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Wed Feb 13, 2019 at 9:00am

Friday Facts

In addition to our regular monthly blog, we shall be posting  a new short blog entitled 'Friday Fact'.These posts will be 'short and sweet' factoids or, top tips tips from our working week which we have found interesting, useful and would like to share these with you.Hope you find them useful and interesting.

This week, is a common issue at this time of year. The waterways capture an abundance of leaves. This is due to the Autumn leaves being blown into the canal. When a narrowboat cruises through these areas of highly concentrated foliage, the vortex in the water from the prop causes them to collect around the prop and reduce its efficiency. It feels like the boat is loosing power (which is caused by this drag).

The remedy is to recognise this phenomena. Initially, put the throttle into neutral for a few seconds, then select reverse for a moment (the reverse motion of the prop will throw off the leaf doughnut which has gathered around the prop. I have experienced this myself on numerous occasions.

Please feel free to send in your top boating tips.

Happy cruising from all at Venetian Marina. 



Fri Feb 8, 2019 at 2:20pm

Friday Facts

In addition to our regular monthly blog, we shall be posting  a new short blog entitled 'Friday Fact'.

These posts will be 'short and sweet' factoids or, top tips tips from our working week which we have found interesting, useful and would like to share these with you.

Hope you find them useful and interesting.

This week, we have just received back from the repair shop and Eberspacher diesel heater unit. This unit repeatedly failed to start. The fault found was due to the unit being totally blocked up with sediment and  detritus.

So, the top tip is : A regular maintenance regime of flushing through the central heater radiators will prevent this build up.

Please feel free to comment, and please feel free to send us your 'factoids' to share.

Thu Jan 31, 2019 at 1:10pm

Its Winter 2019

Wow minus 7 last night on the marina...Now Winter is well and truly here, knowing how to deal with adverse weather conditions will make for a pleasant and trouble free winter.

Steering a narrowboat on a dry and wind free day in the summer is an easy task once you get used to the boat’s length and how to operate the tiller, but steering the same boat in wind, rain, snow and ice is a different ball game altogether. It is best to be prepared for the change in weather as you can expect every winter to be cold enough to freeze water and freezing water is a problem when you are on the canal. The other problem is stoppages; this is where sections of the canal closed off for essential repairs and maintenance.

An overnight frost will have little impact to the water in the canal, however continuous frosts and sub-zero temperatures during the day will cause the canal to ice over. If you try and cruise your vessel in anything over half an inch of ice you will be causing a strain on your engine. An inch or more and there’s a possibility of tearing a hole in your boat. More than two inches on the canal and you’re stuck!

The weather doesn’t have to be that cold for it to snow, and as pretty as it is covering the landscape like a white blanket, its treacherous when it covers your boat and you are trying to get around the outside of the boat. If you intend to keep cruising, and many boaters do like to continue cruising over the winter due to the fact there are fewer boats around and less queuing at the locks. Make sure you know where the stoppages are and pay attention to short and medium term weather forecasts.


Then get to the nearest location which has services you will need before the weather sets in. Take the precaution of pumping out your toilet tank before the bad weather hits, the contents isn’t likely to freeze and cause problems, but the water around your narrowboat will!

Being stuck on board with no toilet facilities isn’t ideal any time of the year, but in the depths of winter it’s not fun at all. If you are at a marina you can of course use their facilities, but if you are on the towpath you will have a serious problem. A way around this situation is to carry a cassette toilet in case you need it.This is something most boaters do in case of emergencies.

Most gunnels are safe to walk, providing of course you keep both hands firmly fastened to a rail or the top edge of the cabin side. A snow covered gunnel is a dangerous place to walk, extra care needs to be taken if you are going to attempt to do this. As is the same if you are venturing onto the boats roof ,if you have to go onto the roof crawl along it rather than trying to walk it will be a much safer option. Other hazards include ropes that you can trip over, narrow steps, planks, gunwales, all become potentially an accident waiting to happen especially if you add some ice to the situation. In the winter the ice, snow and rain can make your boat a very dangerous place so you need to be extra careful.

Preventing Frost Damage If you are going to be cruising, you won’t need to winterise your vessel, but if you are planning to leave your boat in the cold weather without any heating, winterising your boat is a must! There will be trouble ahead if you fail to do this. When the temperatures drop there is a risk that tanks, pumps and pipes will freeze which causes them to burst which leads to the water flooding your boat. You will agree I’m sure that water damage is very destructive.

