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  • Preparing your caravan or boat for spring: The essential checklist

     

    As the nights are drawing out and it finally feels like spring could actually be here, we’re sure you are just like us and itching to get outside to explore the great outdoors, whether by water or land.

     

    However, the key to any successful trip is in the preparation – there is nothing worse than making it all the way to your destination to find out your generator won’t turn on, or your canopy has a hole in it – so we’ve put together some of our top tips to ensure that your first trip of the year is as excellent as it should be:

     

    • Go for a practise spin

    First things first; ensure that all your equipment is working before setting off. You will want to check your tires, engine, all safety equipment such as locks and alarms, as well as looking at your canopies, sails and soft furnishings for winter damage. It’s much easier to fix or replace damage when you are at home before your trip, than it is when you’re on the water or the road.

     

     

    • Spring clean time :) clean caravan

    If your caravan or boat has been inactive all winter, there will certainly be a build-up of dust (at best!). To get ready for the new season you will need a bucket of hot soapy water and some elbow grease to ensure your vehicle is ready to be occupied again.

    Ensure you are thorough as static vehicles are popular places for insects and small animals to escape the cold winter and you’ll also want to ensure you remove any traces of mould and mildew.

    Our best-selling range of cleaning products is available here:

     

     

    • healthy recipe caravan narrowboatGet ready for fussy eaters

    There are increasingly fewer and fewer places that don’t have a mini Tesco or Sainsbury’s within reach, but there are still some in the far flung corners of the British Isles!

    So if you are travelling with children, animals, fussy eaters or those with intolerances make sure you have stocked up on essentials and emergency rations. Hungry campers don’t make happy campers and you can’t always rely on there being an open and fully stocked shop at hand to save the day!

    It might help to create a meal plan for your trip before you head off, with recipes that work just as well with substitutions and are easy enough to rustle up in a caravan or narrowboat kitchen (see our easy summer and winter recipes for ideas).

     

     

    • Paperwork

    It’s always a good idea to ensure that your insurance is up to date and you have all the necessary paperwork in an easily accessible place.

    You will also need to check that all your services are up to date and that you have all the necessary documentation if you are planning a trip abroad.

     

    • Enjoy the Spring!

    No explanation needed :)

  • Everything You Need to Know About Narrowboat Time Sharing and Part Ownership

     

    If you've ever dreamed of spending your days drifting quietly down the English waterways and exploring the countryside, and your evenings in a cosy country pub or tucked up with a good book, then part-owning or time sharing a narrowboat may be the choice for you.

    Find out more about the differences in each option:

    narrowboat boats canal

    Time Sharing

    This is where you purchase the right to spend a certain amount of time a year aboard a narrowboat. When you buy in to one of these schemes, you are often called the ‘Owner’ by the management company, but you don’t actually own the boat in any way. The boat is held in trust by a club that owns a fleet of narrowboats for the purpose of time sharing them out to people.

     

    In time shares, ‘Owners’ have little or no say in the way that the boat is managed; you may not even get the same boat each time that you opt in. You pay an annual fee to cover the costs of all the boats in the club, rather than contributing to the running of a particular boat.

     

    On the plus side, this could be a good step in between hiring a boat for the week, and committing to part owning a boat, which can be quite costly. It’s an attractive option if you only want a short amount of time a year on the water, and is more flexible as many clubs are part of a larger time share arrangement and offer you the choice to spend a week abroad instead if you’d prefer that occasionally.

     

    narrowboat boat canal

    Part Ownership

    For those of you that would a narrowboat of your own, but can’t afford the cost of buying one yourself, part ownership is the next best thing. It’s where a syndicate is formed of people who each pay for a share of a boat, and differs from time sharing in that this group of people actually own the boat until they sell their share, or collectively decide to sell the boat.

     

    Each of the owners is then entitled to use the boat for a number of weeks a year which is proportional to their share; for example, if you bought a 1/12 share, you get to use the narrowboat for 4 weeks a year. Which weeks you get depends on the method used to decide, which can either be random, done on a rotating list basis, or ad hoc in smaller syndicates.

