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Monthly Archives: July 2015

2015 07 27 Newsletter – Closed Encounters of a Shared Kind

To be quite honest, for the first time since I started writing regular weekly newsletters three years ago, my heart just hasn’t been in it this week. You see, nine days ago I had a bit of a shock.

Sally has decided that living afloat is not for her. More to the point, she’s decided that living afloat with me is not for her.

On Thursday 16th July, while we were moored at Kirtlington Quarry waiting for our Saturday café treat at Jane’s Enchanted Tea Garden, Sally’s daughter arrived to collect Sally and most of her belongings, and that was pretty much it.

The cracks in our relationship had been widening for a while, but significantly since April when we began spending all of our time together in a very small space. Two people need to get on very well indeed if they are going to spend all of their time together shoehorned into three hundred square feet.

I think Sally didn’t mind living afloat but “not minding” simply wasn’t enough. I adore the lifestyle but some aspects of it are hard work; the constant need to monitor your utilities to make sure that you don’t run out of gas, electricity, water and coal, the logistics of nipping to the shops when you’re miles away from anywhere, and the logistics of keeping in touch with land based friends when your home is constantly moving. For Sally though, I think the straw which broke the camel’s back was having to endure a relationship with a pig headed, often insular partner who was quite content to moor in the middle of nowhere and embrace nature and its tranquillity.

There’s no point crying over spilled milk. I’m a solo boater now and, to be quite honest, being on my own suits me very well indeed. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy company very much indeed. If you’ve been on a discovery day with me you’ll know that, but I also enjoy the freedom to choose what I do and where and when I do it without having to discuss it with someone else and often have to agree on a compromise. I’ve often herd compromise described as a result where neither party is happy. I think that was the case very often with Sally and me.

Anyway, enough of the self-flagellation. I have a life to live, so onwards and upwards!

On Sunday after finishing the newsletter I cruised half an hour to Aynho Wharf and my first opportunity to replace the windlass I threw in the canal at Somerton Deep during a medical emergency ten days earlier.

Sally was waiting for me at the wharf, but the shop was not. I missed their early Sunday closing by twenty minutes. No problem though, I still had one perfectly good windlass which I intended holding very tightly anywhere near water until I had a replacement to fall back on.

I helped Sally load the last of her belongings into her car before bidding her farewell, possibly for the last time ever, then filled up with water and continued on my not so merry way.

I usually enjoy single handed boating but my heart really wasn’t in it when I reached Aynho Weir lock. The diamond shaped chamber is a bit of a pain at the best of times. It’s not really a problem if you have someone with you. They can set the lock while you just rattle about in the odd shaped chamber. On your own though, you have to leave your boat floating in the middle of the lock with just the stern secured so that you can step on and off.

Just after the weir lock is The Pig Place. The owners moored their boat next to a large field in 2007, purchased the land and then bred pigs, poultry and sheep, The meat is for sale in their canal-side shop, Overnight moorings are available there as is, apparently, use of a waterside BBQ for cooking the purchased meat. A dozen boaters from three moored boats sat around the smoking grill chatting and drinking beer. There was a free mooring just long enough for me, but I didn’t really want any company.

Next lock, Nell Bridge. Nothing particularly unusual about the lock, other than a busy main road between the lock landing and the lock itself, but it provided me with a little late afternoon entertainment to cheer me up.

Multitasking isn’t something I’m terribly good at, so trying to hold my insulated travel mug full of coffee in one hand while trying to trying to raise one of the two downstream paddles with the other, during a heavy shower, with my mind distracted by relationship issues, probably wasn’t a good idea.

My second and only windlass slipped from my hand, bounced on the concrete lock side, somersaulted twice, and then dived gracefully into the lock.

I jumped up and down and shouted at the water for a while before calming down enough to consider my options. I could wait for another boat to appear, then ask them to help me set the lock, I could pull the boat back from the lock landing, moor for the night and then look for somewhere to buy a windless, or I could make do with the resources on hand.

I had a half-hearted bash at raising the paddles with my bare hands. Only then did I realise what a wonderful tool the windlass is. I managed to raise half of one paddle before my forearms cramped, so that idea clearly wasn’t going to work.

I had a dig around in my tool box and immediately found an effective but unorthodox solution; a pair of mole grips.

They were a little unwieldy but worked very well so, although my new windlass was bound to raise a few eyebrows, at least I could carry on. I pressed on to Kings Sutton lock and windlass salvation.

I would like to thank the kind hearted couple off narrowboat Terrapin who saw both me and my mole grips wrestling with a stubborn paddle and without a moment’s hesitation dashed back to their boat to find their spare windlass. They told me they were about to throw it away because of the broken weld between the windless head and handle. Regardless of its condition, the swivel headed windlass was much easier to use than either my mole grips or my bare hands, so I am very grateful.

I moored above the lock ready for an early cruise into Banbury the following day. I knew Tooley’s Boatyard in the town centre had a chandlery so I planned to buy a couple of new windlasses there. Useful as the gifted windless was, I didn’t expect the head and shaft to stay connected for much longer.

No luck at Tooley’s. They don’t open on Mondays. I had a quick walk around Castle Quays instead, moved the boat to the closest access to Tesco’s at bridge 162, and then visited the store to fill my seventy litre rucksack with enough food for a week before moving off again.

At Hardwick lock I encountered the first lock queue of my three week cruise, five boats and one hour long. The next lock up, Bourton, was scheduled for periodic closure the following day to remedy leaking gates which were draining the pound above.

Once through the leaky lock, I ploughed through the muddy shallows of the partially drained pound, then through Slat Mill lock before mooring for the night in a peaceful spot other than the occasional rattling train.

Onwards through Cropedy the next morning feeling quite excited at the thought of visiting Cropedy marina and finally securing a working windlass. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

Two year old Cropedy marina is doing very well. All bar one of the two hundred and fifty moorings are now taken. In fact the demand is so high, another eighty moorings will be created soon. Visiting the marina was delightful; immaculately kept grounds, a vast expanse of water to enable easy manoeuvring and happy, friendly staff.

I keep an accurate record of my engine running hours and the running average diesel consumption per hour on an Excel spreadsheet. My spreadsheet told me that I had used 146 litres since my last fill, or nearly half a tank. The spreadsheet was almost spot on. One hundred and forty five litres topped the tank up. Who needs a fuel tank gauge or a dipping stick?

Sadly, Cropedy marina couldn’t provide me with a windlass but even though they don’t offer them for sale, they tried very, very hard to help me out. They discussed which of the boat owners currently at the marina might have one spare, then offered to lend me one until I passed the marina again. I don’t know when I’ll be passing again so I didn’t take them up on their kind offer.

Over the previous days I’d been chatting with the crew of NB Pot Bellied Pig as we leap frogged each other. They knew I was searching for a windlass supplier so delivered some good news when they saw me waiting beneath Broadmoor lock.

There’s a fender maker hidden in the dense undergrowth beside the lock selling fenders of course and, more importantly, windlasses.

I must learn to carry more cash with me. Many of the smaller canal-side businesses don’t accept credit or debit cards. This was one of them. I spent five minutes on board searching cupboards, pots, pockets and drawers before finding £14 in loose change. After chatting with the kindly owner for ten minutes about canals in general and the tragic mistake which lead to the death of a mother of two in nearby Varney’s lock several years ago, he reduced the price to £12 because I was “in the trade”. Two examples of the kindness of waterways business folk in two hours which, I think it’s fair to say, you wouldn’t experience on dry land.

With my shiny new windlass with head firmly welded to shaft I flew up the next seven locks before mooring in a very tranquil spot at the head of the Claydon flight.

Wednesday was a fairly long day, eight hours cruising twelve miles and nine locks, and a briefly traumatic one when I thought I’d blown up the engine.

I stopped at Fenny Compton’s water point to top up my tank and dispose of five days’ worth of rubbish and, in an attempt at multitasking, quickly made myself a coffee while the tank filled.

Another boat was waiting for water so I hastily poured boiling water into my thermal mug, plonked my coffee on the rear hatch, untied and set off for a serene cruise on the south Oxford summit pound’s most tranquil stretch between Fenny Compton and Marston Doles.

After half an hour I caught a whiff of hot metal. When you’ve spent hundreds of hours sitting or standing in the same place at the back of your boat, you get to know all the usual smells, sounds and vibrations. The slightest change in anything sets your mental alarm bells ringing.

I ducked my head into the engine room looking for smoke, but everything looked exactly as it should, and smelled exactly as I expected it to smell. I glanced at the engine temperature gauge. As usual, the temperature was exactly seventy degrees. But as I looked at the gauge set in the roof pigeon box I could smell hot metal again. Then I realised where the smell was coming from.

My new composting toilet has a 12v under a vent in the roof. The fan draws moisture from the toilet’s solids tank under the toilet in the bathroom inside the cabin. The hot metal smell was drifting back to me from the roof vent.

I quickly reversed the boat to stop it dead in the water, checked to make sure that there was no traffic coming, and darted into a cabin filled with the smell of hot metal. The culprit was immediately obvious. A once shiny red but now blackened and empty kettle wilted over a burning hob.

I managed to save the kettle but not the underpants I was wearing when I thought I’d cooked the engine. I’ll leave multitasking to the much more competent fairer sex in future.

I haven’t taken many photo’s over the last week, but here’s an interesting one for you. Just before Marston Doles and the head of the Napton flight of nine locks, a residential boat owner has used an extreme strategy to avoid having to pay for a licence or for mooring his boat online.

