View Full Version : Narrowboat living

22nd Feb 2013, 00:29
In the autumn of my life and the Indian Summer of Ms b's, we're considering buying a narrowboat (in the UK) to live in 7-9 months of the year.

There was a 2005 thread about narrowboat life but it's been closed.

We've rented several times and very much enjoyed it. And there are plenty of sites around describing what's involved, running costs, those for permanent moorings and so forth. As well as the need to have a very good survey done on any boat.

We live in Brazil but some of the immediate and all of the extended family are in the UK. The immediate family spend holidays or transit the UK frequently.

Our home in Brazil is a bit isolated - large and fun and pool and games and dogs for the kids - but, with some insight, Ms b says we'd have more contact and it would be much more fun for visiting grandchildren on a boat in some canal.

Our idea, if it comes to fruition, would be to spend most of the year in the UK, keep the Brazil home - with a caretaker - for when we're back here and for weekend/holiday use by that part of the family who live here or are visiting.

So, Im curious to know if any fellow Ppruners have been in a similar situation and have contemplated buying a narrowboat. An obvious alternative to canal life would be to buy a flat somewhere in the UK and I'm sure many expats on here have done that.

Advice and ideas welcome!

22nd Feb 2013, 00:36
Be careful about the tax situation. HM Inland Revenue have a long reach and they're greedy bastards.

22nd Feb 2013, 01:13
Thanks Sisemeh, agree and have checked, so don't think there's any sweat there.

22nd Feb 2013, 01:45
An ex girlfriend and her husband have a narrow boat which they live on most of the year, staying with a daughter when it gets too cold to endure.
Too confining for me, I was happy to finish a 2 week holiday on a cruiser on the Norfolk Broads.
Where do you live in Brazil?, I was down there a few years ago.
Lots of luck, and fun.

22nd Feb 2013, 02:13

I live on the southwest outskirts of Sao Paulo in a quiet forested and environmentially protected area with reasonable broadband internet access. It takes me anywhere from 30m to 120m or more to get into the city, depending on the traffic.

Yes, the sense of confinement on a narrowboat can be heavy and that's at the back of my mind. It's not just the physical confinement of the boat itself, it's how you react to what's outside.

Loose rivets
22nd Feb 2013, 03:30
keep the Brazil home - with a caretaker -

Don't want an old bloke that loves remodeling homes do you? Oh, and loves dogs . . . and Embraer aircraft . . . and has been to Henry the Navigator's house. And likes Richard Feynman. The references become obscure from this point.:p

Lon More
22nd Feb 2013, 09:20
You might like to consider an appartment in a "retirement cionmmunity"
The selling price tends to be somewhat lower than a normal appartment, offset by a higher service charge, but there are many advantages, not least security. Mine has a concierge on call, CCTV coverage of the building, sea views, allocated parking, gardens, a 2 minute walk to the centre of town and 10 minutes to a main line station with High Speed access to London. The flats tend to be one bedroom but many also have guest rooms that can be booked if you're having visitors - usually much cheaper than a comparable hotel room.
There are several others in my block using this as a UK base; no reason why you can't let family use it if you're away - although age restrictions may apply.

Googoo "retirement appartments for sale" for info.

22nd Feb 2013, 09:22
More onerous than renting, you need to consider mandatory safety checks and maintenance, plus safe storage when away.

One little quirk of n-boats is the plumbing valves, everyone seems to get it wrong at least once, so reckon on occasional total immersion with loss of onboard possessions.

As well as pottering about waterways it is possible to moor in a city centre and enjoy the advantages of urban life.

Gertrude the Wombat
22nd Feb 2013, 09:32
Make sure you can park where you want to. Round here it's going to be difficult to find anywhere to stop - all legitimate permanent and temporary moorings, and some places where mooring is not allowed, are often full with long term residents. More people seem to be living in boats as the economic pressure increases and conventional housing remains expensive and in short supply.

22nd Feb 2013, 10:46
It has its attractions in summer, bimbling along canals stopping at nice pubs.

A friend of ours ended up living in one for a while. In winter it was desperately cold and damp. She sold it and bought a caravan - not a lot better, but easier to heat.

22nd Feb 2013, 11:39
Gertrude is spot on - Mrs Woezz and I nad a narow boat for a few years and loved the peace and tranquilty of being able to moor up in the middle of nowhere, but the biggest initial challenge was finding a permanent mooring.
If you are planning to live in it full time while in the UK you really need a fully connected mooring with power and water, rather than a simple private mooring spot. A fully connected moorig is not cheap, and can be hard to find.
In your shoes I would find the ideal mooring spot first, reserve it, and then buy your boat.

22nd Feb 2013, 11:44
Goodness, thank you all.

Rivets, we are of a like. I'm about to embark on a mod to increase Ms b's wardrobe space via a complete rebuilding of the garage and construction of an apartment on top of that.

Lon, not quite ready for a retirement apt yet - although Ms b might disagree. I'm not keen on buying fixed home but will probably reconsider in a few years.

Mike and Gertrude, thanks. I know that permanent moorings are expensive, moreso the closer one gets to urban centres. When renting I've never had a problem finding temp moorings though. Last time, midsummer, spent two nights in the basin in Birmingham, plenty of space. Renting for 7-9 months, though, would cost more than buying. Good point about economic pressure making people opt for boats but, then, would it not be that the same pressure is nudging others to dispose of theirs? There seem to be lots for sale or on offer.

Keef, wintering is not on!

22nd Feb 2013, 11:45
Not forgetting that you need somewhere to stay while maintenance is being done and the boat is out of the water. Plus if you have any ongoing medical condition needing repeat prescriptions, you may have difficulties unless you can keep going to one doctor.

22nd Feb 2013, 11:50
Thanks, excellent advice!

Yes, plenty of family about if need be. Prescriptions, well, just cholesterol! Does one need a prescription for blue or brown pills?

22nd Feb 2013, 12:02
Depends on which ones, but ones that, shall we say, 'assist performance', yes.

