The Pros And Cons Of Living On A Narrowboat
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Tue Jan 27, 2015 at 1:52pm

The Truth About Boating...

This is a simple and helpful guide to the pros and cons of living on a narrowboat.


Depending on your individual situation i.e. if you use residential moorings or continuously cruising the pros and cons will vary. Also depending on your boat size and facilities you have will also affect your standard of living. So with that in mind this is just a list of the problems and the positives that you might experience if you live on a narrowboat.

If you are thinking about living on a narrowboat rather than a brick home this choice should be based on the lifestyle you will have, rather than you thinking it’s a cheaper alternative to living in a traditional home. People who live aboard do so because they enjoy the way of living and being part of the boating community.

The Positives

Let’s start with the good news and some of the advantages of living on a narrowboat.

Freedom: For many this is the best part of living aboard, being able to choose to live where you want and to move your boat to new locations whenever it suits you. It also gives you the chance to live in locations where you may not have been able to afford if you were buying a traditional home. You can be in the countryside one week and in a city centre the next, the choice is totally yours.

Living alongside nature: Having feathered friends such as swans and ducks as your neighbours! Nothing beats waking up to the sound of birds and the gentle splashing of water.

Friendship: The people you meet and the friends you make will fill your life with good times and great companionship.

Keeping fit: Living on a boat requires a certain amount of physical exercise from walking the towpath, fetching & carrying supplies and doing the locks to name just a few of the physical chores you will be doing. Boating will certainly keep you active.

Fantastic locations: Amazing views of rural countryside to cultural cities, all just a cruise away. Being able to travel and change your location is definitely something you can’t do with a traditional home.

Tranquillity & peace: On your doorstep every day if you choose it, and in today’s modern hectic world that has to be an attraction. People actually pay to go to locations for this purpose, so they can enjoy peace and silence. Think; when was the last time you were somewhere in complete calmness and silence?

Home from home travelling: Being able to take your home and possessions travelling with you is a unique part of living aboard. Nothing can be nicer than travelling the UK network with all your favourite things, especially if you like your creature comforts.

Don’t think you won’t have the modern appliances found in a home. Modern narrowboats often have household goods such as washing machines, fridges, cookers and so on. Some even have ranges which also help to heat the boat!

The Downsides

Keep in mind that not all boaters experience these problems and many issues can be easily resolved. So here are some of the down sides, with solutions to sort out the problem.

Cold: Well it doesn’t have to be, spending some money on your heating system to either improve it or replace it will soon make your boat comfortable all year round.

Damp: It is a problem for boat owners; no matter how carefully maintained a case of damp eventually occurs. To help with this problem do the following -

  • Insulate. Uninsulated metal or glass such as the hull, superstructure, windows, window frames, etc. will sweat in cold weather and condensation will form on the inside surfaces. This can quickly lead to mildew and rot. To resolve this use spray foam on the hull and superstructure and double glaze with non-metal or heat-break frames for the windows.
  • Ventilate. Ensure there is always a good air flow through the boat. You can achieve this by having windows open in warm weather, and using an oil-burning stove that draws its combustion air from inside the accommodation in cooler weather.

Vandalism: Could just as easily happen to your traditional house or car, just a down side that we all could experience in today’s world. Mooring in groups or in a marina could prevent the chances of your boat being damaged.

Burglary: Again could happen in a traditional home as much as on a boat, but by having good locks and security this will make it harder for the would be thief. You may even want to consider buying a boat alarm system. Moor with other boats in a safe area where your neighbours can keep a look out for you if you have to leave your boat unattended.

Limited privacy: Depending on the size and layout of your vessel and also how many of you are living aboard, will determine how much private space there is for each person on board. In the summer there is always the roof if you want some quiet time.

Limited storage space: True space on a narrowboat is limited, but if you want a positive from this; it makes you less materialistic and you learn to live with fewer possessions and only buy what you really need. This then means you have more money for the finer things in life like good food and wine!

Getting rid of your own sewage: Can’t help you here; the nature of boating means that human waste needs to be got rid of, either by using a pump or manually disposing at the sanitation stations.

Filling the water tank: Like having to fill your car up with petrol each week and it’s not like it’s difficult, it’s just part of boating.

Electricity: Having to think about how you are going to manage running your 240 watt appliances is another task that needs to be managed. You can’t run them continuously off your batteries or you will soon find you have a flat battery!

Trips to the launderette: Only necessary if you don’t have room for a washing machine, however many modern boats actually do have a washing machine on board.

The cost of engine maintenance and repairs and blacking the hull: If you think of the maintenance costs of a traditional home, these soon outweigh the money you need to spend on maintaining your boat. By saving for repairs and maintenance you will be able to keep on top of maintaining your boat.      

Now you have an insight into living on a narrowboat, are you ready to make a purchase? View all our boats we have for resale here.

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