The Simple Guide to Living Aboard Made Easy
<< Back to Blog list
Tue Oct 3, 2017 at 9:32am

Life Aboard Made Easy!

If you are in the process of moving onto your narrow boat full time, or considering a full time life on the waterways, we can show you ways to make your move aboard as simple and comfortable as possible.


Adapting your boat to meet your basics needs will make life on the water as stress free and simple as it can be.

There is definitely more work and thought needed when living on the waterways, but if you are prepared to give it ago and learn by your mistakes (and we've all made them) then you will reap the benefits that living on your boat will provide.


Having the RIGHT Narrowboat!

A small 45 foot narrowboat is ok for long weekends and holidays, but living aboard a smaller boat full time really does have its down sides, especially if there is more than one of you living on the boat.

Not only will you not have a permanent place to sleep/sit as you will be changing the sitting area into a bed room and vice versa each day, there will be a huge lack of storage. This way of living will undoubtably lead to quite a stressful and unpractical way of life.

Therefore if you can afford a larger boat bearing in mind the additional costs associated with a longer boat, such as mooring fees, licences and maintenance costs, then this is the best option for living aboard as the extra space will make day to day living so much more comfortable.

The style of the boat is a tricky one but really theres no right or wrong stern, however the traditional stern does tend to be the most popular choice for liveaboards as the internal space is larger than the other options. Having more internal space will making LIVING on your boat more comfortable and practical. 

Other features to consider;

  • Dinettes can be a waste of space especially in smaller vessels
  • Small bathrooms will eventually take their toll 
  • Look for a boat with large windows and lots of doors providing additional light and easy access
  • Remember boats that are painted in dark paint i.e black or navy blue will ultimately be very warm in the summer!

Getting The Basics Right.

If you can get the basics right i.e. have somewhere to sleep, eat, wash and be warm you will be on the right track to a simple and comfortable life on your narrowboat. Get these things wrong and life is going to be rather difficult!.

Sleeping: Ideally have a separate sleeping area as mentioned before, having to change your seating area into a bedroom and back again every day is going to become very tiresome. Also having a bedroom gives you some additional privacy when you want to escape the main living area of your boat.

Cooking: Most boats have gas cookers as electric ones are not practical unless you are always hooked up. Agas and other range cookers can be installed and are delightful in the winter, but rather unmanageable in the summer months when the warmer weather is with us. However the newer Agas can be controlled pretty much like a conventional oven so if you are wanting the look of a Aga but the convenience of a conventional oven then one of the dual control Agas would be suitable. A microwave is also a good investment for heating up meals and for making simple suppers.

Bathrooms: You don't need to have a bath aboard, but a descent size shower is definitely a must. Within the bathroom there is also going to be your toilet and this is a much discussed topic between boaters.

For liveaboards we would suggest the pump out option, this will best suit your living arrangements. The job of emptying a cassette toilet will soon become a very loathed chore. More information on the Big Loo Debate can be found here

Heating: Having two modes of heating is a good plan, so consider a stove that will be attractive and reliable and also a diesel heater, these are much more reliable nowadays.

Electricity: Electricity is needed to pump water, provide light and run the appliances onboard. When moored at a marina you will be able to hook up to the mains, when out cruising you will need to rely on your batteries.

Storage: If only the narrowboat was like a Tardis once you got inside, alass this is not the case and storage is always limited, even to those who consider themselves minimalists. Look for clever storage ideas and use even the space under the bed to gain as much storage as possible. Store things you don't use very often in places that are harder to access like under your bow deck.


So we now address the hardest issue facing livaboards, moorings! First option is to continuously cruise the system staying no longer than 2 weeks in each place before having to move on. This is ok if you have no commitments i.e work, school, family etc but for those with permanent commitments this is not a viable option. 

So what other options are there?

  • Marinas; Can be expensive and hard to come across, but if you have the funds and are able to find a long term mooring this is a great choice providing a comfortable, secure, hassle free facility to live.
  • Boat Yards; Cheaper than marinas but can tend to be noisy.
  • Stop - Start cruising; This is where you cruise around the network, mooring at different marinas or boat yards for a few days at a time then moving on.
  • Small private moorings; Again hard to find but sometimes available with a small area for a washing line or to sit.
  • Winter moorings; Continuously cruising over the summer, then mooring somewhere with good facilities over the winter months.

Our Top Tips To Getting It Right!!

Just a few other ideas to consider when thinking about a full time life on the waterways;

  • Canvas covers provide an additional storage area outside the boat. for wellies, wet coats and other bulky items that can't be kept within the boat. But remember this is not a secure area so items left here are open to opportunists. Casual burglaries are unfortunately part and parcel of life even on the waterways.
  • Have spares of as many things possible. Practical items such as a spare water pump incase yours breaks down, extra kindling and fuel this includes gas! Keep the larder stocked up for times when you aren't near any shops and the family are wanting to know whats for supper!
  • Flatter roofs are safer and better for walking on. Also useful for storage.
  • If the thought of getting rid of possessions is proving difficult when you are downsizing from a house to a narrow boat, then consider self storage for a short period of time. It might not be viable long term, but short term it might help you over the initial adjustment period of leaving a house and moving onto boat. By putting items into storage for a while, it gives you the time to come to terms with not having these things around and eventually letting them go.

If you have just moved onto a narrowboat to live on, please tell us your story and how you are getting on?

Other Recent Posts