22nd Feb 2013, 13:01
Good quality mooring here in the North West of England will cost you between £2600 and £3000 p.a. Electric at metered price but generally water on tap.

cockney steve
22nd Feb 2013, 14:01
Possibly something to bear in mind...the waterways have been "hived-off" to a "trust"...As usual there were plenty of platitudes until the deed was done....why alter things if they're running OK ?
Mr. Cynic suggests greed is the motive and substantial price-hikes and conditions of use will alter to the detriment of those who are unable to pick their boat up and cart it somewhere else.....OOOPS- forgot...there is nowhere else, they've got you by the nuts!


22nd Feb 2013, 14:56
If you go on the Thames even temporarily, you'll need a 'River Licence' the cost of which is based on the area of the boat. Mine measures 9.8m x 3.2m and the cost is £512 for 2013. Mooring with electricity connected (metered) and water supply available nearby is £268/month.

Lon More
22nd Feb 2013, 15:08
Mooring with electricity connected (metered) and water supply available nearby is £268/month
'kin 'l. That's more than I pay for service charges and ground rent for the appartment!

Actually, most of the neighbours don't act like pensioners. There's even a private bar, though it seems like an extension of the local Conservative Club :( . No pressures to join in though.

Gertrude the Wombat
22nd Feb 2013, 20:17
Possibly something to bear in mind...the waterways have been "hived-off" to a "trust"
It's much more complicated than that.

There are various navigation authorities across the country, and you're likely to need licence(s) from whichever ones are relevant to your proposed area of travel - these let you drive around on the water but do not necessarily entitle you to moor anywhere.

So you're going to want somewhere to park. Depending on where you are the rules are likely to be very different. One model is where the council owns the mooring you pay the council a mooring fee roughly equivalent to a Band A council tax - for which you can expect normal council services, such as rubbish collection, the ability to sign up for the residents parking scheme, and so on. If you're on private moorings, eg in a marina, you're paying private charges for private provision of these things.

22nd Feb 2013, 20:48
think of the view...


22nd Feb 2013, 23:39
Thanks again for all the tips.

From Gurgling, moorings in the Southeast are hard to come by and very expensive so I'm not too surprised at chevvron's GBP258/month. Cambridge ditto and frankly it's not particularly inspiring countryside. My little brother lives half a block from the Cam and that's my usual base in the UK. From memory I think the closest one can get to Cambridge on the canal system is Milton Keynes. We're more likely to opt for the Midlands or Cheshire and, as funfly says, moorings are less pricey.

Gertrude, I get the impression the Canal & River Trust are trying to simplify the bureaucracy, and Cockney Steve's probably right in his assessment: the government who, according to the C&RT, pay half the upkeep while license fees cover only a tenth, will no doubt be putting pressure on C&RT to find the money elsewhere. They already offer a "Gold License" with the Environment Agency which covers use of both canals and river systems - Thames excluded, I think.

Still intrigued about the market, though. A late 2011 blogger suggested then was a v/good time to buy. Gertrude's comment about house prices and people choosing lower cost accomodation afloat suggests an interesting, opposing, dynamic.

Your generous replies have provided much food for thought and further research. Next trip to the UK in April or May should include a longer rental period and more in situ research.


23rd Feb 2013, 03:47
Further to what Gertrude said, different marinas have different rules about 'live aboards'. Where I am (between Maidenhead and Windsor) you're only supposed to stay aboard in the marina for 8 days in 30, whereas at another marina near Staines operated by the same company, they allow you to stay longer provided it's not your main accomodation. They quoted me the case of a guy who works locally but resides some distance away and lives aboard mon - thu when he's at work.

23rd Feb 2013, 10:27

That does sound complicated. Elsewhere I've read that many marinas welcome full-time live-aboards as they enhance security or perhaps it's just the appearance thereof.

For our part, living in a marina for most of the time sounds a bit dull. I can understand the reasons for the guy who lives aboard Mon-Thu to be close to his work; he's done the sums and it's a more economical solution than buying or renting accommodation nearby. For us, though, sitting in one place would negate the reason for buying a boat: mobility and keeping active.

23rd Feb 2013, 13:45

I've a feeling you can get to Cambridge from the main canal system, but it means going 'down the Drains' and you need a boat no longer than 45 feet. 45 feet long by 7 wide is a bit small for permanent living.

23rd Feb 2013, 13:47
Hi Broadreach

The preceding comments are certainly worthy of consideration but are rather negative.

There has for sure been an increase in permanent live aboard boaters but with a little research and time on your side the mooring situation when in transit is no drama. With regard to having a home mooring we have a narrow boat on the Grand Union canal where it resides for the winter and like butterflies come the warmer weather off we go for the summer months.

On the Grand Union in the area of Daventry, Rugby, there are so many empty marina berths now available as more marinas have been built or are currently being built. As a previous correspondent suggested the annual marina fees on a good quality marina are around £2500-£2700 depending on boat length and when considering a lengthy stay aboard the bigger the better. Some marinas of course will consider a berth for over wintering only. To be able to transit the entire system I believe that 57 feet length may well be your upper limit.

Folk have mentioned the added costs of using the many waterways available but the main system of a couple of thousand miles (at max 4 mph) is an awful lot of space. The Thames is certainly worth a shot but the fees are Jan - Jan so can be considered as and when and should you consider the Thames this is a couple of hundred pounds in addition to the Canal Trust Lic, depending on boat length. It's refered to as a Gold Lic so worth a check on the web through the Environment Agency web site.

You may well be familiar with the UK but transiting the UK via the canals adds a new dimension to your UK travel experience, it's relaxing, very social should you choose to be, not physically overtaxing but certainly will keep you fit and active.

Thats enough I can hear others saying - sorry - you are obviously doing your homework and good luck with your planning.

Gertrude the Wombat
23rd Feb 2013, 15:18
I get the impression the Canal & River Trust are trying to simplify the bureaucracy
Nobody has yet come up with the money to fund a private act of parliament to abolish the Conservators of the River Cam ... I don't know how many other such tiny little statutory navigation authorities there are scattered around the county, each with their own need to raise an income from boaters one way or another in order to be able to afford to maintain the navigation.

