There is something idyllic about the idea of living on a narrowboat. But what is the reality like? We share our top tips for living life on a narrowboat including safety considerations, how to keep them clean and tidy and optimising the space. You will also, as with all boat types have to consider the type of boat insurance you will need to cover you and your boat.
One of the great enemies of life on a narrowboat is “diesel bug”, the term given to bacteria in the fuel tank. This bacteria has the potential to kill your engine in the long term as it blocks filters and fuel injectors. Make sure to combat this by keeping your fuel tank correctly topped up. You can also avoid diesel bug by investing in a biocide to kill the bacteria.
Water tanks on narrowboats have enough water, typically, to last between two to three weeks if you are economic with your usage. Remember, in order to fill up, you will need to move the vessel to a water point. Thus, being frugal with your water usage is a fine art. Top ways to conserve water include recycling water as much as possible (i.e. using the same water for boiling food to top up your toilet cistern), storing water on the boat in a water container, and avoiding high water usage such as the washing machine.
When you hear “houseboat”, you may picture a narrowboat dappled in sunlight, with its owner sunbathing on the dock or enjoying the sunshine. However, this describes only a proportion of time aboard the narrowboat. Throughout the year, your narrowboat can change hugely depending on the season. Make sure you are prepared for everything. For winter, this includes being prepared for heavy snowfall, depending on your location. Make sure you are prepared for the less desirable weather including the right clothing to stay warm and dry.
If you are out on the water during the winter or in a colder location, looking after your pipes is crucial in order to avoid freezing. Incorrectly insulated pipes can lead to burst pipes and flooding inside the boat. You can insulate your pipes cheaply using insulation from a DIY store. By keeping your boat as warm as possible, the pipes are unlikely to freeze.
Narrowboats are susceptible to breakdowns. As such, keeping a well-stocked tool kit on board is essential practice. Screwdrivers, wrenches, spanners, hammers and lubricants are key for regular maintenance of your narrowboat. Also, having the contact of a reliable engineer should be a necessity in case of emergency breakdown.
Fuel stove is the principal way to heat your canal boat, especially in the winter months, so ensure you have enough smokeless coal and firewood. Buy ahead to get the best deal and stock up as much as possible. Regarding wood, dry wood is essential for avoiding excessive smoke and accidental fires. If you are collecting wood from nearby forests, make sure to let it dry out before burning it.
Part of keeping your narrowboat smelling clean comes from ensuring that your tank is clean. The build up of objects or bacteria here can lead to foul smells. Keeping your tank clean involves pumping out the tank regularly to keep it flushed out. You can also use softener tablets to prevent build up.
Spiders are often attracted to narrowboats and can become an unwanted house guest. Keeping mint aboard your boat has been proven to keep the spiders at bay – both as a plant or by using peppermint oil in key locations around the boat.
There is nothing worse than sleeping on a wet mattress. Moisture is inevitable on a narrowboat but has the potential not only to rot your boat from the inside, but cultivate mould. Regularly airing the underside of your mattress removes the possibility of moisture and mould. Allowing air to circulate the mattress, by making strategically-placed holes in the side of the base, can also help avoid this problem.
Whilst narrowboats are known for their cosiness and space efficiency, this can also easily give rise to mess and untidiness. Thus, keeping the bare minimum is essential for maximising space. Declutter our space as much as possible and be ruthless with what items you bring aboard. Investing in storage solutions can help you avoid clutter and help keep stored objects out of sight.