2014 04 27 Newsletter – My Perfect Live Aboard Narrowboat

The bank holiday weekend is behind us so many of our hire boats are back on the wharf. One of the boats which should have been back on Tuesday didn’t return on time. It wasn’t very well.

The engine seized in the middle of Braunston tunnel as the crew were on the final leg of their cruise. As part of the handover instruction they are told how important the job of topping up the header tank is every morning. They are also told to keep an eye on the temperature gauge regularly as they cruise and to stop immediately and call the office if they notice the rise above seventy degrees.

The fact that they were twenty minutes into the tunnel probably meant that they were unable to see the temperature gauge and/or the steam billowing out of the wet locker where the header tank is. The result was a broken engine at the worst possible point on their route.

Fortunately, out of the eight crew on board, three were strapping males so with the aid of the boat’s pole, a bit of legging, and a mop handle, they were able to push the sixty feet long boat out of the tunnel and moor up on the towpath close to the tunnel mouth. Without going into detail (because I wouldn’t have a clue what I was talking about), it’s often possible for one of our engineers to get the engine working again relatively easily. This wasn’t one of those occasions.

An engineer was with them for six hours trying increasingly complicated solutions until at 5pm he finally acknowledged that he wouldn’t be able to get the boat running in time for the crew to return to Calcutt Boats in the light.

Marina owner Roger Preen and I went to see them. Roger went to make sure that the crew were as happy with the situation as possible given that they had spent the last day of their half week break standing near, and occasionally in, the Admiral Nelson half way up the Braunston flight. Roger didn’t really have any apologising to do as it was difficult to establish how the breakdown occurred and therefore whose fault it was. The problem may have been caused by the crew not topping up the header tank each morning, but we’ll never know. Roger went to mollify the crew. I had the important jobs of carrying their luggage down the flight from the boat to where Roger was waiting with his car to take some of the crew back to Calcutt.

The hirers were very philosophical about the breakdown, or maybe just relieved that we didn’t question them more about their morning maintenance regime, so we bid them a fond farewell before returning to Calcutt at 7pm.

The following day our foreman engineer returned to Braunston where he spent two hours identifying and fixing the problem. I was hijacked from my day’s mowing and dropped off at Braunston to bring the boat back. Every cloud has a silver lining. In this case a serious breakdown resulted in me being paid to take a boat for a two and a half hour cruise along a beautiful stretch of the Grand Union/Oxford canal.

The Admiral Nelson is half way up the flight of six locks at Braunston. Our boat had been breasted up to a working boat at the top of the flight and left in the pound just below the pub so I only had two locks to negotiate. As luck would have it, two volunteer lock keepers were on duty. One helped me down through lock two. By the time I reached lock one, the other lock keeper had the lock prepared and the gate open for me and because he was psychic and knew that I hadn’t had a cup of coffee for a couple of hours, he had the kettle boiling by the time I tied the boat up inside the lock. By the time the lock had emptied, he had filled the Calcutt Boats mug I offered him with a scalding hot brew. Now that is what I call effective public relations!

I managed to get stuck behind the slowest narrowboat in the world on the stretch between the bottom of the flight and the junction. I know you’re supposed to take it easy on narrowboat cruises but I’ve seen grass grow faster than this boat was moving.

We inched past the masses of moored boats on this stretch, stopping for long enough by each one to join them for dinner, until we thankfully reached the junction where Mr. Slowcoach went straight ahead on the North Oxford (he should reach Hawkesbury Junction before the winter stoppages) and I turned left towards Calcutt.

The cruise was a delightful hour and forty five minutes back from the junction along a mostly empty canal. At about the half way point I met a hire boat. I noticed the helmsman doing his very best cat-on-a-h0t-tin-roof impression. I saw why when he drew level with me. An irate and very swiftly moving male mute swan was stabbing at the hire boat’s rear fender with his beak and coming dangerously close to the helmsman’s ankles.