There is a simple prevention –Winterise your boat! If you live on your narrowboat, just make sure that you top up the antifreeze in the keel cooling and water systems and radiators.  It is also a good idea to lag your water pipes too. Winterising a narrowboat is quick and easy. The general idea of this exercise is to prevent water from freezing in the pipes and bursting into the boat. Please go to our website blog for how to do this. Being prepared is what will see you through the cold days and nights. Have plenty of goodies on board as well as the practical items, carry a little extra solid fuel, make sure you have plenty of diesel.

A few extra crates of your favourite tipple wouldn’t go amiss either!!  

Happy winter cruising from Venetian Marina. 


Thu Jan 17, 2019 at 12:10pm

Narrowboat bow thrusters

A fully laden narrow boat is not the easiest of craft to manoeuvre, especially if it is windy or,your vessel is a widebeam. A bow thruster is a device built into the hull at the bow and is used for making it more manoeuvrable. It is a parking device for mooring the boat and, is not designed to be used constantly for steering the vessel.

 A Bow Thruster is an additional aid to manoeuvring a boat.  It provides a boost to make the bow/front go port/left or starboard/right without even moving the tiller and without throttling backward or forward. Please note that wind and the river current may cause the boat to drift.  In strong currents the boat may drift/move rapidly. When turning a boat using engine power and normal steering the stern/back will swing. This is not the case with a Bow Thruster.  

This is very helpful for mooring and leaving moorings.  The Bow Thruster is also very helpful  turning the boat around and when reversing as a boat is far less responsive to steering when going astern..


Fitting a bow thruster can involve some major surgery if fitted post construction. Thruster performance is determined primarily by a vessel's windage and correct thruster location. Vessel weight is not typically a major factor in thruster selection for pleasure craft, unless they routinely operate in areas where the thruster will be constantly needed to counter strong currents or winds.

Electric Or Hydraulic?

From a power standpoint, bow thruster choices come down to two options, electric and hydraulic. Electric units can be further divided into 12- or 24-volt DC types, or even the occasional AC-powered unit, although DC power is a lot more popular and our focus here. Hydraulic thrusters are a common choice for larger vessels,.

Installing a hydraulic unit while utilizing an existing centralized hydraulic power source costs less and will greatly simplify the installation. Hydraulic thrusters are quieter than electric thrusters, have greater thrust, and can operate for extended periods of time without the worry of overheating or draining battery banks. They can also provide variable-speed control with proportional control and valves. Unless you already have hydraulic systems onboard, electric units will typically be a more economical choice.

'Tunnel' Bow Thruster, require a tube or tunnel to be installed through the hull below the waterline, with the unit's prop(s) located inside. For best performance, the installation tube has to be placed as far forward as possible, yet deep enough below the waterline to generate maximum thrust and avoid sucking air, two competing requirements not always possible on boats less than 30 to 35 feet.A single prop, tunnel-mounted bow thruster is the most common. The need to cut two large holes in your bow and the installation of the tube itself add significantly to the overall costs of the project. Some narrowboat builders fabricate into the hull a bow thruster tube, but do not fit a bow thruster. This allows the purchaser/future owner to fit the thruster retrospectively if they wish without the hassle and additional cost of fitting the tube/tunnel. 

Better Control = More Fun

The ability to competently and confidently maneuver a vessel  in challenging conditions is an art form, one that doesn't come in a flash of inspiration. It takes practice. To many, myself included, nothing beats the satisfaction of using the effects of wind, current, and the knowledge of your vessel's handling characteristics into a successful docking maneuver under challenging circumstances.

That said, a bow thruster is simply another tool . One of many that boat owners use while on the water in their best efforts to get from A to B as safely and with as little fuss and stress as possible.

I don't view their use as some sort of crutch to my boat handling skills. They're like a can of pepper spray. If you've ever really needed one and had it to use it,  you're a convert for life. In the same vain, we all now have ABS and power steering on our cars and wouldn't be without them.

Happy cruising from Venetian Marina.





Sat Dec 15, 2018 at 12:24pm

What to consider when buying a Narrowboat.

If you are looking forward to 2019 boating season to realise your dream and purchase a Narrowboat, you will find this a must read!!

Not everyone takes to boating, whether it’s just the occasional weekend, long holidays or living aboard full time. So our best advice before we go any further is try before you buy.  Hiring a narrowboat will give you a very good idea of what life is like on the canal and if it is for you. Think about what you will use the narrowboat for and how many people will be on board at any time. 

