2015 05 03 Newsletter – Engine Room Storage Space Explained

Last Monday we headed north west past the acres of canal-side polytunnels at Whittington, then on to Huddlesford, the tranquility slightly marred by Virgin trains thundering past on the West Coast Main Line little more than a hundred feet away. The gardens of Whittington’s canal-side properties were a joy after the industrial squalor of Birmingham. The canal ducked under the railway next to The Plough in Huddlesford where a rambler in a wide brimmed leather hat raised his steaming plastic flask cup in salute.

Around the next bend we were held up briefly behind a red and green narrowboat zigzagging from bank to bank, cruising so slowly that I had to reverse half a dozen times to stop myself running into him. After half a mile he crashed into the towpath, fell rather than jumped from his boat, then skidded along the grassy bank frantically heaving on his centre line before he realised that he’d left the boat in gear. “This is my first trip!” he explained as I sailed past.

Minutes later we turned in to Kings Orchard marina for fuel. It’s a pleasant enough marina with security high on their list of priorities. Each of the pontoons is protected by a locked wire gate and the toilets by locked doors, thwarting boaters like me trying to avoid using my own loo.

Eighty litres filled the diesel tank to the brim which means that my average consumption over fifty eight hours use since my last refill was a slightly concerning 1.38 litres per hour. Good news though when the very helpful Irish guy serving us asked if we would like to top up with water and use their Elsan point before we left.

How could we refuse?

Once back on the canal we passed Streethay Wharf sandwiched between the West Coast Main Line and the ever busy A38, along a short stretch a handful of feet away from the whizzing duel carriageway cars and lorries, then a much more tranquil setting at Fradley Junction where we had a bit of an accident.

Sally, as usual, was on lock duty. We turned left at the junction and straight in to Fradley Middle Lock. Once through that we entered Shed House Lock. Once the rear gates were closed, in a moment of madness, Sally opened the paddles fully which resulted in the boat being launched into the top gate like an arrow from a bow.

The considerable impact instantly snapped the steel top fender loop leaving the fender hanging below the boat’s bow by the two bottom chains.

We stopped on the visitor moorings above the lock, removed the fender, assessed the damage, and then set off confidently towards the canal shop at the junction I spotted in my Pearson’s guide. Unfortunately the shop sold art rather than artefacts so we were out of luck.

Back on the boat, I searched through my bits’n’pieces box in the engine room. I found a short length of fender chain and some spare shackles so with Sally’s help I was able to “beard” the fender with the spare chain to keep it in place until I could buy a suitable length to do the job properly.

With the immediate problem overcome, we treated ourselves to coffee and carrot cake at the Kingfisher Holiday Park’s canal-side cafe back at the junction then, in the spirit of doing as little as humanly possible, sat on a bench in the sun next to our moored boat and read for a couple of hours.

Up next morning at the crack of dawn we continued our journey along wooded canal banks, pleasantly devoid of rubbish and clutter. The gardens, without exception, were a credit to the waterside home owners. Even two neighbouring properties, each garden complete with an ancient and rusting JCB, had carefully manicured the lawns around the old machinery.

We pulled in to King’s Bromley marina where I invested most of my month’s boat maintenance budget in two metres of eye wateringly expensive stainless steel chain and a handful of shackles.

We used their loos then spent a pleasant half an hour wandering around their beautifully landscaped grounds and two fascinating features; a pair of dilapidated lock balance beams and a short rust covered narrowboat with a sentry box like structure towards the rear which must have prevented the boat from passing under bridges, not that passing under bridges was an issue given that the boat was moored on a lawn.

Onwards through Handsacre, Armitage and the interesting seven feet wide stretch of canal before Brereton, the roofless “Plumb Pudding” tunnel, still marvelling at the neat and tidy gardens and rubbish free waterway, now roughly following the Trent, we stopped in the centre of Rugeley almost in Tesco’s car park at bridge 66.

The Plumb Pudding Tunnel

The Plumb Pudding Tunnel

With a full fridge and empty bins we continued our journey. Sorry Tesco, I dropped four bags of rubbish in the bin by your entrance, but I’m sure you don’t mind. I spend a fortune in your shops.

Once out of Rugeley, and in the face of a strengthening wind, we decided to stop for the day at bridge 69 opposite Taft Wharf farm where there’s an operating diesel and coal boat sitting firmly in the mud.

After buying a dozen eggs from the farm, squeezed from hens while we waited, we spent a pleasant night on the boat then set off at 8am on the arduous two mile, one lock cruise to the visitor moorings north of bridge seventy two. We wanted to stay close to Cannock Chase for a few days but we had liquid management logistics to consider. We had a full cassette and a nearly empty water tank.

There was an Elsan point and water at the junction, so there was no problem emptying one and filling the other but we needed to determine where we could moor later so that we would still be within easy walking distance of Cannock Chase and be able to return easily to the junction again for water and waste disposal.

