Spring is the perfect time to get your narrow boat in tip-top shape. Follow our step-by-step guide for a stress-free season on the water.
As the weather starts to warm up, it's time to prepare your narrowboat for smooth sailing and comfortable cruising.
Our step-by-step guide will take you through the essential tasks required to ensure your narrow boat is in top shape for the season ahead.
So, whether you're a seasoned narrow boater or new to the lifestyle, sit back, relax, and let us help you get your boat ready for a wonderful spring on the water!
Most narrowboat engines are located onboard under the deck of cruisers and semi traditional boats, or in an engine space in the rear cabin for traditional barges. Smaller boats might have an outboard motor.
Most narrowboats run on a modern diesel engine which offers maximum power, fuel efficiency and minimal noise, but some boaters prefer a traditional diesel engine for its nostalgic chugging sound.
Before you set off for your spring adventures, you'll want to check that your engine is in full working order. At least annually, you should...
If you need help and advice with this, speak to any of our friendly teams at our marinas and they will be happy to help you.
Standard narrowboat have at least two batteries: leisure batteries, which keep your heating and electrics running while you are cruising, and starting batteries, which provide the power for your engine to turn on. Like car batteries, your narrowboat batteries will recharge while the engine is running, however they can run flat if left unused for a long time. So before you go exploring this spring, you should check your batteries especially if your boat has been sitting unused all winter.
We'd recommend investing in a voltmeter from your marina chandlery to check the charge of your batteries. If your battery is running at less than 75%, you should aim to charge up as soon as possible. If your narrowboat has a dashboard, check for a flashing light to alert you that a battery needs replacing. To maintain your batteries...
Remember to always stop and investigate immediately when you become aware of a battery problem, and always wear protective clothing and rubber gloves when you're working with batteries.
Water holding tanks are usually found in the hull of a narrowboat, but sometimes you might find them in a separate container for easier access. There is always a risk of leaks from water holding tanks especially with age, so this is something you should check regularly. Water holding tanks can gradually give your drinking water a ‘tank taste’ which is harmless but not exactly pleasant.
To clean your water holding system effectively, leave a solution of chlorine or hydrogen peroxide in the system for 24 hours before flushing it out. Please be careful if you do this and always feel free to ask our marina teams or a fellow experienced narrowboater to help you out. Shorter term solutions include:
Boat bilge pumps are manual or automatic water pumps that remove excess water from leaks, spills, and drainage systems, and require regular maintenance and cleaning. You will typically find the water and bilge pumps within the engine space of your narrowboat. The number of bilge pumps you need will depend on the size of your boat, but it’s recommended that you have 3 to 4 pumps onboard. To clean your bilge pump...
The weed hatch is designed to give you access to your propeller within your boat, to save you having to get in the water. This part of your narrowboat can be found above the prop shaft in the engine bay, and can commonly fill up with floating debris from the waterways. One of the most common reasons that narrowboats sink is due to problems with the weed hatch, so it's important to keep it regularly maintained.
To clear out your weed hatch and propeller easily and safely...
It is important to remember that the propeller is sharp and can easily cut your hands, so take things slow and steady when clearing out debris.
Before setting off for a spring adventure or even moving to live aboard your boat, you need to make sure you have all the essential cruising equipment in working order to make sure you can moor up, get through locks and enjoy your days on the waterways as safely as possible. Some boats might come with some of this equipment already included, but you might need to visit your marina chandlery to stock up on extra bits.
If you are purchasing a brand new canal boat or used boat for sale, consult your narrow boat builder or boat sales office to confirm what equipment is included. Some useful parts of your cruising kit include...
As part of your essential spring maintenance, always make sure to check that your equipment is in good shape and working correctly before heading out on the waterways.
Whether you've been living on your narrowboat or it's been sitting unused since the winter, this is the perfect time for a deep spring clean. Here's how to get your boat looking and feeling shiny and new just in time for the boating season.
A deep clean is a great opportunity to reorganise and get rid of things you don't need, and it will make the cleaning process much easier. Start with what you can see, then make your way to the cupboards, drawers and storage spaces. Starting with a de-cluttered space will keep you on track and motivate you to keep going.
Grab a microfiber duster to de-cobweb your ceilings, then clean up your walls with a mixture of water and detergent. We know it can feel tedious, but if you want the boat looking and feeling fresh for the summer cruising season, it's worth taking your time and doing a really good job.
Make sure to clean all your furniture, shelves and units, using the appropriate cleaner for their surfaces. Once these larger furnishings are spotless, it's time to dust or clean your photos, lamps, wall hangings and any other bits you have on display.
Give your windows and frames a good clean (inside and out!), polishing your glass for a streak free finish and maintaining the frames with some wood varnish if necessary. If you find that the sealant is damaged, make a note to have this looked at and replaced ASAP.
Don't forget your curtains, blinds and nets! Take them down and follow their cleaning instructions to get your boat feeling as clean and fresh as possible.
Especially after a cold wet winter, it's hard to keep your floors clean and prestine and it's worth giving them some extra TLC in the spring. For carpets, we think it's worth hiring a carpet cleaner instead of tackling it with your at-home products, or bringing in a professional to do it.
Your wood and hard floor surfaces should be vacuumed, making sure to move any furniture that can be pulled out so you can reach any dirt and dust lurking behind them. Then use an appropriate floor cleaner to wipe away any dirt and stains. Wood floors may benefit from a coat of varnish to reseal it for the next year.
Hose your boat down with clean fresh water first to remove as much dirt as possible, then apply a suitable cleaning product with a sponge or very soft brush. A gentle boat shampoo is best.
When it comes to polishing your paintwork, carnauba wax is your friend! This natural plant wax is found in many boat polishing products. It will help to protect the surface paintwork and keep it clean, giving a protective shine with no streaks or residue. Carnauba wax can be removed with white spirit or panel wipe should you need to repair your paintwork.
When shopping for narrowboat paint, look out for coach enamel paint.
This is a hard wearing paint which comes in a great range of colours and shades. Your local chandlery will stock plenty of coach enamel paints, so pop in and speak to the team or chat with your marina neighbours if you need any advice on painting your narrowboat.
You can remove orange and black rust with a grit grinder, then if there are still some persistant black rust spots remaining, treat them with a special rust treatment.
You will then want to use a body filler to fill in the grinding marks before sanding it down and repainting. application of primer possibly some more minor filling then undercoats and top coats. Ask your local chandlery about rust treatments and body filler and they will assist you in finding the perfect materials.
When it comes to spring cleaning your narrow boat, you can tackle it just as you would with your house. De-clutter your belongings and start from the top, dusting the ceiling with a microfiber duster, cleaning the walls with water and detergent, and vacuuming your floors.
Clean all of your surfaces and furnishings with the appropriate cleaning products, making sure not to forget the curtains, blinds and carpets, and your boat will be clean and fresh for spring in no time.