Life on a Narrowboat
Could you ditch the rat-race and live life at a leisurely 4mph on the inland waterways? Narrowboats can be fitted out as colourful, cosy homes, brimming with charm, and with an ever changing view out of your bedroom window.
The lifestyle is certainly refreshingly different - if you know what you’re doing that is.
Here at BoatsandOutboards.co.uk we’ve seen the amount of people searching our ‘Canal boats for Sale’ section quadruple within the last year.
“It’s not surprising there’s been a spike in demand for narrowboats suitable for residential use as they are seen as providing an affordable alternative to incredibly dear flats and houses,” says Beryl McDowall at the Residential Boat Owners Association. “We’re seeing lots of younger people joining the canal community who are struggling to get onto the property ladder in London and the south east. But there are also people from all across the age spectrum who hanker for the slower pace of life, the tranquillity, and the greener way of living you find on the inland waterways.”
Whether you’re looking for a slice of adventure, cheaper accommodation, a holiday boat, or even a calm place for retirement whilst you cruise along the UK canals, it seems that us Brits are embracing the idea of living on the water.
With prices starting as low as £13,000 and upwards of £100,000 and even part ownership available from companies such as BC Boat management ltd, there is a huge scope to find your dream vessel.
It’s all well and good for us to tell you how rewarding it can be to live on a narrowboat, but we're sure you’d rather hear some real life stories from those who live this tranquil lifestyle day to day.
Therefore to help our readers understand what it's really like, we’ve scoured the internet to find the best boat bloggers and writers about this very subject.
They have kindly agreed to share their stories with us, talking about their everyday life, the ups and downs and of course some superb photos, we think you’ll find their insights fascinating, and highly valuable if you’re considering joining the growing community of canalboat liveaboards.
Scroll down the page and take a look at our top narrowboaters, they have each provided a brief synopsis on what their blog or article is all about and a section on what they enjoy about life on a narrowboat. Then if you would like to read more into their story, just click on each link and be taken straight to their page.
Julia Kalinin - Why I decided to live on a Houseboat in London
About the article:
Julia Kalinina lives on a narrow boat in the capital as a way to live in London but also NOT live in London.
What Julia enjoys about living on a narrowboat:
The reflections of light from the water dancing on her ceiling on sunny days. And sunny days on a boat in general.
Click here to visit the article!
About Les and Jaqueline's blog:
My wife Valerie died of pancreatic cancer in 2000. I found myself rattling around in our big, empty house filled with memories. I got up at 4 am every day and headed off to work as a courier--a job I had done for over twenty years. Most of the time I didn't really look at my bills--I just paid them as they came in and got up the next morning putting one foot in front of the other, heading off to work. One evening with nothing better to do, I began looking over all the bills connected with the house and I was astonished at how expensive it was. I was essentially working to keep up a house with only myself in it and the expenses were rather shocking considering I owned the house and there was only me to provide for. It just didn't make any sense to continue on indefinitely grafting hard to pay for expenses associated with a life that no longer fit my circumstances.
I was born in Paddington, West London and grew up right next to the Paddington Arm. I have always loved the canals and often parked my van at lunch time near a canal and sat watching the wildlife while eating my lunch. So now that my beloved wife Val was gone and so were our plans to retire to the Norfolk Broads, it was time to figure out a new life; I turned again to the canals, and began driving to different parts of the cut on the weekends, talking to boat owners and was invited aboard several to look about, have a cup of tea and talk about living on a narrow boat.
In 2005 I put my house up for sale and bought a narrow boat naming it NB Valerie in honor of my wife. House sold, boat bought--off I cruised into a wonderful new life filled with adventure, new friends and a slower pace of life I craved and needed.
I was living in Washington State, on sick leave from my job with Washington State University. I was recovering from ovarian cancer, having undergone half of a lengthy two year alternative treatment. I was watching a program on Public TV called Burt Wolff's Travels and Traditions. Burt was in France on a canal boat, talking about how lovely it was to slowly cruise the beauty of the canal, stopping at villages for food, meeting the locals. Astonishingly he said, "Some people even live on these boats!" I did some online research and found the British canals and narrow boats and I was knocked sideways. I just fell in love with them. I thought, "That's the life for me. I want to buy my own narrow boat and live on it, cruising all the canals in Britain. Maybe I can write a book to pay for the boat, and perhaps convince the British government that my Welsh grandmother made a grievous error in emigrating to America in 1918 and they should let me come and live there."