Turning at the junction then returning to our present mooring was no good because if we then wanted to revisit the water point we would need to cruise four hours to Fradley junction before we could turn the boat and head back. Carrying on past the water point and mooring somewhere on the towpath between there and the entrance to Great Haywood marina was an option but with limited mooring opportunities there we thought our best bet would be to reverse off the water point a hundred metres back to the junction, turn on to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal and moor half a mile from the junction at Tixall Wide.

I had been told quite often that Tixall Wide was a beautiful spot to moor, but hadn’t seen it and didn’t know whether Tixall Wide was actually wide enough to turn my own boat if other boats were moored there.

We turned left at the junction towards Tixall Wide and had the pleasure of listening for a couple of minutes to a lady with a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp and an attitude to match. She wasn’t a happy boater. A 70′ boat coming from the north turning onto the Staffs and Worcester canal was immediately caught by the wind and blown into her path.

Rather than recognise that wind and narrowboats don’t mix, shrug philosophically, smile and move out of the way of the helplessly drifting boat, she took a deep breath and in her shrillest voice yelled, “Oi! Are you new at this game? Where are you going? We drive on the right on the waterways!” 

The placid crew on the seventy footer winced, pushed their bow away from one of the dozen Anglo Welsh hire boats moored at right angles to the canal and lowered their heads to avoid the withering stare directed at them as they passed. Fortunately this kind of exchange is the exception rather than the rule.

Another fine minutes was all we needed to establish that Tixall Wide, more small lake than canal, offered plenty of room to easily turn the longest narrowboat so twenty minutes later we were back at the boat for the short cruise to the water point and Elsan facility and then to our new spacious mooring. But we had to deal with a wet dog first.

Charlie is a friendly, loving but rather nervous springer spaniel with an annoying habit of barking whenever people or other dogs approach. We’ve tried to break him of the habit but we’ve failed miserably. He doesn’t bark for very long and there’s certainly no malice in his misguided attempts to say hello, but his apparent aggression is embarrassing.

Back near the boat we met another boater with a similarly highly strong dog. This one was a collie. I offered my normal greeting of “Don’t worry if he barks, there isn’t an ounce of harm in him”. The collie owner replied in a similar vein, so we left the two dogs to it.

Charlie the "killer" spaniel

Charlie the “killer” spaniel

Charlie bared his fangs and barked. The collie, not to be outdone, darted forward and snapped half-heartedly at Charlie. Charlie responded, as usual, by running as fast as possible in the opposite direction. Unfortunately for him, the opposite direction on this occasion was straight in to the canal.

Stupid dog.

After Sally towelled Charlie dry, we moved to Tixall Wide then spent the rest of the day pottering.

While Sally removed all our gear plus plastic matting from the front deck then hosed and scrubbed it clean, I replaced the chain on our front fender, then spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning the engine room (see below) and tackling some long overdue jobs.

Our rear deck has a hatch set in it which allows access to the weed hatch. In the recessed hatch surround is a drainage hole to channel any water falling on the deck through a three feet length of rubber hose running from beneath the hatch through a hole in the side of the boat then into the canal. The hose regularly blocks so I rerouted the hose vertically into the water trap and bilge pump beneath the stern gland.

Then I looked at everything I have stored in the engine room and realised how much I appreciate having a traditional stern narrowboat and the dry and secure storage space afforded by the engine room.

I appreciated the extra space even more once I took everything out and laid it on the towpath so I could give the engine room a spring clean. I’ve listed everything in there and included a photo below.

One of my spring cleaning duties was to remove a little water which has suddenly appeared in the bilge. I haven’t a clue where it’s come from. I know it’s not running back from the cabin bilge. I know it’s not condensation forming on the uninsulated engine room metal, something which I suffer from during the winter months, and I know it’s not rainwater overflowing the blocked drain in the deck above, or water dripping from the stern gland.

All I know is that there’s two or three pints of clear liquid in there after even a short cruise. The ingress is driving me mad after months of having a bone dry bilge, but I’m sure I’ll discover the reason eventually.

At the moment if I want to remove every drop of water from the engine bilge I have to squeeze into a tight gap between the immovable frame around the engine and the port side of the boat, then bend double under the frame so I can mop up the water with a cloth then wring it out in a bucket. It’s not a comfortable or practical solution.

I’ve been looking for a while now for a wet and dry vac powerful enough to do the job and small enough to store in the engine room. Until this week, every machine I found was either too large or had poor customer reviews, but I think I’ve found one which is perfect for the job.

This one looks perfect. It’s small enough to fit easily in the engine room, has very good reviews, some from narrowboat owners, and it costs less than £50. I’ll let you know how I get on with it but right now I have to find my bucket and cloth and disappear into the depths of the engine bay again.

Engine room equipment

If you haven’t yet decided which narrowboat stern will suit you best, maybe I can help you. There are three narrowboat stern types; traditional, semi traditional and cruiser.

A cruiser stern is what you see on the majority of hire boats. The back of the boat has a large open deck area where half a dozen happy holiday boaters can stand in comfort with the helmsman while he or she grips the tiller with a white knuckled fist wondering how on Earth they are going to keep the unwieldy vessel in the middle of such a thin ribbon of water.

