a boat long term a realistic alternative to buying one?

17th August 2014

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.

10th August 2014

Narrowboat heating, electrics and engine specifications – How is the perfect live aboard narrowboat configured? Here are a few suggestions

3rd August 2014

Essential boating equipment – Here’s the stuff every boater should carry on board

27th July 2014

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?

20th July 2014

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.

13th July 2014

Digital aids for narrowboat owners – Digital applications and maps for inland waterways boaters

6th July 2014

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.

29th June 2014

Extending your boat’s storage space – The pros and cons of fitting covers to your front and rear decks

22nd June 2014

Naming your boat – The legal requirements when naming, renaming and displaying your boat plus the inland waterways’ two hundred most popular boat names

15th June 2014

Speeding boats – Are rocking stationary boats the fault of speeding passing boats or the fault of boat owners who can’t moor securely?

8th June 2014

Boat Handling – lock and paddle gear types.

1st June 2014

Boat handling – Swing and lift bridges

25th May 2014

Single handed boating – Negotiating locks.

18th May 2014

Single handed boating – Choosing the right type of boat for single handed cruising and equipment to make your solo journeys safer and more enjoyable.

 11th May 2014

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.

4th May 2014

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.

27th April 2014

What makes a perfect live aboard narrowboat. Two experienced boaters discuss layout, size and essential equipment

20th April 2014

A cautionary tale if you are considering buying a wide beam boat to live on.

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

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.

30th March 2014

How do you continue to earn money to support your boating lifestyle as you cruise the network?

23rd March 2014

Sharing your narrowboat space – The practicalities of sharing living accommodation the same size as a large shed.

16th March 2014

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?

9th March 2014

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.

2nd March 2014

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.

23rd February 2014

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

16th February 2014

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.

9th February 2014

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.

2nd February 2014

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.

26th January 2014

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.

19th January 2014

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?

12th January 2014

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)

5th January 2014

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.

29th December 2013

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.

22nd December 2013

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.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

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

1st December 2013

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.

24th November 2013

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.

17th November 2013

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.

10th November 2013

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

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

27th October 2013

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

13th October 2013

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.

6th October 2013

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.

29th September 2013

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.

22nd September 2013

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

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

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!

25th August 2013

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.

18th August 2013

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?

11th August 2013

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

4th August 2013

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?

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

21st July 2013

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.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

7th July 2013

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.

30th June 2013

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.

16th June 2013

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.

9th June 2013

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.

2nd June 2013

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

26th May 2013

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

19th May 2013

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.

12th May 2013

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

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

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.

21st April 2013

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?

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

7th April 2013

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.

31st March 2013

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.

24th March 2013

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.

17th March 2013

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.

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

3rd March 2013

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

20th February 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.

8th January 2013

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

24th December

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.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

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

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

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

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

18th September 2012

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

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

27th  May 2012

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

13th May 2012

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

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

15th April 2012

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

 1st April 2012

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.

18th March 2012

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.

4th March 2012

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

22nd January 2012

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.

8th January 2012

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.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

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.

Popular Forum Posts

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.

  • Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
  • Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

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.

 

Useful Information
Entertainment
Summary

2014 09 14 Newsletter – Cruising In Adverse Weather Conditions

I have a habit of upsetting people. I don’t mean to, but I’ve done it again.

Last week I made a comment about two men engaging in a little precoital activity on the front deck of a passing boat. As a result of the comment I received several emails rebuking me for my homophobia. Just for the record I am not homophobic in the slightest. I don’t subscribe to racism, sexism, ageism or any other “ism” you care to mention. I think that there is enough space on the canals and enough liberally minded boaters to accommodate everyone regardless of their class, colour, political or religious beliefs or their sexual persuasion. I think they should all be allowed to do their own thing providing they don’t interfere with anyone else.

My objection is this case, and it was only a mild objection, was the very public and very intimate display. They were performing on the open front deck of a slow moving boat in an area where there were many passing boats and walkers on the towpath. There is a time and a place for everything. The time might have been acceptable, but the place certainly wasn’t. I would have objected to the same degree of public intimacy had the couple been heterosexual.

Having said that, I apologise unreservedly if my hastily written sentence offended you. The comment was made mostly in jest and certainly wasn’t intended as a general criticism. If I hadn’t been writing the introductory email so quickly, maybe I would have been more careful with my choice of words or maybe I wouldn’t have mentioned the incident at all. But I did. The damage has been done so if you are one of the offended few, I’m sorry.

Back at the marina I’m enjoying a wonderfully calm and gentle September. The days are sunny and warm, hot even, and the nights chilly but not as cold as they were a couple of weeks ago when I was lighting the stove each morning. Because I have the shore line plugged in, I turn on my two 500w greenhouse heaters in the morning for an hour to take the chill off but the longer lasting heat from the stove isn’t needed yet.

Yesterday was turn round day for our hire fleet and what a pleasant day it was. In the morning the previous week’s hirers returned from a week or two on the cut. All of them were absolutely delighted with the warmer than usual September weather, as were the new hirers who arrived in the afternoon for what looks like another warm and dry week ahead. Of course the weather will take a turn for the worse a week on Friday when Sally and I take the boat out of the marina for a week. It’s going to be a working holiday.

We’ll enjoy a very short cruise to somewhere off the beaten track where we’ll enjoy the solitude while we touch up the paintwork. I painted James two and a half years ago. For a first attempt, apart from the “Big Dipper” coach lines, it wasn’t a bad result. However there are a few patches now where the undercoat is showing, mainly where the paint has been rubbed repeatedly by hands and feet. The back doors are also a but of a mess after a hinge was welded back on and indentations where my roses and castles wooden door panels were fitted to the steel.

Providing the weather holds, I don’t think the painting will take more than a couple of days but it’s a chance to give the boat the TLC it so richly deserves. We want the boat to look its best when we finally set sail on our lifetime’s cruise.

Last week I told you that we set a backstop date for the start of our continuous cruising. We agreed that we wouldn’t wait any longer than 2nd April 2016, my fifty sixth birthday. Since then we’ve discussed our plans and refined them further. Twenty months seemed an awfully long time to wait so we’ve brought the date forward.

Our new release date from a lifetime’s hard labour is 2nd April 2015, just eight months away. I’ve finally convinced Sally that much as I enjoy my work here at the marina, there’s more to life than never ending toil. More to the point, I’ve convinced her that the noble work she does as a senior carer at a local nursing home is too hard, too dangerous and too stressful.

Sally earns very little as a carer even though she is completely dedicated and responsible for looking after a team of not quite so dedicated junior carers and the well being of two dozen patients with severe physical ailments. Sally is only small but she regularly has to manhandle uncooperative patients, some weighing as much as eighteen stone, often without help from other carers. All of the time she has to try to avoid being punched, kicked, head butted, scratched or bitten. All of the time she has to remain calm and passive. Most of the time there aren’t enough staff present to do the job either safely or effectively. It’s brutal work. It has to stop.

When I first suggested that we leave our working lives behind us, Sally’s main objection was that she felt she wouldn’t have a focus if she wasn’t going to work every week. I pointed out that she could swap the unhealthy interior of a too hot nursing home for daily lengthy and leisurely walks in the great outdoors through ever changing countryside as we slowly cruise the length and breadth of the network. She didn’t take much convincing really.

The next halfhearted objection was that she can’t use certain appliances when we are away from our home mooring. Sally likes to keep the boat very clean and tidy. Personally, I couldn’t be bothered but I do appreciate the end result. Our 1600w Sterling inverter won’t power our 2000w vacuum cleaner, the iron or Sally’s hair dryer. I could live without all of the appliances but I suppose if I had beautiful waist length hair to care for I would want a working hair dryer too.

With her current objection in mind, we paid Midland Chandlers in Daventry a visit on Friday to buy a generator.

I’ve been looking at the pros and cons of suitcase generators for a while now. The Rolls Royces of compact, quiet and lightweight generators are the Honda range. The downside of choosing a Honda is the price and the fact that because they are so light and popular, they are often targeted by opportunistic towpath thieves. We seriously considered buying the Honda 2000w suitcase generator but decided that it was too expensive for us and wouldn’t run some of our on board appliances.

Midland Chandlers sell the very good value Kipor range. The Kipor IG2600 suitcase generator costing just under £600 is about half the price of the 2000w Honda. It’s dry weight is 30kg which about 20% heavier than the Honda. With a full fuel tank it will weight 35kg, a similar weight to one and a half bags of coal. It’s heavy and a little noisier than the slightly lower powered Honda but I won’t have to carry it far and I won’t have to sit next to it while it’s running.

The Kipor IG2600 generator is now stored safely in the engine room waiting to be oiled and fueled ready for use. For the time being I will run it on petrol but due to the logistics in obtaining petrol out on the cut and the Boat Safety restrictions for carrying petrol on board I am considering investing another £150 for an LPG conversion kit.

Running the generator on propane is said to be about 30% less expensive than petrol, safer and more environmentally friendly. I have space in my bow gas locker for an additional small propane cylinder or two so storing the additional gas isn’t going to be a problem.

I also need to go shopping for some sturdy chain and two new padlocks to make sure that, heavy as it is, my generator isn’t too tempting to a light fingered towpath user.

Poor Weather Boating

Last weekend I held discovery days on both Friday and Sunday. The weather was perfect on both days; a little cloud to keep the sun out of our eyes and just the barest hint of a breeze to ruffle the water’s glassy surface. The weather was perfect for easy cruising but it wasn’t much of a challenge for training purposes.

Steering a narrowboat on a windless canal on a dry day in the middle of summer is pretty easy once you get used to the boat’s length and the fact that you have to push the tiller one way to ensure that the boat goes in the opposite direction, but piloting the same boat in wind, rain, snow and ice is a different kettle of fish.

My first winter living on board at the marina was very cold indeed. In fact December 2010 was the coldest December for 100 years. The marinas were frozen solid with up to six inches of ice locking boats into their moorings.

In early December when the ice was a mere two or three inches thick, one of our moorers had a bit of a problem. He and his wife were staying on board over the winter as temporary accommodation after they sold one house and before they bought another. Their boat was a very comfortable and well equipped seventy footer. It was well equipped for normal boating conditions but it wasn’t able to cope with the exceptionally cold weather.

They had a pump out toilet on board. The tank would last them for four weeks if they were careful but they hadn’t taken the precaution of pumping the tank out before the bad weather hit and they didn’t do what many live aboard boaters with pump out toilets do and carry a cassette toilet in addition to the pump out loo.

They had a full toilet tank and needed to empty it. The only way to do that was to take their boat to the nearest of our two pump out stations in Locks marina which is just four or five hundred metres from where there boat was moored close to me in the newer Meadows marina.

They tried to move the boat but it was stuck fast in the ice. They phoned our office asking for help. I was volunteered.

They were stern in on their mooring which meant that moving the boat was very difficult. It’s much easier in reverse when you can gently move backwards towards the edge of the ice then give the boat a quick blast of forward thrust. The turbulence from the propeller can shatter quite thick ice. Once the ice is broken you can move gently back through the broken ice and repeat the process. It’s a slow process but at least the blacking isn’t stripped off along the waterline.

This guy didn’t have that option though. His bow was facing the unbroken ice. He had to rely on a very low tech solution; me!

For an hour and a half I stood on his front deck armed with a ten feet length of scaffolding. I punched holes in the ice to weaken it then he moved forward to push it aside with the boat. It was a very slow process to start with while we were on the mooring and couldn’t take a run up at it but after I had cleared a twenty feet long channel he was able to reverse back and then charge at the ice.

The first time we hit the ice and the boat crashed to a halt, heard breaking glass and china and some very unladylike cursing coming from the cabin. The sudden stop had launched half a dozen ornaments off shelves and onto the floor. His wife wasn’t at all happy. One of the crashes we heard was the coffee cup she had been holding when we hit the ice.

The routine continued; nose up to the unbroken ice, punch a dozen holes in the ice with my increasingly heavy scaffolding pole, reverse along the cleared channel, engage full throttle and charge into the unbroken crust ahead of us.

Within half an hour all of the hull’s protective bitumen along the water line had been scoured away. The lady down below had removed the few remaining unbroken ornaments from shelves and work tops and was wedged into their Pulman’s dinette bracing herself against the frequent crashes.

Snow on the marina in January 2012

Snow on the marina in January 2012

At one stage we managed to beach ourselves on the ice when the bow ran over the unbroken ice rather than through it. After much furious reversing, and equally furious cursing from below, we managed to drag the front third of the seventy feet long boat back into the water.

After ninety exhausting minutes we reached the pump out station where we had to spend another twenty minutes raking the broken ice from between the wharf and the boat so that we could pull the boat alongside, and then another half hour pouring boiling water over hoses and taps before we could get the pump out machine working.

As a result of our little adventure the boat had to be blacked again soon afterwards to replace the bitumen scraped off by the ice. The cost, including £200 for taking the boat out of the water, was in excess of £600. That’s a great deal of money to pay for a pump out! Then there was the cost of replacing the broken ornaments, the unknown damage cause to the boat’s internal fixings and fittings by the frequent severe impacts and the ongoing and undoubtedly enormous cost of repairing a fractured relationship.

In this case the damage was caused by ploughing through more than two inches of ice but just half an inch would have been enough to strip the bitumen off the water line. That same year the local coal boat was rumoured to have punched a hole in the bow when forging his way through thick ice to reach his customers.

Don’t cruise when the canal is frozen, and if you are a continuous cruiser, make sure that you keep an eye on the weather forecast then get to somewhere which has the services you need before the weather closes in.

The weather doesn’t have to be as cold for snow as it does for ice. Snow is pretty as it falls and when it forms a soft white blanket across the land. It’s a beautiful and welcome change to the drab and often soggy winter weather. It’s beautiful and welcome until you try to move around the outside of your boat.

Most gunnels are safe to walk providing of course you keep both hands firmly fastened to a rail or the top edge of the cabin side. Most are wide enough to acommodate the widest feet. Mine aren’t the width was reduced from five to three inches when the original wooden cabin was over plated with steel. It’s now quite a balancing act to get from one end of the boat to the other along the gunnel but on most boats you will have very little trouble in normal weather conditions.