I turned away and smiled to myself. I had seen this swan the previous week when I was out on my own boat. His mate had a nest in the reeds on the side of the canal. Boats were a threat to his family and savaging the rear fender was his way of dealing with it. I was still smiling to myself when the same bird nearly gave me a heart attack. The hire boat had moved far enough away from the nest to let it go. My boat, on the other hand, was moving closer to his good lady and their unborn children. Because of the distance I was away from him he couldn’t reach me by swimming, so he flew at me.

I turned at the sound of furious, very close and very loud flapping to find him at head height about five feet away from me. Have you ever seen  a swan in flight from that distance? It’s rather large.

Fortunately he was after the fender rather than me. He tugged at it for twenty seconds before turning back to the nest. I breathed a sigh of relief and considered checking my pockets to see if I had brought a spare pare of underpants with me.

At lower Shuckburgh I met Mr. Slowcoach’s brother. He was going so slowly that I actually had to take my boat out of gear to prevent myself from running into him. Both he and his good lady glanced behind frequently so clearly knew I was there but failed to make any attempt to pull over.

I managed to pass them on a straight stretch, turned right at the junction for Calcutt and pulled up to set the lock. I was just opening the gate when Mr. Slowcoach chugged sedately around the corner. Seeing that the lock gate was open he steamed straight into the lock, ignored me completely, then pulled his boat over behind the closed door, then both he and his wife stood on the boat waiting for me to close the upstream gate and open the paddles at the other end. Incredible!

Other than the two barely moving boats and the barmy bird, the journey was uneventful. The repaired engine performed admirably with the engine temperature deviating just two or three degrees during the trip.

The following day, Thursday, I had some cleaning to do. Sally was due back after three weeks away. She doesn’t do dirt, which is always something of a challenge on a narrowboat with two dogs and a solid fuel stove.

I spent a very industrious couple of hours with the vacuum cleaner, a duster and some polish. I was pleased with the end result but at the back of my mind I knew I was wasting my time. Sally can see dirt which is invisible to a normal human eye. The boat always looks absolutely spotless but I can never see the point of such intensive cleaning.

After a painful two hours down to Heathrow (one lane closed at High Wycombe), one and a half hours at the airport (an hour to get through baggage reclaim) and three hours back to Calcutt (an overturned lorry, again at High Wycombe) we stepped back onto the boat in the pouring rain. Welcome back to England Sally!

As expected, the following day Sally spent ten hours cleaning the boat. I’m afraid that I suggested to her near the end of her marathon cleaning session, as she took apart the desk on which I was trying to work, that her cleaning was verging on obsessive.

We aren’t talking at the moment.

Back to work on Saturday and the ongoing battle against grass that grows faster than it can be cut. At this time of the year with plenty of sunshine and plenty of showers, the grass grows at a phenomenal rate. The flat areas of grass around the site take about a day and a half to cut with our little ride-on mower and the whole site needs to be cut about every five days. It’s a struggle to keep up with the grounds maintenance when there are two of us at it but Pat has been on holiday for the last week and I have been dragged away from my normal activities because of two emergencies. The first was helping deal with the broken down boat. The other problem was a boat which sunk in the marina.

This is the second boat which has sunk here in the last four years. As with the first boat, this one was spotted before it submerged completely but it was waterlogged enough to prevent the engine from starting so it had to be poled across the marina to where the trolley was waiting to receive it and drag it onto the slipway.

Inside was a mess. The water in the cabin was about a foot deep so everything sitting on the floor was submerged. The owner is fond of carpet, lots of carpet, layers upon layers of carpet offcuts. All of it was saturated. All of it had to be taken out of the boat but the water needed removing first.

A powerful pump was set up on the rear deck where it sucked dirty water out of the boat and over the side onto the slipway below. The boat had been pulled onto the slipway then raised at the front so that the water inside the cabin drained towards the rear where it could be pumped out easily.

The office had phoned to owner who was going to visit the following day. He asked for any items which could be dried to be left on the boat roof and rear deck until he arrived. The boat was soon festooned with strips of carpet, bed sheets and blankets, shoes and bags.

