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Living on a Narrow Boat

(35 Posts)
Theoddbird Mon 25-Jul-16 11:37:52

I retire next year and am thinking of buying a Narrow Boat to live on. At the moment I rent an apartment. I am fit and healthy and still have most of my marbles...well the most colourful ones anyway.

I am not going into this blind and will spend the next year planning and even doing a helmsman course. I can make my dream come true. It is scary of course. So at 65 am I too old to start a new adventure?

ninathenana Mon 25-Jul-16 11:43:12

Sounds great to me. A friend lived on one for a couple of years between husbands grin it was lovely and cosy and perfect for a single.
Your never too old, especially if your fit and have looked into it properly as you obviously have.
Go for it, have fun smile

jinglbellsfrocks Mon 25-Jul-16 11:44:35

It would be lovely, apart from all that water.

janeainsworth Mon 25-Jul-16 11:49:04

No, of course you're not too old!
I'm not sure you need a helmsman's course though to steer a narrowboat through the British canals. You need a radio if you're going on the Thames and obviously if you're taking your narrowboat into coastal waters, but if you're doing that you'd be better off with a different sort of boat.
We hired a narrowboat for a week and the only instruction considered necessary by the company was about an hour being shown how to turn the boat round and work the locks.
For several years after that, we owned a share in a syndicate boat and had some lovely times in most of the English canals.
Narrowboats are very narrow thoughwink and can feel a little claustrophobic - I would try it out if I were you, before committing to anything.
Canal Boat magazine is a good source of info, and Terry Darlington's books Narrow Dog to Carcassonne, Narrow Dog to Indian River, and Narrow Dog to Wigan Pier are a good read.

merlotgran Mon 25-Jul-16 11:55:36

I would do it in a heartbeat if I didn't have such dodgy knees.

We live between two river systems and had a smallish cabin cruiser for ten years when our children were school age. We made friends with people who lived on narrow boats and I really envied their life style although you sometimes get saddled with the 'River Gipsy' label.

Five years ago some good friends of ours sold their house and business to live on a large narrow boat. It was lovely. They only moved back into a house when they had to be nearer to aging parents.

We also have friends who live on a Dutch barge. They bought enough land to have their own mooring and rent out some river footage for three more boats.....clever.

So long as you stay fit enough to be able to do the physical work I'd say go for it. There are expenses of course - insurance, river licence, mooring fees, maintenance etc., but that's the same in any walk of life.

MamaCaz Mon 25-Jul-16 12:21:31

Go for it! I did it at the other end of my adult life, moving onto a boat at 18, before it was a 'normal' thing to do, and didn't live in a house again for nearly 20 years. My children knew no other life until they were in their mid teens and often talk about what a wonderful childhood they had. Over those years we had friends of all ages who lived aboard and if it eventually became too much for them they managed to move back onto dry land one way or another.
It's definitely a much more expensive lifestyle choice than it used to be though - if it wasn't, I think that both DH and I would move back onto a narrowboat right now ( if we could afford to buy one too, that is 😐)

Theoddbird Mon 25-Jul-16 12:23:27

Janeainsworth I have bought a subscription to Canal Boat magazine...case of wine came with that...hahaha. I have a friend with a narrow boat and he has let me use it as destress getaway occasionally. He wouldn't let me take it out on my own but with him there I have taken the helm and I worked all the locks.

hildajenniJ Mon 25-Jul-16 12:39:28

A friend and her husband lived in a narrow boat on the Kennet and Avon canal for several years before they both retired. My friend didn't want to live in a house again, but did so because her husband wanted to be near his relatives. She still hankers after a life afloat.

NotTooOld Mon 25-Jul-16 17:09:59

We had NBs for years and spent many a happy time on them. I would sell up and buy another to live on now if only DH had the same enthusiasm. I'd say go for it with a few provisos:

1 Get a professional to check out any boat you consider buying. You don't want to be landed (geddit?) with big bills for unexpected repairs. It is costly to have a NB taken out of the water.

2 Make sure you can keep it warm in the winter. What sort of heating system does it have? Is the cabin sufficiently insulated?

3 It'll be fun travelling around the canal system but you will need a home base if, for instance, you need medical attention. Work out where that will be and what it will cost you. Some marinas are quite expensive. If you have a car, you'll also need somewhere to leave that.

4 Practice managing locks single-handed - you may have to. It's not easy to steer a NB into a lock and operate the gates at the same time.

