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How I bought my canal boat

How I got my canal boat

Location: At a job somewhere in work, and later on the canal side

One day my boss said to me, he said “Fiona”, I said “what?”, he said “you busy?”, I said “no”, he said “can you look up the advantages and disadvantages of getting a canal boat as I would be interested in getting one for fishing and you are good on the internet”.

So I started to look stuff up about canal boats, what you need to do to maintain them (a lot, but manageable, like a car and a house combined with the added danger that it could sink), what are the disadvantages of them (also a lot), what are the main things to go wrong (don’t get me started on the list, you can find several lists online of the advantages and disadvantages of living on a boat). As I was looking all this up for him I was starting to think, “I could cope with that”, and “I could manage that”, and “I think that that is an advantage”.


My boat on the canalside

The lifestyle seemed ideal, rugged and back to nature, just what I enjoy, some physical challenges (carrying coal bags and gas cylinders) and new skills to learn (lighting a fire and keeping it going all night). It also seemed to offer more ways of being environmentally friendly (which is a cause very dear to my heart) and ways to be able to take a step back and come out of the rat-race that is normal life. At this point I was not thinking about going off on a canal journey just living that close to nature. It also seemed a bit like going back in time to when my grandparents were growing up, not having all the modern conveniences and having to live more in the moment, and being outside more.

Next I started to look at prices for a second hand narrowboat, and I started to think, “I could afford that”, unlike a house in this day and age (you can get a half-decent boat for the same price as a deposit for a house). So there started my adventure looking for a narrowboat. I looked at a lot of boats online on various websites (the best one was Appoloduck), and I walked up the canalside talking to people about their boats and what to look out for when buying a boat.

I met a man who had just had to spend £7000 re-plating the bottom of his boat because the hull was too rusty, I met someone else who told me to look out for boats with lots of storage. I spent more time than I care to relate talking about different types of engines that you could have (I am not really interested in engines, but it is important to learn as it would be an integral part of my boat). I got invited to have a look in some people’s boats and from that got an idea of what I wanted for a layout for my boat home. I found that I didn’t like the boats with a central corridor or the ones with no separate rooms. I liked a horseshoe shaped kitchen as to me it seemed to give more space.

Then I found a perfect marina for my boat, close to home and work with good transport links, and it had a space coming up in the next two months. Then I found the perfect boat, it was all coming together like magic. She even had the perfect name, the Tudor Rose. A typically English name suitable for the English canals.

I went and viewed the boat one sunny day. When I walked in I knew that she was the right one for me, she was a bit unusual in design but in a way that suited me. Of course there were some things that needed changing, but they were minor things, she was perfect. The first thing that was different was that she had a corridor all down one side. I now know that that is not good for the balance of the boat, so all the rooms were big, not two small rooms off a central corridor, she had distinct rooms rather than an open plan layout which I liked. The kitchen was a horseshoe shape which gave you the maximum amount of workspace for the area, and it had an open gap between the kitchen and the sofa in the living room so if I put something on the worktop on that side I could pick it up from the sofa side (perfect for serving dinner). Also the boat seemed pleasant and light, there were a lot of windows and the large (non-porthole) windows had grills on them for added security, and the grills were in lovely shapes rather than standard cross hatches which, I think, look terrible.


My mum inside the boat

After a bit of haggling with the owner I got her for a good price (he had been trying to sell her for over nine months so I knew that he would want a sale as soon as he could). He agreed to service the engine before I took her and fix the two broken pieces of floor and lay some new lino.

A couple of weeks later, when she was ready, my mum, my boss and I went to collect her and bring her to my new marina, but that is another story (found in this blog post).

She was a lovely boat (still is!), and after a few minor modifications, like any old couple we get on very well.

6 Responses

  1. Ooooh. I so like your stories! Even read extracts aloud for Noa. Great Fiona. So happy for you and adventures. Being tempted more and more to boating lifestyle. Thanks for sharing.

    • If you want to seriously investigate the boating lifestyle then I would suggest going the Crick Boat show, there is a lot of information there about living aboard as well as seminars about various boating issues that come up. Also keep reading as I will be talking about various things as time goes on

  2. Hello Fiona. Met you both on Dudley tunnel trip. Enjoyed your blog. I’ve been studying canals but only as part of broader history of Birmingham in the Industrial Revolution. I have built up a small reference library on canals (histories, guides, Acts and Royal Commissions) which I use frequently. I also eat quite often at Stoke Bruerne by the Museum when friends visit me in Buckingham.

    • Hi Tony, there is so much history packed in to the Birmingham area, I spent over two hours reading about it in the Tipton library in its local history section on Monday morning while waiting for my train, they have some great books there that may help you in your quest. The Dudley tunnel trip was great and had so much information in it I am sure that I will spend several blog posts on it in the future. It was nice to meet you and let me know if you write anything that I could read.

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