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Living on a boat; ? or even holidaying on a boat…

(55 Posts)
FannyCornforth Sun 10-Oct-21 11:00:35


I’ve been chatting to a couple of posters about boat life; one who already lives on a boat, and other whose husband would like to.

I’d love to live on a boat; but I’m fully aware that I’ve got a very idealised, romantic view of things…
Also, it would be pretty impossible for me in reality at the moment.

But in the meantime, I’d love to hear your experiences
Thank you! x

MamaCaz Sun 10-Oct-21 20:45:05

Then there was the winter on the Macclesfield canal when the canal froze solid, and we couldn't move to get to a water point to fill our tank

With two under fives on board, that could have been a big problem, but fortunately, a very generous Italian gentleman living in a house on the canalside let us run a hose from his bathroom window to the boat. That is the sort of kindness that you never forget!

Cherrytree59 Sun 10-Oct-21 22:41:20

Sailed around the Greek islands and loved it!

Trip on the canal, got out and walked between some of the locks, sooo slow.
Don't under estimate the locks and the queues!

How anyone manages to get there and back on time amazes me.

elleks Mon 11-Oct-21 10:52:42


Have you read Narrow Dog to Carcassonne, Fanny? I read it a long time ago and then wanted to live on a narrow boat.

There's a series by Marie Brown about living on narrow boats.

merlotgran Mon 11-Oct-21 11:02:29

and last stupid question..Merlotgran, you say you were on the Ouse, what happens when the river swells? do you have to vacate the boat?

We were on a non tidal part of the river so didn't have to adjust our mooring ropes but if there were days or weeks of heavy rain the 'washes' either side of the river bank would flood so it would not be possible to stay on the boat.

Sparklefizz Mon 11-Oct-21 11:04:41

A friend lived on a canal boat for several years in her 50s - when the weather was good and they were on the move, she said it was idyllic, but she ended up with bad arthritis due to the cold and damp during the rest of the year.

Theoddbird Mon 11-Oct-21 11:09:10

I live on a narrow boat...have done for 4 1/2 years. I am 70 now. Holidaying on one is very different to living on one. I have to empty the toilet cassette every week, I have to fill water tank once a week. I had to build strength so that I could lift a gas tank from jetty down into the gas locker and shift a 25kg bag of coal. I have learnt how to split logs and all sorts of things. Also last winter I was marooned for two weeks as water rose so high. Mud was calf deep. There are so many good things though.. especially the peace and my friends the river birds....

OldHag Mon 11-Oct-21 11:13:32

My sister and her husband have lived on their narrowboat for more than 20 years. They sold up their house in their 40's and moved onto their boat after realising that a lot of his family were dying very young, so decided to enjoy life while they could. This forced their son to finally leave home, although they did make it easier for him by providing a deposit to buy a flat. They sold and got rid of just about everything, as there really isn't room on a boat for excess clutter, and have honestly loved every moment. Initially they went touring every summer, but when they felt they'd got to know the canal like the back of their hands, they didn't feel the need to move about so much, so found a permanent mooring, and even have a little garden on the side of the canal, and an allotment locally, so all the benefits of canal living, but also those of having a home on land too. He's quite a few years older than her though, so I don't know whether when something happens to him, she'll still continue on the boat, or not, but as long as she doesn't want to cruise, she should be OK as she is.

coastalgran Mon 11-Oct-21 11:26:00

I used to do a bit of sailing on Loch Ness about 20 odd years ago when we had a yacht, the locks on the Caledonian Canal are beautiful but hard work and it was great going up with the yacht talking to the visitors who came to watch. I do miss sailing but not sure i have the stamina now for the locks.

Alioop Mon 11-Oct-21 11:26:34

My friend lives on a boat in the Marina with his dog and he loves it. His life is so simple, has no TV , nothing and he is such a chilled out guy. He actually got a part in Game of Thrones when they were filming here in N.Ireland as he has a pirate look about him, all the long messy hair, beard, etc. I love my home comforts so I don't think it's for me.

4allweknow Mon 11-Oct-21 11:38:39

Lived on a boat for 7 months sailing the Greek islands. Mooring at the little harbours, visiting tavernas, watching the stars at night all terrific. Can be cramped unless you hire a Tom Cruise yacht, cooking not so convenient and having to find a laundry/shops can be a challenge. Also, when you suffer from motion sickness anything but a glass type sea can put you off. Can't speak of boat living in UK but imagine weather would be a bit off putting.

Treetops05 Mon 11-Oct-21 12:08:01

We used to manage a pub/ hotel in the middle of Gloucestershire - the bit that always floods. I will never forget looking out of our 3rdfloor living room, warm and snug, on Christmas Day, down on the flooded river below.

Barges were struggling on the moorings, the river had such waves they were going up and down by 3-4 ft. Some that weren't moored well ended up on the Riverside walk, 6ft from the actual river ?

We couldn't help as we couldn't reach them - but I remind my DH every time he dreams of life on a narrow boat. ;)

Americanpie Mon 11-Oct-21 12:11:29

We went to Oulton Broad in September and booked a day trip on a self drive boat. We hated every minute of it and returned the boat after 4 hours. It was like the M6 with boats and a lot of yachts, which were a nightmare as they tacked back and forth trying to catch a little breeze. My advice, try a day trip first and see if you take to it.