(Writes a Conservator of the River Cam. There are plenty of narrow boats in and around Cambridge, so they must have got there somehow! - I suspect they didn't all go through the Wash. Yes the housing market here is different to some other places, resulting in the pressure on the river, and yes the scenery for miles around is somewhat flat and uninspiring. (But that does mean not very many locks.))

Windy Militant
23rd Feb 2013, 15:25
Most importantly don't forget which side of the boat was alongside the bank when you moored. Disembarking from the wrong side can be cold, wet
and embarrassing! :eek:

23rd Feb 2013, 15:54
Jesus Lock, Cambridge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Lock).

River Cam (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Cam).

There are also many residential boats on this stretch, their occupants forming a community who call themselves the Camboaters.

23rd Feb 2013, 17:02
Thanks radeng, Gertrude and upgently.

Yes I see now one can get to Cambridge. Rather a long way round though, and finding a mooring anywhere close to town must be nightmarish. Gertrude's looking on the bright side, not many locks to struggle with, but then the views that go with locks are part of the beauty and what keeps it all from becoming boring. Agree, 45' is a bit tight for full-time living; I think we'd be looking at around 56'. Last time we rented we provided a tow near B'ham for a huge bearded monster of a guy who lived on one that could not have been more than 18' long.

Comments pointing out negative aspects are always welcome as they do help keep one's feet on the ground.

upgently, we've rented only three times, total of 4 weeks IIRC. I doubt whether in all that time we covered more than 300 miles! Gold License for a 56' is around GBP 1,150.

23rd Feb 2013, 17:18
Looking at the figures I've seen so far it seems that living in a narrowboat is going to be a lot more expensive than renting a small flat, as long as you avoid the South East. I'm a long time out of the rental market, but my son has just rented a very pleasant one bedroomed flat in Worcester (nice city if you dont know it) for £425 pcm, plus council tax (band one). Sure it's small, but the floor area is more than you would get in even a 70' narrow boat.

Of course if money is not the prime object then admittedly the narrow boat is a lot more fun - like you Ive done it three times, in my case when my kids were young, and they were certainly the best holidays we ever had.

23rd Feb 2013, 17:20
Is it possible to 'lease' a narrowboat (ie a long let rather than the holiday rates)?

Might be a solution rather than buying and having to find winter quarters.

Of course you'd need somewhere to store your possessions when not onboard, but a cheap van might suffice.

23rd Feb 2013, 17:31
I have not much to add except that when I visited Bath last summer, I thought it was one of the most idyllic settings I'd ever seen. Absolutely lovely. I remember talking to a fellow as he was sinking into a lock, he was just finishing a one month honeymoon. I liked the idea.
Here are a few shots I took.


23rd Feb 2013, 17:57
How about part-year narrowboat part-year campervan (with a lockup to store your possessions in between)?

That way you get to enjoy the nomadic life without being restricted by canals. There's lots of beautiful places in Scotland where there aren't any canals (though most would be accessible by sea).

Your campervan could be a converted bus . . .

23rd Feb 2013, 18:44
Life 'aint a rehearsal....go for it:)

23rd Feb 2013, 21:47
garp, lovely photos! Never been to Bath and that would be at least a week's stopover.

Tankertrashnav, you are of course right, renting a flat would be cheaper but it's also a lot more sedentary. I've got too much of that now and need a bit of pushing, as Ms b keeps reminding me. Funny, first time I rented was with my three young sons - must have been early eighties. We did the Four Counties Ring and I thoroughly enjoyed it; the boys were bored stiff - every time we passed an open field or park they wanted to stop to kick a ball around! Accommodating their wishes resulted in having to push ahead in rain and sleet for the last few days to return the boat to Anglo Welsh.

G-CPTN, long lease idea brilliant! Exactly what JetBlast is for. Thank you, I never thought of that and a quick Gurgle immediately after reading your post turned quickly turned up one company that does just that as well as lots of forum talk. There are probably other companies as well. Another line of investigation to pursue. Financially and from the hassle viewpoint of buying then selling, long-term lease could work out better than buying, assuming I am actually able to enjoy use of a boat for the next four or five years. Have to do the numbers.

Camper van hire, well.... done that and it put me off pretty much for good. Never say never but driving across the Forth Road Bridge in a high crosswind required reflexes one is less confident of today. But you're right, for Scotland a van would be the thing.

24th Feb 2013, 02:44
Why not buy sufficient property adjacent to a canal to dig out a harbor i.e., a marina? Have a spot where they can moor/dock and can make three-(or more)-point-turns to turn around.

--the entrance(s) come in at an angle from the canal.
--add locks or a river gate if prudent.
--a tow boat to aid parking.
--a series of parallel mooring spots, where it goes boat-dock-boat, boat-dock-boat, etc., lined up side-to-side to save space.
--short and long term leases.
--services and a shower+ facilities nearby.
--access to local sights and transportation.
--someone that can run it for you year-round (or part time).

Encourage a village pub to move to PPRuNe Harbor.
Invite your friends!

Gertrude the Wombat
24th Feb 2013, 09:43
Why not buy sufficient property adjacent to a canal to dig out a harbor i.e., a marina?
I know where there's some land whose owner would be quite happy to accommodate a marina, and the land is allocated for that purpose in the local plan.

So that's the first two hurdles out of the way, land ownership and planning.

So why hasn't it happened? Money. Nobody has come up with a business case that the banks will lend against (the landowner hasn't even tried, it would be tens of thousands on consultants down the drain). Of course if you've got a few million you don't mind losing that may not be a problem.

24th Feb 2013, 10:58
300 miles? We did almost that (297 we reckoned) and some 290 locks in two weeks!

And a LOT of beer.......

24th Feb 2013, 11:37
Went on the Norfolk Broads a couple of times, the wildlife was amazing, and the boat was surprisingly comfy.

24th Feb 2013, 12:18
300 miles? We did almost that (297 we reckoned) and some 290 locks in two weeks!

A good rule of thumb speed when canal cruising is 4 "lock miles" an hour (ie 4 miles without locks, or 3 miles including one lock etc etc). Unless you are going to habitually break the speed limit and/or be incredibly lucky and fine each lock set ready for you and no waiting, you are going to be pushed to better this (and why would you want to anyway?)

