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  • Narrowboat security: How to keep you, your boat and your possessions safe


    This article is going to outline the many ways you can keep secure whether you’re on the water or away from your narrowboat.

    While we suggest you take on board all the advice below, the number one tip is, as always, to get a comprehensive insurance policy. You can safeguard all you wish but accidents do happen, and they can be costly. Always remember to shop around to get the best deal for you.


    narrowboat boat canal security

    Keeping your boat safe

    • Chain your narrowboat to its mooring, rather than using ropes. There’s been an increase of incidents where boats have been set afloat after ropes have been hacked through or knots undone.
    • Fit your boat with a GPS (like these ones) and alarm system (like this one!). Hopefully the alarm system will scare off any intruders before too much damage is done, but should someone successfully commandeer your boat, the GPS will allow you to track them down, as well as informing you and the police the moment your boat moves.
    • Fit your engine with an immobiliser – this means no one other than you will be able to start the engine of your narrowboat.
    • If you are worried about people smashing windows you can fit them with secure shutters. This is definitely a good idea if you plan on being away from your boat for a long period.
    • All access points to your narrowboat (doors, hatches, windows) should have a heavy weight locking system to ensure they are as impenetrable as possible.


    Keeping your possessions safe

    • Ensure all your valuables have your name and contact details written on them in UV pen. While this won’t deter thieves, it will help you recover your items.
    • Don’t leave anything on display even if you’re on the boat, and shut your curtains when you’re on the towpath. You only need to turn your back for a second for some chancer to lean on to your narrowboat and take what they can get.
    • If you keep anything on the roof of your boat overnight or when you are away, make sure they are securely attached to your boat, or you have someone keeping a very watchful eye over them. You could also invest in secure roof boxes - but do be careful of low bridges!
    • Fuel is expensive, and canals are filled with people looking to siphon off a can or two so make sure yours is kept safe with a lockable filler cap.


    narrowboat security canal

    Keeping you safe

    • Try and let someone know where you are going and when you think you’ll be back at all times – this is especially important at night and in the winter when there is chance of slipping on ice. However, accidents happen on canals and you should apply this rule even if it’s a summer’s day.
    • If you’re living or staying alone on a narrowboat it might be an idea to have the local police on speed dial if a situation should arise where you could be vulnerable.
    • Keep your ropes tidy to avoid tripping, and be careful when walking on a wet deck.
    • If you’re cruising alone, always where a lifejacket on board. It might seem inconvenient, but it’s just not worth the risk not to.


    SHOP NOW: We’ve got a great range of lifejackets, GPS systems, alarms and locks in store.

  • 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.

  • A Guide to Healthy Holiday Eating

    healthy sail

    For most of us, time away from home goes hand-in-hand with a glitch in our attempts to eat healthily; it seems a lot easier to reach for the junk food, ready meals, or whatever is your particular temptation when you’re in the holiday mood. With obesity, diabetes, and heart disease on the rise, eating a balanced diet and staying healthy has to be a priority, whatever the circumstances.

    At Sail and Trail we’re here to tell you that you don’t need to return home filled with dread at the thought of stepping on the scales. Follow these tips on how to eat healthily while you're holidaying in your caravan or narrowboat, and, who knows, you may even come back a bit lighter than you left.


    Use What You Have

    The culinary equipment you have at hand will differ from one caravan or narrowboat to another, but most set-ups will include at least two gas rings. In this case, keep your recipes simple; wholesome soups made from fresh vegetables, stews that only require one big pot, or steamed vegtables with fish or meat panfried in a small amount of oil are good starting points for healthy, satisfying meals.

    Storage is often at a premium too, so don’t go for recipes that require a lot of ingredients. Before you set off, why not write a list of recipes that suits your particular kitchen set-up, to avoid the stress of last minute decisions. Depending on your situation, barbeques are a great way of keeping your meals healthy; the disposable types are cheap and easy to come by, but don’t forget to buy a stand or place them on rocks to avoid burnt patches on the grass. Stick to cuts of quality meat and fish with vegetables for optimum nutrition, rather than hotdogs and cheap burgers.


