What’s It Like To Live On A Narrowboat?

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.
Narrowboat

Marina

Marina

Inside the narrowboat

Inside the narrowboat

Inside the narrowboat

Inside the narrow boat

Inside the narrow boat

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.

Narrowboat on the river

Narrowboat on the river

Lock

Managing the locks

Managing the locks

Narrowboat moored up

Moored up in Stanstead Abbotts

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. July 22, 2016 / 9:56 pm

    As I said, I don’t really own much stuff. My only real indulgence is two guitars. I can only play one at a time, right? But “wants” sometimes over ride “needs.”

  2. July 15, 2016 / 10:24 pm

    Having lived on sailboats and worked on deliveries of them around the world, I can say there is nothing like it. You learn how much “stuff” you really don’t need.

    Now, I live in a small condo in Brazil about a ten-minute walk from the ocean. Compared even to my largest boat (32) feet, this seems luxurious. But I still don’t have a TV and only a cell phone. but that’s become very common today. I may sell this place now that I am alone and move back onto a boat. The main problem is, the only marinas here are far from all my friends and family.

    • Lauren Pears
      July 22, 2016 / 9:45 pm

      Yes, I think my dad has learned how much he doesn’t need- he doesn’t have TV or internet on his boat. It seems like a lovely way to live in some ways. A condo near the ocean in Brazil sounds beautiful, I think the world is depending too much on owning “stuff.”

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