I reckon the above figures mean over 10 hours cruising a day - not my idea of a canal holiday!

24th Feb 2013, 13:34
We enjoyed long cruising hours. We also had a chunk of the Soar, the Trent and the Severn, and downstream on the Soar and the Severn, it was very fast. On the Leicester arm, there were a lot of sloes, too. Used a lot of gin up, they did!

Gertrude the Wombat
24th Feb 2013, 13:57
each lock set ready for you
Not impossible if there are, say, 16 of you on two boats. It only takes around four people to be working ahead of the boats up the flight of locks preparing them for you, and that leaves plenty of you available to fight off the selfish buggers trying to do the same thing the other way :D

24th Feb 2013, 13:58
I agree with Tankertrashnave, 10 hours cruising can be less than fun. But when renting for a week or two, you always want to get to or see as much as possible and it's usually on the return, when time's running out on the hire, that you do those long slogs. Radeng you must have been super fit - ans super knackered at the end!

Gertrude, wouldn't a marina have to be downstream of the rail bridge? Rather a long walk/bike ride into town and back if so!

Gertrude the Wombat
24th Feb 2013, 17:16
Gertrude, wouldn't a marina have to be downstream of the rail bridge?
Not really very far by bike, no more than ten minutes, especially if you push your bike illegally across the railway bridge (which may have a cycle bridge hung off the side shortly). And there will be a train option soon :)

See Cambridge City Council (http://cambridge.jdi-consult.net/ldf/mapping2.php?mapid=201), site 3.01.

24th Feb 2013, 21:22
Aha Gertrude, sounds like a great spot for a marina, within a stone's throw of the sewage works (?) and all those new distribution centres :ok: A light rail connection, though, would really make an attractive difference. Been following Cambridge planning off and on for 40+ yrs; little bro now retired was a County Council planner. Btw I NEVER crossed the rail bridge illegally, always took the the upstream footbridge to get to Mum's place in Chesterton or to her allotment.

16 on a two boats sounds like those school parties once they get wise to how to fiddle the locks.

Just did a download of Bath to Cambridge at avg 2.97knots 7 hours a day and it came to 22 days and a bit. Even if we could handle the 200+ locks I at least would need three weeks to recover. When and if we do buy/long-term lease, I think that's probably the sort of trip one might do over three or four months, i.e. the year's one really long trip. What would upgently recommend, if he's still reading?

Anyway, we're looking at mid/end May kickoff for a four week hire to see if we can handle it, physically and psychologically.

1st Mar 2013, 00:05
Thanks to all who responded and apologies for going off-thread about Cambridge.

Mrs B and I have decided to rent for four or five weeks starting in late May/early June and, if we're both still standing and talking to each other, to decide whether we want to buy (or lease) and live on board.

A decision on the wardrobe expansion project mentioned on another thread and which would require a rebuilding of our garage and construction of an en-suite apartment on top, costing the equivalent of two narrowboats, will await our return. Not being overly crafty but the strictures of narrowboat life do tend to put wardrobe requirements into perspective. Perhaps, if we decide to spend half the year on the canals, keeping two cars and having enormous wardrobe space in Brazil won't seem as necessary as it seems today.

Promise to tell all thereafter or as it happens.

1st Mar 2013, 00:55
Bon voyage!

22nd Apr 2013, 23:27
Four weeks narrowboat hire from near Oxford booked and prepaid. 11 days camper van hire for Skye/highlands tour likewise, just to show Ms broadreach where - for me - it all began. I do have a thing against camper vans but when I presented the options (book all hotels/bb vs just cruise around) to Ms b the camper van won out.

Even bet on a Minoan Edinburgh - Oxford flight, which hope they're still operating on the day.

Twelve interesting boats to inspect so far.

22nd Apr 2013, 23:39
Have a fine pair of trips. Updates would be enjoyed by all, I'm sure.

23rd Apr 2013, 06:15
Friend of mine lives permanently on his 65' boat moored at Shardlow marina.
Mooring fees are just over £2K. If the mooring are connected to Canal and River Trust waters then you need a license from them on top of that whether you are out and about or not. That I think is about another £1K or so. A six month cruising license isn't an option in this case.
With respect to diesel costs you are meant to declare how much is used for heating and how much for propulsion as it attracts tax at different rates. Oddly enough no one actually cruises anywhere and obviously has their heating on full whack 52 weeks a year.

Cruising is wonderful fun - I usual spend a couple of weeks out on the boat with him in early summer. During the height of the season it can get wearisome queuing at locks though; always better to plan well ahead and moor up close to any longish flight and get off on a very early start the next day before the sleepy heads get up.

Their are some beautiful stretches of water throughout England - the Caldon Canal and the River Soar spring to mind. You'd never get bored.

I'd try a long lease to see if the life suits you. Personally even though I really enjoy a couple of weeks out I'm not sure I could live aboard; I find it too claustrophobic after a while. My mate loves it though and would never contemplate going back to living in a house. Mind you after his divorce I'm not sure that would be an option anyway. :\

Good luck in whatever direction life takes you.

23rd Apr 2013, 07:54
I've mentioned it on another thread, but those with an interest in narrow boats could do worse than read Terry Darlington's 2006 book "Narrow Dog to Carcassonne", a great wee tale of the perils and pleasures of the life.

23rd Apr 2013, 20:28
Thank you Fox3, handsfree and MagnusP,

"Narrow Dog" - have read excerpts and will see if it's available on Kindle. Think I'll postpone the Channel crossing until we've covered every inch of the 2,000 miles in the UK though twice!

Tks for the tips, handsfree. The narrow confines may become an issue - it wasn't in previous rentals of one-two weeks but living aboard is, I know, something else altogether. :ok: re early birds, learned that on the Foxton flight, whew.

Will post updates.

23rd Apr 2013, 21:19
I have never been ON the Rhône but I travel beside it several times a year, and I must say I'd think twice about taking a boat down it unless it had sufficient horses in the motor room. 'Up' the Rhône is another story - impossible in flood, which is why the Canal du Midi there for British returning home.

