The Costs Of Living On A Narrowboat – updated September 2022

I love discovering unusual acronyms. For instance, there’s ‘Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden’ aka GOLF. Or how about ‘WareHouse at River Front’, aka WHARF.

Most apt for us is ‘Bring On Another Thousand’ – BOAT!

Often we’re contacted to enquire how much it costs to live aboard a narrowboat. With the upsurge in the popularity of Inland Waterways stories and documentaries in the UK and abroad, people ask, “Is it cheap to live on a narrowboat?

More recently, the global pandemic appears to have nudged people to consider how they live, and they’ve become more interested in alternatives to houses and other fixed abodes. This page’s audience grew exponentially following my update in June 2020 and continues to be extremely popular.

Then there’s the frightening energy crisis looming over the United Kingdom. How will that affect those of us living ‘on the cut’, you may wonder?

Having lived on board for over nine years (as well as two six-month trips in 2009 and 2010 and excluding August 2020 to August 2021), we can provide a reasonably balanced overview of the costs involved. While not as frugal as many, we do our best to budget sensibly. We’re of the OLLI mentality – One Life Live It.

In August 2020, we flew to New Zealand to see Barry’s family and spend some time exploring the country’s beauty. We’d planned this trip for many years before COVID-19. However, it was meant to be for six months. We remained until early August 2021, then returned to Areandare. At the end of November 2022, we return for another visit of up to six months.

As of September 2022, we’ve collated another 12 months of narrowboat living costs. It’ll be interesting to see how much they’ve increased since the last one-year figures for 2019/20.


Our figures apply to living on a narrowboat. In May 2022, we were approached by LeBoat, who suggested the following article could also be useful to some readers –

You may have dreamt of owning your own boat since childhood, or started considering it after a few holiday cruises. Before going ahead, there are several costs that should be carefully considered. Here’s a list that will help you estimate to day to day running and maintenance costs of a boat, to ensure that everything goes smoothly!”

https://www.leboat.co.uk/blog/real-cost-owning-boat

Their article outlines the costs of owning a cruiser boat rather than living aboard, but some readers may find it interesting.


Living On A Narrowboat – How Much Does It Cost & How Can We Afford It?

There is a LOT of information in this post! To help you navigate it, I’ve included a list of contents:

A Modest Income And/Or Savings Is Essential

To fulfil our dream of living differently, we sold the home in Gisborne we’d jointly bought in 2008. The proceeds bought our narrowboat, were used to satisfy Barry’s UK Spousal Sponsored Visa savings requirement and helped support us for some years. The small inheritances from the deaths of our respective parents topped those up, and Sandra has her 22 years of NHS pension invested in New Zealand. We’ve had to dip into this investment a few times to have sufficient funds for Barry’s UK citizenship.

Barry claimed his NZ pension in December 2020. His outstanding photography in the form of almost 50 different waterways-related Greeting Cards and his four series of UK Digital Jigsaw Puzzles are available to buy through this website and other outlets. He’s recently added the first NZ Digital Jigsaw series too. It’s superb! By January 2022, he successfully claimed the British pension (NZ and UK have a reciprocal agreement) and gets the maximum of £185.15 a week paid weekly. He’s also got the ‘elderly person’ (OMG!) free bus pass.

Sandra is a self-employed Senior Account Manager for Ad-Extra, building and managing Google and Facebook Ads for small businesses. This is her dream job as she can do it from anywhere in the world that has an internet signal. She also enjoys the challenge and the brain expansion – and is rather good at it!

Regular and Expected Costs

It’s worth noting we ‘usually’ have no ‘home’ mooring. We’re continuous cruisers. There are several things to consider for us to comply with the requirements of this way of life, which you can read more about via the links below:

To grant a boat licence for a boat without a home mooring, we must be satisfied that you will use it for ‘bona fide navigation’. ‘Bona fide’ is Latin for ‘with good faith’ and is used by lawyers to mean ‘sincerely’ or ‘genuinely.’ We usually refer to ‘bona fide navigating’ as ‘continuous cruising.’ Our terms and conditions set out the legal requirements of continuous cruising.

“You’ll need to continually move from place to place on a journey, rather than just shuttling back and forth between places and remaining in a small area. For more information, please see our guidance for boaters without a home mooring”

2022 Canal and River Trust Continuous Cruising Guidance – https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/boating/licence-your-boat/continuous-cruising/continuous-cruising-your-questions-answered

Licensing Your Boat

To keep a narrowboat on the Inland Waterways, you must pay an annual fee for a Canal and River Trust (C&RT) licence. This licence entitles you to cruise the 2,000 miles of waterways owned and run by CRT.

The Canals & Rivers License cost depends upon the length of your boat, ranging from £609.61 (if you pay ‘promptly’) for a boat up to 18′ long (5.5m), to £1,365.42 ( for one up to an incredible length of 77′ 1″! (23.5m)) – for a 12-month licence at 2022/23 prices. You can get a 2.5% discount if you pay for your licence before the previous one expires.

Gold License

If you want to venture further afield, onto rivers such as the Thames, or the Nene, you’ll need to purchase a Gold Licence. The 2022 fees for this for a boat up to 16′ 8″/5.09 metres £633.46, to £1,656.82 for a boat up to 75′ 9″/23.09 metres, if paid in full. Direct Debit instalments are understandably more costly.

Environment Agency Licence

The other possibility is a time-limited licence from the Environment Agency. Check out this page for more information regarding short-term licences for varying waterways and for use at sea (!): https://www.theukrules.co.uk/rules/boating/register-a-boat.html

Trade Boat Licence

If you’re going to trade from the boat, you’ll also need to apply for the appropriate business/trading licence from CRT, which bring the cost up a little, but surprisingly not by very much. https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/business-and-trade/boating-business/starting-or-expanding-a-boating-business/roving-traders

The Business Boat Licence Canal and River Trust Regulations Checklist pdf may be helpful – https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/media/library/5804.pdf

Some important points to consider include (September 2022 CRT guidance):

~ The Canal and River Trust does not reserve mooring for roving traders, it is often difficult to find mooring in urban areas, this may well restrict the number of days you are able to trade. You should consider this within your business plans.  

~ If you allow customers to board your vessel to inspect or purchase goods or to discuss or receive services you will need to provide evidence that you hold a Non-private Boat Safety Scheme Certificate.

~ You must keep all items associated with your trade on your boat at all times. You may place one A-frame style advertising board on the land next to our boat when you are open for trading, providing that it does not cause a nuisance or obstruction.

~ Please note that if you trade from any one location for more than 28 days in any one calendar year planning consent may be required for the trading activity from the Local Planning Authority.

https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/business-and-trade/business-boating/starting-or-expanding-a-boating-business/roving-traders

Licensing as a Business Boat cost us £1,128.22 at the end of July 2022. This amount has increased by £197.12 in five years.

Our previous year’s costs were 2017/18 £931.10; 2018/19 £954.37; 2019/20 £983; 2020/21 £1,037.62; 2021/22 £1,113.37.

