Winter living on a narrowboat

Published: Friday, 14 February 2020

AS A REGULAR reader of your site I have an idea you have done something like this before, but would like to tell of my own experience of narrowboat living, writes Jonathan C Purton.

I am referring to winter living that liveaboards are experiencing at this time, and possibly as a warning to those that see such living and drifting along the water most certainly through rose tinted glasses.

An idyllic week

A week on the Shropshire Union Canal with my girl friend was idyllic, the weather was kind and the rather long narrowboat contained all we could wish for, so the long and short of it was that we gave up our expensive flat last May and took to the water not too far from our work places, being offered a narrowboat from someone who had moorings and all that goes with it.

Alas we were taken in, for the man 'forgot' to tell us that he was not allowed to either pass on his moorings or even sell his boat from the marina, so we were hit with the rather large cost of starting from scratch including a year's mooring charge, boat licence and insurance. But that is besides the point, and 'thrown in' as a warning to others.

Created a study

Having experienced the week on a narrowboat, we knew what to expect in regards to the lack of space, so took it in our stride, with the boat being big enough to create an office out of one of the bedrooms, that suited us fine, being able to 'get away' from each other from time to time.

Eberspächer2Then came the winter, and the heating was put to the test. The boat had a stove in which we could burn smokeless fuel, but alas was positioned at one end.  But it also boasted of an Eberspächer (pictured) diesel, heating  radiators, but my honest opinion is that it is useless and certainly not capable of heating a 65ft narrowboat, the radiators getting cooler and cooler the further they are away from the thing. 

And it is unreliable, having stopped working twice in as many months, and being a poor design with virtually no access it needed to be removed and taken to an agent for repair at an alarming cost.  So no heat or hot water whatsoever,

Mikuni much better

2mikuniA boater on a nearby jetty has a Mikuni diesel heater (pictrured) that is much better, having its various parts mounted on a board so it can be easily accessed, but better still if it fails it gives out varying signals showing what is wrong, enabling the owner to attend to it without having to send it away.

At least our heater has been working over this cold weather, but the pathetic thing hardly reached the radiator in the bedroom at the opposite end of the boat getting just lukewarm, and as the heat from the stove does not reach it it remains just like an ice box, so we have had to move into the main cabin to sleep that though cold is not damp.

Insulation worse than useless

I have to admit I paid little attention to the boat's insulation, but now realise there is about an inch of it and of course on cold steel, and is worse than useless.

I'm afraid that like others we went into living on a narrowboat without really going into it thoroughly.

So yet another couple are giving it up as there is no way we are going to put up with this sort of living for another winter.  Boating is okay for a week in summer, but for us, not for permanent living.

Could put up with inconveniences

The other 'inconveniences' we could put up with like having to struggle to get the boat out and back again for both pump-out and water as there is no tap in winter as the water is turned off in case it freezes.  And the marina is particularly windy, and all boaters know what that means, especially attempting to manoeuvre 65ft.

Though we have a washing machine and electricity, there is nowhere to dry clothes this weather. and for cooking gas is certainly 'not on tap' but has to be collected.  But as mentioned, we knew what to expect with those things, but we certainly did not expect to be so cold.