A boat with a semi traditional stern also has a large rear deck but the cabin sides extend almost to the back of the boat enclosing the deck.

Both the cruiser and the semi traditional stern narrowboats enjoy more space for standing in comfort outside while the boat is in motion. The downside is that there is less cabin space within the boat and that the engine bay is often prone to unwanted water ingress via the deck above.

The third type is the traditional stern, which is what I have on my boat. A traditional or “trad” stern narrowboat has a limited amount of space for guests to stand with the helmsman but the engine is enclosed within the main cabin.

This type of stern is perfect for me. I rarely have more than two guests on the boat. Most of my visitors are out with me for my discovery days. In can accommodate two people in addition to myself on my rear deck in reasonable comfort, providing I use a shorter than normal tiller which doesn’t extend into the cockpit where one of the guests needs to stand.

As far as I’m concerned, the advantages of a trad stern far outweigh the disadvantages.

There is very little living space on board a narrowboat. With a forty eight feet long cabin I have two hundred and eighty eight square feet to pack all of Sally’s and my own worldly possessions, including thirty square feet in the engine room.

You may be tempted to dismiss the additional space in the engine room but, before you do, let me tell you what I have in mine. All of the following are items which I want or need on board but which I don’t particularly want cluttering our living space.

There’s a huge amount of stuff in there but, once I paid a fortune to have the engine professionally boxed in and sound proofed, there is room to store everything neatly and out of the way.

I took everything out of the engine room and laid it out on the towpath so that I could list it. See what I do for you?

Here’s about half of the engine room’s contents. I didn’t remove the things clipped to or hanging from the walls.

Here's about half of the engine room's contents. I didn't remove the things clipped to or hanging from the walls

Here’s about half of the engine room’s contents. I didn’t remove the things clipped to or hanging from the walls

Kipor suitcase generator – We purchased the generator to allow Sally to use high power mains appliances when off grid. She told me that she couldn’t do without her iron, hair dryer, hair straighteners and vacuum cleaner. We’ve used it briefly on previous cruises but three weeks into this trip and it hasn’t been used once. Sally is still washing her hair just as much but now with so much free time on her hands, she doesn’t feel the need to dry it almost instantly with a hair destroying, power hungry machine.

Sally’s also found a labour saving and very effective solution to the ironing problem. She folds everything neatly and stacks the clothing in the cupboards we had fitted in the bathroom when we had the gas water heater removed. Now gravity does the jobs which Sally used to dislike so much.

Big pink box – A robust pink plastic box sits next to the generator. I use it to hold several pairs of gloves, a couple of fleece hats, a wide brimmed leather hat I bought for £20 from the Crick Boat Show three years ago, and another made of kangaroo and crocodile skin bought online and shipped at great expense from Australia. I’m sure the pink box and the flamboyant leather hat speak volumes about me, but I’m not sure I like what they say.

Paint and equipment – I keep everything in the engine room I need to touch up the boat’s paintwork. There are tins of blue top coat and undercoat and cream for the cabin sides and roof, red Damboline for the engine bay, rear deck and the bow around the engine hatch and varnish for the internal woodwork plus various grades of sandpaper, a scraper and wire brush, paint brushes, rollers and cleaning fluid. I also have a Brushmate for storing paint covered brushes ready for instant use when I need them next.

Oil and grease – There’s a 5 litre bottle of engine and gear box oil, WD40 and 3 in 1 oil and two tubs of waterproof grease for the stern gland, a box of nitrile gloves for keeping my hands clean and a roll of blue paper for cleaning up spills.

Recovery Gear – I have a recovery magnet slightly smaller than a match box but capable of lifting 50lb and a 100m length of paracord which I tie it to. The para cord is handy for all kinds of different jobs including making a washing line between trees. For any items I want to get out of the water which are too heavy for the magnet, I have a grappling hook. The grappling hook is also handy if the boat gets stuck in the shallows. I can throw the grappling hook, attached to the para cord on to the opposite bank, then pull the boat laterally away from any obstruction.

Clothing – My bomb proof Guy Cotten smock top an bib and brace trousers are on coat hooks within reach, as are a couple of thick fleece jackets for colder weather, and two pairs of overalls for painting or working in the engine room

Mooring, steering and locking – I’ve fitted spring clips and sturdy hooks to the bulkhead between the engine room and our bedroom. There are three mooring pins, each capped with a high visibility yellow tennis ball, three mooring chains and two lump hammers plus three windlasses, an anti-vandal key and a BW facilities key and, last but not least a pair of different length tillers and two tiller pins.

I have a four feet long tiller which I use when I’m on my own at the back of the boat and a two feet long tiller for when I have guests. The longer tiller with more leverage helps turn my heavy rudder with less strain but the short tiller allows two guests to stand on the back of the boat with me without being swept off the boat.

Jump leads – If the starter battery fails, I can always start the engine by jumping from the domestic bank

Shore lines – I have two; one twenty metre line for plugging the boat into a shore supply and a five metre line to run from the bank-side suitcase generator to the boat.

