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David Lorimer

Living afloat, trade narrow for wide?

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We've been narrowboating on holidays for nearly 40 years and, since 2014, have owned a 57' boat which we keep at a marina near Napton.  We live in Brazil, I'm retired and we spend 3-5 months a year on the boat, sometimes long cruising, sometimes keeping close to the marina.  We now intend to sell up in Brazil and become live-aboards later this year. The question is, narrowboat vs widebeam, and where?  
 
Our Aqualine Madison is a good weekend and holiday design for people with houses.  It works for our 3-5 months/year only because I’ve installed a lot of extra shelving.  We’ll be able to make do until Spring 2020 by renting some self-storage space but for the long term we’ll need a good deal more storage space.  And, perhaps, living space as well.  We love where we are, near Napton.  The marina itself and the people, the central location.  If we decide on a longer narrowboat, 60-62' there’s no question but that we’d stay right where we are.  
 
But then, there’s that siren call… a widebeam.  The comfort, the being able to stretch your legs out in front of the sofa without crooking them in when someone passes.  A near guarantee that the bed will be long enough for my 6’2” frame.  And so forth.  
 
In researching threads comparing WBs v NBs I’ve come away with a fairly basic understanding that WBs are unwelcome in the South except on tidal river stretches, and even seem to be clogging the K&A these days.  And, due to their attractiveness as housing alternatives, finding moorings is increasingly problematic.  In the North, the boat population is said to be declining and, at least on the many tidal stretches, there’s plenty of navigating room - although permanent moorings aren’t easy to find.  And, despite the attraction of extra space, I wonder whether going cruising in a WB anywhere would be as spontaneous a decision as it is with the narrowboat.  We enjoy cruising, boat handling and meeting people.  
 
I’m sure that many CanalWorlders have faced similar decisions and I’ll be particularly grateful for any insights.  I should say that we have plenty of family and friends in the UK and that, no matter what the beam of our boat, we have an escape capsule in the form of a camper van when things become too stuffy inside.  
Edited by David Lorimer
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David, I'm sure you will receive plenty of suggestions.

Mine would be,get a widebeam in France, but that probably isn't what you want to hear!

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Athy, I do so agree with that and we have considered a wide beam or Dutch Barge on European canals as being less out of place than on, say, the upper reaches of the Grand Union.  But the family and friends we want to get closer to are in Briitain.  We're perfecting the art of guests hopscotching between B&Bs, cruising by day and taking an evening taxi to pick up their car and get to the following day's meeting point.  

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Being in the same boat (sorry for the pun) I'm now in the camp of the NB's.  I toyed with the idea of a WB but they just don't look right to me.  If I want the space I would go down the route of a Dutch barge and head for the continent but a NB up north holds more appeal to me.

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I assume that you will come back from Brazil with funds from the sale of your house there (though I have no idea of property prices out there). Why not buy a small house or flat in Napton? We know a couple who have done similarly: they have bought a cottage near their mooring in Cropredy, I suspect they use it largely as a storeroom.

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For me the key words in your introduction are "welcome" and cruising" that IMHO totally precludes a wide-beam in the areas you are suggesting (Napton Northern GU etc) where they are most certainly NOT welcome.

Athy's suggestion is the best if it works for you financially if not self storage units might be an option if not buy 70ft narrow and enjoy it or head to mainland Europe.

IMHO the antagonism between narrow and wide users whilst very real hasn't even begun to hit its peak yet - I assume you want a quiet life so the options are relatively clear

 

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3 minutes ago, Halsey said:

 

IMHO the antagonism between narrow and wide users whilst very real hasn't even begun to hit its peak yet.

Do you really feel that there's "antagonism"? It may be a mild irritation if you have to move over to squeeze past a wider boat, but I can't imagine such a situation escalating into mods v rockers-style battles of widies v. skinnies.

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Do you really need so much stuff that you need storage on land? For us when we moved aboard some 20 years ago part of the appeal was to be able to DUMP! We found that though it was hard to rid ourselves of all the modern day trappings once we had done so it was a great relief.

Our choice of boat initially was a 40x12 cruiser on The Broads, 10 years on we moved to the Fens and onto a 60ft NB.

At no point were we camping, we had a full size under counter fridge, and a full size under counter freezer, both 12v, full size auto washer,  tumble dryer and a 2 seater sofa across the boat so no pulling your legs in. Our bed was lengthways down the boat albeit only 4ft wide but as long as a conventional bed.

Living aboard comfortably only requires a bit of lateral thinking.