RCTA

Many roving traders choose to join the Roving Traders Association (RCTA), but it is not compulsory to do so. Check out their website, and chat with other roving traders to see if it would benefit you. https://www.rcta.org.uk

Insurance

Just like a house or car, every narrowboat is required to be appropriately insured to obtain a license. The cost of this varies depending on the agent and any add-ons to the policy.

Our basic insurance with Craft Insure (which we’ve used for many years) in 2022 was £177.65. In 2020 it was £150.20 – less than in 2019 (£166.35). For 2022 we paid an additional £66 for trade insurance and £66 for items costing over £250. In 2020 it was an additional amount (£94) for insurance to trade from a side hatch (and from the towpath) and cover for an item onboard worth more than the maximum standard cover.

Toilets

Narrow boaters will tell you, in a jovial tone, a variety of ‘toilet story’ versions. If you were to ask us, we’d be delighted to regale more than one amusing tale – which, believe me, are really only funny in retrospect! There’s a fascinating ongoing debate and divide between proponents of pump-outs and champions of cassette toilets. Additionally, there’s now supposedly the option of a composting loo – though how effective/ethical these are has brought even more discussion and disagreements. In fact, they are NOT actually composting toilets at all. But we’ll come to that further down …

Pump-Out Toilets (our preferred method)

One of these options will cost you to empty it at frequent intervals, depending on the size of your tank and the number of people depositing waste into it. With two of us on board, we can generally last three weeks between pump-outs. Barry uses the term ’40 person days’ to calculate the time to the next pump-out. However …

We need to be mindful of when we last emptied our loo, where we’re heading, and what facilities there are. In 2013/14 pump-outs cost us £252.50; 2014/15 £245; 2015/16 £242.25 ;2016/17 £251.50; 2017/18 £298.05; 2018/19 £398.20; 2019/20 £337.50; 2021/22 £450.55. Making our average annual cost, over eight full years, to be £309.44. This is a £20 increase on the previous average of £289.29. Incredibly it’s almost doubled since we started recording it in 2013.

The larger increase in 2018/19 (>£100), we believe, was a combination of:

1/ An abundance of visitors on board (we probably pumped out more than we needed to, as it can be somewhat scary wondering when the system’s full and not being near a pump out with people on board!);

2/ We noticed an increase in prices;

3/ The ‘seal’ in the bowl leaked, which meant the liquid (water) filled the tank faster. Luckily Barry mended it! In 2020 we spent over £100 less.

We’ve noticed a big difference recently. The past 12 months increased by £113.05 from the previous figures of 2019/20. CRT pump-out cards used to cost around £16; now they’re £20. Another change has been the frequency of our grandsons staying on board which will have also contributed to the ‘person days’.

We have a cassette toilet on board for ’emergencies’, which we used for the first time in 2017. We’d certainly recommend having some form of ‘backup’ where possible if using a pump out.

Additionally, if the mechanics fail, you’ve got the cost of repair to consider. Our vacuum pump-out gave up the ghost in autumn 2015 – rather ghastly as we had two guests onboard at the time. Fortunately, we could moor next to boaters’ facilities for the two nights it took to sort out. Replacing the cost of the necessary components over £200, a little deer dear! Plus, a couple of days of hard (and foul) work for Barry.

Cassette toilets

Cassette toilet contents disposal is free. However, we feel it’s needed far too frequently (every couple of days generally) and would be fairly extremely unpleasant. Most boaters have more than one cassette and store the full ones somewhere in or on the boat, waiting to find a place to empty them. Maybe it’s something you get used to? If you had to. We’d rather not thank you.

Separator (composting) Toilets

Composting toilets, in the true sense of the words, as we’ve long suspected, is not possible on a narrowboat. What IS possible are ‘Separator (composting) Toilets‘. There’s a tremendously informative list of FAQs on the CRT site that were prepared with input from boaters Kate Saffin, Helen Rose and Master Composter, John Cosham, all of whom have a composting toilet system.

The increasing number of boaters with separator toilets, with no means of composting, has led to an increased use of binning the solid contents in Canal & River Trust waste bins. This increases the risk of cross contamination of other content, which is otherwise sorted and mostly recycled, and can result in the whole bin being sent to landfill.”

https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/boating/go-boating/boat-services-and-directory/water-points-and-sewage-disposal/separator-composting-toilets

Thankfully the Canal and River Trust were on the case in late 2021 and published the following statement:

If you’re considering getting a separator/compost toilet for your boat, please only do so if you have the ability to completely compost the solid waste from your toilet yourself or have access to somewhere that will do this for you. If you don’t have the ability to do this, then getting a composting/separator toilet is not the best solution for you. Pump out and elsan facilities are available across our network that boats with tanks or cassette toilets can use instead.

If you currently have a separator/compost toilet on your boat and are not able to completely compost the solid waste from your toilet yourself or have access to somewhere that will do it for you, then the alternative disposal method of bagging and binning it is not an environmentally sustainable way to deal with this waste. Bagged solid waste disposed of in bins can also lead to cross contamination of other content, which otherwise is sorted and mostly recycled, and can require that the whole content of the bin needing to be disposed of in landfill. Sending waste to landfill adds costs as landfill taxes are charged.

If you have a separator/compost toilet on your boat and have been putting bagged and binned waste in our waste bins, you need to find an alternative way to dispose of this waste. We appreciate that you might not be able to do this straight away, and in the interim small quantities of securely bagged waste can be disposed of in Trust bins if there is no alternative. We respectfully ask that you only do this as a last resort. From the end of December 2021 we request that no bagged solid waste from separator/compost toilets is disposed of in Canal & River Trust waste bins. We will continue to work with boaters and others to identify a sustainable solution for the disposal of this waste.

Boaters’ Update 12 Mar 2021 – Composting/separator toilets – https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/boating/boating-blogs-and-features/the-boaters-update/boaters-update-12-mar-2021

Thank goodness for that we say. We’ve never understood how on earth it can be seen as acceptable to put bagged faeces into a public bin. We truly hope no boater persists in doing this; it’s disgusting …

Diesel

Currently, narrow boaters can use ‘Red’ diesel to propel and heat their boats. You can divide the tax between propulsion and heating in different ‘splits’, depending on where you buy from – you declare and sign for the split. Generally, people would split it 40/60.

As a trade boat, we pay no tax on it, as it’s a legitimate component of our business costs.

The diesel price ranges hugely. It ranged from around 70 pence/litre to over £1. Ask any live-aboard who’s been travelling for a while, and they’ll tell you the cheapest places to fill up! However, it’s been creeping up over the past 12 months and has recently ranged between £1.21 and £1.84 (!) a litre.