Tools – Electric drill with screwdriver and drill bits, bolt croppers, wood saw, hacksaw, ratchet spanner set, socket set, adjustable spanners, a tape measure or two, mole grips and a pry bar, all in a tool box stored on a shelf.

Torches – I have two; one miner’s style head torch for working on the engine hands free, and another powerful hand held lamp for tunnels.

Life jackets – Two gas inflated jackets for river cruising. They’re similar to the ones worn by CRT employees.

I’m sure there are one or two items I’ve missed, but you can see how much I have stored in this small but weatherproof and secure space. You simply can’t store this amount of equipment securely and out of the elements with a cruiser or semi traditional stern narrowboat.

Boats will large open rear decks often have lockers where you can store some of your engine room essentials but they are rarely either weather proof or secure. The lockers are often damp and dirty places. Boat owners often have rear deck covers to protect the area from the elements. These covers don’t do a bad job of keeping the gear on the rear deck dry but the problem is what to do with everything stored there when the cover is removed ready for the boat to me used for cruising. Even if the equipment under the cover is kept dry, it’s certainly not secure, so you wouldn’t want to leave your valuables there when away from the boat.

A trad stern narrowboat has one other important advantage over those with cruiser or semi traditional sterns. If you plan to do any engine maintenance yourself, a trad stern boat allows you to work in a warm and weatherproof environment rather than standing in a damp and cold engine bay open to the elements.

Some live aboard boat owners decide on a cruiser stern boat because they have additional space for sitting outside. I don’t understand this argument at all. Both Sally and I enjoy sitting outside as much as anyone else but with miles and miles of verdant and mostly well maintained towpath, there’s plenty of room to accommodate the pair of us, our two camp chairs and our folding table.

We don’t have a huge number of guests so don’t need acres of outdoor standing space at the back of the boat, but we like a neat and tidy boat and appreciate the additional storage space the engine room gives us.

There you go. Mine is an entirely subjective point of view. I’m firmly in favour of traditional stern boats. The style suits Sally and I. Maybe it won’t suit you but at least now you are aware of the pros and cons.

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Discovery Day And Narrowboat Helmsmanship Training

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

I’ll be running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of June, August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still available. In June just Friday 5th and Tuesday 9th are available. August onwards is still relatively free. If you are interested in joining me for a fun and information packed discovery day please check the diary before it’s too late.

In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendee Chris Watts…

Chris Cole on his narrowboat discovery day

Chris Cole on his narrowboat discovery day

“I am still at the investigation and decision stage. I am actively looking for boats and a local marina that accepts liveaboards. I booked your discovery day for some hands on experience and to confirm whether or not a life afloat would be an option for me and boy is it!

I really enjoyed the day but can’t believe how fast it went by considering that most of the time we were only doing 1.5 to 2 miles an hour. Your instruction method is more like two mates having a chat rather than teacher/pupil which made the day flow really well and, I believe, made it much easier to absorb everything you were telling me. I probably picked up more knowledge in 10 hours with you than I would have done in 10 months surfing the internet. Overall the structure of the day is great and I would not want to add anything.

I would have no hesitation in recommending this day to anybody considering a life afloat or anybody thinking of buying a boat just for weekend/holiday use. You gain so much practical knowledge it is invaluable for anybody just starting out on boat life.”


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

I Need Some Help!

Each time I write a newsletter, I tick another subject off the list of things which those new to boating have told me that they want to read about. The hardest part of the process isn’t the writing itself, it’s constantly thinking of new content for each issue. The trouble is, I don’t know what you want to read. I think I keep the newsletters reasonably interesting but I don’t know for sure. That’s where I need your help.

Can you let me know what you would like to read in the future? Are there any areas of narrowboat life you don’t think I’ve covered enough or areas which I’ve missed completely? Please let me know what you want to read about. Thanks for your help.

Newsletter Index

I created the site just over four years ago to provide a source of information for anyone interested in narrowboats and the possibility of living on one full time.  The site has grown to encompass a comprehensive listing of inland marinas in England and Wales, dozens of articles, a forum and regular newsletters. I’ve already created (below) indexes of the site articles and the more popular forum posts. I thought it was about time I created an easy to use index of the newsletter content. Here’s the index so far.

26th April 2015

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

19th April 2015

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

8th April 2015

Following on from last week’s newsletter, here’s a guide for you if you are thinking of continuously cruising the network. This is information you need to know if you don’t plan to have a home mooring.

29th March 2015

You need a licence to cruise the waterways of England and Wales but with a number of different licences and options which do you choose? This post tells you what you need to know.

22nd March 2015

Three years since we last painted our hull so this week we had the dubious pleasure of taking the boat out of the water to do it again.

15th March 2015

Five live aboard case studies – I added four new case studies to the site and updated my own which I had written three years previously

8th March 2015

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

1st March 2015

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

22nd February 2015

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

15th February 2015

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

8th February 2015

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

1st February 2015

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

25th January 2015

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

18th January 2015

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

11th January 2015

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

4th January 2015

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

28th December 2014

Winter cruising – A narrowboat isn’t just for the summer months. Winter cruising is a joy. Here’s my account of a week on the cut over the Christmas break

21st December 2014

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

14th December 2014

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

7th December 2014

Shared ownership – If you can’t afford a whole boat, why not buy part of one? Here’s how you can enjoy narrowboat ownership but at a fraction of the normal cost.