Once the pump had removed the bulk of the water, I used a wet vac to remove more and then pulled a shore line from the slipway into the boat to power a dehumidifier which we planned to use to dry out the boat while the cause of the water ingress was identified and cured.

There was a powerful dehumidifier already inside the boat so, because I’m sometimes particularly stupid, I plugged it in. Once I had picked myself up off the floor I realised that the dehumidifier had been on the boat when it flooded so had been almost completely submerged until the water was pumped out.

I collected a working dehumidifier from one of our workshops, turned it on and left it draining in the boat’s galley sink overnight.

The problem was soon identified. There was a hole the size of a ten pence piece in the particularly thin hull of the old boat. We had surveyed the hull for the owner earlier in the year and recommended that it should be replated as soon as possible but he hadn’t yet arranged for the work to be done.

The hole was patched and the boat was launched then returned to its pier still covered with ribbons of damp carpet. The owner has been on the boat now for a couple of days, drying what he can on the boat roof between heavy April showers. He’ll be able to use his boat again shortly now that we’ve repaired or replaced a number of water damaged items inside the boat. The boat still needs comprehensively replating. Whether the owner decides to have it done or not is another matter.

The Perfect Narrowboat For Living On Full Time

James Ellis emailed me last week asking if I would like to add an article  to the site he’s written about the perfect live aboard narrowboat. I thought it was an excellent idea, so here it is complete with my own comments. James is the owner of a narrowboat he uses for leisure cruising. He hopes to sell his boat and buy a narrowboat to live on when he retires. I have lived on board a narrowboat for four years now so I thought my own comments on the subject would be of value too. My comments are in italics.

Here’s James’ perfect boat…

We have owned a 38ft narrowboat, Odin, for 4 years and now, as we will soon both be retired, we want to purchase a liveaboard. After much deliberation, discussion, observation, inspection and persuasion, our perfect liveaboard is likely to have the following attributes:

Age, Structure and Cost:

We are probably looking at a boat which is 10/6/4 construction, hopefully with a draft of no more than 22”, about 10 years old and about £50k, though we are not going to be inflexible on any of these details. Stainless tanks, a Jabsco water pump and “clever” propeller would all be valued, though a bow thruster would be considered totally unnecessary.

There are certainly plenty of boats about for this price and a £50,000 budget should buy a boat which has been well looked after and which has a decent specification. I agree with James about the bow thruster. Although bow thrusters come in very handy I have seen many narrowboat owners use them almost continuously for unnecessary tasks like pushing the boat away from the side. Bow thrusters are just another piece of equipment to go wrong and another set of batteries to charge and periodically replace.

Length & Style:

Between 54ft and 59ft in length (smaller would not have enough room – longer would not navigate the whole system). Cruiser stern (we just like the space for outdoor storage, lounging and engine access). Needless to say, we would want to include as much cupboard space as possible below and above decks but without compromising air draft.

James is a 62′ long traditional stern narrowboat. I have taken both traditional and cruiser stern narrowboats on multi day cruises. I prefer traditional sterns for a number of reasons.

With a traditional stern the engine is enclosed within the cabin so the space around it can be used for additional storage and for housing, in my case, an inverter, MPPT controller for the solar panels, charger, battery bank and soon to be fitted burner for the central heating system. When the central heating system is installed, I will also have a heated towel rail fitted where we can dry wet clothing but keep it separate from the rest of the boat.

The engine room also houses windlasses, piling chains, mooring pins, lump hammers, recovery magnet, torches, binoculars, spare paint, varnish and brushes, waterways guides, wet weather gear, a chainsaw and protective clothing and a range of tools, some of which I know how to use.

With a cruiser stern you either have to store all of this equipment inside the cabin, somewhere inside the engine bay (not really practical) or in a stern locker. However, most of the lockers I’ve seen on cruiser stern narrowboats haven’t been either secure or watertight.

Another benefit of a trad stern narrowboat is that it’s a far warmer place to stand and steer on a cold day. You tend to stand inside the hatch with your lower half being warmed by the heat from the engine. On a cruiser stern you have acres of space to stand and steer, which is great is you have guests on board, but I feel divorced from the boat and quite uncomfortable.