A snow covered gunnel is a dangerous place to walk. We have to move boats around the marina throughout the year so moving on and around snow and ice covered boats is not unusual. After sliding off an icy gunnel a few times I developed a technique for moving along the outside of a boat. Rather than step along the gunnel, I shuffle along it pushing the snow or ice ahead of me rather than pressing it underfoot. It’s an odd way to get around but it’s by far the safest way for us. Of course, if we owned the boats we work on in the winter, we would be far safer just walking through the cabin but given that we often have dirty boots we don’t want to make a mess inside the boats.

Walking along the boat’s roof in sub zero temperatures is very dangerous indeed, especially if stepping from one boat’s roof to another or stepping from the boat to a lock side if single handing. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve almost fallen on a super slippery icy roof. If I have to go on a boat roof at all now I usually crawl or crouch rather than walk and if I need to take a boat through a lock in sub zero temperatures I would rather shuffle along the gunnel in the narrow and often dirty gap between the cabin side and the lock wall rather than risk falling from the roof.

To be continued….

Trouble Logging In?

I haven’t had time to complete the section above because I’ve been battling malicious code again this week. The cost of the software I use is determined by the number of subscribers I send my weekly newsletters to. Early last week the site was bombarded by spam subscriptions. Up to 500 fake subscribers a day have been added to the database so I’ve spent much of my time either removing the bogus entries or trying to find ways of preventing them from being added in the first place.

The tech support guys from the company which hosts my site immediately restricted access to the admin section of the site to stop the spam bots from gaining access to the server and using my site to send out more spam. The solution prevented unauthorised access to the site but it might also have stopped forum users from logging in.

If you have tried to log in to the forum or have had problems viewing the site in your browser please let me know. You may have seen something like this in your browser… You don’t have permission to view this site. I can easily remove the restriction but I need to know if it has denied genuine users access to the site.

I Need Some Help!

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.

Newsletter Index

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.

7th September 2014

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.

31st August 2014

Route finding for narrowboat owners – Here are the popular paper and digital route finders to help make navigating the network child’s play

24th August 2014

Long term narrowboat hire – Is hiring a boat long term a realistic alternative to buying one?

17th August 2014

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.

10th August 2014

Narrowboat heating, electrics and engine specifications – How is the perfect live aboard narrowboat configured? Here are a few suggestions

3rd August 2014

Essential boating equipment – Here’s the stuff every boater should carry on board

27th July 2014

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?

20th July 2014

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.

13th July 2014

Digital aids for narrowboat owners – Digital applications and maps for inland waterways boaters

6th July 2014

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.

29th June 2014

Extending your boat’s storage space – The pros and cons of fitting covers to your front and rear decks

22nd June 2014

Naming your boat – The legal requirements when naming, renaming and displaying your boat plus the inland waterways’ two hundred most popular boat names

15th June 2014

Speeding boats – Are rocking stationary boats the fault of speeding passing boats or the fault of boat owners who can’t moor securely?

8th June 2014

Boat Handling – lock and paddle gear types.

1st June 2014

Boat handling – Swing and lift bridges

25th May 2014

Single handed boating – Negotiating locks.

18th May 2014

Single handed boating – Choosing the right type of boat for single handed cruising and equipment to make your solo journeys safer and more enjoyable.

 11th May 2014

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.

4th May 2014

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.

27th April 2014

What makes a perfect live aboard narrowboat. Two experienced boaters discuss layout, size and essential equipment

20th April 2014

A cautionary tale if you are considering buying a wide beam boat to live on.

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

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.

30th March 2014

How do you continue to earn money to support your boating lifestyle as you cruise the network?

23rd March 2014

Sharing your narrowboat space – The practicalities of sharing living accommodation the same size as a large shed.

16th March 2014

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?

9th March 2014

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.

2nd March 2014

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.

23rd February 2014

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

16th February 2014

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.

9th February 2014

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.

2nd February 2014

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.

26th January 2014

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.

19th January 2014

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?

12th January 2014

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)

5th January 2014

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.

29th December 2013

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.

22nd December 2013

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.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

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

1st December 2013

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.

24th November 2013

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.

17th November 2013

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.

10th November 2013

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

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

27th October 2013

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

13th October 2013

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.

6th October 2013

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.

29th September 2013

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.

22nd September 2013

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

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

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!

25th August 2013

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.

18th August 2013

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?

11th August 2013

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

4th August 2013

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?

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

21st July 2013

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.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

7th July 2013

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.

30th June 2013

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.

16th June 2013

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.

9th June 2013

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.

2nd June 2013

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

26th May 2013

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

19th May 2013

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.

12th May 2013

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

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

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.

21st April 2013

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?

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

7th April 2013

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.

31st March 2013

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.

24th March 2013

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.

17th March 2013

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.

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

3rd March 2013

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

20th February 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.

8th January 2013

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

24th December

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.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

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

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

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

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

18th September 2012

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

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

27th  May 2012

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

13th May 2012

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

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

15th April 2012

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

 1st April 2012

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.

18th March 2012

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.

4th March 2012

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

22nd January 2012

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.

8th January 2012

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.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

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.

Popular Forum Posts

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.

  • Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
  • Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

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.

 

Useful Information
Entertainment
Summary
1

2014 06 08 Newsletter – Lock And Paddle Gear Types

I’m afraid that there isn’t a huge amount in the newsletter this week. I’m sorry, but I’ve been busy on two different areas of the site.

Firstly, I’m on holiday at the moment, doing what I enjoy most of all; cruising aimlessly around the canal network without a care in the world. We’re currently moored about three miles away from Market Harborough on our way back to the Grand Union Leicester Line at Foxton locks.

A canal route planner will tell you that the journey from Napton Junction to Market Harborough takes about twenty hours. We’ve taken a week to get here, but we haven’t been in a hurry. We’ve stopped often along the way, usually on very peaceful moorings, eaten regularly and very well in village and canal-side pubs and generally just chilled out.

I’ve written about our trip so far here. I hope the account makes up for this week’s content poor newsletter, and I hope you’ll find this followup to last week’s announcement interesting too.

Last week I told you that for a while now I’ve been thinking of offering a new service to both potential and new narrowboat owners. I said that the intended service would be part helmsman course and part discovery day. I asked for feedback on the proposed service here. If you haven’t yet given me your feedback, there’s a very short form to complete. Filling it in will take you less than a minute and will still help me tremendously.

The response I’ve had so far has been phenomenal. I have received emails from over one hundred potential boat owners and several existing boat owners expressing an interest. I have decided to offer the service, starting within the next month.

The service will include…

Helmsmanship

  • Pre cruise equipment checklist
  • Pre cruise engine checklist
  • Post cruise checklist and security
  • General health and safety on the cut
  • The dreaded weedhatch
  • Man overboard
  • Steering
  • Steering backwards (this “black art” is not that difficult to master once you have the technique right_
  • Mooring securely using pins, chains and hooks
  • Winding (turning)
  • Tunnel techniques
  • Operating single and double locks
  • Operating swing and lift bridges
  • Doing all of the above in less than perfect weather
  • Doing all of the above as a lone boater

Boat Function And Design

  • Different types of mooring and how to choose one before you buy your boat
  • Different sterns – Pros and cons
  • The importance of storage space
  • Essential equipment
  • Power generation and management
  • Onboard weight management and the danger of an overloaded roof
  • Toilet types – Pros and cons
  • Lifestyle management
  • The physical aspects of life on board
  • Living on board with a disability
  • Cooking on board
  • Heating systems and fuels
  • Boat insulation – hulls and windows
  • Living on board in winter
  • Managing pets on board
  • “Free” power – Solar, wind and canal-side logs
  • Just about anything else you want to know!

To comply with RYA safety guidelines for training carried out on traditional stern narrowboats, each training day will be limited to two singles or one couple. The day will begin at 8am and finish at 6pm. Helmsman training will take place on the Grand Union and Oxford canals where there are both wide and narrow locks. The discovery days will be on my boat, usually on our beautiful mooring at Calcutt Boats Meadows marina.

I’m setting the booking process up at the moment. Once that is done I’ll detail it in the newsletter. I will be running the discovery days around my current full time work commitments so the slots will be limited to one day each week. Given the number of people who have emailed me so far, the slots will go very quickly. If you are interested in the service, and you haven’t filled in the feedback form yet, please complete it now. Everyone who has completed the short survey will be notified as soon as the availability calendar is live. You can complete the survey here.

Lock And Paddle Gear

There are a wide variety of lock styles and operation, far too many of which I know very little. Once more I’ve turned to widely travelled continuous cruiser Peter Earley for the information I need. Here’s what he has to say about the different styles you’ll come across in your travels.

“I’ve always been interested in industrial archeology, especially railways and motor vehicles, but canals tick all the boxes for me. There are so many variations of lock gear across the country that  it is almost possible to tell where you are just by looking at the paddle gear and other lock furniture.

First there are the lock gates. Narrow locks can have single gates at both ends such as at Walsall, making for hard work pushing those heavy bottom gates. Single gates at the top and double at the bottom or double gates at each end. Obviously, these are much lighter and, theoretically easier to push but, unless a bridge is provided, a lot of walking round is involved. Some locks, like many on the Oxford, are shallow enough to allow you to walk across the roof of the boat to access the other side but some boaters will jump across the gap between a closed and open gate. Something Jeannette has forbidden me to do. Other boaters say the steerer can pull the bottom gate closed with a boat hook on entering or exiting a lock, a trick I tried and failed. The working boatman used a strap or rope to pull the gate closed as the boat entered the lock and you still see locks on some canals with strapping posts, often with cast iron caps on them.

You will see steel gates as well as wooden with nasty, thin balance beams and some wide locks may have wooden gates but steel balance beams that, from a distance, look like wooden ones. Those on the GU are one piece but on the L & L they are made from two pieces of wood bolted one to the other give a nice, hefty appearance as befits a Northern canal.

But, it is really the paddle gear where the regional differences show. Even the names change across the country – paddles, sluices, slackers, cloughs – all names for the thing that lets the water in or out. We are all familiar with the rack and pinion gear but if British Waterways had had their way in the 80s these would have been consigned to history in favour of those horrible hydraulic gear you still see on some locks. I don’t know whose idea this was but I’m glad common sense prevailed in the end. But even that rack and pinion gear changes depending on the canal. The most common being the ones mounted to a cast iron frame but on the Southern part of the Grand Union they use a large wooden post and in other places a steel frame pleasingly curved such as the Rufford Arm or unashamedly utilitarian as on the Wigan flight.

And then there are the windlasses. You’ve probably got one of those double ended ones for the tapered spindle and the GU square but they are no good for the Middle Levels or Great Ouse. And if you visit the River Wey, that too requires a different one. A lot of Leeds and Liverpool boaters carry a special double ended windlass which is about 18 inches long and has two sets of eyes, one at the normal length and another at the end to give the necessary leverage required for their hefty gear.

Speaking of the Leeds & Liverpool, it has probably the greatest variety of gear. Ground paddles that are huge square boxes with a spindle stuck out of the top, sometimes with a handle permanently fitted and a chain to drop over it to stop it dropping. There are simple wooden sliding cloughs that are opened by grasping the handle and heaving it upwards. There is a gate paddle at Burnley operated by a long rack and pinion. This same lock has gates that are opened by winding a handle on the side of a big gearbox. This was necessitated by the adjacent road bridge being widened and encroaching on the lock, meaning conventional balance beams would be too long. This shortening of balance beams is not restricted to Burnley. There are several other locks where road widening takes scant account of the boats ability to open the lock gates. They may be cranked, have a chain and windlass or just be left shorter meaning you need to exert more effort to open them.

Having wound your paddle up, you need some means to keep it there. The most usual is the pawl and ratchet. Never lift these off when winding the paddle up. If you leave go of the windlass and the paddle drops it can cause you a nasty injury. When winding down, only lift them enough to clear so as to be able to drop it quickly if your windlass comes off. Of course, there are as many methods of keeping the paddle up as there is lock gear. Those massive ones on the Northern part of the GU have a shaped bit of steel hanging on a chain to drop over the square spindle though looking at the casing I suspect that when new they had a piece that slipped into place. If you’ve attempted the Rochdale 9 they too have a bit of steel dangling on a chain. This time however, you just jam it into the gear. They end up covered in grease so some now have a cable tie in an attempt to stop the grease getting onto your hands.

It is an unfortunate sign of out times that much lock gear is now fitted with the nicely named ‘water conservation locks’ known by most of us as anti-vandal locks. Mostly these use a square ended socket or handcuff key to unlock but some need the BW Watermate key. Which you find the chances are it will be stiff to use or broken. I find the handcuff key will often slip because the square has been worn away due to over-tightening by boaters although, having said that, the keys are a pretty loose fit even on new locks. Placing the end of the key on a mooring bollard and a few smart whacks with your lump hammer will usually flatten it enough to ensure a better fit.

I’ve missed a lot of variations out but I’m sure you will find it great fun finding them for yourselves.”

A Swing & Lift Bridge Tip For Solo Boaters

These bridges are a pain in the neck for solo boaters. The usual operation involves the helmsman dropping off a crew member on the towpath next to the bridge and waiting, whistling tunelessly and counting clouds, while the hard working crew crosses the bridge, discovers how it works by either trial and error or a set of written instructions pinned to the bridge, moves the bridge, waits for the helmsman to wake up and take the boat through to the far side of the bridge before lowering and then crossing the bridge to rejoin the boat.

Of course this method of operation doesn’t work if you are a lone boater.

An often effective solution is to simply wait for another boat to arrive and ask the crew to help with the operation. This option is less likely to work of course in the winter, in bad weather, early in the morning or late at night.

An alternative is to try to tie your boat up on the offside before the bridge, making sure that you are not going to obstruct it when it swings, raise or swing the bridge, pull the boat through the gap, tie the boat up again, replace the bridge then continue with your cruise.

A variation of this, and one which is guaranteed to produce a steady stream of boaters on an otherwise empty canal just at the time when you want them least, is to tie one end of the boat to a towpath bollard and the other to a point on the offside. Although it’s slightly more difficult to get on and off the boat on one side or the other because you’ll have to hop on or off your boat at the bow, you’re more likely to find a single point to tie your boat to on the offside rather than two points and a straight stretch of bank to moor against.