Knowing whether it will be used for living aboard or weekend use only will help when it comes to choosing the size of narrowboat that is going to be right for you and your family. The great thing about boating is there is a boat to suit every budget.  So everyone who expresses an interest in owning a narrowboat can have the opportunity of owning a one.

Knowing a little more about narrowboats in general is going to help you greatly when it comes to buying your own. A great way to start learning about narrowboats is to read our buyers guide. Generally narrowboats are all the same width, but come in variety of length and stern type.  

Running costs (cost of ownership)

Money matters are also important when owning a floating home. Ask other boaters what the average costs of running a narrowboat is for weekend use or living aboard full time.  Many boaters are more than happy to share their experience and knowledge, so don’t be afraid to ask. Of course depending on each person’s circumstance the costs will vary. Some expenses you will need to consider are – moorings, licence, insurance, maintenance, fuel costs, blacking and other day to day stuff.


Residential moorings can be hard to find, so it is always advisable to look into this before buying a narrowboat.  


Would you buy a house without a survey? I’m guessing unless you are a builder or in the industry the answer is going to be No!  So buying a second hand narrowboat without a survey isn’t the smartest move unless you know what you are doing. The whole idea of the survey is to protect the buyer so you know exactly what you are buying. If you are buying the boat, have it surveyed by a qualified Marine Surveyor who will advise of any faults on the hull and with the boat’s internal systems. Usually an extensive check will cost you around 300 GBP but is definitely worth the effort. If you want to be on the safe side, make a full “out of the water” survey to check the boat also from underneath. Marinas can arrange such a survey within 1-2 weeks.    

Use a Brokerage Company

Okay, so we are bound to include this one, but think about the advantages. Using a good brokerage company has so many benefits. So let’s just name a few – lots of experience, a variety of boats all in one location, a broker will negotiate on your behalf saving you any stress, and so much more.  


Can  I tell you before you buy a narrow boat that it is so much fun! Cruising the beautiful UK canal networks will give you some fantastic holidays or a totally different way of life if you choose to liveaboard full time.


What general age and condition does the engine have? Newer boats have water-cooled diesel engines. Older boats have noisier air-cooled engines. If the engine room is clear and in order, and the engine block is clean from oil and dirt, it indicates basically a good service.  

Things to look for and top tips:

Is the engine block super clean and maybe freshly painted? This could indicate a high pressure waterblasting just for the sale. In fact, our second-hand engine had decent rust below a nice blue painting. Are there any signs of glue? Hard to believe, but our engine was partly made proof with glue instead proper fixing. Of course this was leading to problems later.

Gearbox: Are there any leaks from the stern gear? If there are, it may need repacking or adjusting. Can you see any sort of leaks? Dark brown oil stains can indicate a leak in a gasket which could lead to an expensive repair. Is the water in the engine room contaminated with oil? This would indicate heavy leaks. Is the oil filler neck not coated with thick, black deposits? ·

Check the dipstick – With old boat engines you will find mostly dark colour, but in any case it shouldn’t smell burnt. Start the engine from cold: is it easy to start? Are there any abnormal noises? Does the oil warning light go out as soon as the engine starts? ·  Are there any signs of excessive visible exhaust emissions? The smoke should be white (water burning) just in the beginning when the engine is cold. Older engines can have a slightly blue smoke (oil burning), but never should be black – this indicates heavy oil burning and serious engine problems..

Let the engine run for a while with slightly higher revs – does the temperature stay in the green / neutral area (usually around 70-80 degrees C) or does it go up to unhealthy 90-100 degrees?  


Are there at least 2-3 leisure batteries coupled with one starter battery? Is there a good battery management system regulating the flow of current into the batteries?

Does it have a protection for overcharging and complete discharge?  Does it have a permanent voltmeter to easily check the state of charge? Does the boat have an electrical hookup & cable (when mooring inside a marina)? Does the boat have an inverter to convert 12 volt battery power to 240 volts?

Ask the owner or check yourself how long you can run the appliances without recharging the batteries. Depending on the load (lights, water pump, TV, 12V fridge), the batteries should keep at least for a day. Listen carefully to any undertones. The batteries are vital and expensive. If it’s a liquid battery – Is it properly serviced? Remove the battery vent plugs and check the liquid level. Does it cover the top of the plates?