Although there isn’t much room for anyone other than the helmsman to stand at the rear of a trad stern narrowboat, there is space for a couple more people if they’re careful. They can stand on the gunnel on either side of the steerer. It’s not a perfect solution but it does work.

The last benefit of a trad rather than a cruiser stern as far as I am concerned is that the cabin roof just in front of the helmsman can be used as a handy table top for the paraphernalia you tend to accumulate on a cruise. I normally end up with a waterways guide, usually Pearson’s, notebook and pen, binoculars, camera and a mug of coffee on or just inside the hatch. I’ve been very frustrated in this respect on a cruiser stern. The cabin roof is always out of reach so if anything is left on the cabin roof, reaching it requires the assistance of another person on the rear deck or letting go of the tiller to dash across the open space to fetch whatever you need. Neither of these options are practical.

Interior Layout:

Cottage style, conventional layout. We like to look out from the saloon and see what is ahead. There must be space for a couple of swivel recliners (no settees as they are too uncomfortable) and a dinette which acts as dining table, chart table, office desk, knitting base station, scrabble table and spare double bed. The Pullman style of dinette makes best use of space. A U-shaped or central-corridor galley (or cross-over) would be followed aft by the bathroom and bedroom.

I love James’ layout as it is. There is very little I would change about it. We have L shaped bench seating at the front of the boat next to the front bulkhead which is fitted from floor to ceiling with cupboards and shelves. In front of the seating is the stove. Just behind the lounge area is the dinette. Both lounge and dinette seating have storage built under it.

I agree that bench seating isn’t as comfortable as swivel chairs but it’s comfortable enough the way Sally and I use them. We have a rectangular coal box next to the stove which just happens to be the same height as the bench seating base. We slide that across the boat and position it so that is it parallel with the long leg of the L then lay one of the seats from the dinette on it to form a “bed”. We place half a dozen cushions at the head of the bed to form a backrest and then lay on it side by side to watch television. It’s very comfortable, takes seconds to set up and allows us to keep the masses of storage under the seats.



A full-size shower is preferable to a half-size bath and will be emptied by a Whale Gulper. The toilet will be pump-out, not cassette, to avoid the too-frequent journeys to sanitary stations (though a small porta-potty will be kept in reserve). There will be a really roomy bathroom cabinet.

Our bathroom is walk through and is very small. It’s the width of the boat and just four feet from end to end. On one side of the corridor through the centre is the shower cubicle and on the other is the sink in a cabinet with storage under and then next to it is the Porta Potti. In an ideal world we would have a pump out toilet but we manage well enough with the cassette.

Emptying the cassette is always a bit of a chore and something you want to think carefully about if you are unable to or are unwilling to lift heavy weights. Our cassette when full weights as much as a bag of coal. I leave emptying it until it’s full because I would rather make half the number of trips to the Elsan point with a heavier weight than the other way around.

We have considered fitting a pump out toilet but it would mean taking apart and possibly destroying a five drawer chest on the starboard side and losing some of the storage space to accommodate the waste tank. Even if we had a pump out toilet fitted we would still want to keep a Porta Potti in reserve for emergencies so we might as well just carry on with the cassette.


It’s very cramped in a 4ft bed if you’ve been used to a king-size. On a narrowboat there appear to be 4 solutions: a full-size bed forward, a cross-over bed or extendable bed aft, or two separate single beds. Given that we want to stay together but with enough space (!) and we don’t for a minute consider reverse layout, we think that a cross-over or extendable bed in the aft bedroom will be best. Our current boat has a make-up king-size in the aft cabin and that has been very acceptable.

I am impressed with the hydraulic-strut storage beds displayed in some of the bedding shops and will try to engineer a similar storage solution.

Beds are always a consideration on boats for the tall or amply proportioned, not that I’m suggesting for a moment that either James or his wife fall into the latter category.