The downside is that there is a fair amount of messing around maneuvering the boat into position in the first place, getting off the boat to operate the bridge, getting back on to the boat to bring it through the gap and then going through the whole procedure again. The good news though is that you can get through on your own.

Please note that this won’t work with short boats and wide canals!

I Need Some Help!

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.

Newsletter Index

I created the site just over three 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.

1st June 2014

Boat handling – Swing and lift bridges

25th May 2014

Single handed boating – Negotiating locks.

18th May 2014

Single handed boating – Choosing the right type of boat for single handed cruising and equipment to make your solo journeys safer and more enjoyable.

 11th May 2014

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.

4th May 2014

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.

27th April 2014

What makes a perfect live aboard narrowboat. Two experienced boaters discuss layout, size and essential equipment

20th April 2014

A cautionary tale if you are considering buying a wide beam boat to live on.

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

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.

30th March 2014

How do you continue to earn money to support your boating lifestyle as you cruise the network?

23rd March 2014

Sharing your narrowboat space – The practicalities of sharing living accommodation the same size as a large shed.

16th March 2014

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?

9th March 2014

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.

2nd March 2014

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.

23rd February 2014

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

16th February 2014

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.

9th February 2014

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.

2nd February 2014

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.

26th January 2014

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.

19th January 2014

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?

12th January 2014

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)

5th January 2014

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.

29th December 2013

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.

22nd December 2013

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.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

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

1st December 2013

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.

24th November 2013

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.

17th November 2013

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.

10th November 2013

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

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

27th October 2013

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

13th October 2013

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.

6th October 2013

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.

29th September 2013

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.

22nd September 2013

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

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

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!

25th August 2013

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.

18th August 2013

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?

11th August 2013

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

4th August 2013

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?

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

21st July 2013

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.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

7th July 2013

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.

30th June 2013

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.

16th June 2013

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.

9th June 2013

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.

2nd June 2013

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

26th May 2013

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

19th May 2013

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.

12th May 2013

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

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

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.

21st April 2013

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?

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

7th April 2013

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.

31st March 2013

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.

24th March 2013

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.

17th March 2013

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.

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

3rd March 2013

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

20th February 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.

8th January 2013

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

24th December

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.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

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

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

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

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

18th September 2012

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

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

27th  May 2012

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

13th May 2012

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

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

15th April 2012

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

 1st April 2012

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.

18th March 2012

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.

4th March 2012

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

22nd January 2012

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.

8th January 2012

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.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

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.

Popular Forum Posts

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.

  • Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
  • Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

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.

 

Useful Information
Entertainment
Summary

2014 06 01 Newsletter – Single Handed Boating Part 3

It’s raining AGAIN! More accurately, I should say it’s STILL raining. The rain hasn’t stopped for more than a few minutes since the beginning of the disastrous 2014 Crick Boat Show. Visitor numbers on Saturday were fair, Sunday was poor and Monday was abysmal. In fact, Monday was so bad that by mid afternoon many of the exhibitors in the Kingfisher marquee were playing let’s-see-how-far-we-can-throw-a-paper-plane-without-hitting-a-single-customer. I believe that the winning plane sailed the full length of the tent.

The weather has been a nightmare for Pat and I. Our work is 100% outside. There’s always plenty to do. We work when the ground is iron hard under inches of frost, when the marina is buried under half a foot of ice, when we have to wade thigh deep in snow and when we have to lean in to a wind so strong that boats can’t get through the marina entrance. We work under a sun hot enough to bake the earth and open ankle turning, mower swallowing cracks in the dessicated clay. We work in all conditions, but we really struggle in relentless rain.

It’s the best conditions for grass to grow, but the worst to cut it. Most of the low lying areas are now either under inches of water or just to sodden to cut. And the grass continues to grow. Moorers who usually let their dogs gallop unrestrained around the grounds are now attaching leads to their pets to prevent them disappearing in the long grass.

It’s Wednesday afternoon as I write this. Wednesday is normally a working day for me but there’s not much I can do in the hammering rain. I’ve swapped my days off so I can work later in the week when the weather is supposed to be better. Pat doesn’t have the option of swapping his days. I can hear the sound of his strimmer now over the howling wind and the rain rattling against the windows.

Rather him than me.

The stove is burning of course. I managed about twenty four hours at the beginning of the month with it off, and I let it go out last night, but I lit it again this morning after a quick dash into the woods to break off the dead lower branches from one of the young oaks to use as kindling.

Sally and I are off on our cruise on Sunday. I’m hoping that the worst of the weather will be behind us by then but I know it’s asking too much. We’ll be taking two bags of Pureheat briquettes with is plus a cupboard full of seasoned oak logs. After all, it’s June in England so it’s quite reasonable to have to expect to stoke up the fire and resort to drinking brandy to keep warm.

Talking of drink, I went to a pub for a rare drink on Monday night with fellow live aboard boater Alan Izatt. Alan hasn’t quite cut the apron strings yet. He lives on board during the warmer months but returns to his Somerset home in the winter. He has to visit occasionally during the rest of the year too to comply with a requirement of his insurance policy to occupy the house at least every sixty days. On Monday he journeyed from house to boat by hire car before we journeyed from boat to pub by foot. We walked in the rain of course.

It’s good to get out now and then to relax over a pint or three. I still enjoy the beer as much as I have ever done but I don’t appear to bounce back the following day quite as easily as I did in my youth. Anyway, I enjoyed a quiet night out in an excellent not-quite-canal-side pub. It was the King’s Head at Napton in case you’re in the area. It’s about five minute’s walk from the bridge 109 next to Napton marina. The pub serves excellent food and not a bad drop of beer.

Alan and I touched on the subject of novice boaters and how many struggle to arm themselves with the right information both prior to purchase and immediately after they are are handed the keys to their new boat and unleashed on the waiting waterways. We discussed a service I’ve been thinking about offering novice boaters for a while. We talked about it for a pint or two before drifting onto other subjects and other pints until Sally dragged us kicking and screaming from the bar to her waiting car and then the warmth of the stove-heated boat where I collapsed into an incoherent heap in front of the telly for the rest of the evening. I managed to jot down a note or two to remind me to write about the new service idea in the next newsletter before my mind stopped working completely. The note was effective. The proposed new service is outlined below.

I had Calcutt’s favourite marine electrician, Dave Reynolds, crawling around the engine room on Thursday morning. My alternator was only charging the leisure batteries. I wanted it to charge both the starter and the leisure bank so he had to replace a split charge relay. Because my starter batter wasn’t being charged properly/at all, it had to be replaced. Dave’s back is a little delicate so he asked me to remove the old starter battery and put the new one in place ready for him to finish off the wiring and replace the relay. Dave’s not daft. I thought removing the old battery was going to kill me.

Since the starter battery was fitted (about 1942 if its condition was anything to go by) I’ve had a frame welded around the engine so that I could deaden the noise by fitting insulated deck boards around it. Unfortunately, access to the batteries wasn’t a consideration when the frame was fitted, so I had to lift the battery at a forty five degree angle through a gap roughly one and a half cigarette paper thicknesses wider than the battery. The removal was made even more interesting by me having to lay flat on my stomach to reach it and by the fact that both plastic handles on the battery were missing.

Sally did what she normally does when she hears screams of pain and frustration coming from the engine room. She turned the vacuum cleaner on, turned her music up and moved to the far end of the boat.

I managed to rip the battery out in the end, along with a strip of skin off the knuckles on my right hand. I also managed to splash a couple of drops of acidic water on my face as I wrenched the battery out. Sally prudently decided to leave the boat to do a bit of shopping soon after I raced into the galley with my eyes shut before plunging my head into the washing up bowl to dilute the acid.

I was back in the engine room on Friday. I didn’t really need to but it’s a lovely place to sit and do very little. I emptied my tool box out onto the deck board covering the engine and slowly put all the tools, most of them still clean and unused, back in the box while I watched two proud swans fussing over their four signets as they waited in vain for me to come out of the engine room and throw them some bread. It was a completely unproductive and hugely enjoyable half hour. Then I measured my chimney.

I’ve just ordered a new stainless steel chimney from the Little Chimney Company. My current steel chimney is on its last legs, as is the very poor excuse for a coolie hat which is sitting drunkenly on top of it. Unusually, I can’t find a record of the purchase but I think I bought it about a year and a half ago for about £60. The new chimney costs over twice the price but it’s hand made from far thicker steel, it’s stainless. it’s guaranteed for three years and it’s a thing of beauty. I’ve also gone for the chimney in 2 x 12″ sections so that I can reduce the chimney height for cruising. I have to wait three weeks for delivery. I hope my current chimney will last that long.

A New Service For Soon-To-Be Narrowboat Owners

When I was in the pub in Monday ,I told Alan about a new service I was thinking of offering to anyone considering buying a narrowboat, especially one to live on.

I won’t say too much about it here because I’ve gone into more detail on this page but, basically, I’m thinking of offering a combined narrowboat training and discovery day. The day, hosted on my own live aboard narrowboat, would cost about half as much as a typical RYA helmsman course but would be far broader in scope.

If you are considering buying a boat, whether it’s for leisure cruising or as a full time home, I would be very grateful if you would spend just a few minutes to give me your feedback. I know that every man and his dog wants you to complete feedback forms online but this one will literally take you ten seconds to complete and will really help me decide whether to run with this idea. Additional information about the proposed service, and the link to the feedback form is here. Please take the time to click on the link and complete it.

Boat Handling – Lift and swing bridges

The following is a continuation from last week’s article about negotiating locks. I received an emailed rebuke following this article;

“Fascinating information about locks, but as a single boater how do I get back on to my boat when I’m exiting a downstream lock?” 

I should have included the information in the article. I have now so if you want to know how to get back to the helm of your beloved boat when it’s in an empty lock six feet or more beneath you, please reread last week’s newsletter. I’ve added the new information in the bulleted suggestions just above the bogus advert section.

Now that you’re up to speed with locks, it’s time for bridges.

I don’t know much about lift and swing bridges. My only experience of them to date was on my first cruise down the south Oxford and then down the Thames to Beale Park when I took the Calcutt Clipper to the IWA show. I took my then twelve year old son, Brook, with me to help with the bridges and the locks and to enjoy some quality father-son time.

Unfortunately young and slightly built Brook wasn’t strong enough to work the locks and wasn’t heavy enough for the lift bridges. I have a lovely photo somewhere of him swinging on one with all his might but failing to move it an inch.

The following information has been provided, as is often the case when I need the experience of a widely travelled boater, by continuous cruiser Peter Earley…

“Lift and swing bridges are usually a right pain, especially if you’re on an unfamiliar canal and haven’t looked at your Pearson’s too closely.

You’ve pulled over and dropped someone off to open the bridge, backed out into the channel and are patiently waiting. Why is it taking so long you’re thinking when your partner comes back, shouting something to you that you can’t hear over the engine noise. You manoeuvre back to the bank to find they need a handcuff key/BW key/windlass, or all three. Back out into the channel and the bridge is still shut with traffic streaming over and then, AT LAST. Your blood pressure goes back down and you are through. Only another five bridges to go, you think.

Now look at it from your partners view. They’ve had to jump over a 2 foot gap because you can’t get close enough to the bridge. A quick look at the bridge to see how it works, a long wait for the traffic to die down so they can actually get across the bridge to where the lock/console is. Being considerate they wait for that car that has just come round the bend before finally pressing the button. The barriers come down but for what seems an age nothing much else seems to happen except for a lot of whirring noises and then, slowly, the deck starts to move. After you’ve passed through the bridge is closed, again with that long gap without much happening when, suddenly, the barriers are up and that huge queue of traffic you’ve stopped start streaming across. Eventually there’s a gap and they can cross over and get back onboard only to be greeted with you saying ‘why did you take so long’!

Swing bridges and lift bridges come in all shapes and sizes. There are those simple ones on the L & L secured with just a handcuff (probably done up too hard) that may swing with a gentle push or may need you to elicit the help of a group of walkers just get it started. Others just need a turn of the key and a press of the button whilst you look around and count the cars you’ve stopped. In between is very permutation you can think of.

The worst I can recall was the swing bridge next to the Slipway Inn at Burscough. First you unlocked the barrier on the towpath side and lowered it, repeat that on the offside, unlock the retaining latch and pull it up, take your windlass and wind out the wedges then push. When the boat is through you repeated it in reverse. Boaters are saved all this now as it has been converted to fully mechanised. Dock Lane at Shipley is similar except you wind it open with the windlass.

I know we all moan about these bridges but failure is not generally down to poor maintenance. Those swing bridges on the eastern end of the L & L are almost all at the bottom of some lane where every rain shower washes a new batch of grit down into the gaps. Most boaters keep pushing the swing bridge until it crashes into the latch rather than allowing inertia to bring it gently to a stop. And then they moan about CRT.

The swing bridges for foot traffic are generally fairly simple affairs. A wooden or steel deck, counterbalanced on one end and turning on a pintle. A arm stuck out at one end generally gives you enough leverage to enable the bridge to be swung. Likewise with the lift bridges. Those on the Oxford have large wooden beams to provide the counterbalance which you pull down on to open the bridge. If you are lucky, there will be a chain and a hook or nail to attach it to to keep the open, if not, just sit on the beam until the boat has passed. There are other simple ones on the Peak Forest and Northern Stratford that require a windlass to open.

The swing bridges that carry heavy vehicle traffic are a different matter. These have wedges at one end that are pushed into the gap between the bottom of the bridge and its support and so force the other end of the bridge down so that it is rigid for the traffic. This is why there is that big delay between the barriers coming down and the bridge starting to turn. If you watch the deck at this time you will see the bridge deck seeming to twist. Lift bridges of course don’t have these.

Then there are the bridges over very busy roads. These tend to have timers built into the control system to prevent their use during rush hour. Be aware of these if your cruise is to a timetable as you may be waiting for up to 90 minutes.

