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  • Top tips for your first winter on a narrowboat

    winter narrowboat

    Narrowboat living all seemed so lovely during summer, the long evenings, watching ducklings become ducks and general social canal life.

    But soon the sun will be replaced with long dreary mornings and ice cold wind, so just what do you need to survive your first winter on a narrowboat?

     

    Inside is warmer than you think!

    First things first, a relatively modern narrowboat is actually pretty cosy inside. Most will have central heating as standard and if you have a fire as well, you can keep warm for free with kindling gathered from the towpath.

    It probably goes without saying that other top tips for keeping warm include dressing in layers and moving  around for extra heat.

     

    But outside is colder ….

    Hyperthermia is a real risk for anyone spending too long outside in the cold damp weather. Make sure you don’t spend too long outside in one go, and you have proper winter clothing and a good supply of hot drinks.

     

    Prepare for hold ups

    If you plan to keep on cruising during the winter it is important to realise you may need to be flexible with your plans. If the canal freezes over you can cause serious damage to your boat if you try to force your way through it. Make an itinerary that takes into account you may be hauled up for a couple of days while you wait for the ice to subside.

    If you are held up by ice, under no circumstances walk on it – nor let your dog or cat. It could be much thinner than you think and drowning is a real risk.

     

    Prevent burst pipes

    Not only are burst water pipes expensive, a pain to fix, and a creator of huge amounts of mess, they also leave you without central heating - something no one wants in the dead of winter.

    To try and prevent this, make sure you have about 30% anti-freeze in your water and heating system.

     

    Be safe

    A dark, slippery towpath is not your friend. If you are heading out alone always carry a torch and a charged phone and tell somebody where you are going. A safety whistle is also good idea in case you slip into the canal.

     

     

  • Get Your Narrowboat Ready for Winter

     

    narrowboat boat winterIt may only just be autumn, but with the threat of one of the coldest winters on record coming up, it can never be too soon to start getting your narrowboat ready for dropping temperatures.

    If you are planning on staying on your boat over winter, it is still worthwhile reading through the below tips, as certain wintery activities (like trying to move your boat in a frozen canal!) can cause serious damage.

    Let us help you avoid making some expensive repairs come spring with the following tips:

     

     

    1) Keep an eye on it

    Be sure also to regularly check up your boat (or arrange for someone else to do it) even if you’re keeping it in a super-secure yard.  This is especially important if you are planning on leaving expensive bits of kit on board (like your generator) which might be a target for thieves.

    On top of that, ensure your insurance is up to date and you have a decent lock and / or other security measures in place.

    It’s also recommended that once a month you visit your boat to run the engine for half an hour or so to reduce rust and boost the battery life.

     

     

    2) Avoid mould

    As well as removing expensive items from your narrowboat such as the generator and electrical goods (if practical) – it is also a good idea to take out all soft furnishings.

    If left over winter these can get damp and start to get mouldy, making for an unpleasant return in the spring. Instead, give a good wash and keep in a warm, dry place until you need them again.

    On top of that, it’s a good idea to give the whole interior a good clean, just in case there are any nasties waiting to grow in your absence. We recommend our Campermate Cleaning range.

     

    narrowboat boats canal

    3) Lag your pipes

    Burst water pipes are a nightmare at the best of times, even worse if not dealt with for a long period of time so make sure you lag all your pipes and ensure you have at least 30% of anti-freeze in your water and heating systems.

    If you know for sure you won’t be back in the boat for a while it can be worth it to drain all water out of the boat and disconnect all pumps.

    Leave the taps turned on and the shower head removed.

     

    4) Store your generator safely

    You must store your generator in a gas-tight locker, whether it’s LPG or petrol.

    To get the best out of your generator, also read our Essential Generator Maintenance Guide.

     

    5) Service the engine

    The best thing to do here is read the manufacturer’s instructions and follow accordingly, as service instructions may vary.

    In most cases the oil should be changed, engine antifreeze topped up and WD-40 sprayed liberally to keep the damp away.

    As mentioned above, be sure to give the engine a quick run once a month to limit problems in the spring.

  • England’s best canal-side pubs

     

    Whether you are pulling up to the bar from the water or land, England is host to a wide range of glorious canal-side pubs.

    And despite no promises of sunshine, we can’t think of a better place to spend a long lunch, or lazy evening.

    It was a tough job, but here are some of our favourites (in no particular order):

     

    narrowboat canal

    1) The Narrowboat, London

    Situated directly on Regent’s Canal in Islington this pub attracts people from all over London who love its proximity to the canal.

    We think the food on offer is great too and they are famous for their Sunday roasts. Be warned though, this is London, and you won’t see much change from a tenner for two pints.

     

    2) The Blue Lias, Warwickshire

    If you aren’t local or pulling up in your narrowboat, The Blue Lias also has two large fields you can caravan in from April to October - and we recommend you do as it’s one of the finest canalside pubs we know.

    Whilst it’s wonderful to experience the pub in summer, it also offers a delicious winter menu. Because it’s small (and popular) it does get crowded at times, but we think that only is a good thing.