Our diesel costs for 2013/14 was £1,241.93; 2014/15 (the season we began trading) £1,345.69; 2015/16 £1,448.54; 2016/17 £1,014.78 (we found lots of the cheaper places for diesel that year we think); 2017/18 £1,229.27; in 2018/19 £1,270.50; and in 2019/20 £1,096.91.  Our diesel costs remained pretty stable until this year, with an average of £1,235.37 per year. In the year 2021/22, we spent £1,365.52. We suspect this will continue to rise …

Solar Panels

Until spring 2019, whether we moved or not, each day, we’d need to have the engine on to charge the domestic batteries. Unless ‘hooked up’ to electricity somewhere (a rarity). Consequently, it wasn’t saving costs by sitting still for any length of time. We’d need to travel about three hours to fully charge the batteries.

In April 2019, Barry had one Solar Panel installed on the roof of our boat through John Plummer at Solar Afloat (no longer trading, sadly). The difference in battery life was noticeable, and we decided to take the plunge and buy another. Our fridge on board was 240 volts, which was draining power each day. Knowing 12-volt fridges were expensive, we hesitated but decided to shell out and buy one.

The cost of the two solar panels and controller was around £570. The 12-volt fridge is £700. Not cheap. But we knew we’d be leaving the boat often, and replacing our six domestic batteries was a worry if drained of power too often.

By November 2019, we’d noticed an incredible difference. We no longer needed to run the engine daily (though we still have to for cooking in the electric oven or using the washing machine). The batteries are all kept charged using solar panels. Even if we leave the boat for a few days. This continues to be the case.

Heating

Just in time for the cold snap ...
Fitting our multi-fuel stove in the lounge in October 2014, just in time for the cold snap …

Most liveaboards have a solid fuel fire somewhere on their boat. We had one fitted during the autumn of 2014. Having spent the first winter aboard with just diesel radiators (and a stove in the Boatman’s Cabin, which wasn’t practical), we’d found it challenging to maintain any semblance of warmth without using up a large volume of diesel.

Whilst you can scour the towpaths for ‘free’ wood to burn, it must be very dry to use in the fire. Generally, the wood you pick one year isn’t burnable until the following year after it’s been ‘seasoned’.

Coal isn’t cheap, but it’s preferable to diesel expenses-wise. Over the years our costs have been: 2015/16 =£212.44 (the first full year with it fitted); 2016/17 = £249.04; 2017/18 = £314.07; 2018/19 = £369.97; 2019/20 £507.28; 2021/22 = £363.14. An average of £335.99 per year. It’s possible that the increase of 2019/20 was due to my daughter Kim living on board from the end of March 2020.

For the 2016/17 to 2018/19 winter seasons, we worked at Calendar Club for three months, so that would’ve reduced usage. Interestingly though, the most recent figure has not increased from the 2018/19 one. We haven’t bought coal since April …

We have radiators in every room, run by an Eberspacher Diesel Central Heating unit – which obviously uses diesel! It had been working very intermittently since we bought the boat in 2013. A few of years ago we had the fan motor replaced for £250, having been (incorrectly) informed that was the problem. That made it work for a short while, but only if the engine was running. So we splashed out two years ago and bought a new control unit for £350. It continues to function fantastically since then, even without the engine running and is reliable. Thank goodness! However, with the increasing cost of diesel we will need to be mindful of this.

Engine maintenance

Barry does all our engine maintenance which saves us money. He changes the oil about every 4-500 hours, as well as the oil and fuel filters. About every 800 hours, the gearbox oil also needs changing. The total cost of all these is generally around £100.

Most narrowboaters have an annual membership with ‘River Canal Rescue‘, as a sort of insurance policy – similar to the RAC or AA if your car breaks down. There are four levels of cover costing from £65 to £280 per annum, depending on your needs or ‘fears’. These costs have remained stable since 2019. We choose not to pay out for this, and it’s worked fine. Barry’s capable of fixing most things.

Bottom blacking!

The general recommendation is narrowboats come out of the water every two years to have their underneath parts power-washed, scraped and given a couple of coats of a bitumen-type black paint. Many narrowboaters do this themselves, hiring a dry-dock for a week.

NB Areandare
The new blacked bottom in February 2017 at Hawne Basin

Areandare’s bottom was blacked for £550 at Tattenhall Marina, in April 2014. In February 2017, we performed a DIY bottom blacking at Hawne Basin (well, to be fair, Barry did. No ‘we’. I was unexpectedly and horribly indisposed hospitalised after a trip to Africa). This entailed seven days of hard graft, in addition to the monetary costs. Taking the boat out of the water cost £188.77, paint and brushes £39.99, and four new anodes (and a spot of welding) £150. A total DIY cost of £378.76 (or £228.76 without the cost of anodes).

Time to return to the water – following blacking in March 2019

In 2019 we blacked the hull ourselves, this time at Stafford Boat Club. Thankfully I wasn’t taken ill. Though I did have an account to build for my Ad-Extra job, which entailed working inside while Barry did more than his fair share outside. It’s a delicate balance thriving in a parallel universe. Pennies still need to be earned, and I can’t pass up opportunities to do so!

The cost was £264 to take the boat out of the water and return; paint for the hull £100 (normally £175, but Barry found a large damaged tin reduced in price); £25 for some welding; and another £100 for paints for the gunnels, brushes and rollers. Making a total DIY cost of £489.

In November 2020, Areandare was taken out of the water and had her hull ‘shot blasted‘, then zinc and double epoxy coated.

The whole process cost us £5,470.34, which is rather a lot of dosh! However, we shouldn’t have to take her out of the water again for blacking for around ten years. Every time we’ve had her hull blacked before, it’s been winter time, and we don’t feel there was enough time for it to dry sufficiently.

Boat Safety Scheme

This is a type of narrowboat MOT. To comply with regulations, you need to have a current Boat Safety Certificate (BSC) and renew it every four years – and most importantly, to be as safe as possible! It used to cost you around £150.

However, we had to have our BSC done while we were in New Zealand in 2021, and it cost us £222. A considerable increase! Debdale Wharf used J G Marine Services Ltd. We also had a bill of £557.93 for several items that were required to be done before the certificate could be issued. Of course, if we were living onboard at the time, Barry would’ve done this remedial work himself.

Our previous BSC was in February 2017 and was undertaken by Adrian Pye, for £130. We suspect he gave us a generous discount – unfortunately he’s not doing BSCs anymore.

You can find an examiner in your area here – https://www.boatsafetyscheme.org/boat-examination-and-certification/arranging-the-examination/find-an-examiner/

To check the current requirements, go to this page. Since 1st April 2019, all narrowboats must have a Carbon Dioxide alarm fitted. Sadly there’s been a few deaths over the years of carbon monoxide poisoning. We had a tester sent to us to trial in 2018, which worked brilliantly. During a very windy night that year, our alarm went off. How grateful were we to have been woken up in time to do something about the potential build-up of the gas on the boat?!

Boat ‘equipment and maintenance’

This is one of the categories in our accounts spreadsheet, so is worth mentioning, though without a breakdown of specifics, I’m afraid. We consciously decided to base ourselves in the northwest of England for 2021/22, to be close to my daughter and grandsons. Also, while I’m earning a relatively good income, updating aspects of the boat that were wearing out.