     

    There are companies who manage the acquisition of the boat, as well as arranging moorings, insurance, boat licence, servicing and maintenance, for a fee of around £400 a year per 1/12 share.

    The other option is to organise the syndicate yourself, which probably works best if you’ve got a group of people together that already know each other, want to part-own a boat, and have the time to manage it themselves.

     

    It will cost you between around £7k and £11k to purchase your share, but be aware that you will also be responsible for the running costs, which over the years will probably amount to more than the price you paid for the share in the first place.

     

    With the part ownership option, you face a bigger financial commitment, but you get the satisfaction of actually owning your own boat, which is likely to be of a much better specification than one you wold get in a time share arrangement.

     

  • Interview: Why I installed solar panels on my narrowboat

     

    The benefits of installing solar panels on your boat are many, with the most obvious being the reduced reliance on a noisy generator!

    But of course there are many more and despite creating a more peaceful environment, solar panels are also a much greener and cheaper way of powering your boat. After the initial financial outlay the panels rely solely on the sun’s free renewable energy.

    We spoke to former nuclear submarine engineer, Martin Cowin who decided if he could rely on solar energy during the ten year period he lived in Africa, he could certainly try and do it on a boat in the UK.

     

    solar panel narrowboat

    Hi Martin, how long have you been living in your narrowboat (pictured) and how did you decide this was the life for you!?

    We have only been living on our boat for 6 months now. Before that we lived in a house which we built on a farm in Namibia about 40 miles from the nearest town.

    Our return to the UK was based upon a new lifestyle choice which came in the form of a narrowboat.

    After 10 years living in a hot dry country we wanted a complete change.

     

    What made you decide to get solar panels?

    Since we needed power and no power supply was available during our period in Namibia,  I installed a total solar system for all our needs. We managed 10 years without any extra power available.

    Once on our boat we just worked out the best way to get the self-sufficiency set up so that we could a few extra luxuries while not connected to a mains power supply.

     

    narrowboat solar panels

    How easy was it to install the solar panels?

    We have installed a 1.6kw inverter to give us our ac power and now the 1kw solar array to keep the batteries fully charged without running the main engine or installing a separate generator.

    Installation was pretty easy as the wiring is pre-configured so the only difference between fitting solar-panels to a boat and to a house is the lack of space available for the panels.

    The reader is pictured to the left.

     

    What have the main benefits so far been?

    Solar is quiet, of course, and the energy from the sun is free as once the initial set up costs are paid everything is free as the systems are very reliable. On top of that maintenance requirements are virtually non-existent.

     

    Thanks so much for speaking to us :)

  • How to vote if you are live in your caravan, motorhome or boat

     

    If you want to vote in the general, local and European elections you must be registered to vote.

    But if you are of ‘no fixed abode’ this can seem a little tricky and can apply if you live in your caravan, motorhome or boat.

    Here we explain what to do if you don’t have a residential address:

    • vote caravan motorhome boatFirstly, check where you are living doesn’t have a permanent mooring or a permanent address – if it does, you can register to vote here. The process is the same as if you were living in a built property; just enter your details into UK/Register-To-Vote and you’ll be registered.

     

    • Definitely not of a ‘fixed abode’?! Then you must instead register a declaration of local connection. This basically tells the government that even though you don’t, in their eyes, live in the area you still have a vested interest in it and are eligible to vote.

     

    • vote caravan motorhome boatContact your local electoral registration office (Google will be able to help you here!) and give them the details of a place where you have a connection, this could be a workshop you use, a work place or some other place in the local area that you spend time.

     

    • The electoral office will process your application, and once complete you’ll be able to register to vote.

     

    • Register to vote.

     

    • Vote!
  • Interview: What It’s Really Like to Live on a Narrowboat.

    We think, in the words of Kenneth Graham, there is simply ‘nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.‘ But there’s a difference (a big difference!) between taking a break in one and actually living in one.

    An unusual flushing loo, always feeling a bit damp and being at one with the elements is all fine and dandy when you’ve got bricks and mortar to return to, but it can be quite another when you’re out on the canal all winter.

    We speak to actress and writer Carli Harris who lives with her partner on Albion, a 1980 51-foot traditional tug style narrowboat, to hear some daily truths about living on a narrowboat:

    carli3

     





















    How did you make the decision to live on a narrowboat?