30th November 2014

Here’s a live aboard narrowboat fully equipped for long term cruising. It’s my own boat James No 194. There’s a five minute video tour of the boat and a summary of the pros and cons of the boat’s design and equipment.

23rd November 2014

London cruising – Every week I receive emails from potential boat owners who want to live on board in London or who want to visit the capital as part of a holiday cruise. This advice from a very experienced boater will be of great interest to you if you’re one of them.

16th November 2014

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

9th November 2014

How to spot bogus narrowboat adverts – Beware narrowboats for sale at bargain basement prices. Here’s a cautionary tale to make you think twice about reaching for your wallet.

2nd November 2014

Narrowboat CO2 emissions  – Is living on a boat a green alternative to a home on dry land? You’ll have to read this newsletter to find out.

26th October 2014

Finding reliable tradesmen on the cut – They are out there but it’s not always easy to sort the wheat from the chaff. Here’s a new service on the site which is going to make the job much easier for you.

19th October 2014

Anti social behaviour on the cut – How common are the unpleasant incidents you sometimes hear about on the canal network and who are the worst offenders? You’ll probably be surprised.

12th October 2014

The pros and cons of buying an ex hire boat to live on – How suitable are ex hire boats for living on board full time?

5th October 2014

I ran short of time during this week and couldn’t think of much to write about anyway, so I just detailed an idyllic week we spent away from the marina, pottering about for a few days in Braunston and then finishing off the week on the south Oxford canal down as far as Fenny Compton. Six months before the start of our continuous cruising lifestyle, it was just what we needed to whet our appetites.

28th September 2014

Emergency food on board – Some of the most pleasant places to moor are a long way from the nearest supermarket. Here are some suggestions to ensure that you’re never short of a tasty meal on your idyllic canal-side retreat.

21st September 2014

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

14th September 2014

Cruising in adverse weather conditions – Steering a narrowboat over the glassy surface of a placid canal on windless day in the middle of summer is child’s play. Here’s what you need to do on a “normal” day’s cruise.

7th September 2014

Following your dream – Is your goal to some day spend a life of leisure out on the canal network? This article might encourage you to make a move sooner rather than later.

31st August 2014

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

24th August 2014

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

17th August 2014

living on board in the winter, the cost of living afloat generally and where you can moor your floating home are all subjects which are misunderstood by many aspiring narrowboat owners. Here’s what you need to know.

10th August 2014

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

3rd August 2014

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

27th July 2014

The pros and cons of a wide beam boat – More and more wannabe boaters are considering more spacious wide beams rather than narrowboat. There is clearly more living space on board but how practical are wide beam boats on the inland waterways?

20th July 2014

The dreaded weed hatch – Sooner or later your engine will start to overheat, you’ll lose propulsion and you’ll know that you need to dive down your weed hatch to free an obstacle or two from the propeller. Here’s how to do it properly and a list of the tools you’ll need.

13th July 2014

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

6th July 2014

Practical experience for lone boaters. Here’s an account of a day’s cruise with a nervous single boater. He wanted enough confidence to deal with locks on his own. I spent the day with him, designed a route to include twenty six locks and spent ten hours helping him hone his locking skills.

29th June 2014

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

22nd June 2014

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

15th June 2014

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

8th June 2014

Boat Handling – lock and paddle gear types.

1st June 2014

Boat handling – Swing and lift bridges

25th May 2014

Single handed boating – Negotiating locks.

18th May 2014

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

 11th May 2014

How to avoid common narrowboat accidents. They happen far more often than you might think. Here’s what you need to keep yourself out of harm’s way.

4th May 2014

If you want to live on your boat and don’t want to, or can’t, cruise full time, you must have a residential mooring. Here’s how to find one.

27th April 2014

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

20th April 2014

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

13th April 2014

A further update to the site content index.

6th April 2014

The A -Z of everything narrowboat – With over 5,500 posts and pages on the site now, quickly finding exactly what you want can sometimes be a problem. For this newsletter I started creating and A-Z index of all the site content.

30th March 2014

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

23rd March 2014

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

16th March 2014

Paying for a narrowboat – What practical steps can you take to ensure you’ve established legal ownership and how do you deal with the transfer of monies between buyer and seller?

9th March 2014

Narrowboat Knots – At my first lock on my first cruise I watched my boat drift into the centre of the canal along with my twelve year old son. If you want to avoid the same embarrassment and potential damage to both your boat and your self esteem, you need to know how to tie your boat securely in a number of different situations.

2nd March 2014

Toilets is a subject often discussed by narrowboat owners but they usually talk about either pump out or cassette toilets. There is a third type though and it’s one which is both environmentally friendly and cheap to run. Here’s all you need to know about composting toilets.