12th Jun 2013, 20:37
We're now into the second week of our four-week hire, mostly sun, patchy rain and it's almost time for mrs B to come out and say yes or no. We're on the Oxford Canal, as close as we can get to the centre. Tug-of-war between Ashmolean and Gap, etc. And she wanted culture?

12th Jun 2013, 20:50
Nice canal is the Oxford.
Well it sounds as if you're enjoying it up to now. Hopefully the next two will prove as satisfying.

Happy cruising.

12th Jun 2013, 21:50
Keep the updates coming......... ! Want to know the result:D

13th Jun 2013, 18:45
We've had some very lovely days, albeit mostly chilly. Today though began blustery and wet moored just above the Isis bridge in Oxford. Departed 12:15 but stopped for an hour below the lock to fill up with water, and that took an hour. Another fifteen minutes was consumed manoeuvering off the floating platform and swinging the boat around to starboard to get under the railway bridge; today's high winds were being funnelled through, trying to keep us pinned against the platform. Finally done, though, without hitting anything.

The winds across southern England were forecast at up to 50mph and I was rather apprehensive about how the 58' boat would handle on the more open stretches of the Thames downstream. In the end they were uncomfortable but presented no handling problem and we moored in Abingdon at six this evening. Turning rather nice as the wind's fallen and the sun is making an appearance. Mrs B has gone to stretch her legs and gawk at the fantastically tall, thin chimneys (30ft by 4' square?) on the buildings around the church while I relax over a Bells or two. A line of poplars across the river are still swaying in the breeze. Thirteen plastic one-seater kayaks just passed, everyone wearing what look like American football hats. An eight just turned twenty feet off us, resetting their GoPro camera for another sprint downstream I I resisted the urge to ask for a GoPro lesson - having some difficulty with that). Canada geese, ducks and moorhens cast inquisitive eyes at me but one thing we learned is don't feed the ducks at a mooring because they'll spend the night on the roof and their droppings must have contained the original formula for Superglue.

We have yet to get down to "could we do this for six months?" and I hesitate to say the signs are promising. In a few ways they are, and I guess I shouldn't be too surprised but I am: there's been no bickering and we both seem more tolerant of each other. She's doing the locks while I just steer; we'll switch when she feels more comfortable with the tiller and engine. We've met some other couples who do it, one on a boat called "Rioja Bye Baby" (OFSO take note) who usually spend March through October on the canals. Their semi-remote-but-not-isolated house in Spain cost Euro 60,000 eleven or so years ago, was worth E300,000 a few years ago and won't fetch E150k now so they're holding on.

Mrs B's just arrived back with the paper and some orange juice. When she's had her bath it'll be my turn to cook, smoked haddock it is tonight. With some Chilean white stuff. Gosh how the sky's cleared, wouldn't it be great if we could turn it around so the sun came out in the morning and the clouds in the evening.

13th Jun 2013, 21:19
There is nothing in the world like a narrowboat holiday..


13th Jun 2013, 21:25

Where did that photo come from ?

Any back ground to it ?

I remember back in the 60's and 70's when canals
were not the best, quite a few long boats had sunk
along the edges or were sitting with the stern in the

13th Jun 2013, 21:44
My neighbour's parents had that happen to their brand new narrow boat on the day of its supposed handover/maiden voyage. They had just retired and sold their house to buy their "dream" boat to live on.

The builder had omitted to weld the bottom seam of a freshwater tank then stuck a hose in the filler and left it to fill up. When they came back to the boat it was full to the gunwhales and sitting on the bottom of the marina.

I think a more common way to sink a narrow boat in a lock is to let it rest too near the lock gates, resting on a sill when descending, so it tips up as the water is drained out.

13th Jun 2013, 22:08
500N - The story to go with that pic is in today's Times, it happened at a lock in Manchester. Nearly as shy torque surmised, but the reverse situation, it was the classic mistake of getting the end of the boat trapped under a lip of the gates when the lock was filling. The bloke, who has lived on the boat for five years had to pay £500 to hire pumps to pump it out, as the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service refused to attend as it was "not an emergency situation". Wonder if they refuse to pump folks' houses out in the event of a flood?

Too busy filling in their overtime sheets and compensation forms I should imagine :*

13th Jun 2013, 22:15

Have spent many a weekend around the locks
(catching swans and geese as part of a study)
so can well imagine how it could occur.

13th Jun 2013, 22:26
It is important to keep an eye on what's happening. Nothing new, though - read Jerome K. Jerome's 'Three men in a Boat'.

14th Jun 2013, 09:02

Sorry, just got up. What TTN said.......The Times, yesterday. It seemed relevant to the thread.

14th Jun 2013, 10:54
read Jerome K. Jerome's 'Three men in a Boat'.


Still the funniest book ever written.....

14th Jun 2013, 12:30
Did a trip up and down the Oxford canal in 2011 - simply superb.

There were riots going on across the UK that Summer, but for us the world slowed right down to about 2 mph. Sent our two boys on ahead to get the locks ready and wife walked most of the way, picking raspberrys, leaving me as Master & Commander. Biggest concern of the day were reaching the evening pub in time. Loved every minute of it.

Would I live on a narrowboat though? Not in the English climate! :ugh:

19th Jun 2013, 18:08
Wednesday 19 June 2013

Thanks Capot for the snap of the sunk narrowboat and ShyTorque for your recollections! "Water Ingress" is one of those things you are or should be always alert to. As is fire.

Right now er340790's last comment regarding English weather is weighing on my mind. A front page headline in The Times today read "Official: it never rains but it pours", with the first sentence reading "Sun lovers look away now: Britain, it seems, may be doomed to a decade of dull, wet summers."

Not that the weather has been BAD bad. For much of the last three weeks we've had what I consider perfect, a sunny sky with scattered clouds. But months and months of the sort of weather we've had this last week would, I know, dampen the ardour.