Apply a digital voltmeter. 12.6 V + indicate full charge, 12.06 V are 50%, less then 11,58 V are critically (20%). 10.5 V are 0%, left like this for more then a week will completely destroy the battery (sulphation). Check the price of the battery model with your smartphone. Batteries below 90 GBP will usually do max. 300 deep discharges. · 

Is the boat equipped with solar panels? Good! 150W are enough for lights and water pump even in the winter. 300W are needed to run a 12V fridge or TV.

How is the general impression? Has the boat been well looked after?  

Outside the boat ·     

When was the hull last blacked?

A narrowboat hull needs to be pressure washed and painted with bitumen every two to three years in a dry dock to protect the steel from corrosion – especially around the waterline. Take care, sometimes even new boats can suffer premature pitting. ·         How is the condition of the hull? Steel thickness should be 10mm on the hull base, 6mm on the sides and 4mm on the roof.

Check painting with a little hammer for rust underneath. Is the narrowboat long enough? For living aboard you should go for 52-72ft length, or wide beam (15ft width). Check varnishing and onboard equipment. Are there central, fore and aft ropes for easy mooring, a windlass (lock key) and mooring pins? Lies the boat right / left balanced in the water? If not, you need to balance it with weights. How much water is in the engine room (around and below the engine)? When the propeller is not sealed well, if there are other leaks, or the rain drainage is not working, the water level can increase within 1-2 weeks to a dangerous level. This happened to us once, and we know boats that have been sunken because of water in the engine room.  

Inside the boat 

Check for the smell of damp and mould – this means that water is inside the boat. If you can smell a heavy air freshener, suspect it – what’s it hiding?

Is the fridge, cooker, lights, heating system and shower in good working order? Go through all appliances of the boat one by one. Is the boat equipped with a solid fuel stove and / or with gas/diesel heating? Gas/diesel burners can run radiators and provide hot water quickly – but they are lacking a warm glow in the lounge area. Is there a central water heating or just one stove for all the boat? Check if the radiators are working. On our boat, the stove in the living area was not powerful enough to heat all the boat – that’s why we couldn’t use the second room all winter long. Is the boat’s ceiling high enough? Can you stand comfortably inside the boat when you are tall? ·

Is there a bath or a shower on board? Check if the hot water supply is working, and if there are any leaks inside the system/boiler. How much storage space do you have? General advice: the more, the better. Look inside the wardrobe and smell for mould.   Are there any signs of water under windows/hatches?

Every boat is wet from the inside – the only question is how much. ·        

Have a look in cupboards and hatches. Look for hatches through the floor into the bilge, i.e. below shower, kitchen. Be wary if you find any water in the bottom of the boat. Does the boat have a pump-out toilet or portable cassette? Pump-outs have a fixed tank which can be emptied at a pump-out station for a small fee. Portable toilets (Porta Potti) are more flexible, can be emptied easier and usually without a fee – but you need to do this more frequently and carry your own excrement.  

Hope you find this blog informative and helpful.

If we can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to call the office (01270 528251).

Happy boat finding.

Sat Nov 3, 2018 at 10:40am

Cost to consider when buying a Narrowboat


 Whether you want a basic £20,000 narrowboat to do up or a £1 million luxury palace on water, speak to a specialist broker. These include Apollo Duck, Whilton Marina and Venetian Marina. Publications such as Waterways World also provide details of boats for sale. Brokers usually charge sellers at circa 5 per cent of the sale price. They don’t charge buyers. My advice to get out and visit as many boats as you can, they are all different inside.



there are two types of survey Hull and Full,  these cost around  £400 - £600. This is a necessary condition check and can reveal nasty surprises. it is also required if you want a loan. Brokerages will be able to give you full details to arrange this. When you get the survey report, it is only then you know what you are buying!!



There are many financial companies who can offer various types of finance to purchase your chosen boat. Options include secured or, unsecured loans up to a 5 year term, or in some cases up to 20 years plus. Most require a deposit just like a property mortgage. Just a few companies to mention are: Zebra Finance, Pegasus Financial and Pro Marine also, check with your bank to see what they can offer. It is a good idea to do this first so you know what price range you should look at.



 A boat safety certificate will cost on average £150. This is a boat ‘MOT’ and is required every four years. You may need work done on your boat before a certificate is granted. Further details at website Boat Safety Scheme.



 Basic Third-party only insurance usually costs £200 a year – and is required for anyone buying a boat and before you can get a licence. You should also consider contents insurance for valuables inside. Contact a marine insurance specialist such as Collidge & Partners for further information.



