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Detailed narrowboat running costs for January 2013

This year (2013) is going to be an expensive year for Sally and I. We have a huge amount of work to do to get James up to scratch. I’ve had some of the more major work done already. In November 2011 I replaced the old perished leaking and rotten wooden top with a new steel cabin. Actually, I didn’t replace one with the other. I had the new steel added on top of the existing cabin, and added another layer of insulation between the two. Removing the existing wooden cabin would have meant destroying much of the woodwork inside the cabin. James is beautifully fitted inside. Removing the woodwork would have been a tragic, almost criminal waste.

The new steel work, transportation and remedial work cost roughly £10,000. The transport alone was £1,100 for a delivery to and collection from a boatbuilder just eight miles away. The boatbuilder didn’t have any lifting gear on site so the road haulage company had to provide a crane too.

In April 2012 I took James out of the water to black the hull. Two days of dirty, back-breaking labour saved me the £500 that I would have been charged if I had asked Calcutt Boats to do the work for me. After James was put back in the water, I took her into one of our paint tents, took three weeks off work and painted the rest of the boat. It was a frustrating but ultimately rewarding project which resulted in a half decent finish and which saved me a fortune. As a ball park figure, you can bank on £100 a foot to have your boat painted by the professionals. James, at 62′, would therefore have cost me over £6,000 for a “proper” job. As it was, the cost of the materials plus the hire of the paint tent was under £1,000.

So I started 2013 with steelwork to the top and to the bottom of the boat with a decent layer of paint. The hull needs doing every three years so I next need to do it mid 2015. The cabin should last five or six years at least if it’s looked after properly, which brings me to January 2013 and my expenses for the month. Here they are…

Electricity: Each mooring has a 230v electrical supply which is charged at 20p per unit and topped up cards available from our reception.  I generally buy 3 x £10 electricity cards at a time.  I bought cards twice this month. My electricity purchases should be significantly reduced in March when I have the solar panels fitted. Time will tell.  – £60
Gas: I should have known better. I ran out of gas in January. I have two 13kg propane cylinders in the front gas locker. When one runs out I usually buy a replacement on the same day. I forgot in December so when the smell of gas alerted me to the fact that the cylinder in use was on its way out on a bitterly cold January morning, I scrambled out of the boat to the gas locker to (I thought) quickly switch from the empty to the full cylinder. Both were empty so there was no morning cup of coffee, and no toast. I wasn’t happy. Consequently, I bought two cylinders later than day. – £45.90
Coal: I get a better deal if I buy ten bags at a time. Ten 25kg bags of Pureheat last me about a month –  £108
Mooring: My mooring costs £2,300 a year – £191.66
Maintenance & Repairs: There were no maintenance and repair expenses as such in January, but I did make a purchase to help me when I’m out cruising. I bought a folding bike. Folding bikes are very handy for getting to and from the local shops, or returning to a parked car so that it can be brought to the boat’s current mooring. You can pay £500 or more for a new folding bike. The one I bought was being sold by the owners of a narrowboat we have on brokerage. It’s very comfortable, but basic Apollo folding bike from Halfords. The list price is £149 but this one has had Derailleur gears added. The cost to me? – £65

Heating the boat increases my monthly outgoings during the winter. In January I spent £108 for coal and about £30 more than I would during the summer on electricity. The increased electricity cost is due to two 500w Dimplex Coldwatcher greenhouse heaters that I use to provide additional heat towards the rear of the boat where the stove’s heat can’t reach.

The total directly boat related regular expenses this month were £213.90 for heating and electricity and £191.66 for my mooring, a total of £427.80. Then of course there was the bike purchase bringing the total to £492.80.