     

    3) The Saracan’s Head, Lancashire

    Boasting an all-day menu this pub is great for both drinks and food. Beautiful and airy on the inside it also has a big garden outside for when the sun shines.

    Right next to the Halsall Warehouse Bridge, there are some great walks nearby. It’s on the banks of the Leeds Liverpool canal and (we think!) home to some of the friendliest staff in the business.

     

    narrowboat canal

    4) The Three Horseshoes, Hemel Hempstead

    Even when the sun isn’t out this 16th century pub is worth visiting thanks to its roaring log fire indoors. If the sun does come out, well you’re in for a treat as you can sit right on the edge of the towpath gazing at the local wildlife as the sun sets.

    Serving both food and drink, this is a very popular spot.

     

    5) The Two Boats, Warwickshire

    It’s another entry for Warwickshire, but the country does possess a very fine stretch of canal – so we might be a little biased!

    The Two Boats is a beautiful old pub with tonnes of character and good beer on tap, though it’s its chunky chips that regulars all rave about. A really great place just to sit and watch the world go by or pull up for lunch on your narrowboat.

  • 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 keep a family narrowboat holiday fun!

    While there really is nothing more delightful than a family break on the waterways, sometimes things don't always run as smoothly as they do on dry land - especially if rain gets involved!

    However, with a little preparation a narrowboating holiday with your children can become both an entertaining and educational experience.

    Here's how to have a  really memorable trip:

    canal narrowboat narrowboating children kids

    Get back to nature

    The British canal and waterway system is simply teeming with life, with birds, insects, fish and mammals all living in abundance within short reach of the banks. This is a great chance for your kids to explore nature and learn more about the environment – if you have the inclination you can even use it as an opportunity to explain more about the impact humans have on the land by pointing out the effects of littering and pollution.

    There is also something beautifully therapeutic about feeding the ducks. For most Brits it’s actually our earliest encounter with any sort of wild animal and even adults can get involved with this enjoyable pastime – which is twice as fun when you’re doing it from the deck of your own canal boat. Turn it into a game with the kids and see how many ducks they can get following the boat and your Hansel & Gretel-esque trail of floating breadcrumbs.

    Get active

    A canal boat holiday is rife with opportunities for getting the children active. They can help with steering and mooring the boat, opening and closing the locks as well as simply running or walking alongside it. Canal paths are also a great, safe space to ride their bikes, and with one person needed on the towpath anyway to open and close the locks, they’ll have somebody close by to supervise them. When not in use the bikes can be secured to the roof.

     

    canal narrowboat narrowboating children kids

    Enjoy flexible fun

    One of the greatest things about life on the waterways is the flexibility it affords you – if you have very tiny kids they may not be ready for a full fortnight away from home so a single week would be better, or you may want to take things slow and moor up for a few days at a time – spinning out your trip over multiple weeks. Whatever suits you and your children, you can arrange it with a narrowboat holiday.

    Essentials to bring on a family canal boat holiday

    • Board games –a wide selection will ensure some indoor entertainment when the weather turns bad.
    • Waterproofs – this is Britain remember and there is nothing to put a literal dampener on things than feeling a bit soggy.
    • Dogs – your furry friend is going to love the canal as much as you do. Just remember to bring all their associated gear: leads, bowls, bed and the all-important poo bags!
    • Books – it wouldn't be a real boating holiday without a bedtime reading of  Kenneth Graeme’s The Wind in the Willows.

     

     

     

     

  • 5 simple healthy summer recipes to cook in your caravan or narrowboat

     

    It's almost beginning to feel like the sun is going to break out from behind the clouds. Could it be that summer is actually here?

    We can never be sure in the UK, but just in case, we’ve put together some of our favourite recipes for meals to enjoy on a sunny day. Staying healthy when you’re enjoying a caravan or narrowboat break, can be difficult, but we’ve picked a selection of our favourite filling but healthy recipes.

    These are all tried and tested, though the occasional packet of crisps has been known to sneak in!

     

    healthy recipe caravan narrowboat

    1) Breakfast Tacos

    This super filling breakfast (or lunch or dinner!) dish is not only incredibly easy to make, but also easy to multiply up or down depending on how many hungry mouths you have to feed.

    All you need to do is beat the eggs, spinach and seasoning in a pan, line the tortilla with chopped avocado and some salsa, and add the egg mixture when cooked.

    The dish is filled with brain boosting ingredients, which is handy if you have a day of map reading ahead!

    Ingredients (per person): 1 tortilla, handful chopped spinach, ½ an avocado, some salsa, salt and pepper, 2-3 eggs.

    Optional Ingredients: You can make your taco as fancy as you like, add mushrooms, chicken, sweetcorn, anything!

    Top Tip: If you want to further reduce the fat content, use only the egg whites for the omelette part.

     

    healthy recipe caravan narrowboat

    2) Garlic Prawn and Any Bean Pasta

    The smell of garlic cooking is enough to get anyone’s mouth watering, and this delicious recipe is high in protein, making it super filling. Put your pasta on to cook, and five minutes before the pasta is ready, start cooking the oil, garlic and prawns in another pan for two minutes.

