"Living this way forces you to be environmentally conscious," says Bruce Napier who, with his wife Sheila, has lived on a narrowboat since 2004."We don't leave taps running, washing up is done in the minimum of water, the washing machine is always filled before running, and we never leave lights on." Bruce and Sheila, both of whom are now retired, had taken boating holidays since the Seventies.The Napiers also use around 52kg of propane gas for cooking each year, and they run a wood/coal-burning stove."But the amount of coal we use varies," says Sheila, "as we burn any discarded wood we find on our travels." (You can always tell a liveaboarder from a holiday hirer by the pieces of wood strewn on deck).The boat was built around it, and it was the engine Gardner's designed for the X-Craft, the midget submarines used in World War 2 which disabled the German battleship Tirpitz." Like all liveaboarders, the Cruises' are highly conscious of how much water they use."You collect your water from dedicated points provided by British Waterways, so you don't use more than you have to," says Patrick.
When you liveaboard, conservation becomes a habit." Another couple who liveaboard are the apply-named Patrick and Jane Cruise."Unlike driving a car, when you live on a narrowboat you can't help but be aware of the smell and smoke that diesel produces," says Corble."This is why many boaters look to give something back to nature – perhaps by filling up with biofuel that's been made from used chip fat." The Napiers haven't moved to biofuels yet, simply because the availability is still patchy, and so fill up with standard red diesel."On the rare occasions we leave the boat, we travel by train. It also means we have to keep our shopping to a minimum – as it has to be carried to the boat on our backs!" Sheila thinks the average householder could learn a lot from the principles of narrowboat living.
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Living on a narrowboat has an almost Zen-like minimalism about it – and this is where the inherent eco-friendliness comes in.