10 winter survival tips for living on a boat

10 Winter survival tips for living on a boat

Winter is now right around the corner, so we thought we would give you our 10 Winter survival tips for living on a boat.

1 – Keep stocked up on fuel

There are 3 types of heating on a narrowboat;


These are the most popular option, mostly due to the fact that the installation and use are very easy and they come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and prices. The multi-fuel heater can use coal or wood and works through dry heat – the fire also draws in a lot of the condensation from the boat.


This type of heating works exactly the same as a boiler in a house does. Again, very simple to use and compatible for use with a timer. This heater will provide hot water and heat the radiators.


Gas heating runs from a gas bottle. This option will heat your radiators and provide you with hot water but is not compatible with a timer.

2 – Fill up on water

Fill up your water tank. Doing this will alleviate the chance of having issues with refilling due to frozen water pipes along the canals. If you do not like to drink from the tank, remember to stock up on bottled water.

3 – Prevent your pipes from freezing

Frozen pipe

To make sure your boat will have access to your water we recommend using 30% anti-freeze in your cooling and sealed heating systems (radiators connected to the boiler). The last thing you want is to be cold during the Winter!

4 – Check your ventilation

A simple but important thing to check. If you have any ventilation issues through windows, doors etc you can easily and cheaply rectify it with draft excluding strips. This will stop all your lovely warm air from escaping and stop you wasting your money on fuel!

Simply cut the strip to size, remove the backing paper from the reel and attach it to the window frame – easy!

5 – Take turns on the stern

Stern covered in snow

Another very simple recommendation. Staying on the stern for a long period of time can easily lead to hypothermia – even if you are wrapped up! Take it in turns so you can get warmed up again before heading back out.

Remember, function over fashion!

6 – Check for stoppages

This is something we highly recommend doing if you plan on moving around a lot during the Winter. There is a high chance of maintenance and repairs along the waterways during the colder months, so check on the Canal & River Trust website to make sure you can get to where you want to go.

7 – Convenient mooring

Try to make your Winter mooring as convenient as possible. We recommend somewhere close to a shop or pub, so you can stock up on provisions or use the toilet should yours be out of service.

Have a look on the Canal & River Trust’s website for locations and prices.

8 – Break the ice?

Frozen waterway

Breaking the ice on the canal can be very dangerous. It is recommended to not break the ice if it is anything over half of an inch. Cruising through the ice in an attempt to break it can put a lot of strain on your engine and you can easily damage the hull of your boat with the ice by removing the blackening.

Doing this can also upset other narrowboat users as they will not appreciate having broken slabs of ice hit into their boat as you cruise by.

If the canal is completely frozen (2 or more inches of ice) then you will not be able to break through the ice and will just have to wait for the ice to melt before moving on.

9 – Boating in the dark

Some narrowboat owners believe you cannot cruise in the dark, but this is only true if you have rented a narrowboat. If you own one, then you can cruise whenever you like.

Do take into consideration that you may upset other narrowboat users if you decide to cruise on by in the early hours.

With the days becoming dark very early, it is recommended that you are as visible as possible. On the narrow canal system, make sure your boat has a good working headlight – without this, you could damage not only your own but other peoples narrowboats too.

However, on the larger waterways and rivers, navigation lights will also be required. This consists of a masthead light, a white stern light, a red light on your port side and a green light on your starboard side.

10 – Be safe

Life ring next to water

There are a lot of opportunities of putting yourself in danger in the Winter.

There are a few recommendations to keep you as safe as possible;

  • Wear sensible shoes – a slippery towpath can be very dangerous
  • Always carry items with you such as a torch, a charged phone, a whistle and life vest in case you fall into the canal
  • Tell somebody where you are going! This will prevent them from worrying about you should you be taking longer than usual.

So there you have it, our top recommendations for surviving winter on a boat.

There are obviously more things that should be taken into consideration, but these 10 are a very good place to start!

We hope you found this post on the top 10 winter survival tips for living on a boat helpful.

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Owatrol Team
About Owatrol Team

Our team are ready and willing to support you with your requirements whether it is protecting your newly laid deck or renovating a luxury yacht, whatever the application Owatrol has the solution you are looking for.

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