Too many people think that living on a narrow boat is romantic .
When i decided to live on a narrow boat as a cruiser in London , i never thought at all the problems i discovered once i started my adventure on Summer place ( the name of my boat ) .
On youtube there are so many videos of people excited to show how cool is their life on the canals just to get most possible like in order to monetise their profile on the platform .
Unfortunately on these social medias the truth is often hidden for a moment of glory and two thousand i like.
When i was watching these videos i thought driving, going through locks and mooring a narrow boat was the easiest thing on the planet but when finally i started to drive my little monster , i discovered the truth was completely different .
A narrow boat is heavy , made by steel and wood and it has no brakes .So you need to learn how to manage the tiller , reverse and forward in the middle of a storm of wind , rain or snow .
When you drive a narrow boat you must be very careful at the current of the river or at the canal depth because you could be stacked for long hours in some isolated and dangerous place.
Apart these technical issues in London living on a narrow boat as a cruiser is becoming more and more difficult .
Because the capital is overcrowded , rents are very expensive , mortgages are very difficult to get , many people , in particular young professionals ,think that the purchase of a narrow boat can solve all their problems.
Honestly if you share this adventure with a friend or family or partner can be easier but for a single woman there are so many problems to consider .
Safety on the canals .
Quite often the narrow boats are moored far from houses and streets and walking in the night or early morning along the canals is not a great experience especially in winter.
You are alone and you do not know if there are other people on the boats next to you .
So try to imagine if someone should knock at your window in the middle of the night .
Even if you should call the 999 you can not give an address or the right location and this would create delays.
Another thing to consider is the risk to fell into the frozen water and no be able to come back .In winter this lack of attention could kill you .
Some women think to solve the problem adopting a big dog without thinking at the unhappiness and stress of that poor animal living in such narrow place and moving around every two weeks .
Community of cruisers in London is not the best.
In London people are not very friendly and this involves also the community of the cruisers.
If you live inside a marina the life is much easier and you can meet good friends , but when you have to move your boat every 14 days , as requested by the river trust canal , is very difficult meeting friends .
More and more often people with social issues rent old and rusted vessels for a few pound to avoid being another homeless of the capital , therefore be very careful with whom you talk if you are a woman living alone on the boat .
Unfortunately River trust canal is not considering the safety of the women paying their expensive licence to cruise along the public water .
River trust is worser than a bank in London .
They are only interested in your money and do not move a finger if you get in trouble.
I would have lots of episodes to tell but not now in this story more concentrated on the safety of single cruiser .
i just want to point out that River trust reduced my licence because i was mooring in the same places even if i was cruising more than 21 miles per year in a large area of the capital .
River trust canal can be very nasty towards single women cruisers in London
Mooring your narrow boat is also getting very difficult and quite often people use the double mooring loosing all your freedom and the beauty of the nature .
Double mooring is the worst thing can happen to a person who has decided to live on a boat .
Usually this kind of people love the nature , birds , animals and love to have a cup of tea or a pint of beer sitting on a chair watching the beauty of our planet .
But unfortunately this does not happen in London quite often even if you try to bring your boat far from the city centre .
In many places next to the city centre there are now triple moorings , otherwise you need to leave the boat in isolated places and walking or cycling miles before arriving to the first tube station or bus station.
Keeping a narrow boat is not cheap as people think .
In London the prIces of moorings are often more expensive than a flat , so people decide to pay a licence as a cruiser condemning themselves to move their boat every two weeks .
First of all moving a boat takes most of the time in a day .
Secondly diesel , pump out , coal, gas cylinders , wintering the engine, blacking the boat every two year is not cheap.
The marinas in London are rare , expensive and quite often overcrowded , especially in the week end.
People can spend 5 hours queuing for a pump out or buying coals .
You must travel for hours if you decide to move your boat from Little Venice to Northolt In West London also because a boat is not going faster than 5 miles per hour.
By the way I have never been in east London because of the locks . I did this choice after the terrible experience of crossing almost two hundred locks when i bought my narrow boat to arrive in London in ten days from Birmingham.
Locks are old and quite often in bad conditions due to the inefficiency of river trust and for a single woman can be a problem going through it .
If you are lucky you can buy coals and wood from sellers who are traveling all around the canals on their old boats , but can be tricky to match with their time due to the frenetic life of a working person in the capital .
Narrow boats are cold in winter .
If you live in a marina you have your electricity , water point , pump out and heating .
You can use your boat like a flat and the experience can be fantastic.
I met in fact several women who were living their experience for years .
But remember , when you are a cruiser everything is more difficult and dramatic.
You don t have electricity like in a flat .
You have solar panels on your roof but they do not work in winter.
So you need to switch on the engine to have hot water and if the water of the canal is frozen (as it happened to me during the storm called “the beast of the east” in 2018 )you can risk to break the engine .
Then you need to start the fire to have a nice temperature .
Quite often i found two or three degrees on my boat when outside it was just 1 degrees.
The narrow boats , especially the old generation are badly insulated and this creates problems with your heating .
You hands will be always black and your outfits will smell of burnt wood so think if the narrow boat is the right choice for you if you deal with fashion , conventions, important conferences or posh studios in the capital .
During the night the temperature inside the boat drops drastically so do not forget to put an alarm around 4 am to add coal into the stove if you do not want to wake up inside an igloo the following morning.
Changing a gas cylinder can be very difficult for a woman.
The bigger ones weight 30 kg and you need to lift them and use lots of strength in your hands to open the valve.You can solve the problem buying the smallest one but be ready to be interrupted in cooking your food quite often because they do not last very long .
In some places in the north west of London mooring your boat can be very tricky .
Just outside the city centre it is very difficult to find the strong metal rings offered by the efficient River trust to more your boat.
The ground can be very soft and even if you think to have done everything well in following the rules , you can wake up in a night of strong wind floating in the canal with the engine off. .
If you have lost the ropes of the mooring you really are in trouble .
Last thing : avoid winter mooring because they are often in isolated and unsafe locations with no services like those in Alperton.
Another strategy for the clever river trust canal to do good money .
In conclusion i advice to live this experience in London as a single woman cruiser if you have enough money to pay for a mooring in a marina .
Thanks for reading.
Laura Bernardeschi alias lauraartist68