Thoughts on Thriving And Surviving As Liveaboards In Winter

Before I begin, let me admit I don’t have all the answers to thriving on the cut in winter. I doubt anyone does! I guess it depends on what the questions are.

Winters Past …

Our first winter aboard Areandare in 2013, was spent moored in Tattenhall Marina for six months. Barry had to return to New Zealand that August, to submit his initial UK Spousal Sponsored Visa application. Not knowing how long the application process would be, we booked in for six months. I’m a bit feeble when it comes to moving the boat alone – unlike a number of amazing solo women boaters we know.

During the winter of 2014, we moored for three months at Lowesmoor Wharf, Worcester. My elderly dad’s health was rapidly declining, and I wanted to be close to support him and my mum. I was so thankful we’d made that decision, as the time we were there was his final few months.

In 2015 we were invited to take up a trade boat mooring at Mercia Marina, where we spent November and December.

During 2016, 2017, and 2018 we were both working for Calendar Club outlets. Consequently, our time was spent around the Birmingham and Lichfield areas from October to January, with only the minimum movement required to fulfil CRT rules.

Reminiscing In The North West

This is actually our first ‘proper’ year of continuously cruising on the cut in winter on our narrowboat. We’ve chosen to spend it meandering mindfully along the Shropshire Union Canal, between Tattenhall and Chester. Rather handy, as the canal skirts along the 41 and 41A bus route to Malpas where my daughter and her family live. As we mostly rely on public transport, we’re able to hop on a bus to visit, and also regularly have our grandsons to stay on board.

It’s also a route and area of the country we love, having spent so long here in 2013. Especially the city of Chester. It’s one of our favourite places in the UK.

Although we enjoyed our three years working for Calendar Club, we decided the commitment of seven days a week for three months wasn’t great for our long-term health now we’re both over sixty. In fact, Barry celebrated a birth-day last Friday. I got our fabulously talented Anne-Marie to paint him a picture – it’s gorgeous.

Yes, I still need him, and most days I feed him too, now he’s 64 😉 We spent his birthday weekend with friends in Sheffield and Leeds. More to come about that in the next post, including a visit to our new favourite National Trust property.

We’ve got tickets for Carols by Candlelight at Chester Cathedral this weekend, and Peter Pan at The Storyhouse just before Christmas. It’s such a joy to be able to look forward to the whole festive season again, not just a snatched one day off.

Winter On The Cut

So what’s different about winter on the cut? Quite a lot. I’m not terribly keen on British winters, but it’s really rather special living on board a narrowboat.

I’ve come up with the following list, which is by no means intended to be exhaustive. Please feel free to comment at the end about any other gems you feel need to be shared:


  • CRT winter moorings – From 1st November to the end of February, temporary winter moorings around the system are offered, on a first-come-first-served basis. There are obviously charges for these, depending upon a number of things including nearby services. We’ve not taken advantage of this option yet. Maybe one day …
  • From 1st November to 31st March, most 48-hour moorings become 14-day moorings. We love this, as it means we don’t have to move so frequently.
  • Much less ‘traffic’ moving on the canals. Not on the roads of course. There are not many live-aboard boaters around in winter, many moor up in marinas or the CRT winter moorings.
  • More moorings are available. It’s not rocket science as to the reasons.
  • Fewer Hire boaters – not that we have anything against holidaymakers of course.
  • It’s REALLY cosy living on a narrowboat in winter – so long as you don’t go away for a day or so and return late at night! Then it’s not … Until you get the fire lit again that is. And switch on the electric blanket (I know. What softies we are!).


  • CRT plans winter stoppages to repair locks and other essentials during the winter time. Boaters must plan cruising routes in advance taking these into account. We’d have spent longer on the Llangollen Canal recently but didn’t fancy being stuck there until the end of March.
  • Muddy towpaths, especially this year with all the rain we’ve had.
  • There’s always a chance we could get iced in, like we did in early 2018. A rare event though thankfully.
  • The dark, dismal, short days. No difference to living on land there!
  • Condensation. Mostly due to washing drying inside the boat with the doors and windows closed. I guess that’s the same in houses too?
  • Not moving so often can be a challenge. Our water tanks only last so long (depending on usage of course), so we’re always mindful of the closest point. We’ve got a pump-out toilet, which lasts 2-3 weeks before needing emptying with us both on board. So we need to know where the nearest pump-out facility is – or contact a trade boat that provides this. If all else fails, we have a cassette toilet hidden under our back step for emergencies! Like we thought we could get a pump out at Taylors Boatyard here in Chester recently, but the lock to access that CRT one is broken. We’d missed Fuel Boat Halsall’s recent run, so had to move back to Tattenhall swiftly to get our toilet tank emptied a week ago … By road that is about twenty minute’s journey. By boat, it’s five locks up (double ones at that!), and about eight miles. Takes around four hours. Thankfully Halsall is returning next week, so we’ll top up with diesel, coal, and empty our toilet tank. So long as the canal isn’t frozen of course 😉