23rd February 2014

Boat owners who live on board are considered to have a pretty simple and basic life by many living in bricks and mortar homes. Compared with the lifestyle of the farmers I’ve been staying with in the Philippines though, my UK life seems overly materialistic and expensive. Cou

16th February 2014

Here’s an account of my very first winter on board and that of one of the site’s subscribers, Nigel Buttery. They’re very different experiences. My first winter was the coldest on record. Nigel’s is one of the mildest winters we’ve had for a long time.

I’ve also included to links to my Philippines blog. I spent the whole of February living in a rural farming community on the island of Negros.

9th February 2014

Have you ever wondered how a narowboat is built. Here are the first two parts of a very detailed account of the building of a Sea Otter aluminium narrowboat. You’ll be particularly interested in Sea Otters if you don’t fancy the constant battle with rust that you have with traditional steel narrowboats.

2nd February 2014

Condensation is something all boat owners have to deal with. Here’s an explanation of why it occurs and what to do about it. I also tested a remote boat monitoring application in this issue.

26th January 2014

Cold floors, cold air above the floors and cold hull sides. It’s a combination which can cause your bottom half quite a bit of discomfort. Here’s what I do to deal with the problem.

19th January 2014

Weil’s disease – It’s an often talked about and often feared aspect of living, working or playing close to inland waterways but just how dangerous is it and what can you do to keep yourself safe?

12th January 2014

If you’re on a budget maybe a self fit our sailaway is the way to go for you. Here’s the story of a wide beam self fit out to give you inspiration (or put you off completely)

5th January 2014

Planning for the year ahead – Written plans and goals have always been important to me. They help me see into the future. Here’s what we’ve planned for our lovely floating home in 2014.

29th December 2013

The practicality of hosting Christmas afloat – How do you achieve a floating festive event (and do you really want to)?

Liveaboard case study, The Pearl – Tony and Jane Robinson believe in forward planning. They stated their narrowboat fund thirty years before buying their own boat. Now the two retired education workers moor in a marina for the winter then explore the waterways during the warmer months.

22nd December 2013

Narrowboat Storage Space – How much space is there to store your worldly goods on board a narrowboat? Here’s a video walk-through of my own boat James.

15th December 2013

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

8th December 2013

Fitting secondary double glazing – Fitting the panels is a simple operation for those with the most basic DIY skills, something which I sadly haven’t developed. As you might expect then, the fitting didn’t go as well as it should.

Narrowboat videos – I launched the Living On A Narrowboat YouTube channel

1st December 2013

Secondary double glazing for your boat – The pros and cons of double glazing on a boat and why secondary double glazing is a much better bet and a fraction of the cost.

Living on a narrowboat vidoes – My first hesitant steps into the world of video production for site content

Can you either live or holiday on a narrowboat if you have a disability? – Here’s what you need to know.

24th November 2013

Winter fuel allowance – Do you qualify for one if you live on a boat?

Case Study – NB Progress. Kim Wainwright recorded her journey on the forum from nervous anticipation to current liveaboard boat owner. Here’s her story.

17th November 2013

Narrowboat central heating – I don’t have any. All that is about to change. Here’s the system I’m going to install and why I’ve chosen it.

10th November 2013

Narrowboat running costs – I compare my own running costs to those of a prominent YouTube video blogger and detail my exact costs for October 2013

3rd November 2013

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

27th October 2013

The wind chill factor – How strong the wind is blowing and which direction it’s coming from can determine how difficult it is to heat your boat. Here’s what you need to know.

Case study – Another couple from down under living the dream on the inland waterways.

20th October 2013Condensation. It’s a common problem on boats. Here are a few suggestions how to keep your boat’s interior dry.

A new organisation for liveaboard boaters

13th October 2013

On demand water heater problems – Discover a common fault with these water heaters and what you can do to resolve the problem.

Know your firewood – Not all timber burns well. Find out which is best and which to avoid.

6th October 2013

Managing your boat’s water supply. You can use your water supply as and when you need it when you live in a house with all mod cons. You can pretty much do the same when you’re on a marina mooring with a water supply just a hose length away. It’s a different kettle of fish when you’re on an online mooring.

Liveaboard case study – A prime example of mooring without a water supply on tap.

29th September 2013

The folly of using unseasoned wood as a fuel – Here’s essential information if you plan to use logs you find to heat your boat for free

Creating lasting memories of your cruises – Slightly off topic, but please bear with me. You’ll have some wonderful adventures as you travel throughout the network. They’ll be adventures worth remembering but will you remember them? I have a very poor memory but instant and total recall of all my cruises is just a click away.

22nd September 2013

A tragedy at Calcutt. Sudden Oak Dieback hits our 1,500 twenty year old oak trees

Forum private messaging – Now you can email other forum users from within the site

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

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

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

A disaster – I inadvertently deleted this week’s newsletter and there wasn’t a backup on the server. What a shame. It was all about the damage you can do to your boat if you don’t watch what you’re doing in a lock. You would have loved it!

25th August 2013

Effective fly killers for boats

The downside to living on a narrowboat

Liveaboard Case Study – American Richard Varnes has taken a year out from work to cruise the canal network and write about his adventure. Here’s his case study and a few stories from his journey so far.