Our bed is four feet wide by six feet three inches long. It’s OK for us as Sally just tops five feet and I am shorter than average at five feet ten inches tall. Both of us are of slim build. Even with our slight builds I find the bed length a little constricting at times. There is a wardrobe against the end of the bed on Sally’s side so I have to make sure my feet are always on my side of the bed to prevent them from jamming against the side of the wardrobe.

Once again with our boat, maximum use has been made of every inch of space. There are six drawers built into the side of the bed and more storage around the calorifier accessible by removing the mattress.


A good multi-fuel stove (eg: Morso Squirrel) is essential in the saloon but we would not want the complication of a back-boiler. Central heating (either gas or diesel) will ensure the rear of the boat receives sufficient heat and will provide occasional, moderated heat when the fiercer log-burner isn’t justified. Whatever (silent) system is in place must combine
with the engine to heat a calorifier, have an immersion for use with land-line attachment and, importantly, provide instant hot water for sink and shower when one, both or none of the other systems are ensuring hot water.

The boat’s Torgem stove is thirty seven years old and still going strong. It has a back boiler which feeds three radiators down the boat’s starboard side. The radiators are gravity fed and don’t get very hot. The stove doesn’t do a bad job of heating the lounge, dinette and galley but is hopeless at heating anything further away. My office aft of the centre hatches is usually cold without supplementary heat, as are the bathroom and bedroom behind.

At the moment we use two 500w Dimplex greenhouse heaters to warm these areas a little, which is fine if we are on a land line but unsustainable if we are using the inverter and battery bank.

Next week we hope to have a new central heating system fitted which should put an end to our rear end heating problems. The heater is a Webasto Thermotop C which will be fitted in the engine room where it will draw diesel from the boat’s main fuel tank.

When the heater and new radiators are fitted, the old radiators will be removed, as will the boat’s gas powered water heater. The new Webasto will provide all the hot water we need.

While the fitters are busy making a mess inside the boat I might, finances permitting, ask them to take out the Torgem and fit a Morso Squirrel in its place. The Torgem is not a bad stove but it doesn’t throw out a huge amount of heat and, because it isn’t as deep as a Squirrel stove, you can’t do what many Squirrel owners do and use the top of the stove for heating food and drinks.


Because we are likely to be using our boat on rivers and estuaries, we would prefer an engine of perhaps 38hp or slightly more. However, we also value economy for the times we are pottering. Is it necessary to have a larger engine to cope with good electricity generation? Whatever we do choose, I would like it to be modern, simple, mendable by this amateur mechanic, water-cooled, with good spares availability, not in a separate engine room and be well silenced. As to the make, I have had Beta recommended, I like BMC (our current engine) but they are rather long in the tooth, some people swear by Vetus and Mitsubishi sound comfortingly Japanese – the jury is still out on make.

I have an unusual engine. It’s a Mercedes OM636 and like the stove it’s as old as the boat. It’s an old engine but it has plenty of life left in it yet. I believe it’s good for 20,000 hours. In the last thirty seven years it has done just 4,185 hours, an average of 113 hours a year. At the current rate it’ll last another 140 years! I think it will see me through to the end of my boating days.

It wouldn’t be my first choice of engine given that it’s a little unusual so the chances of finding someone who can quickly and easily resolve any issues is that little bit more difficult. Spare parts for it are also quite expensive. I’ve just paid £140 for a new thermostat. I don’t know how much a thermostat is for a more popular engine but I’m lead to believe that this is much, much more.

One of the engine’s features which isn’t ideal is that it is raw water cooled. Raw water cooling involves sucking water in from the canal to use to cool the engine. There’s an inlet on the boat’s port side which is covered with a fine mesh grill. The water then passes through a mud box where more debris is trapped. In order for the system to work the grill needs to be free of obstructions and the mud box needs emptying periodically.

Both operations are difficult. I know roughly where the grill over the water inlet is on the outside of the boat but I can’t see it because of the murky canal water and it’s difficult to reach because of it’s position. If I am to reach it at all I need to make sure that the boat’s port side is against a bank or a pier and reach down with a long handled brush and scrub at the spot where I think the grill is located.