In this category we spent £1,922.45 in 2013/14; £1,801.31 2014/15; 2015/16 £1,559.18; 2016/17 £1,354.47; 2017/18 £2,208.68; 2018/19 £1,633.03; 2019/20 £2,259.82; 2021/22 £2,315.71. Since returning from New Zealand in August 2021, we’ve bought a new washing machine (as the one that came with the boat gave up the ghost!), purchased a new mattress (we had ‘inherited’ the other one so it was at least nine years old), and had a brand new cratch cover made and fitted by ‘Cratch Covers & Canopies‘ in Nantwich (the old one was torn, mouldy and patched up with tape!). Making an average of £1,881.83 a year.

No wonder the acronym for BOAT is ‘Bring On Another Thousand’! Maybe it should be ‘bring on another TWO thousand’ …

Cooking

For cooking, we have a four-ring gas hob and grill, an electric oven and grill (which only works when we’re hooked up to electricity or the engine is on full power), and a microwave.

We’ve found gas to be an incredibly cheap resource, despite cooking on the hob most days. In 2013/14 we spent £98.48 on gas; 2014/15 £72.93; 2015/16 £41.79; 2016/17 £22.36; 2017/18 £47.25 ; 2018/19 £60.18; 2019/20 £44.50; 2021/22 £116.99. It’s brilliantly cost-effective. An average cost of £63.06 – an increase of £13.85 on the previous £49.21 per year. We suspect this figure will rise exponentially in future.

Groceries

As continuous cruisers, we don’t have a local supermarket or Farmer’s Market selling lovely fresh local produce. We have to shop as and when we find a nearby store – then carry it back to the boat! Or occasionally, we shop online and get it delivered – you can even put in a bridge number for this. Sue from NB No Problem has a very useful page on her informative blog site clearly explaining how you can do this with Tesco online – click here to read all about it. Just make sure you put ‘Narrowboat …’ as the first line of the address.

I’m pretty sure any supermarket will do this – though we won’t ever use Sainsbury’s again! The one time we did, at the end of the coronavirus lockdown, they cancelled the order on the DAY OF DELIVERY. It was incredibly frustrating and caused us a lot of extra work that we hadn’t expected. I got no explanation – except “security cancelled it because you used a non-UK card”. It was a UK American Express credit card, which the woman on the phone admitted they should have taken. And every time the order had been amended in the week, the card had been ‘verified’. I have had absolutely no apology from them since, despite attempting to get to the bottom of their shocking service.

Whenever possible, we’ll use Aldi or Lidl as, in our experience, they are both vastly cheaper than the others. We don’t find the quality of fresh food any less than other supermarkets. Interestingly, Aldi has recently overtaken Morrison’s (who were bought by US private equity firm Clayton Dubilier & Rice in 2021, so I shall be avoiding them now I know that) as one of the ‘Big Four‘.

We can forage for a few things – like dandelions for honey, fresh nettles for soup, blackberries for pies, elderberries for wine and elderflowers for cordial, and sloes for gin if we find them at the right time! We can grow a modicum of fresh food and herbs on board, on the roof, or in the ‘cratch’. During the 2020 lockdown, I grew a cherry tomato plant gifted by the lovely couple who run ‘Cheshire Cat Narrowboats‘ and live in the lock cottage at the top of Hurleston Locks. In 2022 I’ve successfully grown a variety of fresh herbs from seeds.

We can occasionally time our expeditions to the afternoon when many ‘about to go out of date’ foods are reduced in price. I’m not going to list how much we spent on groceries year on year, as it depends on how many visitors we’ve had on board. We certainly don’t scrimp on food, and I believe it’s one of life’s most precious pleasures. As a guide, last year we spent an average of £89.93 a week – an increase from the previous £74.34 a week.

Mooring fees

As continuous cruisers, we rarely pay mooring costs (unless on the River Thames, for instance, as we were in 2010; or the River Nene in 2015, where we paid a £5 overnight charge) as it’s covered in the cost of our CRT license.

However, we chose to moor in Marinas for the winters of 2013/14 and 2014/15 – Tattenhall Marina from August 2013 to March 2014 (because Barry had to return to NZ for his initial spousal sponsored visa application. Which meant we were close to my eldest daughter and grandsons). This cost us £1,171.92.

Then Worcester Marina from December 2014 to March 2015 (my elderly father who lived nearby was poorly) for £918. In November and December 2015, we accepted the offer of a trading mooring at Mercia Marina. However, the mooring costs (£5,77.72 for two months) were only just covered by the income from trading there, so we chose to leave in January 2016.

In the winter of 2016/17, we remained in the Birmingham area, as we were both working ‘on land’ for Calendar Club in Merry Hill and Tamworth. In 2017/18 and 2018/19, we stayed in the Lichfield area for our Calendar Club seasons.

Through the winter of 2019/20, we pottered around Chester – moving from Tattenhall to Chester and back frequently. It meant we could see more of my eldest daughter and her family.

From August 2020 to August 2021, Areandare was moored at Debdale Wharf Marina in Leicestershire. She was taken out of the water in November 2020 and stored on hard standing. The costs can be found here: https://www.debdalewharf.co.uk/moorings-and-services-prices/ – for us, it was 52p per foot per week on a quarterly payment in advance. As opposed to 78p per foot per week when she was in the water.

During the winter and spring of 2021/22, we moored a few times on the visitors’ mornings at Tattenhall Marina for £10 a night. It’s such a luxurious feeling for us to have electricity and hot water ‘on tap’!

Marina fees understandably differ considerably depending on location and services available. Prices will also depend on the length of your boat. To check out what’s available, go to this link.


Personal Expenses

Phones

I have an iPhone 8 on contract with Three. I’ve got unlimited calls and texts, with 12GB of data (that can be tethered) for £12.54 a month.

Barry has a Huawei P30 light. It’s got a brilliant camera, which is why he chose it. His plan is with Vodafone, so if we have a limited Three signal, we generally have some with Vodafone. He has unlimited texts and calls (which he hardly uses!) and 100GB of data for £12.86 a month.

Internet

We use an extra ordinate amount of data for various things – our businesses, blogging, emailing, Zooming for work, Skyping/Facetiming to family here and in NZ, etc. Onboard we used to have Three Huawei mobile wifi devices which had 40GB a month for £20.52 for a couple of years. It rarely lasted a month which was frustrating. In May 2019, we upgraded on a special offer to unlimited for another £1.50 a month. It made a dramatic difference. This now costs us £22.99 a month.

Transport

Public Transport:

We don’t have a car. Some liveaboard boaters choose to. However, it’s quite a challenge for continuous cruisers as you have to find places to park and then return to it when you move the boat, and then take it to wherever you’ve moved to and find somewhere to park again! Additionally, it’s a big expense unless justified, and I personally detest driving on the increasingly busy British roads.

I used to be insured on my mum’s car to take her out and about when I stayed with her in Droitwich. That ended in February 2018 when we decided to give the car to my sister, and of course, mum died in May 2018.

