A narrowboat renovation project by Nick Goodall.


Taking stock and removing a window

4th June 2023

Post 1, and week 54. This is my journey of renovating a narrowboat that I’ve had since summer 2020. Photo evidence of tearing it apart starts on the 23rd of May 2022:

First tearing out

Last summer and autumn I dawdled, not really sure what I was doing, and it wasn’t until September I decided to commit. By then it was getting cold, and it was slow progress over winter getting the front section ready to live on, which I now do as of a month ago:

Camping kitchen Sleeping area

“Camping on a boat” is apt. But unlike camping, I have all the property rights to build a home.

This is what it used to look like:

Rusty bedroom

And after painting, before insulating:

Pre-insulated bedroom

(I promise the red is paint; I forgot to pre-drill holes for those wooden batons and in doing so damaged that nice white coat, requiring a touch-up.)

Since moving aboard I’ve left the marina in Warwickshire and am renovating en route southwards. There’s much to do — it’s still mostly a rusty shell! — and this is where I’ll document it.

The boat has 5 inside areas which I’ve mentally split into 4 sections, working backwards: my room and bathroom that I’ve painted and insulated and made cosy; lounge section 1 which I’m working on now; lounge section 2; and the kitchen/garage[^1] area. The lounge sections each have 4 windows, and the kitchen has 4 mahoosive windows on the port side (they’re stunning, but need re-installing). A diagram:

[^1]: By “garage” I mean the rear interior, somewhat of a porch; a place for tools, plants, shoes, coats, a bike.

Boat diagram

For water I have bottles and they’re a cold joy to shower under on the towpath, as long as nobody is around. For electricity I have the old solar panel and boat batteries, along with a portable camping battery and panel. They keep my devices going and charge some Makita batteries that I use for a drill and angle grinder.

Work tools really are just devices for spinning exotic things around. Drills, saws, sanders, angle grinders… shape rotators.

That’s where I’ve got to, and now for update number 1:

This has been a slow week (and month), but on Thursday I finally removed one of the lounge windows! And dismantled it! That’s been such an aversive task, but getting the first one done sparked some confidence and I’m excited to do the rest. Worried for a moment they weren’t refurbishable, or that I’d break something when taking them apart, but nope: patience, soapy water and white spirit.

I did however run out of duck tape while covering the opening and had to leave the boat for a few days… that may happen again, so I’ll wait with the other 3 until I’ve fixed the chimney area and removed all the rust.

Besides that, I cleaned up the worst of the rust on the port side of the lounge, now ready for a day with a wire brush on the angle grinder.

Until next Sunday!

- Nick

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