An online narrowboat mooring with a difference

An online narrowboat mooring with a difference

A rear view - The channel has been filled in behind the boat

A rear view – The channel has been filled in behind the boat

A short spur has been dug from the south Oxford canal just deep enough to allow him to steer his boat into an adjacent field and just far enough so that the channel could then be filled behind him. His boat is now not connected to the network so I suppose he thinks he doesn’t have to pay the fees that all other boat owners on the inland waterways pay. Why a boat in the field though? Surely his boat is now little more than a caravan, which would have been far easier to move into the field in the first place.

I spent the last night of my cruise at the bottom of the Napton flight on Wednesday before mooring at the top of the top of the Calcutt flight the following day to prepare for my return to “work”, or what passes for work these days. I had seventeen consecutive discovery days to run so the boat needed cleaning inside and out, and I needed to do some shopping.

I can’t easily visit shops for the next three weeks from my base close to Napton junction. I haven’t owned a car for two years, the nearest bus stop is a mile and a half away, and the buses, as far as I know, run about once a fortnight. Fortunately, getting to the shops isn’t necessary these days. I just ask the shops to come to me.

The lovely people at Tesco delivered my weekly shopping for a very reasonable £2. The delivery driver phone me as instructed when he arrived at the postcode I gave him, then helped me carry my dozen bags of groceries to Calcutt Top lock. What wonderful service.

Amazon is just as good. I use their Prime service which means that I get free next day delivery. After Sally’s sudden and unexpected departure, I needed to replace numerous household items. The boat is now fully stocked with food and pots, pans and utensils to cook it with.

My last three discovery days have been something of a weather sandwich. We were battered by constant torrential rain on Friday, baked by relentless sunshine on Saturday and were awash again on Sunday. The weather hardly matters though if you have the right gear on. I did. My pre warned guests did. The dozens and dozens of hire boat crews we passed sadly did not.

As usual, many of the hire boat crews have provided me with countless opportunities to show aspiring boat owners what can go wrong on the waterways. We watched the waterways equivalent of a multi car pileup as three Black Prince boats travelling in convoy crashed into each other. The lead boat appeared around a blind bend in front of us, panicked and piled into the towpath. The first of the two following boats thudded into the back of the lead boat. The third boat turned in the opposite direction and embedded most of the cabin into dense hawthorn, much to the dismay of the three wine drinking ladies on the front deck.

We listened in dismay to a tirade of abuse directed at one well-meaning boater who gently informed an obviously novice crew of the folly of raising the paddles at both ends of the lock.

We narrowly missed a day hire boat as it cannoned from bank to bank before slewing sideways into a lock, then watched in amazement as a bow balancing boy, beer in hand, leaped into the water egged on by half a dozen other bottle waving teenagers.

But most of all, in addition to the occasional mishap caused in the main by necessary but far too brief helmsmanship guidance given to inexperienced hirers by hire companies, and the odd encounter with harmless but over exuberant youth, most of the hire boat crews and an equally large percentage of private boat owners demonstrated a level of friendliness and easy communication which has both surprised and delighted many of my guests.

Despite, or maybe because of, the frequent navigational mishaps, canals and rivers offer a fascinating way of life. One which I hope to enjoy for many years to come.

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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’m running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still 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.

Update 19th July 2015

The earliest dates are now at the beginning of October. If you want to  see the available dates for October onwards click here.

In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendees David & Geoff…

“Geoff and I have had the grand dream of downsizing to the live-aboard dream for a few years. We seriously looked into it a couple of years back (when we first bought Paul’s eBook, joined his ‘Living on a Narrowboat’ site, and helped beta-test his Narrow-budget software). Paul was great at talking us through the early stages, and we even started looking at potential boats – but then Geoff’s elderly Mum moved up to live near us for additional help and support, and we had to put our plans on hold.

I’ve had some experience with boats (albeit 30 years ago, on a couple of family holidays on the Kennet and Avon, and the Thames), but Geoff has only ever been on a few of our friend’s boats, and those only when moored up. It seemed a good idea therefore to spend a bit of time on a boat whist underway, before we are at a point were we can take things seriously again – and preferably with someone who knows what they’re doing as both Helmsman and an experienced liveaboarder.

Both Paul and Sally were great hosts: Paul welcoming us with a cup of coffee which we sipped whilst taking an easy but incredibly useful walk through his boat – Paul sharing his experiences (good and bad) of living aboard, and showing us the very many improvements that he has made to Narrowboat James to make it an almost perfect liveaboarder. I couldn’t get over how much space and storage he’s been able to cram into a mere 48 foot cabin – and how comfortable a living space he’s created. We even got to discus the eternal boating obsessions of having enough power and water ‘off-grid’ – and the best choice of toilet whilst continuously cruising (I am totally now sold on the idea of a composter: I’ve never used a boat-loo that was so simple and pleasant!)

The initial tour and live aboard advice delivered, Paul then took us out to the Helm, had us help untie, and then we headed off for a day of tuition and experience. Paul was a clear but wonderfully relaxed teacher (amazing, since he’s putting his home and his livelihood in your hands!); everything was explained in straight forward and simple terms, and we were both soon taking the tiller – safe in the knowledge that Paul was right beside us to guide and nudge us in our waterways first steps.

In the first part of the day Paul covered everything you could need to know in safely handling a boat: from steering at slow speeds, judging the correct lines to take through turns and bridges, making tight turns, and passing boats and other travellers with courtesy and safety. All whilst the perfect Warwickshire countryside floated by at a sedate 2 miles an hour…

After lunch, we got to spend yet more time at the tiller, honing our skills until everything began to feel almost natural – by which time we were ready to try our hands at navigating the three locks back at Calcut boats.

I can’t praise Paul enough for his patience and good humoured teaching. Everything was taken at a gentle pace, and we were allowed to take the time we needed to get the real ‘feel’ of handling a boat. We both almost felt like ‘proper’ boaters by the end of the day…!

If you’re thinking of buying a boat – whether as a simple weekend breakaway, or to pursue the liveaboard dream – then nothing can beat the level of experience you can gain in a whole day of sailing  with someone like Paul, who not only knows exactly what he’s doing, but is totally free and open in ensuring that knowledge is passed on. We learnt so much in our eight hours – and certainly feel a lot more confident that any future boating plans will be based on sound advice and personal experience.

But the day itself was also just so much *fun* too – even aside from all that wisdom-shared; hell, we even ‘enjoyed’ the nice bit of ‘English summer’ rain that we had… 😉

Thank you Paul, and Sally – and James too. It was an honour to get such a detailed glimpse of an almost ideal life.”

You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here.

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.

2015 07 19 Newsletter – Antisocial Behavior on the Thames

After two very pleasant days on our very pleasant, very secluded mooring opposite Chimney Nature Reserve we cruised for seven hours to reach Lechlade. Through Rushey, Radcot, Grafton, Buscot locks, along miles of river with more twists and turns than a pubic hair, and finally to St John’s lock close to Lechlade and our first lock keeper of the day.

Slightly worried about the tales of bovine boat battering told to us by the Eynsham lock keeper, I asked whether they were true.

“You’ve nothing to worry about at all,” he informed me confidently. “They’re curious but completely harmless animals”

Reassured, we moored in the only free spot next to a large field between St John’s lock and Lechlade Bridge. After checking for the dreaded bullocks and noting that they were half a mile away at the far end of the field from us, rather safe than sorry, we moved Sally’s large flower pot from the bow gas locker lid to the front deck where they would be out of the crafty cows’ sight. Contrary to the lock keeper’s assurances, several boat owners emailed to inform me of their Lechlade losses after I wrote about boat eating bovines in last week’s newsletter. Cratch covers, rope and anything organic is fair game so Sally’s colourful floral display was certainly at risk.

We marched through heavy drizzle to Lechlade’s Londis store, filled two rucksacks with enough food for the next week then walked quickly back to the river to check on the boat. We knew we were probably worrying unnecessarily but didn’t want to take any chances.

Rope chewing Lechlade bullocks

Rope chewing Lechlade bullocks

As we crossed Lechlade bridge we noticed that the bullock herd had moved closer to our boat. Much closer. We walked a little quicker.

We emerged from the path under the bridge to see the young bulls reach the line of moored craft. Some of them started nibbling tasty bits of boat. I couldn’t see how close they were to ours but I sprinted along the path towards them.

I reached the boat a little out of breath. A two hundred metre dash carry a backpack full of shopping didn’t do my lungs any good, but I still had enough breath in me to scream at two hungry bulls dribbling over our cratch cover and chewing the retaining straps.

The skittish animals ran off immediately so, on a roll, I shouted at another half dozen herd members dining on boats either side of us.

With the bullocks gone we considered our options. We’d been moored for less for an hour but already been subject to far too much attention for our liking. The animals were easy enough to chase off, providing we knew they were there. I don’t know whether cows are partial to midnight snacks but I didn’t think we could afford to take the chance. We decided to move.

Don't call me jug head

Don’t call me jug head

I didn’t want to move far. Heavy rain was falling, a stiff breeze was buffeting the boat and we’d been on the move for most of the day already. We headed for a single free mooring in the field between the bullocks and St John’s lock I had noticed on our way into Lechlade. The mooring was a little tricky to get on considering the wind which tried to push the boat back into the middle of the river, but I managed to jump off, wrap the centre line around a tree and then catch Sally as she jumped off to hold the centre rope while I hammered the stakes in.

The front stake went in easily so I ran to the stern and started hammering the steel pin in the rock hard ground. I felt a searing pain in my hand, leaped away from the stake and realised that my head was surrounded by wasps. I had hammered the stake through their nest.

In quick succession I was stung three more times on my left ear before I could get away. Despite the stings I was happy that the boat was secure and we were thankfully on the far side of a barbed wire fence from the barmy bullocks.

Sally had our dinner ready so, after covering my throbbing bits with Sudocrem, we sat down to eat and enjoy a little peace and quiet for the rest of the evening.