    Then add the beans, cook for a further two minutes (or until the prawns are pink), combine the contents of the two pans and serve with a generous douse of squeezed lemon.

    Ingredients (per person): Handful of pasta (wholegrain is preferable), 5-8 prawns, any green bean or pea (eg runner bean, mangetout etc), 2-3 garlic cloves, olive oil.

    Optional Ingredients: Add chilli for a kick and shallots for texture.

    Top Tip: If you are on your boat or your caravan is near water, try and find a local fisherman who may be able to sell you prawns caught that day.

     

    3) Hawaiian Pizza Wrap

    If you’re craving pizza, but trying to be good this summer, then the pizza wrap is for you!

    Like in your favourite pizza joint; simply the toppings to make your favourite pizza - but instead of spreading over a base, spread the ingredients on your wrap, fold up and you’re ready to go.

    Ingredients (per person): 1 low-fat tortilla, 3 sliced pineapple chunks, 1 tomato sliced, sprinkling low-fat grated mozzarella, 2 slices ham.

    Optional Ingredients: Add sliced black olives and a sprinkling of oregano to create more of a pizza feel.

    Top Tip: This dish is delicious hot or cold, if you’d prefer the cheese to melt you can dry cook the wrap in a frying pan - or pop in your microwave for 20 seconds if you have one.

     

    healthy recipe caravan narrowboat

    4) Bacon & Egg Salad

    Turn your guilty morning fry up into a delicious healthy meal with this crowd pleaser of a dish that is easily made in either a caravan or narrowboat kitchen. First hard boil your egg(s), then when they are cooking, assemble the salad. Peel and quarter the egg(s) and add to your salad before finally frying the fat-trimmed bacon. If you have a kitchen towell to hand soak, up all the bacon’s excess fat, cut it up and toss on. Perfect!

    Ingredients (per person): As much lettuce as you'd like, sweetcorn, tomatoes, cucumber, 1 slice of bacon, 1-2 eggs, low-fat dressing, salt and pepper.

    Top tip: If you have a grill, use that instead to cook the bacon.

     

    5) Creamy Chicken

    Don’t be fooled - just because this dish is creamy, doesn't mean it's not healthy and it's just perfect after a day of exploring in your caravan or boat. Start off by lightly frying the onions and chicken in a pan, add chopped peppers and cherry tomatoes, and when the peppers are cooked add the cream cheese. Stir until melted and serve with wholegrain rice.

    Ingredients (per person): Handful of cooked rice, 1 chicken breast, 6 cherry tomatoes, 1/3 bell pepper, 1/2 onion, 2 tbsp super low-fat cream cheese.

    Top Tip: Some people like to add lemon or lime to the dish, but do so after serving as it can cause the

  • Should I Get Solar Panels for my Caravan or Motorhome?

    Getting away from it all is a wonderful experience, but as much as we love getting back to nature not having electricity can make for a miserable trip.

    While many people opt for a LPG generator, there are actually huge benefits to investing in portable solar panels to power your appliances when camping, caravanning or boating;

    solar panels generator caravan motorhome
    • Solar panels help you save money - the sun’s energy is free!

    Not only is a portable solar panel cheaper than a generator but you'll also no longer be spending money on petrol, LPG or diesel for a generator. The more you use it, the more your solar panel will begin to pay for itself.

    • Solar Panels are good for the environment

    First of all, solar panels don't produce carbon emissions and secondly if you knock your panel over by accident there won’t be any dangerous spillages.

    • They make little to no noise.

    If you find the constant buzzing of a generator ruins a peaceful getaway then solar panels will make a welcome change to your caravan or boat holiday.

    • They are more portable than a generator.

    In fact, you can fold up portable solar panels.

    • They don’t actually rely on it being sunny.

    Logically you would assume that for a solar panel to work it has to be sunny. However, this isn’t actually the case and your panel will still generate energy in cloudy conditions. It is important for them not to be too shaded, though.

    While your solar panel won’t work at night, the energy it produces in the day can be stored in a battery.

    solar panel caravan motorhome

    However, it is important to bear in what your solar panel will actually be able to power:

    What can I power with a 40-Watt solar panel?

    A 40-Watt solar panel like this one will be able to power a wide range of small objects you might want to take away on your caravan or motorhome holiday including a clock radio, stereo, mobile and tablet.

    What can I power  with a 60-Watt solar panel?

    A 60-watt solar panel (which we sell for £240) is enough to recharge your laptop, tablet or smartphone, as well as to generate enough electricity to power a lightbulb (though be sure to check the wattage before you take to the road!).

    Depending on the wattage you may also be able to power items like a portable fridge as well as all the things a 40-Watt solar panel can power.

    What can I power with a 90-Watt solar panel?

    We sell a 90-Watt solar panel for £299 and with this you should be able to power items like a fan, run a mac book pro, even a printer and tv should you want.

    You will also be able to power all the things a 40-Watt and 60-Watt solar panel can power.

     One last thing:

    And finally, another thing worth remembering is that while there has been a lot in the news about home and landowners being paid by the government to generate solar electricity (Feed In Tariff) this scheme does not apply to off grid devices.

     

  • 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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