Of course, the boat expenditure is only a part of the cost of life on the boat. Here’s what we spent on our day to day expenses in January

Internet: I use the excellent mobile broadband dongle from Three. For the last two and a half years, since my bankruptcy, I have been using the Pay As You Go option because my credit rating wasn’t pretty. The PAYG service costs £25 for 7GB per month. I’m connected 24/7 as I’m aditing the site early morning, on breaks from work through the day, and in the evening. Sally has an iPad. She’s online quite a bit too. Consequently, we often ran over the monthly allowance. Over the last 12 months I’ve been trying my luck by attempting to order a dongle on a 24 month contract. In January I was successful. My mobile broadband now costs me £15.99 a month for 15GB rather than last year’s average of £29.69 a month. – £15.99
Telephone (Mobile): Sally and I both have mobiles on contract and Sally has an iPad, also on contract – £115
Laundery: Calcutt Boats as two washing machines and a dryer for moorers’ use. We only use the washing machines. Sally hangs the damp washing inside the boat. It’s dry within 24 hours. The washing machines take tokens which we buy at reception. Each token costs £1 and keeps the washing machines going for 45 minutes. – £20
Groceries: We eat well but not extravegantly. £366.40
Eating out: We enjoy a coffee in a cafe and the occasional meal out. In January we had a meal in local pub, a fiery chicken feast in Nandos in the Bullring, Birmingham and a coffee in a canalside cafe – £81.60.
Entertainment: I love to read. I love my Kindle. It’s so easy to finish a book, use my laptop to browse through the Kindle books on Amazon, click a button and open my new book within a minute or two. I don’t read as much as I would like because of the time I spend adding content to this site. However, I still get through three or four books a month. We also buy second hand DVDs from Blockbuster about once a month. The local store sells four for £10 – £32.50
Car: The insurance on my Seat Althea was due in January (£298). I don’t use my car very much so just £31.10 for fuel – £329.35
Clothing: I try to spend as little as possible on clothing but in January I needed a new pair of wellies and a fleece hat – £58.49

My total none-boat-related living costs for January were £1,019.33 bringing my overall total for January to £1,512.13. I fear that the totals for the coming few months are going to be far more than that with the improvements we have planned but what a lovely boat James will be when she’s finished!

 

 

 

 

2013 02 20 Newsletter

Living on a Narrowboat News 20th February 2013

2013 is going to be an expensive year for Sally and I. I’ve lived on James now for just under three years and, although I’ve made essential improvements, the boat needs a great deal more doing to get it to the standard that we want.

When I first moved on board at the beginning of April 2010, James was barely habitable. The rear cabin was virtually under water, the stove glass and flu was cracked which meant that the stove was unusable, and the original ply cabin top had perished to the point where rainwater would drip through the roof after anything more than a moderate shower.

James, freshly painted, back on its mooring

James, freshly painted, back on its mooring. Do the coach lines look straight to you?

In November 2011 I had James taken eight miles by road transport to a local boat builder – a journey that cost me £1,100 – where they overplated the original cabin with steel. When James was brought back to Calcutt, I blacked the hull while the boat was out of the water then, when James was launched again, I spent three weeks painting everything else.

After the new cabin was added and I had finished painting, James was fully watertight. The exterior looks pretty good now even if, to me, the coach lines look like the profile for Blackpool’s Big Dipper. The interior, aesthetically, is in much better shape too. I had some paint mixed to match the cabin’s interior Parana pine cladding so that I could paint over a few areas too badly water stained to sand out, the curtains were dry cleaned, the carpet steam cleaned and everything else cleaned with a large dollop of elbow grease.

We did as much as we could without spending a fortune but we’ve now decided to bite the bullet and upgrade James as much as possible.

We started in January by buying new curtain material. Sally made the curtains, and a fantastic job she’s done too. Material cost £286.70 for ten pairs for the regular sized windows, plus a single for the one bathroom porthole.