I am very envious - I hope it all works out brilliantly for you.
Best of luck!

Tegan Mon 25-Jul-16 18:01:54

Yes, I agree about the warmth in winter bit. A friend of mine had to give up living on a boat because he was finding the winters too hard. I live in a canal village so, if you start travelling along the Trent/Mersey canal please contact me. I do know of someone else that bought a boat but, when they decided they wanted to live on land again couldn't do so because house prices had shot up and their boat was still worth the same. It's a great idea though, so I do hope you do it. Good luck!

Charleygirl Mon 25-Jul-16 18:37:28

Being practical, what about registering with a GP and dentist?

MargaretX Mon 25-Jul-16 19:15:40

we were brought up as children to sail etc and later my brother had a Long Boat for 20 years and after retirement lived on it for 6 months. I often accompanied him and its hard grind at the locks and you have to be able to climb greasy ladders in the rain and jump back onto the boat when the boat is in the lock going down. Actually it needs two people but occasionally we saw a single person but they were people who had been boating for years.
My brother couldn't have managed at 65 on his own.
A helmsmans course is Ok but soon learnt, its the emptying of toilets and filling up with diesel and water where you have to manoevre your boat in a queue of other boats waiting.

granjura Mon 25-Jul-16 19:24:13

When we enquired about renting a narrow boat, a 4 birth needed a minimum of two, and a 6 birth a minimum of 3 people.

petra Mon 25-Jul-16 22:08:34

I lived on board for 20 years, not a narrow boat though. If it's your dream, go for it.
Narrow boats are very easy to stear and manoeuvre. I never had a problem with doctors or dentists. The only problem you might encounter is when the water taps freeze up in the winter, but you soon learn to keep an eye on the weather and make sure the tanks are full. We carried a lot of water so it was never a problem, but narrow boat tanks are small.
There will always be plenty of people around to help and advise. Enjoy.

Theoddbird Tue 26-Jul-16 22:45:14

Thanks to all of you for the wonderful advice. I really appreciate it. I plan on getting a residential mooring so doctor/dentist will not be a problem. I have spent time on a friend's narrow boat and can make a tank of water last near on a week even with a daily shower (damn important). Looking for a residential mooring and then will buy the boat and fit it out to suit me.

You are all lovely and will add to this as things progress x

janeainsworth Wed 27-Jul-16 01:13:43

Looking forward to hearing about it all theoddbird smile

jinglbellsfrocks Wed 27-Jul-16 01:56:59

How does your chest stand up to cold damp air?

jinglbellsfrocks Wed 27-Jul-16 08:49:38

And how is your balance?!

JessM Wed 27-Jul-16 09:53:57

I think there is a lot of carrying heavy stuff involved, depending on your mooring an the distance from car park etc. I think you should ask your friend if you can borrow his boat for a couple of weeks in the depths of winter to see how you fare. Including doing all the grunt work yourself, whether it be getting water, fuel for heating or getting rid of waste. Something that seems idyllic in the summer could prove pretty grim in the winter.

cornergran Wed 27-Jul-16 11:15:16

We lived by the Gand Union Canal for a while and I developed a real urge to live on a narrowboat, but circumstances didn't allow. I do still have that itch, but mobility would preclude it now. I wonder, is it possible to rent a 'living' narrowboat (rather than a 'holiday' one) for a year to check out the reality in all seasons? It could settle your thoughts one way or the other and at least you would have tried.

Theoddbird Wed 27-Jul-16 17:22:24

At the moment I live in a tiny cowshed... no central heating... just a wood burner. When wood is delivered at front I have to carry it through and stack on patio. In winter it is so cold I can see my breath... means I know I am alive... hahaha. So I am very strong and hardy. I have stayed on a boat in high winds and driving rain. I just love the peace of being on water. When my boat is out of water the first time she will be renamed Circle of Peace. 😊

MargaretX Wed 27-Jul-16 18:26:08

WE did our boating pre 1990 and it wsa a safe environment, you could leave your narrow boat moored up while you were at work or in the pub or shopping. Then things began to change and when youths set the boat free by undoing the mooring we woke in the middle of the night to find we were going downstream. It was a frightening experience and actually my brother never really got over it and soon sold up. Just because he felt he couldn't cope with the youths -he felt too old. 10 years younger he would have carried on.

