Could it possibly be Spring? – Surviving Winter on a Narrow Boat

Well any of you dedicated Twitter followers of ours will of seen, yesterday brought about a change. We managed to open the side hatch, for a whole three hours, without risking frost bite or flooding, I almost don’t dare to say it but this feels like the first sign of spring.


I don’t think I will be alone in saying this winter has felt impossibly long winded, just when we think we are over the worst of it, nature has hit us with another battering of snow or gusting winds. I hoping that in just a couple of weeks we can stop selling our souls in exchange for coal!

How has our first winter been? Honestly not too bad at all! In a year where we have been hit by -8 degree temperatures it would be fair to say a few people were worried about us. Going back to the questions you will be consistently asked, ‘Bet you’re freezing on that boat!’ has sky rocketed.

That isn’t to say that it isn’t without it’s difficulties, so here’s a run down on life aboard during the big freeze of the longest winter ever.

It’s cosy!

Yes believe or not the boat is actually pretty warm, once you have your fire going. Couple of things to be prepared for to make this possible:

  • You will be spending all of your disposable income (Gin money) on coal.
  • You will need to make sure your fire is tip top, which could involve buying longer chimneys (More gin money).
  • Be prepared to scream you stupid hobbit, at your fire on regular occasions, then when it still fails to behave whisper encouragement and how you promise to never shout at it again.
  • Be ready to say goodbye to things you love, there will be days when that fire just does not want to co-operate, to a point where you run out of kindling, you will search your boat for things to sacrifice in trade for warmth.  Who needs a dining room table anyway? Teas on Knees for life!

It’s chilly! 

Contradiction or what! Yes once you have your fire happily bubbling away in the background the boat is a very cosy and welcoming place to be. However when you first arrive home, or first wake up the boat is cold, there isn’t much you can feasibly do to prevent this. We have a small electric oil heater, that during the worst months of winter was on a timer, to take the edge off the cold for when we woke up and got home from work.


The floor is lava. 

Remember that game you used to play on a rainy Sunday afternoon, where the floor was lava and you had to leap from sofa cushion to sofa cushion without touching it. The floor of a narrow boat is just that, only replace lava with liquid nitrogen. Touch the floor with any bare skin and prepare for the un-treatable frost bite. The floors are cold, it’s unavoidable, buy some slippers and never let them leave your side.

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Honestly it’s a bit pants!

I’m not going to lie about this, or sugar coat it, winter really isn’t the best season aboard a narrow boat. Granted there are incredible things about it, the stunning scenery, the peace and tranquility of no one around, it’s lovely. But equally there are rubbish things about it, aside from spending all your money on coal and the constant darkness, which feels even more encompassing in the loneliness of a rural location. All of the water points freeze up, which leaves you playing the ultimate game of water roulette, and has you storing containers of water like a little water squirell. The cold and wanting to get into the warmth of the boat as soon as possible, kind of makes the location you are in less amazing. All of the wonderful wildlife disappears, you are left with the odd crazy duck huddled on a canalberg (Canal based ice berg).


But would you like to know the worst thing of all? Worse than all of the above combined and times by ten? The mud. The wet and snowy weather brings with it mud, thick claggy off the field mud, squishy dirty towpath mud, just mud everywhere, which ultimately despite all your best efforts will end up in the boat, and on the sofa and you guessed it everywhere! Granted the Cratch has undoubtedly helped this, preventing it from being two gazillion times worse, but still. The dust of summer I can cope with, the mud of winter drives me insane.

I’m not ready to accept the forecast of more chilliness to come at the weekend, I’m not going to believe it and happily fool myself that spring is here to stay and we only have three more bags of coal to buy until October.

Everything crossed people!

James & Kirsty


One thought on “Could it possibly be Spring? – Surviving Winter on a Narrow Boat

  1. I can agree with you on the cold floor. That is why we had carpet put down when we had Fantine. It is a shame that it was taken up before you got hold of her. It was still in good condition when we sold her.


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