Now, if you think like me, that these bridges are a pain, then think of the poor single handed boater. Yes, some of these will have landing stages on the offside or operating consoles on the towpath side but these are in the minority and, even where they are provided, may not be us able. A lot of the bridges down to Liverpool have offside landings. Great, except that BW allowed the house owners to extend their gardens to the waters edge. And, of course, you tie your boat to these landings, unlock the bridge and push, only to find that the bridge wants to go where your boat is. With no convenient landing our lone boater has to stop on the towpath, take is centre line over the bridge with him, tie it off, open the bridge and then pull the boat through before closing the bridge and get back on. Of course, if it is a lift bridge he has the added complication of getting the rope around the the obstruction of the raised bridge deck.

No wonder that many will wait until another boat happens along. Which brings me to one last point. If you opened a bridge and another boat arrives, it is convention that you let them through before you get back onto your own boat, even if several boats appear.”

Next week I’m going to finish off the boat handling series with some advice on handling a boat in weather which is less than perfect as a result of receiving this email from Richard Straton…

“I read your articles about handling boats on your own … but the weather was obviously sunny, warm, calm as a mill pond and idyllic. What about a few notes on handling a boat on a windy day, when the weather is wet (not necessarily lashing rain, but the dismal wet air that makes surfaces slippery), snowing, icy, or the sort of conditions that boat operators HAVE to deal with when “moving on”?

Live-aboards would simply say … stay where you are til the weather breaks! A lot of people, like myself and my partner Jean who owns “Jeri Kanda”, are “now and agains”. My two brothers and I (three men in a boat) also hire cruisers from time to time for more extensive adventures. There are many boaters who are hirers who read your pages finding the articles interesting and instructive. Holidays are enjoyed all the more. Tips are useful, making not only the handling of the boat better … but also appreciation of other boat users!”

Point taken Richard. I’ll discuss bad weather boat handling next week. I’ll also highlight some boating do’s and don’ts. After all, now that you know how to get your boat safely from A to B, your journey will be further enhanced by pleasant interaction with other boaters. I’ll tell you what you need to know.

A New Case Study

It’s not often I come across narrowboat owners who appear to have the balance right. The majority of narrowboat owners use their boats as an expensive and far too rarely enjoyed hobby. They spend so much of their time working hard enough to afford the boat, the moorings, the license and the maintenance that they don’t have the time or the energy to enjoy it.

Many boat owners overcome the problem of not spending enough time on their boat by moving on to it full time. Unfortunately they still have to earn a living so although they spend all of their free time on board, they don’t have the time to use the boat for its intended purpose.

Some are fortunate enough to be fully functional in both mind and body when they retire, and have enough of a pension pot to support them, so that they can cruise the canal and river network as and when they please.

A few, a very small minority, are able to combine work with pleasure and continue to work as they cruise. Dave and Alison are one such couple. They need to work to support their lifestyle but because they’re the clever techie types, they can work from the comfort of their boat for just one day a week and enjoy their lifestyle as true continuous cruisers for the rest of the week. What a life!

Please take the time to read this case study and to read Dave’s blog too. It’s well written, regularly updated, informative and very amusing. It’s one of the most entertaining blogs I’ve read (apart from this one of course). The case study is here.

RCR Maintenance Course

I’m grateful to Steve Southcoat for taking the time to write the following. He’s just returned from a two day RCR engine maintenance course. I have to admit that I’m the least practical person I know and the thought of playing around with the engine fills me full of dread. I can’t understand it. My father was an engineer who spent much of his free time up to his elbows in oil rebuilding engines. Why haven’t I inherited his skills?

After four years of boat ownership I now know far more than I did when I first moved on board. It’s still painfully little but it’s enough to make sure that the engine is fit to use before going on a cruise. Unfortunately I’ve encountered a few new boat owners who have paid severe penalties for their own ignorance, penalties which have ended up costing them a fortune.

My own experience of RCR is mainly positive. I have an issue with their administration (frequent phone calls not returned) but the engineer who has come to Calcutt twice now to service my boat’s Mercedes engine has been first class.

Here’s Steve’s report.

“The course is run once a month over a Saturday and Sunday and the tutor was Keith Duffy. As I don’t have a boat yet I decided to go and learn about boat engines before I bought a boat and found out it was a real wreck, as has happened with a number of cars I have bought.

The Aim of the course is to help you:

1. Recognise potential problems
2. Carry out basic maintenance
3. Specify reliable components

There were nine of us on the course, including two women. The course takes you through an oil change, changing fuel, changing air filters and oil filters, changing drive belts and throttle cables, lubricating points, bleeding the fuel system and water system, recognising that the engine works better with a good air supply. Fuel fault finding is also covered.

You receive a 107 page manual on what the training course covers, with lots of useful information about maintaining your boat. There was some basic information on boat electrics, but as they run a course on this subject the information was more common sense than over useful. Batteries and battery types, wiring, alternator charging and split charging.

There was an explanation on how the engine works. The injection system gearbox, gear box drive plates. Cooling systems , stern glands, shaft alignment. They covered why it is important to do maintenance on your boat or if you don’t want to do the work yourself, recognise that the engineer you hire is accurately the job right and completely.

Another useful subject was the domestic water system and laying up for the winter.

I found the course very useful in realising the engine is not much different to my Land Rover diesel engine, but the information provided gave me a greater understanding of how it works. One of the more useful bits of information was that RCR will give advice on parts for engines and can recommend and supply things like oil filters cheaper than paying marina prices. One of the guys on the course has hired an RCR engineer to supervise him doing his own engine maintenance, this still works out cheaper than paying a boatyard to do the job for you.

I thought I had a lot to learn and in some respects I did, but some on the course (boat owners already) knew even less than I did. I found the course a good beginning to maintaining our boat when we get one, also when we look for a boat, I will pay more attention to the engine and engine bay rather than the alternative of relying just on the boat inspection.”

You can find out more about RCR’s engine maintenance courses here.

Pram Covers

I don’t like pram covers. I’ve mentioned my dislike of them from time to time. Not everyone feels the same though. In the spirit of providing you with as balanced a view as possible about these rear deck covers, here’s an email I received recently from boat owner Chris Brown…

“Just one comment on the latest news letter concerning the points you make regarding stern pram covers.   I have a 60ft cruiser stern narrowboat and getting a pram cover fitted was one of the best things I have done.  The golden rule, of course, is that you should NEVER cruise with the pram cover up.  I have occasionally moved the boat in a marina with the cover up and even then it can be a bit of a pain and extreme care must be taken.  It takes me less than 10mins to put the cover up and down and the main cover remains on the frame (I remove the two side panels) in the down position.  When down it takes up very little room at the rear and I use some bungee cables to keep it neat and away from the sides of bridges and locks etc.”

I Need Some Help!

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.

Newsletter Index

I created the site just over three 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.

25th May 2014

Single handed boating – Negotiating locks.

18th May 2014

Single handed boating – Choosing the right type of boat for single handed cruising and equipment to make your solo journeys safer and more enjoyable.

 11th May 2014

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.

4th May 2014

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.

27th April 2014

What makes a perfect live aboard narrowboat. Two experienced boaters discuss layout, size and essential equipment

20th April 2014

A cautionary tale if you are considering buying a wide beam boat to live on.

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

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.

30th March 2014

How do you continue to earn money to support your boating lifestyle as you cruise the network?

23rd March 2014

Sharing your narrowboat space – The practicalities of sharing living accommodation the same size as a large shed.

16th March 2014

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?

9th March 2014

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.

2nd March 2014

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.

23rd February 2014

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

16th February 2014

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.

9th February 2014

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.

2nd February 2014

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.

26th January 2014

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.

19th January 2014

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?

12th January 2014

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)

5th January 2014

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.

29th December 2013

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.

22nd December 2013

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.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

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

1st December 2013

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.

24th November 2013

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.

17th November 2013

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.

10th November 2013

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

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

27th October 2013

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

13th October 2013

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.

6th October 2013

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.

29th September 2013

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.

22nd September 2013

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

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

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!

25th August 2013

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.

18th August 2013

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?

11th August 2013

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

4th August 2013

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?

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

21st July 2013

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.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

7th July 2013

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.

30th June 2013

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.

16th June 2013

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.

9th June 2013

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.

2nd June 2013

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

26th May 2013

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

19th May 2013

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.

12th May 2013

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

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

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.

21st April 2013

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?

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

7th April 2013

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.

31st March 2013

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.

24th March 2013

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.

17th March 2013

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.

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

3rd March 2013

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

20th February 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.

8th January 2013

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

24th December

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.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

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

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

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

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

18th September 2012

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

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

27th  May 2012

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

13th May 2012

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

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

15th April 2012

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

 1st April 2012

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.

18th March 2012

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.

4th March 2012

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

22nd January 2012

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.

8th January 2012

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.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

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.

Popular Forum Posts

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.

  • Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
  • Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

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.

 

Useful Information
Entertainment
Summary
9

2014 05 25 Newsletter – Single Handed Boating Part 2

Crick! It’s the biggest event in the inland waterways’ boating calendar. The Crick Boat Show is always held on the Spring Bank Holiday, as is the local Napton Show, or the Napton Horse, Pony and Novelty Dog Show as it’s properly called. Both are renowned for dismal weather. Last year was a welcome exception. Three days of unbroken sunshine delighted the crowds. This year we’re back to form.

Calcutt Boats are exhibiting at the Crick Show this year as usual, but unusually the stand is under cover in the Kingfisher marquee. The stand is protected from the weather but access to it is not. I spoke to Steven Cox, our buyer who is attending the show, on Saturday morning just before he left Calcutt in time for the show’s 10am opening. The sodden ground behind the marquee was already a quagmire on Friday when the exhibitors were setting up, and that was before another four hours of continuous rain on Saturday morning.

If you’re going, make sure you take a good pair of wellies!

Saturday was quite a busy day for us on the wharf with six of our hire boats going out in the afternoon. Preparing the boats before they go out is always a challenge in heavy rain. We always pray for a break in the weather for the afternoon when the hirers arrive for a possible wet waterways week.

The weather improved yesterday as the day progressed but not enough to prevent us from regularly swapping between tee shirts and waterproofs. At least we didn’t have the wind to contend with as well.

One of the crews I instructed yesterday were enthusiastic but inexperienced. They last hired a narrowboat twenty years ago. On this trip they wanted to introduce their two teenage daughters to the pleasures of a leisurely break on the waterways. I’m not entirely sure that the holiday is going to be successful though after overhearing a mother-daughter conversation on the front deck.

“This is BORING!  I don’t want to listen to that man talking. I want to go NOW! When can we go Mum? When? When?”
“Just be patient. We have to learn how to handle the boat safely first.

“What’s the problem with it? We’re in, like, two inches of water!”
“Just shut up and listen for once will you!”
“And it’s not as though I can talk to my friends. My phone’s not working in this stupid place!”
“I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as soon as we get going.”
“WHERE are we going?”
“We’re going to Warwick.”
“But we passed Warwick on the way here. It’s just up the road!”
“We’re going to go there by boat. It’ll be exciting.”
“How long will it take?”
“We should be there on Monday.”
“Two days! We only passed it in the car half an hour ago!”
“Yes, but we’re going by boat this time. You’ll like it. You can open the locks.”
I don’t want to open the locks. I don’t want to go on a boat. I want to go HOME!”

I quietly retreated at this stage and helped get the boat ready for departure. The young lady’s mood improved a little when she was unleashed on the lock but judging by the squabbling with her sister about who should raise the paddle, who should lower the paddle, who should open the gate, who should do just about anything at all, it’s wasn’t going to be a peaceful and harmonious trip.

The father “supervised” his two daughters while the mother took the boat into the lock while I stood on the back of the boat with her and watched. She managed a perfect lock entry, then brought the boat to a very graceful halt inside the lock. The warring sisters opened both gates to allow us out, and then we met another novice hire boat crew.

They hadn’t discovered that in order to move the boat out from the side they needed to push the bow out, so they were grinding the bow down the reinforced concrete on the towpath side between the two locks with the stern jutting out into the canal and across our path. Our lady steerer was at a bit of a loss. She remembered me telling her that she must pass boats port to port. Clearly she couldn’t do that here, so she began to panic.

Of course, if she had a few more boating trips under her belt, she would have expected the unexpected and simply maneuvered carefully around the floundering hire boat on the “wrong” side before entering the next lock. Once she had been given the solution, the execution was no problem at all. With minutes we were safely in the second lock watching the windlass wielding competitive sisters.

Successful narrowboat navigation is all learning the theory then using common sense when putting it in to practice. I can help you with some of the theoretical stuff below. I’m afraid you’re on your own with the common sense part of it.

Narrowboat Handling

In last week’s newsletter I discussed the narrowboat style which I think is most suited to the lone boater and basic equipment you should have on hand to make your cruise both safer and more pleasant. This week I’m going to talk about boat handling.

Before I go into the intricacies of boat handling I want to briefly mention a common addition to narrowboats, usually but not always cruiser stern boats, which makes boat handling a pain in the backside.

Head high rear deck covers, or pram covers as they are often known, are a nightmare. I love moving boats around the marina. I enjoy the challenge of steering boats of different lengths with a variety of engines and handling characteristics and responsiveness in reverse (ranging from none to very little). I love them all, apart from those fitted with pram covers.

Rear deck covers are wonderful for cruiser stern boats which spends long periods on static moorings. They are far less than wonderful as far as actual boating is concerned.

For a start, a cover encasing the rear deck impedes access to the boat’s centre rope. Easy access to the centre line is essential for lone boating. On all the deck covers I’ve seen, you can fold down the plastic window in front of you, so it’s possible to reach forward and grab the centre line, but you then can’t step off the boat with it in your hand. The deck cover’s side panels get in the way. The only way you can step off your boat holding the centre line is by precariously shuffling along the gunnel to get around the deck cover before quickly grabbing the rope then leaping off the boat before you fall into the gap between the boat and the approaching bank. It’s not pleasant, safe or easy.

Another problem with cruising with the covers up (and if you want to cruise with the cover removed you have to find somewhere to put it) is that you can’t feel the wind. Why do you need to feel the wind? Because when you are handling a narowboat you either have to work with the wind or really struggle to control your boat on anything other than a still day. I’ll cover the effects the wind has on your boat a little later on.