And then the boat lurched suddenly as something very large climbed on board.

If you are already a boat owner, you’ll have experienced the sudden and unmistakable dip when someone steps on either the front or rear deck. Imagine that dip magnified by ten and you’ll have an idea what we felt.

I ran outside to find a rather frisky bullock with one hoof planted on our rear deck and his mouth full of braid on braid rope. The boat lurched again when he jumped off as I screamed at him, then I screamed at his mate who was busy eating the dangling end of the tree tied centre line.

At first we couldn’t understand where the animals had come from. We were right. There was a barbed wire fence between the fields next to our last and our current mooring, but what we hadn’t realised was that the bullocks could walk into the river and around the fence. At least forty were now in the small field next to us, the only boat near them in this new field.

We wolfed down our food standing up at opposite ends of the boat. I had mine in the engine room guarding the boat’s rear. Sally had hers on the front deck protecting her floral display on the bow. It wasn’t the most leisurely meal we’ve ever enjoyed on board.

As soon as we finished eating we moved to a bullock free zone. We dropped down through St. John’s lock and moored on the completely inaccessible overflow lock landing. We were safe from cows and out of the way of the few boaters at that time of the night wishing to use the lock. We were happy, but the dogs weren’t.

They’re both very good boat dogs, but neither of them like walking on meshed grills above open water. The lock landing, the only place we could take them for a late night constitutional, was all meshed grills above open water. Both of them stood quivering on the landing for five minutes while both Sally and I tried to encourage them to have a wee. They wouldn’t, so we retired for the night then woke at dawn, checked quickly for doggie accidents then moved on to find the dogs some grass before heading back down the river away from Lechlade.

I’m always thrilled when I learn something new. Since I’ve been messing about on boats, I’ve always though the phrase “GRP cruiser” referred to a particular boat’s construction and type. Over the last week on the Thames I’ve discovered that I’m wrong. I now think the phrase is actually a description of the type of person on board so, instead of a Glass Reinforced Plastic cruiser we have a Generally Rather Passive cruiser. The description comes from the boat owner’s behaviour in locks.

Take Tuesday for example.

Sally and I left St John’s lock at dawn. By 9am we’d been cruising for three hours which included negotiating three unmanned locks. The Thames locks between Oxford and Lechlade are a breeze to operate, which is just as well given the shortage of keepers.

The locks are slightly larger than the double locks on the Grand Union canal, but much easier to set. The principle is the same as the canal locks. Before you enter the lock, you make sure the sluices are closed in the gates at the far end, indicated in these locks by a white tipped vertical bar being uppermost, rather than a red tipped bar which tells you that the sluices are open. Then, instead of struggling to raise a stiff paddle with your windlass, you just rotate a ship’s wheel, which flies easily through your hands, until the sluice is fully open.

Easy.

The gates are nicely balanced too, so there’s no need to try and find half a dozen other willing boaters to help push an unwieldy gate open. One gentle lean against the balance beam from anyone weighing more than about six stone is enough to start the gate moving.

Why then are so many boaters on the Thames unwilling to help?

We reached the fourth of the day, Rushley lock, to find a guy with a 20’ cruiser who appeared to be struggling to work his boat through the lock on his own. I’m always happy to help a solo boater so as he stood, rather worriedly, with a rope looped around a lock-side bollard, I told him to stay with the boat while I opened the sluices and the opened a gate for him.

Sally was standing back, which I thought was strange. She relishes the challenge at locks so I asked her why she wasn’t joining in. “Why are you doing all the work instead of her?” she asked, pointing to the well-dressed lady sitting at the cruiser’s helm.

I could see Sally’s point. The cruiser lady seemed quite happy to let me run around for her while she relaxed and chatted to her husband. I opened one gate, her husband opened the other then he climbed on board and their boat chugged out of the lock. The lady didn’t even acknowledge either Sally or I as she passed.

I know I’m not a regular river user, but we’ve now been on the Thames for a week. Our experience at Rushley lock wasn’t unusual. In the absence of a lock keeper – during our week on the river just six out of eighteen locks were manned – you can almost guarantee that the narrowboat crews will be the ones doing the work while more often than not both crew on a cruiser will stay on board.

Let me stress, I have very little river experience, so our single week of Thames locking may have been an aberration, but omehow I doubt it.

Before we left the deep and wide waters of the Thames, I took advantage of the additional space the river offered to test my engine.

I know the boat has done plenty of river work in the past. The original owner used James No 194 regularly from 1977 to when he died in 1997 for cruises between the boat’s winter mooring in London and summer mooring at Calcutt Boats, often via the Thames.

When he died Calcutt Boats’ owner, Roger Preen, bought the boat but didn’t have time to use it. I took James off his hands in 2010 then had to add more than a tonne of steel to the boat’s weight to over plate the disintegrating wooden cabin.

Since I’ve added the extra weight, and since I’ve had the engine overhauled after nearly a decade a half of inactivity I was keen to push the engine to its limits to see how the boat handles and the engine performs now. During my seven days on the Thames, the river has been very placid with no noticeable current so I haven’t been running the engine at a higher speed than I usually do on the canals. When I reached a wide mile long straight I opened up the throttle.

Unfortunately, the trial didn’t go too well. Fifteen hundred RPM is my normal canal cruising speed and is, I know through testing with numerous different apps on my iPhone, about 4mph. I increased the speed to 2,000RPM. My phone told me I was travelling at the giddy speed of 5.5mph. I edged the Morse control forward until the engine was running at 2,200RPM. My speed increased to 6mph, but then my engine temperature started to increase too.

Of course, I don’t need to be able to cruise at this speed on canals but I want the extra power in reserve for dealing with river currents. I also want to take the boat over the Ribble Link to the Lancaster canal and on the tidal Trent to access the Fossdyke Navigation at some stage. I certainly want a little extra power there.

I haven’t the faintest idea why the engine is overheating. The 42hp engine is capable of delivering much more power. I’m wondering whether the problem has anything to do with the exhaust. I’ve noticed the stern digs down into the water so much when I significantly increase speed that the wet exhaust is very close to water level. Is my engine’s raw water cooling efficiency being restricted? I don’t know, but it’s an issue I need to resolve before taking the boat on more challenging waters.

To add to my misery on Tuesday, Sally started calling me Dumbo. She assured me that my new nickname had nothing to do with my trunk but rather my elephant like left ear.

I must have been stung by dozens of wasps over the half century I’ve shared the planet with them. I can’t ever remember suffering an allergic reaction but by Tuesday morning my thrice stung ear had swelled to at least twice its normal size. Sally, typically Asian, doesn’t like sitting in direct sunlight. Pale is perfect, brown is bad. On Tuesday afternoon I noticed Sally look at the sun and then move slightly behind me. I asked her what she was doing. “I’m sheltering from the sun. I hope the swelling takes a while to go down. Your ear’s a marvellous sun screen”

After a night of quiet seclusion close to Chimney Nature Reserve we set off on our last permitted day on the Thames. Through four wide, easy to negotiate, well maintained river locks, then left at King’s lock on to a much narrower section of the river just before reaching the suddenly claustrophobic Duke’s Cut lock.

The approach to the lock is a narrow single boat width channel squeezed between half a dozen dilapidated live aboard boats on one side and overhanging foliage on the other. Just to make the lock approach even more uncomfortable, there’s no lock landing. If you’re single handing you have to push your bow up against the lock gate, walk along your gunnel so you can jump off your bow, set the lock while holding onto your bow rope, push your boat away so you can open the gate, then pull it back in again so that you can climb back on board.

Once through Duke’s Cut lock and then through Duke’s lock back on the south Oxford, the canal’s lack shallow depth is very noticeable after the river. Still at 1500rpm, the boat moved much slower, dragging mud, vibrating the tiller and responding sluggishly on bends. Still, at least there’s less of a problem mooring on canals than rivers, unless you’re near Kidlington or Thrupp.

Nearly all the available moorings were taken from Kiddlington to Thrupp so we passed them by before stopping for the night on a too short free space among dense bankside vegetation. No problem though thanks to our recently sharpened garden shears. After five minutes of manic cutting we had a perfect and private place to stay close to Shipton Weir lock.

The next day’s cruise lasted just over an hour. By 10am we were securely tied on one of four offside moorings at Kirtlington quarry. It’s not been worked for over eighty years. It’s now a wooded nature reserve complete with a network of paths and wooden steps and bridges over and around the steep terrain.

Sally left on Friday to stay with her daughter and help with the logistics of her moving both job and house so I was left to my own devices for the rest of the trip. I like a quiet life these days so left on my own I like to fill the day with walking and reading.

My dinner on Friday was a superb ploughman’s eaten the deserted bar of Enslow’s Rock of Gibraltar with only my Kindle and a blaring television for company, but the culinary highlight of the week was the following day.

Since we passed Kirtlington a week earlier and hearing listening to a number of enthusiastic comments about a quirky canal-side café, I was really looking forward to visiting Jane’s Enchanted Tea Garden.

I walked a mile into Kirtlington on Saturday morning to buy a few essentials from the post office, then sat in the sun in a clearing on the old quarry wharf, day dreaming and reading until the party boats arrived.

A stag party, first heard half a mile away, eight strong on each of three hire boats travelling in convoy, weaved across the canal two or three abreast. All wore white tee shirts printed with the text “Dickhead’s Stag Party”. I might not have the exact wording quite right. Most stood on the boat roof, beer bottles in hand, as they chanted and pointed at each other in moronic unity.

Then, just as tranquility returned, a day hire boat carrying half a dozen shirtless, white bodied, red faced very drunk middle aged men and their long suffering better halves careered across the canal and crashed into the quarry wharf next to me.