    We were looking for a flat in London when a boat popped up for rent on Gumtree (‘Cosy accommodation, great waterside location’ etc). We went to look at it and here we are a year later having decided we love boatlife so much we wanted to buy a boat of our very own. We didn't realise it at the time but we got very, very lucky with our landlords (waterlords). Over the past year they've helped us learn how to take care of the boat, how to move her, how to navigate the canals and use locks properly etc. We've heard some horror stories about landlords since we moved aboard, things like people renting out sheds on dinghies and one landlord sailing off in a boat still full of the tenants' belongings so I'm not sure I'd recommend following our route!

    Do you see yourself living on a boat for the forseeable future?
    About two weeks into our new boatlife there was a big storm one night and our mooring pins came loose at 3am, sending the boat drifting off down the canal without our permission. If you'd have asked me this question then, I would have told you in no uncertain terms that we were calling the waterlords in the morning to inform them that boating was the worst idea anyone has ever had and that it wasn't even my stupid idea in the first place. If you'd told me then that we'd be buying our own boat a year later I would have laughed out loud after I stopped crying. Luckily we persevered and learned how to not float away in the middle of the night and now I can't imagine living any other way for many years to come.


    carli1


    Are boating neighbours different to land neighbours?

    The boating community really is varied, a melting pot of people from all walks of life, which is one of the best things about it. We've met everyone from elderly retired couples to young families with toddlers, and poverty-stricken students.

    The stresses of living on a boat also seem to bring out more extreme emotions than a non-sinkable house does. When we lived in flats our neighbours would barely nod at us, now people are either bending over backwards to help us or screaming at us for doing a lock wrong (in their opinion!) which certainly makes boating, at the very least, more interesting than living in a flat.

    What about when it’s cold and rainy?

    When we first moved on we hadn’t really got to grips with the fire, so we lived like incompetent cavemen for about two months. I think I slept in a coat and mittens the whole time (although I guess cavemen didn't have mittens). Now though, we keep the fire going 24/7 so it doesn't get too cold any more. We both have 'I hate boats' days though, when we're really busy or not feeling well and all the boat chores do make you a bit miserable.

    carli2

    What is the one thing you couldn't live without on your boat?

    There are so many things that are essential to boat living like kindling, coal, cups of tea, the ability to not mind foxes running races on top of your boat (this actually happened to us last night) but the one thing I really couldn't live without is a good pair of slippers. It may sound mundane but the floor is so cold you couldn't walk around without a good pair of slippers (with non-stick bottoms too, safety first). Personally I wear cat-shaped slippers but you can wear monkey-shaped ones or giraffe-shaped ones, the boating community is all about diversity. Failing slippers, wine is also really great.

    What are the biggest adjustments you've had to come to terms with?

    Smaller spaces are definitely hard to get used to, our new boat is about half as small inside as our current one and I already feel like I've pared back my wardrobe more than anyone should have to endure. queamishness has also had to be left behind in my dad's garage with everything else, although luckily my boyfriend does all the poo box emptying so I've had less poo confrontations than he has.

    albion

    Finally, what makes it all worthwhile?

    it's a really, really pretty way to live The canals are lovely when it's sunny, and it's ridiculously pleasant to be able to lounge on the front of your boat and sunbathe surrounded by water and wildlife. We spent last summer pottering around the Grand Union and it was so beautiful that I felt like I was in Brideshead Revisited. Having said that, I think the canals are equally beautiful in winter when all the boats' ropes go frosty and the canal ices over.

    It's also great being off the grid. Boating is not at all as cheap a way of living as many new magazine articles would have you believe but your outgoings are completely under your control. Instead of utility bills that come every month whether you like it or not, you can just buy coal/diesel/kindling as and when you need it (and top up with water for free!). It's sort of a trade off of hard work in exchange for freedom from bills. I cannot tell you how much I do not miss bills.

     

     

    To read more about Carli and Albion visit her informative and very funny blog about the realitities of boat life. Click here!

    We’d also love to hear your boat experiences. Does anything Carli’s gone through resonate with you? Tweet us @sail_trail

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