Living aboard a narrowboat probably appeals to a lot of people; its cheap, mobile and its an alternative lifestyle. My dad lives aboard a narrowboat; a 40 foot with a Lister SR3 engine called “Puffin.” And he’s loving the boat life: “I love the freedom, its a cheap way to live, its a different way to live and you get to meet a lot of interesting people.” Whenever I mention to someone that he lives full time on a narrowboat, they’re always quite fascinated by this, so I thought I’d write about it.
Puffin has a toilet, a shower, 2 beds, a kitchen and a living area, as well as space on deck to sit outside. Many people who live on narrowboats spend a lot of time moored up at a marina, which is a dock where you can moor up your boat in what feels like a little village. My dad has so far spent his time on Puffin at a marina village, which has a shower and toilet block, a cafe, electricity and water hookups and other facilities, which makes boat life a little more convenient than life on the open river.
When I first went inside Puffin, I was very surprised at how homely and cosy it was. There was a fireplace to keep yourself warm, a stove, a kettle to make tea and coffee and comfy sofas.
I went to visit last weekend and we took Puffin out for a cruise down the River Stort and the River Lee, and ended up mooring for the night in Stanstead Abbotts. I like that side to living on a narrowboat; you’re allowed to moor up on most rivers in the UK, as long as you have a river license. There are rules and regulations to this however- you’re only allowed to moor up for 14 days, or less if there’s a sign along the bank indicating something different. As there’s around 35,000 boats sharing 2,000 miles of river in the UK, these rules do need to be in place.
Travelling along the rivers in a narrowboat requires managing the locks. Locks are situated at various points along the river and allow you to navigate up or down hill. Locks come in pairs which hold a small body of water in between them, and you have to change the water level of this by opening the appropriate lock. You open the first lock you come to, drive your boat in, and then close the lock. Then, you need to pull up the second lock using a lock windlass, which lets the water gradually flow into or out of the small body of water between the two locks. This will cause the water level to rise or fall, and your boat will rise or fall with it. Finally, you open the second lock and drive through, then close the lock again. It’s requires some practice.