Water on a Narrowboat

In a typical home you have water fed in through pipes to supply you with running water. On a boat we don’t have that option. Even boats in a marina do not have a constant supply of water. So what exactly do we do?

On a narrowboat there is a water tank. Different boats have different size tanks and they might be in various locations. Some are plastic, some are stainless steel, and some are integrated right into the structure of the boat. Ours is a 600L (150 U.K. gallons) in size and it is integrated. We have run it out once from full to see exactly how long it would last doing reasonably normal life and not skimping. We were in a marina at the time so it was a smart test before going out on the cut. For us the water lasted 10 days of drinking, dish washing, 3 showers, and 5 loads of laundry. Note: we do most of our showering at the gym.

So why is our water usage important? Well, it was water refilling day. While cruising on the canals you must find your way to a water point to fill your tank by hose. These are not a uniform distance apart and they are not always convenient. For us it made for an ideal opportunity to get turned around and fill our tank on the same trip. We took our eldest daughter along to help with the locks and the helming.

This wasn’t a big cruise as the winding hole (turning point) was about 1.5 miles south of us at the Aylesbury arm junction. The water point was also nicely located just perfectly after we turned around. So the plan was to head south, train Emily to work the locks, and me do a three point turn in the junction. Have I said lately that our boat is 65ft long? Not an easy task.

The locks were one kilometre south of the boat so I headed off in the boat and Alan took Em on foot. A narrowboat is at best slow and it is pretty easy to outrun one on foot….usually without running. So the plan was for them to have the lock ready and open for me to just cruise in. Our timing wasn’t perfect but it went fine. Immediately after the first lock is the second one. Both times we were heading up. Once these locks were out of the way Emily got back on board and we moved on to the turning.

The winding hole was about another kilometre down the way but no more locks. We passed so many moored up boats near Marsworth. Some were pretty typical narrowboat but many were gigantic wide beams. In one spot there were actually two particularly wide wide beams across from each other. Goes to show how wide the canal is there as it would still be possible for two narrow boats to pass between them but I of course was worried about the possibility of a wide beam coming the other way.

Aylesbury arm junction where we turned around

It was clear that day so no collisions. I got to the junction and started my manoeuvre. I pushed my bow up into the junction as best I could without actually being able to see my bow. Then I had to try and back myself up without coming too close to the boats moored on all three sides of me. It wasn’t quite enough so forward I went again. This time I got enough turn on so when going back I was positioned well. Forward on and I was able to move into the water point. Five point turn in a 65 ft boat is pretty damn good I think.

The other thing about water points is that the water pressure is good at some, excellent at others, and sometimes almost nonexistent. On this day we had a good one and filled up in about an hour. The pressure at our former marina was not so good and often took a couple hours if we were particularly low. This water point was located directly next to a newly built estate of expensive homes so we had to turn off the engine while filling. I would suspect that in the future the homeowners will probably force the boaters out but for now it is a good little water point that was easy to get into unlike many.

Now we are full of water and have had a snack/drink we are off again. I manoeuvre us under the bridge and past the many moored boats on both sides and hand over the tiller to Emily. She is in control of where our home goes. Explained how you steer toward the thing you don’t like. Going right and want left….hit the right with the tiller stick. She seemed to get it just fine. She helmed us right back up to the locks when I took back over and sent her off to work the locks and this time in charge of directing her father. She did a great job at both helming and working locks and was an enormous help.

Through the two locks and a kilometre from mooring back up where we were before, I expected Em to come back to helm again but she didn’t. I didn’t bother her as I was fine to do it myself. Turns out she was afraid I would make her moor up and didn’t fancy learning to park the boat. Fair enough but I wasn’t planning to ask her to do that. She did take a few pictures along the way that I will share with you.

Moored back up at Cooks Wharf, we settled back into the area for another week. The plans for next week are to head back north through Leighton Buzzard and find somewhere near a road bridge so we can get an electrician in to do some wiring.

Do you have questions about living off grid? Anything else you would like to know about water on narrowboats or maybe where we get our power? Let me know in the comments below!

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