 A 12-month boat licence to cruise the UK inland water ways costs between £510 and £1,100 – depending on the size of boat. Further details are available from the Canal & River Trust. You may also need to purchase other licences for waterways which are not owned by the CRT, such as the River Thames and The Bridgewater Canal.



Home moorings costs between £2,000 and £18,000 a year – with a waiting list of five years for the most sought-after spots in London. If you have a residential mooring spot you may also have to pay basic ‘Band A’ council tax. Alternatively, you can roam the canals with a ‘continuous cruise’ option where you can only stay moored in one spot for 14 days. There are 32,000 boats in Britain with licences – 5,000 of which have no home mooring.



Utility bills such as electricity and water are included in some mooring deals – but not all. Diesel costs will set you back £360 a year.  £120 for pumping sewage from the toilet, if you have a Pump-Out toilet. If you have a cassette type toilet, there is no charge for emptying these. As part of a boat’s regular maintenance you must ‘black’ the hull every four years against corrosion. This involves taking the boat out of water and may cost £1,000.

Living on a canal boat is becoming a serious option for many people who want to do things a little differently..

A reasonable 50ft narrowboat can be purchased for as little as £30,000 - £40,000. In contrast, the average house costs £200,000 plus and unless you are a cash buyer you will need to jump through hoops to get a mortgage. 

The freedom of a boat enables you to move elsewhere when the feeling takes you.

Owners who prefer to stay in one place usually pay mooring fees costing  circa £2,000 a year.  These costs are akin to parking charges. In locations such as London there is a five-year waiting list for a prime spot that can cost as much as £1,000 a month.

  Outside the capital, mooring fees fall dramatically with some marinas including in the price plug-in electricity, sewage removal, water and even wi-fi.  On top of mooring fees, there are other expenses – possibly council tax, a safety certificate, a boat licence, insurance and upkeep costs. 

Happy boat hunting from all the team at Venetian Marina.


Tue Oct 9, 2018 at 10:54am

Getting ready to winterise your Narrowboat.

When I left my boat yesterday morning, I noticed a light frost on the hull and my car windscreen was also frosted over. Seeing that Jack Frost was back in town,  my thoughts went back to last year and, what a long hard winter that was.   

If you intend to live aboard then it’s pretty much business as usual, but take a look at your radiators, engine cooling (keel), central heating systems and fresh water system you may need to add some additional anti-freeze.

fitting an automatic bilge pump float, if any water does get into the bilge you will at least have peace of mind that this water will be removed.


The Interior 

Problem for the interior of a boat that isn’t lived in over the winter period is the soft furnishing becoming damp which then leads to mould. If possible consider storing all removal items like bedding, cushions, towels, clothes food etc to a dry and warm place till you are ready to start using the boat again in the spring.

Check the window drains are also clear. Plumbing Drain down and disconnect the water system also empty your water tanks and calorifiers. Pay attention to your shower remove as much water as possible. Open up your taps allowing all the water to drain away. Also remember to drain the toilet water system as well.

The aim is to remove as much water from the boat to protect the pipes from bursting if it freezes. Lag as many of the hot and cold pipes as you can. Top up anti-freeze in keel cooling and other sealed heating systems like radiators connected to the boiler.

Electrical Remember to turn off the isolators on the battery as well as greasing the terminals to prevent corrosion, leave the batteries fully charged and if possible left on a float charge.

Turn off all electrical appliances and it’s advisable to leave the fridge door slightly a jar for circulation.


The Engine

Carry out an oil change on the engine and gear box.

Grease the stern tube once the engine is turned off, this is to prevent water getting into the engine room and if this builds up could cause your narrow boat to sink! If possible leave your diesel tank full so that condensation doesn’t build up in the tank also add fuel conditioner (anti diesel bug treatments)  which you can purchase at most good chandleriesIt’s advisable to visit your boat once a month so you can run the engine for around an hour this pushes the oil around and prevents rust, it will also help top up the battery. Remember to re grease the stern tube if you do run the engine each month as every time the propellers turn it breaks the seal.

‚ÄčThe exterior

look after the exterior of your boat as well as the interior. wash/remove moos/leaves/clean front and re canopies to stop build up of green mildew.

Hope this help, and if you do venture out for a winter trip keep a watch on the weather forecast for big drops in the temperature. Happy winter cruising from all at Venetian. Marina.