Canal and River Trust Winter Guides

CRT have lots of sound advice for winter boaters on their website to check out too:

Thankful For A Warm Home This Winter

Though we find Chester a charming city, we detest the fact that there are so many homeless people living on the streets here. It’s appalling that this is happening in the UK. My hope is that from Friday, the new government will be led by Jeremy Corbyn. A man who cares about the people. And the atrocities that far too many people are suffering due to the conservative austerity measures will begin to be turned around. I could write post after post about all that I abhor about what’s been happening politically here for years, but there are far more excellent cunning linguists out there currently doing so.

I treated myself to a luscious manicure last week. Sparkly red nails.

This morning I put red highlights in my hair. Tomorrow I shall wear red.

For the many …

14 thoughts on “Thoughts on Thriving And Surviving As Liveaboards In Winter

  1. David and I have no desire to be onboard in the winter – too wet and too cold outside, too confined inside and out (I go stir crazy in summer when it’s too wet to move for a couple of days)… But of course, each October we return to be ready for NZ’s summer.
    I was interested that one of your pro statements is about there being no hirers on the cut. We always enjoy the hirers we talk to – and we make sure to talk to or at least greet all that we see and ask if they are enjoying their holiday. That may be because we do talk to everyone pretty much (NZers tend to do that as you will know, but I gather I am an extreme example), and it may be because we hired for many years and were occasionally daunted by unfriendly owners. So we make a point of welcoming people to the cut so that they loosen their judgment about owners being uppity.
    In these days of political upheaval, we find we need to remind ourselves that most people are pleasant and kind, even if politically unaware, dammit. One way of doing that is by chatting lightly and seeing their faces light up at being acknowledged.

    • Kia Ora Marilyn. Oh I envy you! Summer in UK then summer in NZ. A perfect combination 😉

      The hire boaters thing isn’t because there’s a problem with them at all. I totally agree with you. It’s just that because of the fewer hire boaters the canal is so much quieter and moorings in prime locations are far easier to find 😉

      • And of course, there are far fewer owners out and about too! I noticed this season (May to early Oct) that the canals we were on were not as busy as in the past. But lots and lots and lots of owned boats tied up in marinas. I guess people use them as we would use a bach/beach cottage here in NZ – a place to get away to for a few days – but without taking them out on to the cut.
        BTW, we spent a couple of days in Gisborne recently – and decided we need to go back again as we missed out on seeing a whole lot. We really enjoyed walking along the waterfront and reading the Maori history of the area.
        Have a good xmas and new year – stay warm and unmuddy…
        Cheers, Marilyn & David

        • Indeed, there’s many boaters who live on land and only use their boats occasionally.
          Fabulous to hear you’ve been to Gisborne. We’ve not seen he new structures yet, hope to visit next year. Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to you both. enjoy the sun! We’re taking it back soon … xx

  2. Belated birthday wishes to Barry… Hats off to all you hardy types staying on the cut over the winter months. If my solar panels would work as they do during April to October I would stay out too,I hate running the engine while not moving. The cost in diesel saved pays part of the cost of staying in a marina.

    My hopes for tomorrow would be end austerity and stop Brexit but being and Isle of Man resident I dont get a vote.

    Merry Christmas to you both
    Cheers and beers
    Andy & Sue

    • Hi lovely folks. Yes we do have to run the engine a bit more whilst static. Small price to pay we feel to be out. Though there’s certainly advantages to choosing a marina during winter.

      From what I read there’s far more wanting what we want than more of the same. I shall have everything crossed that the many vote. Because I can’t comprehend the devastation that could happen otherwise …

      Merry Christmas to you two too. Hope to see you both in 2020 xx

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