Narrowboat James new curtainsIn January we also bought a new mattress. I should have replaced it when I moved onto James. I don’t think the one that I inherited was terribly old but it had been in an uninhabited and therefore very damp boat for a number of years and had also been under one of the many spots where rainwater had leaked through the roof (resulting in some very suspicious looking stains on one side of the mattress). The original mattress was also quite soft. In fact so soft that it was causing Sally backache. We bought the new mattress from Argos. They delivered it almost to the boat. The roads were quite icy at the time so they would only come as far as the marina main car park. We had to transfer the mattress to one of the site vehicles the rest of the way. The mattress cost us £233.94 (reduced from £460) for a small double which is 6’3″ long by 4′ wide. Let me stray from the main subject for a minute and talk about beds and their sizes. I won’t take long and you may find the diversion very useful.

Narrowboats by name, narrowboats by nature. With an exterior maximum width of just 6’10” and in my case in the back cabin where we have our bed, an internal width of  6’4″ there isn’t much room for a fixed bed with mattress plus a passageway by its side. As our bed is four feet wide, we have a passageway 2’4″ wide through the bedroom. The passageway is wide enough, but with a standard double bed 4’6″ wide, it wouldn’t be.

Both Sally and I are quite slim. Sally is a size 8, whatever that is, and I am 5’10” tall and twelve and a half stone. Even so, a 4′ wide bed is quite a tight fit. If you are a little larger than us, and any taller than I am, you need to think carefully about the bed on your new boat.  The width of the bed can be increased to include the passageway by fitting an infill section of mattress on a removable or folding base, but they you need to consider where you’re going to store the extra bits when they’re not in use.

Back to the main topic: We wanted to make sure that the new mattress stayed in pristine condition. Our old mattress was often quite damp. It’s an often encountered problem on boats, especially where the mattress sits on the bed base. One solution is ensure that the bed base is ventilated. Ours was, but we still had a problem. We bought a Dry-Mat from Ship Shape Bedding. It works a treat. No more damp mattress, and no more £59 in my bank account.

Our mattress wasn’t the only damp problem we had. The bedding in both dog baskets was constantly damp too. Warm dogs on bedding next to the cold boat floor = damp bedding. We had planned to fit some anti slip matting on the front deck so we put some under each dog basket to allow the air to circulate between boat and bed. It worked. We now have dry beds for both people and dogs.

We’ve just ordered some more anti slip matting for the front deck to help protect the paintwork and manage the mess left by dogs with dirty paws. That’s another £87.60.

Now that we’ve fully embraced spending money hand over fist, there’s no stopping us. I don’t know how long ago the current carpets were fitted in James, but their replacement is long overdue. Narrowboat flooring is subject to much abuse. In a house, the area of flooring that is used most is the hallway. A narrowboat is just one long hall. I’ve steam cleaned the carpets on James now three times, but you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear. The carpets have had it.

A carpet isn’t the most practical flooring to have in a boat when you have dogs.  Our dogs, Charlie and Daisy, are generally very good. They don’t make a mess. The vast majority of the time, they’re clean and can be left for quite long periods between toilet breaks. Unfortunately, they’re dogs. They’ll eat just about anything that’s vaguely edible; sometimes with disastrous consequences. You only need one or two bouts of doggy illness before steam cleaning is neccessary and carpet cleaners aren’t the easiest of machines to manouver around a narrowboat.

We’ve decided to fit Colonia English oak effect vinyl flooring. The cabin floor area on James is 24 square metres. The cost of the flooring, including fitting is £640. We would have liked solid oak flooring but it just wasn’t either practical or cost effective to have it fitted around the built in furniture on James.

And then there’s the electrics. James doesn’t have an inverter. That’s about to change. We’re going to have one fitted on Thursday.

I’m fed up paying for electricity when there’s sunshine that I can tap into. I’ve asked Tim Davis from Onboard Solar to fit a 300w system with an MTP controller. He’s coming to do that on 8th March. He’ll be leaving with £995 clutched in his hot, sweaty little hand. He claims that the system will pay for itself in about two years which sounds reasonable as I’ve paid over £500 for electricity for each of the last two years.

