Moving From Living Abroad To Living On A Narrowboat In The UK

Hi Paul, thanks for creating the website and frequently posting new material! I read your content often as my husband and I have dreamt of a life on the canals for years and are working towards making this happen 2013. However, we are looking for others to share their real life experiences regarding a move from an international location back to the UK and onto a narrowboat. We live and work in the US and have already sold our house and are currently purging and selling stuff with the goal of selling everything before returning to the UK! I would love to hear from others and learn of their experiences and insights, as at times the move back and onto a narrowboat seems rather daunting! But we are determined and excited, and realize that it requires a good deal of courage to make a dream a reality! Thanks again! Regards, Karen


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  • admin says:

    A couple of months ago, we had an Australian couple do something similar to what you intend to do. Although they didn’t sell their house in Australia, they are now cruising the waterways on their own boat. They hired a narrowboat initially while they looked for a boat of their own. They found one almost immediately, had a little work done at Calcutt Boats and are now happy continuous cruisers.

  • Pengalanty says:

    ### Message for Karen in the US of A

    Hi Karen,

    I have just read your message to Paul regarding his wonderful integrated site for boaters and people
    interested in “Living board” enjoying canal and river life

    I can almost imagine your excitement and almost being unable to wait to make the change to “Life Aboard a Narrowboat” It takes me personally back to that excitement (Again) – What a lovely feeling!

    I am cruising (At the moment) with a friend’s narrowboat (Snowdrop), after having some maintenance work carried out by a superb “Top Notch” Marina, within a mile of Foxton Locks. The work has all been finished and the return journey has started today (Only 40-canal miles and 42-locks single handed to go)

    I have taken time out (Cup O’ Tea Time) to drop you a reply. I am sure that I have some interesting bits and bobs on my Blog site. This can be accessed if you want a “peep”

    You are also welcomed to drop me a line direct if you have any specific questions. I think Paul would agree that I do have a fair amount of practical experience and am willing to pass it on to others, if and when it is helpful or wanted

    Have you seen any boats that you have taken a fancy too on the Internet yet? What sort of boat are you looking for? Do post a reply and let us know!

    As a guidline, I wouldn’t consider anything smaller than 55 feet to live on. (Many other boaters have similar views). If you want to cruise, (Or be able to cruise) the whole of the Waterways system over here, the absolute maximum length to do this is 57 feet 6 inches (UK Measurements). I personally think that a nice size for a “Livaboard” boat is about 62 feet. Another thing to consider is storage space – never, ever enough!

    Also, it is useful to take into consideration that a holiday boat requires lots of space “outside” for drinking, chatting and enjoying the outside (Countryside and views) – A “Livaboard” boat requires the maximum space inside, because that’s where one lives most of the time – just a thought to consider – that’s how I designed my boat 6 years ago. I am still very pleased with it but I didn’t get everything 100% right!

    If you have no previous experience, do take the advice of others and hire a boat early, late, or out of season, to get the feel of things. You will know within a few days what you DON’T like, or what is in the wrong place for you. It gives excellent basic experience to help you with your first choice

    I can almost “feel” that this is an exciting time for you

    S’wondefrul to live on a NB.

    I could not be happy these days moving back to bricks and mortar – I would feel “trapped” – many other boaters feel the same way!

    I can only just start realising why “Romanies” like a travelling sort of nomadic life

    Sincere regards, ~Allan~

    ### PS: there is a unique “Virtual” boat club that is well worth looking at. It is very cheap to become a member and you get all the facilities of being affiliated to the AWICC clubs (£10 joing feeand first 12 months, ten £5per annum at the present time – Google CUTWEB or CIBC for information

    (For expample: I had to leave my boat for about 3 weeks: I don’t have a Marina Mooring; I was able to leave my boat with an affiliate AWICC club with secure mooring, AND without charge, although it is normal to make a nominal contribution to the particular club’s funds (This facility is worth the knowledge that the boat is being overseen by other passionate boaters and is almost 100% secure
    (Food for thought perhaps?)

    ### PPS: Don’t forget to let us all know when you “Land” in the UK, so we can all welcome you to your new home

    • Karen Matthews says:

      Dear Allan, thank you so much for your wonderful, detailed response to our questions. I’m sorry that I haven’t responded sooner, as I have been crazy busy preparing and executing a 2- day garage sale here in the US. I am pleased to report that it was a lot of fun and we sold a lot of “stuff!” This was just another step towards making our dream a reality!

      To give you some idea of the type of boat spec that we are looking for, we were very excited when we recently spotted nb Hideaway for sale. Even though she is a tad too long, we thought for us, she had all of the bells and whistles and a few more besides! We know that she is probably sold by now, as she was “under offer” a few days ago. But, that’s ok as we won’t be ready to purchase a boat until towards the end of this year (2012). We have observed that there are new listings all of the time, so we have to keep our eyes and minds open. We know to keep our ‘spec list’ flexible!

      My husband recently popped home, to visit his family in Kettering, and at the same time visited some of the local boat brokers in the Crick/Daventry area. We made some good connections and gathered more valuable tips to add to our ever growing ‘research file!’ During his visit he also realized that we may highly rate a boat that we see based on the details on line, but in reality, once on board the boat, it is a different story and visa versa! So we are going to have to be very smart about this!

      As you mentioned, we have experienced life afloat, albeit a short week on the Leeds Liverpool. It was Sept/Oct 2008 and the weather was brutal, but it didn’t put us off, it just confirmed that this is what we absolutely want to do!

      Well, Allan it’s time to sign off for now. I would be very happy to exchange personal email addresses with you. Maybe Paul could help with that? In the meantime, have a great week!

      Kind regards

  • TonyG59 says:

    Hi Karen, We (julie and Tony) are moving back to the UK from a 6 year stint in Germany in July (hopefully?!), and plan to get our ex-hire boat (62ft) in Sep / Oct when it comes off the water… it will be 5 years old and we have put down a deposit. We have had since last Nov to research and plan the refurbishment we plan to do and have visited to do measurements etc and are VERY excited at this stage because its getting close to becoming a reality. We intend to stay in Chirk where the mooring is for the first couple of seasons and then move on to the rest of the UK!!!

    • Karen Matthews says:

      Hi Julie and Tony! Thanks so much for your comment and congrats on your upcoming move back and new adventure! Where, in Germany are you? Mike and I lived in Viersen, just West of Dusseldorf in the late 80’s and have great memories of our time there. I have to ask you, what are you planning to do with all of your furniture and household effects that won’t be going on the boat with you? Where are you staying in Chirk, are you renting something? Who will be doing your refurbishment? So many questions!

      Have a great week!

      Kind regards,

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