Things That Go Bump In The Night And Pretty Much All Throughout The Day Too.

One of the hardest things to get used to about living on a boat is all the TERRIFYING NOISES the boat makes on a regular basis.

In the past week this has become so troubling that I’ve been considering commissioning Ed to design an app.

Boat app

    Number One Terrifying Noise offender is the heating system, which causes the radiators to knock like very polite salespeople all day long.

    I know that radiators do this in some houses too but, when you live on a towpath where people very often do knock or even climb all over your house (see Bizarre Rule of Boating #1), it can be hard to tell what is radiators and what is annoying teenage members of the public attempting to steal your flowerpots.

    On top of this, the horror of the noisy heating system was dialled up to 11 yesterday when the stove pump — which uses heat from the fire to pump hot water around the radiators — ‘forgot’ to turn itself on.

photo (1)

Get your act together, man.

    This caused the system to overheat and start issuing forth a screaming spout of steam. I had only just noticed this and was hiding behind the sofa while I tried to work out what was happening when the radiators suddenly starting making loud banging noises up and down the boat.

    Still none the wiser as to why all the radiators were suddenly trying to break loose from the walls, I was forced to assume it was pirates.

    (I would like to say that I reacted sensibly at this point but I actually ran around the boat yelling ‘BRACE FOR IMPACT’ while Ed walked in and calmly turned down the fire.)

Another similarly terrifying noise that took us by surprise was the bath pump, which pumps water out into the canal with a gurgling, sucking noise that genuinely sounds like you’re sinking. The first time Ed had a shower, this noise began and I ran around the boat yelling ‘ABANDON SHIP, ABANDON SHIP’ until Ed emerged to tell me a) it was just the bath pump and b) to shut up.

220px-Portland_Pudgy_proactive_lifeboat“For God’s sake Carli, get back on the boat.”

    Once you’ve got used to all the terrifying noises the boat makes, there’s all the terrifying noises the outside world makes to contend with too.

   On one side of you, there’s the towpath. Having lived in a first floor flat for the past couple of years I find being so close to this public walkway disconcerting as, when people stop to converse, it can often sound like they are on or inside the boat.


    On the other side of the boat there’s the canal, where ducks, moorhens and coots quack, fight and flap to their feathery hearts’ content.

    Waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of a coot yelling, swiftly followed by the sound of a fox sex-screaming its head off can lead one to mistakenly believe London is under attack.

IMG_5676Which *could* make *some people* accidentally emerge from their boat wielding an axe and ready to join the fight. 

   While we’ve yet to witness it we’ve also been told that ducks can sometimes peck at the side of the boat, which joins the long list of ‘noises that sound like someone is persistently knocking at your door’.


    I suppose I will one day get used to this profusion of banging, quacking, knocking and creaking but, until then, I will be sleeping with one eye open and the axe beside the door (sleeping with it under my pillow turned out to be really quite uncomfortable).

p.s. Big thanks to Joshi Herrmann (@joshiherrmann) for featuring the blog in his Evening Standard piece about alternative properties, for which I provided a bit of info about narrowboats. You can read the article here.

5 thoughts on “Things That Go Bump In The Night And Pretty Much All Throughout The Day Too.

  1. I know it’s an old(ish) post, but I just have to add – coconuts. They’re the worst. If you live on a boat in London, you’ll know those. Why they end up in the canal in the first place is a bit of a mystery still (although it has been suggested that they’re to do with some mysterious Indian ceremonies), but in the canal they are, at best, bobbing merrily upon the waters (I once counted 46 of them on a walk between Northolt and Paddington Basin – then it got dark, so it could have been more), and at worst they will merrily bob their rounded selves between your hull and the bank or, if you’re double-moored, between the two boats, and grrrrrind-screeeeeeach like something possessed every time the boat moves. Since the boat moves pretty much all the time – they’ll grrrrrind-screeeeeeech pretty much all the time… At those times it is wise to equip oneself with something long and pokey and pokey the offensive coconut from between the hull and the other upright object to your side, then either set it adrift and hope it will depart to annoy someone else, its job here complete, or, if you’re kind and/or paranoid (or suspect the coconut singled your boat out for a longer bout of pestering) – fish the coconut out of the canal and throw it into the bushes on the bank (make sure you’re not moored next to a slope).

    Then there’s also the canoeists passing too close and banging the boat with their oars. If an infestation of those is suspected (or if you’re vengeful and patient), I recommend leaving the shower water in the shower and only pumping it out when the canoeist is a few paces away :]

  2. I really enjoy your blog, so amusing and great photos as well. I’ve included it on my own blog list, hope that’s ok with you. Mine has nothing to do with narrow boats, but as the peddler of a Bicycling Button Museum I guess slow transport is my thing!
    Sally (the cycling curator)

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