Tue Sep 18, 2018 at 10:44am

Living in the slow lane

Living in the slow lane or, more specifically, Living on a narrowboat. All sorts of romantic notions are conjured up by those words. But, before you rush out and buy one, or give up a land base to live on one, I’ve tried to outline below some of the quirks of a life afloat ALL YEAR ROUND, and in particular, some things to consider before you decide on living on a narrowboat.

Being British, first thing we think about is the toilet.

This small room on a boat is the most talked about of any, and every boater has a horror story they would be only too pleased to recount! Essentially there are a few differing options to contain and dispose of effluence. The Portaloo called a Porta Potti,  tends to be the most basic. Often, this self-contained unit is not plumbed in, so is very easy to empty in all weathers (more of this later) at a number of Elsan Points or Sanitary Stations around the canal network.


The ‘half way house’ is the cassette loo. This is plumbed in and often has a conventional looking ceramic bowl, but has a cartridge or cassette that slides out of a housing to be emptied, much in the manner of the Portaloo. Many boaters find carrying two cassettes on board the best option, so as one is being emptied, the other can be in use.

Pump out toilets, the waste is sent from the toilet to a ‘holding tank’. This can last up to three weeks between emptying, but will require being pumped out. The pump out is normally to be found at a boatyard, but in some parts of the country, forward thinking Waterways Regions have installed automated self-use 'pump outs'.  You buy a credit card type token from a local chandlery, fuel boat or Waterways Office, and use the pump out as you would at a Marina.

But what if the canal is frozen – and you can’t move the boat? You can  buy a ‘self pumpout’ kit.. The self pumpout can be used to pump into containers which are then disposed of in the same way as a Portaloo – at an Elsan Point. A quick trip in the car – or by boat when the canal thaws – can put a smile back on the face of most crews, when the loo has been full!

Heating and Hot Water

We’ve always tried to keep our options open with heating on the boat. As a result, we have a solid fuel stove (a Morso Squirrel) to burn logs – often free fuel is to be found alongside the canal throughout the year – or coal. In addition, we have diesel central heating providing heat through radiators, and as a by-product, we get a storage tank of hot water for showering, washing etc.

But what happens if the Central Heating fails? Well, the hot water storage tank has a dual coil, so by running the engine, you are able to get hot water that way too. 



Fresh Water

Most boats have a fairly large holding tank for domestic water, usually in the bows of the boat. Some boaters prefer to drink bottled water or boil any they wish to consume. The fill up point should be clearly marked on the boat, and can be filled from one of the many water points to be found dotted around the canal system. Most quality Canal Guides, such as Nicholsons or Pearsons, clearly identify these points, and it is wise to plan ahead. Fill as you cruise, unless you are very sure how long your tank lasts between fill-ups.

In winter – keep an eye on the weather forecast. If sub-zero, icy conditions are predicted in a few days’ time, fill up well before. Cold snaps rarely last more than a week or so, and most boats should be able to last at least that long.

So you can see, almost any problem of living afloat all year round can be overcome with a little forward planning.


Happy cruising from all at Venetian Marina.


Sun Aug 19, 2018 at 9:04am


It is all about POWER  (well, battery power)

Aside from enabling you to maintain your batteries in a way which will prolong its life and keep your costs down, being able to recognise the signs of potential damage in a battery is essential for safety.

The leisure battery

A leisure battery is the power source for the 12V appliances and equipment in a narrow boat. These batteries are designed to provide a steady level of power over a prolonged period of time and are used by the lights, T.V, kettle, oven and similar appliances in some outfits. Basically, they are the part that makes your vessel into comfortable, habitable accommodation.



Is a leisure battery just a different name for a car battery?

No, a leisure battery and a car battery are two very different power sources. It may be possible to use each of the batteries in the other’s place in the short term, but it is not advisable due to the different ways in which they produce energy.

A car battery is designed to provide a burst of energy to start the engine when required, whereas a leisure battery will release a lower level of energy over a prolonged period of time in order to power appliances.

Due to the difference in intended purposes, leisure batteries and car batteries are not constructed in the same way. A car battery has thinner plates and different separators, which mean that it is not as well-equipped to deal with a prolonged period of use for a lower level of energy, and vice versa for leisure batteries. There is a type of battery which can perform well at both functions, an AGM battery, but this is not commonly used.



