I don’t know about you but when we’re about to make a huge life decision we discuss the pros and cons, if the pros outweigh the cons then we go ahead. That was very much the case when we decided to buy and live aboard a narrowboat. But what we have learnt is that some of the things we thought to be pros aren’t actually correct and so we thought we’d try and help all of you who are making this decision by clarifying what are some good reasons to buy a narrowboat as well as some bad reasons to buy a narrowboat so that when you come to make your pros and cons list you are better informed than we were.
So let’s start with the bad reasons, the reasons you shouldn’t buy a narrowboat
To save money
When you look at a narrowboat it’s hard to imagine that it would cost much money to live the lifestyle, after all you are essentially just living in a vehicle but trust us when we tell you that if one of the reasons you are looking to buy and live aboard a narrowboat is for a quick way to save some money then you might be shocked. Each month we pay for our permanent mooring, our CRT licence as well as our boat insurance and breakdown cover. We have to top up our electricity meter the same as you do in a house and our gas bottles need replacing semi regularly. Every 4 years or so our boat will need to be taken out of the water in order to be blacked which costs anywhere from £800 – £1500 which we have to account for in our savings as well as the regular Boat Safety Certificate we need to get regularly, all of which costs money which needs to be saved for. These are just the things that are required in order to live on the boat, the up keep of a narrowboat is a never ending cost in tools and paint, rust proofing and improvements and that’s assuming you’re happy to do all these works yourself. It’s amazing how quickly the costs of owning a narrowboat can spiral so if you’re listing saving money as a pro you might want to reconsider that.
For an easy life
It’s easy to see why you put this one on your pros list, when you walk down the towpath in the summer and see all those smug boaters lounging on their boats sipping their G&T’s and enjoying the easy life and yes, there certainly are times where it can be simple but the work those boaters have had to do that day to get to that point and the work they will do in that evening because they have taken the time off certainly isn’t easy. Every aspect of living aboard a narrowboat needs consideration, you have to make sure you have enough fuel to be able to light your fire or run your oven, is your water filled and if not you have another chore to do that. Things you take for granted such as turning on your taps require extra attention when you are on a narrowboat and even then there are boating tasks you wouldn’t imagine you have to complete. Never in my planning stage did I think I would be mopping out a pool of oily water from the engine bay for 3 hours or being shoulder deep in canal water pulling fishing line out of a propeller but here I am, arm still wet having done both of those things, it’s all part of the ‘easy’ life aboard a narrowboat.
For a quiet private life
It seems tranquil on the canal when you are looking in from the outside, there’s never really anyone on the towpath and very few boats on the water so you’d be forgiven for believing that, but you have to remember that while you are walking passed the boat moored up, taking a sneak peek through the window at their lovely interior while there’s no one else in site, that for the boater you are not the first of the day doing exactly that and you certainly won’t be the last. The towpath is full of dog walkers, cyclists, fisherman and walkers every day and they are in close proximity to where you will be living so while it can be quiet it’s never the same as being able to lock yourself away in your own house and even when you do shut your doors be prepared to lock eyes with people curiously peering into your house.
That’s the bad reasons for wanting to buy a narrowboat out of the way so let’s get to some good reasons that you might not have considered.
To have a more interesting day to day
Yes we’ve already told you that living aboard a narrowboat is not an easy life but that doesn’t mean that it’s not an interesting one! You’ll be forever presented with new and interesting challenges when living aboard a narrowboat, simple chores require you to do new things and each day seems to be different. To give an example of this we can take a look at my last few days on the boat, 3 days ago I spent the evening adding ballast to the boat and balancing out our possessions so that the boat sat level in the water, 2 days ago I was identifying a problem with our electric system which was causing our fuses to trip and resolving it by weatherproofing our shore power connection and 1 day ago I was mopping out the bilge. All of these are simply necessary chores aboard a narrowboat but they sure did make my day more interesting than if I’d been living in a house doing the equivalent tasks!
To learn to become more practical and self sufficient
While it may be more difficult than when you live in a house, you can still find people to come and fix any problem you might be having on your narrowboat you have to factor in not only the added cost of getting one of these specialists in to help but also the time it will take before they can get to you. There simply aren’t many narrowboat specialists out there these days and so they are in high demand and come with high prices so soon enough you will find yourself learning how to be more practical and self sufficient when it comes to fixing and improving your narrowboat. Thankfully with a little time and a lot of confidence everything on your boat is relatively simple to deal with and you’ll soon develop the ability to tinker with everything to keep it all going after all that’s half the fun of owning a boat, the hands on maintenance!
To downsize your life
In reality 40-60ft of narrowboat is really not a lot of space, especially when a chunk of it is uncovered decks and even more of it is filled with necessary tools needed for boat living and so it’s a great chance for you to find out what it is you really value from all of the possessions you have filled your house with. When you only have a small wardrobe and a few draws you soon realise there’s little point in holding onto that shirt you don’t particularly like and instead use the space for another t-shirt you wear weekly. The “nice to haves” quickly become “no needed” and you soon forget you ever kept hold of them for the last decade. Moving onto a narrowboat doesn’t mean living a minimalistic lifestyle but it does mean making conscious choices with what is important to you.
To have a great conversation starter
We’ll be the first to admit that we aren’t the world’s greatest conversationalists and so having something which people find interesting to talk about at all times has been an amazing bonus for us. At the sheer mention of living on a narrowboat there are always a tonne of follow up questions and before you know it you are deep in conversation explaining where your sink water goes and how you shower. We were surprised how interested people were in living on a boat and even more surprised at how many conversations with strangers it started when we were even on the move cruising. However it’s not just strangers you will have conversation starters with, it’s a wonderful community to be a part of and you immediately have a major thing in common with any other boater. Before long you will trade advice and tips on living aboard and share stories of the horrors you have seen and experienced. Living on a narrowboat is a lot of fun and gives you a life worth commenting on!
So there we have it, a little list of bad reasons to consider living aboard a narrowboat and a list of good reasons, we hope that these might be helpful for you and that you go into narrowboat owning with your eyes wide open!