18th August 2013

CART Guide Approval – The waterways’  governing body is now promoting the information packages available from this site. Yippee!

Narrowboat Insurance – A summary of insurance quotes from the major narrowboat insurers

Liveaboard Case Study – Keith and Nicky downsized their property in Jersey, used the released capital to buy their 57? “go anywhere” narrowboat and now live on their boat full time while they continuously cruise the canal network. They’re ridiculously young to retire, and I’m very, very jealous

Downsizing from a 3 bed semi to a narrowboat – What do you do with a lifetime’s accumulated possessions?

11th August 2013

A free download – Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles

Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How one liveaboard boater manages on a shoestring

4th August 2013

The perfect narrowboat washing machine? – It’s low cost and doesn’t need plumbing in, but does it actually clean clothes?

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How much does living the life of a water gypsy really cost?

28th July 2013

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

21st July 2013

Hire boat expectations – Fully understanding what facilities will be available to you is essential if you’re going to enjoy a narrowboat holiday. Here’s what not to do.

14th July 2013

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

7th July 2013

Anticipating winter weather – You may well be enjoying unusually warm winter weather but the winter will be with us all too soon. Now is the time that you need to plan for the cold weather ahead.

30th June 2013

Keeping your stove glass clean – Maybe you think it’s an odd subject for the summer but you can’t trust the English weather. Late June and the stove was still on now and again. At least now I have a crystal clear view of the fire I shouldn’t need to light.

Traffic chaos caused by Braunston’s historic boat rally – On a day with high winds and a canal full of working boats returning home after the rally, I had the pleasure of taking some very nervous hirers out on the cut.

23rd June 2013 – The cost of a two week cruise. If you live on your own boat, what’s the real cost of taking it away for a two week break?

Case Study – Mary Anne swapped dry land home rental for floating home ownership. Now she loves life afloat and works from home.

Life as a continuous cruiser – The Holy Grail of narrowboat ownership. The ability to travel where and when you like. Peter Early tells all.

16th June 2013

The Ashby canal cruise part two – We spent a bit more time on the Ashby before heading south again, joining the Coventry canal, this time following it into Coventry’s rather depressing and disappointing city centre, then retracing our steps back to Calcutt

Most popular narrowboat names – Here’s the definitive list of the top 200 most popular narrowboat names and a resource you can use to find out if any other boat has the same name as yours

Considerate boating – An article prompted after a near head on collision with another boat trying to avoid a fallen oak.

9th June 2013

I was on holiday for the first two weeks of June. Sally and I cruised from Calcutt to Braunston, north along the north Oxford where we joined the Coventry canal briefly before taking a very sharp right turn onto the Ashby canal. Here’s a daily report of the first week of our holiday.

2nd June 2013

An encounter with two poorly prepared holiday boaters and my own impending two week cruise encouraged me to put together a pre cruise check list

26th May 2013

Laptop hacking – An update on the problems I encountered after buying a brand new laptop which I suspect was tampered with before I bought it.

Diary of a new narrowboat owner – Frequent forum poster “Our Nige” finally moved on to his new floating home. Here’s his story

19th May 2013

My comments about an encounter on the Oxford/GU section between Napton and Braunston sparked a debate about the pros and cons of wide beams on the cut.

Keeping dry – You don’t really need to limit your cruising to sunny summer days. There’s something very special about standing on the back deck in the pouring ran protected by a set of bomb proof waterproofs.

Do you really need a car? Living on a narrowboat is all about enjoying a simple and stress free life. Sally and I had a car each. Mine cost £2,000 to run in the previous 12 months so I decided to get rid of mine to see if I could manage without one.

12th May 2013

An encounter with a wide beam boat and why they aren’t suitable for much of the canal network

An interview with the Trust’s head of boating. Sally Ash talks about the Trust’s approach to the thorny issue of residential moorings

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

Narrowboat blogs – My own first cruise, Our Nige takes his new home on its maiden voyage and a chance for you to have your very own blog section on this site.

21st April 2013

The Trust target illegal moorers but just what does the Trust consider to an illegal mooring?

Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop

RCR engine servicing – River Canal Rescue (RCR) are well known as the waterways equivalent of the AA but did you know that they will also come to your mooring to service your boat?

14th April 2013

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

7th April 2013

Narrowboat security – A spate of burglaries from boats and a break in at my former family home encouraged me to write this article

Case study – You need to committed to sell your home to fund the purchase of your narrowboat. That’s what Mick and Marlene have done.

31st March 2013

Case study – Sarah lives on wide beam Antioch on the Leeds Liverpool canal. She can do man things with her hands. Here’s her story.

Be inspired – There are always reasons why you don’t make the move from bricks and mortar to steel and water. Here’s an anecdote which demonstrates once and for all that there really aren’t any worthwhile excuses.

24th March 2013

Here’s an example of what happens when you really don’t understand how your narrowboat works.

Essential boating equipment – Here’s a low cost item which has paid for itself over and over again.

Whilton marina boat sales – Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. This alleged fact about the boat sales at Whilton has come to me from several different sources.

