Recently, another blogger Corinne, contacted me for advice because she is thinking of living aboard with her husband and four children. My children were born on a narrowboat and we lived aboard until our eldest was 5. In many ways it’s a beautiful life, but of course it’s not without its challenges.

I thought it would be helpful to share my top 3 books about narrowboat families.

Narrow Margins by Marie Browne

This is a real life memoir in which Marie, her husband, children and dog decide to move aboard a narrowboat called ‘Happy Go Lucky’, and proceed to refurbish it whilst learning the ropes of narrowboat life. It’s funny and heart-warming, and describes many of the realities of living aboard as a family. She has since written two follow-ups Narrow Minds and Narrow Escape which have good reviews on Amazon.

Water Gypsies by Annie Murray

This war-time novel details the difficulties of working the cargo boats while raising a family. It gives a real insight into the hardships faced by narrowboat families years ago. The heroine lurches from one tragedy to another so it’s not a good one if you like a happy story, but it’s compelling and full of plot twists and turns. It may be of real interest to you if you are already familiar with the Birmingham canals.

Ramlin Rose by Sheila Stewart

Sheila Stewart wanted to write the biography of a Banbury based boatwoman but after interviewing several of the original boatwomen she wove their tales together to create the fictional story of Rose Ramlin. The detail is incredible, describing the little-known practical aspects of a boatwoman’s life; how she did her shopping, cooking and child-rearing whilst always in charge of steering the butty. The story follows Rose through both World Wars and the decline of the canals, beginning the tale in her childhood when her father’s boat was horse-drawn.

I’m not saying these are the best books on the topic; they’re just the ones I’ve read so far! There is of course my own free eBook too Narrowboat Families which includes interviews with families who have lived aboard.

To follow Corinne’s adventures as she plans for her narrowboat life check out Motherhood Journeys.

This rare wide beam barge was home to a family of four for many years. There’s a large galley with an aga, an open plan saloon and three cabins. She was also owned by Richard Branson in the 1970’s.
Leeds & Liverpool Short Boat "The Arthur"

We have plenty of other boats suitable for living aboard, to suit all budgets. You may also like our free eBook Living on a Boat: The Boatshed Guide

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