    The Eat-Well Plate

    Try and keep the proportion of the food on your plate looking like this:

    healthy eating mix














    By including plenty of vegetables, you’ll feel fuller without taking on too many calories, as well as getting all the essential vitamins and minerals that are so important. A great way of making sure you’re keeping your foods in the correct ratio, and sticking to a healthy portion size, is to use a divided plate, like this one, which is available from Sail and Trail.

    As well as being durable, lightweight, and stackable for storage efficiency, the Corelle divided plate comes with a warranty and is microwave and dishwasher safe.


    Local Produce

    Wherever you’re travelling to, chances are there’ll be some seasonal, local produce that you can try. If you’re heading for a rural destination, keep your eyes open for local smalholders selling fruit, vegetables, or other goods from their homes. You might also want to look online or ask around to find out when the local market is; farmers’ markets are a great way of getting incredibly tasty ingredients that don’t require fancy cooking; the quality of the food will speak for itself.


    Get Creative

    Don’t be tied down to the idea that caravan or narrowboat holidays are synonymous with tinned food. Before you leave, do some research on local cuisine for ideas of recipes that are inkeeping with the culinary tastes of the area you’re visiitng. See your cooking as another way of exploring the place, rather than an inconvenience.


    Be Realistic

    Having said all this, we know that a holiday without the occasional treat just isn’t the same; you deserve the occasional indulgence, and you can factor these in so you don’t feel guilty about them. Be realistic about what you can manage, and set your goals accordingly. When planning your time, choose activities that require plenty of movement to really maximise on your efforts to eat well.










  • The Essential Generator Maintenance Guide


    If you’ve taken the time and money to invest in a generator for your caravan or narrowboat, it’s definitely worth your while to keep it in tip-top condition to lengthen its lifespan; the last thing you need when you arrive at your idyllic destination is to find that your prided piece of kit fails to start.

    Here at Sail and Trail, we’ve put together the essential guide to keeping your generator healthy and happy, and your holiday time stress-free.

    Generators suitable for recreational use fall into two broad categories: petrol fuelled, and LPG fuelled. Each of these types require slightly different handling for maintenance, but most of these guidelines are relevant for both.


    Kipor Suitcase Generator for Caravan Camping

    Service Regularly

    ‘Prevention is the best cure’ is a saying that’s probably overused, but never was it more true than for your generator. Serviced regularly, preferably every six months, a generator will provide you with reliable service for many a year.

    Left unused and uncared for, it’s likely to give up the ghost within the first five.  A quick search of the internet or Yellow Pages should provide you with an engineer who specialises in servicing them.

    If you are particularly mechanically minded, you may want to try some of these service tasks yourself, but it’s still a good idea to have a professional look over the unit regularly in case you’ve missed something.

    The service should include:

     1) Checking the distilled water in the battery and topping it up, and checking the voltage

     2) Changing the lubricant oil and filters; an air cooled generator needs its oil replaced every 30-40 hours, and a liquid cooled one every 100 hours.

     3) Cleaning the spark plugs, and replacing if necessary.

     4) Checking the gasket head and piston.

     5) Calibrating the fuel pump, turbocharger, injectors, and voltage regulator.


    Essential Checks

    SDMO quiet generator for camping and caravanning

    As well as professional maintenance, there are some simple tasks that even the least technical among us can perform. Inspect the unit for corroded elements, loose wires, bolts that may have come loose from vibration, and stuck buttons.

    Start your generator regularly, on at least four occasions a year, with two start-ups on each occasion. Before you do so, remove any debris or leaves that may have gathered in or around the unit, as these are a major cause of generator damage.

    For LPG generators, check the gas cylinder for corrosion, and rubber elements for any sign of perishing.



    Make sure the unit is stored in a dry place, under cover and free of debris. For petrol generators, remember that the fuel has a shelf life of only a few months; add some fuel stabiliser and it should keep its efficacy for around a year.

    LPG will last for a lot longer, but make sure you detach the bottle from the unit and store it separately, upright so the pressure relief valve sits in the vapour section of the cylinder.


  • 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.