One final disadvantage with rear deck covers is negotiating bridge holes. I was talking to a couple on the wharf on Tuesday who were sadly on what was going to be their last ever cruise on a boat which they’ve owned for twenty years. The man, who had just turned eighty, had lost his enthusiasm for boating. The effort of carting possessions from house to boat and back again, hefting heavy bags of coal and gas cylinders and working stiff locks and bridges had become more than a chore than a pleasure.

They had a head high cover over their rear stern which had cost them a fortune. It cost them an arm and a leg to have it made in the first place and then repaired, twice, after the top caught on low bridges.

The whole point of boating is to get you out of an artificial environment and into a natural setting where you can enjoy the sights and smells around you. It’s very difficult to become one with nature when you’re encased in thick plastic! Forget the thought of having a pram cover over a cruiser stern. Buy a trad stern narrowboat and enjoy getting wet instead!

OK. Now that’s off my chest, on with narrowboat handling.

Steering A Narrowboat

Imagine your boat as a compass. It pivots at the centre so if you want to turn your boat to the left, you have to push the tiller over to the right and vice versa. It’s very simple and you soon get used to it. As part of the instruction we do with our hirers we take them along the canal above Calcutt Top Lock for five hundred metres before jumping off and leaving them to their own devices. Very few new boaters have problems steering the boat forward. Going backwards is a different kettle of fish.

The only way to reverse a narrowboat effectively is to get the boat pointed in the right direction by going forwards, then stick it in reverse and hope it goes in a straight line. It rarely does. Most narrowboats will drift to the left because of “prop walk” If the boat drifts off course, you need to correct the line by going forward again. Once the boat is again pointing in the right direction, you can again put it in reverse.

Some narrowboats, not all of them by any means, can have their direction influenced slightly by pointing the swan’s neck in the direction you want it to go. It’s usually not much of a help, but it is a help.

Getting On And Off Boats

Once you have steered your boat gently towards the bank, and applied reverse thrust to bring the boat to rest, you can get off. Of course you don’t want to get off and then discover that the boat has gone off on a cruise of its own so make sure that you put the boat into neutral and then take it out of gear. It’s very easy on a cruiser stern narrowboat to catch the morse control (the gear lever) with your foot as you step off. If the boat is still in gear when you catch it, the boat will go surging off down the canal without anyone on board.

I actually saw this happen at Calcutt Top Lock a couple of years ago. The crew of a hire boat – not ours – had brought their boat to a controlled stop beneath the bottom lock. The two ladies stayed on the front deck while first one man, then the other, casually stepped over the boat’s side rail and onto the towpath. The centre rope remained neatly coiled on the roof in the middle of the boat.

The second man to step off caught his food on the morse control as he stepped onto the footpath. The boat, still in gear and now at full throttle, surged forward and away from the towpath. In a desperate attempt to regain control of the boat both man tried to jump back onto it. Both failed. Both fell into the canal. One narrowly missed jumping into the spinning propeller. The boat crashed into the closed lock gate knocking both ladies on the front deck off their feet.

An experienced nearby boat owner first talked to two shocked ladies into taming the out of control boat before asking them to throw the centre line to the two dripping and very embarrassed males who had been pulled out of the water onto the towpath. No harm was done on this occasion apart from a few splinters out of the long suffering lock gate and a few chips out of the boat’s bow paintwork. They were very lucky.

Another fundamental mistake made by narrowboat novices is when they try to move from the towpath back into the centre of the canal. Remember that a narrowboat turns from the centre? So, in order for you to move at an angle from the towpath back into the middle of the canal, the stern would need to swing round to allow the bow to point in the preferred direction of travel. Of course it can’t if the boat is hard up against the bank, but that little inconvenience doesn’t stop novice boaters from trying.

We see no end of hire boats surging along the towpath between locks knocking chunks out of the concrete and scraping the little remaining paint from the boat’s rubbing strake.

The way to move quickly and quietly away from the side is to give the boat a helping hand. Keeping hold of the centre line you walk along to the front of the boat, lay the palm of your hand against the cabin side and give it a good hard push, making sure that you don’t lose your balance and fall into the canal. Yes, I’ve seen it happen at Calcutt, more than once.

By the time you reach the back of the boat, the front should be pointing towards the centre of the canal so as soon as you step on board you can travel in a straight line away from the bank.

Negotiating Locks

Locks fill many novice boaters with dread. A wide range of skills are required, especially if you are a lone boater. You need to carefully bring your boat to rest just before the lock, secure the boat, raise the paddles, take the boat in through a gap barely wide enough to accommodate the boat, close the hefty gate behind you ( the gates at Calcutt weigh 480kg each), let the water in to or out of the lock, open the far gate, take your boat out, then close the gate behind you.

Calcutt Top lock is the first lock encountered by our own boat hirers plus those from Black Prince at Wigram’s Turn marina and Napton Narrowboats just around the corner. On busy turn round days in the summer we can sometimes have half a dozen novice hire boat crews congregated at the top lock, racking their brains to remember what they’ve been told about lock procedures.

The first and possibly the most common mistake is when they try to bring their boats close to the bank for the first time. The boat needs to be be brought gently to a halt, by letting the speed bleed off rather than by putting the boat in reverse, and at no more than thirty degrees to to the bank.

We often see boats approaching the bank too fast, which results in the boat being thrown in reverse with great enthusiasm, and one or two of the crew skiing along the towpath as they try to bring the boat to a halt by hauling on the bow line.

Even when the boat is brought to a controlled stop, the crew often have problems if they, as they often do, try to hold the boat to the side using either the bow or the stern lines. Powerful pumps carry water from miles downstream before depositing it in the summit pound about fifty metres back from the lock gates, just at the point where many of waiting boats pull over. When the pumps are running, the force of the water pushes one end of the boat into the middle of the canal unless the boat is secured firmly by the centre line. Controlling the boat should always be done with the centre line if possible.

Locks are a step in the water levels between one stretch of canal “pound” and another. The principle is always the same. If you want to go “downhill” you have to bring the water in the lock up to the same level as your boat, take the boat into the lock and then let the water out until it’s the same level as the next pound.

The lock will have either ground or gate paddles at either end which, when raised, will allow water to flow into the lock from the upstream end and out of the lock at the downstream end. Paddles at both ends should never be open at the same time.

If both the upstream and the downstream paddles are open, water flows from the upstream pound, through the lock and into the downstream pound. The result is that (A) the lock will never either fill or empty enough for you to open the gate and (B) more importantly, may flood the pound that the water is running in to.

A flooded pound is something we used to have quite often at Calcutt. Our wharf is located between Calcutt Top and Calcutt Middle locks. The distance between the two is just over ninety metres so it’s a relatively small area which can flood quite quickly. If we didn’t spot the rising water in time, the water would flow over the side of the wharf and cascade downhill to our engineering workshops. Load swearing from the sodden engineers would alert us to the problem.

We made life much easier for ourselves by raising the level of the wharf by six inches. Now if the paddles are left open, the towpath floods rather than our buildings.

I know our locks and the locks on the Grand Union and Oxford canals close to Calcutt very well indeed. But I’m not familiar with many of the different styles of locks in other parts of the network. It’s an important subject and one which I want to cover in as much detail as possible so I’ve enlisted some help.

Peter Earley (Pearley on the forum) has more than enough experience for the both of us. Since he sold his house and had his boat built in 2007 he’s been continuously cruising the network. He kindly agreed to jot down a few notes about locks. Here they are…

Narrow locks going up

The top gates may have just ground paddles or ground paddles and gate paddles. Open the ground paddles first but gently. All locks have there own characteristics but you should be able to see from the behaviour of the boat when and how much to open more gate paddle. The initial surge of water will tend to push the boat back. Keep your tiller turned to one side to prevent the rudder hitting the gate. Your rear fender should be long enough to prevent this but! If the boat starts to charge forward or backwards you are opening them too much but a gentle movement is OK. It is OK to allow the
boat to ride up the front or rear gates, after all you have fenders but keep an eye out for any obstructions that might foul the boat. When the water level has risen enough, usually up to the fill, then you can progressively open any gate paddle.

Narrow locks going down

Again, you can have ground but gate paddles are more likely. Whatever, it is normally OK to open these fully but ensure your boat is well forward from the cill. The boat will be drawn forward by the flow through the paddles so just let it gently nudge up to the gates and drop down with the fender riding down. Be careful when the lock is empty as there is a tendency for the boat to start to move back meaning you could strike the cill.

KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN ALL THE TIME. KEEP YOUR FENDERS UP.

It is not generally necessary to use ropes in narrow locks unless you are single handed.

Wide Locks going up

If you’re a single boat going up a wide lock it is a real pain. OK, if you have a big crew someone in the front can be holding the boat with the front rope whilst the steerer holds on with the stern rope, that’s if the bollards are nicely placed. If your crew is just the two then it is normally the centre rope you use. And now the bollards definitely won’t be in the right place but there might be a handily placed ladder.

Theoretically you open the ground paddle on the side that the boat is against. The water enters the lock in front or under the boat, hits the opposite lock wall and rebounds to hold the boat against the lock side whilst it rises nicely. This might work on the Hatton Flight but not everywhere. If you see the water is pushing the boat out and the steerer is frantically trying to hold onto the rope then close the paddle down and try the other side. With gate paddles it was considered normal to open the one on the opposite side from the boat on the theory that the water flow coming across the lock would hit the bow or front side of the boat and again hold it against the side. However, most gate paddles now have baffles to ensure the water doesn’t enter in a great spurt and flood your boat. These baffles will either direct the water downwards or against the lock side. If the latter then the water will be forced between the lock wall and your boat and push you out into the lock. Unfortunately, if it is an unknown lock to you then it is suck it and see.

There are some canals where upper gate paddles are the norm. Open these very carefully. Also be aware of any walkways on the lock gates. Most are on the outer side but not all. It is very easy to get a fender caught under one whilst rising in the lock, especially in those shorter Northern locks where you are trying to keep clear of the lower gates at the same time.

Of course, all this is avoided if you are sharing the lock with another boat but, if the two boats are of unequal length, problems can still occur.

Wide locks going down

This is much the same as a narrow lock. Just open the paddles. If you open the one on the side of the lock you are against then the flow through the paddle can help to hold you on that side.

Staircase locks

Follow the instructions on the notice boards. On narrow staircases it means you cannot pass another boat so there is normally some sort of rota like 3 boats up then 3 boats down.

On wide staircases, despite what some boaters might believe, it is possible for boats to ascend at the same time as another boat is descending. If it is one up and one down, no problem. One up and two down, or vice versa, again no problem, you just have to shuffle around a bit. Two and two down getsca bit more difficult and depends on the lengths of the various boats.

Guillotine Gates.

I can only think of 3 on the canals. Slaithwaite on the HNC, Todmorden on the Rochdale and Salterhebble on the C & H. The rivers Nene and Great Ouse have a lot and there is one on the Whitham and some on the Middle Levels. There are others but I won’t list them here.

Just follow the instructions and you can’t really go wrong but be aware that a few don’t have paddles as such but rely on the gate being opened a fraction so that water flows under the gate to fill the lock. This can be a bit like a mini waterfall. If the gate is manually operated don’t open it too much.

Those on the Ouse and Nene are usually automatic in that you just press one button and the opening sequence start on a timer. You might have to watch the warning lights which will tell you when you can press the button again to open the gate fully. Don’t try to anticipate this. Pressing the button again during this period just resets the timer to the beginning, delaying you even further.

Trent/Aire & Calder Locks

These are big! If you are lucky you might find a keeper. If not they have an operating console at each end of the lock accessed via your BW key. Insert your key and it will all light up. Again, follow the instructions, pressing the buttons when directed. Once your boat is in the lock and the gates are closed, you need to remove your key, walk to the other end of the lock and fill/empty the lock from that end. There are wire ropes recessed into the lock side to secure your boat to. Don’t do it too tight or the rope will snag. If ascending keep to the back of the lock to avoid the turbulence. Here again, the sequence is automatic once you press the button.

Low water levels.

The lock gates close against a wooden or concrete cill that sticks up from the bottom of the canal. You can see the one for the top gates easily if you look behind you when at the bottom of the lock. The lowest point on your boat is the skeg, that bit of steel that sticks out behind the boat to support the bottom end of the rudder. With low water levels it is not unknown for the boat to stick on this so exit the lock slowly. If you do

stick, don’t be tempted to reverse and take a run at it. You’ll only damage the cill and cause another stoppage. Often, taking the boat out of gear will allow the stern to rise a couple of inches and the boat may float out.

If necessary, run some water down from the lock pound above but only enough to get you moving. Remember, that water won’t flow back uphill so running down too much will make problems for either you or the next boat. If in doubt then phone CRT.

That’s the end of Pete’s information but I would like to add a few comments about locks.

Locks offer all the ingredients for serious accidents; copious quantities of fast flowing water, immensely heavy gates, often with walkways across them, enclosed spaces, slippery and heavy metal windlasses loosly attached to paddle gear, unresponsive boats, algae and lichen covered stones and bricks, steep drops, deep water, churning propellers and, last but not least, excited and often untrained boaters.

Here are some safety and operational suggestions;

  • Don’t let enthusiastic bystanders help you with a lock without your permission and without your supervision. Some may be working a lock for the first time and won’t have a clue how to operate it correctly. Some may have been boat owners for many years, and still don’t have a clue how to work the lock properly! If you allow people to help you with the lock, don’t be afraid of taking control. If you want the paddles raised slowly, tell them. If you don’t want the paddles raised at all, tell them.
  • Always make sure that the paddles are down at the end of the lock where you bring your boat in before opening the paddles at the far end.
  • When you are raising the paddle, stand at right angles to the rotation rather than in line with it. If the windless slips out of your hand, the weight of the paddles crashing back down can cause the heavy metal windlass to spin like a propeller catching your chest or groin as it spins. You don’t want to to happen to you unless you want to end up sounding like Demis Roussos, and you don’t want that!
  • The windlass can be slippery when wet. There’s a chance of it slipping out of your hand when the paddle is fully raised, especially if you’ve been winding it up quickly. DO NOT try to catch it if it slips out of your hand. I’ve done it before. It hurts a great deal.
  • Make sure that no one is in line with a potential flying windlass while you are working the paddle. Two pounds of flying steel windlass will dampen the enthusiasm of even the keenest boater.
  • If you have children with you, or excitable adults, don’t let them jump on and off the boat roof from the side of the lock. Both the lock side and the boat roof are likely to be slippery when wet.
  • Make sure that the lock gate’s are closed behind you before you open the paddle at the far end. If you open the paddle while the gates are open, the surge of water will slam them shut, damaging the gates.
  • When going down in a lock, ALWAYS make sure that your boat is in front of the cill markers. The cill markers are clearly painted lines inside the lock close to the upstream gate. The photograph below shows what can happen if you allow your boat to drift behind the cill markers.