They stayed for half an hour for what appeared to be a mainly liquid early lunch eaten, or drunk, while standing on the boat roof, before cannoning off my bow on their way to pastures new.

I left the boat at 1pm for what I hoped would be a much more peaceful interlude at Jane’s Enchanted Tea Garden.

During my previous day’s walk around the quarry and stroll along the towpath I passed the café entrance. It appeared to be a fairly small, low key kind of place so I was expecting maybe half a dozen occupied tables, but the café web site promising more than a dozen cakes to choose from should have warned me of the business’s popularity.

It was heaving with customers.

The entrance to Jane's 'Enchanted Tea Garden

The entrance to Jane’s ‘Enchanted Tea Garden

A narrow tree shaded path lead down to the café counter from the pink painted wooden entrance gate. A queue of twenty happily expectant diners waited for twenty minutes to be served. Six uniformed staff peered over racks of home backed cakes and scones cheerfully taking orders.

I had already read the menu online so I ordered their Big High Tea, a selection of sandwiches, a couple of home baked scones with cream and jam, and a pot of coffee.

I was politely told that I couldn’t have one. The café had taken over 100 pre booked orders for Big High Teas. The guy serving me told me that they didn’t want to run out of stock for those who had already placed orders, but he said that I could choose any of the individual items on display in front of me.

A little confused, I ordered a pot of coffee, two homemade scones, a slice of summer berry cake and a prawn sandwich, all the components of their Big High Tea but now costing me £14 instead of £10. Still, the unexpectedly higher price was worth every last penny.

There must be seating for over a hundred people in covered marquees, canal-side swing chairs and a variety of mismatched and rather wonky tables. Most were either full or reserved. I walked away from the café building past dove cotes and caged birds, through rose covered arches hung with tea pots and wind chimes before finding a solitary seat between a group of ladies who lunch and couple of aged smiling hippies.

Summer fruit with cream

Summer fruit with cream

The food was divine, the coffee superb and the setting exquisite. I couldn’t have wished for more.

Full, and very happy, I returned to the boat fully fuelled for the next leg of my journey.

Seven o’clock was approaching by the time I’d made my way through four locks, stopped briefly at Lower Heyford to dispose of a week’s worth of rubbish and found a peaceful spot far away from civilisation and other boats. I really struggle to write my weekly newsletters when I have any form of distraction so the quieter the mooring the better as far as I’m concerned.

Imagine my dismay then when, quarter of an hour after I moored, I heard loud screaming and piercing whistles drawing ever closer.

A hire boat pulled over immediately behind me. Three shrieking life jacket wearing five year olds leaped off and set up camp on the towpath close to my office window. Call me a miserable, grumpy old git if you like, but my idea of tranquillity does not include high volume querulous children making merry inches away from me.

I moved.

Half a mile further on I found a peaceful spot next to a large open field which was home to a distant heard of cows. Will I never learn?

At 8pm, the hundred strong mixed heard wandered over to say hello. They ranged from tiny calves to enormous gentle cows with milk swollen udders. The cows grazed contentedly on the long grass next to the boat, and the calves began licking the cabin sides possibly as a prelude to eating both my rope and cratch cover.

I stepped off the front deck to chase the tiny calves away before quickly stepping back on the front deck again when a previously hidden nearby “cow” turned to watch what I was doing. In all departments, he was a very big boy. I sat very quietly behind the cratch cover until he wandered off, then fired up the engine and moved again.

Once up through Somerton Deep lock I pulled over at what would have to be my final mooring for the night. At 9pm, in dusk’s failing light, I called it a day.

I stayed there until 11am today when, much to my dismay, my lifejacket wearing tormentors from last night visited me again. The same hire boat pulled up in front of me this time, clipping my bow as they pulled in, then discharged their cargo of screaming, whistle blowing lunacy onto the towpath.

I moved a quarter of a mile to where I am now, close to lift bridge 193, completely on my own and with a marvellous view. There’s a lively breeze blowing from the stern so I think I’ll stay here for the rest of the day doing very little else than watching the scudding clouds.

 

I’m always trying to improve the site. My latest attempt is below. On all new posts from now on you’ll be able to give me some useful feedback. Two clicks with your mouse is all that’s required. In the fullness of time, I’ll add the ratings facility to all 500+ site posts and then publish a summary of the most popular based on site users’ votes so if you read a post from now on, please spare a couple of seconds to tell me what you think…

How useful and/or entertaining was this post? Please help me continue to improve this site by casting your vote below.

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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’m running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still 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.

Update 19th July 2015

There’s just one date left now before October. It’s now showing on the calendar so if you want to book 29th July for either a couple or an exclusive single, please let me know. If you want to  see the available dates for October onwards click here.

In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendees David & Geoff…

“Geoff and I have had the grand dream of downsizing to the live-aboard dream for a few years. We seriously looked into it a couple of years back (when we first bought Paul’s eBook, joined his ‘Living on a Narrowboat’ site, and helped beta-test his Narrow-budget software). Paul was great at talking us through the early stages, and we even started looking at potential boats – but then Geoff’s elderly Mum moved up to live near us for additional help and support, and we had to put our plans on hold.

I’ve had some experience with boats (albeit 30 years ago, on a couple of family holidays on the Kennet and Avon, and the Thames), but Geoff has only ever been on a few of our friend’s boats, and those only when moored up. It seemed a good idea therefore to spend a bit of time on a boat whist underway, before we are at a point were we can take things seriously again – and preferably with someone who knows what they’re doing as both Helmsman and an experienced liveaboarder.

Both Paul and Sally were great hosts: Paul welcoming us with a cup of coffee which we sipped whilst taking an easy but incredibly useful walk through his boat – Paul sharing his experiences (good and bad) of living aboard, and showing us the very many improvements that he has made to Narrowboat James to make it an almost perfect liveaboarder. I couldn’t get over how much space and storage he’s been able to cram into a mere 48 foot cabin – and how comfortable a living space he’s created. We even got to discus the eternal boating obsessions of having enough power and water ‘off-grid’ – and the best choice of toilet whilst continuously cruising (I am totally now sold on the idea of a composter: I’ve never used a boat-loo that was so simple and pleasant!)

The initial tour and live aboard advice delivered, Paul then took us out to the Helm, had us help untie, and then we headed off for a day of tuition and experience. Paul was a clear but wonderfully relaxed teacher (amazing, since he’s putting his home and his livelihood in your hands!); everything was explained in straight forward and simple terms, and we were both soon taking the tiller – safe in the knowledge that Paul was right beside us to guide and nudge us in our waterways first steps.

In the first part of the day Paul covered everything you could need to know in safely handling a boat: from steering at slow speeds, judging the correct lines to take through turns and bridges, making tight turns, and passing boats and other travellers with courtesy and safety. All whilst the perfect Warwickshire countryside floated by at a sedate 2 miles an hour…

After lunch, we got to spend yet more time at the tiller, honing our skills until everything began to feel almost natural – by which time we were ready to try our hands at navigating the three locks back at Calcut boats.

I can’t praise Paul enough for his patience and good humoured teaching. Everything was taken at a gentle pace, and we were allowed to take the time we needed to get the real ‘feel’ of handling a boat. We both almost felt like ‘proper’ boaters by the end of the day…!

If you’re thinking of buying a boat – whether as a simple weekend breakaway, or to pursue the liveaboard dream – then nothing can beat the level of experience you can gain in a whole day of sailing  with someone like Paul, who not only knows exactly what he’s doing, but is totally free and open in ensuring that knowledge is passed on. We learnt so much in our eight hours – and certainly feel a lot more confident that any future boating plans will be based on sound advice and personal experience.

But the day itself was also just so much *fun* too – even aside from all that wisdom-shared; hell, we even ‘enjoyed’ the nice bit of ‘English summer’ rain that we had… 😉

Thank you Paul, and Sally – and James too. It was an honour to get such a detailed glimpse of an almost ideal life.”

You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here.

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.

2015 07 12 Newsletter – River Thames Cruising

Our sedate journey continues. We’ve been on our Oxford and Thames cruise for two weeks now and are now forty miles from our starting point as the crow flies. By boat the journey is a little more arduous. We’ve totalled an impressive sixty five miles and thirty seven locks during thirty nine engine running hours. Our cruise isn’t quick, but it’s plenty quick enough. There’s just so much to do other than boating. On Sunday we had to dodge frequent heavy showers to walk a mile and a half into Banbury town centre for a basket of fiery chicken wings in Ye Old Auctioneer in Parson St. I left Sally to her own devices while I marched through pouring rain to B & Q to the north of the town. Given my recent engine room mishap I thought some proactive care was required to prevent my knob from falling off. My Morse control should have three bolts holding it in place. One had fallen off and another was missing a nut. So much maintenance to do when you’re home spends most of the time vibrating everything on board apart. With a packet of bolts for me and a complete new wardrobe for Sally, we left a too hectic town centre for the tranquillity of our rural mooring. Or so we thought. We were moored on the outskirts of Banbury on a long and mainly empty stretch of easy to moor against Armco barrier. Another boat was moored sixty two feet in front of us. I know the distance was exactly sixty two feet because I measured the distance when, at 8pm, a single male boat owner took great pains to ignore miles of spacious moorings before ramming his boat into the space between us and the boat in front. He actually had to push the fenders of my boat and the boat in front away so he could get his boat in. Once settled, at about quarter past eight, he lifted the oldest and smokiest generator in the world off the front of his boat and then, without acknowledging either Sally or I who were sitting on our front deck, carried it to his stern, plugged it in and fired it up. The generator was then running until 10pm when I came out of our cabin, where I had to hide from its billowing smoke, and threw it in the cut. Only kidding. We went to bed and left him to it. We left Mr. Smoky Generator behind the following morning and crept slowly towards Oxford through locks both deep and shallow. Nine feet six inch deep Grants lock was followed by twelve inch deeper Kings Sutton lock. Then, just as I was coming to terms with the boat sinking into a bottomless rectangular pit, we came to diamond shaped Aynho weir lock. At just 8” deep Aynho weir lock isn’t going to break any depth records, but it might just qualify as one of the most annoying locks on the Oxford canal. Because of its odd shape it’s not possible to secure a boat in the lock, or even get on or off it easily. The boat just sits untidily at an angle as it’s buffeted by the river Cherwell’s current as the sometimes lively river crosses the lock. We stopped at Aynho Wharf at the water point, slightly confused by the “customer moorings only” signs plastered all around the single tap next to the shop. Just to make sure, I asked the lady behind the counter if the tap was a CRT service point. Her reply surprised me. “I suppose it is, but I’m sure if you’re moored outside my shop, you’ll buy something from me!” We didn’t. We stopped for the night on a single boat length of Armco next to pleasantly short grass on a towpath otherwise obscured by dense waist high stands of rhubarb-like butterbur. We wandered along the towpath kissed by the evening sun, stopping to help the crew of a poorly boat who were trying to pull their sixty feet long craft past the impenetrable butterbur to a more convenient mooring. They were hoping a passing boater would tow them to Ayno Wharf where an engineer from Tooley’s Boatyard in Banbury had arranged to meet them to repair or replace their broken starter motor. After we left them, Sally and I discussed turning our boat at the winding hole before Somerton Deep lock so we could tow their boat but, by the time we returned, an inexperienced but very willing and helpful hire boat crew had beaten us to it. We spent a pleasant evening lulled to sleep by the sound of a single industrious tractor driving farm hand who baled ten acres of hay before we woke the next morning.