And finally – for now – we’re going to fit an inverter. Today I was looking wistfully at the inverter on one of the shared ownership boats we look after. It’s a Vicktron 3kw pure sine wave charger inverter which can quite happily run power hungry appliances like vacuum cleaners, hair dryers and irons. Unfortunately at £2,300 it’s about £2,000 over my budget. We’ve decided to compromise. More about that later.

Oh, I nearly forgot! Sally bought me a new chair for my office. The one I’ve been using for the last year was a bit of a liability. It was an old typists chair donated to me by the office at Calcutt. To put it mildly, it had seen better days. The base was five supports radiating from the centre column like spokes on a wheel. One of the spokes was broken so I had to carefully position the chair before I sat down to make sure that the missing “spoke” wasn’t behind me. Of course, I quite often forgot which resulted, much to Sally’s delight, in me being catapulted off the back of the chair onto whatever was behind me. The new chair cost £80.

You may be wondering why I’m telling you about expenses I’ve incurred that may not be relevant to you and your boat. I’ll tell you why.

James’ initial cost was quite low at just under £20,000 and with very good reason. When James was built in 1977, she was the bee’s knees and a beauty to behold. Sadly, the passage of time and the lack of some much needed TLC transformed her into an unatractive shadow of her former self. However, James was all that I could afford at the time – actually more than I could afford – but more than that, the boat just felt right.

The ply cabin needed replacing, the rust on the gunnels crunched underfoot, the engine room was falling apart, there was no effective heating, the inside was extremely damp, the carpet was ruined and the electrics needed upgrading. You get what you pay for and James wasn’t worth much at the time.

James was in a livable condition when I first moved on board, but only just. I was using James as a static floating home so the engine and the ability to live “off grid” weren’t important to me at the time. I needed a roof over my head. James just about provided one. I moved on board in April 2010. The spring and summer were a pleasure as long as anticipated the rainwater pouring through the roof during heavy showers and laid my collection of pots and pans in the right place. The winter was a different kettle of fish. Oh boy, was I cold!

The winter of 2010/11 was severe. One night I recorded minus eighteen outside. The following morning I had a quarter of an inch of frost on the inside of the unheated engine room. My bedroom was next door. The morning temperature was just under freezing in the back cabin.

When I leapt out of bed in the mornings it was to put on as many clothes as I could. I would often wear two fleeces, a fleece hat and gloves inside. It wasn’t warm and it wasn’t pleasant. I spent much of my time sitting as close to the stove as possible trying to keep warm. The following two winters were much different after I had the original ply cabin overplated and more insulation sandwiched between the old and the new cabin.  I don’t really notice the temperature outside these days. I’ve just checked the temperature outside. It’s minus four, but I’m as snug as a bug in a rug inside the boat. Adding the new steel cabin and the additional insulation has transformed my life on board from endurance to comfort, but the transformation wasn’t cheap.

Insulating and waterproofing James was just the first stage of James’ necessary upgrade. I intend to use the boat this year for what it was built to do, cruising. But I can’t do that until I’m happy with the engine and I’ve added inverter so that we can continue to use the more important of our 230v appliances while we travel.

You can buy a narrowboat for relatively little money, but you need to make sure that it’s fit for purpose, especially if you’re going to live on board. You can survive on just about any condition boat. You won’t die, but you won’t have much quality of life either. You’ll see no end of decrepit barely afloat boats littering the canal side in many areas of the country. The boats, and the lifestyle of those on board, cost very little but, apart from the very few days in the UK when the days and nights are warm and calm, it’s not much fun.

The first on your list of essential requirements is that your new boat is watertight and that it will be warm enough during the periods of the year that you will be using it. As far as I’m concerned a good solid fuel stove is essential but you have to consider whether it is enough.