Types of leisure battery

Most leisure batteries are lead-acid batteries, although we will provide information on some alternatives later in the article. Within the category of lead-acid battery, there are a few different types available:

  • Standard starter batteries – also known as calcium or cranking batteries
  • Standard leisure batteries – also known as auxiliary or deep-cycling batteries
  • Semi traction and traction batteries – also known as deep-cycling batteries

As well as these lead-acid batteries, there are a few alternatives which may be used as leisure batteries in certain circumstances.

  • Gel batteries – These are used in vehicles such as jet skis and quad bikes, which have a higher than average risk of crashing. The use of gel inside the battery removes the risk of damage from being tipped over and, therefore, the risk of injury from leaking corrosive acid.
  • AGM batteries – We mentioned these briefly in the section about car batteries v leisure batteries. AGM, or Absorbent Glass Mat batteries comprises of lead plates and compressed glass fibre in each cell. Combined with specific manufacturing processes, this makes the battery capable of a much longer lifespan than a lead-acid one. However, it is also more expensive to produce. As well as being able to withstand a greater number of charging cycles, AGM batteries have the advantage of being functional as both starter and leisure batteries.
  • Maintenance-free batteries – While conventional batteries have removable caps to allow the acid levels to be checked and topped up with deionised water, some manufacturers are now producing what is described as a maintenance-free battery. This is a sealed unit which cannot be topped up, built due to the fact that batteries which are not charged in excess of 14.6V rarely need this done anyway. If 14.8V or more is used, it is important to regularly check the electrolyte level of a battery and replenish as required.

Why should I use a leisure battery?

You will need a leisure battery in order for most of the 12V appliances in your narrow boat to function but, even if it wasn’t essential, there is a very good reason for choosing to use a leisure battery rather than powering the devices directly from a mains charger or similar. The secondary function of a leisure battery, aside from powering appliances, is to correct any irregularities in the power supply, keeping you and your appliances safe.



Lead-acid battery safe handling

Due to the flammable nature of batteries and the corrosive properties of the acid within, proper safety measures must be followed when handling batteries.

  • Ensure the battery is properly mounted and the gas escape vent correctly fitted at all times
  • Safety clothing and eye equipment must always be worn when inspecting a battery
  • High quality clamps should always be used to connect a battery to prevent any sparks from occurring and causing fire. Crocodile clips are not suitable for permanent connections

Getting the most from your leisure battery

  • Apply a thin layer of Vaseline or grease to the battery’s terminals
  • Always use high quality clamps
  • If spring-loaded clamps are used, ensure that their steel contact surfaces do not rust
  • Regularly check that the electrolyte level covers the lead plates on the battery. If not, top up with deionised water as required. Always wear full safety equipment when inspecting and maintaining the battery
  • Check regularly to make sure the gas relief tube remains fitted securely and correctly
  • Recharge the battery once it falls below 50% power. Never allow a battery to completely run flat as this can greatly reduce the lifespan
  • Remember to care for your battery when your caravan or motorhome is to be unused for a period of time. A trickle charger is a good idea in this situation
  • Never leave the battery uncharged. A white deposit, caused by sulphation, will form on the plates, rendering the battery unusable
  • Remember that a battery needs a charger with an output of at least 10% of the battery’s capacity. For example, a 90Ah battery will need at least a 9 amp charger. Any less will significantly reduce the capacity


Checking the battery’s charge level

While your boat may have a light or display to show the leisure battery’s charge level, these may not be particularly accurate. It is advisable to invest in a hand-held metre, which can be used to easily obtain an accurate indication of the charge level. The table below can be used as a guideline when carrying out the checks.

Meter Reading Approximate Charge Level
12.7V or above 100%
12.5V 75%
12.4V 50%
12.2V 25%
12V or lower Discharged



Prior to using the meter to check the battery’s charge, the following steps should be followed:

  • Switch off all electrical appliances, including alarms, fridges and clocks that run off the battery. Failure to do so will result in an inaccurate reading
  • Always remove the negative terminal first when disconnecting a battery
  • Never smoke near a battery
  • Do not use a charger on the battery or drive your motorhome for four hours before testing, as a recently used battery will give a higher reading

An alternative method of checking the charge level of a battery is using a hydrometer to measure the electrolytes in the cells. The reading should be between 1.1 (discharged) and 1.28 (fully charged).

To determine how long the battery can go between charges, check the capacity, which is normally measured in amp hours (Ah). An 110Ah battery will provide considerably more power between charges than a 65Ah one, for example, but will also take longer to recharge.