An industrious farm hand bales a field of hay overnight

An industrious farm hand bales a field of hay overnight

Wednesday was a day of high drama. Somerton lock, at twelve feet deep one of the deepest on the canal network, was just a hop, skip and a jump from our previous night’s mooring. We arrived on the lock landing to find NB Yelvertoft obviously moored but rather in the way of boats queueing for the lock. The blustery wind caught me as I pulled in behind him so I nudged him gently. “Oops,” I thought, “I didn’t mean that, but serves him right for mooring in such a stupid spot!” And then I felt a real idiot when a charming and very flustered gentle man shot out of his boat to apologise for being in the way. He was in the way because his wife was having a suspected heart attack and he was waiting for an ambulance. A contractor working in the cottage garden told us that Somerton lock cottage doesn’t have suitable access for anything other than four wheel drive vehicles, so the emergency services operator informed the anxious husband that they would send a helicopter. Sally and I were just leaving the empty lock when the helicopter arrived. One of the paramedics asked us to wait so that we could help carry the loaded stretcher over the nearby field’s high fence to where the air ambulance was waiting, so we pulled over on to the lock landing beneath the lock. More haste, less speed. As I leaped off the stern to help, I knocked one of our two windlasses in the water, told Sally what I had done, then left to help the paramedics. As I ran back up the towpath towards NB Yelvertoft, the helicopter pilot vaulted the fence, tripped over a protruding lock path brick, and measured his length on the grass. As I ran past I asked him if he wanted me to call the emergency services. Apparently, air ambulance pilots don’t need a sense of humour. By the time I returned to the boat, Sally had tied the boat to the lock landing and was fishing for the missing windlass with our superb, tiny and very expensive recovery magnet. Great idea, but I must teach her to tie knots. If you’re passing Summerton lock, there’s a very good quality magnet stuck to the bottom of one of the pilings beneath the lock, no doubt next to a shiny windlass. While we were mourning the double loss, just to compound our misery, a boater waiting to come up, who stood with his arms crossed watching the helicopter landing and the scurrying medics, complained bitterly that we were inconveniencing him and his progress through the lock. Sally said something to him in Tegalo. I’m fairly sure she wasn’t wishing him a good day. We cruised gently through Upper and Lower Heyford, stopping briefly for water and a chat with David and Marilyn on NB Waka Huia. We hoped to spend an hour or two and a bottle of wine with the pair but as they had two grandchildren on board we decided to run for the hills and leave the socialising for another day. Our evening’s stop was another peaceful rural mooring, apart from the occasional train thundering past on the railway which follows the canal route quite closely from Fenny Compton down to Oxford. The following day was filled with variety. We passed Kirtlington quarry with moorings for three or four boats. We’ll stop there on the way back to explore the wooded trails around the quarry and to visit nearby Jane’s Enchanted Tea Garden. The odd café’s tables nestle among the trees next to the canal. I asked a boater at Pigeon’s lock if he could tell me anything about the café. His eyes lit up as he told me about the marvellous cakes Jane makes with ingredients from her smallholding next to the wooded café. The business is open on just fourteen days each year between April and October. Saturday 18th July will be our day. We plan on having The Big High Tea. For £10 each we can have a selection of sandwiches, a slice of any one of the ten homemade cakes on display, a scone with jam and cream, a tea or coffee and then, hopefully, a space to lay down in the shade while we recover. Just six days to go. We’re both very excited. After Pigeon’s lock, we passed Kirtlington golf course then Baker’s lock and our first taste of river cruising in this boa since I moved on board in April 2010. The waterway joins the river Cherwell for half a mile before returning to placid canal at Shipton Weir lock. According to my Pearson’s guide the cement works next to Baker’s lock is derelict so I was surprised to see the trees and the solitary narrowboat moored close to the lock covered in a thick layer of cement dust. We held our collective breath and enjoyed the brief river interlude with plenty of sharp bends. We reached the right angled turn into the electrified lift bridge at Thrupp as a rain filled squall pinned us against the towpath. Of course, as soon as we were through the bridge, the windy rain was replaced by calm sun. We managed to find a mooring in the long line of moored boats between Thrupp and Kidlington next to The Jolly Boatman. We picked up our backpacks for the mile walk into Kiddlington High Street to top up our dwindling food and wine supply, then popped in to The Jolly Boatman at 6pm to top up our tummies. We both ordered their delicious pulled pork with sweet potato chips. After our main course we looked at the desert menu. Sally decided on the sticky toffee pudding. I pointed on the menu to my choice: A selection of cheeses with oatcakes and the day’s chutney. Served with a slug of port. Sally burst out laughing. I asked her what she was laughing at. “Just don’t look at her when she brings it!” she tittered. “Look at who?” “The SLUG!” In fits of giggles she almost fell off her chair. Poor girl. I think she’s spent too long reading steamy novels. She’d mistaken slug for slag. She thought my desert was going to be served by a lady of the night, no doubt dressed in a basque, fishnet stockings and red stilettoes. Come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea. Before we left the following morning I took Charlie and Daisy for a walk. We crossed the canal bridge next to the pub and walked away from the busy road running parallel with the canal through a series of fields close to the Cherwell. The path skirted a sea or knee high yellow wheat, speckled with scarlet poppies and bordered by masses of bright blue cornflowers. We stopped for water by Duke’s lock, then quickly passed through Duke’s and Duke’s Cut locks before head west along Duke’s cut and onto the Thames. What a joy to be on the open river with plenty of water under and around us!

The empty Thames soon after joining the river from Duke's Cut

The empty Thames soon after joining the river from Duke’s Cut

We cruised serenely upstream for an hour without seeing another moving boat. At Aynsham lock I parted with £70.50 for a week’s short term licence and listened closely to the lockkeeper’s advice. The best advice he offered was about mooring availability. He described the best, and free, spots to moor immediately upstream in the next field to where a farmer was charging £10 a night. The most dubious advice was a warning about a spate of attacks on recent boats and damage costing some boat owners thousands of pounds. The assailants weren’t the expected good for nothing layabouts from local estates, but herds of cows. He told me, with a very straight face, that at this time of the year, cows are increasingly likely to try to climb onto boats to reach tasty flowers. He said that one cruiser owner reported that his rear deck cover had been destroyed by an enthusiastic bullock trying to climb on board. He glanced at Sally’s three feet wide flower filled pot sitting on our bow gas locker before suggesting that we keep our flowers inside the boat when we reach Lechlade with its cow filled fields. I’ll bear his advice in mind, but I have a feeling he was feeding us a load of old bull. Some of his suggestions may have been suspect, but his mooring advice was spot on. Once through the lock we found a vacant spot between two live aboard boats then settled down for a couple of days of doing very little. The couple from the boat in front of us returned to their boat at 5pm to be greeted very loudly by their lurcher which had been tethered next to his bankside kennel all day. They fed him by emptying a tin of dog food onto the grass. Why bother with a bowl which needs to be washed? We stayed in the same spot the following day. We packed sandwiches, a flask of coffee and two litres of water for the dogs into rucksacks, then set off on a day’s strenuous walk along the river on the Thames Path. We didn’t get very far.

Pinkhill Lock Cottage garden

Pinkhill Lock Cottage garden

We strolled along the river past Anglo Welsh’s hire boat base, crossed Pinkhill lock then stopped for a drink in the shade of a gnarled oak close to Skinner’s Island opposite fourteen million litre Farmoor reservoir. We stayed there all day listening to the excited screaming from swimmers in the icy reservoir water and the occasional burbling from passing boats. While I examined the inside of my eyelids, Sally packed her rucksack with dry twigs fallen from the tree above. I think she’s collecting kindling for the long, cold winter ahead.