Painting your boat is hard work, requires a degree of skill to get a half decent finish or costs a fortune to have done professionally. As a very rough guide you can expect to pay £100 a foot so for my 62′ boat professionally applied paintwork would have cost over £6,000. Painting the hull requires very little skill but is very hard work and very dirty work. All of your steelwork needs to be constantly protected from the elements, as I know to my great expense. In total, the cost overplating the original wooden cabin on James was just over £10,000. The steelwork cost £6,5oo plus VAT, the road transport £1,100 and the remedial work another £1,000. Then I had to take three weeks off work to paint the new cabin.

The cost of the work was hard enough to bear, but the disruption was incredible. I had to find somewhere else to live while the work was done. Fortunately for me, the ever considerate Roger Preen let me use one of the out-of-season hire boats for three weeks, so I was OK with the accommodation. But the mess that I had to clear up after the work was completed was incredible.

All of the windows were removed from the original cabin prior to transportation then fitted into the new steel cabin after the boat was returned. All of the window openings were protected from the weather during transportation and while the work was done but in some areas they weren’t very effective. The boat was full of thick black dust produced as a result of grinding the sheet metal. In the dining area, red hot sparks had burned dozens of holes into an upholstered seat.

The remedial work involved more grinding so that the windows, vents and chimney flue could be refitted, and the manufacture of hardwood inserts between the old and the new cabin sides around the windows. It all made quite a mess. If you’re considering having substantial remedial work done after you move on board, please bear this in mind.

After all of this costly work, James still wasn’t ready for cruising. It’s not critical that I have 230v power when I’m off the mooring, but I want it. Maybe you feel the same way. I spend many hours each day editing this site, so I need my laptop. If I only had to think about my laptop, I would buy an adaptor that will run the laptop via the boat’s 12v supply, but we have other stuff too.

We have a Kindle, and iPad, a mobile phone each, chargers for batteries, and a television. They’re the easy appliances to accommodate. They use very little power. However, there’s the heavy duty appliances to think about too; vacuum cleaner, iron and washing machine. I have a simple solution to deal with the iron… don’t use one. Sadly, Sally doesn’t agree.

Before we met, I didn’t use an iron at all. I didn’t need to. I didn’t have many clothes but they were all chosen with care. Everything was very good quality but well suited to life on a boat. After washing and drying, I simply hung them up and watched the creases fall out of them. Sally had other ideas about my personal dress. It’s a woman thing. She wanted me in smarter, better coloured clothes. I have to agree that, when we go out these days, I’m far more presentable. The downside is that there are hours of ironing involved and I have to be careful getting on and off the boat so I don’t get my clothes dirty. After we’ve been out, I can’t wait to get back to the boat and into my good old crease free functional favourites.

The vacuum cleaner is a problem. We have two dogs and a solid fuel stove. The combination means that there’s plenty of dust and dog hair to deal with. A dustpan and brush doesn’t do the same job. We need a vacuum cleaner if we intend to go on any cruises longer than a week. One option is a rechargeable vacuum cleaner that we can run through the inverter. Dyson make some good (expensive) ones. We’re looking into it.

We also need a washing machine.

At the moment we rely on the washing machines at the marina. They’re a bit hit and miss to be honest. Their cleaning capabilities are adequate but no more than that. There’s also the inconvenience of carrying loads of washing to the shower block, hoping that the machines are free, and making sure that we have enough machine tokens to run them for the required time. We would both rather have a washing machine on board. We’ve identified a space where the compact washing machine will fit. There’s a 230v power point already in place. We just need to run a cold water supply to it from the bathroom six feet away.

The low power mains appliances are no problem. I’m going to have a fairly small pure sine inverter (1600w) fitted which will allow me to run them from the domestic battery bank, but I’ll have to think carefully about the larger items. Not only do I need a bigger inverter if I want to run these appliances from the leisure batteries, but I also need the inverter to be pure rather than modified sine to run the Zanussi washing machine that we want to use.  As I pointed out earlier, at £2,300 a pop, I can either have a powerful pure sine inverter, or another car. We’ll decide how to deal with this issue when we’re able to spend more time cruising than we do now.