The mud box is just as problematic to service.  It is on the port side at the front of the engine next to the bulkhead between the engine room and the bedroom. There is quite a tight space on the port side of the engine where I can just about crouch so I can reach the bolts on top of the mud box.

In an ideal world I wouldn’t have raw water cooling at all, and I would have a more modern engine which was easier to maintain.  We don’t live in an ideal world though so I make do with an engine which I’m told will be reliable now that I have replaced all of the perished rubber hoses.


The finer points of electricity generation, distribution and use are getting more complex as boats become more sophisticated. I don’t mind what system is installed as long as it is reliable, effective and safe. It will have to cope with a washing-machine, a lot of mains television use, electricity supply for central heating actuation (presumably), months at a time away from mains, full use in frozen winter months, a good vacuum cleaner, steam iron and hair drier, lots of small drains from chargers and laptops – and late night Scrabble! Being able to use an electric blanket for bed pre-warming in Winter would be heavenly. I am presuming that I will need at least one powerful alternator, maybe two, perhaps a separate generator system, a 500AH bank of batteries, a large (2kw?) inverter and mostly (but not all) LED lighting. Vetus seem to have an on-board integral generator which might be the solution. A battery management system seems like a good idea but I have yet to find out if it merely complicates things.

With all my lights now changed to LEDs I don’t have any trouble powering as much illumination as I need. The lights draw very little power. I have a 230v television which means that I have to have the inverter turned on if I’m out cruising and I want to watch television. The inverter itself uses a fair amount of power so when this television set goes to the great big repair shop in the sky I will buy a 12v model.

Using the battery bank to power an electric blanket may not be practical. Anything which heats up – hair dryer, iron, toaster, hair straighteners and electric heaters – usually use too much power for the battery bank to sustain them for very long.

I have a 1600w Sterling pure sine inverter. Pure sine are better than modified sine inverters as some appliances won’t run on modified sine. Consequently the pure sine inverters are much more expensive. Our 1.6kw inverter is man enough to deal with most of the appliances which I think are important on board but not good enough for the appliances which Sally wants to use regularly. It won’t run the vacuum cleaner, iron or hair dryer. I understand that the Henry 1.2kw vacuum cleaner is a very good machine, and one which our inverter could handle, but I’m meeting a certain amount of resistance in that department.

When I first moved onto James the electrics where woefully inadequate. There was a single starter battery and just one battery in the leisure bank. I immediately added another battery to the leisure bank but have since doubled that again to a total of four 135amp leisure batteries.

The batteries need something to charge them of course so I had a charger fitted to keep them topped up when we are plugged in to a land line. The alternator should do that job when we are out cruising but last week I asked if the alternator’s annoying squeal could be fixed, I was told that the simplest solution would be to fit a new alternator as the existing one wasn’t actually charging the batteries anyway. That’s another job scheduled for the next couple of weeks.

Another electrics addition, and one which I am very happy with indeed, is 3 x 100w solar panels and an MPPT controller fitted by Tim Davis of Onboard Solar. The solar panels provide me with nearly all the power I need in the warmer months and a worthwhile amount the rest of the year. Having a decent solar power system on board is wonderful in the summer months when you don’t want the tranquility of a remote mooring spoiled by the need to turn on the engine to charge the batteries.

The final piece in the engine room electrics jigsaw was a Smartgauge battery monitor. A decent battery bank is an expensive consumable. The life of the batteries can be extended significantly if the batteries are kept as full as possible. Until recently the only time I knew the state of charge was often Sally screaming when there wasn’t enough charge in the batteries to push the water through the gas heater quickly enough which resulted in Sally being sprayed with scalding water. One hundred and fifty pounds was a very reasonable price to pay to ensure that I always know when the batteries are fully charged, and when I can expect a brief lapse in our on board domestic bliss if Sally is suffering from 1st degree burns caused by a poor battery charging regime.

An important addition to the rest of the boat interior is a 230v ring main and enough sockets in the places where you need them. Of course the more sockets there are and the more appliances plugged into them the bigger the battery bank you need and the harder you need to work to keep it charged. I have to admit that Sally and I aren’t very good at minimising the electrics we use on board, but we don’t really need to at the moment when we spend most of the time plugged in to a land line. We will need to rethink the way we do that if we are out cruising most of the time. The alternative would be to have a generator fitted.