A cruiser, one of the more common river craft

A cruiser, one of the more common river craft

Such variety on the Thames

Such variety on the Thames

We managed two out of three unmanned locks on Saturday without mishap, which I suppose isn’t bad for a pair of Thames virgins. The first, Pinkhill Lock, was uneventful. In fact, nothing happened at all until we realised that the very nice man who closed the gate after we entered the lock had nothing to do with the EA. He was simply a helpful Gongoozler doing his bit to further boater/walker relations by helping with the gate before continuing his dog walking. Once through the lock we enjoyed the adrenalin rush of taking hairpin bends at the dizzy speed of four miles an hour, dodging rowers, canoeists and stark raving mad swimmers before reaching Northmoor lock, the scene of the great wine glass disaster. The lock keeper’s father was on duty. His son was trying his hardest to man both Northmoor and Pinkhill locks but, courtesy of a bike tyre puncture, was stuck somewhere in between manning nothing other than his increasingly sore feet. I climbed off the boat with a centre line, looped it around a convenient bollard, and then stared vacantly at the sky with its fluffy cotton wool clouds while Sally helped the temporary keeper set the lock. I wasn’t paying attention at all, so I was a little confused when a passing cyclist looked past me, pointed at the boat and casually mentioned that something looked amiss. I looked behind me, then in a strangled squeak asked Sally and the lock keeper to drop the paddles as quickly as possible. My centre line’s loop around the bollard had jammed, holding the boat’s starboard side down as the water continued to rise. By the time I’d raced to the downstream end to let water out of the lock, the cabin was at thirty degrees and anything inside the boat not bolted down had fallen on the floor, including five of the six wine glasses from a stainless steel rack fixed to the cabin roof in the galley. We lost five cheap Tesco wine glasses and a couple of plant pots. All in all, and inexpensive lesson on the importance of constant vigilance at the fast filling Thames locks. Looking on the bright side of things, we still have one wine glass left. Sally can use it. I’ll make do with one of our coffee mugs. They hold more. We stopped very briefly on the landing beneath the lock so I could check the bilge. I had a vision of the engine being partially submerged as a result of river water flooding through an open vent as the boat was held down at an unnatural angle. The bilge was dry. With a sigh of relief we headed upstream again. The blind lead the blind at Shifford lock. Once moor the lock keeper was missing so I lead a motley group of boats into the lock: one narrowboat, two GRP cruisers, an outboard powered inflatable dingy and two rowing boats. I’ll take the opportunity now to apologise to the rowing boat crews. They were behind me in the lock so probably didn’t appreciate the diesel fumes from the engine I forgot to turn off. Sally appeared to be the most experienced Thames lock user of the half a dozen assorted boat crew gathered around the two upstream lock wheels. Given that this was the fourth Thames lock she’d seen and the first she’d tried to negotiate on her own, this turn of events was a little worrying. I daren’t offer any advice though. She still hadn’t forgiven me for trying to do a barrel roll with the boat at Northmoor. Once through the lock we had our first taste of water points Thames style. No feeble CRT water point dribble here. Thames users are busy people. They can’t afford to wait half an hour or more while their water tank slowly fills. They need a fire hose with enough pressure to lift you off your feet. In five minutes flat we had filled our tiny 350 litre tank, and most of the rest of the boat, so we escaped the withering stares of the haughty cruiser owners waiting to use the lock landing to look for a suitable mooring. Oh boy, have we found one. Nestled between two sharp bends a stone’s throw from both Chimney Meadows nature reserve and Buckland marsh we found a boat length stretch of ruler straight bank next to deep water far away from passing traffic. Not that there’s much traffic to worry about. Before we joined the Thames, I imagined a steady stream of different style and length boats jostling for space on one of the country’s busiest rivers. The reality is very different. No more than half a dozen boats have passed us in the eighteen hours we’ve been here. Most have been GRP cruisers. One was a small dingy with a powerful outboard crewed by two mischievous teenagers skipping over the choppy water at three or four times the speed limit. Fast moving boats don’t result is as much teeth gritting or fist waving as they do on the canals. The river is wide and deep so a passing boat’s wake just results in a gentle bobbing rather than a mooring stake loosening wrench. Our mooring is possibly the most peaceful spot we’ve stayed in three and a half months we’ve been cruising this year. There are no artificial sounds at all. No roads, no aircraft or even quiet conversation from passing walkers to break the hypnotic spell cast by a warm and lively breeze rustling the long grass around the camp chair where I sat quietly reading for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon. I’m going to finish this newsletter and sit there again for the rest of the day. How useful and/or entertaining was this post? Please help me continue to improve this site by casting your vote below. [ratingwidget post_id=29806]

Our remote mooring close to Chimney Meadows nature reserve

Our remote mooring close to Chimney Meadows nature reserve

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’m running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still 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. Update 12th July 2015 I discovered an error on my availability calendars. Two dates weren’t showing. There are currently four dates remaining before October for shared single days,  24th, 26th, 29th and 30th July, and just 26th & 29th July and 4th August for couples and exclusive singles. If you want to book one of these dates, or see the available dates for October onwards click here. In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendees David & Geoff… “Geoff and I have had the grand dream of downsizing to the live-aboard dream for a few years. We seriously looked into it a couple of years back (when we first bought Paul’s eBook, joined his ‘Living on a Narrowboat’ site, and helped beta-test his Narrow-budget software). Paul was great at talking us through the early stages, and we even started looking at potential boats – but then Geoff’s elderly Mum moved up to live near us for additional help and support, and we had to put our plans on hold. I’ve had some experience with boats (albeit 30 years ago, on a couple of family holidays on the Kennet and Avon, and the Thames), but Geoff has only ever been on a few of our friend’s boats, and those only when moored up. It seemed a good idea therefore to spend a bit of time on a boat whist underway, before we are at a point were we can take things seriously again – and preferably with someone who knows what they’re doing as both Helmsman and an experienced liveaboarder. Both Paul and Sally were great hosts: Paul welcoming us with a cup of coffee which we sipped whilst taking an easy but incredibly useful walk through his boat – Paul sharing his experiences (good and bad) of living aboard, and showing us the very many improvements that he has made to Narrowboat James to make it an almost perfect liveaboarder. I couldn’t get over how much space and storage he’s been able to cram into a mere 48 foot cabin – and how comfortable a living space he’s created. We even got to discus the eternal boating obsessions of having enough power and water ‘off-grid’ – and the best choice of toilet whilst continuously cruising (I am totally now sold on the idea of a composter: I’ve never used a boat-loo that was so simple and pleasant!) The initial tour and live aboard advice delivered, Paul then took us out to the Helm, had us help untie, and then we headed off for a day of tuition and experience. Paul was a clear but wonderfully relaxed teacher (amazing, since he’s putting his home and his livelihood in your hands!); everything was explained in straight forward and simple terms, and we were both soon taking the tiller – safe in the knowledge that Paul was right beside us to guide and nudge us in our waterways first steps. In the first part of the day Paul covered everything you could need to know in safely handling a boat: from steering at slow speeds, judging the correct lines to take through turns and bridges, making tight turns, and passing boats and other travellers with courtesy and safety. All whilst the perfect Warwickshire countryside floated by at a sedate 2 miles an hour… After lunch, we got to spend yet more time at the tiller, honing our skills until everything began to feel almost natural – by which time we were ready to try our hands at navigating the three locks back at Calcut boats. I can’t praise Paul enough for his patience and good humoured teaching. Everything was taken at a gentle pace, and we were allowed to take the time we needed to get the real ‘feel’ of handling a boat. We both almost felt like ‘proper’ boaters by the end of the day…! If you’re thinking of buying a boat – whether as a simple weekend breakaway, or to pursue the liveaboard dream – then nothing can beat the level of experience you can gain in a whole day of sailing  with someone like Paul, who not only knows exactly what he’s doing, but is totally free and open in ensuring that knowledge is passed on. We learnt so much in our eight hours – and certainly feel a lot more confident that any future boating plans will be based on sound advice and personal experience. But the day itself was also just so much *fun* too – even aside from all that wisdom-shared; hell, we even ‘enjoyed’ the nice bit of ‘English summer’ rain that we had… 😉 Thank you Paul, and Sally – and James too. It was an honour to get such a detailed glimpse of an almost ideal life.” You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here.

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. 5th July 2015 Narrowboat spares – Why you should always carry often needed spare parts on board 28th June 2015 Narrowboat sign writing – The pros and cons of using the services of a professional sign writer compared with self applied self adhesive signs. 21st June 2015 Common lock accidents and how to avoid them – This newsletter was written in the hope that you will treat the waterways and the boats which use them with the respect they deserve. The accidents I’ve detailed were caused by lack of knowledge, lack of attention, or plain stupidity. 14th June 2015 Narowboat handling techniques for beginners – Here’s some basic advice for those new to boating 7th June 2015 Wide beam cruising restrictions – If you’re thinking of buying a bigger boat, read this article first to make sure that the restricted cruising range isn’t going to drive you mad. 31st May 2015 On board electrics for continuous cruisers – This is a breakdown of my own electrical system which works wonderfully to provide two fairly high electricity users with plenty of power for extended periods off grid. I’ve also written about the downside of having your boat’s cabin over plated. My comments are based on the work I had done in November 2011. 24th May 2015 Upgrading an elderly narrowboat – If you’re thinking of buying an older boat, this comprehensive list of what I’ve done to my thirty eight year old floating home may give you some ideas. 17th May 2015 Composting toilets – The eco friendly method of disposing of your on board waste is now becoming a viable alternative to cassette and pump out toilets 10th May 2015 Engine room leaks – My winning battle against leaks at the back end of the boat and more tales from our leisurely cruise of the Warwick Ring 3rd May 2015 Engine room storage space – If you haven’t decided which style stern narrowboat is right for you, look at the tools and equipment I can shoehorn in to my traditional stern engine room 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.