James was a cheap boat to buy but it needed, and still needs, a great deal spending on it before it’s in the condition and has the level of equipment that suits us and the lifestyle that we hope to achieve in the near future.  When you buy your boat, consider what you want out of it. Work out how far the boat that you’re looking at is in terms of condition and equipment and how much it’s going to cost you to get it to where you want. You may find that going cheap is the most expensive option.

Liveaboard Case Study: NB Lucky Duck

Some people take to boating earlier than others. Amy and James have been living on their narrowboat since their early twenties. They love the lifestyle. In fact, they’re about to sell their current boat so that they can buy and restore their own historic narrowboat. If you’re interested in a ready made liveaboard narrowboat, you can find all the boat’s details at the end of their case study. You can read about their life afloat and their boat here.

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

Now that the forum login problems have been resolved, forum posts and visits have seen a dramatic increase. 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.

  • 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.
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.

 

A Case Study Of Liveaboard Narrowboat Lucky Duck

Amy and James have been living on their narrowboat since their early twenties. They love the lifestyle. In fact, they’re about to sell their current boat so that they can buy and restore their own historic narrowboat. Rather them than me!

Who are you? (and your significant other and, of course, your dog if you have one)

Amy steering Lucky DuckMy name’s Amy and I live afloat with my partner James and our cat Lyra

Tell me a little about yourself and why you decided to live a life afloat

Both of us come from families who enjoy boating but we came to love narrowboats through some friends who lived afloat. We both thought that it sounded like a wonderful way of life, so we decided to get one of our own.

What is your boat called and why did you decide on that name?

Our current boat is called Lucky Duck and it came with the name. We wanted to change it but it stuck! We are known as “The Ducks” to many! We are now in the process of selling it, to buy a historic boat. We wouldn’t dream of changing this boat’s name as it is part of the boat’s history.

Do you have a permanent mooring?

Yes, we have a residential mooring in Cambridge for which there is a very long waiting list – took us several years to get to the top of it, but it was worth the wait. We love it.

What is your boat style and length

Lucky Duck is a 48′ trad stern boat.

How long have you been a narrowboat owner?

Four and a half years!

How did you finance your boat?

We took out a marine mortgage with Royscot Larch

How much time do you spend on your boat each year?

We live on it full time!

Are you still working? (If so, what do you do?)

We are 27 and 25 respectively, so yes, very much still working! I am a research student and James works in a primary school as their IT specialist

What do you like least about narrowboat life?

Difficult! There’s not a lot I don’t like. But it is frustrating that we are not allowed to store anything on the bank next to our mooring so we have to keep our solid fuel in a garage 15 mins walk away.Lucky Duck

What do you like most about narrowboat life?

I like being off-grid and in touch with nature and the changing seasons, but the best thing is the community – boaters are such amazing people and we’ve made many firm friends on the water.

If you could change just one thing about your boat, what would it be?

Its age and history – we want to live on a historic boat and be part of its story. We hope that we will soon achieve this!

When you are cruising how do you resupply (How do you get to the supermarket without a car)?

We use Google Maps to locate the nearest one accessible by foot!

How do you do your washing when you are cruising?

Use Google Maps to locate launderettes

What type of toilet do you have on board and are you happy with it?

We’ve got a cassette toilet and I think it is the best type – it’s a cheaper and more flexible arrangement.

How do you connect to the internet when you are on your boat and are you happy with the service you receive?

Using mobile broadband – we use our mobile phones as wifi hotspots or use the iPad

What is your favourite canal or section of canal?

The BCN!

How do you generate electricity when you are cruising and how much do you use?

When cruising we use the engine, and when stationary we use our solar panel or the petrol genny. In the summer we are self sufficient for electricity.

