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Home Vacation The people who ditched their homes to live on narrowboats – and how travellers can try out the lifestyle

The people who ditched their homes to live on narrowboats – and how travellers can try out the lifestyle

by Staff

Narrowboating is really a choose-your-own-adventure getaway. Howes notes the company typically provides guests with routes, but you can go in any direction you’d like. Her dream journey is to complete what’s known as the “Thames Ring,” a trip Howes says would take about four weeks, and which connects London’s famous River Thames to the Oxford Canal and the Grand Union Canal through 245 miles of waterways. Highlights include views of Windsor Castle, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, 176 locks to pass through and Blisworth Tunnel, one of the longest navigable tunnels in England. You can moor your narrowboat just about anywhere along this path and all the others throughout the UK if you’re on holiday (those looking to permanently moor a boat full-time must pay a fee if they plan to stay for more than 14 days).

Howes says narrowboat busy season, which goes from April through October, is just too hectic to get away for that long as they are busy helping clients navigate the waters for the first time, rather than focusing on their own adventures. And, though it would extend their busy season, Howes notes travelers should look past peak travel times because “it’s still nice out there through the winter,” too.

Howes and Caruana both agree that narrow boating is ideal for those craving slowness and simplicity. “It’s a bit like a caravan holiday on water,” Caruana says. But the payoff is that you get to sit on top of the boat as it goes along with a pure immersion in nature. Owls and herons and kingfishers and ducks and all the baby animals. You are just immersed in it. It’s like nothing else I’ve ever had the privilege to experience.”

Oh, and Caruana has one more piece of critical advice: “You have to really like the person you’re with. It’s a very small space,” she says. “Luckily,” she added with a laugh, “my husband and I get along.”

Want to get out on the water? Here are three ways to give it a try.

Private boat rentals: Prices at Kate Boats run from about £1070 ($1354) to £1700 ($2152) for a week and include the boat hire, fuel, collision damage, linens, towels and lifejackets. There are also other companies across the UK that hire out narrowboats for a few days or weeks at a time, such as Black Prince, Drifters and ABC Boat Hire.

Narrowboat holidays: Travellers unsure whether they want to drive the boat themselves might consider a narrowboat holiday chartering company. Companies like Chiltern Canal Boat Holidays offer skippered getaways, while Waterways Holidays helps guests book narrowboats plus waterside accommodation if they wish to sleep on land.

Moored vessels: For those who are merely interested in spending all day and all night calmly docked, there are plenty of boats for that, too. Your best bet is to search vacation rental sites like Airbnb for narrowboats for rent. And, you’ll find the same option in other canal-friendly destinations around the world, including Amsterdam and Rhone-Alpes, France.


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