Frost Protection options with our Canal Boat

This is going to be our first winter with a canal boat, and I have been looking at how we can protect the boat against freezing.

I had a few options:-

  • I could drain all the water out of the boat, i.e. the water tank and the heating system. But we intend to visit the boat over the winter as a jumping off spot for visiting relations.
  • We do have mains power, so I could place some oil filled radiators in the boat, they would need an anti frost setting. This looks like a viable and popular option, but we have to prepay for electricity and I have no idea how much we would need.
  • The boat is fitted with a very effective diesel powered heating system, with radiators around the boat. At present, the control system is very primitive, with just an on/off switch, we have used it a few times. I would need to fit a frost thermostat to make it effective.

After much studying and asking questions on Facebook and the online forums, I decided to go with the third option and use the built-in diesel heater. We have a large diesel tank, so this I hope will last the winter.

Eberspacher Heater Switch
Eberspacher Heater Switch

Our boat is fitted with an Eberspächer D4W Hydronic water heater which heats the radiators and provides hot water when required, which in the summer is not often. It is controlled by a simple pull switch.

I then tried to source a 12v frost thermostat, from what I could see a 12v Honeywell frost thermostat part no 4111263a would do the trick. The prices of these seem to vary from each supplier, but in the end I selected PB Auto Electrics as the price and delivery seemed reasonable.

But when it arrived, it was the T4360 240v frost thermostat, A quick check with PB Auto Electrics and, they confirmed it was exactly the same device, I wish I had known before it would have made finding one a lot simpler.

NOTE: This type of thermostat is a very simple device, that uses a bimetallic strip as a switch when temperature changes see here for a more detailed explanation.

My plan was to fit the thermostat is parallel with the current switch, so I could still use the switch when needed, the frost thermostat could then operate independently when the internal temperature of the boat gets too low.

To install the thermostat, I made some extension leads from the switch to the new thermostat and mounted it on an internal wall near the control panel.

The switch had two wires attached, a yellow wire and a red wire. The red wire has 12V supply from the heater, and the yellow goes back to the heater to trigger it to start.

Inside Thermostat
Inside Thermostat

Inside the thermostat, I extended the red wire to terminal 1 and the yellow to terminal 3.

When you remove the cover of  the frost thermostat it revels a wheel with the temperatures marked on it, it is pretty much a normal  thermostat with a cover that stops adjustment.  To test the setup changed the setting to  above and below the current temperature.

Everything worked as expected, so I finally set it to between 3 and 4 degrees.

Before I left, I did take a photo of our fuel gauge, so I can see roughly how much diesel we use.

Next I will add  a frost protection switch, so I can isolate this in case of problems, I could have done this with the current switch, but I expect to add a normal thermostat later which will work with the switch or replace it.


Returning back to Black Prince

If you have been reading our blog you will know we had a little problem with the paint on the roof, we purchased the boat from Black Prince only a few weeks ago, they have looked at the peeling paint and are going to repair it.

Paint Problems on roof
Paint Problems on roof

It is an odd problem, looks to me, a non-expert, like some surface contamination under the primer as caused it to lose adhesion, I have seen similar problems this caused by the oil used to lubricate the air tools used when removing the old paint.


Worcester to Stoke Prior

We have been on a trip to Worcester and are going to drop the boat off at their base in Stoke Prior before we set off home.

We broke the trip up this time, turning around at Diglis Basin just in front of the Diglis Lock, we had decided to try and get past all the locks and then rest up  for the night just after the M5 bridge at Tibberton, we would then have a simple trip to our mooring at Droitwich Spa Marina the next day, before heading off on the Saturday to the Black Prince Base at Stoke Prior.

Sonia and Obi the dog collected the car from the marina and drove to Stoke Prior while Mary and I moved the boat. Once Sonia had arrived at Stoke Prior, she let them know we were coming and check where they would like us to moor before walking down the canal to meet us.

The trip took us just under 3 hours at a leisurely pace,  with just the 3 locks at the top of the Droitwich Canal and then 7 on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. We finally arrived and moored up next to another Black Prince customer boat, “Pub Trawler II” which was known as Ava when she was a hire boat.

We have since heard that they will completely strip the roof and repaint it, should be ready in a couple of weeks. Furthermore, we are hoping to get a battery monitor fitted while she is with them. I have selected the Victron BMV-712 as I can talk to this via the onboard monitoring system I am developing (More on this later).

BSS – Boat Safety Scheme Examination and Certificate

BSS – Boat Safety Scheme

Now the boat is complete with the exception of a few minor cosmetic bit, it was time for the BSS (Boat Safety Scheme) examination, this was organised by Black Prince Holidays and carried out by the same person/company as our pre-purchase inspection Tom Keeling of Small Craft services.

As we expected Floydtilla (Chloe) sailed through, so we are now certified until  25th April 2025.

With this complete and the boat insured, we are now ready to get our CRT licence.