Good luck with your quest 

Phil

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Its a tough one. Having lived on both widebeam and narrowbeam I can quite categoricaly say that widebeams are so much better to live on than its possible to convey in words. They realy are VASTLY better boats. More stable in use, most handle well and simply superior to a dreadful seven feet width restriction!! HOWEVER I am at present again living on a near full length narrow beam as in order to cruise inland UK it must be narrow as its simply impossible to have a large cruising range on a wide. For instance nipping down from fabulous York to lets say Banbury then is an impossibility. AS you rightly say the south is too small for wideys, the Thames is fine but the puddle called the Grand union and the dyke called the Kennet and Avon are simply the wrong place to be. A widebeam on the connected proper commercial waterways up north would work very well, thats what we did. Moorings are possible also. It realy does depend on your wants/needs as a cruisng range and area.

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Thanks for the thoughtful and helpful replies.  Athy a house will be the solution somewhere down the line, but we'd like some time before deciding where.  Napton would certainly be a possibility.  The views!  

Halsey, we'd stay near Napton only if we continue in a narrowboat; a wide beam would only be an option in the North or far South.  I agree with you that friction between NB and WB users has yet to peak.  

Phil Ambrose, thanks, we'd need self storage only while still on board Wine Down, our 57' Madison cruiser stern.  A replacement NB would be 60-62' semi-trad and there'd be no need for the extra storage ashore.  And I do look forward to shedding all our "stuff".  When on the boat we have never, ever, missed a single thing from home!

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9 hours ago, David Lorimer said:

 I wonder whether going cruising in a WB anywhere would be as spontaneous a decision as it is with the narrowboat.  We enjoy cruising, boat handling and meeting people.  

This is a really good question. When we lived full time on our lumpy water boat in the med, it used to take us 30 mins to an hour to prep the boat to go out of the marina AND do the same when you get back in. Certainly not spontaneous cruising. Once we were in winter marina mode, it was a half day job to get the boat ready to go out and half a day to sort it when we returned. Really.

The beauty of our NB is that it is 2mins to take the aerials down and maybe 5 mins to stow the pram cover if up in the winter so that is spontaneous. For us, it is one of the big advantages of the NB over the lumpy water boat. Not sure a wide beam would be as spontaneous. Sounds like a bit more planning is needed. 

If you are going to spend more time on rivers then get a wide beam, or better still a Dutch barge but if you want to stay on canals then a NB seems more appropriate where spontaneous life exists.

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1 hour ago, Athy said:

Do you really feel that there's "antagonism"? It may be a mild irritation if you have to move over to squeeze past a wider boat, but I can't imagine such a situation escalating into mods v rockers-style battles of widies v. skinnies.

In the area in question it is a lot more than "mild irritation" esp in relation to Braunston and its tunnel and the North Oxford

 

IMHO its down to the "we have rights" brigade who inhabit the marinas and towpath in this area - Barby, Oniley, Wigrams etc etc - however the OP is asking questions so is already in the other bracket of potential users who do care and do want to fit in sadly I feel in certain hotspots your mods and rockers analogy isn't far off as a future prediction .

 

Interesting that you suggest that I would have to move over to accommodate a wider boat - IMHO if there isn't enough room they shouldn't be there, surely that's already giving the wrong message the North Oxford Braunston to Oniley/Barby and the Crick summit being two cases in point

Edited by Halsey

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8 minutes ago, Halsey said:

 

 

Interesting that you suggest that I would have to move over to accommodate a wider boat

Interesting that you interpret my comment in that way - I was imagining a wide boat moored up (as, I am told, they generally are) by the towpath, so obviously other boats would need to take action to avoid crashing into them.

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18 minutes ago, Halsey said:

Interesting that you suggest that I would have to move over to accommodate a wider boat - IMHO if there isn't enough room they shouldn't be there

 

Colregs are largely based on the principle that the more manoeuvrable boat should keep out of the way of the less manoeuvrable boat.

but there are certain 'rules'

 

Power Boats meeting 'Head-On'

 

Power Boats meeting head-on pass Port to Port

In this situation there is no stand-on boat, each boat must give-way and alter it’s course or rate of speed to safely pass.

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16 minutes ago, Athy said:

Interesting that you interpret my comment in that way - I was imagining a wide boat moored up (as, I am told, they generally are) by the towpath, so obviously other boats would need to take action to avoid crashing into them.

Fair comment...…………...and what you say is generally true - the one at Willoughby on the N Oxford being the most notorious example

Edited by Halsey

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1 hour ago, Athy said:

Do you really feel that there's "antagonism"? It may be a mild irritation if you have to move over to squeeze past a wider boat, but I can't imagine such a situation escalating into mods v rockers-style battles of widies v. skinnies.

 

Well I'm all tooled up and ready for you lot! ?