I was born and raised in Alaska and my parents were homesteaders. I lived as a child without indoor plumbing or electricity and I knew I could easily adapt to living on a narrow boat. I had raised my children from a very young age after a disastrous early marriage ended in divorce. I had worked hard to put myself though university, support my children and build a good life but--I was tired and I wanted a slower pace of life. I was actually considering buying land out in the sticks and purchasing a Yurt to live in when I found the canals and narrowboats.
My next thought was, "Jaq--you are a fifty-something,single woman, five foot one inch tall, and recovering from cancer. You don't even know if you can operate the locks, never mind a boat and all that goes with it. You need to find someone who is living aboard and single handing it and find out what is involved. I found many dozens of boaters' blogs but they were all retired couples living aboard. Finally I found Les' blog and I sent him a very formal email: "Dear Sir..." Les thought the tax man was after him!
Over a period of five months we emailed back and forth and Les answered all my questions about trad versus semi-trad sterns, water versus air cooled engines, as you do. Then he wrote to say it was on his bucket list to visit Las Vegas. He had been there in 1981 and he wanted to return to see the "new" Las Vegas. I asked Les if he would like to come visit me while he was in the States. I had a lovely home with a guest room and bath and he would be welcome to visit for a week if it suited his plans.
Les came over in October of 2010. It was the best week of my life! We had so much fun. I had made the offer thinking that Les could experience the beauty of Washington State and see what life is like for an average American. I could actually pick his brain in real time and learn even more about canals and narrowboats. I never expected to fall in love. In fact I was rather jaded where men and love were concerned. At the end of the week I took Les to the airport in Spokane, eighty six miles away from Pullman where I lived. Arriving home I smelled his aftershave and burst into tears. I went to my office, fired up my computer and sent him a one sentence message: " I think I fancy you." After Les arrived back in England and recovered from jet lag he spent several hours pacing his daughter-in-law's kitchen, She finally said, "Dad what is the matter with you?" and Les replied, " I think the woman I love lives 4000 miles away." Then he checked his email! And the rest as they say is history.
We love this life because it offers us freedom which both of us prize deeply. We are continuous cruisers and that is exactly what we do, as a narrowboat is the best way to see this country. We've visited London three times, mooring up for free in Paddington Basin for a week. The last time we only spent £80.00! We saw a West end show and had dinner out. The beauty of it is that one can run all over London and see all the sites and then catch a bus back to the Basin where it is quiet and safe. Unlock the doors of your boat and you are home! All your belongings are there; you don't need a hotel, you don't need a rental car and you need not eat out unless you choose to do so.
We are in charge of our life. Barring our loved ones, everything we need to pay attention to and take care of is on the boat. It is a very simple, laid back life. It is as close as one can get over here I think, to the rural simplicity of my childhood, but living on a narrow boat can be as simple or ornate as one chooses. It is all about what floats your boat and how much money you wish to invest in it.
I still work part time for Washington State University instructing three writing courses online from our boat. I tell my students that I have the best office view in the world and when we get tired of it we move!
Click here to visit the blog!
The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife
About the Narrowboatwife the blog:
Peggy Melmoth is a freelance blogger specialising in blogging about narrowboats and canals. Her personal blog is packed with real life stories about her 13 years spent living on a boat with her husband and two young daughters. If you've ever wondered what it's like to live on a narrowboat with children she offers a free e-book called 'Narrowboat Families'.
What Peggy enjoys about living on a narrowboat:
"I think the best things about living on a boat are having the freedom travel with your home, and living close to nature. I love the swans and ducks, the peace and quiet and the illusion that you're far from roads, traffic and modern life."
Click here to visit the blog!
Adventures Aboard AreandAre
About the adventures Aboard AreandAre blog:
Barry and Sandra first ventured into life 'on the cut' in the spring of 2009, on a six-month adventure from New Zealand, and began writing a blog using 'Blogspot'. Barry had been a professional photographer for 35 years and 'rediscovered' his passion shooting canal related images. Sandra had been a midwife, predominantly leading projects and co-ordinating quality standards, loved writing, and had had a few articles published - so it became a perfect partnership for blogging. Following a second six-month journey in 2010, realising life was too short and they wanted to slow down a little, they began planning ways to return 'indefinitely'. In 2013 this came to fruition. Barry is now in a complex, five-year process, to gain his 'UK spousal sponsored visa', and they're in the process of establishing three businesses whilst living on their boat 'Areandare'. The blog began as a way of keeping friends and family in touch with their meanderings, and now doubles up as a marketing tool. They have hundreds of followers around the world, many of whom keep in touch and some they've met.