17th March 2013

Where can you find residential moorings? Here’s a great place to start

Getting rid of unwelcome visitors – Geese used to regularly disturb a peaceful night’s sleep where I moor. Not any more. Here’s my solution

Know your narrowboat costs – Detailed costs for my own boat for February 2013

Half a dozen boaters now have access to their own blog section on the site. You can too. Here’s how.

11th March 2013

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

3rd March 2013

Stove fuel test – What works best; coal, wood, briquettes or something else entirely – Here’s my own take on a Waterways World test

Essential stove maintenance – Here’s what you need to do to make sure that your stove always performs well.

Internet connectivity – I use the internet four or more hours every day. This is the setup I have on my boat to make sure that I’m always connected.

Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013

20th February 2013

The real cost of going cheap. An in depth look at the cost of my 36 year old boat, and how much I spent (and still need to spend) before it will be a comfortable full time cruising boat.

8th January 2013

Case Studies – I put together 21 of the best case studies and analysed and summarised the data in this low cost guide. If you want ton save yourself hundreds of hours of research and costly mistakes, you need to read this guide.

Case Study – Mike’s circumstances are similar to my own. He moved onto his boat after a failed marriage. He’s upgraded from a 27? GRP cruiser to a 50? narrowboat

24th December

Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis

I asked newsletter subscribers to send me detailed breakdowns of their bricks and mortar expenses so I could compare them with the cost of running a narrowboat. Quite a few subscribers obliged. I added the breakdowns to my narrowboat costs guide and the budgeting application.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

Low cost narrowboat ownership – A low cost solution to the problem of funding your first narrowboat

Solar power – All you need to know about installing solar panels on your boat. Written by the inland waterways most popular solar system installer

Case Study – Mr. Solar Panel Tim Davis writes about life on board his own narrowboat

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

An unscheduled dip in the marina prompted me to write about safety on the waterways

Living on a narrowboat – Through the eyes of a young lady who would clearly prefer to be somewhere else

17th October 2012

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

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

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

30th September 2012

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

18th September 2012

I published my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat. When this newsletter was published it was only available as a Kindle edition. Now it’s available in both Kindle and PDF format and is bundled with Narrowbudget, the site’s bespoke narrowboat budgeting application.

VAT on narrowboat sales

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

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

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

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

27th  May 2012

How to clean your stove glass – One of the real pleasures of a living fire is watching the flames on a cold winter’s eve. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you can actually see the fire.

Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke

13th May 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I’ve broken down the complete cost of painting your own boat and

Dealing with wind on the river – A guest article from liveaboard narrowboat owner Alan Cazaly

29th April 2012

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

15th April 2012

Life on the river Cam – A guest article on the pleasures of river life by wide beam liveaboard Luther Phillips

Case Study – Freelance writer Anne and her South African farmer partner John reveal all

Case Study – Toni cruises constantly with ex husband Allan. They cruise together but they live apart… on separate boats

 1st April 2012

As a result of the article about the downside of living on a narrowboat published in the 18th March newsletter, I asked liveaboard narrowboat owners to complete a survey to give a balanced view of the issues raised by Pauline. Here are the survey results and a much more positive article by liveaboard narrowboat owner and frequent forum contributer Peter Early.

18th March 2012

The downside of living on a narrowboat – This was a very controversial post. Liveaboard Pauline Roberts wrote about the less pleasant aspects of life afloat… and attracted a storm of comments

Case study: The Woodsman – Pauline Roberts again giving an insight into the life that you may think she doesn’t like.

4th March 2012

Reviewed: The Liveaboard Guide by Tony Jones. A great guide to living afloat

eBay Narrowboat scam (and a little bit of flack for me from another forum)

Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat

A review of Debdale Wharf marina

22nd January 2012

Two more case studies. One of them waxed lyrical about life on the waterways and enjoyed every minute of her life afloat. Now (April 2013) she’s selling up to follow another dream in Spain.

8th January 2012

The first four narrowboat case studies published

I’ll start with myself; Paul Smith, living on my own, moored in a marina and working full time. Narrowboat James case study

Meet Peggy. She has a husband and two small children, works full time and cruises the network during the summer months. Narrowboat Violet Mae case study

Fancy spending your retirement cruising the waterways of England and Wales? Meet Barry and Sue Horne. They’re living the dream! Narrowboat Adagio Case Study

Here are another working couple. Lina and Warren cruise the cut with their two cats.Narrowboat Olive Rose case study.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

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

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.

Popular Forum Posts

There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.

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

Useful Links

Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat – Narrowboat costs explained in detail. My own maintenance and living cost on narrowboat James for a full year. Use this information to work out your own costs.
CRT (Canal & River Trust) maintain the waterways. Here’s their site.
Find out what parts of the canal are closed and for how long. Essential cruising information for you.
Do you need to find a home for your boat? Here’s a comprehensive list of the narrowboat friendly marinas in the UK
Do you want to see where these marinas are on a map? Here it is.
Here’s a map of all the canals on the system to help you plan your route.
Newsletter Archive – Browse through a wealth of useful content in the newsletters over the last year.
Find out more about narrowboat central heating costs here.