2015 07 05 Newsletter – Broken Belts and Emergency Repairs

We certainly aren’t going to break any records on this trip. After a late start on Monday we cruised from our mooring above Calcut Top Lock for half an hour before finding a piece of Armco just long enough for one boat which was within an easy walk of The Folly at the bottom of the Napton flight of nine locks.

I left Sally to her own devices for the evening, then strolled to the pub where I met drinking buddies Bangkok Tim and his pal Dale. We enjoyed a pint or two, maybe more, before buying a bottle of red from the pub, pausing briefly to whimper at the price, then sat on Tim’s cruiser stern enjoying the tropical evening sun and my bottle of wine, followed by a carton of methylated spirit, or “Tesco Value Rosé” as Tim preferred to call it.

Consequently I wasn’t feeling my brightest at 8am the following day when Sally, bright eyed and bushy tailed after an evening of abstinence, insisted that we fix our new vinyl graphics in place.

In all honesty, I can’t say I contributed much to the proceedings. Sally took the graphics, masking tape, credit card squeegee, Stanley knife and spray bottle of soapy water outside before carefully measuring both graphics and boat to ensure perfect placement. Meanwhile I made myself a mug of coffee, tripped over one of the dogs spilling the lot, cleaned both dog and floor, made myself another coffee and then joined Sally outside.

Sally held the graphics in place while I held my head, then she tacked the boat name in place, peeled off the backing paper and then smoothed it in place with the squeegee. My contribution was holding an empty plastic bag for the backing paper.

Sally fitting our vinyl graphics in the early morning sun

Sally fitting our vinyl graphics in the early morning sun

Twenty minutes later we, Sally, had the name and web site address in place and secure. I think we work very well as a team. I’m not sure Sally would agree.

Of course we needed to add similar graphics to the boat’s port side but we knew that the first opportunity would be once we passed Fenny Compton where the towpath switches from one side of the canal to the other.

By 10am our work for the day was done. We knew from the previous few days’ weather forecast that the temperature was going to rival the continent so we decided to do as little as humanly possible for the rest of the day.

We cruised just half a mile before finding a space among a long line of boats on the visitor moorings beneath Napton Bottom Lock. We needed an internet connection so Sally could Skype her sister, Cora, on Negros in the Philippines. I’m always in awe of the technology which allows Sally sit at our dinette inside the boat, click an icon on her laptop screen then, seconds later, start speaking to Cora six and a half thousand miles away on a tropical island in a bamboo hut at the base of an active volcano.

With the essential call made – gossip is so important – we strolled over the canal and into Napton village. Have I mentioned Napton village post office before? Even if I have, they’re worth giving another plug.

They’ve transformed a little visited village store with half empty shelves offering second rate service into a wonderful example of what can be achieved with a little character, intelligence and willingness to please. The now combined post office, grocery store, café, takeaway and village focal point is always a pleasure to visit.

We sat on a shaded bench outside the store to eat our freshly baked baguettes stuffed with local ham and tangy cheese smothered in English mustard, and sat a while longer to enjoy an ice cream each. Then, armed with a large bottle of Strongbow cider to help me endure the difficult evening ahead, ambled back to our mooring.

And that was pretty much it for the day. Once back at the boat we set up our two folding camp chairs and table under a tree on the towpath and read for the rest of the day. I roasted a Piri Piri spatchcock chicken for dinner. We eat it with thick slabs of buttered farmhouse bread washed down with pints of chilled cider.

The following morning we set off at 6am to climb Napton’s flight of nine locks in the early morning’s relative cool. By 9am we were moored above the flight under a shady ash. I spent the day reading Tom Rolt’s Narrowboat, thankful that the waterways are cleaner and more accessible these days and that the agricultural land close to the waterways is better maintained than it was in the summer of 1939 when the book was written.

After another lazy day avoiding the very welcome but unusual continental heat we were off again at 6am the next day along the south Oxford’s tortuous route between Napton and Fenny Compton.

We reached The Wharf by 9am, stopping briefly for water but too early to enjoy the popular pub’s hospitality. Not that the pub looked very inviting at that time of the morning. They had obviously enjoyed a very busy night the day before, obviously busy because of the large number of garden tables still cluttered by dirty plates and glasses.

We continued through Fenny Compton, through the village’s now roofless tunnel where the towpath switched from right to left, then moored on a straight stretch of Armco close to the head of the Claydon flight perfect for fixing the boat’s port side graphics.

Because I wasn’t in the same hungover state as Tuesday morning when Sally fixed the graphics to the starboard side, she left me to fix the remaining boat name and web site address while she cleaned the boat roof.

She came to my rescue ten minutes later when she noticed that I’d managed to crease one of the letters. She took over and left me to do what I do best, standing behind her dribbling and looking gormless.

We set off at 6am on Friday. Every day’s cruise starts with the same routine. We both have our own parts to play and function very well as a team. On a cruising day we’re both up at 6am at the latest. I make myself a mug of coffee then take it to the back of the boat with me while I prepare for travelling. I check both water and oil and top up the oil if necessary. My engine burns a little oil so I probably add half a pint for every twenty hours cruising.

Once those checks are done, and before I start the engine, I open the sea cock for my raw water cooling. As soon as that’s done I start the engine, check to make sure that the light on the control panel has gone out which indicates that the alternator has kicked in, wait for a second or two for a reassuring surge of water from the exhaust, then make sure that I have all of my cruising essentials within reach. These include the appropriate Pearson’s guide, my phone, for unnecessary email checking while I should be concentrating on the beauty of the surrounding countryside, my camera and my padded cushion for rooftop steering. I also make sure that my tiller is in place before I untie my mooring ropes. There’s nothing more embarrassing than casting off and realising I have no means of steering the boat.

Next I make sure that both centre lines are within reach of my steering position ready for when I need them. Finally, I untie bow and stern lines, make sure that the bow line is safely coiled on the bow, remove both mooring stakes or chains and then remove the stern mooring line, coil and hang it in the engine room where it’s safe from a propeller fouling accident.

By the time I’ve cast off, Sally has usually made my second coffee of the day and a plate full of breakfast toast smothered in honey. She brings both to the back of the boat where I enjoy an alfresco early morning meal, sometimes eaten as quickly as possible before the toast absorbs too much rain.

On Saturday the engine, as usual, started first time, the control panel light disappeared and I could hear a rhythmic surge of exhaust water. However, by the time I cast off I noticed that the panel light was on again.

“Strange,” I thought to myself, “I must investigate the cause some time in the very distant future.” Then, as is usual, I buried my head in the sand and forgot all about the light and any possible problems it might indicate.

Forty minutes later after negotiating the Claydon flight’s first four locks, I had to remove my head from the sand and accept that I had an immediate and pressing problem.

My boat has a very useful feature. There’s a dummy pigeon box on the roof a few feet forward of the rear hatch. Three gauges are set in the rear face, tachometer, oil pressure and temperature.

The oil pressure gauge has never worked and, to be honest, I don’t understand what oil pressure is. The other two working gauges are very useful though. After testing my speed along the canal with a couple of different phone apps and comparing the speed with the tachometer, I can use this gauge to tell how fast I’m going. The temperature gauge is even more useful.

My engine runs at seventy degrees all day long. Usually a temperature increase is an indication that I have something fouling the propeller. The temperature increase will normally be accompanied by other signs; vibration through the tiller, dark exhaust smoke, loss of steering or altered wake.

I check the gauges constantly as I’m cruising. On other boats these gauges, if the boat has them at all, are out of sight on a side panel. Having them positioned where they can be easily seen is very useful if, as was the case on Friday morning, the temperature begins to suddenly increase.

Fortunately I was able to moor between the locks without getting in the way of passing boats. I turned off the engine, then lifted a couple of deck boards to try and identify the problem. The frayed and broken belt hanging limply between water pump and alternator was a bit of a giveaway.

I considered my options. I could join RCR, but I have mixed feelings about their service. I found the one to one engine service their senior engineer, Kerry, did for me in February incredibly useful, but the office admin prior to his arrival could have been handled much better by a partially trained and not particularly bright monkey. Anyway, one of RCR’s conditions is that you can’t call them out until you’ve been a member for seventy two hours. Neither of us fancied waiting that long.

My first port of call, as usual, was Calcutt Boats. They’ve never failed to accommodate me when I’m faced with something I can’t fix myself which, as you probably know by now, is just about everything.

Calcutt Boats provided a first class service yet again. Within an hour of my call, engineer Dave Evans was with me carrying a range of belts, hoping that one of them would at least get me moving. At 17mm, my belts are larger than anything they hold in stock.

My engine isn’t the easiest of engines to work on. The front, where the belts are fitted, is just inches away from the bulkhead separating the engine room from our bedroom. Access to the belts is made even more of a challenge by the immovable steel frame I had fitted around the engine a couple of years ago to accommodate the deck boards.

Dave, slippery as an eel, easily slipped over and around all the obstacles and had the outer belt removed, the broken inner belt replaced and the outer belt refitted in under twenty minutes. He told me that the belt’s demise had been caused mainly because the water pump pulley was correctly sized at 17mm but the 17mm belt then ran onto a 13mm pulley on the alternator. I don’t know why a too small pulley has been fitted but it’s now on my very small boat rectification list.

I’ve learned another valuable lesson. I need to keep more spares on board. In addition to spare Morse cables and sections of engine hose I need to have spares for both belts. I think that with the right belts at hand, even with my very limited practical skills, I would have had a fighting chance of replacing a broken belt. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for Calcutt Boats’ swift and effective action, but calling out an engineer costing £45 an hour isn’t an effective use of my limited boating budget.

With the boat functioning perfectly again we continued our journey. Down through Claydon bottom lock, past Clattercote Wharf, through Elckington’s, Varney’s and Broadmoor locks, past Cropedy marina, built since my last cruise down here, my first ever cruise in August 2010, and then into Cropedy. We stopped for half an hour on the water point to top up, and for a quick dash to nearby Bridge Stores for a lunchtime sandwich and ice cream, eaten on the front deck in the hot early afternoon sun.