Always have a window open to allow gases to escape while the battery is charging.

Some users prefer to use a continuous charging system to keep the leisure battery functioning. While this may be perfectly fine, it is advisable to check with the manufacturer before continuously charging any battery.

What affects a battery’s performance?

There are quite a few factors which may affect the performance of a leisure battery, including temperature, age and the size of the battery.

  • Temperature – The colder the temperature, the poorer the performance of the battery. The amp hours rating which is stated is based on a temperature of 25C, with each degree lower causing a 1% drop in performance. For example, an 110Ah battery operating in 15C temperature will actually perform as a 100Ah.
  • Age – Most batteries will not last more than around five years due to a decrease in performance over time
  • Consumption – If a high number of appliances are run from a battery, it will discharge quicker and therefore need to be recharged more often. This frequent recharging will cause the battery to degrade sooner.
  • Size – The more appliances you need to run, and the more power-hungry those appliances are, the bigger your leisure battery will need to be. For example, a motor mover will require a large battery. You should also consider the time of year you tend to travel, due to the reduction in performance caused by cold weather.
  • Discharge rate – The Ah rating provided by the manufacturers of batteries normally assumes a discharge time of 20 hours. The capacity will normally be provided at two or three different levels, such as 95Ah at a 20 hour rate, 80Ah at a 5 hour rate and 105Ah at a 100 hour rate.

While all of these will influence the performance of the battery, it is important to remember that there are countless other factors at play. It is best to assume you will need to recharge your leisure battery sooner than calculations may suggest.

Hope you are enjoying this seasons cruising, stay safe and if you are passing Venetian Marina, please call in for a brew, the kettle is always on. 


Fri Jul 13, 2018 at 9:27am

What should I focus on when selecting a Narrowboat

When looking to start the buying process being armed with the right advice and information will make the process of buying a narrow boat more pleasurable and less stressful.

The temptation to jump in feet first is not a wise move, take a step back and let’s look at what information you should gather before visiting any boats.
•How often you are going to use the boat?
•What are you going to use it for?
•How much cruising are you going to do?
•New or used narrow boat?
•What style will best suit you; traditional, semi trad, cruiser, wide beam?What size do you need?
•How much do you want to spend?

Use the internet to do your homework there are plenty of useful websites and forums that will help answer any questions you may have. If you are unsure what style and size boat will best suit your needs then check out brokerage websites to see the different styles.

It’s also a good idea to talk to people who already own a narrow boat as they will be able to guide you and help you.

Look at as many boats you can. Now you know what you are looking for it’s time to start looking for that dream boat. By visiting marinas you will have easy access to a lot of boats all in one place.

Make a list of the boats you would like to view, this way you will be prepared and will save time on the day you visit, giving you more time to spend on the boats and talking to the staff.

It’s also a good idea to have a list of questions you may want to ask the broker written down. If you think you are going to need an hour or so to go over things, try ringing the marina first to see if they will make an appointment for you.

Finances and budget, knowing how much money you have to spend is always a good thing. There are specialist marine mortgage companies who can help and advise you, as well as the high street banks if you need to borrow money to make your purchase. A marine mortgage works in the same way as when you purchase a mortgage for a house, and you will need a deposit of roughly 20% of the boats purchase price.

If you have your finances in place you will be in a good position when you make an offer. Most brokers will ask you how you intend to finance your purchase. If you are using a marine mortgage company they will be able to produce a letter of intent, and if you are in the process of selling a property, your solicitor will be able to supply a letter when you are close to completion.

Where to keep it. Knowing where you are going to keep your new purchase is a must. if you buy from a marina they will more than likely allow you to stay a few days whilst you get your belongings on board and sort yourself out, but then it will be time to move on. If you are going to be continuously cruising this isn’t going to be a problem, you just need to decide which way you are going to go!

But for those of you that need moorings, looking into this before your purchase is a good idea. Types of mooring options are explained on the Canal and River Trust website, this is where you will also need to obtain your mooring licence from.

Survey. Just like when you buy a property, you should have a survey carried out. This will give you as the buyer a clear indication of the boats condition and if there is something wrong you may be able to get the seller to put it right or to reduce the price. If working with a brokerage company they will be able to handle this for you.

Wow, after all this, hopefully you will now be in a good position to go out and buy yourself a new narrow boat. Remember it’s a large financial investment and should be carefully thought out.


Happy cruising from all at Venetian Marina.

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