Wednesday 19 October 2011

Living Aboard Part 8 Where's My Nearest...?

If you're thinking of buying a boat to live-aboard and go on an extended cruise you may well like to know how far would it be between Elsan points and water taps, shops, pubs, visitor moorings and winding holes.

The Nicholsons Waterways guide for your local area (published by Collins) shows sewage or 'Elsan' disposal points and water points. They also show boatyards, refuse disposal points and recycling points. They are written with boaters, walkers and cyclists in mind and contain coloured Ordnance Survey maps marked out with locks, towpaths and boating facilities. The informative text contains navigational notes, places of interest, waterways wildlife, pubs, restaurants, walks and cycle rides. Many places are listed with their postcode which is very handy for locating yourself using the internet, sat-nav or a smart phone.

Every lock, aqueduct and bridge is marked so that you can plan your journey accordingly, and calculate your likely journey time. Add the number of miles to the number of locks on your planned cruise and then divide that figure by three. This will give you roughly the number of hours that your journey may take, but with narrowboating prepare to be relaxed about punctuality!

The introduction to each guide always contains some useful information for waterways users including boating basics, safety guidelines, mooring advice, and how to use a lock.

For grocery shops, GPs, cash points and the other bare necessities of life you will need the local First Mate's guide by Carole Sampson.

These focus on facilities within walking distance of the canal and include telephone boxes, internet cafes, dentists, vets, hospitals with A&E, chemists, travel links, launderettes, takeaways, churches and more: Everything you might need for a life on the move. Carole's friendly, informal introduction includes advice on using Poste Restante, and other tips on using the guide books. The layout is very different to the Nicholson's guide, focussing instead on the centre of each local town, it's facilities and good places to moor. I like her added suggestions of a “nip-to” now and then, which is something useful nearby, a very short walk from the canal. These are very helpful books containing essential information but without the descriptive narrative that is characteristic of the Nicholson's guide.

Pearson's Canal Companions cover much of the network, with a homespun feel and a chatty and lively narrative.

Richlow guides are "written by people who go there". Christine Richardson and John Lower set up Richlow  to publish books of the canals and rivers adjacent to the tidal river Trent. But the area has widened, with the whole of the South Pennine Ring, and the North Yorkshire Waterways added. Modern short-run production methods mean that they are kept up to date and very accurate.

On the internet you can find  which is a very good route planner with itineraries and virtual cruises. Water-Way is  based on the Nicholson's Guides plus much more.

So when looking for a boat to buy you can also enjoy planning the journeys ahead and how long it might take you to get to where you want to be.

“If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.” Lewis Carroll

If your boat is quite long, (ours is 70ft) you may have to factor in plenty of time to turn around at the next winding hole. How far apart the shops are depends on how far apart the towns are where you are cruising. But I can guarantee that you are never far from a canal side pub.

If you want to buy a canal boat to live-aboard, have a look at the boats for sale on Boatshed Grand Union. Search terms like "narrowboat", "broad beam" or "Dutch barge" will help you to find the second hand boat you are looking for.

Thanks to John Warner for the idea for this article.

Disclosure: I wrote this post for Boatshed Grand Union. It was my choice to republish it here.
This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.

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