Learn about life afloat the easy way

Life on a narrowboat can be as peaceful as it is idyllic BUT you need to understand the pros, cons, highs, lows, and day to day logistics in living on England's inland waterways. Let me help you find out all you need to know before you commit to what could be a very expensive mistake.

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2012 12 18 Newsletter – Understanding Narrowboat Electrics

Living On A Narrowboat News 18th December 2012 Christmas is drawing ever closer. We have a few holly bushes around the site but sadly none of them are bearing berries as yet. Maybe that’s a good sign. Abundant berries on trees and bushes is supposed to be a sign of a hard winter to come. A berry free holly bush would be a small price to pay for a milder winter.Over the last two weeks we’ve seen a thin crust of ice on the marina on three occasions and this winter’s lowest temperature – minus seven. I’ve taken one of our hire boats that hasn’t yet been blacked for a spin around both marinas to keep the main channels clear so that any boaters with full toilet tanks can cruise to the Locks marina pump out station. Those who spend any length of time on board are watching the weather carefully to make sure that they don’t get stuck on the mooring as they have on previous years when the marina ice has been too thick to break.This week we’re back to mild, wet and windy and very soggy underfoot. It’s a time of the year that I dislike for many reasons; the leaves are off the trees, I have to wear wellies for work every day because of the mud underfoot and because oft he same mud, Charlie and Daisy, our two spaniels, need a little more management. Because the boat is on a wooden pier, they don’t come onto the boat straight from the muddy ground but there’s still enough muck on their feet to warrant a quick wipe with a towel before they come onto the boat. It’s a bit of a pain but one of the necessary evils of narrowboat dog ownership.

Narrowboat Power Systems Explained

Tim Davis wrote an excellet article for the site about narrowboat solar power. He knows a huge amount about solar power and electrical systems on board. Tim has written another excellent article for the site. This time he’s explained everything you ever need to know about your boat’s onboard electrics from battery maintenance and how to minimise the power you use on board to inverters and generators. Even if you’re not technically minded, this is a subject you need to understand. The first part of Tim’s article is about batteries and how to maintain them. Battery care and maintenance is quick and easy to understand. Regular maintenance will prolong your batteries’ life. With modern narrowboat using as many as seven or eight batteries and at a cost for some of well over £100 each you need to do all that you can to ensure that they work correctly for as long as possible. If you only read one article on the site, make sure it’s this one.

Satellite Television For Narrowboats

Narrowboat satellite system installer Martin Hicks emailed me to ask if I would be interested in letting you know about satellite television for narrowboats. In the spirit of providing you with as much information as possible about all aspects of narrowboats and what goes into them, I have created a post with his information. Please note that this is not an endorsement of satellite television systems in general or Martin’s in particular. I know nothing about satellite systems and whether they work on narrowboats. There is a link at the bottom of the post to take you to the forum where you can add any comments you’d like to make.

Treat Yourself At Christmas

This is a shameless plug for my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost Of A Life Afloat. Of course, I earn a few pennies from the sale of the guide which helps with the running costs of the site, but it’s not just that. You’ve sibscribed to the site and this newsletter because you want to find out more about living on a narrowboat, possibly with a view to living on a narrowboat yourself. You need to find out all the costs involved before you commit  to the purchase of a very expensive boat and the running costs that go with it. The guide will tell you all of the costs you’re likely to face.

I ask everyone who buys the PDF version of the guide (Amazon doesn’t share purchase information from Kindle sales) for constructive feedback, both good and bad. I’ve only received one negative comment to date and that was from a guy who said that he didn’t feel that he’d learned much from the guide, but that was probably because he’d been living on a narrowboat for the last six years!

Here’s what some of the other readers said…

“Excellent book – easy to read and very informative. Not expensive and gives so much information for and against. Highly recommended.J. Moon (Amazon Kindle Review)

“I have found the structured breakdown of costs with practical data particularly useful in allowing me to calculate possible ongoing costs. Thanks for the time and effort you have put into the guide.” Dudley Pexton

“Hi Paul, have downloaded and read your book about living on a narrowboat, I’m so pleased I did, it hold a mine of information.” Sally Owen

“I purchased this book because my wife and I plan to return to the U.K. In about a year from now.I have read this book and played around with the figures, even going a little bit crazy and adding a few more percent interest on what I expect the costs to be around a year or so from now and I am very impressed with what I found out. The links supplied are amazing for further research and ideas. I really recommend this book to anyone considering living afloat as It is money very well spent.” Alan MacLellan (Amazon Kindle review)

“Hi Paul,  Firstly, I found it very useful and although I had already put together a spreadsheet of my own to try and establish likely costs of owning and running a narrowboat, that one day I hope to own, it certainly either filled in some of the blanks or made me aware of expenditure I had not thought of.  As computer/internet literate as I am, I would very much like a hard copy of the Guide that I could easily reach for as a reference or memory jogger. Printing off the pdf version wouldn’t quite be the same somehow. I suspect however, that this would dramatically increase the cost of the guide?

I liked;

  • that you gave the background as to how you came to own James and the trials and tribulations you encountered in the early months
  • the layout of the guide
  • that it concludes with a summary and a breakdown of the annual costs.

 I didn’t like

  • Very little really and certainly nothing worth mentioning, informative and written with a personal touch.”

Gavin Clark

The guide on it’s own is a great way for you to determine whether you can afford to buy and maintain your dream boat, but shorly you’ll be able to plug the costs detailed in the guide directly into the new narrowboat budget calculator on the site. It’s nearly ready for release, it will be free for you to use and I know you’re going to love it. You’ll be able to enter every cost you’re likely to incur including those that aren’t directly boat related such as food and drink, medical expenses, clothing and entertainment and pretty much anything else you can think of. And if you do think of an expense that you’d like to include that isn’t already there, you can add your own category. It’s a very powerful tool… especially when the guide is used for reference. Make sure that you understand all the cost you’ll face afloat and download your copy of the guide here.

Popular Forum Posts

Here are some more forum posts for you. If you can’t find an answer to your narrowboat questions on the site or in the forum, please post it on the forum. It’s easy to do. All you have to do is to make sure that you’re logged in before you post. There’s no such thing as a silly question, so go ahead and ask.

  • 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

What’s Missing?

I want the site to be a comprehensive guide to anyone who is thinking about living on a narrowboat. I’m sure that there’s plenty of stuff missing, so I need your help. In general terms, what do you think is missing from the site? What would you like to see more of? What would you like to see less of. And, specifically, what can’t you find the answer to? Is there a specific question about life on board that you need answering? I’m not talking about specific technical aspects that will be of use to you, but of no interest to other readers but subjects that will be of use and of interest to the majority of visitors to the site. Please help by completing this very short survey. You don’t have to leave your details so you can say what you like.

Newsletter Archive

Useful Links

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.

If you’re wondering why you are receiving this newsletter it’s because you subscribed to my site (Living On A Narrowboat). I hope that the information I send you from time to time is useful. After all, the site is all about narrowboats and you probably found the site from doing a narrowboat related search through a search engine. However, I don’t want you to receive emails that you really have no interest in. I know from personal experience how annoying they can be. If you really don’t want to receive information about living on a narrowboat and updates on the on-line, offline and marina moorings in England and Wales you can unsubscribe using the link at the bottom of this email. I hope you stay. I sincerely hope you find the information useful.

Useful Information
Paul Smith

After six and a half years living on a narrowboat on England's inland waterways, Paul and his wife Cynthia now wander Europe by motorhome during the winter, and on the Dutch and French waterways in the warmer months on their 32' Dutch motor cruiser.