Some things about England, though, are priceless. Mrs B's daughter's MIA/LHR ticket was bought three months ago so we planned to be at Reading by the previous evening and take the bus to meet her 10:00 arrival, then get the bus back to Reading to be at the boat by 12:00 and push off to redeliver my brother and sister-in-law to their car at Goring in time for them to make a dinner engagement in Cambridge that evening. I would never ever think of scheduling anything so tightly in Sao Paulo. But it all went like clockwork.

We're now moored on the towpath just above Iffley Lock, south of Oxford. Very quiet except for the lawnmower at the pub upstream, and the smell of mown grass in the air. Cyclists and runners on the towpath and all manner of oared boats swish by, turning at the lock and heading upstream again. Now it's a Zodiac with an electric motor passing by. Mrs B and daughter decided to walk the mile and a bit to the town centre. And they're back as I write so, off to admire the purchases....

19th Jun 2013, 23:05
Thanks for the updates broadreach :ok:

A small note to anyone thinking of a life afloat on the bigger, blue, wobbly thing as opposed to canals (from one who has lived aboard on both) - never make time critical plans.

20th Jun 2013, 17:13
Hi Broadreach
Sorry I seemed to have missed a lot of your planning and the associated decisions but it's good to read that you are, or were happy on the Thames in your hired N/boat.
Missed your correspondence as we too are out and about in our boat and at present are moored for the night a little outside Chester.

I am sure it would be teaching you and Mrs B to suck eggs but don't forget that whilst the Thames is a delight the true canal system is out there and of course is a little less, in fact a lot less intimidating in poor weather conditions than the Thames.

We are 25 days into our summer run about and Mrs Upgently is becoming fitter by the day having worked her way through 208 locks without a murmur, I lie just a tad but she is working well.

Enjoy yourselves and I hope that at the end of your canal/river experience you will be better placed to make a decision on the future.:ok:

20th Jun 2013, 21:27
I've been boating for over 20 years and have had my own 59' NB for the last three...and I'm still trying to figure out what plumbing valves I would have to muck about with that would result in the sinking of the boat. Mike-wsm I'm not sure what you're referring to there mate!

Broadreach - glad you're enjoying it. Our boat spends much of its time in a marina as its a pied-a-terre for me during the week. Light years better than living it of suitcases in crappy hotel rooms! That said, we are looking forward to our second boating holiday of the year...this time we will turn right when we get to the Severn....

20th Jun 2013, 21:51
Thursday 20 June

Fox3 entirely agree re time-critical plans! The magic last Sunday was buses and aircraft being on time.

Time sensitivity also has sometimes to bow to others, e.g. the olefactory type. Discovered last night that we required a pump-out: nearest stations Abingdon, a day astern, or Eynsham Lock, eight miles up the Thames from Iffley Lock. There and back, plus a walk into Eynsham for shopping at the CoOp and a sandwich lunch put paid to today's plans for the Ashmolean and Oxford Moma but, so what, there's tomorrow and the days after. So now we're moored in front of The Punter and grateful to have found both - the mooring and the pub. The sun finally made its appearance around 19:30, as per recent custom.

Upgently, thanks and no worries, we're on the egg-sucking learning curve all the time, every day. And you are where we'd like to be were it not for all the visiting friends and relatives. And good on Madame upgently; Mrs B likewise is uncomplaining, and well she might be after over a week of all these sissy locks on the Thames and being chatted up by the lockkeepers; one south of Abingdon spent some time in Brazil so it was a rather slow lock. If we do decide to buy a boat it will be in the northwest, not down south, and my last week of our holiday will be spent looking at boats and marinas up there. Agree re the Thames; occasional visits ok but not to stay.

I am itching to see some differently designed boats. The 58' we're on is well laid out for a week's outing for four to six people and it's provided the right taste of living in close quarters. For extended cruising, though, much more storage space and a more spacious, stretch-out sitting area needed. And a few more inches of headroom in the shower: trying to control the shower head in one hand and a new back-scratching shower brush in the other last night resulted in a god-awful clatter, step-daughter said it sounded as if the boat was being re-riveted. In the wobbly blue things I think Fox3's referring to we used to use salt-water shampoo all over, dive overboard for the first rinse and climb back on board for a final fresh water rinse. Not likely here!

Decision time still being pushed forward but I'm beginning to realise there's no problem in that. Everywhere we stop we peer into estate agent windows with their pretty pictures of spacious sitting rooms, king-size beds and real stand-up shower booths. But geographically static. So many of the small towns we've walked through for shopping or just gawking, seem deserted, like towns in a spaghetti western. Eynsham this morning the same, no movement in the streets other than a lady with a pram, a few builders and cars passing through; the small cafe we lunched at sported a picture on the wall of the proprietor alongside the PM - oh he lives nearby.

Edit: crossed with AF03's post re plumbing. Ecchh, pump-out's bad enough.

pisstin broke
25th Jun 2013, 06:16
If there is no mooring space available, is it etiquette to tie up alongside another boat?

25th Jun 2013, 06:34
The reasonable approach is:
Ask first.
If not aboard and there's no "No mooring Alongside" sign, then yes.

Bear in mind.
Will your mooring position cause problems to other boats?
Have sufficient warps & fenders to do the job properly
Moor independently - not only does this enable the other boat to leave whenever they like, it means you are not relying on their warps/mooring skills.

25th Jun 2013, 11:42
"No mooring Alongside" sign

Would that work in the supermarket car park?

25th Jun 2013, 12:59
well, you could try it, but car owners don't seem to have the same level of courtesy as boaties.;)

25th Jun 2013, 20:59
Double banking = last ditch situation I think. You might expect to do that at boat rallies but not during normal cruising. Even less so if you're on a hire boat which would not normally come equipped with fenders (and on which many seasoned owners tend to look down on, sometimes with good reason!) And, as Fox3 says, ensure the inside boat can get away without too much fuss.

Tuesday 25 June and we're moored at Thrupp, alongside the Greene King Jolly Boatman, under new management since last week and all for the good. The four-week hire ends Friday; comparing our so far secret pro/con lists begins 2nd week July back in Brazil.