If you are really fit, can jump and balance on footholds of 20 cms, sometimes slippy and can swim fully clothed then go ahead.

janeainsworth Wed 27-Jul-16 21:12:14

Margaret we had one or two incidents with 'youths' too, and on one occasion we were going to moor up on the Curly Wyrley when another boater, already moored, strongly advised us not to stay there. We moved on a couple of hundred yards away, but later, going out, saw two very large cars parked on this remote country lane, with several men standing around and what looked like money changing hands. shock
And once on the Oxford Canal going through Banbury, passing some flats, someone came out and hurled a water-filled balloon at us shock
Never a dull moment!
Jess we've spent several of our weeks in February and November and winter has a charm of its own because the canals are so quiet and you can get nice and cosy in your boat - fuel isn't a problem as you can buy coal or wood from passing fuel boats, though the boat we shared had central heating which ran off hot water heated by the engine, so if we were travelling the boat would be very warm from that.

alchemilla Wed 27-Jul-16 21:54:37

I've been inclined to do this too. But concerned about keeping an engine going, ballast, methane and water. And then went on a website which said there are two times a boat owners happy - the day they buy and the day they sell.

whitewave Wed 27-Jul-16 21:55:36

I really have a yearn to live on a narrow boat. But probably too old at 70 to start.

petra Fri 29-Jul-16 09:10:45

Theodbird Are you buying an empty hull? Usually these are already lined out. But if your buying with raw steel don't scrimp on the insulation. I know it's a lot of money and you can't see it but it's more than worth it.

Theoddbird Sat 30-Jul-16 11:09:39

What wonderful stories everyone has. Of course my dream would be to find a male narrow boater who would moor his boat next to mine.... hahaha... how cool would that be. Mine would be the one with the bunting on smile

Waterboatman Sun 14-Aug-16 16:27:18

First off, your not too old, I've meet continuous cruisers(boaters that don't moor in marinas) that a much older than you, with the oldest being 92. I would recommend hiring a boat out first to see how you like it, and if your on facebook join "Canal Market Place" on of the more friendly FB group and ask away, most boaters are more than willing to help you with advice. You can hire boats for a week or a few days, have a look at this website www.waterwaypages.com . There are many canal festivals around the UK, take yourself down to one and have a talk to a boat owner, they are always happy to chat.

MrsTiggywinkle1010 Tue 21-Feb-17 15:41:50

I would love to know how things have progressed for you. I am 69 and in the same position. I wanted to live on a narrowboat many years ago but circumstances were not in my favour. Now I am able to do so, I wonder if I am too old to make the leap.

JayneSA Wed 05-Jun-19 15:11:02

Hi Everyone. My son moved to Oxford a year ago and I miss him terribly. (I live abroad) The only way, at 63, I could afford to live on my own is to live on a narrow boat or a rented flat(not for me), or a caravan (NOOOOO). So does anyone have any advice. I'm thinking of coming in Jan or Feb 2020 (to test the winter) I have under 15 PGB for a narrowboat. I'd really like to rent for two months, is that possible??? without paying holiday rental fees???? Any advice????????

jeanie99 Sun 09-Jun-19 09:00:32

You're never too old for an adventure so long as you are reasonably fit and healthy.
We spent a long week on a narrow boat with friends and I can honestly say for me NEVER AGAIN.
If you are on your own probably ok.
Our issues were you can hear everything that goes on in the boat the noise carries, not for me.
You have obviously set your heart on it but just bare this in mind.
Best of luck

jura2 Mon 10-Jun-19 13:07:45

Narrowboats are wonderful- when the sun is shining and the birds singing - but year long, cold, rain, etc- in such a cramped space. Really not for me/us.

But whatever floats your boat smile

Chloejo Fri 21-Jun-19 23:37:18

Go for it but make sure it’s all checked out underneath as we were told can cost a lot to put right if not good as have to lift out of water. wood burning stove makes them so lovely and cosy in the winter. It will be an adventure and a lovely life

Dinahmo Thu 27-Jun-19 11:50:32

You're not too old. I remember hearing a lady on the radio talking about travel. She was in her seventies and was doing long haul travel. She planned to ravel in Europe during her eighties and the UK in her nineties.

boat Thu 27-Jun-19 12:28:53

I'm 75 and have lived on a narrow boat for just over two years. It's been a great experience.

I have a sack barrow (trolley) to cope with heavy weights.

I don't take the boat out on my own because I'm not agile enough to leap off holding a rope but there is a queue of relatives and friends eager to stay on the boat and do that bit. (Sometimes I even let them steer).