Narrow Boat Insurance Roundup!

Photo © Dr Neil Clifton (cc-by-sa/2.0)
Narrowboat graveyard, Northwich, Cheshire Photo © Dr Neil Clifton (cc-by-sa/2.0)

In the social media I see lots of NB owners asking for recommendations for insurance, so being new to this I searched around in the magazines and via google for companies that I could try.

I was not looking for the cheapest insurance, but a company that made me feel  that I was going to be looked after if the worst thing happened and I needed to make a claim. I also wanted to know what I was being covered for, over the years we have spent a lot on insurance, sometimes to find that we where not as covered as we had hoped, while other times we had been pleasantly surprised how well things have been handled.

Mostly we take out insurance and have not had to use it, it just makes us legal and feel that our investment is protected.

The basic spec of our boat is as follows:-

Boat Name Floydtilla (was Chloe)
Builder Probuild
Fit-Out Black Prince
Year 2007 (First Hired 2008)
Length 62 ft
CRT  516812
Engine 42hp Diesel
Marina Yes

I am interested to see what different companies offer to differentiate themselves from the rest and we will see what tempts me the most.

NOTE: While every effort has been taken to keep this as accurate as possible it is not always possible to directly compare these quotes, I am just reporting what I understood from the research we did.

This was all done online over a few of days in March 2021 .

Mercia Marine insurance

Mercia marine was recommended to us by Black Prince as this was the company they used, and whom we purchased the boat from.

Compared to many of the other sites I visited this one provided so much information, it looked a little text heavy and dated, but I would rather have more info than be left in the dark.

I completed the online form, which asked if I was to use the boat single handed, and as I suspect that may happen I answered yes, this then required a member of staff to review my quote before they sent it out.

When I got the email with the quote it was a little higher that expected at £308.52 pa. They provided a cost breakdown when I logged into the site

QUADRANT COMPREHENSIVE COVER (£3m liability) £246.07
MARINE LEGAL PROTECTION (non-refundable, unless within 14 days) £16.00
INSURANCE PREMIUM TAX (at 12 %) £31.45
POLICY ADMIN FEE (non-refundable) £15.00
TOTAL £308.52

I checked the nice “Boat Insurance Glossary” on their website and could find no mention of “MARINE LEGAL PROTECTION” or “QUADRANT COMPREHENSIVE COVER” who I assumed is the insurance company.

So I emailed back asking for more information and to see how flexible they are on their quote. The response a few days later basically was that the quote was the best they could do at present.

Insurer Quote Excess
Mercia Marine Insurance £308.52 annual £150

Insure4Boats®  (Ripe Insurance Services Limited)

This site had a very simple form to complete, almost no additional details asked before the quote was generated.

Insurer Quote Excess
Insure4Boats £13.46 p/m   £161.55 annual £200

Cover was up to £3 million with an option to increase to £5 million with increased the premium to £16.30 p/m  or £195.55 annual.

Adding frost or freezing again increased this to £17.00 p/m  or £204.01 annual.

I did not click on the option for physical loss or damage caused by war, strikes, terrorism and associated risks as this, I hope, seems unlikely in the UK at the moment.

Next came an option to cover the contents with a max single item of £1000 and limits on portable electronic equipment, mobile phones and bicycles.

There was also a option to enter a value for the total contents, It is not clear  if this means  just personal items, and not fixtures and fitting, so I added £1000 and our final premium came to

Insurer Quote Excess
InsuranceInsure4Boats £17.99 p/m   £215.91 annual £200

Before I left the site, I had the option to email myself the quote for later purchase.

Compare Boat Insurance

I started with the first result on a google search for “narrowboat insurance” which just happened to be a comparison service/broker.

The website is nice and simple no real surprise question, this site does all sorts of boat insurance, but after selecting narrowboat the questions in most part seem appropriate.

After entering my details they came back with 5 quotes from 4 suppliers and noted that 13 providers were unable to quote.

A little bit of research on the site showed that prime was also MS Amlin.

Insurer Quote Excess
towergate insurance £14.62 p/m   £156.91 annual £100


£23.35 p/m   £249.31 annual £300
geo/specialty (Pleasure Craft) £25.48 p/m   £272.00 annual £125
MS Amlin £25.69 p/m   £274.23 annual £150
MS Amlin
Promo Offer: Legal cover included as standard
£26.82 p/m   £286.23 annual £150

All the results offered ‘FULL’ cover of between £3 and £5 million, the cheapest towergate insurance was significantly cheaper than the rest at this point, none of the others offered any additional items that could be used to differentiate themselves from the rest from what I could ascertain from the website.

After about 10 minutes of asking for the quotes, I had a call from a very pleasant  young lady who wanted to check I had everything I needed.


craftinsure quotes
craftinsure quotes

This site has one of the simplest quotation systems I have used, just four questions.