We stopped for the day half a mile south of Cropedy, well away from the long lines of moored boats on the outskirts of the village, many of them in a poor state of repair and unlicensed.

Our tranquil mooring was enhanced by a heard of forty strapping bullocks cavorting in the water twenty feet away from the boat. We hoped they wouldn’t get close enough to where we sat at our table on the front deck tucking in to a tasty beef salad.

The next morning we finally reached Banbury. The journey from Calcutt to Banbury by car usually takes twenty five minutes. Our rather more leisurely cruise took six days.

Memories of the south Oxford canal from my first ever cruise five years ago are bitter sweet. I remember the peace, tranquillity and glorious countryside, but I can’t forget the stress and anxiety I often felt navigating on a narrow and unfamiliar canal in an unfamiliar boat.

I lost the boat at the first lock I came to. I “secured” the boat with my best wrap-the-rope-several-times-around-the-bollard knot then left the boat while I set the lock. Thousands of gallons of fast flowing water from the rapidly emptying lock made short work of my knot. The boat was washed across the canal to the water point on the opposite side. Two laughing and obviously experienced boaters brought it back for me.

All the bridge holes seemed too narrow to get the boat through, I was constantly using my pole to push the boat away from reeds where I had drifted after stopping to allow boats to pass. Banbury was particularly traumatic.

There’s a lift bridge in the middle of Castle Quays, the shopping mall which runs alongside the canal. In full view of hundreds of scurrying shoppers you have to stop your boat, open the bridge, placate the impatient pedestrians who think their world will end if they don’t use the bridge that very instant, take your boat through, apologise to the pedestrians once more and then, watched by the same group of shoppers, successfully line your boat up with a lock on a difficult and often windy corner. The memory of my last visit is quite painful.

Saturday’s experience was very different. The channel through two lines of moored boats was just as narrow as last time, the weather conditions were similar, and there were just as many people watching. The difference this time was that I had a little experience to draw on.

A hire boat crew kindly raised the lift bridge for me allowing me to cruise serenely through the narrow gap, then turn to watch their own novice helmsman doing what I did half a decade ago. He completely misjudged his line in to the narrow gap, nor did he realise the wind’s effect. He missed by a mile but managed to get his bow through the gap then, with much scraping of steel on concrete, levered the rest of the craft through, aided by two guys on the front deck who tried to push fifteen tonnes of boat away from the unforgiving stone.

Entering the lock was similarly anti climatic for me. On my first trip I managed to get pinned by the wind on the offside. This time, knowing the wind was pushing me away, I simply turned my bow a little earlier so had no problems at all.

Many new boaters suffer the same stress and anxiety as I did when I first started cruising but, with the benefit of a little experience and the knowledge that narrowboats are built like tanks so won’t break if you touch lightly against an inanimate object, they soon realise cruising is far more pleasure than pain.

Taking boats in and out of locks appears to be a pet hate with many boater, especially ladies. If there’s a couple on board a boat, most of the time, the man stands at the helm doing very little while his poor wife wears herself out doing battle with heavy paddle gear. She doesn’t particularly want to work the locks, but she thinks trying to lift impossibly heavy paddles is infinitely preferable to steering a 6’10” wide boat through a 7’ wide gap.

Sally has always felt the same but, for the last couple of days, she’s been at the helm at each lock on our route.

Sally has been very comfortable at the helm for years. She has to stand on a box to see over the front of the boat but once on her platform she’s very comfortable and very competent. She’s just had a mental block about some of the finer steering and the constant use of forward and reverse gears necessary for lock work.

Surprise, surprise, she now realises that negotiating locks is no big deal at all. In fact, I can’t prise her off the tiller. Her enthusiasm at the helm is possibly something to do with her inability to budge many of the south Oxford’s stiff paddles.

We stopped for the night far enough away from Banbury to enjoy a scenic mooring but close enough to hear the constant wailing of ambulance sirens as the emergency vehicles rushed to Banbury’s Horton hospital.

We’re still there now. This afternoon we’re going to stroll back into the market town. I need a bolt to replace one missing from my Morse control and Sally wants to get some photos printed. I think the main reason though is to pop into the Thai Orchid for an all you can eat buffet lunch. Neither of us has mentioned the Thai Orchid yet but I think, quite by chance, we’ll be walking past their front door very soon.

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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’me running the discovery days approximately on the first ten days of August, October and December this year. As summer approaches more and more site users are booking the relatively few discovery days still 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.

Update 5th July 2015

I discovered an error on my availability calendars. Two dates weren’t showing. There are currently four dates remaining before October for shared single days,  24th, 26th, 29th and 30th July, and just 26th & 29th July for couples and exclusive singles. If you want to book one of these dates, or see the available dates for October onwards click here.

In the meantime, meet recent discovery day attendees David & Geoff…

“Geoff and I have had the grand dream of downsizing to the live-aboard dream for a few years. We seriously looked into it a couple of years back (when we first bought Paul’s eBook, joined his ‘Living on a Narrowboat’ site, and helped beta-test his Narrow-budget software). Paul was great at talking us through the early stages, and we even started looking at potential boats – but then Geoff’s elderly Mum moved up to live near us for additional help and support, and we had to put our plans on hold.

I’ve had some experience with boats (albeit 30 years ago, on a couple of family holidays on the Kennet and Avon, and the Thames), but Geoff has only ever been on a few of our friend’s boats, and those only when moored up. It seemed a good idea therefore to spend a bit of time on a boat whist underway, before we are at a point were we can take things seriously again – and preferably with someone who knows what they’re doing as both Helmsman and an experienced liveaboarder.

Both Paul and Sally were great hosts: Paul welcoming us with a cup of coffee which we sipped whilst taking an easy but incredibly useful walk through his boat – Paul sharing his experiences (good and bad) of living aboard, and showing us the very many improvements that he has made to Narrowboat James to make it an almost perfect liveaboarder. I couldn’t get over how much space and storage he’s been able to cram into a mere 48 foot cabin – and how comfortable a living space he’s created. We even got to discus the eternal boating obsessions of having enough power and water ‘off-grid’ – and the best choice of toilet whilst continuously cruising (I am totally now sold on the idea of a composter: I’ve never used a boat-loo that was so simple and pleasant!)

The initial tour and live aboard advice delivered, Paul then took us out to the Helm, had us help untie, and then we headed off for a day of tuition and experience. Paul was a clear but wonderfully relaxed teacher (amazing, since he’s putting his home and his livelihood in your hands!); everything was explained in straight forward and simple terms, and we were both soon taking the tiller – safe in the knowledge that Paul was right beside us to guide and nudge us in our waterways first steps.

In the first part of the day Paul covered everything you could need to know in safely handling a boat: from steering at slow speeds, judging the correct lines to take through turns and bridges, making tight turns, and passing boats and other travellers with courtesy and safety. All whilst the perfect Warwickshire countryside floated by at a sedate 2 miles an hour…

After lunch, we got to spend yet more time at the tiller, honing our skills until everything began to feel almost natural – by which time we were ready to try our hands at navigating the three locks back at Calcut boats.

I can’t praise Paul enough for his patience and good humoured teaching. Everything was taken at a gentle pace, and we were allowed to take the time we needed to get the real ‘feel’ of handling a boat. We both almost felt like ‘proper’ boaters by the end of the day…!

If you’re thinking of buying a boat – whether as a simple weekend breakaway, or to pursue the liveaboard dream – then nothing can beat the level of experience you can gain in a whole day of sailing  with someone like Paul, who not only knows exactly what he’s doing, but is totally free and open in ensuring that knowledge is passed on. We learnt so much in our eight hours – and certainly feel a lot more confident that any future boating plans will be based on sound advice and personal experience.

But the day itself was also just so much *fun* too – even aside from all that wisdom-shared; hell, we even ‘enjoyed’ the nice bit of ‘English summer’ rain that we had… 😉

Thank you Paul, and Sally – and James too. It was an honour to get such a detailed glimpse of an almost ideal life.”

You can find out more about my discovery days and availability here.

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.

28th June 2015

Narrowboat sign writing – The pros and cons of using the services of a professional sign writer compared with self applied self adhesive signs.

21st June 2015

Common lock accidents and how to avoid them – This newsletter was written in the hope that you will treat the waterways and the boats which use them with the respect they deserve. The accidents I’ve detailed were caused by lack of knowledge, lack of attention, or plain stupidity.

14th June 2015

Narowboat handling techniques for beginners – Here’s some basic advice for those new to boating

7th June 2015

Wide beam cruising restrictions – If you’re thinking of buying a bigger boat, read this article first to make sure that the restricted cruising range isn’t going to drive you mad.

31st May 2015

On board electrics for continuous cruisers – This is a breakdown of my own electrical system which works wonderfully to provide two fairly high electricity users with plenty of power for extended periods off grid. I’ve also written about the downside of having your boat’s cabin over plated. My comments are based on the work I had done in November 2011.

24th May 2015

Upgrading an elderly narrowboat – If you’re thinking of buying an older boat, this comprehensive list of what I’ve done to my thirty eight year old floating home may give you some ideas.

17th May 2015

Composting toilets – The eco friendly method of disposing of your on board waste is now becoming a viable alternative to cassette and pump out toilets

10th May 2015

Engine room leaks – My winning battle against leaks at the back end of the boat and more tales from our leisurely cruise of the Warwick Ring

3rd May 2015

Engine room storage space – If you haven’t decided which style stern narrowboat is right for you, look at the tools and equipment I can shoehorn in to my traditional stern engine room

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.

 

 

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