 

Seriously though, I get on fine with most boaters I meet and in the real world any irritation or antagonism comes solely from a tiny minority of narrow boaters who seem to be vastly over-represented on this forum.

 

Most boaters simply have better things to think about than whose boat is bigger than whose and I think those who perpetuate this anti-wide rhetoric just have an "us vs them" mentality which comes from harbouring petty grudges.

 

Having said that, although I've done a fair bit of cruising on canals, rivers and tidal waters without any issues with other boaters, I have to agree with what others are saying: If the intention is to cruise mainly on canals then stick with a narrow boat.

 

Just my two-penneth worth...

Edited by blackrose
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1 minute ago, Halsey said:

Fair comment...…………...and as you say generally true - the one at Willoughby on the N Oxford being the most notorious example

Strange, isn't it, that I have never heard of a moored-up breasted pair of 1930s boats creating ill-feeling, even though together they are wider than most widebeams.

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16 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

 

Colregs are largely based on the principle that the more manoeuvrable boat should keep out of the way of the less manoeuvrable boat.

but there are certain 'rules'

 

Power Boats meeting 'Head-On'

 

Power Boats meeting head-on pass Port to Port

In this situation there is no stand-on boat, each boat must give-way and alter it’s course or rate of speed to safely pass.

I'm not going to get drawn into this one any more as I have said many times I'm not anti wide-beam so long as they are driven considerately and in the right place but pushing me into a hedge to maintain their £180K boat/paintjob and damaging my boat on the North Oxford (as has happened) doesn't constitute the right place - The OP is clearly looking for a sensible "take" on this scenario and seems to have the right thoughts as do many wide-beam owners on this forum 

 

My previous "fat boat" on the Severn at Worcester

 

 

002.JPG

Edited by Halsey

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1 minute ago, Halsey said:

I'm not going to get drawn into this one any more as I have said many times I'm not anti wide-beam so long as they are driven considerately and in the right place but pushing me into a hedge and damaging my boat on the North Oxford doesn't constitute the right place - The OP is clearly looking for a sensible "take" on this scenario and seems to have the right thoughts as do many wide-beam owners on this forum 

Agreed (I'm a 'fat-boat' and know my place) but your suggestion as to 'why should I move over' is not really within either the spirit of boating, or the 'rules'.

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10 minutes ago, Halsey said:

pushing me into a hedge and damaging my boat on the North Oxford

Does this happen to you often, or was it a one time event that one specific boat caused?

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10 minutes ago, Athy said:

Strange, isn't it, that I have never heard of a moored-up breasted pair of 1930s boats creating ill-feeling, even though together they are wider than most widebeams.

Quite, which shows that in reality this has little to do with the width of the vessel and the ill feeling is more phycologicaly driven.

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6 minutes ago, TheBiscuits said:

Does this happen to you often, or was it a one time event that one specific boat caused?

Factually twice over the last 12 months and both times they were the biggest possible brand new New Boat co (I think) fat boats travelling from Stockton/Calcutt to Oniley 

5 minutes ago, blackrose said:

Quite, which shows that in reality this has little to do with the width of the vessel and the ill feeling is more phycologicaly driven.

Except you can split a pair - you surely can't be suggesting we can cut wide-beams longitudinally in 1/2 ?

 

Please re-visit my edited post #18 to show I'm not anti :captain:

Edited by Halsey

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13 minutes ago, Halsey said:

I'm not going to get drawn into this one any more as I have said many times I'm not anti wide-beam so long as they are driven considerately and in the right place but pushing me into a hedge and damaging my boat on the North Oxford doesn't constitute the right place - The OP is clearly looking for a sensible "take" on this scenario and seems to have the right thoughts as do many wide-beam owners on this forum 

 

Assuming I'm not travelling downstream on a fast river then I generally pull into the side to let boats coming the other way pass, mainly because I'm more confident of my own handling abilities than most narrow boaters I encounter. Although once or twice I have inadvertently put myself into banks and hedges. But that's fine, anything to be considerate to others.

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7 minutes ago, blackrose said:

Quite, which shows that in reality this has little to do with the width of the vessel and the ill feeling is more phycologicaly driven.

I doubt it: phycology is the study of seaweed. Pleasing, and rarely seen, word, though.

 

(P.S.: I agree with you).

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2 minutes ago, blackrose said:

 

Assuming I'm not travelling downstream on a fast river then I generally pull into the side to let boats coming the other way pass, mainly because I'm more confident of my own handling abilities than most narrow boaters I encounter. Although once or twice I have inadvertently put myself into banks and hedges. But that's fine, anything to be considerate to others.

As I have said before - if all fat boat owners were as you this would be a non issue ?

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