    1. Boat Value?
    2. Year of construction?
    3. Claims in the last 3 years (0,1,2 3+)
    4. Proof of no claims (Y/N)

You then have to Agree/disagree to a short agreement that covers things like boat construction (Fibreglass, Aluminium or Steel), that it for private use only and is not over 80ft long etc etc etc non of which seemed onerous.

I was then presented with two possible quotes with links to email the quote or to read sample documents.

Insurer Quote Excess
craftinsure £155.23 annual £200
craftinsure £117.04 annual £400

Haven Knox Johnston

This company I came across in Waterways World Annual 2021 as they had a full page advert.

I visited the website address and clicked on the link to Narrowboat insurance and  then the “Get a quote” button, and completed a simple online form. I expected to be asked a few more questions, but no, it seems they will contact me for more details…

A working day later, I got an email asking for lots more information none of it complicated, I am sure this could have been done as an online form when I sent in my initial request, but they did respond, and a few days later we got a package in the post.

The package was very comprehensive with lots of information, the quote was £223.78 for £50,000 Hull, Machinery, Gear and Equipment and £3m third party liability. We could add Marine Legal Protection cover as an option for an additional £13.72

I really liked the All Weather Insurance – Insurance Product Information Document as this outlined what was and was not covered by the policy so there should be no confusion.

Insurer Quote Excess
MS Amlin Insurance SE £223.78 Annual plus extra  £13.72 for MLP £150

GJW Direct

This is another insurance company I found in Waterways World, they have an interesting tag line “The UK’s Largest Direct Boat Insurer”. and from what I had seen in social media posts this was the one most often recommended.

The website seemed to ask appropriate questions for the owner of a narrow boat

The final quote included

    • £25,000 Legal cover
    • £5m Third Party Cover
    • £20,000 Personal Accident
    • River Canal Rescue

The River Canal Rescue is a good added benefit, and not one I had seen so far and covers

    • Nationwide breakdown assistance and recovery
    • 24-hour practical and technical telephone assistance
    • Crisis coordination and message relay service
    • Homestart and provision pick-up service
    • Free WaterNav App for navigation
    • SOS app to keep you updated when you breakdown

You can read a pdf that explains the cover provided

Looking at the RCR website, this offer is about £65 in value and would be equivalent to the Retainer level of membership

Insurer Quote Excess
GJW Direct £220.50 annual or
10 X £22.05 Payments

Newton Crum Insurance

This site had a comprehensive form that needed completion, they will then contact you via your selected preference with a quotation.

We will see what happens, I asked to be contacted by email.

In the post the next day I received a letter? from Newton Crum, which outlined the cover as follows

    • £5m Third Party Indemnity
    • £5000 Emergency (Dr/Surgeon/Hospital fees)
    • £47,500 Craft with its gear and equipment
    • £1000 for Personal effects

The annual prices offered all depended on the amount of the Excess you were willing to accept :-

Insurer Quote Excess
Newton Crum Insurance £97.00 annual £500
Newton Crum Insurance £108.00 annual £300
Newton Crum Insurance £119.00 annual £250
Newton Crum Insurance £140.00 annual £200
Newton Crum Insurance £160.00 annual £150
Newton Crum Insurance £190.00 annual £100

For an additional £1.00 we could add £25,000 Marine Legal Protection that covers us for agreed legal & associated fees to enable the owner to pursue uninsured loss or injury.

Also for an additional £4.00 for Marina Benefit, which waives the basic excess when the craft is in its home marina berth.

The letter also included a sample policy and a check list to help compare with other quotes and finally a Quotation Acceptance Form to complete and a addressed envelope.

I liked this one, lots of information, but posted not emailed, but you cannot have everything and being posted I did read it all.

Westfield Sub Aqua & Marine Insurance Services Ltd

Completed yet another online form and we now wait for a quotation. a working day later, we get two emails from Westfield, the first one is for £ 172.70 which is followed 12 minutes later by a “Corrected ” one for £ 208.58. While neither quote is out of the ball park and errors do happen, this does not inspire me with confidence. So we won’t be taking this one any further at the moment.

Insurer Quote Excess
Westfield £ 208.58 annual £125

Which one do we select and why

While none of the companies we used to get our quotes provided the perfect result, the ones I like best from reading their websites and the information they provided by post and email was Newton Crum InsuranceMercia Marine insurance, GJW Direct and Haven Knox-Johnston.

Insurer Quote Excess
Newton Crum Insurance £160.00 annual + £1.00 MLP
+£4 Marina Benefit
Mercia Marine insurance £308.52 annual
Inc’d £16.00 MLP and £15 admin fee
GJW Direct £220.50 annual £100.00
Haven Knox-Johnston £223.78 annual  + £13.72 MLP £150.00

I would be happy with any of these for our insurance, they all provided useful information, it now just comes down to personal choice.

Our final choice was Haven Knox-Johnston, but it was close between these four.