How warm is your narrowboat in the winter?

Toasty warm, when the Morso Squirrel stove is going!

What advice can you offer someone considering living on a narrowboat?

Unless you will be continuously cruising, find a mooring before you find a boat. Don’t treat it as cheap housing because it isn’t, do it because you have fallen in love with the lifestyle!

What obvious questions have I missed from this list?

Collecting post? We get post delivered to my work address.

Type of engine? We have a reliable BMC 1.8 – simple and easy to service and maintain.

You can read about Amy’s life afloat here. If you are interested in buying the boat, the advert is here.

Are you one of the lucky few who lives the dream on board your own narrowboat full time? Would you like to share your experience with some of the thousands of potential floating home owners who visit this site? If you can spare the time to answer a few simple questions, I would love to hear from you. Just let me know so I can email the questions to you. I’ll create a post like the one above complete with a link back to your own blog or website.

 

 

2013 02 10 Newsletter – Login Problems Resolved

Living on a Narrowboat News 10th February 2013

It’s the middle of February. Can you believe it? The snowdrops are out, the daffodils are poking their heads through the recently frozen ground and there’s just a hint of warmth in the sun (when it’s out).

I always feel that the winter’s on its way out when I can find my boat without the aid of a torch when I finish work. I’ve reached that stage of the year now and it’s a great psychological boost. Before long, I’ll be sitting on the front deck for an hour or two after a hard day’s work. Not that I’m complaining about my work.

I spent all day yesterday moving part of our hire fleet from the wharf, down through two locks and into the marina. The Trust are doing some long overdue maintenance work on Calcutt middle and bottom locks from 11th February to 1st March.

Calcutt bottom lock is leaking so badly that more, often than not, mud flats are showing in the pound between the middle and the bottom lock. It’s not a problem for boats navigating the locks because the central channel is still quite deep, but it’s not very pleasant for boats using our temporary moorings there. So I spent my working day yesterday boating in the winter sunshine and shooting the breeze with fellow boaters at the locks. It’s not a bad way to earn a living!

Future Newsletters

I’ve been told by someone who knows what he’s talking about that I haven’t been doing anyone any favours by sending you pretty newsletters complete with photographs and fancy formatting. He told me that many of the intended rescipients wouldn’t actually receive it because of server restrictions and bandwidth filters. I’ve taken his advice and put the newsletter on the site with just a simple link to it from here.

Log in issues fixed

For the last couple of months, I’ve been waffling on about transferring subscriber details from one part of the site to another, why I was doing it, and the confusion that it has cause to some of you when you tried to log in. You’ll be pleased to hear that I’ve done it now. I’ve also found out why some users weren’t automatically logged into the forum when they logged into the site. It’s a quick fix but you need to let me know if you’re one of them. Please read this post to ensure that you don’t have any further problems. Please note that your login details are at the bottom of this newsletter.

Calculating your narrowboat maintenance cost is now even easier

The enhanced version of the narrowboat budgeting software, Narrowbudget Gold, includes workbook with all of my narrowboat expenditure for 2012. It’s a great way for you to find out the costs you’re likely to face if you’re new to boating. However, different liveaboard lifestyles mean different expenditure. I live and work at a marina. I don’t do much cruising at all and I’m very lucky to have both mains power and a water supply close to the boat. Also, because James isn’t totally self-sufficient with regard to electricity generation,and because I don’t have an on board central heating system, I have to rely on mains powered electrical heaters to supplement the solid fuel stove, which means that my electricity bills are quite high. In order to supply a more balanced view of narrowboat maintenance costs, I had added another workbook to Narrowbudget Gold.

At the beginning of July last year, I published the case study of James and Debbie Ward on their cruiser stern narrowboat Lois Jane. At the beginning of 2102 James and Debbie decided to take a well earned gap year after two decades of hectic work. They won’t be going back to that lifestyle. They’re going to carry on cruising the network for as long as they can.