Narrowboat hung up in lock

The cill markers denote a concrete or wooden ledge at the upstream end of the lock. If you allow your boat to drift back behind the marker, and the boat stays there as the water level drops, the rudder or the skeg (the horizontal metal bar welded to the boat’s base plate to support the rudder post’s lower end) will remain on the cill while the front of the boat continues to drop with the water level.

In extreme cases, the front of the boat will drop until the well deck and then the cabin fills with water and sinks the boat. The usual result is that the rudder is pulled out of the cup rendering the rudder unusable until it has been refitted. We have a hire boat caught on the cill about once a month during the season. Re-seating the rudder can often be done by the side of the canal but if the skeg is bent, the boat has to be towed back to base and taken out of the water before it can be repaired.

  • When leaving a lock, check to see if there are any boats waiting to come in. If there are, you can leave the gate open as you leave. If there aren’t any boats waiting, make sure you close the gate behind you, and once more check to make sure that all the paddles are down.You will often share a double lock with another boat in a wide lock so both gates will be open to allow both of you to leave. However, there may only be one boat waiting to come in. The waiting boat only needs one gate left open for it so you need to speak to the owner of the boat in the lock with you and agree which one of you will close a gate. It’s customary to leave the gate open on the towpath side. Please note though that the crews on some boats waiting to come in, usually but not always hire boat crews, are reluctant to enter a lock through just one gate so will want you to leave both gates open. It’s always a good idea to speak to the incoming crew to find out what they want to do.
  • Lone boater entering a lock going down – It’s an easy lock to enter because the lock is full. You steer the boat into the lock slowly and stop mid way between the two gates and lightly secure the centre rope to a bollard. Make sure that the rope is lightly secured because if the lock is deep and the centre line is firmly secured, as the water level drops, your precious boat can be left dangling on the lock wall secured by a relatively weak rope until the strain proves too much for the rope, the rope snaps, and your boat crashes into the water beneath. Keep an eye on the centre line as the water level drops. Make sure that it’s not going to snag on any obstructions on the roof as rope tightens. If the rope is too tight to allow the boat to drop with the water level, lower the downstream paddles before any harm is done and, if necessary, raise the upstream paddles to let more water into the lock until you have enough slack in the rope to resolve the issue.Once you have emptied the lock, it’s time to take your boat out. You have a choice; you can either climb down the lock ladder on to your boat roof and then hop down onto the back deck, or you can haul your boat out of the lock using the centre rope. Personally, I prefer climbing into the lock and on to the boat. I find it the easiest option, but you need to be careful.

    Lock ladders need negotiating with care. They are often wet and therefore slippery, and they are often bolted fairly close to the wall so you can’t get as much of your foot on the rung as you would like. Always have three points anchored on the ladder (i.e. both  hands and one foot) so if you slip, you won’t fall.

    Always take care when you step from the ladder onto the boat. Ideally, you should line up the boat’s rear deck with the ladder before you climb down so that you can simply step off the bottom of the ladder on to the safe and easy to negotiate deck. The boat may drift though so you’ll be obliged to step from the ladder onto the cabin roof. Tread carefully. I have to watch out for my pole and plank and the brackets securing them to the roof, and my three solar panels and cabling.

    If you are on your own in a double lock, sometimes the wind will push the boat away from the side of the lock with the open gate in front of you to the opposite side of the lock behind the closed gate. If you’re organised, you will have made sure that the centre rope is still on the opposite side of a lock-side bollard to the boat so that you can ensure that the boat stays tight to the lock wall.

    If you’ve forgotten to do this, providing the wind isn’t too strong, you can carefully walk along the gunnel to the bow and push the boat off the “wrong” lock wall. By the time you reach the back of the boat again, the bow should be in line with the open gate.

  • As you leave the lock, if there is no traffic coming in, you are obliged to close the gate behind you. It’s quite time consuming when you are on your own to take your boat out of the lock, tie it securely to one of the bollards at the lock entrance, walk back to the lock to close the gate and then return to your boat to carry on with your journey.The quickest way is to leave the lock slowly and bring the boat to a stop so that you can step off onto the landing beneath the lock, run up the steps, close the gate, run back down the steps and onto your boat. The whole process should take less than a minute once you have done it a few times. Always make sure that you step off the boat with your centre line. You don’t need to secure it but leave it on the ground so that you can use it to pull the boat back towards you if it drifts away from the landing.

    This technique will only work on relatively calm days. If there’s a wind blowing, there’s a good chance that the boat will be pushed away from the landing or the bow pushed into the bank.

I hope you find these tips useful. If there’s any aspect of working a lock which you feel is missing or which you are unsure about, please email me to let me know. I’ll add the missing information as soon as I can.

Bogus Narrowboat Adverts

How would you like to buy a narrowboat for a fraction of its real value? I’m sure you would jump at the opportunity to save thousands or even tens of thousands of pounds. But you need to be very careful with online sellers offering bargain boats. If the offer seems to good to be true, it probably is.

Two years ago I was contacted by a lady who had seen a wonderful narrowboat being offered for sale on eBay for a fraction of what she would have expected to pay for it. After receiving several emailed replies to her queries she was still uneasy so she contacted me. I wrote about the scam in this post.

Earlier in the week I received an email from Pillings Lock marina. They have noticed that a number of boats for sale at their marina, now sold, are once more being advertised for sale online without the current owners’ knowledge. Here’s the email from Pillings Lock marina…

“I want to spread the word about fraudulent Narrowboat adverts.

http://www.usedhuddersfield.co.uk/classified-ad/1981-Sagar-39ft-Traditional-Style-Narrowboat-_22753750

 Many of our own adverts have been copied very recently on websites like “Friday-Ad”, “Loot” “Gumtree” and “Preloved” – there was even some on local Bristol and Huddersfield websites. It is not the fault of these websites, the sheer scale of advertisers & email only contacts mean that it is almost impossible to stop this kind of activity. But what we can do is publicise the problem and it may deter the criminals involved.

 If the advert is fraudulent, it seems the boat in question is usually under-priced, for quick sale etc. to encourage potential viewers into sending a holding deposit to hold the vessel before viewing it.

 Please advise all Boat Buyers to not get into this situation;

 Always go and see a boat before handing over any money.  

  1. Ask to see documentation – previous bill of sale, CRT license data/corresponds with owner, BSSC, Mooring bills, boatyard bills…
  2. Ask owner for photo ID (passport or photo driving license) and evidence of address details.
  3. Or buy via an approved Marine Broker/Boatyard/Marina.

 It would be a shame if anyone was caught out but this awful type of scam so any publicity you can give to this matter would be really helpful.

 Many thanks for your assistance!

Paul Lillie
Managing Director
Pilling’s Lock Marina Ltd”

  As you can see, the advert Paul linked to has been removed by the site owner. Here’s another which I copied before it was taken down…

Bogus Narrowboat AdvertIt’s possibly not the best example to use as the boat was actually sold for £14,000 by Pillings Lock so it’s not the best appointed narrowboat you’ll find but the current advertised price is about a third of its true value.

Paul offers excellent advice in his email but in addition, please read my post of the fraudulent eBay advert. I’m sure that communication withe the “seller” would follow a similar pattern.

Helmsmen, Beware In Locks!

Two weeks ago I wrote about common narrowboat accidents including ones we’ve witnessed at Calcutt and others I had been told about from across the network. I mentioned one particular story which I hadn’t been able to verify about a tragic and fatal accident in a lock. Graham Clutton emailed me with a link to an account of the accident on the BBC news website. I have reproduced the article in full below and included a link to the article on the BBC web site.

Mother’s Oxfordshire narrowboat death an accident

The death of a mother who fell under the propellers of a narrowboat she was steering on a family holiday was a tragic accident, an inquest heard.

Amanda Chapell, 47, from Devon, was negotiating a lock in Cropredy village, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, when the boat hit the lock gate last July.

She was propelled into the water. Her husband and children witnessed her death, the hearing was told.

The Oxfordshire coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Mr Chapell, 44, told the inquest that his teaching assistant wife had been at the helm of the boat as they entered the canal lock on 30 July, 2009.

Mr Chapell said he and their daughter, Anna, 15, were controlling the two sluices while their son, Tom, now 18, was at the front of the boat.

‘Over the handrail’

The family, from Totnes, began to “jiggle” the craft into the middle of the lock, as they had been advised, the hearing heard.

Mrs Chapell put the boat into a stern gear, as she had done many times before, after “quite a lot of water flowed in to the lock”, her husband said.

The inquest heard the vessel then began to move backwards.

But by the time his wife realised she had already moved from her position at the helm – possibly to pull in one of the narrowboat’s fenders, Mr Chapell said.

When she attempted to return to the helm to put the boat in neutral or reverse to steady it, the craft’s rear fender struck the lock gate.

In “a matter of seconds” she was sent straight over the handrail, said Mr Chapell who had been about 50ft (15m) from his wife when she disappeared into the water.

Coroner Nicholas Gardiner said: “I view this as a tragic accident.

“[Mrs Chapell] was not very highly experienced. The boat collided with the rear gate of the lock with some force.

“She would have been sucked around in the swell of the boat and suffered the injuries [from the propeller] causing her death.”

The original article is here.

I Need Some Help!

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.

Newsletter Index

I created the site just over three 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.

18th May 2014

Single handed boating – Choosing the right type of boat for single handed cruising and equipment to make your solo journeys safer and more enjoyable.

 11th May 2014

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.

4th May 2014

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.

27th April 2014

What makes a perfect live aboard narrowboat. Two experienced boaters discuss layout, size and essential equipment

20th April 2014

A cautionary tale if you are considering buying a wide beam boat to live on.

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

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.

30th March 2014

How do you continue to earn money to support your boating lifestyle as you cruise the network?

23rd March 2014

Sharing your narrowboat space – The practicalities of sharing living accommodation the same size as a large shed.

16th March 2014

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?

9th March 2014

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.

2nd March 2014

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.

23rd February 2014

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

16th February 2014

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.

9th February 2014

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.

2nd February 2014

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.

26th January 2014

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.

19th January 2014

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?

12th January 2014

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)

5th January 2014

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.

29th December 2013

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.

22nd December 2013

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.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

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

1st December 2013

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.

24th November 2013

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.

17th November 2013

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.

10th November 2013

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

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

27th October 2013

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

13th October 2013

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.

6th October 2013

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.

29th September 2013

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.

22nd September 2013

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

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

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!

25th August 2013

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.

18th August 2013

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?

11th August 2013

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

4th August 2013

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?

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

21st July 2013

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.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

7th July 2013

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.

30th June 2013

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.

16th June 2013

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.

9th June 2013

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.

2nd June 2013

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

26th May 2013

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

19th May 2013

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.

12th May 2013

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

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

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.

21st April 2013

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?

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

7th April 2013

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.

31st March 2013

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.

24th March 2013

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.

17th March 2013

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.

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

3rd March 2013

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

20th February 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.

8th January 2013

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

24th December

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.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

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

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

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

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

18th September 2012

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

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

27th  May 2012

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

13th May 2012

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

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

15th April 2012

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

 1st April 2012

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.

18th March 2012

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.

4th March 2012

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

22nd January 2012

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.

8th January 2012

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.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

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.

Popular Forum Posts

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.

  • Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
  • Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

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.

 

Useful Information
Entertainment
Summary

2014 05 18 Newsletter – Single Handed Boating Part 1

I am now working part time for the Canal & River Trust as a volunteer groundsman, working hard to ensure that the landscaping next to their locks stay rubbish free and aesthetically pleasing. They haven’t thanked me for the work I do probably because they don’t know I’m doing it yet.

As you approach Calcutt Boats from Napton Junction your first view of the business is as you slow down ready to negotiate Calcutt Top Lock. Last winter I spent a week taming what used to be the lock keeper’s cottage garden. When Calcutt Boats opened for business forty years ago, owner Roger Preen lived in the dilapidated cottage with his wife Rosemary and two small children Matthew and Catherine. In more recent years, the cottage has been home to marina manager Martyn and his wife Sue. Neither of them were very interested in the garden so the Calcutt grounds team, Pat and I, have added the garden to the areas we tend.

The cottage garden is Calcutt’s responsibility but the landscaping the other side of the garden’s black and white painted iron railings is looked after by the Canal & River Trust.

Unfortunately, they haven’t been looking after it very well. We see the Trust’s landscaping contractors maybe once a month. Once a month, at a time of the year when we cutting the grass around the site every five or six days, is not often enough to keep the area looking smart. Even on their monthly visits, the time spent in any one area is very brief. It’s not the fault of the guys driving the nippy mowers or scarily powerful strimmers. They have a huge amount of ground to cover each day so they can’t spend the time I’m sure they would like on the areas they cut. Sadly, if we want to give a good first impression of Calcutt Boats to visitors who arrive here by boat, we will have to do the work ourselves.

At 8am on Tuesday, a beautiful morning under a cloudless sky, I loaded one of our two 150lb three-wheeled mowers onto the rear deck of a moored hire boat to transport it a hundred feet onto the towpath side of the canal.

By the time I had unloaded the mower and temporarily moored our hire boat on the bollards close to Calcutt Top Lock’s entrance, masses of bruised purple clouds hung over me, lightening their load by dropping enough water on the grass I was cutting to make my grass cutter look more like a boat than a mower. I didn’t want my boat to obstruct the lock entrance for long so I battled through the deluge for half an hour until the cutting was complete. Of course, the minute I finished, the rain stopped and the sky returned to its cloudless blue. Don’t you just love the English weather?