We mostly rely on public transport. Booking trains in advance can usually help to reduce the cost – our favourite ‘App’ is trainline.com for this. Splitting tickets work well, which they’ve now included in the App. We try and shop around for the cheapest fares, which generally come 12 weeks in advance – it’s worth planning trips.

I travel quite a lot. Initially, to spend time with mum (and before that, mum and dad). Since 2018 it’s been to visit my eldest daughter and our grandchildren.

Consequently, our public transport costs are generally fairly high but still less than owning and running a car. In 2013/14 we spent £609.65; 2014/15 £902.03; 2015/16 £715.75; 2016/17 £658.17; 2017/18 £835.83 ; 2018/19 £1,482.78; 2019/20 £1,381.79; 2021/22 £1,169.15. An average of £969.39 per year.

We’ve got ‘Senior Railcards’, which give us 30% off fares. It’s a shame we no longer get free bus passes at 60 – but Barry has had one since turning 66 in December 2021, which helps.

Car Hire:

Pre-pandemic, we often hired a car when it was too complex and costly on public transport. In 2019/20, we vastly increased the costs for this, having no access to mum’s car anymore. Car hire and petrol in 2018/19 cost us £2,152.29.

We used Enterprise for hiring and earned sufficient points to be Gold Tier members. Occasionally we’d have enough points to pay for a day or two of hires. However, one of the challenges is having a credit card and a physical address – which we fortunately have. Otherwise, it gets rather complicated, we’ve been told. One of the things we liked about Enterprise was they collected you from wherever you are (within reason!) and take you to the car hire office. Then return to you after your hire. Brilliant if you’re moored somewhere away from public transport routes.

We’d never had a problem with Enterprise until January 2020, when the service at the Chester Branch was horrendous. They’d moved location the week we first rented, which wasn’t ideal. The next time, a week after, they’d had time to settle in – but it was no better. Since the pandemic, the cost of car hire from Enterprise became unaffordable as they sold much of their stock. Checking again in September 2022, it looks like they have cars again – with a three-day weekend hire for a mini costing £108.90. Far higher than it used to be.

The other important note is NOT to be fooled into paying extra to reduce the excess on the hire car insurance. Buy an annual hire car insurance policy from somewhere like icarhireinsurance (that’s who we used for around £50 a year), and you should be covered for most eventualities. You’ll have to pay out initially if there’s damage, but you then claim it back.

It’s definitely simpler and cheaper for us to continue without a car of our own.

TV Licence

We consciously choose NOT to have a TV onboard. However, many, if not most liveaboards, seem to have one judging by our experiences and the number of ariels on roofs!

A TV licence currently costs £159 per year (note that the fine for watching any form of live or catch-up TV without one is up to £1,000). Those without a TV may use their laptop or tablet – or their phone – to watch ‘catch up’ or even ‘Livestream’ TV.

Boaters may be under the mistaken impression that if they have no TV, they don’t need a TV licence. Sadly they’re wrong. Those who come from abroad may not even know about TV licensing; for instance, there’s no such thing in New Zealand.

If you’re unsure, it’s worth clicking on this link to read the information. Don’t get caught out! We had an email a few years ago from the TV Licensing department requesting we add the following to this post:

If the “bricks-and-mortar” address is the boater’s permanent address, and they have a TV Licence for that address, then the licence will cover their boat as well. Boaters only require a TV Licence if their boat is their permanent address or if they watch live TV, or watch or download BBC programmes on iPlayer on board, and are not already covered by a home licence.

It’s easy to pay for a TV Licence or update details online, using a forwarding address if necessary. There are many ways to spread the cost, including weekly, fortnightly or monthly cash payment plans and direct debit options, which can be set up quickly. You do not need a fixed address to receive your TV Licence, as a licence can be arranged for your boat and sent to you by email.

Canal boat owners should visit tvlicensing.co.uk/info for more information about when a licence is needed.”

Then in October 2021, in response to a readers’ comment (see below), we added more information to clarify when you DON’T need a TV licence even if you have a TV:

You don’t need a TV Licence if you never watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV, on any channel, or live on an online TV service, and you never download or watch BBC programmes on BBC iPlayer – live, catch up or on demand.

This applies to any provider or device you use, including a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box or Blu-ray/DVD/VHS recorder.

https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/faqs/FAQ99

It’s a bit of a minefield …

Unexpected costs

This is where the ‘Bring On Another Thousand’ acronym comes into its own once again …

You never know when you may have to find some money from one day to the next – though maintaining the boat obviously keeps costs down. But things, like people, wear out with constant use and need replacing.

 Examples of unexpected costs we’ve experienced include:

  • Replacing a bent propellor was around £380 (which we were able to claim some of on the insurance)
  • Calorifier – £421 plus accoutrements of around £50 to fit (by Barry again!)

What have I missed?

In reply to the question, “Is it cheap to live on a narrowboat?” my response would be, “That depends on your income and expectations!” Like many things in 21st-century life, it’s all relative …

If you compare it to living in a house, running a car (or two), commuting to work five days a week, an annual fortnight in Spain, etc., then yes, it’s definitely ‘cheap’. However, if you feel you can move onto a narrowboat and continue with similar expenses, eating out frequently, keeping the fire going 24/7, not maintaining the vital components of the boat, etc., then not so much.

I guess at the end of the day, it depends on what you’re prepared to ‘give up’ to gain more life in your days. Do you crave luxury and heaps of ‘stuff’? Or are you looking for more quality, exercise, fresh air and variety?

Of course, other variables also need to be considered – including the size and age of the boat or whether you’re having one custom built. Like many things in life, many of the experiences you’ll have are as cheap or expensive as you make them.

I’m happy, as usual, to receive comments from fellow narrow boaters about anything I’ve missed out on. Please feel welcome and encouraged to comment below and tell us what your costs are compared to ours – we may be missing bargains …

Many people have already commented and provided valuable advice over the years (you’ll find the comments interesting). Some have been very negative. As I’ve said, it’s all a matter of perspective and experience.

I’ll update this page whenever I know updated or amended information.

(Last update 15th September 2022)

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67 thoughts on “The Costs Of Living On A Narrowboat – updated September 2022

  1. I hope we get to see you on your Aotearoa adventures this time round too!
    We’re booked to come back to nb Waka Huia in late April 23 and are really looking forward to it.
    I’ve just read your costs of living onboard article – very very comprehensive, young lady! Well done A++😇😇

    I’m always interested (and more than slightly concerned at times) by comments from people looking to sell up everything and retire onboard.

    As a reasonably fit nearly 72 year old, I know that my strength and fitness and all-round physical flexibility are diminishing, as are David’s. We know the time will come when it’s no longer safe or practical for us to keep boating – when we first bought the boat in late 2013, we had a ten year plan that we would assess our fitness, health, strength and desire for continuing boating in 2023 (or sooner) and then have more frequent check-ins about those factors. And make no mistake, we do know how very fortunate we are to be able to choose to keep going or give it up. And we also know, having watched David’s parents who had NEVER talked about what they would do on becoming too old or infirm to manage their house, that discussing the possibly required next steps gives us more control over the decision making process.

