Salutary lesson of 'life afloat' on inland waterways

Published: Monday, 17 February 2020

JONATHAN C Purton’s experience of living aboard is a salutary lesson for everyone 'taken in' by the idyll that is life afloat on our beautiful, sunny and warm inland waterways.


When the first series of Waterworld was shown on television, it attracted so many people mesmerised by the prospect of freedom afloat.

A vicar commissioned two hotel boats with absolutely no experience of boating.  Subsequently he gave up, but not without some unholy swearing at boaters in Alvecote because he was 'steaming through' at a rate of knots. Others sold their homes and moved onto the cut, again without researching the reality of such a move, particularly in harsh winter conditions.

Contact sport approach

Subsequently, Tim and Pru continued their 'contact sport' approach, no doubt goaded on by the producers of the show (though in reality my own experiences of meeting Tim suggests it was business as usual).

The problems with the Eberspächer are another thing; a 5kW heater should be able to comfortably cope with a 65ft boat, as it does with my 70ft.  My experience with these units has been from lowest to highest, but they can work successfully if installed and maintained correctly.  I suspect the lack of heat is down to air in the system or even short of coolant which must be a 50/50 mix of antifreeze.

High failure rate on inland craft

Eberspächer themselves produced a report due to the high failure rates on inland craft, which represent a small percentage of air and hydronic units sold within the vehicle and train markets. There are repair organisations that will exchange the unit for a fixed fee, which is only slightly more than paying for a service.  I have a spare unit from a truck in case mine fails.

There is a control unit for these that will display fault and error codes when they fail; if you have one you are part the way there.  Repeat failure can be caused by poor fuel (red diesel is impure compared to road diesel and I have noticed a big improvement since road diesel tinted with red dye is in use).

It is a shame they are going to give up living afloat, but it should be a lesson for anyone looking to get away from it all.