Wednesday was yet another grass cutting day followed by Thursday, the first day of my “weekend” Sally and I spent most of Thursday eating. We drove into Leamington Spa using the excuse that we needed to visit the EE store to unlock Sally’s old iPhone and visit Homebase to get some tools. We could have sent the unlock request via the EE web site, and we didn’t really need the tools. What we really wanted to do in Leamington Spa was visit Nandos. We love Nandos fiery chicken  and Mediterranean salads so we shared a whole chicken, finished off with an ice cream each and then wandered back to the car, stopping for an hour in Leamington’s beautiful and tranquil Jephson Gardens,where we had another ice cream each to finish off our gluttonous outing.

Sally was back at work on Friday. For me, the day should have been spent newsletter writing, but I’m afraid that the weather was too tempting. I’ve gone into more detail below.

I was back at work on Saturday and, unusually, I wasn’t working on the wharf. We had a full compliment of wharf staff and instructors and only four boats scheduled to go out in the afternoon. As we had eight boats due back in though I decided to hang around to give them a hand to take the boats down through the lock and reverse them onto the wharf.

Our hire boats are due back at Calcutt at 9am but they can arrive at the lock waiting to be taken down any time between 8am and 9.30am. While I waited for the boats to arrive at the lock, I raked the grass  which I had cut at the beginning of the week next to the towpath.

Greeting the happy hirers at the end of their holiday is always a pleasure. In most cases they have had a wonderful time. Many are complete novices when they begin their cruise and are often very nervous boat handlers. Usually a week on the water has transformed them completely. Yesterday’s batch were particularly interesting to talk to as they had set out with the wind blowing hard enough to deter even experienced boat owners. As the week progressed, the weather improved. When they arrived at the lock yesterday the sun was blazing from a cloudless sky and the windless water was mirror-smooth.

By 9.30am all the boats were safely back on the wharf so I abandoned my raking for a while to cut the grassed car parking area in front of reception. Then I abandoned the car park grass cutting when one of the ride-on mower’s drive belts snapped. It’s lasted two years so I can’t complain. Unfortunately I won’t be able to get a replacement now until Tuesday or Wednesday. At the rate of growth at the moment it will be waist high by then.

I went back to my lock-side raking at a now very busy lock. Hire boats were out in force including some early starters from Black Prince at Wigram’s Turn marina. I watched one novice crew try unsuccessfully to lower the water level in the lock by raising the upstream paddles. After five minutes I pointed out their error. They thanked me before nervously heading for the next lock.

And then we had some excitement. I told you about an accident at the lock recently and wrote about the dangers of boating in general and the potential for accidents in locks in particular. Yesterday’s accident was in the lock.

New live board boaters Janet and Andrew Ledbetter had moored their boat on the towpath above Calcutt Top Lock half an hour earlier so that they could visit our chandlery. Andrew was concerned that their three year old rescue German Shepherd, Lucky, had been a little too enthusiastic crossing the lock gate on the way to the chandlery so to protect him, so he put the dog on a lead for the return journey.

Half way across the gate, Lucky lunged forward, so Andrew pulled on his lead to check him and pulled Lucky off the gate and into the lock where he hung, still attached to the lead and Andrew’s hand, until the pain from the lead handle stripping skin from his hand caused Andrew to drop the heavy dog and his lead into the empty lock and onto the sill.

The boat entering the lock nosed forward so that the teenaged boy on the front deck could reach Lucky where he stood trembling ankle deep on the concrete platform. The boat couldn’t get close enough to the dog because the bow hit the sill so we decided to close the gate and slowly raise a single paddle to gently introduce water in the lock to float the boat’s bow over the sill and closer to the frightened and shivering Alsatian.

By the time there was enough water in the lock to allow the boat’s bow to move forward towards the dog, the water had risen to a depth over the sill too deep for the dog to stand, which panicked him into thrashing about in the water looking for a way to escape.

Lucky was a heavy dog and too difficult for the teenager to pull on board from where he lay across the bow. He wasn’t doing the dog any favours either by trying to pull him on board by his collar. All he succeeded in doing was choking the terrified animal.

I climbed down into the lock and onto the boat’s front deck, reached down into the water, grabbed Lucky by the scruff of the neck and hauled him on board. It was fortunate for both me and for the dog that Lucky had a very placid nature and didn’t once complain about the rough treatment he received from two complete strangers.

We filled the lock until Lucky could safely jump off the front deck into the waiting arms of a tearful and thankful Andrew.

Thankfully Lucky suffered nothing more than an unwanted cold shower from the leaking lock gate. Andrew vowed to let Lucky make his own way across lock gates in the future rather than try to protect him and actually put him in a more risky situation. He talked about getting a harness with a carry handle for Lucky but acknowledged that it would be pointless as he wouldn’t be able to lift him anyway.

Crick Boat Show

It’s that time of the year again. The meadows at Calcutt are a riot of colour, the site’s fifty species of trees and shrubs are bursting with spring buds of the freshest green and our car parks are full as boaters make the most of the early season sun. The weather’s looking good for next weekend, which might come as a bit of a surprise to the tens of thousands of boating enthusiasts who have visited the Crick boat show in previous years.

Historically, the weather during the three day show is a little damp. Last year was the exception to the rule. Three days of glorious sunshine swelled the crowds and helped to make the 2013 show one of the most successful to date. The late May bank holiday weather forecasts is looking just as good this year though so the Northamptonshire marina is worth a visit on at least one of the three show days.

I’ll probably be there as usual on the final day of the show hoping for a bargain but expecting just to empty the contents of my wallet into the pockets of the exhibitors offering products to help me improve my boat’s appearance and functionality.

One of the many exhibitors worth paying a visit is Martin Lambert and his MaxMon boat monitoring equipment on stand Kingfisher 57 (sensibly under cover in case there’s rain on any of the three days).

Martin installed a test unit on James just before I escaped the English winter for a month in the Philippines. The daily reports I received via email were very reassuring. My main concern at the time was the temperature on board. I’ve seen some disasters at the marina when boats suffered substantial damage because of inadequate heating during very cold spells. The MaxMon emails included graphs of the temperature on board every hour for the previous day so I didn’t have to worry about returning to burst pipes or, as happened just a month ago to one boat at the marina, finding out that the boat had sunk.

A sensor can be attached to the unit which monitors the water level. If last month’s sunken boat had been fitted with one of these monitors, the owner would have been alerted to excess water in the engine room. He could have called us and we would have been able to immediately assess the situation and pull the boat out of the water before water entered the cabin.

It’s a great bit of kit. You can see it in action at the Crick Boat Show Stand Kingfisher 57.

 Single Handed Boating

The thought of single-handedly managing a fifteen to twenty tonne boat measuring up to seventy feet in length as it travels along narrow canals and even narrower locks fills many potential boat owners with dread. Many existing boat owners too would rather spend an afternoon with Piers Morgan than take their boats out without a crew.

If you are a potential boat owner and you subscribe to this view, you’ll be pleased to hear that single handed boating is much easier than you think. It’s true that certain aspects of negotiating the inland waterways in a narrowboat are easier with an extra pair of hands but generally you just need to be a little more organised when you are on your own.

Choosing The Right Boat

I prefer traditional “trad” stern narrowboats for a number or reasons; I like the additional living space available in a trad stern boat rather than a cruiser stern, I think they look better, and I think they are far better designed for the single boater.

A cruiser stern is designed to accommodate a group of people standing at the rear of the boat keeping the helmsman company during a cruise. If there is a group to help you, the helmsman, then a cruiser stern narrowboat is perfectly OK. However, if you remove the convenience of an extra pair of hands, the cruiser stern’s additional space becomes a bit of a pain.

When you’re cruising on your own, you will want to have everything you need close at hand; a waterways guide to check your location, water points, refuse stations, junctions and moorings, maybe a notebook and pen to record sights and sounds as you cruise, a pair of binoculars to zoom in on an elusive kingfisher perched on a bull rush, a camera to capture a moment forever and a set of waterproofs to protect you from the inevitable rain. On a cruiser stern narrowboat you can’t easily keep these things both accessible and dry.

On a trad stern boat, the cabin is just a couple of feet in front of you. In fact, you’ll probably spend much of your cruising time standing inside the doorway to the engine room, immersing your lower half in the comforting heat rising from the engine. You’ll be able to lay the tools of your trade within easy reach on the roof when it’s dry or on a shelf inside the engine room when the rain falls.

I also find a trad stern boat more comfortable during long spells at the tiller. A cruiser stern boat may well offer somewhere to sit, but sitting down often involves peering over the roof at the half-seen canal ahead. I can stand at the tiller on my own boat and enjoy a marvelous unobstructed view in front of me, but take the weight off my legs by leaning against the hatch.

Think carefully about your boat’s stern if you know you’re going to be cruising alone most of the time.

Your Best Friend On Board – The Centre Rope

If you don’t have a centre rope on board, buy one. Or better still, buy two. A centre line helps you easily control your boat when you step off it to either moor or to negotiate locks or swing or lift bridges. Having two centre ropes means that whichever side of the boat you step off, you can always take a rope with you which isn’t going to get caught on roof obstacles.

One of the most often seen mistakes made by inexperienced hire boat crews is their rope handling. You often see them try to hold the boat into the side by either the bow or the stern rope. The end result is that the end of the boat they aren’t holding often swings away from the bank into the centre of the canal.

With a centre rope you can easily step off the boat and retain complete control, confidently and quickly secure the boat to the side before doing what you need to do.

When you select your centre ropes, make sure that they will reach from where you secure them on the roof to about three metres past the boat’s stern. This extra length comes in very handy, for example, if you want to step off the back of the boat to pull parallel to a wharf to have it pumped out or to change the gas bottles in a bow locker.

Proper Preparation Prevents P*** Poor Performance

Remember your scouting days before you were thrown out for being a bad influence on the other scouts? Was that just me? Be prepared!

When you are on your own you don’t have the get-out-of-jail-free card that you have when you have crew on board. You need to think ahead to make sure that everything you need once you leave your mooring is close at hand.

Centre line: One of the first things to check is the location of your centre rope. It’s no good coiled up neatly on the roof if you can’t reach it when you need it. Always make sure that the centre rope(s) are within reach from where you stand at the helm.

Tiller: If you have a detachable tiller, make sure that you bring it out of the boat and fit it before you undo your mooring lines. It’s very embarrassing to find yourself drifting out from the canal bank into the face of oncoming traffic without means of steering

Anchor: If you are on or are about to join a river, make sure that you have an anchor ready, already attached to the boat and ready to deploy from where you stand at the helm. If your engine stops when on the river and you are being carried along by a strong current, you want to be able to bring the boat safely to rest as quickly as possible.

Life Jacket: Essential for rivers, recommended for single handed lock work.

Phone: You will be on your own probably somewhere in the countryside, often where others are not. If you hurt yourself, your phone may be your only means of calling for help. Make sure that your phone is within reach and fully charged.

Waterways Guide:  A good quality guide showing bridge numbers and facilities along the way is a must. Make sure you can reach it from the helm.

Glasses: If, like me, you are a boat owner of a certain age, there’s a good chance that your youthful 20/20 vision has taken a bit of a battering. There’s no point in having a guide handy if you can’t actually read it.

Location: If you do have an accident and need to let the emergency services know where you are, make sure that you can give them an accurate location. Make sure that you have your waterways guide to hand while you cruise and make a mental note of the bridge numbers as you pass them.

Note Book: Are you keeping a record of your journey? A note book and pen within reach make the job so much easier

Camera and binoculars: Ditto above.

Waterproofs, Hat & Sunglasses: Whatever the weather, make sure you don’t get caught out.

A Hot Drink: You might not want the hassle of mooring up when you’re ready for your hourly brew. Fill a thermos before you start in anticipation of your hectic cruising schedule and solo coffee breaks

What Goes In Must Come Out: If you don’t have the time or the inclination to moor up before you visit the loo to get rid of all that coffee you’ve been drinking and you find yourself on an unpopulated stretch of river or canal, you can use a pee bottle (Much easier to use if you have the privacy of a trad stern to hide behind).

I have an apology to make. I wrote the section above on Friday, the second of my two days off this week. I was trying to make sure that nothing was missing from the list above. I glanced for the umpteenth time out of the window at the clear sky and glorious sunshine and decided that the only sure way of including everything on the list was by refreshing my memory with a short cruise.

Within minutes I was untying my mooring ropes and heading out of the marina. I planned to spend an hour out of the marina, two at the very most, but I’m very weak.

Because I didn’t have much time, I turned left out of the marina entrance and headed north west along the Grand Union towards the Stockton flight. There are a couple of lock free miles before reaching a new place to turn just before the flight. Turning used to be possible in the entrance to Kate Boats’ marina but they weren’t very happy with boats turning there and often left boats moored close to the entrance to discourage the practice.

The latest option is the recently developed Nelson’s Wharf which last saw activity in 1968 when the army’s trainee demolition engineers blew up the old cement works buildings to practice their fledgling pyrotechnical skills. The new wharf has been built by Willow Wren Training. The recently cleared short section of the old cement works arm makes a very easy to use winding hole. I don’t know what their official position is on boats turning there, but I received an enthusiastic wave from a talking on the phone in the doorway of the new all timber office as I nosed into the arm, so we’re off to a good start.

I left the marina at 1pm. I should have been back by 2pm but as normally happens when I’m out on the boat I completely lost the will to complete the day’s routine tasks ahead of me. Instead, on the return journey and only about half a mile from the marina, I moored against the towpath, made myself a cup of coffee, grabbed my Kindle, rolled back the cratch cover and sat down to read. I don’t think I read more than a page before I was seduced by the gentle art of people watching as a stream of happy boaters cruised gently by.

In between smiles and casual waves to happy cruisers, I tried to do a little work. I sat with my laptop across my legs with twitching fingers poised above the keyboard, but I couldn’t do it. I closed the lid and watched a mallard with her seven little balls of fluff, surfing over the wash from passing boats. I watched a crested grebe duck beneath the brown water in search of afternoon tea. I watched a flight of Canada geese wheel across the sky towards the marina. I watched and I sunbathed and I watched some more. I climbed off the boat to clean the windows on the towpath side, and I watched the world go by.

I spent so much time watching that I didn’t get back on to my mooring until 6pm, just in time to get our evening meal ready, but far too late to make a significant impact on the newsletter. What I have been able to include though are the answers to some general boating questions which were included in an email I recently received asking me for information about lone boating. The email I received and my answers to the questions are below..