27th Jun 2013, 20:12

7th Jul 2013, 23:51
The seven-week UK trip is over and we're back in Brazil. Four of those weeks were on a hired narrowboat on the Oxford Canal and the Thames. It was a marvelous holiday and a good test for longer term narrowboat living. Ms B and I have both made up our pro/con lists but will only compare later this week and post the results.

8th Jul 2013, 07:00
I've enjoyed this thread and just wanted to add something. I realise this is about narrow boat living in the UK of which I have no experience, however, I've done extensive cruising in France both in Brittany and last year further South on the Canal du Midi down near the Camargue. Have you considered mainland Europe as that really opens up your horizons? Facilities are very good and you could follow the good weather according to season. I could spend years exploring Europe by narrow boat, just think how many of the world's greatest cities straddle navigable waterways. There is a tremendous choice of craft and I've seen some beautiful conversions from industrial barges for example. The Germans and Dutch seem to lead in this genre.

green granite
8th Jul 2013, 07:36
Continental canals also have the advantage of being able to use a wide beam boat, say 12', which will make living aboard much comfier. you are a bit limited on English ones with a wide beam boat.

24th Aug 2013, 23:39
Apologies for the long delay in updating this thread.

To summarise the background, we rented a narrowboat for four weeks (starting 28 May) as a test drive, to see whether we'd enjoy cruising for 4-6 months of the year during my retirement. And I was reluctant to just buy a house or flat in the UK.

We had a really splendid time on a 57' hire from Oxfordshire Narrowboats. Two bedrooms, two baths and faultless service from ON. Family and friends (22 in all) from all over England and Scotland joined for a day or three cruising. Traded stories on the canals with a number of Ozzies and Kiwis who were doing the same and enjoying the break, and with other retired English couples.

In the end we decided against cruising, at least for now. Not really "we", I mean I did, after considering how to reconcile Ms B's enjoyment of the delights of cities we passed through with my own preference for the quieter countryside rusticity. Ms B was reluctant to learn the basics of navigation so I did all the steering, the mapping and the voyage planning, with the end result being me as the tour conductor/driver, her as a passenger. Not ideal and not a situation I would wish to be in should I break a leg.

Not so say we won't do another long rental or, eventually, buy a narrowboat but, the next time, I will let Ms B go through the handover, the first day through the locks and the little details one has to see to so the boat doesn't sink or catch fire.

In the meantime we are looking at houses/flats in the UK.

25th Aug 2013, 07:42
Looks very like you took the sensible approach broadreach - try it out first and see if you like it before committing yourselves.

I'm sure you'll go cruising again though. It sort of grows on you.
Good luck with the house hunting.

25th Aug 2013, 08:22
Some years ago in the S of F I met a retired Dutch couple living on their narrow boat - being continental it wasn't as narrow as an English narrow boat but was still long and thin, geraniums on the roof, dwarf pines in pots in the cockpit.

This was in a Med port and I asked how they had got there with what was an inland boat - they replied that they just waited until the sea was calm as the proverbial mill pond, the wind zero and the forecast beneficial, and set out for the next port along the coast.

If I remember corectly the chap was a retired matelot of some sort and they both had oodles of common sense. Shows with planning and a smidgen of luck it can be done.

25th Aug 2013, 14:45
Have a look at this beauty!

All aboard the property ladder! Britain's most extravagant houseboat goes on sale for £250,000 complete with modern kitchen and Victorian-style bathroom | Mail Online (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2401727/All-aboard-property-ladder-Britains-extravagant-houseboat-goes-sale-250-000-complete-modern-kitchen-Victorian-style-bathroom.html)

25th Aug 2013, 21:08
ex_matelot,yes, that Dutch barge is certainly surprising inside. Would it classify as "Shipshape and Bristol Fashion"? If I were twenty years younger, single and with a wad of cash to blow, I'd be sorely tempted. Being none of those, I ain't.

handsfree, yes we certainly will cruise again, provided Ms B agrees to the conditions; if she doesn't I'll threaten with finding someone who does - "It's only for a fortnight, love" :}

OFSO, shades of "Narrowboat to Carcassone".

25th Aug 2013, 21:21
I had a lovely artery-narrowing fry-up breakfast on a narrowboat in Chester earlier this week, invited by a couple with whom I got chatting as I walked along the towpath. They were also contemplating making a narrowboat their home but realising how cramped it would be, specially in winter when hatches had to be closed, they are having second thoughts. Lovely for the few months (days?) of summer in the UK ut I'm not sure how practical it would be for year round.

25th Aug 2013, 21:39
Capetonian, there are a surprising number of people who do just that, live aboard year round and have no other homes. Many seem to have taken that route because it costs less than buying a house; some just prefer the way of life. But those whose starting point is cost do often seem to have difficulties with the cost of basic maintenance; some stretches of canals make favelas look good in comparison.

11th Feb 2014, 22:23
In the next 36 hours or so I'll be deciding on a two-three week narrowboat hire starting 8th March from, preferably, Crick. Alone, as Ms B will be spending that month in the US, but hopefully with UK friends and family dropping in. Never been that far west in four previous hires and I've found nothing on the waterways media websites warning of floods or waterways closures likely in March. Do any Ppruners on here have different info or intuition? I don't mind 3-10C temp and rain after three weeks of bone-dry Sao Paulo weather and no respite in sight.

This will be a (second) prelude to buying a good used boat. Of which, if the email alerts being received daily, there are many and for bargain prices. I'm wondering why, when all the indications are that UK house prices and the economy in general are recovering. Could there be some sort of lag factor involved with boats, people focussing on primary spending i.e. housing and savings rather than on frivolities?

12th Feb 2014, 20:27
A great area with lots of interest. Flooding permitting you could easily get to Stratford on Avon or Worcester on the Severn or further in 3 weeks.While you are in Crick, have a look at ABNB (http://narrowboats.apolloduck.co.uk/dealer.phtml?bid=349&oid=0&cid=0&scid=0&view=1&layout=3&fx=USD&id=0&f=0) to buy your narrowboat.

OFSO, shades of "Narrowboat to Carcassone". isn't it narrow dog to Carcassone? 'Sheem' and all that....