    As it is over the time we have owned the boat (excluding the 2020 – 2022 period where we have stayed in Aotearoa NZ), we’ve modified some techniques because of bodily changes: for instance, I stopped leaping off the boat landing on one foot, already moving forward or back holding the centre rope to completely stop the boat moving; I started to jump and land two footed and the boat had to be much slower …, I became much more cautious about getting on and off whether the boat is fully stationary or not. And if David decides he’s going to continue to step across from a closed lock gate to an open one, I’m probably going to divorce him citing his endangering MY health through increased blood pressure and possible heart failure…
    And I will be interested in 2023 to see if I can still contort myself down into and out of the engine bay to do the oil change and removal/replacement of the oil filter…
    I’m small, as you know, so I’ll fit easily enough – it’s whether I still bend enough and in the right directions, I think.
    We aren’t worried about the steering or the locks – we are spring/summer boaters and there’s always plenty of people around to shove on a gate arm and people do love to help.

    My concern for people who are still very fit and healthy deciding to retire onboard is that they also need to think about their state of health after 10/15/20 years and have a plan (and the financial resources) for the step after retirement when health, strength and fitness could easily make living on a boat non-viable.

    I’ve often thought that if we lived permanently in the UK, and if I was planning to retire onboard as a very elderly person (not the relatively spring chicken I am now …) then I’d buy a widebeam and live in a marina. Cheaper than an apartment, generally friendly neighbours, easier access to medical services, and I’d still be on the water, waking up to the sound of water lapping at the sides of the boat, and I’d be able to chat with other boaters. And a widebeam is accommodating of a wheelchair or walker or sticks without tripping over them as would be inevitable on a narrowboat!

    But I would not sell up everything to retire onboard continuous cruising (relying on our limited diy skills) as my final home – I’d just think about my parents and David’s parents in their late 70s and beyond, and know that’s where we are likely to be heading in the physical capacity stakes.

    By all means buy and live on a boat for retirement – get out there and love it and live it. Have fun, enjoy the camaraderie of boaters on the cut. Enjoy being able to speak to everyone you encounter without being thought weird for saying hello to people you’ve never met. The cut is known as the long village for a reason – it’s acceptable and expected to greet others as you come across them. 🥰🥰
    But have a forward plan – even if you never have to implement it, have the plan so that you have some control and choice about your end years. Mxx

    • Thank you Marilyn. I think this is a vitally important perspective to share.
      Unfortunately our financial situation wasn’t as healthy as yours, and neither will it be for many of our readers – and without selling our house in NZ we’d never have been able to do what we’ve done since 2013. Barry would never have had the savings to support his ‘Spousal Sponsored Visa’. And I wouldn’t have had the blessing of supporting and caring for both my parents for five years and now our grandsons.

      As you know we’re reckless and have always said, unlike you, we have no plans for the future. We’re ‘winging it’ as you never know what’s round the next corner. As became all too apparent in 2020.

      I recall reading some words in a Paula Coelho book about how we spend our lives being worried about what we’ll do when we’re old and how we’ll eat. For the life of me though I can’t find it! These will suffice for now:

      “If you live your life fully, you will die only once. But if you are scared, fear will kill you day after day.”

      “Never save the best for later. You don’t know what tomorrow holds.”

      “One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.”

      So many of our friends and family have died young. We weren’t willing to wait. I think the message is that sometimes you need to throw caution to the wind. We’re only here once. And we’d rather live while we’re fit and financially fairly ok. Que sera sera. Only time will tell …

  2. Dear Sandra,

    Many thanks for taking a huge amount of time to write this great article.

    I live and work in India presently but am contemplating my UK retirement plans. A NB is high on my plans and the costs unclear. Your article is just what I needed.

    Thanks again and enjoy the waters.

    Patrick

    • Hi Patrick
      That’s great that it’s helpful. It makes all the time invested worthwhile.
      It’s an interesting time of life isn’t it? And aren’t we fortunate to have got to this stage of our lives where we can consider our options for ‘slowing down’ and living more simply.
      Do let us know how things eventuate. Maybe we’ll meet one day on ‘the cut’.
      Good luck 😉

    • Hi Elaine. Like anything it depends on your perspective. It’s far better, we feel, than living on land 😊

      • Hi Sandra, I have been considering living on a canal boat for some time, your blog and the information provided is amazing, thank you for outlining all of this, i wouldnt know where to start without this page, hopefully in the next few years i too will be happily living on a boat.

        • Hi Sara. Oh that’s fabulous. So happy to have helped. I’ll be updating this page in the near future now we have another 2 months of living costs collated.

          Good luck with your quest and keep in touch 😊

  3. I’m 24 and have never seen myself living in a house. I’ve just been given a fully work from home job and have started seriously considering alternative modes of living. This was a really helpful reality check, thank you! Still something I’m definitely going to look more into but might also spend a little longer saving first haha.
    I’m not so familiar with your story, how did Barry come to learn all the skills he needed for repairs on the boat? As this is something I’d love to learn also.
    Many thanks(:

    • Hi Tamsin
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Congratulations on the new ‘work from home’ job! It’s brilliant to be flexible and work to live rather than living to work. Really pleased that the post was helpful – reality checks are needed to keep things in perspective.

      How did Barry learn all his skills? Well, mainly because he’s a ‘can do’ kiwi! They can turn their hand to anything with ‘a piece of number 8 wire’ is how the saying goes. He’s just a very practical intelligent bloke – very handy to have around! I do know several solo female boaters who mange extremely well and have learnt heaps of practical skills over the years. I’ve no idea how I’d cope on my own, but I’m sure I’d find ways to learn if I had to. And there’s usually someone helpful around to call on – or dozens of Facebook groups full of folks keen to help. Failing that River Canal Rescue!

      There will also be boat maintenance courses I’m sure if you Google it … And a great place to find things also is waterways magazines like Waterways World or Canal Boat. They have practical advice in that would help.

      Good luck!

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  5. great article. loved it. so helpful esp to get into this.
    brian who posted needs to see a therapist.

  6. Very well written, but your comments on TV licensing are woefully inaccurate blatantly untrue and misleading. It really ruins the content of your writing I have to say. I would strongly suggest you do your research and amend. For starters you absolutely do NOT require a TV license if you own a television. Only if you watch terrestrial TV LIVE as broadcast. One can one a television hooked up to a DVD player or games console for example without issue. Other than that, keep up the good work.

    • Hi Dan. Thanks for your feedback. I’m checking the content and I don’t see that I say you must have a TV licence if you have a TV? Looking at the first quote in that paragraph, it clearly states what you do. That “… boaters only require a tv licence if their boat is their permanent address or if they watch live by, or watch or download BBC programmed on iplayer on board, and are not already covered by a home licence.” I also put a couple of links so that boat owners can check for the most up to date information.