Monique (Mons) McNaught has done that on her boat Pern. She is currently moored at Calcutt but is about to set off on her grand adventure around the system working as she goes. She needs sufficient power to spend full days siting in front of her computer working when she is off grid. The generator will make sure that she can always earn a crust (subject to her being able to get an internet connection).

I don’t know what power she needs for the work equipment she has on board but I could certainly manage in the summer months with just the power supplied by my solar panels and the odd hour with the engine running. Personally I would rather try and use less power when off grid, by not fitting bow thrusters for example, than add more equipment to the boat so that I can use more.


The washing machine has already been mentioned. A small freezer as well as a fridge would be handy (are the combined units cheaper to run?). Things like a folding (electric?) bike can be added (Oh, that there was room for a motor scooter!) as can a folding wheelbarrow. I will add a 6ft crowbar and a small spade. Some items like a microwave oven, t.v. signal booster and good torches, the usual deck equipment and a good anchor we take for granted. For estuary use we’ll need lifejackets – including one for the dog – and navigation lights plus an appropriate form of radio (I’ve yet to take the course). We are seriously considering something electronic and GPS-based to replace Nicholson’s guides as some of ours go back to 1974! Part of us says that streamed way-mark pictures and metre by metre interactive mapping give us certainty of what comes next – another part of us screams for the thrill of less certain adventure.

I HATE washing machines on board! It’s an entirely subjective point of view and one which won’t be shared by many boaters. I’ve mentioned Sally’s fondness for our twin tub before, but it drives me mad. I’m sure, but I can’t prove it, that she sometimes spends hours washing and drying clothes before putting them straight back in the washing basket so she can have another go at them.

Sally has just spent three weeks away from the boat. She reluctantly left me in charge of the cleaning. She’s been back on the boat for just half a day and she’s already enthusiastically renewed here acquaintance with the twin tub. I have to confess, and I hope Sally doesn’t read this, that I didn’t use it once when she was away. I saved up all the washing until yesterday then threw it all into one of the two washing machines we have on site. An hour and a half later it was all clean, two hours after that it was dry and an hour after that clean sheets were back on the bed and the rest of the clothes were put away. I’m in trouble for not ironing the bed sheets or folding up my underwear in the drawer, but there’s a line over which I’m not prepared to tread. Folding underpants is way beyond the line.

Our washing machine when it’s in use is very boat friendly. It uses 120w when washing and 170w or thereabouts when spinning so the inverter can handle it easily. Whether the battery bank can stand it being used for twelve hours in a row remains to be seen. I think most suitable automatic boat washing machines can run on 1800w or less.

A washing machine and the logistics of keeping it fed with sufficient power and water is something you need to consider when cruising full time. I think that if I was on my own, which I may well be if I keep harping on about Sally’s cleaning, I would make do with a fortnightly service wash at a nearby launderette. The Aylesbury Canal Society sell a comprehensive printed guide of all the launderettes on the system for just £4.50.

With regard to the folding electric scooter, good news James, I know a man with a cruiser stern narrowboat who has one. He’s my recent drinking buddy Bangkok Tim. I can put you in touch with him if you like. Maybe you can offer to buy his from him and save him the embarrassment of looking like a Hell’s Angel on a pushbike.

A folding bike is much more practical in my view. I have one which will fit in the engine room when we are out cruising. I haven’t yet tried cycling down the towpath with a week’s worth of groceries hanging from the little handlebars but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

With regard to electronic guides, I’ve tried a few and although they aren’t bad inside the boat, in direct sunlight they are very difficult to see. I’m very happy with my Pearson’s guides. They are easy to lay flat on the rear hatch and refer to as we cruise.