  • What You Must Know Before Taking Your Caravan Abroad  


    Taking your caravan abroad is an option that has some great benefits; you get the independence of moving when and where you like, while bringing your own little piece of home with you. The rules of the road vary from place to place, so we’ve given you a checklist of things you need to consider before you set off for Europe or the Republic Of Ireland.


    Plan Ahead

    It’s wise to be familiar with your route, carrying either maps or a satnav which functions in the countries you’re visiting.

    Check your vehicle and caravan thoroughly before you leave to make sure they’re roadworthy, examining the tyres of your caravan for tread, bulges and perished rubber especially as they’re often a hotspot for roadside trouble. Don’t forget to manually adjust your headlights or buy converters to do the job for you.


    caravan europe



    You’ll need to phone your insurance provider to make sure you’re covered wherever you’re going.

    Make sure, also that you’ve got breakdown cover for all the countries you’ll be visiting, and have the contact details for them along with a mobile phone that operates in Europe; being stuck on a foreign motorway with no help in sight is not a pleasurable way to spend your holiday!



    It’s essential that you have the passports for everyone that’s travelling, your insurance certificate, an MOT certificate for your car if its more than 3 years old, your V5C (log book) and of course your driving license. It’s also a good idea to have a European Health Insurance Card for everyone on board in case you need to make use of the medical system.


    Check the Legalities

    Speed limits can vary from one country to the next, and it isn’t always apparent what the limit is on every road. In France, for example, when you enter a built up area, the speed limit automatically goes down to 50km/h, and for heavily populated residential streets may be 30km/h, with no signage.

    For a full list of the speed limits in European countries, see this webpage: http://www.caravanclub.co.uk/overseas-holidays/advice-and-information/compulsory-requirements/speed-limits

    It’s also worth noting that in most European countries it’s illegal to have a navigation system or program that alerts you to the presence of mobile speed cameras, or speed traps; in France, Germany and Switzerland, if you’ve got a satnav you’ll need to disable the fixed speed camera alerts as they’re prohibited too.

    If you’re planning to tow a car, the safest option is to have a trailer so all 4 wheels of the vehicle are off the ground. The law on A-frames is a bit hazy and seems to depend on how the local police interpret it; while some have had no trouble with using these abroad, others have faced on-the-spot fines.



    What you’re required to carry with you as you travel varies from country to country. All EU countries dictate that you must carry a warning triangle, and you’ll need two in Spain or Croatia.

    In Spain you’ll also need a marker board for the rear of your caravan, which should be a plain yellow square with a red border.

    Other equipment you are at least recommended, and in some countries required, to have with you are: a fire extinguisher, a reflective jacket, a first-aid kit, spare glasses if you need them, spare headlight bulbs, and snow tires or chains in icy conditions.

  • 10 Top Tips for Boating with Kids

    Sharing the joys of boats with your children is an incredible thing to do, but of course there are many stresses that come with it. So we thought we'd find out some expert tips to help underake this big task, and who more suited for the role than Mumsnet Devon co-editor and boating blogger Gina Caro!?


    boating sailing children kids


    "Boating with children can be a real a mixture of heaven and hell all rolled into one! Having learnt though experience as the years have gone on here are a few of my top tips with you which may help to make the whole experience more pleasurable.


    • Plan, Plan and Plan some more!

    We have found this to be crucial when boating with young ones. The more you can pre plan your journeys the easier the journey will be. Think about how long each voyage is and where you can stop along the way for a break.


    • Explain the Rules

    This one is really important! Make sure everyone understands the rules that they must abide by whilst on the water. No running, no jumping, no touching ropes etc.


    • Pack entertainment

    This is a must when you have children on board as they have very short attention spans. The last thing you want is a major meltdown halfway along your journey with nowhere to escape. We always keep a selection of board games on the boat for such situations.


    boating sailing kids children


    • Pack medicines

    Always make sure that you have an up to date first aid kit and some children’s pain relief medication. There’s nothing worse than having a child with something wrong on the water and you don’t have the equipment to help them.