Shaggy Sheep Driver
12th Feb 2014, 21:02
Done quite a few narrow boat hols, and never known anything so relaxing. Must get another one planned soon

the Caldon Canal and the River Soar spring to mind

If anyone's cruising on the Caldon past lovely Consall deep in the leafy Churnet valley (home of the superb 'Black Lion' pub with no easy road access - just a long narrow bumpy track) and the signal box on the Churnet Valley Steam Railway is in use, give the signalman a wave (most do anyway). It might be me!

12th Feb 2014, 22:53
Thanks Hobo and ShaggySheepDriver. I certainly will look in at ABNB and thanks for the link. Have just been looking at their site.

SSD, thanks also and the Caldon may have to wait until we're able to do more than 2-4 week hires! But I'll remember to wave!

13th Feb 2014, 17:33
My 36 hours are up and the decision is for discretion rather than valour. There are a few horror stories coming in from around the country. Better to let this wet period pass and go in April or May.

http://http://www.andrewdyke.co.uk/evesham_in_flood_july_2007b.htm (http://www.andrewdyke.co.uk/evesham_in_flood_july_2007b.htm)

Edit: and may I share with you that, after three weeks of baking heat low humidity and spending far too much on mineral water, we had two hours of solid wet, drenching, soaking, lovely rain this afternoon, at least 50mm, imported via a cold front from Argentina.

28th Apr 2014, 21:29
Ms B and I have renegotiated responsibilities to find a way forward on the narrowboat issue. The bottom line is "broadreach must try harder", no surprise there. So I've agreed to buy a rather nice, fairly new, 57' boat now moored north of London, to be collected end May. We'll take our time fitting out, have until end August when we return to SP. Thanks to the posters early on who cautioned re residence/taxation!

29th Apr 2014, 08:35
Nice one broadreach.
I'm sure you'll get much pleasure out of your new boat.:ok:

Shaggy Sheep Driver
29th Apr 2014, 08:38
Very good! Four of us have hired a max length narrow boat for a week in September. We start somewhere west of Birmingham and will work down to the Severn and back up through the BCN.

29th Apr 2014, 21:44
Thanks Handsfree and SSD!

17th Oct 2014, 23:54
Just to round the thread out, we did buy the boat, spent end May through end Aug cruising and I think it's the best joint decision we've ever taken. Thanks to all the encouragement from Ppruners and in particular to TheChilternFlyer.

By the end, after several hundred miles and as many locks (around 300 of each, iirc), broadreach steering and Ms b attending to the easy stuff, opening and closing locks, winding paddles etc, we settled on new nicknames, mine being Olive Oyl, hers Popeye. We'll be back to the boat in March/April 2015.


22nd Oct 2014, 14:18
Congratulations!!! :D Pls continue the posts and let us all know how boat-ownership works out and what trips you get to make.

We too have been thinking of the 'owned-narrow-boat' option for our annual UK trips... to be honest after a week with family and friends we're usually ready to take a break in one anyway! (Crest Narrowboats were always excellent.)

Can totally recommend all three of these trips if you have not yet done them:

2011: Oxford Canal: from City of Oxford to Banbury and back.
2013: Caldon Canal: quiet and superb scenery. Did a 4 day cruise and were never more than a 15 minute drive from my folks' place in rural Staffordshire.
2014: LLangollen Canal: absolutely spectacular scenery and aqueducts, but busy in August. Narrow in places.


22nd Oct 2014, 15:44
...and if you fancy a bit of restoration work, you could always help out on The Grantham Canal (http://www.granthamcanal.org). Should be able to navigate its full length in about ...errrr..... 20 years. :ok:

23rd Mar 2015, 11:06
Here is a very nice one for sale.

23rd Mar 2015, 13:47

She's a bit beamy for the canals we chug around on! We'll soon (as soon as Mrs b undergoes and recovers from minor surgery) be on our way for this year's cruise: first stage 642 miles, 371 locks, quite a few swinging bridges plus side trips. Llangollen, Liverpool, Skipton, Leeds, up the River Trent, Nottingham, Leicester and back to Napton Junction. Should take three months. Mrs b promises to learn to steer this time so I can do more of the locks.

4mastacker, thanks for that suggestion; one of the side trips will be the Grantham. Fantastic effort that and we will certainly make a contribution.

er340790 thanks for the encouraging words and here's hoping you do decide to get a boat. Before we bought ours we hired one from Oxfordshire Narrowboats for four weeks as a test to see how we got on, and it worked. That time we cruised to Banbury and then down to Reading and back. Really looking forward to the Llangollen.

Shaggy Sheep Driver
23rd Mar 2015, 17:05
we did our narrow boat week back in September. Brilliant! Here's the opening paragraph from my blog back then:

Today Ivan, Peter, Malc, and myself returned from a superb week on a hired narrow boat. Starting from Autherley Junction north of Wolverhampton our route took us down the Staffs & Worcester canal via Kidderminster to Stourport on the River Severn, down the Severn to Worcester, up the Worcester & Birmingham canal via Tardebigge Locks and Alvechurch to Gas street Basin in City Centre Birmingham, and finally along the BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigation) New Main Line to return to pass our starting point via Aldersley Junction, for a brief run up the Staffs & Worcester to Coven for the last night before returning the boat to Autherley Junction yard this morning.

It was a pretty full week of cruising as progress on the narrow canals isn't rapid, and there were many locks to be worked. But the weather could not have been better and we had a fantastic week.

Here's a view of Worcester Cathedral from our narrow boat on the Severn.

http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b132/GZK6NK/IMG_2882%20r_zps4iaoyuwn.jpg (http://s18.photobucket.com/user/GZK6NK/media/IMG_2882%20r_zps4iaoyuwn.jpg.html)

23rd Mar 2015, 17:52

Thank you. I hope you will be able to see the progress we are making. August is expected to see a lot of activity as other groups are coming in to help us.

23rd Mar 2015, 22:51
SSD, lovely photo and the log extract even better. Four guys on a narrowboat to handle the locks, what a luxury!

4mastacker perhaps we'll meet up come summer!