Why Barry and Sandra live on a narrowboat:
Jameisons Afloat Free Spirit
About theJameisons Afloat Free Spirit blog:
Our blog was started basically as a diary of our travels for our family & friends, however over the years it has become a good way of keeping track of the whereabouts of our boating friends and for them to track us.
We started boating in the mid 70’s with hire boats thanks to an invite from friends to join them for a week afloat. From that point we were hooked and hired virtually every year as we found the “holiday afloat” was a wonderful time for all the family to have fun, unwind and spend time together. Eventually the kids went their own way and we found ourselves in a situation where we could afford to buy a boat for ourselves.In 2006 we found our present boat “Free Spirit” and,following early retirement, we moved on-board to enjoy the carefree life on the canals. Our aim was, and still is, to visit all the navigable waterways in England by boat. To date we have only managed approximately 60%, so still have a way to go.
What the Ian and Irene Jameison enjoy about living on a narrowboat:
Well there is the comparative freedom to travel and stop as we like. The country looks totally different from the back of a boat (even the cities), and the opportunity to explore waterside villages by foot gives one the chance to find hidden gems that in a car you would completely miss. Whilst out on the water there is a lot of camaraderie amongst boaters that you do not get “in town”. There is always someone to talk to or to lend a hand if there is a problem, and during the summer impromptu BBQs and towpath gatherings are quite common. Coupled to the healthy lifestyle, (working through a flight of locks provides a good days exercise and is cheaper than joining as gym) and the exposure to fresh air means we are probably a lot fitter than if we had stayed on dry land. Finally the continuously changing scenery provides a wonderful opportunity to indulge hobbies of wildlife photography, fishing and walking.
Click here to visit the blog!
The adventures of Princess Lucy
About the adventures of Princess Lucy blog:
The first thing you should know is that when we bought Florence II, as she was named in 2012, that we had never set foot on a narrowboat. We knew nothing about boats or boating and had to try to understand everything. She was bought as a project and the plan was, that if we found we hated the whole idea, we would sell her. At 45ft she is an ideal size to get to grips with. On inspection, she was tidy but almost nothing had been changed since she was built for Canal Time in 2001. She had all her original fixtures and fittings including ash cladding throughout. We had to decide what to keep and what needed modernising. Since then, we have been lovingly restoring, repairing and upgrading. We immediately fitted a multi-fuel stove as we considered this essential and the plastic hip bath was replaced by a custom built shower enclosure. The blog initially records our adventures to bring her back from Loughborough to our mooring in the Peak District in the worst weather imaginable. Since then, we have written regularly about her progress and our many journeys of discovery.
Why we like extended year round cruising and living on Princess Lucy.
When we bought the boat, we could not have anticipated the range of challenges or pleasures. We were determined to use her regularly, for long periods and all year round. We set about making her warm and comfortable. Watching a film in front of a log fire, having cooked dinner in her small but perfectly formed galley, is especially rewarding after a day’s cruising in icy conditions. As is tying up directly outside a gastro pub and strolling across the car park for dinner. But boating offers up surprises and this entry from December 2015 sums up what we value about this unpredictability.
Click here to visit the blog:
The Tumbleweed Blog
About The Tumbleweed Blog:
We are Steve and Angela and we live on our narrowboat Tumbleweed No5, a 58’ trad.
We had talked about buying a boat for years but it never quite happened. We had done loads of research and looked at all the facts and figures and knew more about toilets than was healthy,. Still it never quite happened as there always seemed a reason (excuse) to not make the move.
We have made several big decisions in our life and never regretted doing them. We always said if it doesn’t work out we can always do something else instead, so why should living on a boat be any different.
So that was it…. decision made. Before we knew it we had a boat and a place to moor at and had handed our notices in. All our worldly goods fitted in 2 estate car loads. We were on our way.
That was in 2014 and since then we have fully embraced the new lifestyle that boating presents you with. We had spent the previous 12 years running Youth Hostels so were well used to moving around and living in remote locations, as well as living quite a simple life, this background helped make the transition quite painless.
It’s not all sunshine and roses living on a boat, it can be hard work. Carrying bags of coal in the rain along a muddy path isn’t much fun, but if you can take these things in your stride the compensations more than make up for it. That bag of coal makes a nice warm fire to enjoy !
We are now located on the River Lark in East Anglia and enjoying our explorations of the local waterways. Sadly, we have to work for a living but would love to be continuous cruisers…. maybe one day.
Our blog describes our travels, life afloat, reviews of equipment and general musings. We hope you enjoy it.