    • Pack Snacks

    Make sure that you pack a few nibbles to have along the way. We personally have a stash of biscuits that we call ‘mooring biscuits’ which the kiddies are allowed to eat when the adults are at the crucial point of mooring and don’t want any distractions.


    • Get them involved

    Kids are naturally curious; if you get them involved in what you are doing they will enjoy the journey that much more. Show them how to tie different knots or what the different controls do.


    • Stop to Fish

    If you can, invest in some fishing rods so you can break up the longer journeys with a spot of fishing. We cook up whatever we catch that evening for supper.


    • Give them job titles

    We each have a role on our boat, there’s The Captain, The First Mate, The Cabin Boy and The Lookout. Explain to the child what their role entails and you’ll find they will take great pride in it.


    • Avoid bad weather

    You may be an all-weather sailor but I can guarantee that your children won’t be. Children get very grumpy when they are too wet or too cold. It’s best to stick to fair or sunny days if you want an enjoyable journey. You also don’t want to scare them with rough seas otherwise they might not want to go again. Remember to pack lots of extra clothes also just in case the weather turns.


    • Make it fun!

    The ultimate goal of any boating parent is to get the kids into boating which isn’t going to happen if you spend the whole time shouting at them. Boating with kids can be very stressful but it’s also very rewarding."


    For more insight on Gina's boating adventures with her children, visit her blog here!


  • 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 clean your caravan - our top tips

    With summer fast approaching, if you haven’t quite got round to it yet, now’s the time you might want to grab your rubber gloves and think about giving your caravan a good clean.

    While caravan washing isn't everyone's favourite task, thankfully, there are lots of products out there specifically designed for caravans which makes things easier. Here’s our short guide on the best way to clean your caravan:

    The essentials

    • Water: whether it’s from a hose, a power washer or a bucket or Dry Wash, which works on any surface even if you don’t have access to water.
    • Sponges, mops with clean heads and drying cloths.
    • For cleaning, you are going to need shampoo, tyre cleaner, window cleaning spray, etc.
    • Other essentials include elbow grease, V-shaped ladder with platform/ scaffold plate, finishing wax, toothbrush, Chamois leather etc.


    When to start cleaning

    • Once you have all these items ready, you can start the cleaning process. The best time to clean is a calm cloudy day – if it’s too sunny or windy your caravan will dry before you can do it yourself, leaving you with streaks and drips.
    • If the day is windy or sunny, it’s preferable to wash one side and rinse it and then start another side to avoid streaks forming.


     The process

    clean caravan
    • Always start from the top of the caravan. Place the ladder so you can comfortably reach the whole roof with the long brush. Use cleaning solution wisely and remove all algae, streaks, paint or other form of dirt that may have accumulated. You may need to move the ladder around to access all parts.
    • Hot water is great at removing bird waste and insect eggs from your caravan. Snowfoam can also be used for this purpose effectively. You can make your own with some detergent in a canister.
    • Use a specific canopy cleaner like this one for your awnings.
    • Side panels should be cleaned with a noodle mitt or soft brush. You can also use a microfibre cloth for this purpose. Make sure that you leave the cleaning solution on for some time (10 min. approx.) before going ahead.
    • Windows should be stripped of all dirt before cleaning them with the microfibre cloth. You can also use Chamois leathers, although they are expensive and may not produce the desired results. Finally, you should use a glass cleaner for extra shine – we recommend this one as it’s both heavy duty and biodegradable.
    • Compressed air cleaners or felt brushes are very effective in cleaning roof lights. Use them to reach inaccessible spots.
    • Overwintering spray and wax should be used at the end to make it easier to clean your caravan next time.



    • When you wash your caravan or motorhome be careful not to let the water seep inside. For this, you need to maintain a good distance, which can be easily done with a hosepipe or bucket to ease pressure.
    • Washing up liquid can be damaging to your caravan so if you used it by mistake apply polish to the area to immediately.
    • Do not use hard brush on plastic windows. This will result in scratches.
    • Buy larger microfibers to prevent wringing.


    These tips will save you a lot of effort when cleaning your caravan. Follow them diligently and your caravan will stay cleaner for longer and require less maintenance in the future.

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