What to buy for a narrow boat, What not to buy for a narrowboat – A shopaholics guide

It’s bonkers to think we are approaching two years aboard, in light of this anniversary I’ve being having a major sort out on board, trying to get rid of the things we are needlessly keeping a hold of. Doing this has also made me realise the amount of pointless stuff we brought in preparation of a move aboard, and with two years of boaty knowledge the stuff we should of focused on instead! Listen at us sounding like the boatsperts. Realistically I think some of it could be rather useful.


I managed to convince myself that the boat would be dark, I couldn’t of been more wrong, it’s so light and airy, but when you’re viewing a possession-less and cold boat it can be hard to visualise it. All the boats we have been on we lovely and light. I wasted a lot of time, effort and money finding battery and 12 volt strip lights, which I placed under all the alcoves. We have perhaps had these on twice, when we first moved aboard and wanted to show off how pretty she is, totally pointless spend!


What to spend on instead? Torches and head torches, I thought I knew what the dark was, that was until I walked a dark towpath, they are terrifying. I can guarantee you’ll need a torch, and more than one, cause you will inevitably be unable to find your trusty one when you need it! Invest in a few torches, head torches whilst not the height of glamour, are a god-send.

Itty Bitty Scatter Cushions

I can see James cheering as I write this, but I brought so many pretty little cushions, some for on top of the bed, some for the sofas, some for the seating in the cratch. I was in a constant cycle of putting them into position in the morning only to move them to make the space usable, and when space is a premium this isn’t ideal. I’ve gotten rid of most of these now, there are a couple which remain as they do get used but the pointless ones all made their way to charity.


What to spend on instead? Throws and a good footstool. Throws may sound similar to the scatter cushions but there is nothing nicer on a chilly evening than wrapping up in a snuggly warm throw, they also double really well as sofa covers, narrowboat life is muddier and comes with more debris than I ever imagined possible, having throws over the sofa means we can pop them in a weekly wash, leaving everywhere feeling super fresh. Similarly we recently invested in a gorgeous bespoke foot stool, narrowboat life means that you have a small living area, which our case means a small sofa and small armchair, the person on the armchair always felt short changed. This problem was solved thanks to our wonderful friend Norma, anyone who’s interested in her stunning designs please let me know and I can pass on her contact details.


I believed the scaremongering of people who knew nothing of life aboard, and brought a crazy amount of jumpers (any excuse to buy clothes right?) but they are entirely unneeded, I got rid of a lot in my 18 month aboard clear out, but really you don’t need that many. Too many take up a crazy amount of space and they are just not worth it. Sure you might want to buy a couple, but don’t go overboard (pun totally intended).


What to spend on instead? A good pair of cycling gloves. It may sound crazy, but they are the business when it comes to operating a lot of locks. You can get special marine ones, which come with a special marine price tag as well, but the cycling gloves do just as well.

Crazy storage solutions

Again I’m going to hold my hands up on this one, when looking to move aboard I went Pinterest mad, trying to find every clever storage solution that I could. At one point we were considering the benefit of building hatches into the floor for below floor level storage. One word M-A-D-N-E-S-S. We’ve been surprised by the amount of space we actually have to utilise, so don’t stress over it too much until you are in situ and you know the space you actually need.


What to spend on instead? Good easy storage solutions. We spent a fair bit on storage boxes and vacuum packed bags, and we use them a lot, both in our storage off the boat and the storage in the boat. With the majority of storage actually being below the water line it is possible for things to get a bit damp, these solutions take away that worry. Find the biggest boxes you can get for under your bed, and a few smaller ones too so you can store things in the most effective way.

Big renovations

We had a big plan before we moved aboard, we wanted to renovate the whole rear of the boat to give us more storage space and what would be a more traditional wardrobe format. Thankfully we had the good sense to say ‘Maybe we should live with it as is for now to see how we really want it’ it was the best thing we could of done, because nearly two years in, we still don’t need it.


Want to spend on instead? Good practical furniture. It may sound simple but it’s actually quite hard to find standard furniture that fits in with boat life. wherever possible we tried to find things which were collapsible, or can have things under them. Our sofa is great at hiding a clothes horse and emergency water bottles under, whilst our dining room table collapses down with the chairs storing inside, it’s small things but it does make a difference.

Pointless things

Ok so there are a few bits which have proved entirely pointless, dog life jackets? We haven’t need them at all, granted if you have a dog who fancies jumping overboard you might find them more useful, I found ours the other day with their tags on. There are so many other things, which when walking around a chandlers or wherever you think you’ll probably need. It’s exactly what they say ‘A little knowledge can be very dangerous’ don’t read into it too much, chandlers are all over the place if you decide you do need something it’s easy enough to come by, get in, get used to it then decide what’s needed.


What to spend on instead? Spend on clever accessories which will make life easier. To this day I say one of my best buys was a vacuum cleaner (How sad I had become!) this one has a pull off handheld part and is cordless, it flexes so it goes under almost anything and reaches all the corners. Even better it folds down when charging or being stored, so it can fit almost anywhere to be charged, it’s so much easier than having a huge appliance floating round.


We all know I’m a lover of shopping, so it was seriously easy for me to get swept up in all the preparations and go mad on buying things for the move aboard. We were very considered and had a budget for everything, but perhaps too considered. We created issues which weren’t there which resulted in a lot of unneeded ‘stuff’ think more carefully about how the space will be used and make more knowledgeable purchases. The best advice I could give on this, of course other than the above, would be to move aboard with the minimum of stuff you need to survive and go from there, adding as you need and preventing the situation I am in now … typing this blog as I’m unable to get down the galley for stuff I have ‘sorted’ that we don’t need.

James & Kirsty

A diary of live aboard life

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s