Click here to visit the blog:
Our blog follows the trials and tribulations of our annual cruise. We do not live aboard permanently but continually cruise from spring through to autumn, and then being wimps go home for the winter. Our blog started with the design and build of our narrowboat, and then we continued the blog to enable family and friends to follow our travels.
What they enjoy about living on a narrowboat:
You see Britain from a different aspect and at a slower pace, both urban and rural, meet people from all walks of life, see wildlife through the seasons from nest building to leaving the family fold and forage the hedgerows for free food, can't beat a tot of sloe gin on a cold day, especially when you know where you picked the sloes. This year its Leicester Line Sloe Gin last year Middlewich Branch.
We sold our family home in 2005 and had a narrowboat built for us by Severn Valley Boat Centre in Stourport. Since then we have lived aboard Gecko and cruised from March to November each year. For the winter months we find a mooring, usually in a marina where we can hitch up to mains power. Thus we are classified as a Continuous Cruiser as we have no home mooring.
The big pull of the canals is the freedom. We cruise when we feel like it and stop whenever and wherever we fancy. If we like the locale we may stay a few days, or even longer within the C&RT restrictions.
Living on the inland waterways is like living in a linear village. One meets others in passing, sometimes learning their first name, usually learning the name of their dog and always the name of their boat, but not much more.Next time you meet, like neighbours, you exchange a few words, catch up on the gossip and if you are stopping, perhaps have a drink together. Subsequent meetings may be days, months or even years apart but that just means there is more gossip to catch up on. As with decent villages, people on the cut look out for one another. Unlike the TV portrayals, the sun does not shine all the time and occasionally things go wrong. Boaters are generally rather sanguine and will probably put the kettle on in a situation which might produce road-rage amongst motorists.
We find something of interest wherever we stop - in villages, market towns, city centres or the middle of nowhere. My blog reflects the varied nature of our experiences and interests which do spread beyond the towpath.
Click here to visit the blog:
A Narrow Escape:
About A Narrow escape is about:
Life aboard a narrowboat in London "Hysterical ramblings of the nautically challenged"
What Carlih enjoys about living on a narrowboat:
"I enjoy living on a narrowboat because endless hardship makes for great blog material. But also because I love exploring, ducklings and lifestyle choices that look good on Instagram."
Click here to visit the blog!
Mick and I, Pip, discovered our mutual love of the canals early on in our relationship whilst on a narrowboat holiday on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Since then we hired numerous boats which lead us on to being part owners of a share boat for four years. The natural progression was to own our own boat, NB Lillyanne became that boat. The original plan was for us to take a year off work, rent the house out and to explore the waterways, it’s history and nature. This we have done and the year has since grown and keeps on growing. Later this year we will move onto NB Oleanna a bespoke narrowboat currently in build for us. Mick was a Telephone Engineer and I am a Theatre Designer hoping to do bits of work on our travels.
We moved on board full time in July 2014 with our old cat Houdini. Now we have a new Second Mate, our six month old Tillercat called Tilly. Our blog is our cruising diary and the story of our lives on and occasionally off NB Lillyanne. Although I write the majority of the posts, Mick and Tilly occasionally contribute too. We travel the network meeting up with old friends, making new ones and watch the seasons change around us. The slow pace, a simpler life, history and being closer to nature are what we like about living on a boat, it suits us. We also like that the garden changes without having to do any gardening!
About the Narrowboat AmyJo blog:
Click here to visit the blog!
We are fair weather boaters, enjoying rather than enduring our travels. We barely stay out for more than a week at a time but enjoy preparing for a trip, targeting good pubs and interesting sights. Our tour de force was navigating the Cam past the Cambridge colleges, as this picture shows. Duncan enjoys hours in sunlight and dappled shade while steering under overhanging branches in clear rivers, while John enjoys tinkering with the engine, checking pumps and doing all kinds of maintenance. Our wives stay for a couple of nights now and again but get easily bored with the same slow progress that we enjoy - "the fastest way to slow down."
About the Living on a Shoestring blog:
About the Seyella's Journey blog:
Click here to visit the blog!
The butty was constructed out of two old boats, the stern being a reproduction horse drawn Josher cabin which used to be on ahouse boat and the hold / bows were formed from the wrought iron sides of a BCN day boat, complete with hundreds of rivets. Of course, given its purpose, we call it The Jam Butty and it is hugely popular with photographers as we travel round the system. It also helps us advertise our Jams, Marmalades, Chutneys, Cordials and Vinegars some of which are made aboard as we travel and the rest are made at out West Midlands home near the Northern BCN.