          • You were NOT Short of Money , Done This AND That ! NOT a Normal Boater ! How can you Post this when there are Families just getting By, Trip to Africa, New Zealand ? Maybe More ? AND Whinging about Blacking and More !! ETC , Good Story! I really liked the Idea of ending our days on a Canal boat , NOT NOW !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            • Hi Brian. Wow, what an interesting comment. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a ‘normal’ boater, we come in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of life stories and reasons for being on the waterways.
              This post about the costs of living on a narrowboat was initially written and posted many years ago, to help people who had asked us ‘what does it cost to live on a narrowboat’. Each year until this one, I’ve updated it to show an average – for us. From the number of hits we get each week, it seems it’s an extremely popular and helpful post.
              As I said in the post, we don’t speak for everyone, only ourselves. As for the money thing, that’s also a matter of perspective. Many people will live on a lot less, others on much more. How we earn our money or spend it, is our choice. However, we’re aware resources are finite – also that they will be much more than many others so we feel very fortunate to have made the choices we have. We have family in NZ and Africa in case you weren’t aware …

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  8. Reality from a girl who took the plunge. Sorry if it shatters some dreams, but you really do need to source out a few stories from people who have experienced the lifestyle.
    Today l also read about the guy who drowned when his boat sunk in a lock. He was in his early 40s & was an experienced boater with several years as a liveaboard.
    So…. You cannot do enough reading. More reading….Less dreaming.
    https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/this-is-what-its-actually-like-to-live-on-a-canal-boat-in-hackney-a3451166.html

    • Hi Jim. To be fair the story you link to isn’t the normal liveaboard boater. London boating and living in a static mooring there is very different
      Sure there will be ‘scare’ stories in the media. That’s what makes the news. But for every one of those there will be hundreds of others who are doing well. 😉

      • Yes l agree Sandra, London boating is very different to less populated areas.

        But if you read the story, she talks about the things that can go wrong on a boat.
        And the storage space in comparison to a flat.

        Many people will buy a boat on a budget (now new). Therefore repairs will be needed. That also needs to be considered in the budget. Either you have the skills to do it yourself, or pay people to do it for you.

        She also mentions the heat in the summer. Some boats have better insulation than others. I recall mine being very hot in the summer. I wished for more windows on many days.

        • Of course, lots can and does go wrong. It’s absolutely necessary to consider the pitfalls. But it’s also an incredible way to let go of ‘stuff’. Not just material possessions. Lots goes wrong on land too. People have been buying boats on a budget for many years. The average cost of a boat I believe, is about the right price for a newly divorced man when the marital home is sold. Many single men, and women, live happily on boats with limited incomes.

          As to the weather, all you need to do is step outside if it’s too warm on board and sit under a tree. 😉

  9. Don’t want to be the one to throw water on the fire, but if you have never before owned a boat, you really need to be aware of a few things before you part with your money.

    Unlike a house, a boat has no deeds. Also unlike a car, a boat has no registration certificate (V5).

    You are also unable to check if it has any outstanding finance.

    Therefore you really need to go through ALL it’s paperwork to ensure that the people who are selling it really do own it.

    Don’t think just because the marina are selling it everything is good.
    Marinas sell for private sellers & you have no claim against them if you later discover you have been scammed.

    A few boat scams can also be found on eBay. Oh, and eBay buyers protection policy does not cover boats.

    I am very surprised considering the value of boats that there is no official way to confirm ownership or outstanding finance.

    Google “narrowboat scam”.

  10. Many guys dreaming of the liveaboard life after reading this blog. So thought l would add a little advice. I lived aboard boat in the inland waterways as a “continuous cruiser” when in my 20s. And that was in “ALL” seasons. I took 3yrs off work to do it.

    So if you are considering buying a boat in your retirement then l would like you to consider a few things before you commit.

    Budget: lf you have a comfortable income enough to rent a marina berth & buy a boat with full central heating, then you may be better in a house & rent a boat for the summer months.

    If you want to buy a boat for 20k & opt for “continuous cruiser”, which you will just about manage on your state pension. Then you need to consider the reality.

    WINTER: Waking up in the morning with the boat temp below zero. Getting that stove going. Then you need to move the boat every couple of weeks. Have you ever gone through a lock in the winter in a foot of snow? Alone?
    It’s not a life for the faint hearted. You need your health. If you are alone & slip & fall into that lock in the winter then you are in BIG trouble.

    If the answer is NO. Then l would suggest that you hire a boat (without central heating) for a month in January. That will wake you up to the reality before you commit.

    Then you need a plan should you fall ill, or break a leg. Do you have enough savings to moor up in a marina for a couple of months, then move into bed & breakfast accomodation whilst you recover? Or do you have family support?

    Can you afford to pay an engineer when the engine won’t start? Or are you good with engines?
    You will need to have many skills to maintain a boat. Unless you have income enough to pay people to do it.

    I am in my 60s now & l think l could just about manage that life. But l have family to fall back on should things go wrong. I would also sell property to give me 50k in the bank after l bought the boat. I consider that to be a realistic buffer should things go wrong.

    If you are thinking about buying a boat & left with no savings, managing on a state pension. I would say you are dreaming.
    You can hire a boat for a few months in the summer & retreat to a centrally heated house in the winter. If you go for 12 month liveaboard then you really need to be fully commited to that lifestyle & hardship.

    If you already have all of the above covered. Then l wish you the best of luck & perhaps we will meet someday up the cut

    Jim

    • Thank you for your thought-provoking and realistic feedback Jim. There are certainly many things to consider before committing to a life aboard all year 😉

  11. Well it was interesting reading , but it appears unless there is more than a state pension available it is a NO go !! We couldn’t afford to go off into the sunset of New Zealand SO, that is it for us ! NO boating !!

    • Hi Brian. I’m thinking there’s more to your comment that I’ve forgotten. Have you been in touch previously?
      I’m sad you can’t go boating if that is your dream? Are there any other ways?

  12. Hello BarryandSandra,

    Hopefully you’re well on the way ‘down under’

    I lost my livelihood as a business chauffeur due to this ‘pandemic’ and the risk-loaded prospect of ever returning to that nature of work, particularly in my mid 60’s is a definite NO.

    My plan is to try and escape the ‘Private Renting’ sector, sell my car (14K) and with some savings + small loan = £25K to embark on a search for an affordable (approx £20K) 37-40′ NarrowBoat, good hull and engine, but requiring work etc. Use the 4-5K to cover Survey, CRT Licence, Insurance, BSC (if req’d in 1st year), Blacking (if req’d 1st year), Gas, Coal/Wood, Diesel, Engine Oil/s, Filters etc. I will be receiving my ‘State Pension’ each month @ £700.

    Aside from trying to find a suitable boat, whether via a good reliable Broker or
    Trawling, ebay, FB, Magazines for private sellers, I just wondered as kinda ‘battle-hardened’ converts with, seemingly lots of experience and first-hand knowledge. Do you honestly feel that I will struggle perhaps and ideally need a larger budget. Be as blunt as you like, I can take it.