James has kindly added a workbook to Narrowbudget Gold with details of all of his expenditure for last year. Many of his costs are quite similar to my own, but some of them are very different. By comparing these two data sets, you’ll get a very good idea of what your own narrowboat is likely to maintain. You can find out more about Narrowbudget here. (Please note that if you’ve already bought one of my guides, you should have received an email offering you a substantial discount).

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

Now that the forum login problems have been resolved, forum posts and visits have seen a dramatic increase. 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.

  • 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

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.

 

Important changes to the site login process

Over the last month or so I’ve talked about changes to the site login process. I’m sorry if you found some of the instructions both confusing and contradictory. Logging in to a site should be a straightforward process. it wasn’t, but it is now.

This site is built using WordPress. It’s blogging software that’s pretty easy to manage for a numpty like me, but it has its limitations. I have an ever growing number of users needing access to guides they’ve purchased and access to both the Standard and Gold editions of Narrowbudget. I couldn’t manage the access sucessfully with WordPress so I installed a plugin for WordPress to do this for me. Unfortunately, the plugin has a different log in system to WordPress, but it has to be used to manage product access correctly.

If you have been a site subscriber for some time, you have probably been using the WordPress login below.

Wordpress Login

Please do not use this login form any more. The only function that it served in the past was to log you in to the forum so that you could make new posts and reply to existing ones, and to access and edit your profile details. Using this form, you would have entered your username and password.

The new form has replaced the WordPress form. You will find the link to it at the top of each left hand column throughout the site. The new form requires you to enter your email address and password. The email that directed you to this page contains your email address and password that you need to use to log in using this form. If you have landed on this page via another route and want to know your login details, please contact me.

The default landing page from the new form is your own home page. There are three sections to your new home page; the welcome message with links to the main part of the site, the forum and Narrowbudget, your affiliate details and your profile details.DAP Home Page - Welcome

Under the welcome message, you will see all the products that you have access to. Unless you have purchased one of the guides or access to Narrowbudget Gold, you will just see one product listed here; “Site Access”. There is a message under this heading which reads, “Sorry, no content found. This could be because no content has been made available to you yet, or because your access to this product has expired.” Don’t worry about this. All it means is that there are no restricted files connected with your ability to log in and log out of the site.

Once you have successfully logged in to the site and reached your home page, if you click on the link to the forum, you should see “logged in as yourusername” in the top left hand corner. This means that you are able to create new forum posts and reply to existing ones. If you see a “Guest” icon and a message asking you to log in to post, you are probable one of the older subscribers who has an existing user name within the WordPress login system. Don’t worry, I just need to manually sync your new login details with your old ones to get the two systems working together. Just let me know so I can fix it for you. It only has to be done once and takes me just a minute or two.

DAP Home Page - AffiliateThe section beneath product details is Affiliate Details. This section is probably of no interest to you unless you have your own blog or website that’s waterways related and you want to earn some extra money for simply providing a link back from your site to mine. The link in this section has your own personal code embedded in it. It will enable livingonanarrowboat.co.uk to track any visitors from your site and any purchases they make on the site over the following 365 days. You receive a 50% share of those purchases. If you have a site of your own and you want to earn a little more cash from it, please let me know.

The final section is your Profile Details.  You can ammend your profile details in this section, change your password and unsubscribe from the emails you receive from me. There’s a tick box at the bottom of this section which allows you to turn off your email subscription. Please note that if you uncheck this box you won’t receive any further regular newsletters.

Each of the newsletters you receive from now on will have a link at the bottom of the email “Manage your subscription”. Clicking this Profile detailslink will take you to your home page where you can unsubscribe if you choose.

It’s taken me a while to get to this stage, but hopefully logging in to the site and finding your way around is more straightforward than it was before but, as ever, if you have any problems, just let me know.

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