Monday, 2 February 2015

What's it like then ....?

Monday 2nd February 2015

No it's the start (or end) of a Monty Python sketch.

Up until now we have spent the winters firmly attached to a lovely mooring, hooked up to electricity and water and not needing to move - well for the first two we did need to wander over for a pumpout.

This winter we decided that we needed to experience the canals during winter and see exactly what it was like first hand.

Of course in the process of deciding to do this we have spoken to many people who do stay out - they have all described it as wonderful, interesting and exciting.

Like most things it is nigh on impossible to get the feel or full understanding and experience by simply listening to or reading about how it happens with other people.

Now having been at it for 2 months since our return back into the UK and having weathered the time through sunshine, wind, rain, snow, sleet, ice and cold we can very much understand the feelings that we had explained to us.

Everyday things that we have been used whilst cruising become a bit more of an issue during the winter - things like making sure the water tank is kept topped up; the cassettes are attended to and emptied; that there is plenty of diesel and gas.
Some might say that it should be relatively simple - if you need it then just cruise and get it.
There in lies the catch for winter cruising - you just don't do so much.

Firstly it is not like putting the hood down and untying - it is much colder and unless you have to go it really is nice to just lay-up for a few days to a week and explore the local area.
Secondly and probably more importantly, the canal does tend to ice up and if it is then you ain't gonna be moving at all.

The canal traders are very much about and they provide the lifeblood to many boaters - a fillup for the diesel tank; a new gas bottle; and for those who need it, coal for the solid fuel stoves.

We do keep a close eye on the weather reports to see what is coming our way and where we should be to avoid the bad stuff.
For example, earlier last month we were heading towards Congleton and whilst we would usually moor up on the aqueduct, the reports of high winds approaching made us moor up in the basin.
Similarly for cold overnight temperatures and the likelihood of ice; snow flurries and snowfalls as well - all mean changes in what we could/should do.

Despite these few problems that we could see, there is the overall feeling of freedom; not confined to one place - we all love our boats and the chance to cruise a bit all of the time and now we can.

Freedom to stop a bit longer; freedom to move on to somewhere new.

How will we do with our power? That was another question that we had asked ourselves - being in a marina, hooked up to power online, you soon don't concern yourself about it, but as when you are cruising you have to produce your own - problem is that the nights are longer and you are more indoors so there is the likelihood that you will use more power.
So far we have had no problems at all. What have we done?
Probably nothing more than we should have been doing for some time anyway.
Firstly, we stopped watching so much TV just for the sake of having it on.
Secondly, we read a lot more and we are enjoying it much more as well.
Thirdly, even though there is less daylight we still get a significant amount of power in through the solar panels - I didn't think that we would but it does make a difference.
Fourth, when we don't need it we turn the inverter off.
Fifth, we have been using BBC and ITV iPlayer whenever we can - instead of having the TV on using up 240V power (which means the inverter on as well) we download onto the iPad which can be charged from a 12V outlet and then watch these when we want.
Sixth, we make use of the spare data download at the end of the billing period for out internet to do the downloads above.
Seventh, we run the engine usually in the late afternoon and have all of the chargeable items on charge - it also means that we have enough power for the following day allows us to see how much power comes in from the solar panels - some days we only run the engine for 90 minutes, such is the effect of all of the above.
This also allows us hot water for the evening if needed and some leftover for the morning.
(There are two more things that you should do, if not already done, all your lights should be LED and consider changing your fridge/freezer to a 12V)

Power is essential, but so is being careful with it and these have helped us achieve all of that.
We are enjoying it all a lot more.

Sure we miss the people that we have spent our winters with in the past, but so far we have caught up with most of them during our time out.

We will most definitely be continuing with our winter cruising program for the remainder of this season and for the years to come.

Don't be afraid to try it - it is something different - but let's face it, the whole idea of living on a narrowboat is so vastly different to what most people would do anyway - now that you are on the boat, extend your horizons and taste the freedom.


  1. And you could get a 12v television. We have and it makes a real difference, a bit more expensive but well worth it. But make sure you get one with a wide viewing field, some need watching just from the front, ours (a Meos, never heard of them before) can be viewed from all angles.
    I do envy you being out all winter, I especially love boating in the snow.
    Kath (nb Herbie)

    1. hi Kath
      We thought that we might have had to buy a new TV when we came back and 12V was definitely the way were heading that way, but the one that we have which is only 3 years old. I will start doing more research on these and will look at the Meos brand -thanks for that

    2. If you make all of the battery powered devices operable/chargeable directly from 12v you will also save on energy usage. The manufacturers of devices that are DC fed but charged from 230v often don't have very efficient charging devices. A simple rule is 'The warmer it is the less efficient it is' Ref Tom on Waiouru who operates his PC via a cheap, and no doubt, more efficient DC-DC converter. The other obvious is that the 12-230v inverter is also adding another level of energy loss.
      Don McCoskrie

    3. I agree Don, but we are taking it slowly at the moment and finding that we can easily generate enough power for what we want - really it is the other way around - we do not have to generate much power to meet our needs.
      As time goes by we will become more efficient