Kiri and


Messing about on the canal

May 7th, 2013 (by Steve)

What’s the difference between a motorhome and a canal boat? It turns out, not much! Over the bank holiday weekend we joined 4 good friends on a narrowboat (why do I want to call it a longboat…?) on the Trent and Mersey canal. Whilst giving us a glimpse of a slower way of living, it also was good to draw parallels between portable life on water and portable life on the road.


Obviously the major similarity is the rationing of utilities – you have to carry all of the fuel and water that you are to use. In a canal boat, weight isn’t too much of an issue, so there were 3 large gas canisters, 4 large batteries, a diesel tank that could last for two weeks and a fresh water tank that filled most of the bottom of the boat. So, scale is different, but there’s still the idea that you’ve got finite resource – for example the engine has to run in order to charge the leisure batteries so electricity is a finite resource and if you leave the tap running, you’re going to run out of drinking water at some point.

As for choosing where to stop for the night, it’s a case of always noting possible spots in case the planned mooring point isn’t reachable. One of the less attractive sides of both canal boating and motorhoming is the removal of human waste – fortunately the waste tanks in the hired boat were large enough to last without us having to “pump out”. Getting into the mindset of using public toilets where possible was good training though.

All of this is focussing on the practical side of things though – it’s the lifestyle that’s one of the most beautiful things. Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

Life is a journey, not a destination

With the canal boat we started and ended the weekend in the same place – there was no destination that we were aiming for and we were able to spend time appreciating the journey. I guess it’s a similar thing with motorhoming – you have the flexibility that comes with travelling with your home on your back. Whilst it’s necessary to occasionally top up with those things that are finite resources, for the main part, spontaneity is king. That’s one of the things we’re really looking forward to in our trip around Europe.

We’ve put a couple of photos from our canal boating weekend on our Flickr account (

To end, we’ll briefly go back to the question asked at the beginning of this post and give another answer – there is one very big difference – you’re not likely to sink in a motorhome!


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