Keeper1 Mon 11-Oct-21 12:50:51

We spent a week on a narrow boat and after travelling for the best part of a day stooped for a meal. In the pub we got talking to some people who mentioned having to take their son to hospital, “Gosh said I how long does that take you”. Oh about 10/15minutes this was to get to the place we had just left and spent all day travelling from. It was peaceful but so very slow like another poster I got out and walked.

MerylStreep Mon 11-Oct-21 13:18:16

I would love to do that with the family but I’m afraid the love of the sea and boats has stopped with me.

Ah, the dreaded frozen water standpipes. We were fortunate that we held 2,000 gallons but many live aboard would leave the tap open with just a drizzle to keep a flow of water.
They shut them off on the French canals.

MerylStreep Mon 11-Oct-21 13:28:00

This was our mooring site for 14 years. Fancy negotiating this on a dark night when it’s completely covered by water.

SusieB50 Mon 11-Oct-21 13:41:43

We had many memorable holidays on a narrow boat when our children were young . We took other children and sometimes got a big boat with other families.We loved it but you have to be very tidy and neat. Be happy to have unreliable showers and temperamental loos! We did try again on our own a few years before late DH became sick , but soon realised that the numerous locks were very heavy and DH found steering stressful . We missed the extra deck hands ! We moored and spent the rest of the holiday in one place !

rowyn Mon 11-Oct-21 17:57:51

Daughter and partner lived on narrow boat in Bristol for several years. They were near all the city centre amenities, could stroll along the canal to a nearby cafe for breakfast and heating costs etc were very low, although the cabin was extremely cosy.
Minuses; they had to get rid of quite a few things as there's not much space in a boat.
Plus: they sold the boat and used the money as a deposit for a mortgage and bought their first house.

M0nica Mon 11-Oct-21 19:01:33

Americanpie that is why all our Broads holidays have been at Easter, and once in early March. Not many people about.

GraceQuirrel Mon 11-Oct-21 19:12:33

Did a week on a canal boat a couple of years ago. Glad I can say I tried it but the nights were cold, the dogs hated it, tow paths are not nice at night, locks are hard work, and if it had rained we would have got very wet when steering it (and don’t talk to me about mooring up!). The scenery however was wonderful and it’s a lovely slow pace of life.

MamaCaz Mon 11-Oct-21 19:31:19


Did a week on a canal boat a couple of years ago. Glad I can say I tried it but the nights were cold, the dogs hated it, tow paths are not nice at night, locks are hard work, and if it had rained we would have got very wet when steering it (and don’t talk to me about mooring up!). The scenery however was wonderful and it’s a lovely slow pace of life.

Ah, but hire boats are not designed for living on.

I can honestly say that we were never cold in the 20 years we lived aboard, though it obviously came at a cost in the form of coal, gas or wood.

And our dog loved it - she was a walking dustbin and would wander from boat to boat, identify the kitchen window then just smile up at the crew until they fed her. Then curl her nose up at what we offered her. grin

There were definitely downsides too, including muddy winter towpaths., and dampness.

ayse Mon 11-Oct-21 20:01:54

I loved living on a narrow boat for a while. We had a log burning fire with a convection fan on top that worked without electricity. The toilet had to be pumped out as well. We were never cold so the gas central heating never went on. The shower was adequate.

The joy was getting up in the morning and being knocked on the boat by the ducks wanting breakfast. It was so peaceful and everyone was so helpful and friendly. Our mooring was close to a canal side pub with live music. Lots of wildlife to be spotted as well.

We used to help the holiday boaters with some of the locks as they could be a bit challenging.

My DH nearly sunk the boat as he was so busy chatting to a mate. The stern caught on the sill (part of the lock structure)/and water started flowing over. We had a wonderful time and I still miss the peace, quiet and countryside.

MamaCaz Mon 11-Oct-21 20:06:45

Your mention of ducks brought back a distant memory, ayse - the first time we ever heard ducks pecking at the hull, we thought there were rats in the bilges grin

TwinLolly Mon 11-Oct-21 21:03:09

One lady I met on a cruise ship, she was sailing all the time. It was cheaper than going into a care home.

There was entertainment at night and during the day, classes of sorts, the gym and swimming pool, her laundry was taken care of, all meals were included, she had a friendly steward to clean her room and bring her a cuppa if she wanted room service. Medical problems? No worries - docs and nurses were on board, a fully equipped pharmacy and ICU if necessary.

Oh, and and of course the joys of having the option to go on an outing/tour when docked; or going into town.

If she was tired of all the hustle and bustle, she could go to her cabin or got to the library or find a quiet corner of the ship.

She loved life and was a joy to behold. She was almost part of the furniture, and staff loved her to bits.

Follow your heart and dreams!

ayse Mon 11-Oct-21 21:46:30


Your mention of ducks brought back a distant memory, ayse - the first time we ever heard ducks pecking at the hull, we thought there were rats in the bilges grin


Neen Mon 11-Oct-21 23:51:06

Daughter of navy man here, he loved boats and we had boats as a child all the way through until dad was poorly then passed on.
He taught my girls to drive boats on the Broads and they take out boats with their children now.
I love them but would not own one. Insurance and maintenance and harbour fees and loo suction etc etc ( I'm not into emptying loos in rivers as many do ) , it's not all it's cracked up to be and a week's holiday can be enough. But that's my opinion only.
I'd suggest holidaying in one first, then write pros and cons. Also check the height of the vessel, as it may only be able to go certain directions if doesn't fit under a near by bridge.
To transport a vessel of any size is verrry expensive.