    I’ve done a fair amount of research (mainly online of course). Watch hours of ‘YouTubers’, CruisingtheCut (sorry, but after 20 mins good for insomnia), NarrowBoat Experience. (Enjoyed these), Journey with Jono (not bad) and just had a quick flip over to NarrowBoatZero(??). A common thread to virtually all these characters’ backgrounds appears to be a solid financial footing, big boats, well fitted-out etc. I’m sure that they don’t represent the typical NarrowBoat owner, but may be as the ‘word’ gets out more and more, the type of owner will change?

    I appreciate that you’re away from the ‘Boating Environment’ and on leave, but if you can find time to offer your opinion, I’d be extremely grateful.

    Enjoy your time.

    Best regards

    Chris

    • Hi Kevin. Thank you for the positive feedback. That’s great that you found the information informative 😉

  13. Very helpful info thanks for taking the time to share, might be the difference between us having a boat or not one day as will be on a small pension and need to check the viability of costs on a the water, best info I have read..and I have read lots

    • That’s brilliant, so happy to have helped Rob. Good luck! Do get in touch if we can answer any queries and we’ll do our best 😉

    • Hi Chris. It’s extremely empowering, gives a sense of ‘control’ over what’s going out and coming in for me. And so good to have a record from the past to compare.

      I’m feeling a lot better thank you, will be back blogging again very soon …

      Thank you for your comments and concern, much appreciated 😉

  14. First time I have read your blog. I have subscribed. I also follow you on Twitter (which is much fun), leaving you comments in recent times. I met Barry last year at Birmingham, but you, Sandra, were hiding in the boat. I have been studying the liveaboard option for 5 years, reading all the magazines, visiting the last 3 Crick shows, will be my 4th this month, also I talk to any boater I manage to pin down. I am currently looking after my elderly mother, and living by the Thames in Staines, Middlesex. I have 7 days (not altogether) experience on the Wey and the Thames. Not a lot, but am thoroughly smitten, even before I set foot on a narrowboat. I joined the RBOA 2 years ago and attended their AGM last year. So you see, I am committed to this retirement plan. I just hope I have got my sums right. I have a boat build slot to start end of this year. I am not intending to have a solid fuel fire. Planning only for diesel radiators (despite what you say, I have my reasons). I am not cold blooded, and fleece jackets work very well, and with a cratch cover and pram cover should hopefully help further to keep out icy winds. I hope also to avoid gas, and considering diesel oven and hob. Or maybe electric if the Hybrid engine is not too costly. Will be looking into that option more thoroughly at Crick. Well there you are, my store so far ….. any comments will be gratefully received. From a future boater, Jo (jbrady2809)

    • Hi Jo
      Welcome to the blog! It’s great to have you here, I hope you’ll find it helpful. There’s a few Facebook groups that are extremely supportive for new (and old!) boaters. Posting questions in such places always brings back heaps of helpful suggestions from those with experience.

      We spent our first winter without a multi-fuel fire, sitting in a Marina, and I have to say it was jolly cold! I wouldn’t be without the fire now. There are ways to have a diesel fire which could suit you?

      How wonderful to be having a boat built to your specifications, now’s the time to research what will work for YOU.

      I’d definitely recommend the Facebook groups – just search for ‘narrow boating’ and you’ll have a deluge of possibilities.

      Get in touch if you think we can help.

      Enjoy Crick!
      Sandra 😉

    • Hi Jo,
      Maybe worth looking into a heritage range cooker, they are based in Cornwall and happy to discuss your needs. We have a build slot at beginning of 2018 ( so excited) and are now pretty confident this is what we are going for. I have always favoured gas free boating, this stove will take care of our heating, water and cooking needs. Having had long discussions with the team we are confident it will be fairly economical. Hope this is of some help / interest to you.
      All the best,
      Gail

  15. Nicely written. Just out of interest, if you have a mobile contract with unlimited internet and tethering capability, why do you also use mifi devices at extra cost? Is the “unlimited” internet subject to a fair use policy or something?

    • Hi Phil

      The unlimited internet access doesn’t include tethering sadly. When I was first sold the contract in 2013 by The Carphone Wharehouse they mistakenly informed me it did. I was understandably ecstatic! Three previously sold a contract that did, but they’ve withdrawn that. They’ve recently made a 4MB a month tethering option available, which I took up earlier in the year for a bit extra.

      • Go to http://www.Smarty.co.uk
        You can buy sim card on a month to month contract for very little cost. IE: they are doing a deal ATM for £18. Unlimited data, calls & texts.
        I was shocked to read that you pay £25 for 10gb.Smarty will do that for £6-£7. They even give you money back for unused data. All their offers are unlimited calls/texts.

        I roamed the rivers & canals in the 80s.
        63 now. Wife on oxygen 24/7. If she went before me l would sell up & buy a boat without hesitation. I have the experience, skills & knowledge, so would be the best option for me as long as l remained healthy enough to live that lifestyle.

        I found your page when trying to find out how l could get a replacement certificate. Although there seems to be no database.
        About 1996 l went on a weekend course in Oxford. I gained a certificate in handling 70′ boats in rivers/canals. I have lost that certificate. Although l have no idea if l would have got any reduction in insurance for having it.

        Again, many thanks for an interesting read. It gives a true insight into the running costs in the present day.
        When l had my boats, l rented a chalet beside the canal in Derbyshire. I moored my boat beside the chalet. Oh what l would give to go back in time.

        Jim Walsh

        • Hi Jim, I’ve passed that information on to Barry thank you. The challenge at the moment is we’re hoping to fly back to New Zealand in five weeks, so he doesn’t want to look at alternative options from his current provider or any others until we know if we can get there or not. The other thing to consider of course is the coverage of the provider, as that’s an important consideration for us.

          I’m assuming you mean a boat handling certificate? I’m not sure if having an up to date one has any bearing on your insurance, it may be worthwhile contacting some to ask? There’s a lot of companies who offer this training, I believe for a day? Neither of us has done it as it’s not a requirement for living on a narrowboat in the UK presently.

          I’m sure you know about Mercia Marina, in Willington? They have chalets and moorings and it’s a very lovely area.

          Do keep in touch via the blog, and if you ever do return to the waterways maybe our ‘paths’ will meet. 🙂

  16. We found etiquette is becoming a thing of the past on the waters. Due to boaters moving through thick ice we had to have our boat blacked 4yrs running till we gave up and left the waters 3months ago

  17. As a frustrated non NB’er (with a wife who won’t commit) I thought your article was fantastic and thoroughly informative. Thank you.

    • Hi Alan
      The challenge is that it’s going to depend on many variables. Length of boat, continuous cruiser or moored in a marina, how frugal you can be with groceries, socialising, any ‘unnecessary’ expenses such as holidays (!), gifts, clothes, etc.

      I can tell you our annual costs for personal and boating if that would help? We’re fairly frugal, but could always cut down more (and will be!).

      2013/14 April to March = living £906/month, boat £570/month
      2014/15 April to March = living £1084/month, boat £490/month
      2015/16 so far (7 months, we’ve been MUCH more frugal) = living £693/month, boat £365/month

      Does that help?

      Happy too chat further if you want to email 😉

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