Why do You Want to Live Aboard a Narrowboat?

Why do we Want to Live Aboard a Narrowboat?

Want to Live Aboard - The Galley I image
It’s a Narrow Boat


It’s a good question and one that’s going to get asked quite frequently if I’m not mistaken. It’s not for everyone. Some people would never want to live on a boat. Period. Some may take a holiday and find that it assuaged a desire. Others may say they’d like to but when push came to shove, they would back down. Others again may venture onto the water only for a short period of time and then head back ashore (or ‘abank’) or may moor a boat in the confines of a comfortable marina, with all the comforts that offers, visiting at weekends. All of which is fine. There is nothing wrong with any approach. However, there are those who say “Let’s live aboard a narrowboat”. And their partner says “OK”. We fall into this latter category. To be fair, mu and I had talked about it several times in the past, over many years, in a nebulous kind of way. Then suddenly; we had decided.

It was like a coming together of disparate thoughts to create a realisation.

The key defining aspects of why, are as follows

  • A lower footprint on the environment
  • Being more responsible for daily living, being in control of more/most aspects of life
  • Being closer to a more natural way of life
  • The ability to move
  • A simplification


A lower footprint on the environment

It is acknowledged that living on the canal, aboard a narrowboat can support a low footprint on the earth’s resources, at least when compared to most houses.

I found some of the reasons for why include

  • The fact that you have to source things like water and fuel and have little room to store them, mean you are more frugal with them
  • A smaller abode means less resources used (narrowboats are small in comparison to most houses)
  • Not having a car (although many narrowboaters do own and run a car)
  • Not travelling abroad

The caveat to this is that your approach has to be in line with wanting to reduce your footprint. It would be foolish to just assume we were living a low carbon footprint life, just because we went to live on a narrowboat. We feel it will be easier to realise though. It’s something we will have to continually evaluate and work at.


Being more responsible for daily living, being in control of more/most aspects of life

By this statement, I mean that we will be more in touch with activities of daily living. These activities, as expressed through the Roper, Logan, Tierney model of nursing, namely;

  • Maintaining a safe environment
  • Communication
  • Breathing
  • Eating and drinking
  • Elimination
  • Washing and dressing
  • Controlling temperature
  • Mobilisation
  • Working and playing
  • Expressing sexuality
  • Sleeping
  • Death and dying

are much more apparent in the confined environment of a narrowboat. A lot of the activities listed above are ‘supplemented’ in modern daily life, they are more convenient and it is this convenience that can, albeit unwittingly remove some of our responsibility. This removal means we can end up living lives without enough thought on consequence.

Want to Live Aboard - Multi-fuel Stove image
That fire won’t make itself!


Being closer to a more natural way of life

On a narrowboat, you are physically closer to nature. Bird life abounds above and around; Swans, Moorhens, Coots, Mallards, Kingfishers and more. Below, a large variety of fish; Roach, Carp, Dace, Minnow beneath, live in the canal. Alongside, people walk dogs. Dogs & cats are also found living aboard narrowboats.

Aboard a narrowboat, we feel you are closer to a natural way of life in that the pace of life is slower. Walking is more natural than driving or flying and a narrowboat travels at not much more than walking speed.

We also feel you are closer to the natural rhythm of the seasons and closer to the elements; physically closer to them.

Want to Live Aboard - Nosey image


The ability to move

Have boat, will travel

Being able to move from place to place and position your living space to a different view, at will, is liberating. It addresses the nomad in us. We have lived in several houses previously and moving to a new location, satisfied a need for change. The ability to move more frequently, with minimal cost and on a whim, appeals.

We both love setting out on a journey. This way of life affords the ability to set out on lots of journeys, to places we have never visited before.

There is also the ability to base yourself at a marina for a period of time, should you want to. The flexibility is there.


A simplification

A narrowboat, by definition is narrow and no matter how long it is (ours is 57ft long), you have to simplify your life. You cannot just transfer all land-based equipment, belongings, fixtures & fittings to your narrowboat – it won’t fit!

The simplification can be seen as a constraint but constraint fosters creativity. We want to be able to capitalise on this and murpworks Afloat will be the creative outlet from it. This appeals greatly.

Moving onto a narrowboat makes you think about what is really important. This is not just in terms of physical possessions. We have found the process extends naturally, into all areas of life. Simplification is something that is liberating; we will be getting back to when we first started out.
(It is painful having to get rid of collections, built up over many years but that’s just the hoarder in me).



So, in conclusion the answer to the question “why do you want to live aboard a narrowboat?” requires a multi-part answer. We hope the above has started to answer this question, at least in part. It will require re-visiting and we are sure the answer will be added to and that emphasis may change but we hope the basic premiss laid out above, will still hold true.

The journey has only just started.

Want to Live Aboard - rp n mu image
rp and mu


This was a question post, one of the several ‘big topic’ questions that get asked of all narrowboaters – see here for another

rp – peace and narrowboats

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