“3.  Not specifically a single as such. But how do ensure that you do not run out of diesel, gas, water, food and worst of all beer? The measurement of the first three seems to be a rather hit or miss affair. I have visions of myself  becoming  a ‘poor man’s Robinson Crusoe’ marooned on the cut; drifting, cold, starving, dehydrated and sober. You see my paranoia.”
No, these issues aren’t specific to single handed boating but all information is useful so I’ll add the answers here anyway.
Diesel

Simply keep your tank full. Most narrowboat hold enough diesel to allow you to cruise and to heat your boat for many days at a time. Mine holds 350 litres which, I once spent half an hour on a cold and wet Sunday afternoon calculating, would allow me to travel from Calcutt to Braunston, turn left up the north Oxford before joining the Coventy, then the Trent & Mersey canals, hold my breath while I negotiated the Ribble link, explore the length of the Lancaster canal before turning round at Tewitfield then retracing my steps to arrive back at Calcutt a month later. All without stopping for fuel. But my not stopping for fuel odyssey wouldn’t necessarily be over. I could then cruise down the south Oxford to Oxford, join the Thames for forty exhilarating downstream miles to Kennet Mouth before spending the final eight days of my six week journey carefully steering around a profusion of live aboard boaters on the Kennet and Avon as I headed towards Avonmouth while I waited, at last, for my diesel tank to run dry.

As you can see, you have to work very hard at running out of fuel. However, if you want to make absolutely sure that there is no danger of emptying your tank, make a dipstick for your tank.  Buy yourself a 3′ – 4′ length of dowel, fill the tank up, push the dowel down to the bottom of your tank, mark the diesel level on the dowel as your “full” mark and then measure your half and quarter marks from there.

Of course you may well forget to dip your tank on a regular basis so the simple solution is to keep it topped up. Topping the tank up also helps to reduce the risk of getting condensation forming inside the tank.

Gas

I use gas for cooking and for water heating. We do a fair amount of each (especially since we’ve installed the twin tub washing machine on the boat and washing everything we own, virtually every day, has become a bit of an obsession with Sally). A 13kg cylinder lasts us about three weeks. Those who use gas just for cooking will tell you that a 13kg cylinder will last them for 3-4 months or more.

We always have two cylinders in the bow gas locker. As soon as one runs out I switch to the other full cylinder and make sure I buy a replacement ASAP. I’ve never run out of gas.

If you buy a boat with a gas water heater, you will probably waste a huge amount of gas. You will probably want hot water either end of the day for a shower and/or for washing dishes. For the rest of the day and night, maybe twenty three and a half hours out of every twenty four, your gas heater is unused but the pilot light is still burning rather expensive propane. By turning your pilot light off when you don’t need hot water can double the life of a single cylinder and cut your gas expenditure in half. I’m embarrassed to have to tell you that I only discovered this money saving tip fairly recently, and even more embarrassed to report that I haven’t yet done anything about it.

Water

When you’re out cruising, don’t miss an opportunity to top up your water tank. Of course you’ll have your trusty Pearson or Nicholson guide to hand to identify the water points along your route. If you have a boat and don’t use one of these guides, you’re missing a great deal.

Personally, I prefer Pearson’s Canal Companions. They tell me a huge amount about the route I plan to cruise including quiet places to moor, places to empty our toilet cassette, pubs and shops close to the canal, winding holes and the lengths of the boats which can use them, bridges, roads and railways and the average cruising time along the illustrated sections. The guides also show the location of the water points along the route too.

Watford GapI’ve scanned page twelve of the Pearson’s Canal Companion: East Midlands to demonstrate what I’m talking about (with permission from Michael Pearson of course. Thank you Michael).  Two weeks ago I mentioned that Sally and I are taking the boat out for a couple of weeks at the beginning of June. I didn’t need to, but just out of interest, I plotted the route on the excellent CanalPlan web site. Using the default settings, the route planner advised me to stop by bridge 6 on the first night. However, a quick glance at my Pearson’s guide persuaded me to ignore the suggestion.

If you had to choose a place to moor on the network to guarantee a sleepless night, you would be hard pressed to pick a better spot than this with the suggested mooring’s close proximity to the thundering traffic on the M1 supplemented by more noise on the A5, the roar of trains speeding between London and Rugby and the hectic Watford Gap motorway service station relieving thousands of weary travellers of vast amounts of money for food of dubious quality. Instead, we’ll have a peaceful night at Braunston followed by five or six hours cruising the following day to get past the traffic noise to the tranquility of the open countryside after Crick marina.

Returning to the subject of water though, we intend to spend a few days enjoying the remote and lock free summit pound so, thanks to our Pearson’s guide, I can see that after ensuring that our water tank is full when we leave Calcutt we can either top up at Braunston or briefly stop beneath the Watford lock flight. Braunston is too soon, and isn’t the best place to stop for water. We’ll make the quickest stop we can at Watford gap to top up before moving on. Without a waterways guide, the location of facilities such as water points would be a mystery.

Provisions

Back to the waterways guides again. They show locations of supermarkets close to the canals and rivers and also have a section giving further details on the stores available. Please note though that however good you are at planning your route, sometimes circumstances will get the better of you. Always make sure you have enough dry provisions to get you out of trouble. We have enough rice and tinned fish and vegetables on board to keep us going for a week if necessary.

That’s it for part one of the two part lone boating newsletter. Next week I’ll discuss negotiating locks and lift and swing bridges.

I Need Some Help!

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.

Newsletter Index

I created the site just over three 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.

 11th May 2014

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.

4th May 2014

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.

27th April 2014

What makes a perfect live aboard narrowboat. Two experienced boaters discuss layout, size and essential equipment

20th April 2014

A cautionary tale if you are considering buying a wide beam boat to live on.

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

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.

30th March 2014

How do you continue to earn money to support your boating lifestyle as you cruise the network?

23rd March 2014

Sharing your narrowboat space – The practicalities of sharing living accommodation the same size as a large shed.

16th March 2014

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?

9th March 2014

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.

2nd March 2014

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.

23rd February 2014

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

16th February 2014

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.

9th February 2014

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.

2nd February 2014

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.

26th January 2014

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.

19th January 2014

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?

12th January 2014

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)

5th January 2014

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.

29th December 2013

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.

22nd December 2013

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.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

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

1st December 2013

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.

24th November 2013

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.

17th November 2013

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.

10th November 2013

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

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

27th October 2013

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

13th October 2013

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.

6th October 2013

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.

29th September 2013

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.

22nd September 2013

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

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

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!

25th August 2013

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.

18th August 2013

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?

11th August 2013

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

4th August 2013

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?

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

21st July 2013

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.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

7th July 2013

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.

30th June 2013

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.

16th June 2013

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.

9th June 2013

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.

2nd June 2013

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

26th May 2013

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

19th May 2013

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.

12th May 2013

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

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

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.

21st April 2013

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?

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

7th April 2013

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.

31st March 2013

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.

24th March 2013

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.

17th March 2013

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.

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

3rd March 2013

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

20th February 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.

8th January 2013

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

24th December

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.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

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

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

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

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

18th September 2012

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

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

27th  May 2012

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

13th May 2012

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

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

15th April 2012

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

 1st April 2012

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.

18th March 2012

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.

4th March 2012

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

22nd January 2012

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.

8th January 2012

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.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

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.

Popular Forum Posts

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.

  • Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
  • Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

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.

 

Useful Information
Entertainment
Summary

Learn the Art of Tying Knots for Narrowboating

To knot or not to knot… that is the question! Do you know the difference between an albright and a woggle or an alpine butterfly and a west country whipping? Probably not. The good news is that you don’t need to. As a traveller of the inland waterways there are really only two knots you need to know, but you really do need to know them. Let me give you an example of what can happen when you don’t.

When I was seventeen (I know, I must have a very good memory – three male friends and I drove to somewhere near Great Yarmouth to the start of our week long narrowboat holiday. After half and hour’s instructiion we were allowed out on the Norfolk broads on our own.

By five o’clock we thought we had travelled far enough so “parked” our new toy along a canal bank near a likely looking pub. Six hours later and a little the worse for wear, we staggered through the driving rain through the pub garden back to where we were sure the boat was moored.

It wasn’t there!

Of course we weren’t thinking straight so after a brief panic and a longer shouting match we raced up and down the bank searching for our new home. After ten minutes we found the boat. Actually “found the boat” isn’t quite right. We hadn’t lost it at all. The idiot responsible for tying the stern mooring line (me) hadn’t done a very good job so the boat had swung one hundred and eighty degrees downstream and had come to rest alongside another narrowboat. Of course it was very difficult to see it in the driving rain.

The essential narrowboat knot

The essential narrowboat knot

If I had known either of the two most useful narrowboat knots we would have been spared the heartache all those years ago. Of course, my experience resulted in nothing more that a minor irritation but there have been countless cases of boats drifting away from their moorings because of poor knot tying… sometimes with disasterous consequences. Fortunately for you, it’s now very easy to learn these knots.

The two essential narrowboat knots are “the round turn and two half hitches” and “the cleat hitch”. The former is shorn on the left. The latter is below. The one on the left is for attaching your mooring rope to a post or a ring and the cleat hitch. The cleat hitch, strangely enough, secures a rope to a cleat. As you will invariably tie your narrowboat to or from a post, cleat or mooring ring these two knots will keep you out of trouble.

narrowboat cleat hitch

Essential knot number two

You can probably work out how to tie the knots just by looking at the diagrams but, to make life even easier for you, there’s a marvelous website which demonstrates how to tie every knot you’ve ever heard of . In fact, there are 120 knots listed. All of them are animated and very clear and easy to understand. It’s a great site… and it’s free.

 

 

 

Update 9th March 2014

I wrote this post just over four years ago. It was one of the first on the fledgling site. Since then I’ve often been approached with offers of new information to add to the site. About a month ago I realised that site subscriber Colin Jarman was the author of two books about boating knots. I asked him if he would like to write an article for the site describing the best knots for narrowboat owners. He kindly agreed. Here it is….

We handle ropes and lines most frequently on a narrowboat when mooring or getting underway. Mooring lines have to be fastened securely to stop your boat wandering off on a cruise of her own, yet they need to be easy to cast off and clear away when you want to leave your berth.

This means you need to know a few good knots that will hold securely until you want to undo them and that will then be easy to release, even under load. I emphasise that bit – even under load. If, say, the water is draining from a lock and there’s tension in your lines, but you can’t free them, because the knots have worked too tight … well, you get the picture.

The commonest ‘fixing points’ for mooring lines are bollards beside a lock, mooring stakes in the bank, a ring in a lock wall and a dolly or T-stud (cleat) on the deck. The knots I would recommend to cover these situations are the Round Turn and Two Half Hitches, the Lighterman’s hitch and the Cleat Hitch. You should know how to tie a Bowline too, because it forms a useful loop in the end of a rope, but it’s not the best knot for mooring purposes, because it’s hard to undo when under load and to lift it off a bollard means gaining some slack in the whole line so that the loop can be lifted up and off – not something you can do under load. If you need a loop, though, or need to join two lines together, a bowline (or a pair of bowlines with their loops interlinked in a Bowline Bend) can’t be beaten.

ROUND TURN AND TWO HALF HITCHES – bollard, spike (stake), dolly, ring

This is a long name for a simple way of fastening a line to a ring, a mooring stake, a dolly or a bollard. The name is also a perfect description of the parts of the knot. Begin by passing the end of the line round the bollard, dolly, mooring stake or through the ring so that it comes back towards you. Now take it round again so that it again comes back at you and completely encloses the object in a full ‘round turn’. Next pass the (working) end across the (standing part of) the line and wrap it round, poking the working end through between itself and the round turn. That’s the first half hitch. Take the working end on round the standing part, tuck it through between itself and the first half hitch and you’ve formed the second half hitch, completing the whole ‘round turn and two half hitches’.

Pull everything tight and it will hold as long as you want. Importantly though, it will also be easy to undo even while the boat is pulling hard on it. Just pull the end back through the two half hitches and either unwind the round turn or hang on to the working end of the line and surge it round the bollard (or whatever it’s round) and control the boat. If you try to stop a moving narrowboat by just holding the end of a mooring line you will soon find yourself swimming in the canal, but take a round turn on (ideally) a bollard and the friction of the rope round the bollard will help you to slow her down and hold her.

LIGHTERMAN’S HITCH – bollard, dolly

It’s much harder to describe the lighterman’s hitch than it is to tie it, but here goes. Use it for securing a mooring line to a bollard or dolly – if the rope is thin and the dolly tall, otherwise go back to a round turn and two half hitches.

Take a full round turn on the bollard, then pass a loop (bight) of the free (working) end of the line under the standing part, up and drop it over the head of the bollard or dolly. Drop a second loop of the working part over the bollard, then pass a third loop under the standing part, up and over the head of the bollard. That’s it. Job done. No ‘tying’, nothing to jam, just a round turn and three loops. It will hold securely and to undo it, just life each loop off until you are again holding the boat with a full round turn on the bollard.

CLEAT HITCH – T-stud

Like the Lighterman’s Hitch, this avoids any ‘tying’. Take a full round turn on the upright ‘neck’ of the T-stud with the working end of the line. That gives you immediate control, because you can surge the line around the neck of the stud to control the boat. To secure the line, next cross the working part over the T and pass it under one horn. Cross over the top again and pass the line under the other horn. Now take a fresh round turn on the neck of the stud and that’s it. The line is secure, but can be undone under load, just by unwinding the line to the first round turn.

The easy way to remember this round, cross, round pattern is with the word OXO. For a round turn (O), then cross, under one horn, cross and under the other in an X pattern, and finish with a round turn (O). If you are worried about security with a slippery rope, put two XXs on – think of kissing the missus, is one kiss enough?

Follow the links on each of the knots to see an animated demonstration of how to tie them or see demonstrations of other knots not listed here on my YouTube channel.

If you want to read more about simple knots and splices I can’t help but recommend ‘Knots In Use’ and ‘Knots and Splices’ (both published by Adlard Coles Nautical), because I’m their author.

Good luck!

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