Exterior Décor:

We want our boat to look cheerful, distinctive and practical but providing the colour is not too garish, anything will be more interesting than the Oxford-Blue-with-white-coachlines livery we currently enjoy. The boat must let in lots of light, so large windows (not little portholes) are essential. One would hope that the window units are double-glazed and aluminium or brass-framed. The roof should be a lightish colour and, like the gunwhale decks, should have a non-slip treatment.

In an ideal world I would buy a new Sea Otter narrowboat and not worry about painting the boat. Their aluminium narrowboats paintwork comes with a fifteen year guarantee and, unlike the normal steel narrowboat which need covering with a good layer of paint top to bottom to keep the rust at bay, the Sea Otters don’t rust so the paintwork is purely decorative.

Again, we don’t live in an ideal world so I can either consider paying roughly £100 a foot for a professional boat painter to do it (£6,200 for James) plus another arm and a leg to have the sign writing done, or I can paint it myself again like I did two years ago. This time I would try to get the coach lines to look less like an oscilloscope reading. I would consider getting the sign writing done professionally to include the site logo and the web address. As the purpose of my perfect live aboard narrowboat would be to carry Sally and I around the system while I earn a living, and as the cleaning vans I used to own picked up an incredible amount of business from the sign writing on them, adding the web address of the site from which I sell my guides for potential narrowboat owners wouldn’t do me any harm.

Double glazed windows is not something I would consider on a narrowboat. I have seen, and heard of, many boats where double glazing seals have failed because of vibration or the boat’s general knocks and scrapes as it moves. I recognise that some form of double glazing on a boat can be very beneficial though so I would have aesthetically pleasing double glazing panels which could be removed quickly and easily when required.

Interior Décor:

Both of us find the over-use of wood claustrophobic. Some is nice and reminds us of tradition: too much is twee, dark or fussy. (Two boats we looked at recently had such a plethora of zig-zag planking on floor, walls and ceiling that we felt we were starring in a Cuprinol advert)! In particular, we find a white ceiling reflects light well and light-coloured upper walls make a boat interior seem roomier. Below the gunwhales seems less critical – carpet seems cosy but so much of that space is likely to be covered with bookshelves and other fixed furniture that I’m not too worried either way. However, the wood that is present needs to be of light to medium hue (light oak, beech, ash). Most of this, of course, is a matter of personal taste, like the engine, hull, equipment and heating priorities. The real argument will occur when soft furnishings are decided: I like abstract, Rosie likes floral. At the end of the argument I’ll say my wife’s right and I’m wrong, as we usually are!

Sorry James, but I like traditional, all wood interiors. I agree that some wood can be dark and make the boat feel claustrophobic but I love the look and feel of polished wood. My perfect live aboard narrowboat would have pretty much the same design as I have now but all the woodwork would be solid light oak. My boat has beautiful Parana pine cladding on the cabin sides from the gunnel upwards and on the roof. Sadly some of it has been stained by water ingress during the decade and a half when the boat was poorly maintained. All of the rest of the woodwork, and there is acres of it, is in teak (I think) faced ply. I don’t enjoy cleaning generally but I get a great deal of pleasure out of polishing wood to a slippery sheen. My idea of heaven would be a narrowboat filled with beautifully crafted solid oak units and enough free time to polish them.

All in a Name:

There are many lovely boats out there with lovely names. However, we have decided that rather than trying to love a name someone else has chosen, we will remove our second-hand “new” boat from the water for its modifications to the spec we want – and relaunch it as “Blissful”. Look out for us in years to come. We’ll be touring the “ideas” stands at the Crick show with renewed purpose this year.

James & Rosie Ellis

I fully intend to keep the boat I’ve got. It’s not the perfect live aboard but I have to be practical about these things. I’ll never be able to afford a boat which fits my perfect specification but the one I have now doesn’t do too badly in most areas. Will I change the name to put my own stamp on the boat? I don’t think so. The boat was well used and cared for during the first twenty years of its life so after a mid life crisis, I expect it to recover its vim and vigour for the next twenty years. I won’t change the name, but I might not display it on the sides. As I mentioned earlier, I might well seize a wonderful marketing opportunity with both hands and display the web site address where the boat’s name would normally appear.

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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.

20th April 2013

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.